Monday, October 31, 2011 2:00 PM Posted by Hikari Studio 0 comments

So the day has finally arrived. For those that have known me for sometime, you can likely attest to my fascination with Asian culture, most specifically Japanese. To the surprise of many I know enough Japanese to get by but I have never taken a trip out to Japan. That's finally changing today.

This particular trip is a culmination of many different elements and goals. There are many friends that I have come to known who have come here to study English and eventually make their way back home. Some of them I haven't seen in many years and I've been long over due to go visit them. I was originally supposed to go in October but a few twists and turns in life made me offset the trip all the way until Feburary. Half way into the month and after finding the time to edit some of my work from the trip to Poland I got a strong urge to just grab my camera, buy a ticket and set off to somewhere to write a photo story. My original aim was to return to Poland as I was invited to my cousins wedding but after some though I decided it was due time I made this trip happen.

So here I am, a camera bag full of gear, a ticket to Tokyo and some great friends a long the way.

This is of course a blog that is more regularly dedicated to my opinions on photography but in this case it will serve for a record of my journey, both in writing and in photos.

Now I'm sitting in Vancouver International Airport and as it stands the reality that I'm finally going there hasn't set in. Perhaps that I'll quickly change once the wheels leave the ground.


I have come to learn the importance of putting yourself out of one's comfort zone as of late. I have come to learn how much value there can be in jumping head first into the unknown and letting it guide you. Prior to this year i regretably hadn't so much as left Alberta in close to 14 years. That's a pretty scary number! In the past few months, even if it is a small number by most peoples standards, I have been to Vancouver, The United States and Poland all in the span of two months. Every single one of those trips has had an impact and helped shape the way my photography is heading now. Particularly, the last trip out to Poland has very much pushed me to finally make the trip to Japan happen. Those that do know me will easily attest as to how overdue this trip really is. It has been a long time coming, finally though, it's a dream that will come to fruition and it seems as fitting a time as it could ever be.

My original interest in photography sprouted from a photoblog by a street photographer within Japan. The very basics of my photography influences were hatched there. As such, this has very quickly become a journey that i know will have a very large impact on my photography life, much more so than the Poland trip has. It very much feels like several paths finally coalescing into something very important and i intend to take the challenge head on.

I am finally on the edge of achieving a long time dream. The thing with dreams though, is that you never quite reach them. As soon as they're within ones grasp the goal posts change and we take a step beyond the original to reach for something even bigger.

Passing on

The album can be viewed by clicking the above image. I decided to link it to a set outside of my blog as it has a much nicer presentation than a plain series of images within this blog.

I was driving back from the states when I got a phone call from my family saying my grandfather had passed away. My mother had asked her if I would accompany her to Poland for the funeral as my father could not go because of work constraints. I ended up getting back home with enough time to pack, squeeze in a few hours of sleep and head out to catch the flight the very next morning knowing full well that the responsibility to not only attend the funeral but photograph it for the family members that could not attend.

A few months prior to this my cousin had sent me an invitation to his wedding which was supposed to happen at the end of October, also in Poland. I began to dream about returning to a country which I had not seen in around 14 years with a familiarization of the culture and people but this time with a camera in my hand. The idea of being able to document life on the other side of the world but with a personal take and almost slight exclusiveness to it all really began to appeal to me.I got the feeling such a trip would change some perspectives I held on what I enjoy about photography and how I use it beyond my own personal projects and work. I've seen such travels affect friends for the better.

Needless to say the sudden death in the family and the new responsibility that came with the trip began to feel very daunting but a welcome challenge nonetheless.

I had of course never photographed a funeral before. In the past the idea of it seemed very strange to me. The perspective changed when I came across photographers who had done it in the past and their views on why they were in those cases hired to do so. It had often been to not only document a day that some people were not able to attend but to forever capture a series of memories or emotions, regardless of the fact that they tend to be of sadness on such occasions. To some it is one of the last memories they may have with that individual.

Having understood that certainly helped however trying to photograph the event proved to be a bit more difficult. It's a fine line to walk to be both subtle in one's actions as a photographer but still try to capture the mood, the atmosphere and the emotion in the process. It's also a bit of a toss up whether to document the day or try to delve deeper and tell a story. Often times I found I was very much the center of attention, even while still trying to be overly subtle and respectful of those attending the funeral. I also seemed to have earned myself a few distasteful looks, not so much for getting in anyone's way but more so based on the fact that I was taking pictures during a funeral. It is a very unusual experience to say the least.

On the technical side of things I ended up photographing most of it on a 35mm focal length. There are a few reasons for this. I did not want to capture just "portraits" of individuals within that setting. I wanted to be able to tell a story and a mood and that meant using a wider angle lens. Beyond that more often than not I was working in pretty cramped conditions, with less than ideal lighting, hence the fast lens. I would not dare use a flash in any of those situations as it would have just drawn attention and interfered with the actual event.

That being said, photographing people at 35mm is a little daunting at times. You want to fill the frame with your subject(s) and in the case of that particular focal length that means being in the action and getting in close. This isn't so much an issue when you're covering a wedding since they tend to have a lot more of a welcoming and positive atmosphere. A funeral on the other hand definitely created some hesitations within me not to step on peoples toes while still trying to get the shots I was looking for. It's a comfort level that takes some time to get to. It very much reminded me of trying to do street photography with a 35mm lens while still filling the frame. You have nothing to hide behind and you will get the attention of those in front of your camera.

In the end the whole event changed a lot of how I look at certain projects now. It has inspired me to pick up my camera and explore other unique perspectives I may have. I will be doing some travelling as soon as November to a much different place and I very much aim to weave a story from my trip.