Quick edit on this 5 year old B&W picture of me doing a little day time street photography in Yokohama. Miss those days – no automotive obligation, just candid street shooting. I’ll get back into it; I have to.
Somewhere near Narita.
I took this from my friend Harada-san’s car. We were driving to Tokyo Disney to shoot his car – I thought the Asahi Black billboard was cool. I’m hella stressing out right now…
This photo is 1680x so feel free to use it as a desktop.
1 year and I’m still holding on.
350 meter | Tokyo Sky Tree | Japan
Well, I just finished up preparing all my camera equipment. Two days from now I’ll be on a plane across the Pacific, and after those dreadful 12 hours, I’ll be stepping out of the plane and into Haneda airport; back in Japan. It’s amazing to me how much NDF has grown, and while I have a lot of motor sport related business to take care of, I won’t forget to take a few nights to hit the streets. I’ve just been reviewing some of my old shots, and I gotta say I’m pretty excited. Japan will always be the pinnacle of street photography for me, and my number one excuse to go year after year.
I went through a phase one week in Japan where I would target scenes that I could turn depressing; this is one of those scenes. The heavy vignetting, the condensation on the train windows, the desaturated color, and the expression of the inhabitants all create a feeling of helplessness. 2 more weeks until I return to Japan, and although my days are mostly spent photographing cars, I’ll still make time for a few nights of street photography.
Someone special once told me that when two people truly love one another, you become blind to each others faults. Like you’re in a pea pod. You become ignorant to what others can clearly see. I like that.
This shot has always been a particular favorite of mine, pretty much for just one reason. This was shot with a 50mm at f1.4, and typically, at f1.4 you sacrifice sharpness for speed. Not really the case in this shot, and I honestly have no idea why. The detail on the girls blouse is incredible; it even surprised me. This was taken one night when I was walking around Yokohama after a light rain. Well, actually it was still kind of raining.
Despite the distraction of bright lights, loud sounds, mobile devices, and electric store fronts, disappearing in a crowd like this can be quite difficult.
I thought this worked out pretty well as far as composition goes. I like how the kids in the background are walking single file, creating a row of umbrellas. Also, the shutter speed was slow enough to catch the rain drops against the darker colors.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Geoffrey Nguyen, a creative director for various online publications, and an all around nice guy. You can read the interview here, or here. The interview was done for a client of his, Weksos Industries, a large Japanese car parts importer and retailer in regards to their major car show tour Wekfest and my website NDF. You can visit them here; and I just realized they are using some my photos on their ‘about us’ page – very cool. Bear with me, this long back story has a point.
He had asked me to gather a handful of my photos from Japan to be used in the interview, and the above shot is one of many I chose. I’ve always liked this shot because it proves that great photo opportunities can be found in the most unusual places. I took this from the lower level of a green car train somewhere outside of Tokyo. When the train pulls into the station, the lower level windows are just parallel with the station platform providing some excellent point of views. It just so happened that the train stopped in a position where this man was in the middle of my frame, and another train was pulling away. I quickly dropped the shutter speed, slammed the aperture closed and snapped the shot. Mostly luck I suppose.
I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about this photo and I’m very happy about it. Because of the lighting, the setting and composition, it’s one of those pictures that you can interpret in many different ways. Looking back at these photos makes me realize that it’s been a really long time since I’ve been satisfied with my productivity….but that can be saved for a different post.
One of my friends in Japan I go on street walks with is always wearing very bright colors. I dislike bright colors, and am usually dressed in greys, blacks or dark blues; not to mention I try to go unnoticed when I’m out shooting. I thought this picture was funny because he couldn’t be any more obvious.
Last time I was in Japan, my friend and I made a stop through Kamakura to pick up a few charms for his family. It was Golden Week, so it was quite busy, but posed a good opportunity for more candids. While he did his shopping bit I strolled around the grounds and looked for good frames. This girl was working behind one of the counters that displayed the various charms.
A restaurant by my hotel in Ikebukuro. I shot this late at night on one of my last days in Tokyo. It was quite dark and the only light was coming from the doorway of the restaurant. The little girl on the bike happened to stop right in front of the door to check something on her phone, so I stole her for a second.
So Flickr has this new feature, or it might not be new at all as I haven’t visited the site in quite awhile, that allows you to see all of one members submissions in a group. As you may or may not know, I started a group years ago for people who enjoyed shooting on train platforms in Japan. The group, JPP – Japanese Platform Photography, helped me meet many new people that I can call friends today. It also helped me develop my own style and feel for the street photos I take. Well, maybe I shouldn’t use the word style…
Looking back at 40 months worth of my own photos, it’s apparent that I have at least developed my own preference. I use the term preference as opposed to style because the term style can mean many different things to different people. Styles of photography have already been set by those before us, and let’s face it, you can’t develop a new style; only variations of existing ones. Although I’m sure that’s a topic many would debate.
Jean-Luc Godard once said, “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
I’m happy to say at least I have found, or subconsciously have stolen from others, my own style of street photography. Having that out of the way allows me more time to enjoy doing it and perhaps one day taking it to somewhere meaningful.
You can check out my 40 Months here.
I always have to laugh a little when people ask me what I do in Japan, because my answer never fails to baffle them:
“I take pictures.”
“Oh, of what?”
“Yeah, people, walking around on the street.”
“Yeah, just random people.”
Then the conversation usually tapers off. I don’t really talk too much about what I do, and I’m horrible at telling stories, so unless someone persists I won’t voluntarily start telling them. The majority of people think it’s a waste of time to travel half way across the world to take pictures of random people, but for me, Japan is the ultimate locale for street photography. New York and LA are good, and much closer, but they lack a certain something that Japan has in abundance. Call it atmosphere, call it ambiance, or presence…call it whatever the fuck you want to; Japan has it. I’ll spend hours on a street or a certain corner clipping off shots all night, sometimes not even getting anything good. But that one time I nail the exposure, or capture a moment that no one expected, is worth all the time it took. It’s the chase, not the result for me.
This was taken on one of those nights. I wandered around Tokyo with a bandana around my face to stop the deathly cold wind from chapping my face; in hindsight I probably looked like some kind of foreign criminal, stealing souls by light. I couldn’t decide which frame I liked better so I made a diptych.
I know it’s typically frowned upon, but I love the light distortion that this lens puts out. It’s like alphabet soup, but with light noodles. I shot this on the same photo walk I got my inspiration back on. It was pretty late at night, and it from the looks of it I wasn’t the only one that was tired. I bet she didn’t just get done shooting an entire race that day though. I didn’t look at the EXIF data on this, but I remember the ISO at 1250 and I’m sure the lens was wide open at f2.8. Japan is entirely unreal in producing the best bokeh with pretty much any setting, and it shows in this shot. The guy in the background, also on the phone, adds a little depth and occupancy to the frame. I like how you can measure the aperture setting by the brick walkway.
Probably the last of my scanned film I’ll post. Nothing much to say about this – kind of looks like you’re looking at the sun through an empty glass bottle.
More expired Fuji. Street tip of the day: Shooting from below the hip gives a different perspective not often seen. The effect is intensified by placing yourself much lower than your subject – like on a staircase. With a wider angle, let’s say anything 35mm and under, it’s not too important to have to compose your shots properly. Sometimes just lowering the camera, pointing it in the general direction of the subject and firing away is enough.
I thought this was cool; no, not because of the altered depth of field, but because all the people in the frame are caught in different motions; including the subject herself. There is also a sense of multiple directions – all make for a nicely composed candid. The multiple layers work well in giving the illusion that the viewer is actually there. A sense that I think is very important in street photography. I wonder what she was listening too? I had on some Dash Berlin pumping through my headphones when I got lost and shot this.
So, tonight I went on a photo walk around Ikebukuro; a rather long one at that. My goal? To try and get back what I had lost over the past year in regards to street photography. Lack of motivation, and the onset of new responsibilities have tarnished my ability to shoot strangers. Over the past three days, I’ve attempted to photograph Japan like I used to, and the results have been lack luster at best. I had lost something. I persisted though, and I can see, however slowly, that I am getting it back. What ‘it’ is, I have no idea. I shot around 200 stills tonight – I’ll post the ones that I enjoy.
Quick technical note: I shot tonight with a cropped sensor and a 70-200 f2.8 – hence the grain. Although, going through the photos, I think it adds a bit of atmosphere to the scene. Despite common belief, maybe grain isn’t all that bad in this regard. I brought my 50 f1.4 with me on my walk, but it never saw the camera.
I’m not sure where the traffic is coming from (perhaps my old Flickr page), but I’ve recently got some unexpected visitors to this page. So, in the interest of having a place to share photos of subjects other than automotive, I’ve decided to start actively updating my personal blog. I think I’ll change the theme around a bit to something a little more photo friendly as well. I am mainly going to concentrate on my street photography, but I will throw some nice landscapes in as well. It’s time to board the wrong train again.
I shot this wandering around the outskirts of Shinjuku station this afternoon. I was in search of a music store that had some really good tablature for Japanese rock bands. My luck though, either the store doesn’t exist anymore, or I was completely lost. On a related side note, I went to Yokohama yesterday to go to a different music store; and that one, however, had been replaced by a Book Off. I ended up finding some 100 yen Option mags though, so happy ending I guess.