Tokyo Street Photography Guide

I am at Tokyo now as i share this guide. The weird thing is that when i started to google for street photography in Tokyo, i ended up getting a pile of links that often provide…no inspirational photos, it is as if it’s written just for bait.

In fact, some of the most inspirational images i found are in youtube instead of the top links in google. Here is one example of a good youtube video .

Now that i been here for a week, i have a few pointers to share.

1. Visit the parks

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The veterans

By george, there are so many parks in Japan and parks are usually visited by both tourists and locals alike.  By all means, its a great place to do some shoot.

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On the way to Yoyogi Park

2. Make up your mind on what is street photography

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Father & Daughter?

Street photography should be about people. There should at least be a person in your image when you take that shot. Tokyo have all kinds of people and the good news is that most of these people are Japanese, so unless you are at some hot tourist spots, you have plenty of Japanese to fill in the frame.

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Dolls in public

3. Visit Ginza on weekends

street photography guide for tokyo
looking cool while recovering

During weekend, central Chuo Dori street will be blocked from vehicle access. This means massive human traffic will be roaming this section of the street and that is exactly what we want for street photography.

If you are not sure where is Chuo Dori street, you can also look for the Ricoh Pentax building and you are in the right area. Do visit the Ricoh building, they often host interesting gallery at level 7 (which u need to pay 510 yen) or access level 8 for Ricoh Pentax shop.  Level 8 also showcases the various film cameras of Ricoh Pentax and the prices back then.

tokyo street photography guide
korean tourists?

4. Time matters

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Shopping time!
tokyo street photography guide
sunrise Shinjuku

You need to pay attention to the 9-5 working hours time. This is because you will be using the rails too and you don’t want to be caught sandwiched in carriage while you try go get to your destination. Also if you are there early before these hours, you can watch the crowd grow in numbers and anticipate what kind of shots to take.

I didn’t take any Shibuya crossing photos because i have no idea what else i could take that could be interesting, but hey, thats me, you should go ahead and visit Shibuya. Here are some i took but didn’t capture the essence of the crossings.

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Hold it
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Smoke-cycle

5. Watch the traffic section

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A man gotto do what a man gotto do

I found myself often regretting putting the camera back into the bag when i am at the traffic junction or stop. Surprises lurks in every corner (or in this case, every stop) and you should get your camera ready.

tokyo street photography guide 101
Someone’s grandma on phone

There are also long trucks that can slow down and even stops at any junction because they have idols inside and doing a road promotion.

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Cause i got the biggest camera, wuahaha!
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You take them, i took yours

6. Be confident

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Most japanese are friendly and live by the culture of being polite. Sometimes they can be camera shy and cover their faces when your camera is seen pointing towards them. During these whole week, i only had one old guy shouting to me “No photos!” at the Yakitori Alley near Shinjuku at night. Man, what a loser, if it wasn’t for bloggers that took and share photographs of their shops and grilled skewers, where did he think the customers came from. Duh.

Anyway, that was just one really isolated incident. Be brave and just shoot.

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Sometimes you will come across these smoking areas outside malls and streets. These scenes often present good photo opportunities. So do loiter around these locations especially in the pre 9 am or after 4.30 pm time range.

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Night at Shibuya
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A semi nude one punch man

7. Pay attention to Japan’s peculiar culture

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Teach the young about keeping the city clean and importance of nature

Japan have a very different set of culture and we see this reflected in many activities.  This picture for example was taken just outside Gotanda, a bunch of kids are cleaning up the street and tending the public ground.

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Morning stretching

Japan is also an ageing country, so you will see a lot of over 60 years old folks still working and sometimes it can be heart wrenching to see them and be reminded of your own parents. It can be shocking too on how much these old people could walk so much between the subways and stairs.

So that is my guide for Tokyo, keep in mind this is my 3rd time in Japan shooting around and as i learn new things, i would share them in new articles.

ありがとうございました

Glasses {portraiture|medium format}

malaysia top portrait photographer

I wanted to write this piece after stumbling upon the story of this girl called Plaaastic. She died late last year, taking her own life after a series of what she would termed as being singled out by the universe for abuse.

(*all the images here are not related to plaaastic or anyone, they are taken by me for this illustration)

Looking at her instagram and content that she generates, i see a creative soul snuffed out of this world, an immature death. It’s hard to imagine how one can deal with a situation in life where you got betrayed by the one you loved, abused by parents, abandoned by friends, tried to stood up and reclaim her life only to be robbed on the streets.

Frankly after reading the part on her villain husband who was introduced to her by her photographer friend, i could only wonder, what an idiot he is.

This series of images is going to reflect the loneliness of such a life and the prison that one can be in. She is not alone, in the last few months, we have seen korean k-pop idols who took their own lives. One could never fathom the “why” but one could feel. I ended this series with a positive note, a hope and i hope those who feels trapped by these invisible walls, will find strength to stay on.

Glasses. A prison of the soul. 

You called out to those who seems so near. Yet they can’t hear you, your pleas and your plight found no one. Many are standing so near and yet the icy glass makes them so far.

Do we often create invisible barriers by our own decisions? A few steps to the right, a few to the left, are those steps all we needed for freedom. Do we walk right into another layer of glass even if we escaped this one?

malaysia top portrait photographer marcuslow

Draw strength by looking back! What if looking back we could only draw hurts and unlock hidden memories that are too painful to be held to our attention? What then, how can one continue the journey if every step taken in the past only draws us back to darkness.

Peace. What one took for granted, is priceless to some. Unattainable, remote, like stranger that does reply no matter how much we calls out to.  Each waves that swept over us are waves of disappointment.

But, then, we realize something. We could be happy. What if we are not trapped, but we are merely worthy of harder challenges in life to move us further up.

malaysia outdoor top portrait photographer marcuslow
enlightened

What if those who are actually trapped are these same people over the other side of the glass? People who are complacent and happy without direction nor purpose. Celebrating around a little fire that they started, unaware of the reality of life on the other side. Unable to offer help, they became like the deaf and mute.

freedom

Life is not a series of chance and tragedy. Life is about free gifts that are given to us, breath given to this Universe so that we could play a part in it, to experience Love and His great plan.

It cannot rain forever.

Kim {portraiture}

Invited a friend of mine for an outdoor portrait shoot at the popular Petaling Street. A group of friends requested that i organize this shoot for a friendly rate for the model. Since i don’t organize for fees, i just do the transportation and took a few shots while the group event took place.

Just sharing some of the images that i took during the shoot. The model is Kim Goh from Penang, i met her in 2013 when she participated in Miss Malaysia 2013 and was selected for the finals.

It been 5 years since and as the saying goes, Class is forever, beauty is temporal, Kim could easily carry out the portrait shooting successfully.

Enjoy the images.

Follow my instagram for  more images : marcus_low

outdoor portraiture guide kim
when u enjoy being with urself
kim goh outdoor portraiture marcus low
amber stripes
outdoor photography marcus low best malaysian photographer
that look
malaysia top outdoor portrait photographer marcus low
i don’t mind your ride
malaysia best photographer marcus low outdoor
kim + rolleiflex
marcus low photography outdoor
kim + rolleiflex
malaysia important outdoor photographer marcus low
it’s me
kim goh outdoor photography with marcus low malaysia
Love + Vintage

Street Photography, Bukit Bintang {digital}

malaysia street photography

Streets, one of the unlimited source for shutter therapy. Bukit Bintang is a major commercial square in Kuala Lumpur. I come here nearly every week to either chill in a cafe or just to be surrounded with vibes of life.

Here, we have Pavilion, an upper end shopping mall very much like Giza in Tokyo and the flow of tourists goes from Pavilion -> Fahrenheit -> Isetan Japan KL.

(* All the images here are shot on 23 f1.4, Fujifilm with Acros film simulation)

street photography in malaysia
just do it, smoking

On that short stretch of walking pathway, you can find all sorts of cafe’s and side shops. Recently i noticed the following shops, a new bakery shop, taiwanese ice tea shop, two new ice-cream shops and a money exchange.

There are a lot of middle east people here too, in fact one could easily tell that two bigger cafes here are owned by them. A walk further from Pavilion and it becomes obvious that the locals no longer have a prominent presence here. Shishas, kebabs and massage services occupy the right side of the rows of shops, while the more hipster setups of shops are on the left.

street photography malaysia
A man and his phone
malaysia street photography
Free Bus

There are free buses that travel thru the main attraction in Kuala Lumpur between the commercial centres. From Bukit Bintang here, one can hop on to such buses and alight in KLCC (The Petronas Twin Towers).

malaysia street photography
Dignity

I saw this man riding his bike to the side and took a few seconds to adjust his helmet. Usually these streets are packed like sardines, but because this week in Chinese New Year, a large percentage of the local chinese in KL have returned to the other states for family reunion and celebration.

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Solo

This was taken just outside H&M near to Lot10, a much smaller mall that have lost its former glory and surviving due to its superb location. You will find plenty of tourists here taking selfies.

I often visits the hawker food at the lower ground level of Lot10 for some mouth watering local food. The basement of Lot10 only holds reputable hawkers stalls and is the brainchild of YTL (a strong developer company in Malaysia that flourished during Dr.Mahathir’s era). He even gave it a name “Hutong” and interconnects with Isetan Japan KL.

malaysia street photography
LED balloons anyone?

There are some peddlers hawking their wares along this walkway. The common items are bubble guns, umbrellas, fidgets and today i saw these led lighted balloons. They often cost just around RM10-20 (USD3-4) and the main clients are the kids tugging at their parents.

malaysia street photography
China power

There is a MRT station here for Bukit Bintang and i usually take it to reach Pasar Seni (China town). As in anywhere else in Asia nowadays, you will see a lot of chinese tourists in Bukit Bintang buying original branded items here that are cheaper than almost any other country.

The structure on the left that in the picture above is the MRT station.

Go closer

How do you like these images? Are these simulated film on fujifilm cameras good enough?

Iceland travel for asian, {single camera} Part 3

Iceland travel for asian, Part I
Iceland travel for asian, Part II

I would like to share a bit on Reykjavik in my previous travel to Iceland. Almost nobody seems to be interested much in what Reykjavik have to offer in terms of tourism as everyone’s itinerary is to use that city as a stepping stone to the offsite tours.

The offsite tours are what Iceland is famous for, no doubt about that, but there are reason why this city shouldn’t be left out of your itinerary. Here are some reasons why i felt you owe Reykjavik two days of stopover.

(all the photos here are shot on Sony A7s, 35mm f2.8 zeiss, unless otherwise mentioned)

iceland for asian travellers
reykjavik

People. If you want to see how the people in Iceland are, you have to visit and stay in the town for a few days, better still, stay in an AirBnB home and you could find yourself graced by the warmth of the Icelandic hospitality. You are not going to find much interaction with real Icelandic people if you are just on the tours, except for the tour guide.

Asian traveller iceland
fotografi shop / casio TR 21mm

Local Shops. Apart from the dreaded made in china souvenirs that you can find in every single Scandinavian and Europe city, Reykjavik is no exception, but there are many local brands and shops that you can find here that have survived and made themselves relevant.

There is this particular photography shop that have analogue aura all over it. You can’t miss the fotografi.is shop on the right side of the shophouses as you walked up the city. However when i went in i realized that they don’t sell any analogue cameras or film, but they showcase photography works from various photographers and made them for sale as prints here.

iceland travel for asians
behind fotografi
iceland for asian travellers
red hair

Culture. Apart from their unique language (Icelandic tongue is probably the most complicated language in the world), you can feel the culture here is slightly different than say, Denmark. Maybe its due to the fact that these people have to survive in this forsaken ice-land and have successfully done so, they tend to appreciate and respect nature in both their way of living and communication.

It is hard to imagine living in Iceland from birth and growing up there with the constant history reminding you of angry volcanoes, crazy winters and sharing blood with the Vikings. Probably kids grow up listening to stories made up to represent the potent forces of nature here like the wind, earth, sun and water.

It is said that 1:10 people here would publish a book. That is true with my airbnb host Brynar.

iceland travel guide for asians
phone and vape, thats about right

The younger generation does seems similar to Europeans and with elements that show influences from Germany and countries across the sea. I came across a music video recording while i was strolling along the city and even though i can’t understand the language, the feel, vibe and presentation of the artist was similar.

There are probably a lot of celebration done in Reykjavik to commemorate events in Iceland. I happened to witness a vintage car procession that took place in the middle of the city.

Iceland travel guide for asians DSC09833.jpg Vintage cars
Those cars are in very good condition and proudly driven by their owners as they drove slowly thru the streets. I spend one of the afternoon just visiting the city’s main attraction like the rocket church and another afternoon strolling thru each corner of the city. The walk from my host’s house to Reykjavik took me around 20 minutes.

Iceland travel guide for asians
bicycles

What i do find missing in spades are local fashion. There is an outlet for a local brand Geysir, which could be the word for geyser (one of the attraction in Iceland) at the corner and that was about the only one i recognized. I have seen the magazine in the IcelandAir and in its console advertisements.

Now about that stroll in Reykjavik…

iceland travel for asians
fish & chips
asian travelling to iceland guide
by the opera house
asian travelling to iceland guide
opera house

I really enjoyed walking to Reykjavik by passing thru the Opera House, along the coastline and into the main centre. It will take you around 5 minutes from the Opera House to Reykjavik centre.

The best local food is the indisputable cod fish & chips that can be found in restaurants and even a roadside truck. They are as fresh as money could buy and taste fantastic no matter where i tried them. My favourite is the one from that simple roadside truck.

I went on summer, around August 2017 and the beautiful golden sun sets around 4-6 pm, so if you going there on summer, those strolls will become very memorable as the light streaming thru the city is beautiful.

sunset at reykjavik
sunset at reykjavik

I barely started on the Iceland tours. It seems that this series of images will be a long one. I hope you enjoyed this 3rd instalment of my travel with a single camera series. Do leave me a comment if these image inspired you in anyway, cheers.

Overcoming GAS { guide}

For many years I’ve been struggling with GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and some form of denial on this subject.

Occasionally I would even give sound advice to similar folks that I had encountered with the same symptoms. Heck, I might have written similar notes on this problem all the while being an addict to it.

Overcoming gas in Malaysia
The must have item

Our mind are truly instruments of awe and wonders. My mind would cook up various reasons why I needed that camera, that lens, one day it can be due to better bokeh, next month it is because of size, then comes that Leica glow, the list goes on and on.

Here is a list of excuses, maybe you might find some of these to be familiar :

– inspirational tool

– back pain

– corner sharpness

– wider is needed

– saves me money cause I would have bought Y that cost 3x the price

– fps I needed that for capturing natural portraits or moving subject

– most of my buddies are using brand X, we could share

– compression shots, I need that telephoto

– this build quality will last me a lifetime unlike that one

– this sharpness and micro contrast makes all the difference

– the shutter is so much more subtle (even though the current camera have electronic shutter)

– discreet on the street

– evf so I won’t be blinded

Cause Vivian Maier uses it

Coincidentally I notice that everytime I acquire the gear, I would go out and do some shooting to justify the purchase. Did the new gears helped with my photography, maybe…. Could I have done better with the other gears already in the collection, of course!

Like the war between the Jedis and the Sith Lords, the force is a tension that exist because of actions favoring one side of the equation and it seeks to balance it. That is why Luke decided to avoid keeping in touch with YL camera or eBay is the best decision.

Ha ha ha, ok that was just nonsense, but I hope u get the point. The endless cycle begins when we desire something that we believe would contribute to our happiness index in photography only to realize that the problem has nothing much to do with gears.

My dragon is better than your M6

Don’t get me wrong, good gears are essential in achieving good results, some photogs have been shooting kit lens and wonder why they can’t get any bokeh yet all the while refusing to get a bigger aperture lens. That is just silly.

However, when you already have cameras and lenses that could perform well within your genre and your mind keep selling you that next gear… You have a case of GAS.

Bow before the most advance rangefinder with F1

There is a special incident that kind of woke me up to look into the mirror closely. I had a friend that ammased tons of film cameras, particularly large formats, pack films and Polaroids bodies. One day his favorite 35mm Leica m3 fell to the ground while we were chatting at a cafe and that broke something in him. The next day he went on to make a listing of his inventory and put them on sale.

That incident didn’t stop my GAS but I became more self aware of the situation. Buying lesser and imposing more red tapes to my mental process of buying. I setup some items to sell off in Carousel and realized how hard it was to sell off gears that I easily acquired.

Those common lines in the thought process of “get it, you need it, you only live once, it doesn’t cost much anyway” were slowly replaced with “I rather spend it on experience or going to more interesting places. Shoot more. I could buy 100 rolls of film and do 100 session instead of buying that”.

They are useless in the dry box. Take them out (mixed owners)

The last gear I acquired was the F2-DS which I used as a prop repeatedly rather than a gear and it’s been the longest time now without any new GAS lining up.

A collection of books can be shared

I guess everyone have their own poison on what they want to collect. I m just betting that we would stop collecting if we realize the futility of it.

There was once an argument between two business men on who deserves to sit next to the king for dinner.

The first man exclaim “I have in my collection, 2000 watches handmade by the finest craftmen in the region. Surely my display of wealth and taste in quality deserves my seat next to His majesty”

The second man countered “I have acquired 100 limited edition cars of which 30 are anniversaries release. I could easily sell half of these and I could build a theme park if I wanted”

The king looked at the two and seems reluctant to give a decision. He then asked a random guy in the crowd “How about you, do you collect anything?”. The guy replied “I have bought but a collection of books and wines so that I could share with guests and visitors”

The king chose the guy to be seated next to Him. The two other business men were furious and the king explained “your collections serves no one except yourselves, while this guy’s collection brought other’s joy”

Portrait Sharing 1st Feb 2018 {film}

creating portraits that matters, malaysia

In following up with the guide i wrote about my opinion on natural model posing for outdoor portraits, i wanted to write a guide on how to create portraits that matters. I wrote a whole section about sunrise and sunset and why those moments add that magic to otherwise common portraits and four other elements. But i stopped.

One of the things i told myself this year is that i won’t be creating images driven by the need to feed the public. Neither should i be writing blogs about technicalities and compositions rules, instead i should be sharing what i feel, what is true to myself and the reasons i took the images.

*All the images here are taken on ProImage100, 50f1.4 on a Nikon U2 film camera.

creating portraits that matters Malaysia
“..and she turned around, with the glory of the sun behind her”

“There is this theme that i wanted to shoot. It’s going to be somewhere between Shah Alam and Klang and i am going to do it on film”, I told Angela. Angela, a popular social influencer and a friend of mine, wasn’t a big fan of film, her work requires her to publish image quickly and create interesting content. She uses Instax and Fujifilm X-A3 cameras, both choices suggest that getting results fast, matters.

This is not the first time that i did this nature, sunset theme but it is a theme that i should do more often cause it is one of those theme that i won’t get tired of doing.

sunset portraits film in malaysia
“the wind blew past her hair, the lilies greets the gentle breeze”

There really isn’t anything around that is more beautiful than that moment when the sun rises and when it retreats, the glorious golden light separates the night from the day. These are moments that you can find almost in anywhere else in the world and it lights up the landscapes and people caught in the rays beautifully.

film portraiture in sunset in Malaysia
“she embraces that moment, that whispers from nature itself”

Each day when i woke up, it is a gift. How often this divine gift is quickly drowned by the cares of this world, the evil news that floods my facebook timeline and the griefs of the world crying out to all who would hear. More than often, i swam with the flow and echoes what is out there. These images i create, i wish above all else, that it would be useful to my friends and it would grant the viewer a moment of serenity.

A moment that you breathe.

film portraits of models in analogue in Malaysia
“when the sun embraces her, it was as if a cosmic dress was worn, whose threads are made of gold”

Truth is, living is hard enough. Recently two korean pop artist left the world leaving both observers and fans grieving and fuming over the incidents. While it is very easy to point fingers at celebrities giving up their lives while others struggle to keep them, the crux of the matter is that it is simply the outcome of the lost of a battle. The battleground took place in the heart and the mind and not the physical world and when the battle is lost in your mind, your body could never survive. You have no idea how lonely these people are and why they felt that death, is the way out. The real cowards are not these celebrities that gave up, the real cowards are those who pledge religious cause to take away the life of the innocents.

Life was given to us free.

suicide is not the solution, Love is.
“she walks towards the unknown, the path is there, lighted by the sun”
film portrait of angela in malaysia
“a lily from the roadside”

I hope that these images would inspire you to create more images that promotes life, serenity, peace and love. These images are not about sexy, fine art nor highly fashionable in any sense. They are meant to be comforting to look at, to enact the moment of being there, seeing life in a care-free world.

film portrait of angela in malaysia
“life comes with gifts, sufficient on its own”

I just had to share this story. When we were at this place scouting to find a spot to shoot, we saw a cluster of giant lilies in the middle of the field. So I drove there slowly as the terrain is kinda off road, then we notice something moving in front of those giant lilies…a huge snake. We gave up the idea quickly and went to the roadside and this series was created.

Thanks for visiting and reading my blog. Sometimes my blogs are hard to read simply because they reflect fragments of my thoughts that could be unstructured.

When you don’t have the time to even read a blog, you can visit my instagram, they contain tags of my friends that i collaborated with and say hello while you are there.

* The films are developed by my favourite lab in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.