Street photography, according to Wikipedia[1], “features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment”.

On the other hand, what I define as ‘street’ in my collection of shots is a ragbag of random, uninspired, chikkenshit digital images furtively taken when I go walk about.

Some may disagree, especially those who see no point in taking photos of random strangers, but doing street photography is an art that requires some brass ones. I remembered reading about an amateur photog who took a photo of a guy in a mohawk in Camden only to be hurled abusive expletives, yet in the same breath, she later captured a market seller engrossed in a book behind a counter after asking permission to have the photo taken.

Apart from brass ones, having the eye is obviously the most important thing. Capturing symmetry/asymmetry, the human figure, light/shadows and, most importantly, the story. One will never know the real story behind the subject shot obviously but if the images can vividly tell you one, I’d say that’s a bloody good shot. And if you think about it, all these shots are taken on the go, without much contemplation.

I remembered doing a trial run in Manchester before this second Japan trip as I wanted to get used to my X20. The results were not too bad, but only from a technical perspective – exposure, speed, subject in frame, those kinda things. My first trip in March had shots which either had people as inadvertent subjects when I take a scenery shot, or at my bravest, shots of people’s backs. Like this one in Ginza.


Ginza gyaruzu. Ginza, Tōkyō. March 2014. Fujifilm X20.

If I was to take a large number of shots, on the balance of probabilities, I may find something inspiring when I were to review them later on Lightroom. Cunning plan, right?

I was so wrong. Hahaha.

Anyway, the Saturday after returning from Ōsaka saw me doing an afternoon’s photo walkabout with Farhan-san, and we were going to see a bit of momiji as well as soaking the atmosphere in Yanaka, an old part of Tōkyō that is bereft of the neon lights you’d get in the likes of Shinjuku. As this walk also contained an informal tutorial, I decided against doing the chikkenshit ‘street’ method.


Back from the night shift. Nippori, Tōkyō. December 2014. Canon EOS 550D, EF50mm f/1.8 II.

I did try shooting some autumn leaves in Himeji a few days before this but something wasn’t right. So, as part of this mini masterclass, we went to the side grounds of Kyo-oji 「経王寺」where there were a few acers that hadn’t fully shedded yet. Here, I learnt a few tips on composition when it comes to leaves/trees and for the first time, I finally understood how to basically use the histogram.

I think I did fine:


. Sendagi, Tōkyō. December 2014. Canon EOS 550D, EF50mm f/1.8 II.

I love the quieter ambience of Yanaka[2]. As I only had a prime lens on my Canon, I was able to take a few of people from a non-intrusive comfortable distance. However, I felt that in hindsight, I was either rushing the shot, or when it was after thoughtfully comtemplating a shot, the photo didn’t come out right composition-wise. I guess that’s the learning curve I had to go on.


伯父さん、どこに行きますか。 Yanaka, Sendagi, Tōkyō. December 2014. Canon EOS 550D, EF50mm f/1.8 II.

If you ever go to Yanaka Ginza, try doing it in the afternoon as the iconic landmark for this stretch is the Yuuyake Dandan 「夕やけだんだん」or ‘sunset steps’. When light fades as the sun sets, the view of the street from the top of the steps is just lovely. Okay, this had gone through some Lightroom wizardy, but I reassure you that this place is worth checking out.


Gakky suteppu. Yanaka, Sendagi, Tōkyō. December 2014. Fujifilm X20.

It was at night when I decided to prowl[3] the streets of Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku for my chikkenshit ‘street’ shots. It would be before and after dinner, before heading back to my hotel in Akasaka. I comforted myself by thinking, I’ve gotta start somewhere. I wasn’t too bothered with getting the composition (if you can call it that hahaha) well-lit as graininess add character[4]. As long as the shot’s reasonably in focus and not extremely blurred, that’d do it for me. For this, the X20 was the camera of choice as by hanging it around my neck, I could easily take the shots I need. See how it is chikkenshit? Hahaha.


笑顔. Shinjuku, Tōkyō. December 2014. Fujifilm X20.


After school 買い物. Shinjuku, Tōkyō. December 2014. Fujifilm X20.

But there lies the problem. I only got shots of people walking. On Monday morning, I met up with Farhan-san again in Tsukiji. After grabbing a hearty breakfast of sashimidon and a few ōtoro nigirizushi at Sushizanmai, we went to the market itself despite it being late morning when there is less action going on. For this sesh, I had the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8. I love this lens to bits.


Morning exercise. Tsukiji-shijō, Tōkyō. December 2014. Canon EOS 550D, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8.

The bustling crowd meant an abundance of subject matters that could be captured, ranging from traders selling their wares, to delivery men dispatching stock for the shops, to a myriad of shoppers. But you try standing in the middle of a crowded Tsukiji lane to get that fantastic shot of tuna being cut, for example. Ain’t happening. However, Tsukiji did provide me with a few subjects to safely approach, further aided by the 70 mm on my Sigma allowing some distance. When I could, I stood at one vantage point, had a look around, and if I see something worth shooting, compose and snap. My favourite of the morning was this old chap in a squid hat. With oogly-googly eyes that reminded me of the Cookie Monster:


いか伯父さん. Tsukiji, Tōkyō. December 2014. Canon EOS 550D, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8.

This trip taught me a few things on keeping my eyes open for the moment and readiness to take a shot. I had one great miss at the famous crossing at Shibuya for example. Have a look at this slightly cropped shot:


WTF. Shibuya, Tōkyō. November 2014. Fujifilm X20.

I actually panned the X20 for this and the yellow bike came out quite nicely, except for my distance from the speeding bike – I didn’t have the time to zoom, and just look at the half bike I got.

Being extra vigilant for shots like this brings up another issue, though. I remembered posting a Hyperlapse video of Shibuya Scramble and a mate posted an amateur video in response which was so beautifully done. My first reaction to seeing the video response was that I’d wanna come back again and do a similar vid on my DSLR. But taking a step back, I had to remind myself that I was also on vacation. Missing actual moments for my own memory banks because I would be religiously capturing every single memorable moment on a piece of SanDisk. And seeing those memories two weeks later on the photo editing suite, as opposed to seeing it two weeks prior when I was walking along Omotesandō.

I am leaving the DSLR at home next Wednesday. I think.

Photos from my autumn trip to Japan can be viewed on my page. 見てください。

[1]Hey, this is not a thesis.
[2]I realised that I had seen this neighbourhood before – in a Tōkyō Metro CM that had the delectable Aragaki Yui in it.
[3]That sounds so wrong.
[4]Barf bag out, I’ve got a few more paragraphs of deluded cack in this post.