Shibuya Station

Shibuya Station

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting Settled in Tokyo

Leica MP 240 Safari, 50mm Noctilux 0.95

It has now been about 4 months since my arrival in Tokyo and to some degree, I feel like I've had to learn to visualize and shoot all over again.I loved my time in Hong Kong and truly feel that for a street photographer, there are few places that can be much better.  Prior to moving to Tokyo earlier this year, I had been to Japan a number of times and really enjoyed my time shooting.  When the opportunity arose to make the move, I was beyond excited.  It was a chance to immerse myself in yet another culture and better yet, a chance expand my range of street images beyond Hong Kong.  

Leica MP 240 Safari, 24mm Elmarit

Now having been in Tokyo for a few months, I have to say that I found it easier to create what I feel are compelling images in Hong Kong than here in Tokyo.  Don't get me wrong, Tokyo is an incredible place to shoot and is among my top places for street photography, it's just different.  Hong Kong is a very dense place and what makes it such a fun place for me is the context so easily found in many of the images.  There are tons of areas with outdoor markets and butchers and many of the areas are gritty and teaming with life. These scenes add a great deal of context to an image.  I could go to the same areas within Hong Kong many times and different scenes will play out in front of me.

In Tokyo, I feel like I've had to visualize all over again.  Tokyo is a very populous place but it's much more spread out.  While I've seen a lot of great street photography in Tokyo, I've also seen my share of subpar images.  With this in mind and my desire to look for context to give my images life, I've found it more challenging to create images that satisfy me.

Leica Q
So what makes a compelling street image?  I am sure you'll get varying opinions but here is a glimpse into my thought process.

People - Is it someone interesting that can tell a story by themselves?  The human element is very important to an image but having a person just fill space doesn't make the image.  I look at what they are doing or perhaps how they are dressed.  I also look at the background...

Background - To further the first point, I look at where people are located.  Is the background interesting or add to the story?

Lighting - A lot of people will disagree with me and say this is most important, and it is, but for me its secondary (just hear me out).  I shoot extensively with the Leica M system and have recently added the Leica Q to my bag.  With that comes some of the greatest lenses available.  I like to shoot wide open and often shoot with noctilux or summilux lenses.  Even in bright daylight, I'll shoot wide open which necessitates the need for an ND filter.  Shooting wide open is a style choice but this along with the high ISO capabilities of today's camera doesn't really limit when I shoot.  That's not to say lighting is unimportant.  It's critically important and I do try to leverage shadows and the quality of light at certain times of day.  I just do not let it limit me.  If a story develops in front of me and the lighting is not optimal, I'm grabbing the image.  It takes practice but if you are just starting out, you'd be surprised how compelling an image can be if there are deep contrasting shadows or strong backlights.

Cameras - Always have your camera with you.  Seems simple right?  Even if I am just running errands around town, my camera is always on my shoulder.  A great image opportunity can develop in seconds and if your camera is in a bag, you are likely to miss it. My camera is always ready to go and there are many times where I know I would have missed an image had I been fumbling around to take my camera out.

Here are just a few images from my first few months in Japan!  I hope you enjoy.
Leica Q

Leica MP 240 Safari, 50mm Noctilux 0.95

Leica MP 240, 50mm Noctilux 0.95

Leica MP 240 Safari, 50mm Noctilux 0.95

Leica Q

Leica MP 240 Safari, 50mm Noctilux 0.95

Leica Q
Leica MP240 Safari
Leica MP 240 Safari, 50mm Summilux

Thanks and keep shooting!

-Jasen

#Leica #Noctilux #LeicaQ #Tokyo #Japan