ISHIKAWA Kenji 石川 賢治 (1945- ) Fukuoka Pref.

Photographer of landcapes (and underwater scenes) using only moonlight.

Education Graduated Nihon Univ. Faculty of Fine Arts in 1967.

Career Entered the photo dept. of Light Publicity Co. the same year. Turned freelance photographer in 1976.

Works as a commercial photographer. Decided to take photos under the full moon in 1984. After experimentation with moonlight exposures, started seriously taking landscapes under the full moon.

Best-selling photo book, "Moonlight Blue" (Gekko Yoku), published in 1990 followed by other similar books.

Book review below.

Official site:

Moonlight Blue (月光浴)

Landscape and nature photos with only the full moon serving as the illumination.


Published: Nov. 10, 1990

Publisher: Shogakukan

ISBN: 4096805718

Price in Japan: ¥3,200

Qualities: Hardcover, color photos Size: A4, 94 pp. Language: Japanese

Like the ocean, greenery, and stars in the sky, a full moon is one of those things in nature which pacifies you on sight. Especially if you look at any of these things in combination, for example, the ocean at night under a full moon, it's doubly pacifying. Now try looking at flowers, plants, and even waterfalls under the moonlight. As you can imagine, it must be very relaxing. Perhaps this is why this photo book turned out to be a surprise bestseller with over 100,000 copies sold. (For a landscape photo book in Japan, this is a very high figure.)

The theme of this book is landscape and nature photos under a full moon. The photographer has saved us the trouble of getting away from the city lights and going to remote places to see what nature looks like under the moonlight. Besides Japan, the photographer traveled to Nepal, Bali, Saipan, Hawaii, and Palau to photograph flowers, plants, waterfalls, and even underwater coral with the full moon (and some stars) as the only light source. It's funny because we are all so accustomed to taking pictures with the sun as the light source. Now we have someone who takes pictures with the full moon serving as the lighting. When you think about it, it is a logical and feasible pursuit even though it is not very practical for most of us. I must say that this book expanded my attitude toward night and nature photography. Did you know that there are flowers that bloom only at night? And that most of them are white?

As the book's English title suggests, the dominant color theme is blue. The book starts with photos of mountains under the moonlight, and it ends with photos of the moonlit ocean underwater. (The photographer is a climber as well as a diver.) In-between, there are many photos of flowers, plants, and waterfalls. Under the moonlight, the flowers look brittle like ceramics or even plastic. You see them against a dark background, with very subtle and sometimes brilliant colors carving through the darkness. Among the more dramatic photos in the book are of the lava flow from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano. The fiery red streaks and bursts of molten lava matches the blue moonlight very well.

My favorite shot in the book is that of a moonlight rainbow above Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii. It's very faint, but you can still see it in the photograph. That's something I've never seen (even during my 13 years on Maui) and never knew existed. The photographer captured the rarely-seen rainbow while he was on the mountain to photograph silversword plants.

The book is quite educational. (It can be found at many public libraries in Japan.) It offers interesting facts (in Japanese) about moonlight. For example, did you know that the brightness of the full moon is only 1/465000 that of the sun? And from the surface of the moon, the Earth looks 16 times larger than the moon as seen from Earth. The sun is also 400 times larger than the moon. But since it is also 400 times farther away from Earth than the moon, both look to be the same size when seen from Earth. (An incredible coincidence of nature I think.)

Kenji Ishikawa, the photographer, works as a commercial photographer to support himself. He first got the idea of taking these moonlight photos in 1984. After some months of research and experimentation with moonlight exposures, he began taking photos under the full moon from 1986 starting with Saipan (where the book's cover photo was taken).

To follow up on this successful book, Ishikawa has produced three more similar moonlight photo books (also CD-ROMs). In May 1998, he exhibited photos at a gallery in Tokyo's Ginza. The room had black walls and the room was dark. In the middle of the room, there were flowers and plants lighted by dark-blue overhead lamps. Great atmosphere for his photos. The exhibition was very well attended. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono) May 27, 1998