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

Veterans guide on street photography, yoyogi
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.

Tokyo street photography guide , yoyogi stop
On the way to Yoyogi Park

2. Make up your mind on what is street photography

Tokyo street photography, should contain people
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.

Tokyo street photography , dolls
Dolls in public

3. Visit Ginza on weekends

street photography guide for tokyo at ginza
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.

Tokyo street photography guide, shibuya
Hold it
Tokyo street photography guide, crossings shibuya
Smoke-cycle

5. Watch the traffic section

Tokyo street photography guide, gotanda
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.

Tokyo street photography guide, idols
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
Tokyo street photography guide, street performers
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.

Tokyo street photography guide, street performers
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}

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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?

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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

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”

Bangkok, conscience {Street|film}

Bangkok street photography
Cats | proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2

Everytime I go out for street photography in SEA countries, I face a dilemma. I feel uncomfortable looking at some of the daily activities of common folks hawking their stuffs on the road side.

If i am going to be brutally honest,I feel sad and often my mind wonders off into questions of their survival and livelihood. This leads on to inevitable realization that I couldn’t provide any help at all.

Bangkok street photography
Lunch | proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2
Bangkok street photography
Magazines? | Proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2

“They been surviving so far without you lifting a finger to help and they will continue to survive”, I comfort myself along these lines and quotes.

These scenes are in stark contrast when I visit European countries like Denmark, Paris or even Iceland. Perhaps their Govs have gone a long way on helping out the struggling citizens and we find less of those who trade for basic living vs average lifestyle.

Nevertheless, once the conscience tugging moments passed, I feel that these people are the true survivors and fighters. They work hard with their bare hands and whatever means to make a humble living instead of falling astray into committing crimes.

Proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2
Proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2
Proimage100 50f1.4 | Nikon U2

It’s rather pathetic for a country like Malaysia when I compare the crime rates with Vietnam and Thailand. In Malaysia, snatch thefts are an epidemic and I personally don’t feel safe even with my camera bag. I have been snatched once and almost 1:3 person I know of, have encountered or seen snatch theft incidents.

Overall I only managed to spend a day doing street photography in Bangkok and I had to attend a beautiful garden wedding.

Does anyone else feels the same as I do when you do street photography?

The Chronicles of F2 {portraiture | film}

best film portraits

“Nope. thats not it”, i fumbled with the menu on the Sony A7s looking for a way to move the cursor for focusing on the electronic viewfinder. Behind those mountains of menus, lies a simple and important feature that i needed, one that just selects one of the focusing points on the camera. It’s deja’vu when i looked at the menu’s on the Canon 6D and the Nikon DF, “what? why would i want to select a 7Mp pixel only on a three given options and why would i want a fine jpg when the basic looks just as good.”

A moment of flashback happened, I was 15 and standing at the school’s field hanging out with my fellow friends, a weird crowd some say. Kien Hong, an introvert that went on to become the top graduate in the country, was just next to me.  “hey kien hong, see i got myself a new pen and here is my notebook (paper) that i gonna write my school notes on.”, I showed off my fancy pen and premium notebook and how excited i am to use these tools to improve on my grades, Kien Hong gave me a friendly smile and took out his 555 small notebook and a kilometrico pen, those were the most economic and simple stationaries you can find back then, same combo used by the canteen’s food seller for jotting down the 4D magnum sports toto number.

 

film outdoor portraits by marcus low
In 1971, Nikon F2 ended the rangefinder war. 50 1.4 / Nikon U2 / ProImage Kodak

“How in the world did we ended up here?”, i snapped back into today’s timeline and thought about the direction we are heading in our social interaction, cameras and life in a glance. In my bag are two old film camera, a Nikon F2 and Nikon U2. The F2 in particular was the older camera and with a legendary status while the U2 was premature in its arrival and DOA on 2003.

The F2 changes everything when it was introduced. It quickly became the standard for photojournalists and professionals for 35mm. Some say that it killed Leica’s dominance and pushed Leica towards a niche market and Leica never did recovered.

Film cameras are amazingly simple. You have that Shutter, Aperture that you control on your lens and you lived with whatever ISO film u used. Planning ahead is almost a necessity for the shoot that you do. Life was simple then and even now, i enjoyed using the same basic controls. That Kien Hong’s combo is a constant reminder on how little adding bells and whistles complicates the actual learning process and results.

 

best film portraits by marcus low
Feel. 50 1.4 / Nikon U2 / ProImage Kodak

Images, especially portraits, should be about “feel“. Feel cannot be measured in megapixels, sharpness nor does it gets better just because the camera have a longer and updated technical spec. Last week, Malaysia experienced what we called the “winter” days. Unprecedented and unheard of here, we saw the temperature plummets to 22C, in contrast my usual room air conditioning is 25C.  Such drastic drop in temperature on an equatorial country is laughable, almost as ironic as the crypto-currencies volatilities.

We added so much complexities to life and instead of having more quality of life, we are suffocating it. Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a change of heart in how he wants Facebook to be used, God bless his soul, those ads and baits in social medias didn’t add any value to any social interactions.

life and portraits in film
Whisper. 50 1.4 / Nikon U2 / ProImage Kodak
best film portraits examples on film
Sufficient. 50 1.4 / Nikon U2 / ProImage Kodak

In respond to the letter written by the 27 year old girl who have passed away, we all can make decisions to have a richer life and even what we have now should never be taken for granted. Collecting items is just one of those things that adds nothing to life equations nor to the quality of life.

Watches, cameras, bags, phones and cars. Well you name it, chances are you know somebody who is into it. I am all into “being” rather than “having” as a resolution for the year. It’s a worthy resolution 🙂

best film portraits by marcus low
50 1.4 / Nikon U2 / ProImage Kodak

 

nikon f2 f2s ds 2018 film
Nikon F2S with DS kit on an ai 50 1.4. Shot on Pixel2.

The F2 have seen more than most of us in this lifetime. That was never it’s intention. It was supposed to be a tool for us to see more of life.

Live and prosper my readers.

 

Personalities {portraiture}

malaysia top portrait photographer

Everyone have one. Personality. Some of us have more than one. The more conflicting personalities that you have, the stronger is your internal struggle with yourself.

malaysia top portrait photographer
angela lieche

What makes up a personality of a person? Is it a mask we put on our faces for others or is it a set of moral borders we set ourselves to live by.

How much of us are actually true to how we are being perceived by others, how many of us have no resemblance whatsoever to our outward projections.