Street Photography In A Dangerous World

Street Photography Tips, by Pixelglo Photography

Street photography! There’s nothing like dive bombing into the photographic deep end, and exploring a metropolis with your camera to photograph the stories you find.

If you are into photography and have never taken your camera out onto the mean streets of the city, then you’re missing out on so much “life” and potential photo opportunities.

One More Chapter, by Pixelglo Photography
One More Chapter, by Pixelglo Photography

As a enthusiastic and slightly obsessed camera nerd, I love all styles of photography. Portraiture, landscapes, commercial shoots, but there is an inherent thrill when it comes to capturing that perfect street photo.

“Street photography is all about getting into the mix and capturing photos, of the street – from the street.”

Now let’s try and sing from the same songsheet here. Street photography, in my opinion anyway, is not about lurking in the shadows with a long-ass telephoto lens and photographing people from a safe distance. No! Not only will you look like a freakish stalker, but is this really street photography?

“Capturing the perfect street photo usually involves taking a small risk. Perhaps getting in close, and climbing out of your comfort zone to achieve a personal point of view of an unfamiliar subject.”

 

New Street Photography Blog Series

Street photography can throw many challenges and dangers at you. My new blog series on street photography will hopefully offer some useful tips and advice covering everything from “getting in close” to your subject, to a definitive checklist on what to take with you to survive the mean streets!

Which Cake? By Pixelglo Photography
Which Cake? By Pixelglo Photography

 

The Hunt

You are navigating your way through a crowded inner-city scene. Somewhere you have never been before. Dangerous puddles of water lurk in shady corners, ready to inconvenience you with wet feet if you don’t watch where you’re going. Crowds of people advance toward you from all sides like zombies. They are unresponsive. Uncaring. Maybe they’re office dwellers marching back to work after a hurried lunch break, or maybe they’re angry unsatisfied shoppers about to endure another round in to the next shopping centre.

“It’s a dangerous world on the mean streets. You keep cool. Dodging the masses. Camera in hand. You know your next best shot… could be just around the corner.”

You keep an eye on the congested road next to you, making sure you don’t accidentally stray out into a herd of ruthless commuters. Stay cool. It’s a hostile environment, but stay cool. You’re a photographer armed with your weapon of choice. Back to the hunt.

You are fighting attrition. You’ve been walking for almost one whole hour now. You want to eat the freshly made sandwich in your bag that you bought from the delightful cafe on arriving at the train station. But you resist. Now is not the time.

“You’re a trained photographic street ninja, in the wild. The delicious sandwich in your bag can wait 5 minutes at least.”

You look down at the camera in your hand. It’s switched on. It’s always on. Your pre-programmed settings glowing on the LCD display. Everything is ready, and if anything happens, you will be ready.

You dodge a cyclist. Side-step an office worker who is talking loudly on his phone who ‘will not settle for anything less than a cosy table by the window.’ You carry on walking. Sliding through the waves of people.

“And there you have it. A photographic opportunity falls into place, like a puzzle solving itself before your eyes… but only for a moment.”

You stand before your “moment”. To one side, away from the river of tourists and shoppers, your eyes are drawn nearby to someone wrapped up in their own little world. Perhaps talking on the phone. Perhaps talking to someone else. This person catches your eye and immediately they make the scene unique. You see a small story, within a larger scene. This person has become your photographic subject.

This is your shot. Take it now, before it’s gone for ever.

Alone In The City, by Pixelglo Photography
Alone In The City, by Pixelglo Photography

When it comes to street photography, you have to be ready to act, and quickly! You will only get one shot.

 

Street Photography Blog Series Coming Soon

My new blog series on street photography will begin soon, so please watch this space!

Street Photos
You can view my Street Photography at the following links:
Street Photography Gallery On Flickr
The Pixelglo Photography Website

Thank you for reading =) Please share this page, and leave a comment below!

My Tokyo Photography Adventure

Hidden Temple, by Pixelglo Photography
For a very long time the city of Tokyo and Tokyo photography has always appealed to me. In 2013 I was lucky enough to travel and explore this totally foreign land, and this post documents my treasured memories of this amazing city.

“If you plan to visit Tokyo soon, then my learning experiences may offer you some useful information!”

In the Spring of 2013 I traveled there with my Wife, intent on exploring this incredible city and to hopefully witness the beautiful Hanami Blossom Season in full effect. Each year for only a few precious weeks, the thousands of blossom tree’s turn Tokyo into a festival of colour and changing landscapes. It really is a sight to behold, and possibly the best time to visit.

“I recommend visiting Tokyo during the beautiful blossom season in early April.”

2013 however was a very unique year because the Hanami which is celebrated and respected so highly in Japan,  started unusually early! We were so afraid we might miss it all, but luckily when we arrived, we were fortunate to see blossom trees still “in bloom”.

Tokyo Photography of a Blossom Tree, by Pixelglo Photography
Tokyo Blossom Tree, by Pixelglo Photography

Traveling from middle England Lincolnshire down to Heathrow Airport, we endured the 12 hour flight half way around the world to the land of rising sun. We arrived in Tokyo, dazed and tired, yet full of excitement to see and explore this incredible foreign land. I couldn’t wait to try my hand at Tokyo photography! We spent the week in the cute, friendly, and welcoming B Akasaka Hotel in Minato. It was the perfect location to call home for the week, and jump onto the Metro and explore.

Tokyo Photography of the Tokyo SkyTree, by Pixelglo Photography
The Tokyo SkyTree, by Pixelglo Photography

Our first landmark to visit was the Tokyo SkyTree. An incredible sight that can be seen night and day from almost anywhere in Tokyo. After being awake for almost 24 hours, we trekked across the city heading towards the awesome spire in the distance… only to find that “trips up the SkyTree” must be book several months in advance! So if you intend to “go up” the SkyTree, book months ahead through the website. Pushing disappointment aside, we stopped at a local Japanese Hawaiian Burger restaurant which was a bizarre experience! Try and picture the scene. We arrived in Tokyo that day with severe jet-lag, and then navigated our way across to the other side of the city only to find the SkyTree was fully booked! So we decided to get some food, and enter a Japanese Hawaiian  Burger Bar. It  was decorated in awesome 1950s apparel, serving American style food, with Hawaiian music playing – but sung in Japanese!? Very surreal! We couldn’t help but smile! A very surreal experience…

“Tired. Jet-lagged. After hours of walking, we ended up in an American inspired Japanese Hawaiian Burger Bar, that played Hawaiian surf music sung in Japanese. Awesome!”

After refueling, we headed to one of our favourite stops of the trip – the Tokyo Tower! Slightly smaller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Tower boasts fantastic views within a confined viewing platform, and the staff are so helpful and happy to see you enjoying their attraction. It was a delight to attend this classic Tokyo landmark. If you want a great view of Tokyo, head to the Tokyo Tower.

Many Things At Once, by Pixelglo Photography
Many Things At Once, by Pixelglo Photography

Busy Busy Busy! As with any busy metropolis, there are lots of people in Tokyo. Yet in Tokyo, we were never pushed or “shoved”. The queues were so orderly, and the inner-city traveling so “seamless”, you couldn’t help but be impressed. Tokyo is the safest I have ever felt, in any city in the world. At one point, we saw small children who must have been around 6 years old, navigating the underground Metros alone to make their way to school. It is that safe!

Busy Tokyo Commuters, by Pixelglo Photography
Busy Tokyo Commuters, by Pixelglo Photography

On several occasions we stopped for food at this really cool fast food chain called “Yoshinoya”. Some of these restaurants are tiny, and you literally have to “squeeze” your way in to find a seat. Everyone who entered, “ate fast”, and so did we. Places like Yoshinoya, especially the little restaurant in Shinjuku that we visited, are not designed for luxury dining. The food is awesome, wholesome, and merely “fuel” to keep you moving. Well worth the experience!

“Travel to Shibuya, and walk over the famous Shibuya Street Crossing. We did, several times! Thousands of people make the journey across the road at every green light, yet everything is orderly and calm. There is a nice Starbucks next to the crossing overlooking everything which is a great place to grab a coffee, and watch from above.”

Shibuya Crossing, by Pixelglo Photography
Shibuya Crossing, by Pixelglo Photography

Also, Japan is a “cash culture” country. It’s rare to pay for items and groceries with card, so we took plenty of cash! And with it being so safe, we didn’t worry about the usual “big city” crime fears. I felt quite happy and safe to walk around with my camera “in hand” whilst being immersed in Tokyo photography.

Tokyo Metro Commuters, by Pixelglo Photography
Tokyo Metro Commuters, by Pixelglo Photography

Trains and Metro Trains run like clockwork. But be prepared for the “information overload” awaiting you inside the stations! There are a lot of signs everywhere, but once you know what to look for they’re very logical and useful. For example, the moment you step off a Metro train, you will be confronted with a large sign board with an pointing left, and an arrow pointing right. Underneath these arrows is a list of nearby landmarks and places of interest (in English), with an accompanying “exit number”. Take a minute to read over the sign and locate the best exit. Some trains will give you exit information before you get to the platform using LCD screen in the carriages. The best advice I can give when tackling one of the big “super stations” like Shinjuku, is to simply find any exit – and use it! If you become even remotely unsure of where your exit is, just find any exit and get outside. Shinjuku Station has about 300 exits and 32 platforms, and so it’s easy to get totally lost inside these huge super train stations. We spent 45 minutes lost in Tokyo Station when we first arrived!

Attack On The Senses, by Pixelglo Photography
Attack On The Senses, by Pixelglo Photography

Many Parks. One Panda. We took a trip to Ueno Zoo which is nestled within Ueno Park. Both are well worth a visit. We saw the much loved and adored Panda. I don’t know what was cuter? The cuddly easy-going Panda as he sat down and helped himself to more bamboo, or the masses of onlookers going “oooOOoooohhhhh” in delight, as he helped himself to his lunch.

Tokyo Photography of the Ueno Zoo Panda, by Pixelglo Photography
Ueno Zoo Panda, by Pixelglo Photography

We explored many of  Tokyo’s “inner-city” gardens and shrines. If you visit Tokyo, you must visit some of these incredible gardens. They are so peaceful, and a great way to “process” everything you have seen that day.

Japanese Lantern, by Pixelglo Photography
Japanese Lantern, by Pixelglo Photography

Most inner-city gardens are maintained daily by professional groundsmen, so you can be assured your visit will be delightful and peaceful. You will have to pay a few Yen to enter the gardens, but we are talking the equivalent of a couple of British Pounds, or a couple of US dollars. It is totally worth paying to enter.

Japanese Torii Gates, by Pixelglo Photography
Japanese Torii Gates, by Pixelglo Photography

 

Japanese Lanterns, by Pixelglo Photography
Japanese Lanterns, by Pixelglo Photography

We especially loved Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. So vast and “open”, with numerous blossom trees with admiring visitors in awe of them. It was humbling to see local Japanese, celebrating the beauty of the blossom trees, and treat them with so much respect and admiration. At times, I felt like a welcomed visitor in someones home.

Grand Japanese Fern Tree, by Pixelglo Photography
Grand Japanese Fern Tree, by Pixelglo Photography

Tokyo Photography Gear One of the questions I always get asked, especially when travelling, is “what photography gear do you take with you?” Well, as I only had my trusted Nikon D80 to hand, I had to settle for carrying that around to handle my Tokyo photography. It was a little heavy at times, and perhaps a smaller compact would have been more preferable, but at least I finally understood why we often see our Japanese friends visiting the West, and so enthusiastically “taking pictures of everything”. Over in Japan… everything is so different, and as a photographer, I found myself photographing almost everything. You can’t help but document everything, as it’s such a different world. Back to the gear, I wore a record style “shoulder bag”, which tends to be my choice for carrying photographic gear during city shooting, and used a combination of a 18-135mm (F3.5) and a 50mm (F1.8) lens. I also carried a small “expandable” travel tripod for the long exposure stuff. After the trip and realising a smaller camera may have made life a little easier, I looked into buying a well equipped smaller compact camera and bought the Fuji X20. This little thing could have easily done the same job as my D80, and been a darn sight lighter and easier to carry about! Lost In Translation Being fans of the film Lost In Translation we had to visit the Park Hyatt Tokyo Hotel, the main setting for the blossoming on screen friendship of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. The hotel itself is located in the upper-story of the tallest of the three skyscrapers in Shinjuku, with the lower floors being dedicated to businesses and shops.

In the Park Hyatt Tokyo, by Pixelglo Photography
In the Park Hyatt Tokyo, by Pixelglo Photography

Taking 2 elevators to reach the New York Bar at the top, we sat in the same “bar” as in the movie. It was quite surreal. The service there (as with everywhere else in the city) was exceptional, and the views across Tokyo were breathtaking. We went for early evening drinks, and stayed there for hours watching the sunset. Watching the night sky as plans crisscross the sky, and the ensemble of red-glowing lights appears on top of the city skyscrapers. If you want to have a luxurious drink and enjoy the city views, then visit the Park Hyatt Tokyo. It’s the perfect evening to conclude your stay there. Yes we did spend most of the days budget on drinks, and had to eat out of vending machines for the rest of the evening, but it didn’t matter! Our trip to Tokyo was the perfect city exploration holiday. We visited knowing “some” Japanese language, and educated ourselves on local customs and behaviors. My theory is, if you can learn some basic greetings including the all important “please” and “thank you”, it will go a long way to show respect to your hosts. In turn, they will greet you with smiles, and make you feel so welcome. If you have doubts about visiting Tokyo, push them aside. Sometimes you have to jump in with both feet and leave your comfort zone behind you. This was one trip we’ll never forget, and I recommend visiting this amazing city and country, to anyone.

“Love Tokyo. Love Japan.”

More Photos You can view more of Tokyo Photography at the following links: My Flickr Tokyo Photography Flickr The Pixelglo Photography Website Thank you for reading =) Please share this page, and leave a comment below!