Monday, December 30, 2013

Random Portraits of Models with Leica X-VARIO in Shinjuku East, Tokyo

Leica X-VARIO @ 32mm. 1/400th sec F/4.5 @ ISO 400. Shot RAW, processed in CS5 & Photoscape. Shinjuku West. From left: Wendell, Diane, Leo

I know the Tokyo-X-VARIO project is officially finished and so I shouldn't be posting any more X-VARIO images unless I have a reason to. Perhaps I'm writing an article about street photography or a how to series, and these 'unused' images fit the article? Well, I'm not. I just love this series of images I took of these models (Wendell, Diane and Leo) and I couldn't see myself using it anytime soon so I thought I would post them now. I also thought it would be a waste to use these pictures on Instagram since there's so much detail. Even the above pic has been reduced from a 23mb RAW file down to a 1.9mb jpeg... I know, it's a shame. I posted a picture from this series during my Tokyo-X-VARIO project here, but I had extra images I wanted to use here's the rest of them...enjoy!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Street Photography 101: Having a Child-Like Curiosity when Shooting

Ricoh GR-D IV @ 28mm zone focused. 1/217th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 80. Cropped square. I don't even know how this child knew I was taking pictures as I was shooting from the hip. But I know he knew because even as he passed me he turned and gave me a look... Harajuku, Tokyo.

When I'm walking down the street and taking pictures, I know how to blend in well. I often will find a spot to shoot, hang around for a while and look busy for a few minutes, and then settle in and start taking pictures. Most people are so busy thinking about where they're going, or what they're going to do, that they won't notice me... except children. Children are easily 'distracted' by visual and auditory stimuli, and for some reason, they can sense a photographer or sense that a camera is pointed in their direction. It happens so often when I'm shooting that I realize it's no coincidence, and having this child-like curiosity is a positive quality that all street photographers should try to learn...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tokyo-X-VARIO: Final Look @ Leica X-Vario

X-VARIO @ 31mm.   1/15th sec F/4.1 @ ISO 400.  JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo.

Playing with a test camera in a city like Tokyo is a lot of fun... but all good things come to an end. I'm finally back home and now starting the daunting task of going through all my pictures. When you're gone for a month you tend to take a lot of pictures... thousands in fact (2583 to be exact, minus film rolls and iPhone pics). To get a good idea of a camera's characteristics of capturing an image, you need to do more than chimping (a sneak peak at back LCD screen). You need to open up the files and take a good look, trying to find specific qualities (not just resolution and colour accuracy) and image distinctiveness that make the pictures stand out. I did so with the Leica X-VARIO and I've come to appreciate the camera and the images I was able to create...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tokyo X-VARIO: Shooting Light in the Dark

Leica X-VARIO @ 28mm zone focused. 1/60th sec F/3.5 @ ISO 1600. RAW image converted in CS5 and cropped and adjusted in Photoscape. Shot in Sugamo, Tokyo.

I love shooting at night. I know technically its more difficult, but if you can get the exposure right, and you know how to shoot RAW and adjust later in post production, you can capture amazingly moody images of typically normal scenes. The reason? Light. Unlike daylight, where the light is coming from a single point, or on a cloudy day where the light is diffused and flat (and often boring), night allows for multiple light sources, direction, colour and shadows. But how can you use this to your advantage when shooting?

Tokyo-X-Vario: Shooting Bikes in Shibuya

X-VARIO @ 28mm zone focus. 1/500th sec F/7.1 @ ISO 1600.

I know the X-VARIO was never designed to be an action camera...and that's ok. But it doesn't mean we can't use it to capture action. That's exactly what I did when I decided to shoot bike riders in action in the trendy fashion district of Shibuya. This area is known for it's crazy pedestrian crossing (remember that scene in Lost in Translation when Scarlett Johansson crosses the busy intersection with the big screen of the dinasaur?) and lots of fashion shops, like the famous 109 and 0I0I (Marui Marui) buildings. I noticed something else: lots of super-cool cyclists!! 

While my wife went into the shops, I hung out on the streets to take pictures of guys (and gals) whipping past on their fixies, single-speeds, mamacharis, and geared bikes of all sizes, colours, shapes and styles. I came back a few more times just to take pictures, and you'll notice lots of pics from the exact same location of cyclists on my Instagram account. The point is I was shooting with two cameras that you would never associate with shooting action: Ricoh GR-D IV and Leica X-VARIO. Neither have blazing fast autofocus, nor do they have a true telephoto focal length, two things people think you need to shoot action. You don't. I've already posted pics of bike action with the Ricoh GR, so here's some with the we go!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tokyo-X-VARIO: Portrait of a Photographer

X-VARIO @ 50mm. 1/500th sec F/7.1 @ ISO 1600. Shibuya Crossing. 

I saw the coolest guy coming out of a taxi. He was a taller Japanese fellow, probably about my age and he was adjusting his scarf as he was readying himself to shoot with his super awesome leather-cased twin reflex camera. I wanted to introduce myself to him, but I was so busy looking for my business cards and scrambling with all my camera equipment, he started walking away and disappeared into the busy Tokyo crowd. I frantically chased after him into the Shibuya crossing, wondering which of 5 directions he could have gone to... I chose the North-East corner and headed that way but it was too late. He was long gone. 

But wait! What do I see? Another cool photographer. Completely different looking but similar. The same coolness and determination and in the zone, ready for the next great shot. The first thing I did was show him the Ricoh GR-D IV I was shooting with and asked if I could take a picture of him with my GR with his GR (image posted on my Instagram). Then I decided to shoot with the Leica X-VARIO but at 50mm equiv. This is when I really appreciated having the X-VARIO. The Ricoh GR is a great point and shoot, but not great for a proper portrait. The 50mm angle of view has the right distance to subject and the right amount of compression for a waist-up portrait.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ricoh GR: Zone Focus to Shoot Bikeriders

Ricoh GR-D IV zone focus. 1/710th sec F/2.2 @ ISO 160. Cropped image
It's not easy shooting moving action with a small point and shoot camera, or any camera that doesn't have a sophisticated autofocusing system. I'm too lazy to carry around my DSLR because of the burden of weight and space, so what can I do? Easy, I just zone or scale focus. It's scary at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually faster than autofocusing. Some of the greatest photographers who used old school Leica rangefinder cameras to shoot action depended on zone-scale focusing. This is how its done...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Daido Moriyama Helped Me Decide to Use My Real Japanese Name!

Hello everyone, 

I was watching a documentary on fellow GR photographer Daido Moriyama (in fact, we both started shooting with the original GR1 at the same time back in 1997!) and thought to myself: most Japanese photographers, artists, movie directors use their full Japanese names, so why not me? I don't know why I wanted to have an on-line psuedonym... I just thought it was funny and cool at the same time. I also grew up in Canada and everyone, I mean everyone mispronounced it!! The first day of every school year was a nightmare for me growing up. Even after 16 years, many of my in-laws still call me Taki instead of Take (ta-keh). Because of this I was a bit apprehensive about using my given full name online. The name Bigheadtaco came from 'Big-head Take', but I misspelled my name Taco because that's what I've been called many times, and its a play-on name from the band Bighead Todd and the Monsters.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tokyo-X-Vario: Sitting and Waiting at 50mm

Leica X-VARIO @ 50mm equiv. 1/500th sec F/5.1 @ ISO 1600, manual focus. RAW file, converted & cropped in CS5 and Photoscape.

I love it when I find a great background to use as the foundation of my image. It's like my canvas. Once I find it, I test focus, exposure, and then I just sit and wait for the right moment to come my way. It's like fishing in a way I guess... I'm fishing for never know what you'll get. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Upcoming Reviews and Articles and Posts

Fujifilm X-20 @ 28mm equiv. 1/170th sec F/4 @ ISO 200. Cropped.
It's been a busy few months for me. I have projects coming in from all different directions and new projects being piled on top of older ones. I even brought all my files with me to Tokyo for a one month trip hoping to catch up there; but I ended up with unexpected work while there as well! Sorry for anyone who is waiting for me to come out with a review or an article that I promised in the past but still haven't posted it. I am working on it, or at least have a folder with images and notes waiting to be worked on. I thought I would just list the things I'm working on and projects that are coming up to keep me organized and obligated, but also to let you know what's happening in the world of Bigheadtaco. Here we go:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ricoh GR-D IV: The Quick Street Shooter

Ricoh GR-D IV. 1/270th sec F/1.9 @ ISO 125. Scale focus.
Because the Ricoh GR-D IV is a very quick street shooter, I grab for it more than any of my other cameras. You can almost shoot without looking at the controls as you can customize it beyond default recognition. I had the Leica X-Vario and the Minolta CLE with 40mm on me, but I grabbed for my GR instead. Notice the depth of field even shooting wide open at F/1.9?! Not possible with a full-frame or APS-C size sensor. Check out my post that goes over how to customize the camera so it fits like a photographic glove around your hands. Have fun shooting!

More than 60 examples of my street images taken in Tokyo on Instagram taken with the Ricoh GR-D IV. Check it out here!

Ricoh GR-D IV: Night Photography in Tokyo

Ricoh GR-D IV. 1/32 sec F/1.9 @ ISO 400. Converted to B&W in Photoscape.
It's nice to have a powerful camera like the Leica X-Vario by your side when you want that great shot at high resolution... but shooting speed isn't one of its qualities. You need to have it around your neck and you have to be ready to shoot or else you'll miss the shot. Not so with the Ricoh GR-D IV. It's small, compact, but it's super fast when you need it to be. F/1.9 wide open but killer depth of field, and since the buttons are customized to your preference, it's ready to shoot when you want it to be ready. The above shot I had shopping bags in both hands but I was still able to get this quick image and keep walking...thank you Ricoh GR...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tokyo-X-Vario: Shooting with a 50mm Lens

Leica X-Vario at 50mm equiv. 1/1250th sec F/5.6 @ ISO 400. Shot RAW, edited in CS5/Photoscape and cropped

I find many people use their zoom lenses as a way to crop their image, and in some instances, it makes sense. You can't get closer, nor can you back up. But I find many don't really understand what a focal length does to the actual relationship between the subject and the foreground and background. When you zoom in, you are compressing the image, not just creating bokeh. As a general rule, a street photographer doesn't need a 70-200mm lens. That's for paparazzi. Between 28 to 50 is a good range for street photographers, even though a bit above or below this range is great for specific effects as well. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tokyo-X-Vario: Shooting Motion and B&W

X-Vario @ 70mm equiv. 1/30th sec F/6.4 @ ISO 3200. Handheld through a window. 
Sometimes you think a shot is impossible. You're tired. It's dark. You have to handhold a 1/30th of a second shot at 70mm with no image stabilization. But there's a really cool looking guy standing very still, obviously waiting for someone along a busy sidewalk. You know it'll be a great shot from the angle you have (upstairs at a McCafe in Harajuku looking down) if only you can keep the shot still. I took about 10 shots, but this one was the keeper. I'm happy I decided not to give up on the camera and its ability to capture the image that I had in my head. 

Tokyo-X-Vario: More Night Shots with Leica

X-Vario at 28mm equiv. 1/30th sec F/3.5 @ ISO 800. Manual focus and exposure