Back in the 90’s, I did a story for National Geographic on Japanese gardens that became an exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, as well as a book, In the Japanese Garden, and the beginning of a life-long love of gardens. It also taught me a valuable lesson about rain and the wet look. And that is, when it rains, grab the camera. The details of Japanese gardens, with their elemental designs incorporating stone, plants, water and space, come to life in the rain.
I photographed Japanese gardens in three seasons, rainy season (one month from early June to mid-July), fall and winter. My most productive time was the rainy season – tsuyu, as it’s called in Japan. It’s like April weather here only warmer and it will rain without fail everyday. In fact my book has 200 pictures, and almost all were taken in the rain or on cloudy periods during tsuyu.
Kyoto’s famous Moss Garden, Saiho-ji, is a particularly good example of how rain can awaken a garden. On any day, Saiho-ji is a sea of green. But with rain, the many shades of its 100 varieties of moss become apparent as it saturates different types to different degrees. Rain gives glistening green foliage direction in an otherwise flat lit landscape. Rain beading on the leaves of lotus blossoms and water lilies polishes and animates them. Waters reflection on stone pathways adds subtle textures and intensifies their color. And rain can make the still water of a pond dance.
Japanese gardeners, also aware of how water affects the natural textures, make it mandatory to wet down at the most famous tea gardens before the guests arrival.
My kit; gore tex, a towel, and an umbrella.