The story about how this retreat came about starts back in January of 2017. I was in the middle of the first retreat I had ever organised. A very small affair with 3 people who I invited to join me on a weekend away in Kyoto. Never would I have imagined that 9 months later I would be back in the amazing city of Kyoto with 6 women for the first innaugural Capture Kyoto Retreat 2017.
In January, I sat down with Helen Iwata, Jacqui Miyabayashi and Amanda O'Brien in a mastermind. I came away with the idea to do a photographic retreat in Kyoto, with a professional photographer for women who wanted to improve their photography skills and have a relaxing and energising weekend away with other like-minded women.
Tia from Toptia Photography agreed to be our expert and we were not disappointed. She took everyone's ability into consideration and set about helping all of us improve our skills with the camera's we had.
Our first stop was the Welcome Center of the Prince Hotel Biwako in Kyoto Station. This was an excellent start to our trip, as we were able to leave our luggage there and have it waiting for us when we arrived at the hotel out at Otsu, next to Lake Biwa, not far from Kyoto.
Our first stop was Fushimi Inari Taisha. This temple has become very popular in recent years for it's torii gates, especially amongst foreign visitors. Many Japanese have not visited this temple and two of our members were first timers there, even though they had visited Kyoto before.
Fushimi Inari quickly becomes crowded but we were able to get some photos despite the crowds. Our biggest challenge was managing to stay together and not get lost or separated. We needed a big long rope like they use to keep kindergarten students together on an excursion!
Lunch was at the very beautiful and well located Hyatt Regency Kyoto, in the Trattoria Sette restaurant. We certainly weren't expecting such a large lunch, but everything was delicious and the atmosphere was amazing, not to mention the view out towards the National Museum of Kyoto through bamboo bushes!
We spent the afternoon at Shimogamo Shrine. This was a strategic choice given that the temple is away from the crowds of the major sightseeing locations. I also personally wanted to photograph Taiko Bridge, and was not disappointed.
We stayed at Lake Biwa Prince Hotel and were very pleasantly surprised when we woke up the next morning to the most amazing view of the lake and the sun rising over it. Tia organised for us to do "light painting", using light sticks (the kind you apparently take to a concert) and a slow shutter speed.
Day 2 saw us heading to the Njio Castle area. This was also a purely selfish decision but the difference in architecture and the gardens gave us different things to focus on.
One of the highlights of Day 2 was going to Ran Hotei, a small and very cute traditional style coffee shop. The owner Randy Channell Soei is the "Canadian Tea Master," and we were lucky to meet him in his shop and be able to drink matcha of his own blend.
Randy's shop has many intricacies including a small tea ceremony garden at the back. If you are in Kyoto, definitely drop buy to try one of his tea ceremony experiences.
At the end of our 2 days together, 6 people became connected in a whole new way. Since the retreat has finished we've enjoyed sharing the photos we took and bonding over what kind of lense might be good to get next.