Time (& Mental) Lapses

I met up with Lukasz from EyeXplore.com outside an enormous department store above Shinjuku Station.

While waiting for 19:30 to roll around, I wandered into the store but was repelled by thick clouds of perfume. So I found an inconspicuous spot and took some photos of commuters while a group of protestors blocked the main entrance over some election.

There I spotted my first homeless man, leaning against the station’s glass doors. He was the spitting image of the mentor in the old Karate Kid movie. And right on cue, no more than a minute after I took his picture, he slowly opened his dirty pants, pulled out his penis and and peed on the station floor. Not a cop in sight, and no way was I getting involved. Strangely, several commuters noticed the act without breaking stride.

After a brief intro, I learned Lukasz is a Pol who grew up in Chicago. So I told him all about my neighbor Bob, who also taught photography.

We headed off to a nearby bridge where the private instruction started with some fundamentals about how aperture size and shutter speed determine a shot’s exposure, especially in low light. I relearned how to read a histogram and make adjustments based on a few test shots.

Within a few minutes we were capturing incredible shots of traffic light trails set against the Neon Canyon. The bridge was pretty bouncy and there was a lot of foot traffic right behind me, which I’m very uncomfortable with. But this was more important.

Together we figured out how to use the intervalometer and soon produced 10 second time lapse clips at one frame per second. Some of the individual frames are amazing standalone shots, so I’m convinced time lapse is an ideal workflow for scenes like this where there is a lot of semi-predictable movement.

There is a very long and narrow alleyway nearby. Dozens of small restaurants line the alley, and each was packed to the gills with locals. Lukasz suggested I use my iPhone in time lapse mode to plow through the alley. So I swooped in and out of open windows, got closeups of people’s food and generally made a nuisance of myself. But no one seemed to mind, since this was the crazy party side of Tokyo. Unfortunately this shot came out too fast to be usable.

Next we hopped the subway to Harajuku, home of the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. While taking off my backpack on the train, the flap was unzipped and all my equipment tumbled onto the floor. So embarrassing. I was apparently far too distracted by everything to perform even the most basic tasks, like protecting my camera. But it’s as if the Japanese thought of this. The subway cars’ floors are rubberized, so there was no damage beyond my pride.

There is an observation deck outside Harajuku Station where we set up my tripod and shot another five or six minutes of time lapse from above. By now I was getting pretty confident.

I’ll post my best photos later after I’ve had time to offload them — maybe at my brother’s place in Manila. I left a 5-star review for EyeXplore on TripAdvisor, and we agreed to keep in touch. This was $219 well spent. I would never have thought to do all this without Lukasz’s direction and patience.

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