All posts tagged: learn photography in Tokyo

Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 – User Review

I’ve been using the Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 for over 2 months now and I’m going to be sad to return it. The Sony E-mount has been sorely missing a 135mm lens in its line-up and Zeiss has finally delivered in convincing style. I’m going to go into detail a little bit here about why I’ve enjoyed using this lens so much, and provide some sample photos for you all to gander at. First of all, it has to be noted that with the Batis series Carl Zeiss has gone and done something a little different to their usual approach to lenses. The Batis series is completely autofocus friendly, which is good news if you’re not comfortable with purely manual focus lenses (although I have a whole diatribe on why MF is back in a big way – here). Paired with the Sony A series’ rather excellent focus and eye tracking system, this makes the latest Batis an impressive lens indeed for all sorts of applications, which we’ll get to. Firstly however, I want …

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (7)

Earning your dinner – how to ask for permission to take a photo.

I’m going to tell you guys a little photography parable today, because who doesn’t like a cute little story with a moral lesson at the end? Every now and then it’s nice to have a peek inside the mental process of a photographer in order to see how certain pictures are made. In this case it’s a pretty simple story with a simple lesson but sometimes those are the ones we need to pay the closest attention to. Anyway, one of my favorite portraits of the year so far was shot with absolutely no preparation or foreknowledge of the subject’s existence. I’m in Fukuoka, one of Japan’s major southern cities and one of my favorite spots in all Japan. I’m there for a magazine photoshoot, which, as an editorial photographer is a rare treat. Traveling for photoshoots is significantly rarer nowadays so anytime I get to go anywhere to shoot portraits I get super stoked. Anyway I digress. The magazine shoot was wrapped and in the bag, and I decided to stick around in Fukuoka because I had a …

CEO Portraits: Masaaki Kanai of MUJI

Quick post today guys; this one is a portrait of MUJI CEO Masaaki Kanai that I photographed back in 2014. Japan is known as an exporter of many things but Nordic-style furniture is not one of them. That’s where furniture and lifestyle juggernaut MUJI come in – their empire of natural fibers and wood grains has expanded across the globe in an explosive fashion over the last few years. I met Mr. Kanai at the MUJI headquarters in Japan for about twenty minutes and was able to make a variety of portraits before my time was up. On a side note this is the photo shoot that made me decide to give Nikon the boot once and for all – I used my Nikon D4 (quite a high end camera I’d say) and the number of back focused and otherwise unusable shots due to under-performing auto focus made me so fed up that I sold the whole system and bought a into the mirrorless system instead. But that’s a story for another day!

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong

Lens Review: Carl Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2

Ok I’m just going to start out by saying I absolutely freaking love the Loxia lens lineup from Carl Zeiss. So the TL:DR version of this review is: get this lens if you have a Sony a7. Just get it. Anyway I know the Loxia lineup has been out for a while but I’ve spent a bunch of time with them on all sorts of jobs, especially the 35mm which was the first one that I purchased. I may not be able to provide the most technical review on the Internetz but I can definitely give you a sense of how the lens performs and feels working in the real world, where MTF charts matter less than how comfortable it feels in your hand. So to keep things concise right from the get go: Reasons why this lens is awesome: – Superb rendering and contrast – Super compact – Solid all metal construction – Manual focus throw is intuitively spaced – Great close focus – De-clickable aperture ring – Out of focus areas have a characteristic look Reasons why …

「最後の閃闘士」The Last Sentoshi: Trailer

I’m a bandwagon jumper. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like to do things that everyone is doing, especially if everyone else finds it popular. Photography is one of those things, and so is eating. Recently another one of those popular things is superhero movies. I mean seriously, those things have really really taken off. Seems like about twenty of those things come out every year, and people can’t get enough of them. Me either. I’m watching them all, without fail. Except that Fantastic Four reboot, hoo boy. Josh Trank really screwed the pooch on that one. Anyway getting back to the point, superhero movies the new bandwagon and I’m a bandwagon jumper, so guess what! I made a superhero movie. Kind of. More accurately it’s a short film and it’s more anime-inspired than superhero-inspired. Here’s the trailer. The official release is on September 18. Hope you enjoy it and please share if you feel inclined! Also, here is the English subtitled version for non-Japanese understanding folks!

Portraits from the archives: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Given that I’m somewhat nominally in the creative business, I occasionally find myself indulging in the delusion that I am some kind of flighty auteur type whose sensitive needs and fancies are incomprehensible to the common man, and that the everyday grind of administrative tasks such as emailing and dressing presentably are beneath me. This I use as an excuse for when I eat an entire bag of Funyuns in one sitting while marathoning the extended Lord of the Rings Directors Cut in my underwear. It also helps stave off the guilt when I spend a whole day hungover playing video games. Hey, I’m a sensitive artiste you know, I need all of this special time to get inspiration for my work, and by special time I mean rewatching season 6 of Seinfeld for the eleventh time. Human experience is all relative though and in my line of work I’m fortunate enough to meet lots of people who manage being both creatives as well as fully functioning adults at the same time. One such example is the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethekul …

On Hasselblads, Noh, and freelancing for a living

Sometimes I wonder if being a freelance photographer these days is a bad idea. Honestly, I do. I could count off the number of gripes I have about my chosen career and you’d have walked off in disgust before I’d even got started. To list of the main ones; it’s a terrifying world with no one to take you by the hand and guide you. Work and money don’t just fall into your lap – you have to go out and find it, and once you do, you have to fight off other photographers to keep it. You don’t get paid when you take time off to go on holiday. And then there’s the endless amount of drudge-work to do in between shooting that never seems to end or dry up. Taxes, insurance, rent payments, gear payments, more taxes – and in my case, visa applications, all sapping away at the resources you need to keep yourself motivated to get out there and keep that momentum up. A lot of people out there romanticize the …

NOT a list of 10 things I’ve learnt from shooting 4×5

*Warning: sanctimonious rant ahead* I don’t know what the heck is the deal with people on the Internet these days, but there seems to be an overabundance of ‘wisdom lists’ propagating amongst photography blogs in particular. ’10 things I’ve learnt from street photography’, ‘9 things I’ve learnt from developing film’, ’26 life lessons I’ve learnt from greasing my shutter button’ etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam. People like this kind of thing I guess. Numbers, metrics, concrete results – if you’re shooting photos and spending the nest egg on gear and workshops then I guess being able to quantify your progress into discrete bullet points makes the whole game of photography a little more palatable for the average weekend warrior/aspiring photographer. Also, I hear the list thing is good for search engines, so if increasing that statistic is your focus as a photographer, good luck to you. So, lists. I dislike them for no rational reason and thusly have taken my first good step into crotchety old man territory. Frankly though, if we’re talking about things …

Japanese Celebrities – Dave Specter

Not-so-recently I had the pleasure of photographing Dave Specter -one of the rare but rising number of foreign タレント (or ‘talent’) in Japan. Dave however is a little bit different from all the others – when he got started in the entertainment business 30 years ago he was the only foreigner on Japanese TV on a regular basis. The Japanese ‘talent’ industry is a peculiar one of hierarchies and strict observances of rankings of seniority, and for a non-Japanese to break into that world several decades ago was probably extraordinary. Of course, Dave’s Japanese is impeccable – beyond the level even of the average Japanese person – but Dave puts it down to ‘being in the right place at the right time’. Back in the 1980s there were few foreigners in Japan and even fewer actively working in the media with fluent Japanese. Dave Specter quickly became the go-to guy for non-domestic related news and has been around ever since. So not only is he the elder statesman for all foreign talent all TV today (after all, …

GAIJIN – James H Catchpole – Mr OK Jazz Tokyo

I present to you another portrait in my GAIJIN series! This time we have James H Catchpole – otherwise known as Mr Ok Jazz – he’s an extremely cool guy and a treasure trove of information about all of the underground, obscure live jazz houses dotted around and about Tokyo. He should be – he’s been living here since his university days at Waseda and has been constantly exploring and documenting jazz bars and cafes all over Tokyo for more than a decade. Whether you’re in the mood to hear some live experimental jazz, blues, soul or whatever – go to his website for a comprehensive list of major and minor jazz sites around Tokyo. The list he has built and is still building is quite extraordinary. As well as maintaining this blog, James also does fixing and consulting for foreign TV productions in Japan, and also hosts a weekly radio program on Inter FM 76.1 – which, in my opinion, is the only channel worth listening to in Tokyo. Follow James for all things …