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Friday Slide Show: The Tea Garden Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

25 January 2019

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is the oldest public Japanese garden in the U.S. having been constructed for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition. We made its acquaintance as a kid and immediately fell under its spell.

The Moon Bridge was irresistible, of course. But the manicured plantings and the wild pines that fired out from them like fireworks were treats for the imagination. The stone bridges and the wood railings all presented themselves like puzzles to be taken apart and put back together.

And there were carp in the ponds, too.

At the Tea House you can refresh yourself. But the real treat is to walk around and take in this tranquil spot. It never disappoints.

There is an entrance fee these days (but you can get in free after 5 p.m.).

The garden was mostly in shadow but the sky and sunlight falling on the taller trees or in the background was more than our sensor could swallow.

One of our more amusing visits occurred when we visited in 1998 with a Sony DSC-F1, the first Sony Cyber-shot and the company's first commercial digital camera. We were reviewing it and needed some test images. What better location than the Tea Garden could there have been?

Our littlest brother was visiting at the time and came along, begging all the time to let him shoot with the little swivel camera. We were reluctant because it was a loaner, after all, and all we needed was a little brother disaster.

But he broke us down and we reluctantly handed over the camera, insisting he use the wrist strap. He would have put it around his neck to get the use of the camera.

Off he went to bend over a pond and take photos of the carp.

But he was suddenly surrounded by maybe a dozen young Japanese males who, spying him across the pond, noticed he had one of those new Sony digital cameras. They dashed over to have a look and ask questions. In Japanese with a smattering of English.

My little brother feigned ignorance. But I was not coming to his rescue. He stood there, unable to take a photo, apologizing for knowing nothing about the camera. And (typical big brother) we haven't stopped laughing since.

These photos are, of course, not from then. They're from a 2013 visit, briefly alluded to in A Tea Garden Day, where you can see one of the images in color.

By 2013 nobody was terribly impressed by a digital camera in the Tea Garden. So we were able to walk around unmolested by curious tourists.

We weren't happy with the color images as we worked on them in Lightroom. So we decided to try them in Monochrome, adjusting the hue sliders in the B&W panel to play the reds, blues and greens against each other.

It was difficult. The garden was mostly in shadow but the sky and sunlight falling on the taller trees or in the background was more than our sensor could swallow.

Which just makes us want to return one foggy day when the sun is tamed and try it again.

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