Tag Archives: Japan

My favourite non-iPhone Photos of 2016

Moving on from yesterday’s favourite 2016 iPhone photographs, now is time to review and select my favourite Fuji x100t and Nikon D7000 photographs from the past 12 months. Usually, to do this I just go back over the photos I have posted to Flickr in the previous 12 months, but this year I really did not post a lot to Flickr, and the reality is that most of my best photographs are buried deep in my iMac.

So, to do this I actually need to go back through the images, select and edit them. All will be from the period of March to September. Reality is those two cameras lived in a dark drawer for most of the year. What is they say about the best camera you have?

This won’t be categorised chronologically either; just 12 of my faves – today – December, 31st, 2016! Reality is tomorrow I would choose a different twelve.

A mother’s love (Varanasi, July 2016)

Our guide in Varanasi brought us to a shop to convert our 500 Rupee notes into 20 Rupee notes to give to the people we photographed. He said we needed to do this. I had not intended to shoot posed portraits. I don’t shoot like this, but with a wad of 20 Rupee notes I felt obliged. India has characters who turn your head and stop you in your tracks. The likes of people you have only seen in documentaries or magazines like National Geographic, and being a naiive photographer you want to satisfy your dreams of getting a Steve McCurry like image.

I parted with many 20 rupee notes and got some posed photographs. Unsatisfied with most – experienced as an artificial exchange. Then this guy approached me on a crowded and chaotic street and with gesture indicated he wanted me to photograph him. In the time it took to understand him we were locked in eye contact. When I hoisted the camera he shot his eyes to heaven and for the three or four frames I shot he did not look into the lens. You know, I don’t remember if he asked for money or if I offered it. 

A mother’s love

Bangkok: The slow rhythm of patience (April, 2016)

Had a discussion with a friend of mine about photography and how we use it to interpret what we experience. I told him that very often when I arrive in a city it overwhelms me and to begin with everywhere I point my camera seems to be the wrong place. I said it takes time to slip into the rhythm of a city, to feel its pulse beat in time with mine and then it just becomes instinctive. 

Bangkok was like that. An assault on the senses. The smell of petrol fumes fused with lemongrass. The hum of the constant traffic. The neon and fresh fruit stalls. The swell and sway of people always on the move. The welcoming smile and the 100-mile gaze. The searing heat. At every turn there was something which got my attention; something which I had to capture in a frame.  I had not visited the red light district on my last visit to Bangkok, but this time we were brought on a little tour by a Japanese friend. Impossible to compute it all. The luxury of photography allows time to reflect. Let the camera see.

Bangkok: The slow rhythm of patience

Jakarta (April, 2016)

Arrived in Jakarta from Bangkok in the evening and it felt darker. There was no neon. I remember finding this place and being struck by the colours of the woman passing. I huddled down between two cars and defocussed and began to shoot. I like the image as it seems, to me, to capture the colour, the light and the movement of that evening.

Jakarta

Blur will save the world (Tokyo, April, 2016)

Shooting on the street is frustrating. I recall listening to a podcast with Rinzi Ruiz (a fine photographer) and he said that if you see it, you have missed it. And you know it is true. That decisive moment is elusive, and so much relies on luck. Shooting in Tokyo is electrifying. I love it. The way I work is that I will shoot for a while with the iPhone, then the Fuji, but I usually leave the Nikon for those sweet moments when I push things out of focus and transform what I see into something more beautiful, something less real, something that soothes and arouses, something that is only mine. You do know that blur will save the world?

Tokyo: Blur will save the world

Jakarta (April, 2016)

In Jakarta we visited the animal market. We came across this scene below. The little boy was learning how to train pigeons. I imagine he is the same age as my little boy. The guys training him were patient, encouraging and kind. The pigeons were obliging. Myself and Elfie (seen here behind the little boy) stayed here for about 20 minutes, shooting the scene. Enthralled by the spectacle.

Jakarta (April, 2016)

Varanasi (July, 2016)

Photography is about memories. It is where yesterdays go, as my little girl told me from the back of the car when she was about three years old. Much of my photography is me trying to learn, to internalise and understand what I am experiencing. Then there are the real moments. The purposeful shots we create of loved ones; the photos we would run back into a burning house to retrieve.

Day was breaking and we were on a small boat on the River Ganges to see the sun rise. The sun rose but the clouds did not part. We finished a conversation about toast and took photos. We laughed a lot.

Varanasi (July, 2016)

On Duty (Delhi, June, 2016)

This was shot through the back window of our car moments after arriving in Delhi. The Indian adventure was ahead of us.

On Duty (Delhi, June, 2016)

Hello! (Delhi, June 2016)

I just love this guy. I was sitting in the back of the car as we made our way through the Delhi traffic. Camera in hand should a shot appear. We were stopped in traffic on this roundabout when this guy on a motorbike pulls up next to us. Instinctively I raise the camera and click, and then smile. Then the guy astonishes me as he takes off his helmet and his glasses and shoots me this beautiful big beaming smile. You got to love India!

Hello! (Delhi, June 2016)

Hello! (Delhi, June 2016)

Leh, India. (July, 2016)

Every picture tells a story, but photographs can lie. And this one does. Looking at it, it is conceivable that you believe it to be a Buddhist monk sitting high up on the roof of his monastery meditating as he contemplates the beauty of the Himalayas. But, the reality probably was that this was the best place in the monastery to get online. As we approached him we saw him shuffling as he tried to conceal his phone under his robes.

Leh, India. (July, 2016)

Leh, India. (July, 2016)

Shibuya Scramble Crossing (April, 2016)

The first time I saw the Shibuya Scramble Crossing in 2012 I stopped and I just stared. Two thousand people crossing when the red man is replaced by the green man. I have been back to Tokyo many times since and this never gets stale for me. I can look at it for hours. It is something else.

Shibuya Scramble Crossing (April, 2016)

Things to do in Tokyo at night (April, 2016)

Most of the time I am in Tokyo it is only at night that I get out to shoot. This one was taken on a photo walk with the Laurence Bouchard.  It rains a lot in Tokyo. But it makes it all the more intriguing. I like the high contrasts, and little mystery in this shot.

Things to do in Tokyo at night (April, 2016)

Vienna (June, 2016)

Really should include a photograph from Vienna. Here it is.

Vienna (June, 2016)

I have rushed this and really should have spent more time in preparing this review, but there you have it.

2016 has been incredible to me. So many people to thank. So many people who along the way who have in some way enabled me to express myself. In no particular order I would like to thank Ben, Elfie, Saad, Arik, Andy, Nikki, Glen, Dan R, Dan B, Simon, Jack H, Judie, Ankit, John, Mark, Brian, David P, Albion, Thomas, Serap, Jen, Teppo, Cielo, Laurence, Tadhg, Michael V, Darren, Joanne, Janine, Nora, Sir Cam, Paul M, Tim B, Johnathan, Lee, Ruby,  Kevin D, Randy, Dave, Brian, Kieran, Richard and Seiya. And then those loved ones who know who they are – thanks!

2016 – My favourite non-iPhone photographs

2017 – believe – achieve – kiss the future…

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Japan

I was on a business trip to Japan last week and while I spent most of my time in Tokyo, I also travelled to a remote area called Shonai. When I was asked by others in Japan of where else I was visiting very few knew of this location.

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I took a flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport – the city’s second airport. Now you would imagine that a place that is relatively unknown and, as I would later discover, only have a population of about 11,000 people would not be serviced by regular flights. But no, there are several flights each day and on the outward and return flight, both were full to capacity.

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Flying into Shonai, it was hard not to be impressed by the beauty of the snow-capped mountains. Having coming from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, I was struck by calm and beauty of the location as we made our way to the university, some 20 km from the airport.

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Before returning to the airport in the evening for my flight back to Tokyo, I had a little time to take a short walk to the river bank near the university. The air was fresh and crisp and the only sounds were those of birds chattering and the wind blowing in the trees. When I am away from home, I really try hard to make myself take in the reality of my surroundings. Time passes so quickly and often I find myself looking back and thinking: “Was I actually there?”

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An hour from landing in Tokyo, I was back in Shibuya, back on the crossing. Again, I stopped to make myself take it all in and I could not help but feel that I had dreamt being out in the wilds of nature that afternoon.

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September 15 2014

 

The week begins, not unlike the last.

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The mathematics of self-esteem

 

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Tokyo

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September 4 2014

Coming to final image in the series of three and this one is different to the other two in that the moment has passed. The once excited and animated character and I have passed each other. Once passed, I turn and shoot one more shot of him. He pulls his coat shut around him, lowers his head, slows his walk and heads towards Shibuya station. I glance through the three images on the display and immediately know that I like the three shots.

I think they look good together and am posting the three here. Thanks to all for the very generous feedback and comments.

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Tokyo Nights

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Tokyo Nights [2]

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Tokyo Nights [3]

I had so much fun with the iPhone in Tokyo. It is such a great little camera. It fits so snugly into my hand and you can get in really close without disturbing or startling people.

This shot today was also taken in Shibuya on that famous crossing I keep going on about. The guy is striking with his neck tattoo and nose ring. So often with these type of candid shots the moment after the photograph is more interesting. Once I had this taken he started laughing at me, talking to me in Japanese and gesturing at the iPhone. When I showed him the photo there was more laughing, more Japanese and then a little bow and off he went. It is great when you can make a connection when out shooting, even if you do not share a common language, photography is a language everyone shares.

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What the eyes don’t see

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Travel and Photography

The only thing I miss about my days of being single is the freedom it gave me to travel when I wanted. Nowadays, with a small family it is not so easy to decide on a whim to head off to visit new places. Still though, I am very fortunate that I do get to see new places, albeit with less frequency.

Being married with kids has also changed my perspective on travel. Now, the prime concern is to keep the kids entertained and happy. Once that is achieved, then we can enjoy ourselves too. My secondary concern is to get out and shoot. To see what can be seen and how to see it. And travelling to Asia there is just so much to see. It is an assault on the senses and at times it is just overwhelming.

On our recent trip to Asia, which took in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan, I took thousands of photographs using both my Nikon and iPhone. Before going I was so excited. Five weeks in Asia. Five weeks to shoot street photography. Five weeks! Did I have a plan, vision, a project in mind of what I wanted to shoot, to document? Not really. I prefer to allow these things to take their own form; for me to react to what I encounter and not to be restricted by trying to find certain things.

In saying that, there were things I knew I wanted to see and shoot. I wanted to continue with the abstract blur series of people in motion, with both of my cameras. But besides that I was open. I told myself I would be brave and if that shot appeared I would not allow my timidity to get in the way of me getting it. This sometimes worked out and other times didn’t. In later posts, I will have some good stories to tell about situations like this.

However, this approach can result in a lot of clicks, a lot of snapping. I remember the day I arrived in Tokyo, exhausted after an early morning start and little sleep, leaving the hotel and getting out on to the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Now, as my stay went on I came to feel electrified here, but the first time I stepped out on that sunny Saturday afternoon, I knew I should be feeling something and I was, but I was not able to identify what. With the Nikon around my neck and the iPhone in my hand, I was obliged to start shooting. So I did, but with no real purpose or understanding of what it was I seeing or how it could be seen. After about an hour or so I returned to the hotel frustrated. Here I was in one of the most amazing cities in the world, a street photographer’s paradise, a place I had been dreaming about and I did not know what to do or how to do it.

The next day, I met up with one of my favourite photographers – Michael Kistler – who lives in Tokyo and we spoke a little about this. I didn’t make a big deal of it and neither did he. I guess both of us knew this would pass. We spent the day together on a photo walk around Shibuya, Harajuku, Yoyogi Park and back again to Shibuya. Now, I am a big fan of Michael’s work. It is inspirational. Being with him, seeing how he shoots, seeing what gets his attention amongst the frenetic momentum of Tokyo is fascinating. I guess living there he has a greater feel and understanding of the city and its people. I was a visitor, a tourist. He was part of it all. There appeared a logic to his photographing. I was on the outside of it and the shots I was taking were disjointed. Later that evening, I headed back to the hotel, I was not quite as frustrated as the previous day, but still.

Now that I am back and I see the thousands of photographs I have taken over the five weeks and as I look through them I begin to see what I wanted to see. I am beginning to understand it, to see its patterns emerge. And if, by magic, I could walk out my door and step back into it all, I would know how to shoot it. I would know how to connect those dots to create something cohesive and expressive. But, I am a believer in things are as they are. What I shot was what I saw at that time. If I went back now, I would have a different sensitivity and quite possibly miss or ignore the things I saw then. I was a tourist. I was an outsider. And that is OK. The images I made will present that. Perhaps the next time I get to travel I will have more of a focus about what I want to see and what I want to shoot.

It gets me thinking. When I was in Hong Kong, one of my friends asked me why I take photographs. Without hesitation I replied that I took them because I it helps me to understand what I see. And to add to that now, I realise we cannot predict what we will see. So maybe, not having a plan, being free and open to what I encounter is OK.

Thanks for reading. Would love to hear your own thoughts on travel and photography. Do you set out with a plan? Do you feel frustrated when you get back and see patterns emerge that make you feel you missed out; that you need to go back and see and shoot it again?

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Asia: Spring 2014

 

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The wonder of it all

Choosing the next image is easy. This is a shot that just appeared before me as I was travelling on the Narita Airport Express into Tokyo, last year. Having just landed and being in awe of the city appearing on either side of me it was this beautiful little girl who was lost in thought looking out the window in front of me which captured me. As we rushed passed, Tokyo reflected in her eyes, making me think, was this her first time in Tokyo; was she as in awe of it as I was? Or was she just bored and staring into space? I will let you decide. Me, I was in awe. Tokyo had resided in my imagination for years. Built-up images of this mega-city and its people were soon to be confronted with the actual reality of the city. I will never forget seeing  what must have been a radio tower  piercing through a cloud, its tall spire reaching up to the sky and the white cloud hovering its mid-section like an inflatable water toy. It actually frightened me a little.

I took nearly a thousand iPhone images while in Tokyo. This is one of my favourites.

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The wonder of it all [Tokyo, Japan]

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Obsessed with keeping dry

Ireland is known for its rain; relentless rain. Yet, I doubt if any Irish person spends time thinking about getting quality rain gear. If you walk down an Irish street when it’s raining, you will see lots of people, usually men, walking without an umbrella. In summer, when it can rain a lot, it is easy to identify the tourists. They are the ones with the waterproof capes, wellington boots and each individual with their own individual umbrella. And all of this rain gear is usually in the colour green; especially if they are from the U.S.

What struck me when I was in Japan last year was that everyone, men and women alike carried an umbrella, and when the rain came (and it did – every day I was there) they shot up. I had never been in a place so populated, and so populated with umbrellas. I just had to get one too. Japan is the land where the concept of convenience is super-accentuated. When a shower of rain starts, big buckets of cheap umbrellas are placed outside convenience stores and for 500 yen (about €5) you can get an umbrella. Another great thing they have for umbrellas is that when you step in to a store from a shower, you can dip your wet umbrella into what I originally thought was a bin until I saw the withdrawn umbrella sheeted in a transparent plastic. This prevents the raindrops dripping off  your wet umbrella when you are walking around the store. Very cool!

For me the best thing about the umbrella I bought was that it was transparent. This transparency, with bubbly raindrops, provided a beautiful filter for me to shoot photographs. Last week, when I was selecting my personal favourites I overlooked these shots. So, to put this right I am posting three of those shots, three which I have framed and hanging in my home. Hope you like them. Full size is on my Flickr account. Just click on the image below.

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Tokyo in the rain

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Keeping dry in Tokyo

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Tokyo life through a transparent 500 Yen umbrella

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