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On taking holiday photos

Back from Japan and already making plans to learn the language and move over. Only half-kidding. I don’t think I could take the grind of commuting to a crushing office job every day, even with the weekend salve of maid cafes and pachinko. It’d have to be a work from your tiny home sorta job.

Since I left talking about cameras, I’ll come back to the subject. The Sony WX1 held up really well and I took more photos with it than with the Panasonic Lumix LX3. Having it just two seconds away in my pocket at any time made all the difference. I think it’s my new favorite camera for casual street use. It struggled under tricky lighting conditions though, and couldn’t really handle park/nature scenes with shadows and subtlety. Comparing it with such shots from the LX3 really shows up its weaknesses.

I usually have a two camera limit, but the iPhone’s camera complicates things, and I bought a Digital Harinezumi 2 from the Superheadz Camera Cabaret store in Shibuya (truly fantastic little place – here are some directions: Go north from the Tokyu Hands store, and it’s just across the street from the Ward Office (and the Shibuya Tobu Hotel). You’ll find it up a little road on the right leading towards the two Beams boutiques. The store itself is on the right, before you reach Beams, after the popular ramen shop with the logo that looks like the number 9 in Chinese. [九]) In all, I took about 2,200 photos with four cameras.

Editing these poses many problems, as you might imagine. My approach now is just to shoot the hell out of everything. Multiple shots with different exposure settings, use the widest angles and the longest zooms, a few safety shots if people get in the way, and sometimes if a place feels interesting, just take a few shots in case I find something later in them to crop to. Sometimes along the way I’ll delete a few hopeless ones from the camera, but there isn’t always time. But when I get home, paralysis sets in. I can’t remember why I took a particular photo. Or I’m afraid to cut out too much of it. I try to reverse-engineer my intentions from the composition. Why is this shot this way, why is that the subject? I don’t dare to delete anything once home because every photo is an artifact of a place I cannot soon revisit, and must be preserved. I forget that sometimes I didn’t know what I was doing.

I think the answer is to treat holiday photography like a two-stage process. It’s not just shooting and cleanup. Postprocessing is like shooting the photos all over again, with possibly different intentions. You have to go into it ready to make the effort. When you’re walking all the time and can’t afford to stop and study the angles and plan the perfect shot that will represent the atmosphere of a place, you just have to shoot everything and do the best you can in 30 seconds. Once back, you have to start over with new eyes and not work backwards.

One obstacle to this is always your own memory. It colors everything and makes unimportant, uninteresting things seem worth sharing. Ideally, I’d only post about a hundred photos from the two thousand shot, but right now I’d be happy to come in under 600. I suppose a second round of culling the best into another Flickr set can happen later. I’m quite certain other people have the same problem, especially teenagers, as evidenced by most Facebook photo albums. Most casual photographers post everything, similar shots and bad shots along with their best. Completionists and hoarders have it worst, and I know I’m a little bit of both.

Anyway I’ll post a link to the full photoset here when I’m done. At the moment I’m uploading as I go along, but might make some more of the poorer choices private as I go.

— Posted from my iPhone

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