Welcome to the first episode of a “Ask me anything” series!
I occasionally run AMA’s on Instagram stories, but it’s quite difficult to get to everybody’s questions, and it’s also hard to do justice to some of the answers, so I figure the blog is a better place to write out longer-form answers to the questions I receive.
This series of questions was asked while I was on a Shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan, on the way back to Tokyo.
Q. What’s your favourite thing about taking photos in Japan?
A. The diversity.
There’s just so many different people, places and culture-based experiences to explore and capture, and many things in my own life and the influences I’ve had growing up make it feel like Japan is my second home. Everything just makes sense and comes from the heart - It makes the images translate better, I think.
But even if that’s not you, from the busiest city in the world, to the sweeping vistas and mountains, the insane snow, the thousands of shrines, the interesting characters who live around them - there’s something in Japan for everyone.
Q. What in your opinion is a must visit place in Japan/Tokyo if you’re going there for the first time?
A. Experiencing Mount Fuji in Fujiyoshida and Kawaguchiko is an absolute must. It’s an insane contrast from the craziness and pace of Tokyo, which is also just a must go.
Within Tokyo, I’d recommend exploring the culture and people-packed streets of Senso-ji, then visiting the nearby Tokyo Skytree during sunset for a cityscape view that ever ends and you’ll never forget.
Q. How do you colour grade?
Slowly and with intention.
Actually, I’ve experimented with many different “looks” when it comes to colour grading, even though my compositions, themes and subjects have remained largely the same over time.
Currently, I’m on a desaturated, cooler, look. But I’m very cognisant about looks that don’t age very well and that I won’t be proud of as I look back on them in 10 years time.
Q. Best starter camera?
If you want one without interchangeable lenses, go for the Sony RX100VI.
If you want one with interchangeable lenses, then consider the A6400.
Either way you can’t go wrong, and both are good entry prices. I keep an RX100VI on me literally at all times. And if you decide to go for an A6400 (which I’ve tested extensively and it’s amazing), buy full frame lenses to go with it so that you get better quality and you can still use them if you decide to upgrade to full frame (they work both ways).
Q. Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto for photo fulfilment? What does your heart long for?
A. Having explored Japan from top to bottom, Tokyo still gets my heart every time.
While I absolutely love and crave hardcore nature, I also crave the frantic pace of urban life too. Something about people existing together makes me feel alive.
For me, there’s no better city than Tokyo. And as the world’s busiest city, it has more photo opportunities than you can spend a lifetime discovering.
Q. Cheesy, but what tips/thoughts of wisdom do you have for aspiring photographers?
Shoot a lot. Shoot more than anyone you know. There’s no substitute for putting in the work.
That being said, there’s also no substitute for being self aware and understanding how to deconstruct a skill and learn it efficiently.
Focus on the things that you’re drawn to - maybe it’s portraits, street photography, landscapes. Find one category and master that by learning everything and anything about it from people who are better than you. This also requires you to learn how to be self aware about your own skills relative to others, so that you know who to believe and who not to believe (and also, just because someone might seem “good”, doesn’t mean they’re good at teaching) - there’s a lot of great stuff out there, but there’s a lot of crap too.
Also, know that the difference between your creative skills and getting likes on Instagram is simply a case of art vs marketing. Shoot for yourself, and remember that Instagram is just marketing your art. Don’t get sucked up into the social media wheel too much. People who create content purely for Instagram or whatever platform without nourishing themselves creatively end up pretty sour in life and fulfilment.
Q. How did you get into photography?
A. My ex girlfriend bought me my first camera as an excuse to go on more adventures together and document them.
Granted, we were in a pretty dark place in our relationship and it may or may not have been some kind of saving grace play to save it (it didn’t work out), but I’m still glad that we went through that (and FYI the relationship ended nicely, and I wish all the best for her and her future).
From there, combining my almost decade long career in User Experience and Product design meant that visual language was something that came naturally to me, and I really grew to love documenting life and experiences.
I haven’t put down my camera since.
Q. Can everyone be a photographer like you?
A. Everyone can be a photographer like me. When you decide to stop taking snapshots randomly and you make images with intention, you’re a photographer like me.
Keep making images with intention, and you’ll grow your skills fast.
Q. What was your highlight on this trip to Japan?
Overall, I think it was super cool that I got to show my good friend Dan my version of Japan as his first time there. Dan is one of my first ever photographer friends, so it was really cool and meant a lot to me that we could do that together.
As an event, we had some really rare low fog come through Chureito Pagoda during a sunrise. As a place I’ve visited before, it was super nice to be rewarded with some rare conditions for returning. Super cool.
Q. If you only had 1 camera, what is your combo?
A. Sony A7R 3 + 16-35mm G Master lens.
This combo can do literally every style of photography, and with the insane number of megapixels and APSC mode, doubles as a 24-52.5mm too!
Q. Any lens suggestions for a6400 for portrait and travel?
A. I’d recommend buying the full frame glass. They’re much higher quality and you can end up keeping the glass if you decide to go full frame too.
I’d recommend the 24mm G Master, as it turns it into a 36mm f1.4, which is a tiny lens that’s fantastic for travel and street photography. You can also do portraits with it too.
If you’re looking for something even smaller/cheaper, consider the 35mm f2.8 Zeiss, which turns into a 52.5mm f2.8. Great for portraits. Bit tight for landscapes, but it all depends on where you’re going.
Q. Do you use Photoshop or Lightroom for editing? Which is better?
A. I use Lightroom for editing, with the occasional object removal in Photoshop. I almost never manipulate my images in a way that’s not true to the actual scene.
I could easily use Photoshop for grading an image (I’ve been using Photoshop for over 15 years), but Lightroom is so quick and I also use it to organise all my images, so it’s a no brainer for me.
Stay tuned for the next AMA!
Thanks for reading.
Stay tuned to my Instagram stories for the next AMA.