Monday, June 30, 2014

Tokyo Fashion Photography: The Color of Blue

Today's blog post is in collaboration with Lovey Dovey Fashion, who sent me this lovely white dress to use on a photoshoot. I thought it would look beautiful on Marina, and the result was even dreamier than I expected. It was a blue-gray afternoon due to the sudden rainstorm, but luckily the pouring had slowed to a slight drizzle here and there. As the early evening grew darker, city lights began to blink on around the streets.

Thank you so much Marina, it's always a pleasure to hang out and shoot together! :)

A big thanks to Lovey Dovey Fashion for the feminine and summery dress! I like the cute flowery detail on the upper part, and soft flowy material of the skirt area. Please check out their website below for more pretty and reasonable styles:

Model: Marina

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Today was another day of on and off rain in Tokyo! The weather was unbelievable: warm, sunny blue skies with white fluffy clouds floating overhead, then all of a sudden thick gray storm clouds covered the sky and rain started pouring down. Of course I didn't bring my umbrella and had a few fun running through the rain moments :) Luckily it's summer, when it's comfortably warm enough that I don't mind getting a bit soaked!

I'm still catching up on photos; here is a set from my first visit to Sagamiko a few weeks back. The area around the station reminded me a bit of Takaosan (not far off from Sagamiko), the Yamanashi area, and the small town atmosphere near Zushi station. I absolutely love the quiet, countryside atmosphere of places like these. They really fill me with a sense of peace.

Near the lake, it was very tranquil with few people around. Small, vintage-looking arcades, sweets shops, and a boat rental shop lined the shore. Out on the water, I felt giddy - I hadn't been on a boat out in a lake for ages, maybe since before I moved to Japan. The mountains rose up on the other side, thickly covered with trees. A hawk sailed past and wheeled about the nearby water. What a blissful few hours.

Tokyo Portrait Photography: In Love With Green

A relaxing shoot out in the grasses with the adorable Rubi. In the middle of nature is where I want to be as much as possible. :)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tokyo Newborn Photography: Little Winged One

Recently, I had the absolute joy of taking a few newborn photos for this beautiful family. In the middle of the Tokyo rainy season, luckily it was a clear and beautifully lit afternoon outside on the summer grass. Leni and Heath were two of the brightest and sweetest kids I've ever met, with their infectious smiles and overflowing energy (not to mention fantastic singing and performance skills of "Let It Go" in the middle of the shoot! :). The star of the day, adorable baby Alistair was carefully cradled and sung to by his older brother and sister. Andrea and Brian, thank you very much for having me as photographer for your wonderful family. I am so happy to have met you all!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tokyo Photographer: Sony RX100M3 Review & Video Test

For the past year, I have always been relying on my beloved full-frame Canon 5D Mark III for both work as well as personal photography and videos, and I have never been let down. In a somewhat surprising move, I recently acquired a Sony RX100M3 compact digital camera - not as a replacement, of course, but for the purpose of video-making and snapshots of surprising clear and high quality. Today, I'd just like to give a quick review of the basic video function of the Sony RX100M3, my opinion of the camera in comparison to my Canon 5D Mark III, and a test video taken in Tokyo for you to view and decide yourself whether it's a worthwhile addition to your camera family.

*Warning: Geeky camera/tech talk ahead :)

So ever since delving more deeply into photography work, my output over at my Youtube channel has dramatically decreased...and this is something I've always felt a bit sad about. Part of the reason was because I got so busy focusing on work, but I realized that another reason may be that it's difficult to take videos of myself, as well as short casual videos of my outings, using my large Canon. It's still the perfect solution to me for high quality photography, and the video quality of the Canon 5D Mark II and III are simply amazing. But it can sometimes feel tough to carry the Canon around absolutely everywhere and suddenly whip it out when I see some great scenes or have a sudden idea. Furthermore, there's no flip screen on my Canon (the Kiss series have some great ones, but I use only full frame now), so I can't reliable take self-videos without wondering how I look in the frame... and it's just too frustrating to take and retake videos over and over (I'm an impatient one :). I wanted a small, light camera with a wide angle for scenery (and that can put myself in the scene), can auto-focus reasonably well, is good at macro for capturing video of small details, and has overall reasonably good quality (better than my iPhone or my old Canon point and shoot).

Lately, I've heard so many good things about the Sony mirrorless cameras, and I spent quite a while at Yodobashi Camera trying out the NEX series and the RX100M3 back and forth for comparison... and at one point, I actually thought, "OK, NEX is more than enough for me. It's only video, after all. And I can change lenses later if I want. Looks great!"

SO. I actually had the Sony NEX-5R in my hand, ready to take the train home. And all of a sudden, I went right back and went for the Sony RX100M3 instead (despite my wallet crying nooo, you're a freelancer, you ought to save). Why?

I have to admit. One of the biggest reasons is: the look and feel of the camera. NEX really had no problems about it - small, light, great flip screen, quality looked excellent. But as soon as I picked up the RX100M3, I found myself marveling at the smooth feel, the small size and extreme lightness. Coming from my Canon full-frame, it's a huge difference. The lens isn't exchangeable, and but the quality of the Zeiss 24-70 f1.8-2.8 lens really wowed me right in the store. The screen looked brighter, the macro sharper than the NEX. And I loved how flat and sleek the camera became during off mode, making it so easy to slip into my bag and whip out at a moment's notice. The pop-up viewfinder is a handy feature. The RX100M3 is very user-friendly, and its overall look just happens to fit me better than the other Sony mirrorless cameras.

So those were some of the reasons I selected the camera, and now on to the actual video function! The images below are all screen caps of the video footage I took; I haven't a had chance to properly test the photo-taking capabilities of this camera yet, but that will come in a later post. For the test video taken over my first two days with this camera, please see the bottom of this post.

First of all: the all-important selfie capabilities via the flip screen! The screen is extremely light and flexible, flipping out and all the way up so that you can see yourself clearly when turning the camera to your face. A big factor for me was being able to capture some of the background along with the face; it felt like a breath of fresh air, being able to do this so effortlessly. On my Canon, it would be an impossible task - first because I'd have to set the camera much further away from myself (beyond arms reach), and second because I cannot see what the heck is being filmed if I turn the camera on myself. The auto focus of the RX100M3 wasn't reliable 100% of the time, but it does track the face and focus on it surprisingly well. One thing I was worried about was the sound of zooming in between 24-70mm manually; using the focus ring on the lens itself, if I turned it rather quickly, there was a slightly buzzy, mechanical sound that I didn't like. (Used to the silent manual focus of my Canon lenses.) But I found that if I manual focused more slowly, the sound wasn't as noticeable. Anyway, it seems manual focus for video is a little difficult to manage so far, definitely not as smooth and buttery as my Canon, so I shot the test video solely on auto focus and decide to learn more about the manual focus later.

Some macro examples. Here, the camera had a bit of difficulty auto-focusing on the wildflowers, especially since they were moving in the wind. But I do have to say that the video image quality, even on lowest MP4, is surprisingly good and comparable to my Canon 5D Mark III. Check out this food macro:

Auto-focusing here was quite good, as the subject was stationary. So far, I would say that the main areas in which the Sony RX100M3 can't keep up with Canon 5D Mark III for video are manual focusing, bokeh, and very low-light situations. Other than that, the video quality is really similar to me. When I tried shooting with the RX100M3 at night, the graining was quite atrocious, but I think I need to sort out the settings and ISO a bit more. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the portability, flexibility, and solid video performance of this camera. Can't wait to explore more with it and see what happens!

 Here is the first test video I made using the Sony RX100M3, during my first two days with the camera. (The video was shot in MP4 format at 1440 x 1080 12 M, but I'm also looking forward to trying out the higher quality AVCHD and XAVCS modes.)

Tokyo Mother Daughter Photoshoot: Botanical Blooms

Today, there was a period of heavily pounding rain and deafening thunder over Tokyo, something a bit rare to behold even during the rainy season here in Japan. The afternoon of this photoshoot was so opposite; bright and sunny, perfect for a stroll in the park. My friend Samantha of Letters Impromptu asked if I could do a mother-daughter shoot when her mom came to visit Japan from California, and I'm so happy to have been able to help record some of their time together in Tokyo through photographs. Thank you both so much for a wonderful time :)

It's not always easy living on the other side of the world from your family, but that makes time spent together even more precious. It reminded me of my family who are also living in California now, and the time my mom and brother came to visit Tokyo for the first time. It's strange how as a kid, I didn't really care that much about family photos, but as I got older, prepared to leave for Japan, and actually moved over, I increasingly felt the importance of taking those photos - to look back on, to remember and keep bright that fleeting instant of time before it rushes right past.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tokyo Fashion Photography: Summer Fruit

The other day, I had the pleasure of meeting up again with Yukie of Tokyo Mode Addict for a quick photoshoot. Yukie took me to a part of the Omotesando/Harajuku area that I haven't really been to before, and I felt amazed that there are still so many new and interesting places in this city that I've never discovered yet. I just love finding little hidden or unique spots around Tokyo. Thank you so much, Yukie, for the fun summery shoot!