The Lights of Japan

Japan Charity Week – Last Day

HDR ImageThe bidding ends today. Thank you all for participating; and thanks for being interested even if you did not jump in. If your budget is smaller, you can always donate to the Red Cross directly, or, if generally in the charitable mood, join Team Stuck In Customs on Kiva, where we’ve raised over $10,000.

That’s the print that is on auction there to the right. We only do limited edition prints here, so each one is unique. This particular one is numbered 9 out of a series of 50. It’ll look great in your home or business!

Daily Photo – The Lights of Japan

One evening I was walking around Roppongi, taking in all the sights. There doesn’t seem to be a bad direction to go. Everything was alive and full of life.

Getting into this particular position took a few Cirque de Soliel moves that no one was around to appreciate (or warn me against). There is a pedestrian set of stairs that blindly switchbacks its way up an outside drum-tower of sorts. I had a feeling that on top of this little tower would be a good vantage in this particular direction, which I had not seen, but I had mapped out in my brain. I did one of those moves like children do when they work their way up a doorframe — but I did it in a narrow stairwell. It got me to the top, which was extra-difficult with the tripod! I ended up with a clean view of everything. But then, only then, did I start to wonder how the heck I was going to get back down.

I waited for a nice-looking stair-walker to pass by underneath, and then I handed down my camera before performing an unceremonious jump/fall.

High Dynamic Range Photo

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The Moments Between: Seeing the Edge

Best Photos from Japan

When I’m not fighting off mechs in Japanese dating simulations, I’m usually busy taking photos of the environs. If you want to see some of the my best HDR photos in this area, just click the Japan category, and you’l be off and running. You’ll also find photos of Japanese schoolgirls that just might be mechs.

New Video – Seeing the Edge

I put together some of my favorite bits from this technique into this new short video. Enjoy! If you want to see more about this technique, see the “Stuck In Motion” page here on the site.

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Young Schoolgirl Returning Home in Tokyo

Trey Ratcliff and the Beyond 6th Crew

Justin Arthur invited me downtown to be on the Beyond 6th podcast

Beyond 6th Podcast

The crew at a local podcast here in Austin called “Beyond 6th” invited me down a few weeks ago to sit in. It was a laid back discussion… cool people — happy to know them! It was strange because they had me read the “intro” — it was unexpected but I did my best! hehe… Click on the link there to have a listen.

Young Schoolgirl Returning Home in Tokyo

One thing I recommend to travelers as they go from point A to point B in an unpredictable manner. Whenever I want to hit an exact location, I tell the taxi to drop me off a few kilometers from the destination. Either that, or I exit the subway early. I then meander my way from street to street and feel my way to the final location. Usually, by taking these unpredictable paths, I end up seeing a lot of things that would have been left unseen.

That is how I found this little schoolgirl in Tokyo. I ended up on a busy street in the late afternoon, just as kids were running back to their homes.

High Dynamic Range Photo

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New Video – The Moments Between: Tokyo Dream

Are you missing out on my interesting newsletter?  It’s free and a very pretty thing to do to your inbox!

Also, for you techno-people like me out there, you gotta see the way this new Newsletter Signup widget works.  It’s so cool… I’m not even sure how it works!  But it shows you a custom video with how to confirm the newsletter.  In testing, I notice it shows a different video if you are using gmail or another client!  Amazing.

Besides that little techno-feat, you get all kinds of other goodies in the newsletter:

  • Any upcoming news, events, or plans about Stuck In Customs, so you can be the FIRST to know!
  • A collection of fun links that I find/post on Twitter, neat finds, and other things to inspire you.
  • Advanced secret links to upcoming reviews so you can be the first to see and provide feedback! !! This is a cool one, eh?
  • A review of the latest, most interesting photos.
  • A nice, compact, beautiful email that you can share with your family and friends. These are just the sort of pretty emails that can make you popular in your email circle o’ friends.


New Video – The Moments Between – Tokyo Dream

I really enjoy making these short movies, and here is my latest release. My goal is to release two more movies in the next two months… I hope you enjoy them!

Wondering how they are made? I used a very affordable Casio Camera, and there is a lot more info on the “Stuck In Motion” page. The music bits here are from the great Patrick O’Hearn – go buy his stuff! The track in this video is “Northwest Passage”.

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Japanese Surprise and This Week in Travel

This Week in Travel Goodie Guide

Later today, I’m a guest on “This Week in Travel”, a popular podcast that’s all about exactly what you think it’s about. Among other things, they asked me to prepare a few photography-related travel-goodies for the holiday season.

Here is the episode!

I have a more full list on my “Favorite Things” page!

New Video Soon!

I’ve spent this weekend working on a new video to release that is the next chapter in the “Moments Between” video from below.  My current plan is to release it on Friday… so get ready!

Daily Photo – Lines of Tokyo

To go with the video theme of the day, here is a new photo in Tokyo.  This was taken near the Akihabara area, not too far from the subway station.

There is a kind of “sterile” feel to a lot of the modern, well-architected areas of Tokyo.  I don’t mind this non-organic sense sometimes, but it is not always comforting.  All of the lines, shapes, and angles make for some fun photography, though!

High Dynamic Range Photography

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Information in Tokyo

HDR From a Single RAW?

Yes! This is one of the most common questions I get. I usually shoot multiple photos (all RAW) at different exposures. However, often times I just use one of the RAWs to do the processing. It’s best in cases with a lot of movement, like today’s shot.

For specifics, it’s on page three of the HDR Tutorial here on the site.

Daily Photo – Information in Tokyo

I was navigating a complex series of catwalks through a beautiful building in downtown Tokyo. I got so busy looking around at all the amazing structures that I almost forgot to look down. Upon doing so, I saw this, or close to this… after a few minutes of walking around, I found a angle that seemed to make special poetic bits of my brain happy.

High Dynamic Range Photo

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Man Crossing Street

From the best-selling ebook ever!

Can I share a secret with you?  Our eBooks have made more money than my major-market Peachpit book.  Yes, that’s right!  Even though the real book sold out on Amazon in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, these ebooks have just been amazing.

The best-selling one is “Composing the Photo“, which is one of our 3 ebook offerings.  Today’s photo below is shown towards the beginning of the book.

Thank you all for participating!  I know that many people are on a budget and want to improve their photography.  That’s why we offer a variety of things at many prices…  So I hope for the price of a few cappuccinos that we can make your photography world even more wonderful.  Even if you are just a beginner, there should be many great nuggets in there for you!

Daily Photo – Man Crossing Street

I spent a lot of time in this dynamic area of Tokyo.  It’s sort of the techno-nerd electronic center of the Japanese world.  So I felt right at home there with my fellow nerds.

But this guy certainly stood out.  He was crossing the street and looking extremely Japo-cool.  I pulled up my 50mm and waited for the time to feel right before I snapped the photo.  Afterward, of course, it is kind of fun to look at little bits of the photo and find out, compositionally, why the photo did indeed feel “right” to take at that moment.

HDR Photo

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The Allure of Night-Shooting

Favorite Time of Day to Take Photos?

Mine, in order are:  Sunset, sunrise, dusk, night, day…  What are yours?  Exactly the same or a little different?

Daily Photo – The Allure of Night-Shooting

Of course, taking photos at night in cool cities is awesome.  But the bad thing (if there is such a thing) is that there is never really a good time to stop.  It could go on all night!  It’s not like sunset or dusk that has a fairly limited shooting time…

So, usually I am really awful in these situations and just keep shooting until my body physically gives out.  It’s always so easy just to jump in a taxi and head back to the hotel… so it’s hard to come up with a big reason to stop.  Everything is so stimulating!

This one was taken very close to my time-lapse sequence that was part of that Japanese video I released.  If I found a good place for a photo, then it was also a good spot for a time-lapse.  Those are cool and everything, but they do tie up the camera for a long time and inhibit the HDRs!

HDR Photo

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Five Tips for Photographing People

Five Tips for Photographing People

I’ve been talking about this for a long time, so I wanted to go ahead and give you some free tips for on-the-street people photography.

From various conversations, I think that photographers are REALLY interested in taking photos of people they see on the street. We can’t help it, right? Our eyes are drawn to interesting “things” — not just landscapes. And if we see an interesting person, we really want to take their photo, yes? But then, often times, we don’t even pull the camera up to our eye because we are shy, embarrassed, or think about all the horrible things that could go wrong. So, maybe these tips will help!

Look, honestly, I don’t know if these will do you any good or not. But these are some things that I personally think about. So, insofar as some of my insights are useful to me, maybe they will be useful to you too!

Even though I’m known for “landscape photography”, I actually enjoy all kinds of photography! I take hundreds of people photos, object photos, food photos, model photos, B&W photos, etc. I assume that you take many types of photography too.

1) If you prefer to take photos of people as they are acting naturally, go ahead and take the photo before they notice you. You are a photographer, and this is you. You capture life… if you see something interesting whether it is a landscape, a pile of peaches, or a person that strikes your fancy, go ahead and do it. If you like and it is convenient, you can always go show them the photo after you are done. I do this whenever it makes sense, and I have a nice little interchange with the person.

2) Keep an extra camera ready for people shots. When walking the streets, I normally have my “big” camera ready to go for city landscape shots. My tripod is on. My wide-angle is on. It’s in that “mode.” If I am going to have to switch lenses, it will take forever, and the moment will be lost. So, I carry a second camera on a sling around my shoulder for people shots. On that camera, I have an 85mm or 50mm prime lens. Now, you don’t have to have this exact setup by any means, but having ANY kind of second camera for people shots is recommended.

2b) I find that the 85mm prime keeps me outside something I call the radius of intimacy. That is, when you use a 50mm, you are so close that people often stop acting naturally, unless they are a professional model or a natural thespian.

3) If they ARE likely to notice you, be confident and deliberate, softly asking permission with your eyes. This is a very subtle and hard thing to explain. I usually raise my eyebrows while I raise my camera, clearly indicating, “I’m about to take a photo. Everything is okay.” If they don’t want you to, they will make it clear. Usually, they say it’s just fine. People like to be thought of as interesting.

4) If they are very close, I ask permission out loud. Often times, I don’t want them to pose… so I say something (smiling!) like, “You look very interesting — can I take a photo?” Once they say yes (98% of the time they do), I usually ask them not to pose and carry on about their business. Then I start taking a bunch of photos and enjoy the pressure of capturing the moment.

5) Don’t be shy! If you feel overly shy, it may be a larger indication that you are letting fear motivate you rather than the opportunities that life provides. So, if you feel doubt or fear, just try to channel me and be brave and forthright.

Regarding that last one, seriously, folks, just be cool and confident with it. If you want to do it, and it feels right, just do it. Do not worry so much about rejection. Yes, you WILL get rejected 2-10% of the time depending upon how likable you are. Out of 500 people photos, I’ve been rejected maybe 10-13 times. It doesn’t bother me a bit. So what? People say no… big deal. The fact is that MOST people LOVE to have photos taken of them. To be interesting in a world of same-ness is a tremendous thing. Chances are that no one has ever taken a photo of them before, and they will feel special that you thought they were special.

Most of the time, after I take a photo and people look over at me, wondering, “Why did you just take a photo of me?” I usually say, “You look cool!” Or, “You look awesome!” Or, if they don’t speak English, I give them a thumbs up and a facial indication that I think they look cool. 99% of the time, they smile and carry on.

If you’re taking a photo of a kid, just get a steady nod from the parents before. Bend down to take the photo, look up at the parent, saying, “is it okay?” with your eyes. They’ll say yes or no… There is a significant number of moms out there that watch too much sensational news and assume that 50% of the population are pedophiles… but, maybe you’ll hit that other 50%! Again, we’re all just photographers, and if we see a cute or interesting kid, of course we want to take a photo! It’s what we do! There is no need to apologize for it! :)

Daily Photo – Salaryman in Tokyo

While I was in the middle of making a time-lapse sequence (see the video below the photo), I was using my D3S on a sling to take quick photos of interesting people. They were everywhere!

Behind me, waiting for the light to change, was this young salaryman. Salaryman is the Japanese word for “businessman”. That word salaryman always cracks me up for some reason. Anyway, he was this young kid, standing there in a most unassuming way in this nice suit. I spun around and grabbed a quick shot.

He looked a little confused at me after I took it. I gave him a nod of thanks, and he smiled in a surprised way then went merrily on his way.

HDR Photo

Videos – Life in Japan

While I am busy shooting landscapes and people in Japan, I also take time to make some videos.  Below are a few of them from recent past.  The music from both is by the great Patrick O’Hearn (buy his stuff!).  Enjoy!

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Ginza, alive at night

Topaz Adjust

The photo below uses Topaz Adjust for a bit of sharpening. I find that my photos can still come out blurry, even though I use a tripod. For more info, be sure to see my Topaz Adjust Review here on the site!

Your thoughts on rain?

How do you feel about shooting in the rain? Too much of a hassle, or worth it? I’m interested in your perspective… you can read more about mine below!

Daily Photo – Ginza, alive at night

Rain is good. Rain is bad. I can’t decide!

You have no idea… (or maybe you do !!) how hard it is to carry around two cameras, a tripod, AND an umbrella. I already have every one of my 10 digits fully employed with handling everything. But… an umbrella! Well that really requires five fingers! I can usually get by with 5 on my tripod/camera too. I walk around with everything hooked together. However, a problem ensues when you have to expand and retract the legs of the tripod. That is really a two-hand operation. So what do you do with the umbrella during this time? The neck/shoulder pinch is right-out… the umbrella gets caught in the wind and it is a recipe for disaster.

And, you have to keep the umbrella over the lens at all times. If you put on the lens cap, it can cause fogging (in most wet-weather conditions). And you can’t let the lens get drops on it, of course. So, I have to keep myself and the lens dry the entire time.

But, once you get everything set up… then… well, nothing beats the effect of wet streets in the night… just wonderful.

HDR Photo

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