Behind the Lens: Kyoto Photo Walk with Trey Ratcliff


Japan is an amazing place for stories and endless photo opportunities. So with all there is to do and see, we at Japan Daily strive to distill and instill the wonders, character, and vibrancy of this country in an easily digestible and entertaining format. A big part of our process is to capture the essence of the places we visit and the events or people we cover through pictures and video to give color to the experiences and knowledge we share through our articles.

Attending a Photowalk to Trey Ratcliff

As a new member of the team and greenhorn to the photojournalist community, chasing stories, following up on leads, and the massive amount of pre and post work that accompany all the action is an eye-opening experience that I still seek to strike a balance with. But now that the frenzy of summer events and early autumn festivals are in the planning stages for next year, this past weekend was a great opportunity to change gears if only for an afternoon, to slow down and remind ourselves about the kind of work we aspire to create.

Enter Trey Ratcliff and the 80 Stays crew.

Trey with the crew

We were able to catch up with Trey and his team on one of their ‘80 stays’ photo walks, in a quaint little town on the fringes of Kyoto’s northern district. It was his eighth time in Japan, and the second of several photo walks in this beautiful country. These events are free and open to anyone at any level of experience whether behind the lens of a DSLR or with a smartphone. As it turned out, the Kyoto leg of this 80-site journey around the world ended up being a much more intimate experience than his other meet-ups, and was a refreshing change of pace from the event we covered the previous week (Tokyo Motor Show 2017).

The photo walk started in the late afternoon at the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine of the Kamigyo neighborhood and the relatively small size of our group better accommodated this unique opportunity to pick the brain of one of the world’s most celebrated photographers and pioneers in HDR photography. It was an entirely candid experience that afforded attendees a lot of back and forth with Trey and any one of his motley film and support crew.

As mentioned in the beginning, there are no prerequisites for ability level or gear, and the entire photo walk focused less on the technical aspect of photography—unless of course Trey was addressing a specific question on the mechanics of the art—and more about sharing experiences and perspectives. We followed him and his Hasseblad around the temple and through the cavernous streets of an old but very much intact Geisha district. As far as inquiries go, any subject was on the table and nothing seemed to be off limits according to the man himself. Participants were encouraged to ask anything during the two and a half hours we had with him. Additionally, whenever he found something interesting to shoot or noticed an opportunity to explain a concept worth sharing, Trey would pause the tour for a bit in order to put the moment and surroundings in context to whatever nugget of wisdom he decided to share.

The photo session concluded the same way it started as we backtracked through the now dimly lit streets and into the threshold of the temple grounds. As the lights from the lanterns replaced the fading sunlight behind the distant mountains of the Arashiyama district, Trey and his team remained gracious with their time as many of us lingered well after the scheduled conclusion for small talk, well wishes, and of course, more pictures!

The entire day was a surreal experience, being around such an eclectic group of people and diverse backgrounds because what for all intents and purposes seemed to be an afternoon of walking around a quiet, old town with a handful of strangers and their cameras, translated to a stimulating stroll that left us with a more profound appreciation for the beauty of Japan, our craft, and our community.

So if you want to catch up with Trey and the gang, follow this link to see where they’re headed next!

#80Stays (

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