The View from Below


Continuing with the theme of organized chaos, I wanted to add the idea of the view from below. I decided to go out and shoot with 90mm and 50mm lenses rather than the 28mm and 35mm lenses that I had used in my Organized Chaos post. The idea was to limit the frame in composing. Below are some results.

Tokyo is a city of layers. I like it when my photos can capture those layers in the frame, like you are looking through the layers from below–street level. The photo below was taken in Uneno’s Ameyoko on a busy Saturday.


What I look about this photography is is how it captures the layers, from the people up close, the crowd, the stalls, the buildings and the video screen. The wind blowing the womens’ hair and the way the sunlight reflects off the strands adds to the dynamism. The triangle elements from the building background add add to the composition. In taking this photo, I just the background building as my shin,  and waited from people to walk into the frame. I took several photos like this. I believe this one is the best. This was taken with a Leica M240 fixed with a 50mm Summicron lens.

The photo beliw is one that I took with a 90mm Elmarit on a Leica M3. I used TMAX400 film pushed to 1600, and a yellow filter. This is a view looking up from street-level on a walk betweeen Asakusa and Kappabashi.


I love the minimalist composition with the large patch of sky. I like the repeating rectangular patterns of the condo buildingin the backgroun, contracsted against the sharp diagonals of the house in the foreground. This photo uses shin-soe-hikae compositions. The building in the background serves as my shin. Once again, the photo brings out the idea of Tokyo as a city of layers.

The next photo I took with a Leica M3 fixed with a 50mm Summicron lense. This is the Akihabara district.


The old elevated train track serves as my shin. I love elegant curves and repeating pattern. The elegance of the track constrasts with the dirty, industrialness of the the street. You can see the layers of the city from below with eh signs on the side, the track, the wires and lamposts, and the building in the background. The pedestrian gives a kind of humanity to what would otherwise by a stark scene. I think this photo really captures Tokyo.

The photo below was taken while walking between Shimbashi and Kamiyacho Stations. Leica M3, 50mm Summicron lens.


I think the patterns in the scaffolding and the brick make this photo, particularly when contrasted against the messiness of the wires. You can see the layers of the city again. The repeating 90 degree angles of the wires, and the block patters of the buidlings and scaffolding help make the photo interesting, as wells the constrast between lighted and shadowed parts.

The next photo was taken outside of Akihabara Station. Leica M3, 50mm Summicron.

Once again, layers and patterns. Contrast make the compostion–The staircase against the staircase like coveres over the escalator, the man at the base of the escalator against the woman at the top of the stairs, and the shadowed and lighted parts. The layer of the stairs and escalator in fron the of building. The Asymetry makes the composition interesting as opposed to centering either the stairs or the escalator.


In the photo above, which I took outside of Shimbashi Station, I had made the backgroud buildings with their stacked signs the shin. I saw the gentlemnt approching me and though he had character. I wanted to capture him in the scene. However, he was actually quite a bit shoter than me in stature and walked hunched over. It was hard to see his face.

I quickly decided to shoot him from below. However, I did not want to crouch in front of him and have him react, so I shot the photo from the hip surreptitiously as I passed him. I had to zone focus, and becuas I needed a fast shutter speed in a partly shaded area, I had to compensate with a wide aperture, limiting my depth of field. So, I had to shoot within a narrow range of distance to get the photo right, while we were both moving. I think I mostly got it, even though there is a bit of softness in the face. In any case, street photography is often flawed while still being beautiful. Henri Cartier-Bresson once said that sharpness is a bourgeois concept. Indeed it is.


I took several photos of the man above while waiting at a crosswalk. I liked his face and expression, and the way the sunlight was hitting him. I love how the jumbled background fades into the shadows–city of layers.




The photo above is more abstract. This photo really accomplishes my goal of limiting the frame to express organized chaos. In this photo, I shot looking up outside the entrace to an office tower. The shot is highly disorienting. You cannot really tell what you are looking at, which way is up, or what is real and what is merely a reflection. There is so much glass and mirrors, you cannot tell what is iwhat. Are you looking at a reflection the glass and then seeing what is behind the translucent glass, or is it entirely mirror?

After scanning this image, it took me a few minutes to remember the orientation, because I could not tell from the photo. It took this on film so there is no digital data that orients the photo. I had to look at another photo in the place in which the ground was clear to orient this photo properly. Perhaps correct orientation is not important to the composition.

This photo introduces the idea of risk into the photo. The risk is the disorientation. I want to take photos that are more risky in some way, that discorient the viewer, or cause a double-take to understand what is goingh one. I want to challenge the viewer.

The shot below is across a bridge looking into Akihabara. The layers make this shot in my opinion, particularly with the contrast of the bridge agains the buildings.


Finally, this last shot is a theme that I often like to follow–man-made and nature in the same frame. In this case, I positioned myself just right so you can see the corona of the sun behind the building.


From these photos I found that I could follow my theme whether using a 90mm or 50mm lens. I had thought that only the 90mm would work, in order to constrain the frame. However, I now find that as long as I know what I want to achieve, it does not matter which focal length I use. I can drive the composition and not rely on my equipment to do it for me.

So, for my next project, I will continue to explore the same theme using even wider lenses, like 35mm, 28mm and 21mm.

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