The common carp was domesticated in Japan at the beginning of the 19th century and soon several ornamental varieties were bred. 100 years later, at the beginning of the 20th century, these colored carps, called nishiki-goi - “brocaded carp” - or simply koi ("carp") were already presenting a wide variety of patterns and colors, so after being presented at an expo in Tokyo, the koi became popular all over Japan.
Today, the Japanese koi is popular all over the world, while in Japan it’s almost impossible to find a garden pond without koi. Interestingly, though, koi are still just regular carps: if allowed to breed without control, they will revert to their original, bland color… Even in Japan, I saw some ponds full of koi, where 90% of them where without any interesting color or pattern.
In many gardens there are vending machines selling food for koi and if you want to photograph them, these are good places, because koi are gluttonous, so you can photograph them swarming.
- In order to capture their beautiful colors, be sure to have with you a polarizing filter. That way you will reduce the water glare and you will be able to see deep into the water (in my photo you can see the coins from the bottom of the pond).
- Use an aperture of at least f/7.1, it will give you sharpness and even better colors and contrast. If you have enough light, it is better to have an even smaller aperture (I usually prefer f/8).
- However, the polarizing filter will severely reduce the amount of light entering the camera, so you will need to increase the exposure. Here’s a trade off: that’s why I took this photo with just f/7.1, the shutter speed was 1/60s, a bit too long for some fast moving koi, and I didn’t want to increase the ISO.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: