Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes, part II

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This is part two of this mini-series. It’s simply impossible to go to Tokyo and not do any street photography; between the overall camera-friendliness of the people, the unusualness of the settings and the quality of light…

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You’ll probably find more order in this set than the last one – it’s just me reverting to character. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with a Ricoh GR, Olympus E-M1/ Panasonic 12-32 pancake zoom and Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-39 digital back and 2.8/80.

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  1. Reblogged this on Mistrz i Małgorzata and commented:

  2. The gentleman checking his phone on the train/subway has me in stitches (e.g. smiling all over). The photo is perfect; the moment even more so. How did you achieve that camera vantage point for the photo (& which camera)?

  3. Jorge Balarin says:

    Hi Ming, Super photos as always. Could you tell me why so much people wear masks while walking in the streets in some Asian countries ?. I understand that in China the contamination of the air is very high, but once I was in Cambodia, that is not an industrialized country, and also over there I saw many people wearing masks. Greetings.

  4. I think of the boy/shadow images the first one is stronger. It is clear that he is playing, and the gesture makes it appear that he is immersed in fantasyland. The second image is stronger with the context of the first. Otherwise I might wonder what he is doing, like looking for something. He also nicely frames the sign on the ground in the first one, but I have no idea what it says. Nice Series!

  5. Carlos El Sabio says:

    Disappointed when I came to the last image; wanted more. Very much looking foward to the images from Havana. Have a safe and productive trip. Carlos

  6. Hi Ming, some lovely / interesting images in these two posts. Now, I notice the second image in each post involves a tree, it’s shadow and a person/s walking past the tree. What’s all that about? 🙂

  7. Paul Stokes says:

    Another series of beautiful images. I like the first of the kid/shadow pair. It seems a stronger and more dynamic composition.

    Japan is almost a paradise for discreet and polite street photography.

    I have not managed to make it up to Hokkaido as yet although I managed to travel up to Takayama and Shirakawa-go last November. We do seem to have shot in the Nezu Museum gardens within days of each other. I simply cannot get over the numbers and variety of beautiful gardens and scenery to shoot in Japan and then there’s the architecture. So I guess I’ll just have to go back again.

  8. Kristian Wannebo says:

    I find these even more interesting than Part I, a stronger collection, I think (no need to call them Street photos – 🙂 ).

    I love your child photos, especially nr.1, it says so many things about life in a city.
    Nr. 2, 5 and 8 are other favourites.

    I find nr. 5 the best from the theme (I: 1, 8, perhaps 5) you started in part I.
    I find the last photo stronger in composition than the version from 17/3.

  9. titaniummike says:

    Reblogged this on TITANIUM MIKE.

  10. Reblogged this on Giai01's Blog and commented:

  11. A nice group of images, well done my friend 🙂

  12. Reminds me that I have to travel to Japan

    Really beautiful pictures.

  13. Tinker's Realm says:

    Enjoyed every image in this post- Excellent!

  14. Zerberous says:

    Tokyo is great for photography and also shopping gear. Once I leave it will all be useless 😉

  15. iskabibble says:

    Ah, the Japanese and their masks. God bless their paranoid little hearts. They would probably have a seizure in China’s horrifically polluted air.

    The two shots with the child and his shadow are just beyond excellent.

    • Thank you – which do you think is stronger?

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        ( If I may be allowed to butt in …)

        I find the composition of the second photo formally stronger, and there is a hint of “still life” over it.
        In the first photo, I think, the left edge of the wall behind “opens up” in “front” of the running child giving more movement to the situation.
        Although the background is similar, the photos can’t really be compared, I think they play in different leagues.

      • Iskabibble says:

        Funny you should ask. I tried to pick a favorite, but I can’t. Whatever one I’m looking at is the best. They both have their strong merits. I agree with Kristian, they “play in different leagues”.

    • stephennesbitt says:

      Ahh. The Japanese. God bless them for respecting those around them. No feet on tables and chairs. Rarely pushing in on trains. Not fighting in the street after a night on the town. God bless them indeed.

      As always, enjoyed the shots. I am never sure how much was done in post, but your dynamic range always appears so wide to me. No matter how many times I take a shot, I always find too much is lost in either direction. I can of course recover in post, but it never looks so smooth. Time to order your training packs.

      • Thanks – I can’t add back in post what wasn’t there in capture…it’s all about the dodging and burning. I’ll be releasing a monochrome masterclass workflow video soon…

  16. I love the kid/shadow pair

  17. Some really nice pics Ming Ever get out of the city when in Japan? Got to love the Japanese light, not sure what it is but there is a softness about it, and that subtle blue tinge. At least that was my impression. Although hard to point out in this set I know 🙂 Cant help but want to see these in colour. Have a great day.

    • Thanks Dan. Yes, I’v been to several cities/ regions; Hokkaido is particularly beautiful. I’ve been meaning to get up to Hakone too, but never seem to have the time 🙂

      As for quality of light – it’s winter + highish latitudes. It’s the same quality of light I find in Europe in autumn/ winter, but never in the tropics.

  18. JeffP3456 says:

    I don’t understand all the people wearing face masks. Do you wear a mask to avoid catching something or because you are sick and don’t want to spread something or what?

    • In parts of Asia (esp. Japan, but also Hong Kong where I live) it is considered polite not to spread your germs when you are sneezing or coughing, and in cities like these that is very difficult when crammed into crowded streets, public transport and office space. So it is culturally normal to wear an anti-bacterial mask. However, some friends also tell me that they wear them sometimes when they are afraid of catching something when there is a lot going around. In Hong Kong you will also find anti-bacterial gel dispensers (applied to your hands) in the lobbies of most public buildings and modern apartment complexes, shopping centres and so on – to prevent the spread of disease. In Hong Kong, this was an enduring response to SARs.

    • Zerberous says:

      In Japan people wear face masks to avoid catching or spreading something. During spring they help people with (pollen) allergies as well. You can also hide behind them when you are close to other people e.g. in the Tokyo metro ; to keep some (perceived) distance. Initially I disliked it that people wear masks – but now it is perfectly normal for me. Occasionally, I wear them as well.

    • The latter – it’s considered good social manners in Japan.

    • Yes, to avoid spreading or CATCHING something. Folks who have colds will usually wear them in lieu of using a handkerchief or otherwise covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing. (Stifling a sneeze is commonly believed to damage one’s eardrums.) Folks w/o colds wear them in hopes of avoiding catching something—often spread by those who use neither masks nor handkerchiefs when they cough. Some won’t bother because as one friend says “There is no use, it gets in your hair and all over your clothes anyway.”

      Also, at this time of year cedar pollen is heavy in Tokyo due to over planting of cedar trees in anticipation of timber sales decades ago, so many wear in hopes of limiting resulting allergies.


  1. […] has evolved since the last instalment in this series from a year ago; or three years ago (here and here). Perhaps it might be even more interesting to go back a year or two further still and pull out […]

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