Cute characters wherever you look

During my recent trip to Japan I've noticed cute characters almost everywhere. Even prohibition signs are turned into characters. There are little bears, cats and fantasy creatures on countless ads and signs. In the picture below you can see the characters I have encountered on my endless walks through the streets of Tokyo and Kyoto.

These are the funny, cute characters I have encountered in the streets of Tokyo and Kyoto

Robot Restaurant (Tokyo)

When you are in Tokyo you definitely have to check out the Robot Restaurant ( http://www.robot-restaurant.com ). I am still not quite sure what that show was all about or if it was good or bad. One thing is sure, the show was very bizarre and bright but I left the establishment in an extremely good mood. Below you see a picture taken by my friend Chris with his iPhone during the show.

Japan is amazing

My recent trip to Japan was amazing. I pretty much liked everything about my experience there. The people are very kind, the food is outstanding, getting around by train is easy and the weather was pleasant. If you have never been to Japan you really should consider it your next destination.

Skytree, moon and temple

Giant bubbles at the beach

Today on a walk along the seawall I've spotted a man on the beach at English Bay creating huge  bubbles with two sticks and some rope. Up to this moment I have only seen people doing that in video clips and I didn't think much of it, but at that moment at the beach, watching this stranger sculpting these giant shiny bubbles, so pure and simple, really made me feel happy.

Giant bubbles at English Bay

Giant bubbles at English Bay

My DIY Kino Flo

If you are like me and don't have the cash to buy a couple of Kino Flos but still want to get a similar effect for your portrait photography, you should consider making your own lighting kit for under 300$.

The following YouTube clip by Joe Edelman inspired me to do it. Please give his video a thumbs-up.

In the picture below you can see what my setup looked like once I finished putting everything together.

Here you can see the finished lights put onto simple light stands.

Here you can see the finished lights put onto simple light stands.

And the following picture shows all the things you have to get from your friendly neighbourhood hardware store:

lighting-rig.jpg

At this point I want to give my friend Andy credit for helping me out with the electrical side of this project and teaching me new skills in wiring up a fixture like this. Without him I couldn't have done it (because I am just a pixel pusher with a big mouth).

After everything was put together and working I had the pleasure and opportunity to take some stunning pictures of talented fashion designer, actress and entrepreneur (47th Parallel North) Daniela Reiser. 

You can't force good street photography

For a while I couldn't figure out why I was emotionally more attached to my iPhone-photos as opposed to the pictures I set out to take with my DSLR camera. I really wanted to like the pictures taken with my proper camera more then the ones taken with the iPhone's super small sensor and limitations. I couldn't figure out what I was doing differently. The pictures taken with my iPhone seemed to be much more interesting to look at despite being technically way inferior in comparison to what I could capture with my DSLR. The photos I took with the "big" camera seemed to constantly look a bit sterile. Obviously I knew that the person behind the camera makes all the important decisions to take a good picture and not the camera. So what was the fundamental difference?

The answer to my question was so simple that I couldn't believe that it took me so long to figure it out. The real difference between my iPhone and my DSLR photography was that my iPhone was always with me no matter what time of day it was, no matter where I went I would always have my phone with me. I wasn't planing on taking pictures like I did when I decided to take the "big" camera with me to the streets. Whenever I came across something interesting I would pull out my iPhone and take the shot as opposed to when I was heading out with my DSLR with the only goal to find something cool to shoot thus my images looked more contrived and forced. It sounds so super trivial now but this "revelation" helps me to take better pictures. When I set out to take pictures I treat my DSLR much more like my iPhone. Instead of trying to make something work I just wait until I come across something cool to shoot. Some days I come home with nothing but when I get some shots in there are usually some really good ones among them.

The conclusion of all of this is, as you've already guessed from the title, that you can't force good street photography or maybe even any type of photography.

This stunning image was take with my iPhone.

Taking pictures on the street

Shot with 300mm zoom lens

Shot with 50mm prime lens

Shot with 28mm zoom lens

If you want to take candid pictures of people on the street you want to make sure that the person you want to photograph is unaware of your intention. Most people who become aware of being photographed will change their behavior and that's what you want to avoid. You want to be able to capture a pure and natural expression in your subject. 

The easiest way to do so is to use a long lens so you can position yourself far away from whoever you want to photograph. Because there is a big distance between the camera and your subjects the viewer can sense it and cannot connect as well to the candid expression of the person in the image.

Another good method is to use a camera with a flip-out screen and a medium or wide angle lens. You have to position yourself in a location where your not in the way of people passing you by. Angle your body in a different direction where your lens is pointing, flip-out the screen of your camera and pretend that you are checking your previously taken pictures. That gives you a very inconspicuous appearance and you are able to take pictures of people close to you without them noticing it.

Obviously you can always shoot from the hip. The easiest way to do so would be with a wide angle lens. Despite the wide field of view you still have to practice to get your framing right. The large depth of field will make it easier to get your subject in focus but harder to separate it from the background.