Tokyo in Pics


A photography blog about Tokyo, run by Australian photographer Rohan Gillett

Night isn't always best for long exposure photography

When I visited Koshu-Kaido (Koshu Road) to take the photos for this article, I learned one valuable lesson.  This particular strip of road, just outside Shinjuku Station is the subject of many shots on the internet due to the wide straight road, lots of traffic and the Park Tower Building in the distance, but due to a really high wall on the pedestrian bridge there I had never been able to shoot it because my tripod was way too short.  Finally though, after getting a larger one, I was able to try again. I thought it was going to get a really amazing long exposure photograph.  There was one thing I forgot though …

The black and white version

As you can see, I took the photo at night which was the right thing to do, so I thought. However, in the middle of the picture you where all the light trails intersect, there is Shinjuku Park Tower, the skyscraper that houses the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel, famous for the bar scene in Lost in Translation. As you can see in this picture, it is looking rather dark. It was dark because there was so little light being reflected from it, just a few lights from each floor.

The problem, as in this case, is that if the subject has no light being reflected from it, it doesn’t matter how long you expose for, the picture will still be completely black. The camera sensor has nothing to record. That was what happened in this case. The road and buildings along the road were illuminated, but there was almost so little light coming off Park Tower.

The colour version

Yes, I played around with the picture in Lightroom, but couldn’t do much without it making it look really weird and exceptionally grainy. In the end I decided to post two copies of the same shot, one colour and other black and white. I don’t think either are particularly good images, but I think the black and white version is better. Anyway, the lesson is - think about how much light is needed for each picture, especially in long exposures! I’ll be visiting this place again soon, probably around sunset when there is more light around that building. That picture will be here soon!