Walking in Ueno Park

One of my favourite subjects is actually people. No, not just pretty girls (who make good subjects, too!), but also older folk whose faces tell stories, couples loving their children, artists painting and so on. Ueno Park, I have found is actually a pretty good place for this and the nearby city streets give a nice taste of new/old Tokyo, though the people are a bit less relaxed once they are back in the busy smoke of the city.

Ueno park has also been refurbished a lot, to make way for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics bid. Of course, I have no idea whether that’ll be successful or not, but I wish the city luck.. Anything which makes the place nicer and more livable is fine in my book and if it costs money, well, that’s the way it is. It’s a fantastic and fascinating place and it would be great to give more people the excuse to discover it.

So anyway, here are some of my park life shots. I actually really enjoy watching people, especially when they are relaxed and having a good time. I’d say it’s quite therapeutic. Whilst nature offers its own glorious, beautiful and inspiring displays, closer to home fellow humans are easier to relate to and have just as much grandeur and beauty in their admittedly smaller lives. I go here pretty regularly. often with different camera and lens combinations, so expect to see more of this!

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A Trip to the Zoo With the P510

Zoos are actually a great place for photography- providing, that is, you have a long lens. I thought I’d take out my P510 to Ueno again and take her for a trip to the zoo. One thing I’ve found with zoos, as with birding and any wildlife photography, really- is you can’t have too long a lens. Especially if it’s a zoom and you can shrink it at will. I found a remarkable connection with the animals through this. Whilst I may have looked absurd to some, through the lens I could get closer than my merely human eyes are capable of. Of course, another option would have been to jump in the cage and get even closer that way. But not wanting to be anyone’s lunch course, I opted for the safer option.

Certainly, I found the same joys and limitations as when birding. I could get in astonishingly close, even being able to find abstract patterns of the animal’s skin and isolate them as I took them. I can’t overemphasise too much how meaningful it is to be composing such photos as you take them. Simply to crop afterwards may get the same effect, but (a) it won’t usually have enough resolution for a decent print anymore, as only slight cropping allows this, however high megapixel numbers might seem. Also, (b) it’s far more effective and fun to be seeing what you’ll create. So that’s the positive. The negative is the impossibility of tracking any movement unless it be that of a snail and also the lack of fine detail at the pixel level, something that limiting ISO can help, but you are a far cry from DSLR, or even M4/3 land. So, knowing this, I just got out there and took some images I found remarkable as with less reach they simply wouldn’t be.

See what you think- is an ultrazoom for you?

Street Candids in Ueno

One of my favourite types of photography is the street type. Capturing the lives of people, with brief snapshots of their lives. Each photo in this field should tell a story, preserving for posterity those fleeting moments that make up so much of the human experience. Generally, for intimacy and inconspicuousness, short, relatively wide lenses are often used for this and also small, range-finder style cameras are prefered.

Yet there is certainly a place for the candid taken from a distance. The intimacy can be just as real, with the space bridged by the lens. I took my Nikon P510 out for a stroll in Ueno. I found the range of images I could capture quite miraculous, all without scaring anyone or feeling like an intruder.

A little note here might be appropriate- I intend to turn this more into a photo-blog, or at least a blog with more photography as an art-based features.

Big Day Out in the City

Today I decided to keep things simple. Looking forward to a day out in the city taking photos with Ken, I wondered what to take, not wanting it to be a kitchen sink-type operation, where I’d take things just in case I’d want them. I don’t really like using zoom lenses, as despite the convenience and in some cases their great quality, there are just too many options. So I left my trusty Tamron at home. I’m not even sure, when it’s uncalled for, if I really need colour. Getting the colours to match just introduces too much complexity and distracts me from the essence of the scene. Since it would be a day of photography, I wanted to capture people’s expressions, the meaning of their lives in the vast city and experience the phenomena of life myself. I didn’t want to water the experience down with gimmicky lenses or digital trickery. Back to basics, photo-style.

After starting out being (severely) disappointed with the camera on my 3G iPhone, which had about the resolution of a melted blob and a similar inability to autofocus, I ended up loving it despite the limitations, or even because of them. The haziness gave the photos a toy camera effect and being freed from the tension of ‘perfect capture’ helped me to focus on the essence of the scene rather than on the camera capturing it. I loved the ability to take a photo and upload it straight to Facebook and often get a response from my friends within minutes. I liked the angle of view.

Fast forward to the iPhone 4 and now I have the same connectivity, but a sharp, 5mp image, that you can keep for editing later, print, or blog knowing it will look good, or even play around with it on various apps, but still with the delicious limitation of no zoom. Who needs zoom when you have legs? I also found that the angle it offers me, at 35mm in full frame terms, suits me just fine. So, I stepped out into the world with it’s DX equivalent, a little gem known as Nikon’s 24mm f/2.8 prime (see the article for how I hit on that strange length) and boy did I love it!

We decided that Ueno would be a good spot, not too far, not too near. So we headed out into the park, for some park life and the shade of trees. Seeing as Ken was shooting some B&W film, I decided to switch over to monochrome digital, with a simulated yellow filter for a bit more contrast. But I’m a cheat, as it was all going on in RAW, so I could also view the photos in colour if I so desired. Still, just composing in B&W is refreshing and relaxing, freeing me from the complexity of an unnecessarily complex world.

Now for the photos…

It’s a Cat’s Life- We found this incredible, tiger-like cat there, along with his host of admirers.

Morning Jazz- Buskers, getting into their thing under the shade of some trees.

Next stop, Ameyayokocho Street.

I ate my sashimi, but I saved some wasabi for you!

Ameyayokocho Street's timeless market sellers.

Fish without supermarkets and imported goodies like tea or nuts without inflated prices.

Some alternative culture. Tokyo now as well as then, (notice the subtle pun on a particular photoblog?)

I was sweltering, it was probably one of the hottest days of the year and even with hat and thermos was glad to make it to the camera shop we were looking for.

Back to the future with this stereoscopic model from the early days of film, something they are still trying to get going in these early days of digital.

A very cute girl who comes from Tohoku and volunteers there. We gave a donation after seeing her photos of helping out there. She is also a musician and it was a delight to meet such a sweet, pure person.

Having had our camera fix for the day, we chilled in Starbucks.

Luckily for us, there was a festival in Ueno that same day! One of the market sellers was good enough to tell us about it. It featured various groups and troupes from Tohoku. I was impressed and moved to see them celebrate the summer months and the wonder of life despite all the hardships up there. I hope things get better there and was happy to support even in this small way.

A Summer Festival

Taiko drums kept the summer rhythm going.

Many generations come out for the festival.

Something more interesting here.

A huge float approaching...

Into the dream…

It wouldn't be much of a summer festival without cheerleaders!

Then dinner- yakitori, salads and drinks out in the open. We met a nice guy and his friend, who is a Leica enthusiast. One day I have to get a lens for mine, hopefully without taking out a small mortgage first! It was good to connect and it all reminded me of my main theme for the day- keep it human, keep it simple and the beauty will reveal itself every day.

 Thanks for viewing!

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

Simple Tom

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