Intentional Camera Movement and Spring Leaves (Podcast 775)

Intentional Camera Movement and Spring Leaves (Podcast 775)


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A few days ago my wife and I decided to go for a walk in our local park, the Jindai Botanical Park and Gardens here in Chofu, Tokyo, and as is often the case, I took a camera along. The cherry blossom came and went this year without more than a casual glance from my car window while running an errand, which is kind of sad, but it is what it is. With the last few blossom petals turning brown like patches of old snow at the side of the road, the rest of the park is now turning a beautiful spring green, so I decided to see if I could make a few intentional camera movement shots with the trees and spring color, and ended up with a few that I was relatively happy with. I shot some other photos as well, so I’ll share some favorites as you accompany us on our walk in the park.

We’ll work through these in chronological order, starting with this Japanese Rose shot. The name Japanese Rose doesn’t really do a lot for me, and the academic name Kerria Japonica has a similar non-ring to it. The Japanese call these Yamabuki, which conjures up images of spring and the warm orangey-yellow color carries the same name, so Yamabuki feels like a much better fit to me. As you can see there were a few drops of water left from the morning rain, and I also decided to darken down the outer edges of this shot quite a lot as well, to keep the focus on the flower and the texture of the leaves.

Yamabuki
Yamabuki – Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica)

I was using the new RF 100mm Macro with its ƒ/2.8 aperture wide open to keep the background nice and soft. I used a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second and selected an ISO of 400 to achieve the optimal exposure, which I checked with the histogram superimposed on the electronic viewfinder which I have become completely comfortable with.

Here is a somewhat more documentary shot, but I wanted to share with you the feeling of the park, as we moved from one area to another, and this side path kind of beckoned us in. We usually walk on the larger path to the right of this, but for some reason, on this particular day, this track seemed more inviting. It is probably because of all the spring green which made this area feel lighter than the somewhat darker area you can see to the right of this image.

Beckoning Woods
Beckoning Woods

I also shot this at ƒ/2.8 mostly because I was being lazy, but it does help to give us a sense of depth, with the foreground slightly out of focus. With more light here though, I adjusted my shutter speed to 1/100 of a second and ISO to 200.

Here is the first of the two Intentional Camera Movement shots that I was happy with. They are just trees a little further into the woods, but I was able to avoid including any sky at this spot. If you include the sky, in my opinion, it generally ruins the shot. It’s too bright and spoils the overall abstract effect. I changed my aperture to ƒ/11 and my shutter speed to a 1/15 of a second, which is what I needed to give me some long blur as I released the shutter while moving the camera downwards. My ISO was at 500 for the exposure.

Spring in Motion
Spring in Motion

I actually prefer this next image though, which was of a patch of giant bamboo, again with a dash of spring color to make it worth shooting. I’ve tried this kind of shot in other seasons and didn’t really like the result. Of course, my favorite is when the ground is covered in snow, but that doesn’t happen so often here. I find the bright green at the bottom of the frame quite appealing in this shot though, and the various shades of yellow and brown, and a few green bamboo has come together quite nicely in this shot.

Flowing Bamboo
Flowing Bamboo

I would have preferred it if that patch of leaves towards the top left corner wasn’t there, but I’m still relatively happy with this shot. My settings were the same as in the previous image. I found the color contrast interesting in this next shot, with a few rusty red maple trees mixed among the fresh spring green leaves. It was also nice to be in the park pretty much by ourselves, thanks to it being overcast and a little on the cold side on the day we visited.

Red Leaves in Spring
Red Leaves in Spring

I switched to my RF 100-500mm lens for a while to pick out some leaves that were too far away to capture with the macro lens, as we can see in this next image. My favorite part of this shot is the shadow of the smaller leaf towards the end of this patch to the left, which fits perfectly inside the foreground leaves, making it somewhat difficult to understand what’s happening, but it’s nice to get the two strong shades of green like that, with crisp edges around the darker green shadow.

Spring Maple Leaves
Spring Maple Leaves
Katsura Leaves (Caramel Tree)
Katsura Leaves (Caramel Tree)

I was also careful with my background, ensuring that the leaves were against the trunk of a larger tree, rather than open space, which helps to keep the shot simple and uncluttered. My settings were ƒ/7.1 for a 1/125 of a second at ISO 4000, at 500mm. I did something similar, with this next and final image for today, still with the 100-500mm lens but with the focal length slightly shorter at 324mm, and I opened up the aperture to ƒ/5.6 for a shallower depth of field to capture these cameral tree leaves. Cameral tree is like a nickname for what the Japanese call a Katsura tree. These trees smell great though, and hence the nickname, although I have to admit I didn’t know these trees had that nickname until I looked up the English to relay to you today.

OK, so we’ll start to wrap this up there. I guess my parting message for this episode would be that although it was only a walk in the park, it’s important to keep open some creative options like intentional camera movement in mind, as these things can help to bring a little more enjoyment to our photography.

I’ve been so caught up in the development of PhotoClock Pro and now working on one last update before I start to develop an Android version, so I haven’t been able to do much photography in recent months, and that starts to become stressful. Photography has and probably always will be my main form of stress relief, in addition to being my main profession. Doing things that we love, regardless of what they are, is always a calming experience, and it was nice to come home and just spend a few hours going through my images and giving them a few tweaks. I also shot a number of tree bark shots which I collect. They actually look pretty good as a background in my PhotoClock Pro app as well, so I’m starting to form an album in Apple Photos so that I can easily drop them into a folder for my background.

On that note, last week I shared a video that included a part about integrating PhotoClock Pro with Apple Music and that has gone well. I am able to start playing music at a given time like an alarm, but it requires the screen to stay on, although we dim it down completely, so it is working well. I have a little more work to do to get it stable and hope to get something in for review in the next few days, so stay tuned if Apple Music integration is something that appeals to you. If not, it’s still a great app and works perfectly well without Apple Music.


Show Notes

Check out PhotoClock Pro here: https://mbp.ac/pcp

Or on the App Store here: https://mbp.ac/aspcp

Music by Martin Bailey


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A Stroll in the Jindai Botanical Park (podcast 761)

A Stroll in the Jindai Botanical Park (podcast 761)


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Last Friday I spent a few hours in the Jindai Botanical Park, my local park, and the reason I moved to Chofu in Tokyo eleven years ago. I took a gimbal that I use to steady my Canon EOS R5 and a new 7″ monitor that I’ve bought for it, partly to test my setup, but I also have wanted to provide some video footage of the Autumn leaves for some time now, so I made my visit into a little project to make a video, basically taking you along with me for “A Stroll in the Park”. I edited the video relatively quickly after getting home on Friday, and then on Sunday, with a rough idea of what I wanted to do for music, I spent a few hours creating what I think is a relatively relaxing piano track that I timed to perfectly match the length of the video. I also set the tempo to a relatively steady pace, as I wanted it to complement just walking through the park.

Here is the resulting video, which I hope you enjoy, and we go on for the Podcast today to explain some of the things I did to make the video and I’ll talk about some of my favorite photographs as well.

So, let’s talk about the process and the photos, etc. as well. First up, here are two photos of the gear that I took with me, out on my table in the studio as I prepared, and packed it into my bag. I also attached my tripod to the bag before we left. As you can see, the gimbal doesn’t really fit into my current bag, so I’m thinking of options that will better suit this type of gear, but for the purposes of this little project, I was fine with just dropping the gimbal into my large vest pocket when not in use.

The Jindai Botanical Park has a number of car parks nearby, and I select which one I use based on what I want to do. The large car park near the main entrance is generally fine, but as you pay by the hour, it can turn out quite pricy. We were in the park for just under three hours, and the car park cost $8 or ¥800. If we want to have a walk through the little group of shops or visit the water garden at the other end of the park, there are some private car parks that charge ¥800 for a whole day, so if I know I’m going to be in the park for more than three hours, I generally park in a private car park near the Jindai Temple.

On this day though, we parked near the main entrance and walked through to the pond where there is a little pagoda that my wife and I generally visit first when we get to the park and enter through the main gate. I sat on one of the benches there and set up my gimbal, so that is where the video starts. I then shot some footage as we walked through the park, along the brook that fills the pond, and across the quaint little stepping stones that I included in the video, then on through one of the main rest areas to the area where the maple trees are that turn yellow and red at this time of year.

I didn’t use what I call the rolling legs technique to steady the video more than the gimbal would already do, for two reasons. The main one being I didn’t want to look like an idiot while on a walk in the park with my wife. If I was on a professional job, I would have bent my legs and walked as steadily as possible, but it wasn’t a professional job, it was a walk in the park. And that is the second reason. I really just wanted the video to feel like you were strolling along beside me, and as you’ll see, the gimbal does a great job of steadying the center of the frame, so you don’t feel nauseous, but the edges of the frame move with my footsteps, so you can see that we’re walking.

I edited the footage to a number of clips that lead us through the park then walk through the maple trees while filming, to give you a feel for the atmosphere. I love this area of the park and don’t think I’ve visited in any season without walking through there, and I think the video helps you to understand why. Once I get to the end of the path, I turn around and come back to the center, but then I packed away the gimbal, and spend another hour or so shooting stills and video with my 100-500mm lens, mostly zoomed all the way to 500mm. All of the footage while walking through the park was shot at around 35mm and I zoomed out to 24mm while walking through the maple trees to show a little more of the colorful canopy.

We’ll look through a number of stills that I shot now, and if you watch the video, you’ll notice that most of them are the same framing as the clips shot from various positions along the maple tree path. In this first shot, we see some of the yellow maple leaves but can also see some patches of orange, which I’ve not noticed in the past. I wondered if the conditions this year would give rise to some hybrid colors if that’s possible, so I’m going to try to go back in a week or so before these leaves fall if only to check.

Mellow Yellow
Mellow Yellow

At 500mm with this lens, my widest aperture is ƒ/7.1, and that was what I shot all of today’s images at, so I won’t keep repeating this. There are also only two that were not shot at 500mm, so I won’t repeat that either. I did most of my exposure manipulation with the ISO and shutter speed, and this was shot at 1/400 of a second, at ISO 400. Once I’ve found some leaves that appeal to me, I start to look at their background and see if there is an angle that I can shoot from that gives me a pleasing background.

When Canon first announced the RF 100-500mm lens, there was the usual spate of complaints that you see online, and one of the main ones was that the aperture at 500mm was too small at ƒ/7.1, but as you can see from this and the rest of the images today, at 500mm ƒ/7.1 provides plenty of smooth bokeh, both in the background and foreground. Complaining about this aperture shows nothing more than a lack of understanding of depth of field.

This next image is a contrast from what I usually shoot. These leaves were in the shadows underneath some brightly lit leaves, but I really like how they fell into almost complete darkness and showed only as silhouettes against the patches of lighter bokeh in the background. This sort of shot is one of the few times that I don’t use my usual expose to the right technique. I could have exposed to the right then darkened this down, but it’s not necessary to get good image quality. I dropped my ISO to 160 for this at 1/200 of a second.

Kouyou Silhouettes
Kouyou Silhouettes

I used the same ISO and a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second for this next shot, where the orange leaves were getting a lick of light, and you can see the darker leaves from the previous shot just poking into the bottom of the frame here.

Forest Fire
Forest Fire

You’ll notice in the video that the contrast between the shadow areas and the spots that get lit through gaps in the canopy can be quite great, and this is one of the reasons that I like this spot. I like to work with extremes, as they provide creative opportunities. Without the shadows, the highlights wouldn’t work in many of these images.

The following image though is all about the contrast between the colors yellow and green.

Yellow in Green
Yellow in Green

I sampled 10 of the key colors from this image automatically in an application called Spectrum that I use when I’m curious about the colors in an image, and really like the color palette from this image. We can also see in the second screenshot here that all of the colors are neighbors on the color wheel, and neighboring colors are generally complementary, but there is enough contrast in the colors to separate the elements out.

We’re back to more of a light and dark contrast in this next image though, as I once again play with the shadows and highlights in these beautiful leaves and their backgrounds. Notice too how I have positioned the batch of leaves just left of center over a darker area of the background, to give them the separate required to appreciate their form. This image was one of the two that I pulled back from 500 to 428 millimeters to get the framing that I wanted. With my shutter speed at 1/160 of a second, I also increased my ISO to 640 for this exposure.

Red Spots
Red Spots

I have to admit though, and long-time listeners may also recall, that I do have a soft spot for the yellow leaves that we see in this following image. Especially with the dark background, I’ve enjoyed shooting this kind of image at this location for probably around fifteen years now, even when I lived in the center of Tokyo, and sometimes drove out here to Chofu to visit this park. I also pulled back a little for this photo to 451 millimeters. I dropped my ISO to 100 for this, with a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second.

Black and Yellow
Black and Yellow

Between all of these shots, I was, of course, switching into video mode, and I left my little RODE mic on top of the camera the whole time so that I could capture the ambient sounds. There is also one point in the video where you hear the large temple bell, which I believe rang out at noon. I always find the sound of these big bells very soothing, so I was happy to have included that in the video.

Next, we see some of the deep red leaves that are at the start of the path through the maple trees. Again, I enjoy the contrast between the dark patches in the background and the out-of-focus other red leaves. We’re back to 500mm for this and the rest of the images, and my ISO was at 250 and my shutter speed was also 250th of a second.

Kouyou
Kouyou

The following image may be worked better towards the end of the video, but I do like the light and dark areas of this image, with the dark tree trunk separating the two sides. You’ll notice how in the video, with this, and many of the cuts, I focussed on a patch of leaves in the foreground before moving the focus out to the red leaves. I enjoy the out-of-focus areas of images and like to play with that when shooting video as well. I’m still focusing with the focus ring on the lens mind. I haven’t invested in a focusing setup for the gimbal, as I’m generally doing OK with the lens, although you’ll probably notice that I did shake the camera a little a few times in the video.

Yin & Yang
Yin & Yang

This final image is a reflection on the surface of the brook that runs through the park. For this, I focussed on the silhouetted maple leaves against the patch of red, but as you’ll see in the closing scene of the video, there were many layers to this image as I focussed through to eventually settle on the leaves sitting on top of the water, before fading to black for the ending credits.

Koyou Reflections
Koyou Reflections

Since DSLR cameras became video aware I’ve been shooting what I call moving stills, which are generally around 30-second clips framed like photos, but when you look closer they are moving. There is one section in the video where the leaves are so still, if it wasn’t for one leaf rotating on a thread of a spider’s web, you’d think it actually was a still photograph, but everything in the video is video, with no stills.

I’ll put B&H links to the main gear used in the show notes for this episode, and will follow up soon with an episode dedicated to talking more about the Weebill-S gimbal and supporting kit that I’m using with this. I also have a bit of information on what to avoid when buying a gimbal for the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R, so stay tuned for that if you are interested. All in all, it was a fun little project, and I enjoyed the entire process, and I hope you enjoyed joining me for a stroll in the park.


Show Notes

Canon EOS R5 Body: https://mbp.ac/EOSR5

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens: https://mbp.ac/rf24-105

Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM Lens: https://mbp.ac/100-500

Zhiyun-Tech WEEBILL-S Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer: https://mbp.ac/wbs

FeelWorld LUT7 7” 3D LUT 4K HDMI Monitor: https://mbp.ac/fw7

Rode VideoMicro Ultracompact Camera-Mount Shotgun: https://mbp.ac/rvm

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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The Cherry Blossom Comes and Goes for Another Year (Podcast 736)

The Cherry Blossom Comes and Goes for Another Year (Podcast 736)


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Spring is in the air here in Tokyo, and the Cherry Blossom has come early. Although at the time of writing it’s pretty much fallen from the trees, replaced by the green leaves that you’ll see in some of the shots that I’ll share today. As usual, I have been busy with one thing and another, but I didn’t want to let the blossom pass by completely without a single photo, and the relaxation of just being out with my camera is more necessary than ever, so on Saturday, I grabbed my gear and set out for a walk around my local area where there are a few rows of Sakura Trees that I was sure would provide at least a few opportunities.

I started with some wider shots of the tunnel formed by the blossom just after the nearest train station to our apartment, but as is often the case, I’m not really a fan of the wide shot. Tokyo is an urban jungle, and although makes for great street photography, I find it too busy and not really pretty enough for my tastes. For that reason, I tend to shoot very tightly cropped images of the blossom, as you’ll see, although I do have some shots that appear to be wider, but, in fact, are shot at 500mm on the long end of my RF 100-500mm lens.

I’ve selected ten images from my two-hour walk and will walk you through my thoughts as I shot each image. These aren’t really anything special, but in the spirit of sharing my life as a photographer and business owner, this is about my lot at the moment, and hopefully, you’ll be able to gain something from this.

The first thing that I look for as I try to decide what to shoot, is some flowers that can be isolated to a degree. The other thing that appeals to me is flowers that are mostly in the shade or being caught by the light shining through a gap, like these first few sprigs of flowers that were blooming in the base of one of the first branches from the main trunk of the tree.

Hazakura
Hazakura

As I said, the green leaves were already starting to mingle with the blossom, which is a sign that the blossom is coming to an end. The light was catching the leaves towards the top of the frame, increasing the contrast somewhat, but also adding a splash of slightly more vibrant color, which I don’t dislike. For me though, the main appeal of this shot is the blossom in the left foreground. I shot this with the Canon RF 50mm ƒ/1.2 lens with the aperture set to ƒ/2.2 so the depth of field is intentionally very shallow. I focussed on those foreground blossoms and let everything else gradually go out of focus.

When working with such shallow depth of field, I generally move my selected focus point so that I can place it over the main subject, rather than focussing with the center focus point then recomposing. The plane of focus moves slightly as you refocus, and can cause the main subject to slip out of the depth of field, so I try to avoid that. It’s also important to note that I was shooting handheld, so I also will be rocking slightly as I breathe, so moving the focus point also reduces the time between focusing and releasing the shutter, and that also helps me to avoid moving and again losing focus on the main subject.

This next image (below left) is a similar deal. I found a sprig of blossom shooting from the main trunk that was mostly in the shade. I went with a vertical orientation for this, mainly because horizontal would have allowed the edges of the trunk to come into frame, and I wanted to avoid that. Because I’d gone vertical though, I placed the blossom on the top third. I was physically looking up at the blossom, so this composition helps to give them some perceived height. This was shot at ƒ/2, so a slightly shallower depth of field, and again, I moved the focus point around so that I didn’t lose focus on the flowers. I’m actually generally trying to ensure that I get some of the stamen sharp, as I find that these details are the most important element to give the overall impression of the sharpness of the blossom.

There is a water duct that flows alongside the road where I was walking, and the cherry blossom trees have some branches that reach out over the water. There are some places where it was possible to isolate just one sprig of blossom with a relatively clear background, like this, but because the branches and twigs were much further away, I had to switch to my RF 100-500mm lens at this point and would continue to use it for the rest of the shots I’ll be sharing.

At 500mm with this lens, my widest possible aperture is ƒ/7.1, and that is what I shot this at. Because the longer focal length causes the depth of field to become shallower, I actually have a shallower depth of field for this shot at 500mm and an aperture of ƒ/7.1 focusing at around 1.6 meters or 5 feet than I did for the previous images, shot at 50mm with an aperture of f/2 at around 55 cm. This is why I really enjoy playing around with the 100-500mm as a close-up lens. It not only enables me to frame up things that are further away and sometimes not even physically approachable with a macro lens, and it still has wonderfully shallow depth of field.

Note too that to keep the eye in the frame for this shot, I applied a vignette to this image in Capture One Pro, and reduced the exposure of the vignette by around two stops. There was also some natural vignetting which helps to keep the look quite natural.

I walked back to the trees by the road and found probably one of my favorite clusters of blossom, that you can see in this image. I like the balance of these flowers, almost forming a starburst, or like an asteroid shower, all coming from a single point in the center of the flowers. They are also relatively clean, and don’t have a significantly large green leave in with them, so I like the relative minimalism of this shot.

Sakura Starburst
Sakura Starburst

I positioned the blossom on the left side of the frame as there were more flowers that seemed to be “looking” to the right, so I wanted to give their gaze more space. The focal length was 451mm, and that being slightly closer allowed me to open up the aperture slightly to ƒ/6.3.

As I walked along further, there was another bridge over the water duct, so I stepped out onto that and shot this next image. This was towards the late afternoon sun which was out of frame to the left of the camera. It’s a busy shot, but again, at 500mm the aperture of ƒ/7.1 enabled me to isolate some of the blossom with the focus plane.

Sakurascape
Sakurascape

You might also notice that there are multiple lines formed by the out-of-focus twigs and branches, which is caused by the aperture of the RF 100-500mm lens. It’s not the best bokeh I’ve seen in a long lens, but with this kind of subject, I still find it relatively pleasing.

Sticking with the Japanese photography terminology, in addition to the word “bokeh” which we’re all used to using, there is a compound word called “maebokeh” which means foreground bokeh. This is the technique of placing subjects in the foreground, between or as in this next image, around the main subject. This technique can be very appealing, and indeed, this is another favorite shot from my walk.

Foreground Bokeh Sakura
Foreground Bokeh Sakura

It was tricky, timing-wise because the breeze was moving the foreground blossom around continuously, so I had to shoot around thirty frames to get one that I liked. Ironically, this was one of the first of the batch, but the experimentation was necessary to give myself some options and something to compare the images against. This was still at 500mm with an aperture of ƒ/7.1 and I find the foreground bokeh in this shot to be much more pleasing than the previous shot.

The next image (below left) is similar to an earlier image, but I wanted to include this as well, for a few reasons. Firstly, despite the majority of this image being beautiful, clean blossom, there is a patch of decay starting to form on the bottom-left flower. This is, to me, somewhat in line with the Japanese concept of “Wabisabi” or beauty in imperfection.

I’ve seen some cups made by Japanese potters that have bugs painted on the inside. This was originally done to hide imperfections in the vessel but became a way of intentionally adding an imperfection in the spirit of wabi-sabi. I also own a number of cups that I’ve bought with my wife over the years that are made from clay that uses a high level of soil, so they are very earthy and rough. They are some of my favorite cups to drink sake from. I should put a few hours aside to photograph them and share them with you as well, as they are quite beautiful in their own right.

Here is another vertical orientation image (above right), though this time it was purely for aesthetic reasons. The blossom and accompanying buds and leaves were slightly taller than they were wide and just felt that portrait orientation would suit that more. Plus, from a stock photography perspective, it’s always nice to have some vertical options as well. One of these portrait aspect images will probably find itself on the cover of the eBook that I’ll put together for MBP Pro Members as soon as I’ve released this post.

This next image is somewhat different to the rest of the closeup shots, simply because there is more detail in the bark, and a wider area of blossom, buds, and leaves included. This is actually a little too busy for my liking, as I really prefer a minimalist look. Come to think of it, I actually used a Luma Tone Curve and darkened the bark down very slightly in most of the other images, just to make the blossom more prominent and reduce the competition for the viewer’s attention.

Sakura Community
Sakura Community

We’ll finish this relatively short episode with one last image, which I shot from the side, so that the bark of the tree overlaps with the right edge of the blossom, to kind of give it a peekaboo feel, as though the blossom is looking around the side of a building. Again, shallow depth of field with the 100-500mm lens at 300mm and an aperture of ƒ/5.6, and once again, I was careful to get the stamen sharp, as it feels like a mistake to me when I see the stamen out of focus in shots like this. I think those little orange balls of detail help to anchor the image visually in the midst of the rest of the blurriness.

Peekaboo Sakura
Peekaboo Sakura

Like I said, nothing really special, but I like to keep you updated with my antics, and as I mentioned recently, these short shoots of things that I enjoy photographing are keeping me sane as I work on other tasks that are not always as enjoyable as being out with the camera. If you still have some blossom in full bloom near you at the moment, I hope this might give you some ideas on how you might compose something perhaps a little more minimalistic than the wider shots that can sometimes feel more natural to shoot. And, of course, if you have any shots of your local blossom to share, feel free to drop a link into the comments below.


Show Notes

You can buy the Canon EOS R5 used for these shots here: https://mbp.ac/EOSR5

And here’s a link to the 100-500mm lens: https://mbp.ac/100-500

And finally, the 50mm ƒ/1.2 lens: https://mbp.ac/RF50mm

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Tokyo in the Shadow of the Virus on One Roll of Film (Podcast 708)

Tokyo in the Shadow of the Virus on One Roll of Film (Podcast 708)


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It has been a crazy month! I finalized my tenth fiscal year’s accounts with my Tax Accountant, and also visited a Judicial Scrivener to extend my position as the head of Martin Bailey Photography K.K. because apparently, here in Japan, you are automatically fired on the day that you hold the last meeting of the shareholders, which is me, but as these are official procedures, we have to document them, and in turn, file the appropriate papers. The funny thing is if I don’t actually go ahead and fire myself, and fail to visit the scrivener and pay him to reinstate myself as the CEO of my own company, I get fined around $300 by the government and my company is put into liquidation. Luckily for me, I work with a tax accountant that keeps an eye on all of these things for me, because without him, I’d miss all of these things.

Having also spent most of the last three months in self-isolation, spending my time working on a big update to my Photographer’s Friend app, I also have the remnants of that pesky little brain tumor to look after, and that means a quarterly visit to the hospital in the middle of Tokyo, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to push a roll of medium format film through my Rolleiflex, and see what I could do with Tokyo under in the shadow of the Corona Virus. Unfortunately, despite the countless negative aspects of the virus, like death and financial ruin, which I obviously do not want to belittle, it turned out to be a relatively pleasant trip into the city.

Sitting on the train in the morning rush-hour, rather than standing, sardine-style, was the first bonus. Many people continue to work remotely, and as you can see from this first photo of the ticket gates on the exit of the Onarimon Station, the number of people in transit is still very low, despite us now having our travel restrictions lifted. From June 19, we are once again able to travel between prefectures here in Japan, so the trains are starting to gradually fill again. I live on the border of what is essentially the state of Tokyo, with the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, and jumped into my car on the 19th to go and grab something from a store just over the border, and the roads were packed! I estimated that it would take me at least 90 minutes to run a ten-minute errand, so I swung the car around and went home. It wasn’t important to do it on that day.

Onarimon Station Ticket Gates
Onarimon Station Ticket Gates

As I walked up the stairs from the platform just before shooting this image, there was actually no-one around these ticket gates. It was completely surreal, but as I took the cover off my Rollei and set the exposure these people appeared from no-where, and still only accounted for probably 10% of the number of people I usually see going through these gates at this time of day, but the affects that the virus has had on Tokyo are pretty obvious, including the masks, although around half of these people would have been wearing masks anyway, even before the virus.

This next shot from a few minutes later was another rarity. I could have walked up this escalator unhindered, while usually there’s a person on almost every step. It was a nice chance to capture the metallic sheen of the sides of the escalator and the light radiating from the exit opening. On a technical note, at times like this, I am relying pretty much on the light meter built into my 56-year-old Rolleiflex, and I am always impressed with how accurate it is, even in conditions like this. I really like how we can see the detail in the dark steps as well as all the highlights as the scene gets brighter.

Onarimon Station Escelator to Exit
Onarimon Station Escelator to Exit

Before we go on, let me explain that I’m going to quickly go through all twelve images from the roll of Rollei RPX 100 film that I shot, but like this one, they aren’t all great shots. I’m going to share them all anyway, to show you my thought process and that really needs to include the lesser images as well. Here I noticed a sparrow jumping around on top of the walkway connecting the fourth floor of the hospital to another building. The sparrow is pretty much unrecognizable, just below the center of the frame, but I was literally struck by the fact that these tiny birds spend their days in the metropolis, so minute compared to their surroundings, and wondered if they realized that they lived in one of the largest cities on the planet. Of course, they don’t, but the scale struck me, to the point that I thought it was worth a frame.

Sparrow Lost in Space
Sparrow Lost in Space

I walked along to a window in the middle of the fifth floor, and shot the following two images. I was struck by how few people there were on the streets again. This isn’t a particularly busy area of Tokyo anyway, but when I first looked, there was a taxi and a truck, and just a few people. I also liked the vantage point, so I initially grabbed this frame.

Taxi and Turning Truck
Taxi and Turning Truck

After that shot though, a number of people did walk into the scene, though again it felt sparse, and almost baron, so I grabbed a second frame of the same scene. I timed it so that the person crossing the road in the foreground was in approximately the same location as the taxi in the first frame.

Few People on the Streets
Few People on the Streets

After a chat with my doctor and on my way to the pharmacy to pick-up my medication, I shot a few scenes that I’d noticed on the way to the hospital. As usual, the light had been better earlier, but I was already late and thought it better to leave these shots until afterwards. I’m still relatively happy with them though. Here I found the contrast between the older dark building on the left, with the newer light colored building on the right interesting, and the Mori Tower building peeping over the top of the building in the back.

Old, New and Newer Still
Old, New and Newer Still

This is the other side of the same building, and I was attracted to this by the rugged feel with the pipes and vents attached to the outside of the buildings. I don’t photograph the city often, but I do find these rugged industrial aspects appealing. Also, although I’m not a huge fan of grain, I find the grain that is visible towards the bottom of this image quite appealing. I’ve been using the Silverfast scanning software on recommendation from listeners following an earlier blog post, and although I had some initial concerns, I am pretty happy with the workflow and results now, so next week I’ll talk about that process a little.

Pipes, Vents and Buildings
Pipes, Vents and Buildings

I was reminded of that software by talking about the grain, because I had some images that were too grainy compared to the Canon scanning software, but as I get accustomed to the settings, Sliverfast does seem to provide quite pleasing film grain, rather than smoothing it over, as the Canon software does, and I think I’ve learned to appreciate this.

Here’s another angle of the same building, this time showing more of the pipes on the right side and more of the Mori Tower building in the distance. Again it’s the industrial feel of this shot that appealing to me, but I prefer the balance in the previous shot.

Gritty Tokyo
Gritty Tokyo

I then recalled the angles and juxtaposition of the two buildings that I shot square-on earlier, and walked back to shoot that, as you can see in this next frame. I found this appealing as I walked to the hospital, but had forgotten about it, not noticing as I walked in the opposite direction, and then I remembered to look back, and realized that I had forgotten this. I like the angles and again, the play between the darker older building and the newer lighter building.

Tokyo Contrast Juxtaposition
Tokyo Contrast Juxtaposition

It’s not very noticeable, but I was using an orange filter on the taking lens of the Rollei trying to darken the sky down a little, but this is the only shot in which I can really see the effect. I also like that the light meter built into the Rollei has an exposure compensation dial, so I can dial in two-thirds of a stop to compensate for the filter. Not bad for a camera that is three year’s older than I am.

As I turned, I saw the two similar staircases on this foreground and distant building, and grabbed a quick shot here too. Again I also like the light and dark, almost yin and yang style aspects here too. I cropped this in by around 15% on the top and left side to make it more symmetrical and to remove some annoying features on the top and left side. It’s nice working with the 75mm prime lens, which is the equivalent of a 50mm lens on a 35 mm system, but sometimes I have to crop in a little like this, but not often.

Layers of Buildings and Stairs
Layers of Buildings and Stairs

Back in the Onarimon Station, I was again surprised by how few people there were on the platform, leading to shot number eleven below. At this time of day this isn’t a busy station, but still, it felt overly empty due to the stay home policy in Tokyo, and general caution of the population here.

Onarimon Station at Midday
Onarimon Station at Midday

I used the last shot of the roll to get the train coming in to the station at Jinbouchou, that we would ride home through the city and out to the west where we live. At ISO 100 even at f/3.5 I was only able to get a shutter speed of an 1/8 of a second, so the train is blurred. I’d hoped this would turn out a little more artistic, but this is what I ended up with.

Train Arriving at Jinbouchou Station
Train Arriving at Jinbouchou Station

I kind of regretted using that last frame on the train as I saw an opportunity for a self-portrait as we went through the dark tunnels of the underground, turning the windows into mirrors, and the lack of people on the train made it the perfect opportunity, but I didn’t think it was worth putting a second roll of film into the Rollei, and even if I had, I would not have finished the roll, so I left it out.

I enjoyed giving myself this little project, as the limitation of the 12 frames to try and form a cohesive set of images is a nice challenge, and I also like to try and make as many decent images as I can. With digital I’m still a careful photographer, but when every frame costs a few dollars, especially when you consider the cost of chemicals as well, it makes you just a little bit more cautious.

I processed the film when I got home late yesterday afternoon, and scanned it in this morning, on Saturday the 27th of June, 2020. [For some weird reason I originally wrote September!] It’s strange that the development work that I am doing has turned into my main job, and the Podcast and Blog is being forced back to my weekend work, like when I had a day job until ten years ago. It’s probably going to stay that way for a little while longer though, as I try to get this latest release finished. I have have all but one feature completed, and I’m hoping to release Photographer’s Friend 3.5 in the next couple of weeks, so please stay tuned for that.


Show Notes

See my other film related posts here: https://mbp.ac/film

You can see the Silverfast scanning software that I’ll talk about next week here: https://www.silverfast.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Artist Feature – Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times (Podcast 569)

Artist Feature – Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times (Podcast 569)

This week I’m sharing a video that I made recently to interview Lee Chapman of Tokyo Times. Lee is a street photographer who takes his craft to the limits when it comes to getting up close to his subjects, although he’s generally a pretty shy person.

I have released this episode as a small iPhone version video in the podcast feed, but I recommend you watch the full sized video below to enjoy Lee’s beautiful work to the full.

Some of Lee’s work can seem very in-your-face, as he gets quite close to his subjects, generally without their permission, but as you’ll hear Lee explain in our conversation, his goal is never to annoy his subjects, and he always wants to portray them well, or at least as good as their situation allows. His subjects range from Tokyo’s youth, people that could be movie stars, to inhabitants of the red-light district, and his photos invoke a myriad of emotions that are unique to Lee’s work and his style.

Anyway, rather than writing about it, grab a coffee, kick up your feet, and go full-screen to enjoy Lee’s world in all it’s gritty glory.

Catch up with Lee Chapman Online

Lee’s Blog: http://wordpress.tokyotimes.org

Lee’s Portfolios: https://leechapman.photos

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tokyotimes_lee/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tokyotimes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tokyotimes.org

RSS: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Wwwtokyotimesorg

Some of Lee’s Beautiful Images

We view more than this in the video, but here is a small selection of Lee’s work.

© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman
© Lee Chapman

Show Notes

Watch this and other videos on our Vimeo channel here: https://vimeo.com/martinbailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in iPhone sized video.