Views of Tokyo, A Guide to Photographing a Metropolis

Tokyo Tower

When people say Japan is such a different country compared to the rest of the world, I wholeheartedly agree. The blend of old and new, digital and analog, east and west creates a constantly evolving landscape of interesting dichotomies that shapes the country. Japan, or rather Japanese people have an innate ability of incorporating the things they believe are valuable from other cultures and shaping to fit in their own.

Night Glow of Tokyo


In keeping with dichotomies, photographing a city requires both a macro and micro perspectives. Capturing both the wide vistas and the small details generates contrasting and competing views that better captures a cities essence. Finding a high vantage point lets me grasp a visual understanding of a city’s layout and to some extent the atmosphere it projects. Tokyo is often thought of as a tightly packed megacity with futuristic buildings peppering the landscape. Viewing the metropolis from atop Roppongi Hills challenges these perceptions. Yes, the city is extremely dense, but at the same time there isn’t an overwhelming sense of giant high-rises taking over the skyline. Skyscrapers certainly dotted the horizon but they are vastly outnumbered by low-rise buildings. Furthermore, large thoroughfares, train lines and streets crisscrossed through the city, like veins of a heart, ferrying people about. The city certainly has soul, that extra bit that makes you want to visit repeatedly.

Street Signage

Suburban Tokyo Street


Tokyo Street

One can never truly understand a city if they look at it from above, getting into the nooks and crannies is perhaps the best way to develop an intimate relationship. Tokyo is no different. Switching from a birds-eye view to the many side streets, further expands your understanding of life in a city. When there is intention behind your walk-about you begin to slowly piece together the strands that make up the fabric of a city. Not only what strikes you immediately though your senses, but the minutiae of culinary, interpersonal, architectural, historical , etc., culture that infuses a peoples way of life. Without delving further, an open and a conscious effort to understand a culture when exploring definitely increases your enjoyment. Especially when it concerns photography, understanding a culture beyond the surface level, aids in teasing out worthwhile elements to tell a story.

In summary, here a few tips to increase the quality of photos you take, from a non-technical perspective.

  1. Immerse yourself in the culture so that you begin understanding how things fit together, beyond what you see on the surface. To connect with a place requires intentionality in exploration. There are too many times where people simply go for what looks “cool” or what garners the most attention. To elevate yourself in the art of photography you need to capture the essence of a place.
  2. Look for dichotomies, or rather contrasting elements either thematically, physically, emotionally etc. Like a good story there is conflict, climax and resolutions. Putting these elements into your photos can better portray what you are experiencing. Do not just focus on one image, but rather a series that can be look at as a whole.
  3. Research the destination. Similar to putting together a storyboard before you produce a film, learning about various aspects of a place gives you a greater repertoire of information to draw on when you arrive. Travel photography covers many genres so a lack of research can be detrimental to capturing the world around you.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed the read.


If you are curious, these images were captured on an A7 II and 35mm f/1.4

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