Mark Iandolo


Mapping Wanderlust is an ongoing project dedicated to documenting the natural and man-made beauty of this Earth – inspiring people to travel and rediscover the world around them. The goal: To create an archive of global wonders – UNESCO World Heritage Sites, stunning landscapes, iconic landmarks, historic and modern cities, and roads less traveled.




  • Orlando, Florida

    "Pride" July 12, 2016: Members of the community gather to pay tribute to those affected by the Orlando Pulse tragedy. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts lights up for LGBT pride, showcasing the city’s sense of unity and highlighting the message that love will conquer hate. Let us pledge to continue delivering that message – now and always.

  • Himeji Castle – Himeji, Japan

    "The Realm of the White Heron" April14, 2016: A quintessential Japanese scene unfolds as Himeji Castle, towering over the surrounding landscape, basks in the first light of the day. --- How do you truly capture the wonder of arguably the most impressive castle complex in the world? Himeji Castle, known as the “White Egret Castle” or “White Heron Castle” for its stark white exterior and its supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight, is the largest castle complex in Japan. The 41,468-square meter hilltop castle, one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, dominates the surrounding area. So how do you best represent this Japanese icon? This is the question I had when I arrived at Himeji Castle in April. Most photos you see of the building come from fairly close to it, and usually include cherry blossoms. But very few of the photos I came across on Google did justice to how immense the complex is and how dominant it is to the landscape. After walking the massive castle grounds, a vision began to form in my head. I pictured the castle floating above the city of Himeji. I envisioned it as the cover of a fantasy novel, sitting dramatically on a forested hilltop with mountains in the background and a soft sunrise behind it – Japan is the known as “the Land of the Rising Sun” after all. I wanted an angular view of the castle, as the angles seem to bring out the best drama in all Japanese castle structures. But how to get this view? Luck, it turns out. I toured the main donjon of the castle and from the top, I was scanning the horizon when I noticed a hill off in the distance that seemed to have an open area on the top. It literally sat at the exact height and angle from the castle that I had pictured in my mind. I spent the night and the next morning on that hilltop alone, reveling in the castle’s majesty as seen from that viewpoint. Everything I had envisioned had come together. But what struck me about this vantage point, besides its closeness to the picture in my mind, is how simple the composition ended up being. How do you capture the wonder of one of the most impressive castles in the world? Create a simple composition that lets the castle itself do the talking.

  • Matsumoto Castle – Matsumoto, Japan

    "Protector of the Realm" April 8, 2016: Matsumoto Castle stands guard over the city, the valley, the hills and the mountains of the Japanese Alps. The peak-bloom cherry blossoms and golden light bouncing off the castle add to the mystique at this national treasure – listed as one of the three premier castles of Japan along with the ones at Himeji and Kumamoto. What sets the keep at Matsumoto apart from other medieval fortresses is the fact that it is a flatland castle, built on a plain not on a hilltop or amid rivers. Now, what I loved about it is the fact that it had two great angles to photograph from – one shooting away from the sun and one into the sun. And these two angles were only a couple hundred feet from each other. I could therefore shoot one composition for golden hour, capturing the light hitting the building, and one composition for sunset with an explosive sky behind the castle. The photogenic nature of the donjon (along with its glorious nickname: “The Crow Castle”) made Matsumoto a key stop during my 35-day journey through Japan. Traveling through the mountainous region northwest of Tokyo induced a quieter mood, one that recharged my batteries after a hectic four days in the biggest metropolitan area in the world.

  • Matsumoto Castle – Matsumoto, Japan

    "The Crow Takes Flight" April 8, 2016: Matsumoto Castle, once nicknamed the Crow Castle, appears to gain wings as a fiery sunrise unfolds. --- THE OLDEST CASTLE IN JAPAN During my travels to Japan, I made it a priority to photograph some of its iconic castles. As a history buff and lover of fantasy and ancient architecture, I enjoy taking pictures of structures like these. My goal was to make them seem imposing and dominant – an ode to the warriors who once lived there. “From the moment they awake, the samurai devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue,” Nathan Algren said in the film, The Last Samurai. And their main pursuit was war. There is possibly no other warrior in history that invokes as much graceful power as the Samurai. I wanted to capture this power in my photos of Japan’s castles. One of the fortresses on my itinerary was Matsumoto Castle, the oldest remaining one in the country. LIKE YIN AND YANG Before Matsumoto, I visited the largest metropolitan area in the world – Tokyo. I toured the city for four days before escaping to the north. It truly felt like an escape, for as many sights as the famed city has, its chaos had gotten to me. Tokyo Tower, the Skytree, the Rainbow Bridge, the Imperial Palace – all classic structures and a dream for photographers. But the city can drain on a travel-weary wanderer. So I headed north, into the Japanese Alps. Almost immediately, I felt a sense of calm that had been missing in Tokyo. My heart seemed to beat at a normal pace again. It was the heart of cherry blossom season, and the gorgeous trees dotted the hillsides as I headed to Matsumoto. As I arrived in the city, the quiet, peaceful nature of the region hit me even harder. The concept of yin and yang is Chinese in origin, but it made its way to Japan during medieval times. Tokyo and Matsumoto felt like a manifestation of this theory – chaos versus peace. I wondered, in such a serene environment, how could Matsumoto Castle be powerful and dominant? The donjon rested on a flat surface – no hills or mountains protected it. I went to sleep that night in Matsumoto not knowing what to do. AND SO THE CROW FLIES Before dawn the next morning, I made my way to the castle grounds in complete darkness. I had no idea what to expect. I found the fortress and set up at what I thought would best convey a sense of that dominance I hoped for – a 90 degree angle from the castle. I could barely make out its shape, but I knew there was a moat and I hoped to get a reflection shot. Then I waited for sunrise… And, wow. Just, wow. The colors of sunrise lasted under a minute, but the profound effect they made created something I couldn’t have ever envisioned. Matsumoto Castle was once nicknamed “the Crow Castle” for its black exterior and the way it appears to look like a crow taking flight. The sunrise I got that morning added real wings to the castle. The donjon actually seemed to take off, to lurch out of its peaceful surroundings (the peak bloom cherry blossoms and rolling hills behind it) and take flight right at me. The water below it had no ripples, and thus the reflection added right to the drama. It’s like the castle was angry. Angry that I had doubted its power. And it had every right to be angry. Its dominance was unmatched by anything I had ever seen.

  • Tokyo, Japan

    "Under the Rainbow" April 6, 2016: Tokyo Tower can be seen sparkling below the Rainbow Bridge during a windy twilight in the largest metropolitan area in the world. --- "The overriding sense of Tokyo is that it is a city devoted to the new, sped up in a subtle but profound way: a postmodern science-fiction story set ten minutes in the future" - David Rakoff SERENITY WITHIN CHAOS With upwards of 38 million people and 51 of the global Fortune 500 companies, Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the world and home to some of the busiest places you'll ever see. So how do you seek some quiet time in this chaotic, science- fiction atmosphere? I made it my goal to find out. During my time in the city, I visited: Chidorigafuchi: I visited Tokyo during peak sakura season, so my first thought was to try and find tranquility below the bloom. Unfortunately, everyone had that thought and I spent an evening in Chidorigafuchi elbow-to- elbow with hundreds of tourists and residents. Meguro River: another famous sakura spot, and it was also packed. However, when you find the right spot along the miles-long path of cherry blossoms, you can almost forget about the chaos around you and focus instead on the beauty in front of you. The Imperial Palace: the seat of the Japanese emperor, because of one framing shot I remembered from the film The Last Samurai. I wanted to pay homage to the cinematography from that movie. And maybe getting away from the cherry blossoms could lead to some peacefulness. Meiji-jingu: an important shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji. Located in a forest within the city, the temple felt fairly calm on a misty morning. I was getting closer to the serenity I wanted. Shinjuku Gyoen: I hoped the gardens would provide the quiet moments I desperately sought. Turns out, I was on to something. The park had just the right number of visitors that day, creating the perfect spring atmosphere. And hey, more cherry blossoms! Rainbow Bridge: Finally, I visited the man-made Odaiba Island and found a small, landscaped peninsula near the Rainbow Bridge. Somehow, the area was empty and I could spend twilight completely alone enjoying the skyline views, appreciating the tranquility I had found. Tokyo is busy, bustling, and chaotic. It is one of the closest things to a science-fiction megatropolis on this earth. But while the city feels like it's been sped up, like the "fast-forward" button is perpetually pushed down, moments of solitude are possible. You can find serenity within the chaos if you look hard enough. I did.

  • Imperial Palace – Tokyo, Japan

    "An Ode to the Samurai" April 4, 2016: The Imperial Palace, the seat of the Japanese Emperor, rests on the grounds of former Edo Castle. It was here that Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa shogunate – the longest shogunate in Japan's history. --- In the year 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu won the battle of Sekigahara, a decisive moment that ushered in the longest era of peace in Japan’s history: 250 years of consolidated power under the Tokugawa shogunate centered at Edo Castle. In the year 1868, a chain of events set off the Meiji Restoration, a reestablishment of power under the emperor that started the modernization of the Land of the Rising Sun. The latter of these events was romanticized in the film “The Last Samurai”: Lord Katsumoto, a fictional character in the film, leads a rebellion against the restoration because he believes the old ways of duty and honor are being displaced by the increasing modernization and Westernization of Japan. During the film’s opening monologue, a British translator in Tokyo with an interest in the Samurai states: “They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.” Critics note director Edward Zwick’s commitment to researching Japanese history and casting well-known Japanese actors. At the same time, some Japanese scholars dislike the film's idealistic, "storybook" portrayal of the samurai. Many samurai, they point out, fought against the restoration not for altruistic reasons but because it challenged their status as the warrior caste. But I confess, I love the storybook. I love the film’s idealization and sentiment. The representation of the samurai as honorable and perfection-seeking. “From the moment they wake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue,” Tom Cruise’s character says. I love the epic score, created by living legend Hans Zimmer (which I am listening to while I write this, of course). I love the dramatic action scenes. The mystical opening fight in the forest and the climactic charge at the end. But, as a photographer, the thing I love most is the cinematography. And one setting shot in particular: a view of the Edo Castle grounds. And so my photo is an ode to that shot, that film and that time period. The castle grounds became the Imperial Palace and home to the emperor to this day, and so the area represents both the modernity and history of Japan. “I have dreamed of a unified Japan. Of a country strong and independent and modern,” Emperor Meiji proclaims at the end of the film. “We have railroads and cannon, Western clothing. But we cannot forget who we are. Or where we come from.” A country pushing the bounds of technology forward, yet relishing in an honorable, iconic history – when I think about Japan, that’s the storybook I think about.

  • Hie Shrine – Tokyo, Japan

    "The Forest Floor" April 4, 2016: In the dense urban jungle that is Tokyo – below the canopy of modern skyscrapers – rests this Torii Gate-lined stairway. --- A Forest of High-Rises Imagine you’re in a bustling city. You’re walking through the main shopping district, below buildings hundreds of feet tall. You can’t help but look up as you walk, noticing building after building after building soaring into the sky, forming a canopy of modern skyscrapers. Occasionally, a colossal masterpiece stretches beyond the canopy: the Tokyo Skytree, the Willis Tower, or the Empire State Building. These form an emergent layer of the jungle. You’re in awe of the modern wonders, but you can’t help but think, “It’s all moving too fast.” These towers represent man’s impressive achievements, yet also represent a startling statistic: the fact that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. As you think about this, you look down to the urban jungle’s ground level. The Forest Floor Hundreds upon hundreds of people seem to be moving at light speed all around you. Dozens of cars are whizzing by in the streets. You need a break from the chaos, so you turn down a side street, follow it for a while, and make another turn. Finally, you realize you’re alone. And you’re at the foot of a random staircase that – despite being in the middle of a futuristic megatropolis – is lined with wooden gates that seem hundreds of years old. You stand there for a moment, appreciating the serenity you’ve managed to find. Eventually, you ascend the staircase and find a shrine that was built on a small hill in the 13 or 1400s. You smile, because who would have ever thought you’d end up at this place? You take a look around and head back out among the skyscrapers, happy to have the brief respite. Technology, History Robotic legs. MRI machines. Maybe one day a cure for cancer. Not so elegantly put: humans create awesome stuff. But let’s not lose sight of the old to bring on the new. Places like the Hie Shrine in Tokyo are worth protecting. To preserve cultural heritage, and also because, you know what? It’s pretty freaking cool to find a Torii-gate lined stairway on a wooded hill a hundred feet from skyscrapers.

  • Kasuguyama Primeval Forest – Nara, Japan

    "The Primeval Forest" April 1, 2016: A peaceful waterfall enchants wandering souls in the forested hills behind Nara, Japan. --- Nara was one of my favorite cities in Japan when I visited this past spring; it lacked the chaotic busyness of Tokyo or the dense skyscrapers of Osaka, a positive for a probable claustrophobic like me. Instead, deer roamed freely and ancient temples dotted the area as part of a group called the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” One day while touring the region, I found another great place – simply by wandering and wandering until my feet fell off. On the edge of the town rests a hill with panoramic views and blooming cherry blossoms during spring. Pass beyond that hill and you’ll come across the Kasugayama Primeval Forest. I noticed this on a map at the top of the hill – and immediately went racing toward it, because anyone who knows me knows how swayed I am by epic-sounding titles, and “the Primeval Forest” is pretty darn epic. A couple miles of wandering later, I came across this peaceful waterfall. Lacking a tripod, I just found the best flat surface I could and fired off exposures. My favorite was one where the clouds opened for a split second and the sun highlighted the rocks in the foreground.

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