Japanese photographer Takehito Miyatake’s photos of magical firefly trails, glowing squid and awe-inspiring volcanic eruptions has recently won him Grand Prize at the 2014 Nikkei National Geographic Photo Awards. Miyatake’s long-exposure photography, which can last anywhere from 15 seconds to 30 minutes, captures what he describes as the “light of Japan.”
However, as it turns out, Miyatake’s profound reverence for the power of nature is rooted not in photography but in waka, a classical form of Japanese poetry.
In a recent interview with TIME, Miyatake described his connection between waka and nature photography:
Waka is a poem to express the scope of nature [by] using limited words since its birth in the eighth century in Japan. The method has been working beautifully and precisely to express nature with sympathy. I believe Waka is very similar to nature photography.
It’s fascinating to hear Miyatake like his nature photography to poetry, and recalls this quote, which unfortunately I am unable to attribute: “The still photograph is to moving pictures what poetry is to prose – less comprehensive perhaps, less literal even, yet somehow capable of expressing a deeper truth.” Miyatake goes on:
When I photograph, a mystic feeling comes over me. I sometimes admire the mysterious legends that are a part of Japanese folklore that express a fear of nature. I believe Waka also intends to capture this sort of fear of the mystic beauty of nature.