I spent a few hours shooting the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar today at Hakone Gardens. For an entrance fee of $8, you can shoot away as long as you like, and with a tripod (don’t block paths of course!). If it’s commercial as in model portraiture, a wedding party or videography, then one needs a permit; inquire appropriately (I did to be sure).
Hours are 10-5 weekdays and 11-5 weekends, a pity since the best light develops at 6pm or so. But I’m told that it might be possible to arrange entrance outside normal hours, which is something I could see doing with a group sometime.
Hakone Gardens is a relaxing place to shoot on week days, with only a few people here and there; weekends are busier and probably best avoided. The garden includes a waterfall, koi pond, bamboo grove, some short trails, Japanese maples and similar.
Everything was just (barely) starting to bud out and the cherry blossoms are due in 7-10 days. I took my time and studied the place, moving slowly and playing with different apertures and framing— more of a challenge than I thought with a near absence of leaves and flowers.
Today’s lighting was hazy overcast, yielding low contrast light, not bad, not great. Shots from the bamboo forest: