Sakura Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo Japan means Spring has arrived

Inokashira Park with sakura cherry blossoms in full bloom - Olympus 5060 digital cameraIt is the first day of spring, which in Florida does not have as much meaning as there is never really any winter so it's not a date to look forward to like it is in most parts of the world.  This is expecially true in Tokyo, where the end of March brought my favorite (and millions of others' favorite) time of year, cherry blossom season.  Sakura (the Japanese word, also a popular name for girls) bloom for about two weeks.  If things time out right, that means getting two weekends to enjoy the pinkish white blossoms.  Above is Inokashera Park, a place to see sakura in a more natural setting from land or water.  Many couples go out on small boats, but the legend of the pond is that any couple that does is then doomed to breakup!

The old & new of the Shinjuku area of Tokyo Japan with a river lined with cherry blossoms.This photo is from my neighborhood in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo and highlights the contrast of the ultra-modern, the traditional and the natural world all in one, which is why of all places I lived abroad, Shinjuku was the only one I felt a real connection with.  On this weekday, I had the cement river walkway all to myself.

Overlooking a pond in Shinjuku Gyoen during cherry blossom season

The pond and overlook temple above are in Shinjuku Gyoen, perhaps the most esteemed place to go to see sakura.  This park was within walking distance from my apartment and my favorite place to escape the city while still being in the heart of the city.  

Shinjuku Tokyo Japan light trails

The view I had walking home at night when I lived in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, Japan - Nikon D80 f/29 ISO 200 5 sec tripod mountedThis is a photograph from my archives, taken back in October of 2008 at the start of my DSLR shooting from when I lived in Tokyo, Japan.  I lived in the heart of the city, Shinjuku, and getting home required walking over a pedestrian bridge with a great view, day or night, but especially at night.  I brought my Nikon D80 with me and a tripod I had just bought allowing me to make light trail images like this one.  Note that the brake lights appear on the left side of the road, as Japanese drive on the opposite side to the U.S.

Have a Photography Philosophy Part 1 - make photos for yourself

One of my all-time favorite personal photos, man contemplating Tokyo - Nikon D80 Nikkor 50mm @ f/8 ISO 400 1/250th (notice early in my DSLR photography learning I used settings I would definitely not today!)Earlier today I came up with an idea for a new photography tip series entitled, "Having a Photography Philosophy," as there are intangible things that going into photography beyond mastering exposure and even composition.  One of my personal photography philosophies has always been, even from the very start of getting more seriously into photography, was to first and foremost make photographs for myself.  It also may surprise you that I even carry this philosophy into shoots I do for clients.  The way I see it, clients have browsed my portfolios.  Therefore, they must like what they have seen to have hired me.  Thus, if I make shots that appeal to me, as I have always done in the past, then the photos I make for the client now will appeal to them as well.  Of course not every shoot allows for such creative freedom, but when I make portraits for clients or photograph cars for clients, I make shots I think look cool.  I want the final shots to also be ones I like.  This philosophy balanced with client input I believe creates very successful final images.

In my personal shooting I entirely shoot for myself first and foremost.  I go out to make shots that I like.  If someone else happens to like them, that is great, but not necessarily important to me.  After all, if you do not even like the photos you are making, how can you ever expect anyone else to like them either?  

The photo in this post is one of my all-time personal favorites.  If I could only choose one photo to remind me of what my life was like in Tokyo, it would probably be this one.  I walked by this very spot almost every day, and like the man pictured, never ceased to stop and stare at all the action, all the craziness, all the life before me.  It was also one of the very first, if not the first shot I ever took with my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens that I bought in Bic Camera just to frame left.  So as you can see, this photo cannot possibly have the same amount of meaning to anyone else, which is why it is important to make photographs for yourself.

Bird's Eye View of Tokyo from Shinjuku Nikon Headquarters Black & White

Bird's eye view of Tokyo from Nikon Headquarters in Shinjuku - Nikon D80 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/40thAll you see above I could navigate precisely on foot, by bike or on train, for this was my home neighborhood for six years.  Yet I never saw it from so high above until the very end of my time there.  If it looks like a maze I can assure you it most certainly was.  Passing through it on foot or by train was a constant series of turns, not just left and right, but also up and down in and out of stations, underground street passages and long, very long tunnels.  By far the fastest way to get from point A to point B was by bike, especially if one had the nerve to ride out in traffic, though by day or night I only ever found a section of about a quarter mile of road in that entire maze to be risky to ride on.

When friends visited it was a point of pride to lead them on a dizzying path through routes that took months to learn.  

I made this photograph from the Nikon Headquarters high up in a skyscraper in Shinjuku, the hub of Tokyo, if not its heart.  I lived a 10-minute walk from here, which in Tokyo walking time, is a short distance.  You could get hands on with every lens Nikon makes and also bring your Nikon DSLR in for a free sensor cleaning if it was still within warranty.  You were also treated to the view you see above.  I of course had to shoot through windows to make this shot.  I erased the spots on the windows visible in the sky portion of the photo.

If you can believe it, this place felt as much like home to me as any place I have ever lived.  

Tokyo Christmas Lights Stranger's Kiss - street photography

This is one of my personal favorite photographs - Location: Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan December 2008I can no longer remember what I saw and what I was thinking before I pushed the shutter to make this shot back in December of 2008 while I was still living in Tokyo, Japan and making daily trips to shoot in and around my tower apartment in Shinjuku.  I know I had been on to photograph some of the millions of Christmas lights in the city.  Japanese really, really like Christmas lights.  All of Tokyo is covered with them.  They refer to them as "illumination."  

This night it was just me and my Nikon watching the thousands of people walk by watching the thousands of lights.  There is a comfort I feel when I am out with my camera, almost a kind of security, that I would not feel if I were just one of the others out enjoying the lights.  

What do you see in the photo?  What of the two people?  Does it look like a couple about to kiss?  Actually, they were just strangers passing by and I happened to push the shutter just at the right instant to create the kissing illusion.  As I mentioned above, I can no longer remember if I intended to do this.  I am not even sure if I intended any people to be in the shot at all.  

Nevertheless, this illusioned shot of a couple's kiss is one of my personal favorite shots because it makes me think and try to remember.  

Observing the potential and the uncertainty

To this day I wonder what he is looking at, thinking about.

The above photograph has long been one of my personal favorites.  It may have no meaning to anyone else, but the main reason I make photographs is for myself actually.  I remember this day clearly.  I had just bought a Nikkor 50mm 1.8D lens, after thinking about it constantly for over a week.  I wanted a fast lens, and a sharp one, and on my Nikon D80 at that time, it was both.  

This pedestrian bridge was my favorite place in all of Tokyo.  Connecting to Shinjuku station, the busiest public transportation hub in the world, the potential there is tremendous.  Yet there is so much it can be and is overwhelming.  The pedestrian bridge puts you just slight above it all, in a safe position where the potential, as well as the uncertainty of all things, can be observed.

I saw this ojisan taking a long stare down the street I actually lived on for 4 years.  Looking at this photo now, after one of the most chaotic days of my life, it makes me feel calm, and reminds me that potential is still out there, along with uncertainty.

Street Photography - Tokyo Skateboarder

2008, Shinjuku Tokyo Japan - Nikon D80 with Nikkor AF ED 80-200mm f/2.8D lens

I did a lot of street photography when I lived in Tokyo.  Since I lived within a short walking distance of Shinjuku station, literally millions of people walked through my neighborhood every day.  On such street photography occasions I would seek out a spot out of the way of the flow of sidewalk traffic, preferably with my back against something (railing, subway entrance wall, etc), but with a clear view of the passing people.  There are other techniques I use to make my street photography images, but I will not reveal all of those here.  

Anyone carrying a skateboard would automatically grab my attention, but throw in a manilla envelope with BUGS in a large font across the front of it, and you have exactly the type of person my eyes comb through the masses for.  The bonus was I had a clear shot of him long enough to also make a detail shot of his skateboard.  

I would like to do a photo series of skateboard deck customizations some day.