For as long as I can remember the cherry blossoms in Golden Gate Park came and went many weeks before the festival in Japantown. That will probably be the case again this year since the trees are right now swinging into full bloom. Perhaps the festival is primarily about Japanese culture rather than just this iconic tree.
This year will be the 47th year of our local festival. Each year, over 200,000 people attend this glittering display showcasing the color and elegance of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese-American community. The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday April 12-13 and April 19-20, 2014, in San Francisco’s Japantown (on Post Street between Laguna and Fillmore Streets).
When I stand beneath the cherry tree’s umbrella branches laden with her delicate petals, I am grateful that the blossoms precede the festivities. According to the universal language of flowers the meaning of the cherry blossom is “spirituality and beauty.” The Ancients worshiped the Great Mother Asherah under every living tree, and certainly we can join them beneath the pink and white canopy of the cherry.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition Asherah was also known as Mother Nature, and, gazing up from the trunk through these branches, I can see why. Unfortunately, the King James Version of the Bible replaced the name Asherah with “tree” or “grove of trees” and her place of honor was deliberately deported to the recesses of failing memory. But separated from the tree of life, our mother Goddess, we truly flounder. So even a solitary walk among the cherry trees can help her seep back into our consciousness. A bumper sticker implores us to “honor thy mother” and shows us a picture of the earth. So, to honor our mother, I chose this week to focus closely on individual and groupings of cherry blossoms.
Your camera flash (built in and/or external unit) is not something to turn to only when it’s dark. In fact, flower photographers often use flash in broad daylight. I don’t do much studio shooting, but I employ my flash unit to supplement, improve, and tailor the natural light I’m given. You can make your flower stand out by obscuring or adding contrast to the background with your flash. This is based on the fact that there is a fall-off in intensity as the burst of light travels. The light that strikes a foreground flower is stronger than when it reaches the background a few feet away. This differential registers as a darkened background and places your floral star in a dramatic spotlight. (Totally black backgrounds occur when the light falls off at a point where there is nothing for the light to hit.)
You can also use the flash to counterbalance strong natural light that may be too overpowering for your floral subject. For example, if you find very strong light in the background, your flower may look like a silhouette. Add some fill-flash and you’ve corrected that imbalance quickly and simply. This way you can have a well-lit cherry blossom and a beautiful blue sky — provided of course that it is not a foggy day.
Asherah, Tree Goddess, Mother of Life, I experience your presence in the cherry blossoms.