it’s all done with mirrors

17 10 2014

late afternoon in Harajuku, and the October sun is blasting down on the streets. with no clouds to diffuse the sun, the shadows are strong and dark but sometimes there’s a tiny ray of hope. mirrored glass in office buildings all over Tokyo catches those rays and returns them to sender. and coincidentally  spotlights a few points of the street. catching those spotlights is half the fun.



Gone racing

6 09 2014
The Mechanic.

The Mechanic. Without Kimura-san, the Lola Formula 3 car would never have gotten off the trailer.

‘Peter-san, please brake on’ – Kimura-san was about to put the jack under the front suspension, and just needed me to activate the brakes. Climbing over the wide body moulding, I levered myself into the driver’s ‘seat’ and stretched my legs down a seemingly endless tunnel. My size 11s found the pedals, but you need ballerina’s feet to touch only the brake. By turning myself kind of sideways, and pointing my toes, I managed it. Not a comfortable experience by any stretch of the imagination, and then there’s the wild howling crazed monster of an engine, inches behind the driver’s head. You really have to be a slave to cars, to even contemplate strapping yourself into one of these missiles.

I had come to Fuji International Speedway, location of the longest straight in the world, to shoot some portraits with a 10 year old Japanese karting champion. Unfortunately, he had gone to school. But Kimura-san, the mechanic for dentist Saito-san’s little F3 Lola, had an interesting face, and I told him so ‘not interesting, Peter. bad, maybe’. Saito-san owns and drives the Lola at closed meetings like this one, or historic racing events. But he seemed a little camera shy. So Kimura and I went to the pit lane, where you have these beautiful converging lines, and a heavy cloud covering the background. I shot with a 14mm lens, to include the dramatic architecture of the grandstand and circuit buildings. A flash in a soft box provided the light for Kimura’s face. It was a shame that the original subject had not made himself available, but still coming away with a great shot is compensation in itself.

Firemen’s Convention outside my front door

25 08 2014



no fewer than 6 fire engines and 4 police cars packed into one tiny Tokyo street…nobody seemed to know where the fire was or even how to get back to the fire station. chaos redefined. if this is where my resident tax goes, please can I make a suggestion?

500px Global Photo Walk 6th September 2014

24 08 2014

In a couple of weeks’ time, 500px, the photo sharing site, are organising a global photo walk, and I’ve prepared a route for the Tokyo segment, passing through Sumida-ku and Koto-ku. 

We’ll be meeting at 2pm on Saturday 6th of September, in Asakusa. The assembly point will be just in front of the koban, which is on the junction of route 463 and Edo Dori (opposite Burger King).  Approximate finishing time should be around 5-5.30 pm, right in the middle of the Golden Hour, and by then we’ll be at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Shirakawa.

I went out yesterday to map the route, and provide some ideas for photos that we can make along the way:


details in the dust, at the start of the route, in Sumida Park

details in the dust, at the start of the route, in Sumida Park

Tohoku Expressway viewed through the frame of the railway bridge

Tohoku Expressway viewed through the frame of the railway bridge

Asahi Flame building

Asahi Flame building

Asahi Buildings. both are covered in reflective materials.

Asahi Buildings. both are covered in reflective materials.

Asahi Flame building. nothing very interesting inside, as is often the case. but the exterior is clad in these highly polished tiles, which are going to make life interesting

Asahi Flame building. nothing very interesting inside, as is often the case. but the exterior is clad in these highly polished tiles, which are going to make life interesting

here’s the Facebook page for the event. This will carry further updates on the event and more detail on the route, as we get closer to 6th September:


meeting point in Google Maps, here:,139.797673,3a,75y,107.1h,102.03t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sqIUIHj8FOQ03CcvUhaSWxA!2e0?hl=en


hope to see you all in a couple of weeks. cheers, Peter



The Union Jack Band

10 08 2014


went to see a friend’s band play an open-air show today, since the fireworks were cancelled. my m.o. for bands especially open air shows is, don’t bother with the photographers’ pit, get as far back as you can with a big lens, that still allows a fairly tight framing. main reason for this is the perspective is far more natural – you avoid that ‘up the nose’ look that shots made from the photo pit or front row, have. as usual the lights were fairly crap, not too bad with an exposure of 1/320 at F3.5 (wide open) on ISO 1600, but mostly the shadows would fall right over the performers’ eyes – the panda look, so shots like the one above were few and far between. the patterned background slightly defocused with a telephoto lens actually contributes to the feel of the shot. oh and the music was a good crack

a few more photos, by popular demand, as they say:


Aimee sporting a Great Britain-themed hair accessory. and some Dio style devil horns


A typical lighting problem – the rear half of the stage is lit, but step forward and you fall out of the light. Only a lot of dodging saved this shot from the delete key.


never forget the drummer. the flag really helps though


that stare. dealing with hecklers


Ben Dover gave it all from his little heart


the amazing Mr.Tommy Jaime – offstage he’ll be hobbling around with a walking cane but put a fat five string in his hands and you’ll see him dance


what are friends for after all?

putting bums on seats – Tokyo Bay 2014 Fireworks

9 08 2014

DSC_9514 - Version 3


I spent most of today cycling around Tokyo Bay, to select the best shooting spot for tomorrow’s firework display. About 12,000 shells will be fired, from barges moored close to Harumi Ferry Terminal. Although it is a free display (and hence most of the population of Tokyo is expected to turn up), if the mood takes you, you can pay to sit on a blue plastic folding chair with thousands of others for the eighty minute duration of the display. 

Large Format style movements on a Nikon DSLR body? yes we can!

30 07 2014
Frankenstein's Monster in all its glory

Frankenstein’s Monster in all its glory

Here’s a project that I have been working on for the last couple of years. My idea is to use a Fuji GX680 camera body, to take Mamiya 645 lenses, and a Nikon DSLR body. Why all the contraption? Well, back in the nineties Fuji made the GX680 medium format studio camera – this was the only 6×8 rollfilm SLR with camera movements, just like a large format camera. While in theory it is possible to mount a 645 format digital back on a GX680, I thought to myself ‘why not slap one of my existing Nikons on’ – just a proof of concept really.

So hacksaw in hand, I removed the camera body in its entirety. Just the front standard, twin rails, and wideangle bellows remain. The idea is to mount a Mamiya 645 lens in a custom lens board, into the front standard. The reason for the 645 lens? It’s totally mechanical, and will cover a 35mm sensor even with lens movements applied. The front standard offers lateral shift, rise and fall, tilt and swing. Some of these movements may not be as useful as one might think, because unlike a large format 4×5 camera, the film plane (or sensor, in a DSLR) can’t easily be made to mirror the position of the front standard…..but I can experiment, and that’s the real reason for building this monster.

So I’ve got the basics, and just need to source a custom lens board (the lens will be mounted in a Mamiya 645 extension ring, set into the board). And some means of attaching a Nikon to the rear of the bellows. I’ve got an old BR2 reversing ring, which will mount to the body just fine. In my gleeful ignorance, when removing the camera body, I did overlook the need to have the body mounted securely to the frame, but I think this is not too difficult to overcome.

All the Fuji and Mamiya parts were sourced from Fujiya Camera in Nakano. Can’t recommend this place highly enough. I’ve been shopping here for the last 16 years or so, and have seen a few changes (expansion). They now have 3 separate buildings, all within a couple of minutes’ walk. One store for used (and some new) cameras, lenses, and bags. The ‘Junk Store’ opposite – crammed with used accessories, and hundreds of ‘junk’ cameras and lenses. And now they have another store filled with tripods, and studio lighting gear. Most of the graded items have a 6 month warranty, and in all this time I’ve only needed to call on that warranty once. And that lens was back in my hands in under a week, and with a new 6 month warranty! Now that is service!

If you are ever in Tokyo, I highly recommend a visit to Fujiya in Nakano. I’ve seen buyers from KEH in there; every morning there is a queue of twenty to thirty dealers waiting for an hour, to snap up the bargains. But you can still source some fantastic deals. Bought my old Lowepro Trekker there a long time ago – three thousand yen – a bag that at the time retailed around ¥15000. So, happy days.