Tokyo ~ One Year Photo-Retrospective, Part 1

About 1 year ago this month I was working as a journalist for the Japan Times newspaper and having an absolute blast living in Tokyo. I think a lot of people visit Japan with a very specific preconception of what the country is all about. I can guarantee you it is nothing like the stereotypes. I really did not know what to expect, but my experience surpassed anything I could have hoped for. Japan is a truly unique place that never ceased to surprise me. Please enjoy some of my favorite images and stories in this three part post.


Tokyo is a city of juxtapositions: old and new, bustling and quiet, thrilling and relaxed. This is the Hie Shrine which was a few minutes walk from my apartment in Akasaka. The Shrine is hundreds of years old yet is surrounded by modern sky scrapers and blends seamlessly into the surrounding area. This is a scene characteristic of countless places all over Tokyo.


Here is another great example. I took this while wandering around Shibuya one evening. The world’s busiest intersection and this guy is as relaxed as ever on his bike (and rocking a fedora to boot). So Tokyo.



Here’s another shot of the Shibuya intersection. I had to stealthily sneak up to the top floor of a hotel to get this shot.



And as it turns out, the land of the rising sun is also the land of the setting sun. I snapped this from the roof of my apartment building the night after Hurricane Guchol passed over Japan. The hurricane itself is a whole different story, but this is definitely one of my favorite photos from the entire 8 weeks there.

Tokyo Sunset

Well, I guess some of the stereotypes are true…Thanks for stopping by today!

Japanese vending machines






When I was working in Tokyo last summer my hours were from 10:30 am to around 7pm, so many of my photos were taken either in the early morning, or at night after work. Shooting at night is difficult to say the least. You must be highly skilled with a flash, or resourceful with the available light to make it work. I like to think I fall into the second category.

This photo was taken in Omotesando which was only one stop on the Chiyoda Line past my apartment in Akasaka. I would often eat dinner there and explore with my camera afterwards. To photograph this billboard I set the exposure compensation on my camera down almost two full stops to eliminate any light besides the bright ones above the advertisement. I think the effect is really cool and works well in black and white.

Thanks for stopping by today!





I snapped this photo on a rainy afternoon in Omotesando, Tokyo this summer. I remember it was the first time I’d been there and I was wandering around in the downpour looking for an art gallery I was to write a piece about. I stopped at a small coffee shop to warm up and got out my camera.

The people passing by with umbrellas made for great scenes. This was my favorite photo from the day. I think it has a really strong narrative and it’s one of those split-second shots that happens to work. I love that it’s a shot which can never be replicated and I was lucky enough to see it and press the shutter in time.

Shinagawa Jinja Shrine; Tokyo, Japan

This summer I was living in Tokyo and working as an intern at the Japan Times. One day my boss asked me if I would go to a festival at the Shinagawa Jinja Shrine to take pictures for a weekend events piece. I took the JR Yamanote line from my office to Shinagawa Station and walked to the shrine through a pleasant neighborhood to the shrine. I am always surprised how quiet parts of Tokyo are, despite being the world’s largest city. I arrived just as the evening’s ceremonies were beginning and took these photos.

There are thousands of shrines all over Tokyo, big and small. Most of them have a festival unique to the specific shrine that happens once a year. The festivals usually include a temple that gets carried around by men as well as other ceremonial activities. Unfortunately, I’m still not as familiar with religion in Japan as I am other aspects of the country.

None of my photos ended up getting used, but the experience was still one of the most memorable in my entire time in Japan!



This is the alter that was going to get carried the next day.


Thanks for stopping by!


My portfolio

Lately I’ve been working on picking out some of my best photos in order to put together a formal photography portfolio. Although, as a political scientist, I’ll likely never have a professional need for a photo portfolio, it’ll be nice to be able to showcase my work for friends. Putting together a portfolio has also allowed me to see just how much my abilities have improved since I started taking photos, and get a sense of what my ‘style’ has become.

These first four were taken on my film camera with Kodak Porta 400. I’m getting more and more addicted to film. I put a lot of thought into composing my film pictures and I really enjoy the whole process. The results can be stunning!

Other than that the pictures are in no particular order. Enjoy!

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Thanks for stopping by today!


Tokyo Transportation

There’s so many ways to get around in Tokyo!

Walking. I walked EVERYWHERE when I lived in Tokyo.

The world’s busiest intersection.


Salarymen walk.

Old ladies walk.

People walk with umbrellas.

And of course, bikes! Sooooooo many bikes.

Expensive bike. 1889

Business bike. 873

Nighttime bike. 1277

Rebel bike!20120701-163523.jpg


Then there’s cars. Small car. 891

Cool car that I wish Audi would sell in the U.S.1155

Expensive car. 2510

Another expensive car. 1871

And even another expensive car!2511

Stealth taxi. 1302


Trains are a great way to get around too. I commuted to work on the Chiyoda line every morning. 597

Red train. 884

Green train. 877

Blue train. 886

Waiting for the train. 😦1174


Waiting on the train. 869

Sleeping on the train. 🙂915


And when you have to leave Tokyo…airplanes. 2591



King airplane. 2688

Thanks for stopping by today! If you like what you saw be sure to like this post!


What makes a good photo?

What makes a good photo? I started thinking about this the other day after a conversation with one of my best friends, “Everyone with a camera thinks they’re the best,” he mused. Photography has certainly gained popularity in the last decade, especially with the advent of smart phones and social media. Is it truly becoming harder to stand out?

With the 8mp camera on my HTC phone, I can snap a high resolution photo, run it through Instagram, and come out with a decent looking end product. That doesn’t make it a good photo, however. Part of my job working in digital media at a newspaper is to browse through social media looking for viral content. I see THOUSANDS of photos every week. Most of them are “meh”.

In fact, our world has been flooded with “meh” photos that we’ve been told are “good” because they were taken with an expensive camera or run through fancy software. In my opinion that’s okay! There’s a big difference between the debate over photography’s purpose and what a good image is. A good deal of “meh” photos still have value in what they share and make you feel.

Instagram, photoshop, a D4 can all produce nice images, but they can’t make you an artist. Getting an eye for composition requires practice. Finding interesting subjects requires proactivity. Even as the number of photographers and ease of photography increases, the “good” photos–ones that really move you–will still stand out amongst the masses. And for the most part I love that photography is becoming popular. The more the better! As long as photographers remember to respect their subjects, especially when they’re people.

If you want to see absolutely stunning photos look up Diane Arbus here, or Ansel Adams here, or Daido Moriyama here

Arbus took photos before there was such thing as photoshop, instagram, or even digital. Her portraits are proof there is no “make the viewer say ‘holy shit that’s creepy’ ” button. Adams is one of my favorite photographer to just sit and look at. Moriyama is probably my biggest influence for black and white photos.

The following images are ones which I consider some of my better photographs that I just haven’t posted yet. I’ve written a brief critique of each one. Please feel free to add your own comments. I love feedback!

This is Shibuya, the worlds busiest intersection. I like this photo because there is so much going on. The people in the intersection, the rooftop stadium, the vibrancy, etc. I had to sneak up to the 19th floor of the Excel Hotel to get this shot, which makes it exciting from my standpoint. I wish the angle was a bit better, and that I had waited for the sun to set just a little more and that you could see some sky.


I took this one last night in Omotesandō. These guys were putting up a new add on the window, and the one fellow was giving directions. You could probably tell that though without me explaining. It has a narrative, which is what I like about it. Creating scenes and giving narratives is one of the hardest things to do. I wish my camera had better low light performance for this, but otherwise I love the coloring and reflection on the glass.


This little guy was at the Ueno Park zoo. I think it was one of the only decent photos out of the 200 I took that day. Taking pictures somewhere like a zoo is frustrating because the light is always changing, there is glass or fences in the way, and it is super crowded. I suppose a negative critique of this one is it’s just not the most interesting subject. I wish he(she?) had their tongue sticking out or something. It’s one of those “meh” photos that’s still cool.


My favorite thing about this photo is the incredible juxtaposition. I snapped it at a big shrine in Akasaka (the name escapes me). The temple building is hundreds of years old, and remains unchanged even as the city evolved around it. It serves a sacred purpose. The Prudential building is modern and represents the complete opposite. What you see here is what I might describe as the “essence” of Tokyo (please bear with the cheesiness). If you can think of a negative critique let me know 🙂


Last week I decided to walk home half way from work rather than take the train. It was a beautiful evening and the sun was setting just as I was passing the Diet building. I took this in the middle of an intersection. I think the best aspects by far are the lighting. The color of the sky is excellent and I really like the illumination on the pavement. The moon is also a plus. The brightness of the street lamp is a minus I think.


You might wonder why I put this one on. A picture of a picture. What value does that have? I’m not exactly certain but there’s something that intrigues me. I like the guy’s hat at the very least. I don’t think this would be a photo that “sells” at all, but still from an artistic standpoint it’s worth something. After I’ve looked at it again the way it’s cropped jumps out at me. If you were to see the sign as it is in real life, the dramatic affect wouldn’t be the same.


Again this was taken at the Shibuya intersection but it’s a completely different photo. I was standing on a curb right in the middle if things waiting for a good scene. In any big city you could get photos of lots of people crossing the street. Perhaps only in Tokyo could you get something like this. From the juxtaposition down to what the guy is wearing. If you have any constructive criticisms, again, I’d like to hear them.


This is my favorite portrait photo. The woman’s bucket hat, her aviator sunglasses, the hand on the chin, inquisitive look, the meerkats in the foreground. This happened by chance and I was lucky enough to snap the shutter at the right time. My biggest criticisms are that you can see the reflection of my arm in the glass, and that this is digital. I so wish it was on film. With digital you are only getting a tiny fraction of the potential image. On film, the only real limitation is how advanced the scanning technology is for the year you live in. All those old films “remastered” in blue-ray? They’ve been high definition the entire time, the technology just didn’t exist to realize it. Why do you think the majority of films are still shot on film? This is roughly a 6.4 million pixels-per-inch photo. With the current scanning technology available for about $200, I could have made it 126 million. O well, I still like it :).


Please please please feel free to add your critiques of my photography. I’d like to hear it so I can keep improving.

Thanks for stopping by!

Au revoir!


Views from the street: part 2

Saturday night I decided to have another go at street photography, and headed up the hill to Roppongi. On weekends the sidewalks are filled with a sea of international club seekers and promoters all too willing to oblige them. The scene is absolutely chaotic, and makes for endless interesting photo opportunities.


Huomasin monia suomalaisia ​​katsomaan blogiani. Kiitos tuesta!


This guy stopped me to promote his club. I was surprised he let me take his picture! (and didn’t stick around for him to change his mind)






Very common scene: absorbed in the cell phone.


Casual Ferrari.



Yours truly at the Grand Hyatt Roppongi. (I have a habit of sneaking up to the top floor of expensive hotels to take pictures)


Roppongi is one of the few places in Tokyo I see graffiti. Adds character?




Thanks for stopping by!


Kiitos, että pysäyttäminen on!