Photoessay: Tokyo cityscapes

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Skyline

We’re nearing the end of the images from the last trip to Tokyo. Today’s images are a continued evolution of the urban theme into something a bit more widespread; an attempt to capture the combined endless scale and whimsy of Tokyo. There are bits you might find surprising and challenging to your preconceptions of Japan – anything with space or trees or emptiness, for instance – but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It is me giving in to my endless fascination for man-made light, texture and reflection in complementary colours. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, D750, 24/3.5 PCE, 45/2.8P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II; you can also travel vicariously to Japan with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Cinematic in Tokyo

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Not in Kansas anymore

One of the most important things for the creation of a cinematic feeling image is control over light: control light and you can control what stands out, the order in which your audience reads an image, and beyond that, how they feel when they view it. This is of course significantly easier to do when the light sources in question are not random: it’s much easier to make a cinematic image with ambient neon than it is with pure sunshine, as there’s just so much more directionality and variation of color. Fortunately, I had a decent amount of both in Tokyo; I’ve always found it to be one of the most easiest cities in which to make these kinds of images for that reason.

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Photoessay: a few unconventional landscapes

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I – floating tree

Today’s photoessay is a little shorter than the usual, for the simple reason that it wasn’t easy to make these images – the opportunities didn’t always present, and even then, they had to be teased out. I’m exploring what the definition of landscape really is: do we have to have near/mid/far all the time? In the same plane? In a ‘literal’ sense? I think if you’ve read the articles on what makes an interesting image from the previous two days, this set may make a little more sense. The upshot is that I’m seeking to present a series of images that are unquestionably about nature, a bit larger than just a single detail (but not necessarily expansive) and perhaps with some deliberate ambiguity of scale: after all, nature itself is recursive and fractal. Needless to say, they do all work much better as prints, which are available on request as usual. Enjoy. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810 and various lenses.

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Photoessay: Life in Tokyo

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Sardines observing sardines

Tokyo ranks extremely highly on my top places in the world for street photography – the sheer visual difference notwithstanding, it is also an extremely tolerant society to photography, and photography of random people in public. Everybody is doing it to the point that nobody notices anymore; however, unlike in other parts of the world where camera phones dominate, there are plenty of people using more serious equipment, too. Blending in has never been much of a problem. That difference I mentioned earlier is eroding somewhat, though. Once again, globalisation has meant that a lot of the more unique ‘character’ areas of the city are becoming clones of international streets (or vice versa) or even other parts of Tokyo; the area around almost any major railway station is the same, for instance – an agglomeration of fast food eateries, convenience stores, and one or two major chains plus a business hotel. It’s a formula that probably works for practicality, but not so much to keep the world an interesting place for its inhabitants.

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Photoessay: Tokyo, on the move

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The taxi

Unusually for me, I shot very little monochrome on my last trip to Tokyo. Almost none at all, in fact. I suspect it was partially due to equipment choice – the Hasselblad’s digital back really excels at reproducing accurate color – that made me want to explore the use of color even more. Either that, or it was the subtle subconscious influence that Saul Leiter’s work has been having on me. His color was not at all accurate, but rather both pleasing and very evocative of an emotion or era; maybe because of the tonal shift, maybe because of the conscious choice of palette.

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Photoessay: Autumn in Tokyo

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Today’s photoessay is a very special one for me: firstly because I’ve always wanted to photograph in Japan in the Autumn because of the extremely vivid colours and semi-perfected nature*; secondly, because photographing them was a very meditative and pleasant experience for me. I’ve actually never had the chance to shoot unhindered, unhurried, and unencumbered in this way before; I had the luxury of sitting, looking and just feeling the scene and the light before photographing; sometimes for hours. As a result, I was in a very different – not to be cliched, but ‘zen’ is a pretty apt description here – state of mind when creating these; as a result, they’re quite different to my usual work. In addition, the first six images in this set will go into the first ever ultra print run – to be announced in the next day or so. You’ll be able to experience these images in a way that puts you in the scene, with detail that’s immersive and colour that’s both transparent and saturated. All of these images were shot under ideal conditions, too – medium format digital back, great lenses at optimum apertures, base ISO on a tripod – which means image quality is really about as good as it gets. In all honesty, an 800-pixel jpeg doesn’t even come close – but such are the limits of the internet. I really don’t have anything else to add other than please enjoy! MT

*All of these images were shot in gardens and parks around Tokyo – the Rikyugien Garden, the Nezu Museum Garden, and the Edo Open-Air Architectural Museum. You may recognise some of them from the How To See Ep.2: Tokyo video – I discuss their creation and composition in significantly more detail there.

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Photoessay: The Yatai of Fukuoka

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During the day, you sometimes come across one or two of these food carts hiding dormant and parked in an alleyway, shuttered up and slumbering. Lights off, boarded up, you have no real idea as to their purpose. However, as night falls, Fukuoka’s traditional food carts start to emerge from their various hiding places, spread their wings, awnings, seats, sidewalk tables, makeshift walls/ partitions, lights, signs (in effect being a complete portable mini-restaurant around a counter-cum-kitchen) and cooking paraphanelia, and more attractively, their fragrant smells. Most of them congregate by the river under some trees in a stretch that’s bounded by Hakata Canal City on one side, and the seedier red light district on the other. I suppose they cater to the shoppers before they go home, and the punters before they go out.

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Film Diaries: Temples in Fukuoka

It’s impossible to go anywhere in Japan without happening across a temple or two. They provide both places of worship for the faithful and serene oases for the rest of us. They’re always impeccably maintained and a great show of craftsmanship; naturally lending themselves to photography. I spent half a day during my last trip to Fukuoka visiting some of the temples in the Gion district, and engaging in some slow, meditative photography with the Hasselblad. These images were shot primarily with the 80/2.8 CF on Ilford Delta 100 and scanned with the D800E. Enjoy! MT

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Film diaries: Postcards from Fukuoka, and thoughts on Fuji Acros 100

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On the last day of my recent trip to Fukuoka, I somehow managed to run out of film. The entire brick and both magazines of Delta 100 were depleted in a couple of hours; I was lucky enough to have magical light and the inspiration to shoot, so making the most of it, shoot I did. Let me tell you I wish they still made 220…12 frames for street work means reloading at least every half an hour or less if you’re in the thick of things.

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Photoessay: Tokyo reflections

One more from the Tokyo series. It never ceases to amaze me how clean everything is – combine that with strong, directional light, and you’ve got the making of images with instant depth. Reflections are wonderful things; they’re visual metaphors for something that might or might not be there in reality. Shot with a Sony RX100. Enjoy! MT

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