Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Natural Beauties


 Earlier this month, I had a really fun photoshoot with three lovely young ladies: Polina, Elizabeta, and Nastya. Luckily, it was a beautiful sunny January afternoon (looks like my rainy photoshoot curse is lifting! :D *knocks on wood*), and the girls were so light-hearted and easy to work with. I felt really happy with the shots we created from this photoshoot. I even asked the girls to give ideas as to poses and expressions, and they were more than happy to help each other out. It's fun to brainstorm and be spontaneous together rather than only directing from my side.

This was my first three-way shoot, and I thank you girls for helping make it a success!


Great pose, Polina!


I felt like Nastya was sort of the "senpai" of the three, for some reason :)
She was great at giving advice to the other girls!


 I loved her confidence and ethereal aura.



 Elizabeta had a lovely smile!

She wasn't afraid to have fun and make silly faces during the shoot :)



 Leaping across the stones.


One of my favorite shots. So glad this one worked!
I felt like these girls were so creative-minded and knew exactly what I was thinking when I told them an idea I had for a certain shot.


Friendship :)




This was definitely one of my favorite photoshoots so far. Polina, Nastya, Elizabeta, thank you so much for working with me in this shoot!! It was really a joy for me to take pictures of such beautiful and confident girls. Every time I finish a shoot like this, I feel like I'm getting one little step further on the road toward becoming a better photographer. And more than that, the colors, light, expressions, and moments really fills my soul to see them and be able to preserve them in a way. 

Can't wait to do more shoots! :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

5 Great Photoshoot Locations in Tokyo

As a photographer in Tokyo (well, whenever I have time in the evenings and weekends away from the office :), it's important to keep stock of a few places to do photoshoots at. When I first arrived in Tokyo back in 2009, I didn't really have a clue what the best places would be to shoot, but I gradually researched and made my way around several parks and locations which I would like to share with you below.

As you can see from some of my past photoshoots, I have really enjoyed shooting at each of these locations. If you're coming to visit Tokyo soon, or have lived here a while but would like some new ideas for locations to spruce up your photography, why don't you give one or two of these a try?
Let me tell you what I like about them.

(All photos below taken by me.)

 1. Shinjuku Gyoen

 Shinjuku Gyoen holds some of my earliest memories for photography in Tokyo. This huge, sprawling park in the middle of the Shinjuku metropolis provides a nice relaxing ground for picnics, taking a nap (yes! I've also experienced sitting on that field. Thumbs up :), or simply taking a stroll. While Shinjuku Gyoen can be on the crowded side on weekends, being somewhat popular for families and couples, this park has more than enough space for you to find your own tranquil spot. It's also interesting to see the tall buildings of Shinjuku sticking up out of the trees in the distance.

One of the very best things for me about Shinjuku Gyoen is the absolutely lovely cherry blossom season! The trees here are absolutely amazing, with lots of sakura blossoms you can reach up and touch. These make fantastic backgrounds for spring photoshoots. Try coming early in the morning or on weekdays to avoid the cherry blossom viewing craze in April, because the ground will be covered in those blue picnic sheets. All in all, a solid choice for a photography location in Tokyo - easy access (close to Shinjuku or Shinjuku sanchome stations, as well as Shinjuku gyoenmae if you just really don't want to walk), peaceful with a variety of trees and plants, definitely worth a visit!

 2. Hama Rikyu Gardens


I first visited Hama Rikyu gardens (near Shiodome, Shimbashi, and Hamamatsucho stations) during my first winter in Japan. Although it was January, I remember being pleasantly surprised at how warm and peaceful I felt strolling through this park. Tall buildings are in the immediate background, providing a very interesting contrast to the trees and Japanese garden style. I love the wooden bridge and water area as well.


 It takes quite a while to cover the whole park, with some open grassy areas as well as patches of lush forest to explore. In terms of photography, I love the variety of backgrounds Hama Rikyu provides - you can shoot your model reclining in the grass, deep within the trees, or outlined against the blue sky with water and tall buildings behind. Furthermore, I even once came across a traditional Japanese wedding photoshoot being held in this park. If it's a weekend afternoon, there can still be quite a few people visiting Hama Rikyu Gardens, although not quite as many as Shinjuku Gyoen. Nevertheless, this is a very peaceful and beautiful park that I highly recommend visiting if you haven't.

3. Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Located near Iidabashi and Korakuen stations, Koishikawa Korakuen has fast become one of my favorite parks in Tokyo. I've been there for photography twice, once to shoot a video and photos for a music project, and once for a model photoshoot. Both times, I was astounded by how amazingly quiet and tranquil this place is. Koishikawa Korakuen has a strong Japanese-style garden feel, with beautiful momiji trees, a giant stone bridge, and lovely ponds.


When walking through Koishikawa Korakuen, I had this curious feeling that I should step softly and quietly through the park grounds.. almost as if some spirit exists there. Or maybe that was just my feeling :) On warm, sunny afternoons (both times I went happened to be so), the gentle light filtering through leaves overhead, the trickle of water, the rush of wind through grasses... it really feels good for your soul.

4. Kiyosumi Teien


I have been to Kiyosumi Teien quite a few times throughout the seasons, and I have never been disappointed. Located near Kiyosumi shirakawa station, this is another park that I simply enjoy walking through due to its serene personality. (..yes, parks now have personalities :) The park is basically structured around a huge pond located in its center, and the water itself is just wonderful - filled with ducks, koi, and turtles! How cool is that?? And the huge, colorful koi are super friendly, sometimes swarming over with hopes that you might feed them something. I just love locations that actually have wildlife in them, and the animals here certainly seem to be in harmony with the park's visitors.


Each time I came to this park for photoshoots last year, I have never seen what I would call a crowd - mostly just a trickle of visitors. This makes Kiyosumi Teien an excellent location for a photoshoot. Furthermore, there are so many unique features of this park, including little stepping stone pathways across the water and the beautiful Japanese pine trees. Be sure to take a look at this lovely garden if you haven't yet.

5. Ginza     


 For recommendation #5, this may seem an unexpected choice since it is not a park like the others above. However, I am including the main streets surrounding Ginza station as one of my top choices for a photoshoot location in Tokyo, simply because it is a superb place to shoot at night. Even when it's pitch dark out, the bright and colorful buildings of Ginza are more than enough to provide nice night photography lighting.


With its upscale and somewhat refined personality, I found that Ginza provided plenty of interesting corners and sidestreets to explore when I did photoshoots there before. Shooting Ginza at night is an excellent opportunity to practice night exposures (I'm just starting to experiment with longer exposures that create the blur of moving crowds, for example), and I'm sure you'll get some fantastic shots. Meanwhile, this could also be a chance to catch up on some shopping, or grab that sweater or Uniqlo socks you've been meaning to pick up :)

So there you have it! Thank you so much for reading my recommendations for photoshoot locations in Tokyo. Of course there are countless more awesome places to shoot, but these are just a few that I particularly enjoyed shooting at.
Please share this post with any of your friends who are looking for places to go when they visit Tokyo, as well as photographers looking for great Tokyo photoshoot spots!

Oh! And if you visit any of my recommendations in this post, please let me know afterward how you liked it. If you have some photoshoot location recommendations of your own (doesn't have to be in Tokyo, or Japan!), please let me know too! I'd love to hear what you think :)


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Friday, January 18, 2013


Photos from a sunny afternoon stroll in Yanaka (谷中). It was my first visit to this peaceful, charming pocket of Tokyo, and I'm glad I finally went. The weather was perfect, even though winter's chill still tingled in the air... sunlight soaked sufficiently into my skin in late afternoon, and I didn't feel very cold.


Beautiful old building and window.


Ahh, oden! If you haven't had it and are in Japan, what's wrong with you :)
Be sure to give it a try!


 Cats seem to be popular in Yanaka. Anyone know why?


 Yanaka Ginza, an alleyway of small shops and restaurants that I thought would be quiet and empty, but actually ended up being full of pedestrians. Maybe Yanaka's gaining popularity!


Had this absolutely lovely beef stew for lunch!


And met this very sleepy cat.



I want to take a moment to give thanks for everything in my life. So often, we're just pulling on, onward in the great rush of time, always pursuing, always trying to improve on what's there. I keep thinking that way too. But right this very moment, I want to appreciate all that's good and right here.

I am grateful to have the luxury to think and feel these love and hope and cherish. 

Sparkling motes of dust floating through the air, tiny snowflakes breathing whispers of ice. Footsteps. The delicious scent of a warm meal wafting toward and surrounding me. The click of a camera shutter.


What's one thing you truly appreciate in your life today?
Please let me know in the comments section :) I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Snow in Tokyo!


Yesterday, I woke up to gray skies and what looked like rain.. which suddenly turned into a huge downpour of snow! The giant, fluffy snowflakes continued to swirl down from the sky all throughout the day. This was the first snow day in Tokyo of 2013. In Tokyo, snow only falls a handful of days a year, if at all, and usually around the coldest days of February. So imagine my surprise and delight when the first snow of the year actually started piling up! After watching it a while from the window, I was totally itching to get out there. Maybe those of you living in a location for which snowfall is usual in the winter would roll your eyes :) but having lived in the California Bay Area, where snow is pretty much nonexistent, and then Tokyo, where snow is very rare at best... I was giddy with excitement.

Yes! Snow!!!
The world outside had transformed into something unfamiliar, blanketed and dusted in white.


I was shocked at how much the snow had filled the streets, yet pedestrians were still struggling along their way armed with umbrellas (me included :) ... within minutes, my face, legs, and especially fingers were freezing already. The snowflakes flipped through the air and snaked their way inside my scarf, onto my cheek, landing on my gloves and making them soaked with cold. My breath came out in warm clouds before me as I crunched and slipped through the snow.

Bicycles caked with snow.


Cold but happy!


I could just keep watching the millions of flakes drifting down and landing on the ground, joining the endless stretch of white, each particle fitting exactly into place... ah, such beauty!

それでも、 夢みたいに綺麗なスノーフレークがずっと舞い降りてきて、それに囲まれていた。


This was not the first time I've seen snow. I've been skiing before with my family. I've seen some snowfall in Tokyo before in previous years. But for some reason, I felt that this time yesterday was one of the most beautiful. Perhaps also because this was the first time I tried to capture snowfall in action, and I never knew it could look this way, in both my memory and in the photos afterward. This morning on my way to work, I felt rather glum that the snow was already starting to melt away and turn gray near the roads, shoveled and stepped away by thousands of businesspeople shoes. I'm just hoping it will snow this much again before spring comes! I really can't stand cold, but for snow I will make exceptions. So let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (Can it be Christmas again, please?)