[Alfie Goodrich - Ginza, Tokyo, Japan]
I’d heard about Alfie Goodrich (Japanorama.co.uk) and his outstanding reputation as a professional photographer and instructor for years and finally had the chance to meet him in person at the Photo Fest Japan 2011 seminar in Yokohama last month. During the event I mentioned that I really wanted to hone my skills and gain more experience at street photography. Alfie mentioned that he holds regular workshops and I immediately signed up for the November 5th Street Photography Workshop in the Ginza.
We met at the Ginza 4-Chome crossing right at noon, just as the streets were blocked off so that pedestrians could enjoy the main street for a pleasant afternoon.
Alfie spent a few minutes laying out the afternoon schedule for us, then taught us how to shoot holding the camera at our side in a totally relaxed fashion. Using a 50 mm lens (or setting our zoom to 50 mm), we set the focus point at 3 meters. It took a lot of practice, and I wasted a lot of shots, but within 30-40 minutes I was able to get shots I never would have been able to capture before.
This shot, for example, was one out of about five. He was walking his bicycle down the middle of the street coming straight at me. In a few of the shots he was poorly framed, or the image just wasn’t interesting. Luckily, this particular image really clicked for me and captured the moment perfectly.
It quickly became apparent that some locations are better than others. Street crossings, or “Zebra Crossings” as Alfie calls them, provide great photo opportunities. Popular stores, like Toy Park, work well also.
Getting the distance and focus spot on will improve with practice. For example, in this image the focus is too close. It would have been much better if I had moved a step or two closer, but by that time the magic of the moment would have past. I’m learning not to get frustrated if I miss a particular photo opportunity. Patience and consistent practice seem to be the key.
For our next assignment, Alfie had us walk back up the main street in the Ginza creating images that would emphasize the street’s unique geometry and lines.
Some of the students took Alfie’s instructions to the extreme….
Others took a more conventional approach. One of the big advantages of participating in a workshop like this is to observe the other students, learn from them, and get new points of view and perspective.
Alfie’s teaching style is very supportive and encouraging without being extremely strict. He encourages the students to stay on task and get the most out of his teaching. But, he didn’t complain when we sometimes deviated from the assignment for a moment to capture a photo opportunity that presented itself in the moment.
The Ginza weekend crowds are wonderful subjects. They expect to be photographed and are often photographing you at the same time.
The streets abound with kids of all ages, all out to have fun and enjoy the day.
These two guys had obviously known each other for decades, perhaps since childhood. Every moment in the Ginza has a story.
Of course, not everyone is happy with the weekend crowds invading the Ginza fashion district.
Mid-afternoon Alfie let us stop for a brief lunch while we discussed what we learned so far and prepared for the rest of the workshop. This image, by the way, was taken with my iPhone 4S. All the other images in this post were from my Canon T1i.
Of the three afternoon assignments Alfie suggested, I decided to try the ‘cinematic’ challenge, taking photos that would have the impression of being from a movie. They should tell a ‘story’, and all be shot horizontally, preferably at a 16:9 aspect ratio. I picked that particular challenge because it would push me the furthest out of my comfort level. I was right. It certainly did. But, I learned a lot in the process.
While I tried to stick to the challenge, there were constant temptations to capture a beautiful shot that didn’t fit the challenge guidelines.
Like all major metro areas around the world, the Ginza has a real mix of old and new. Just a block off the main street with all of its well known brand names you can find old buildings, covered with decades of dirt and mold, waiting to be replaced by new construction.
This was one of my favorite photos of the afternoon.
Shooting in the Ginza presents lots of challenges, especially with people moving dynamically. There is no time to stop and think for a minute or two about composition or to stage an image. Sometimes that works to your advantage.
Cameras are everywhere, both digital and film. On one of the side streets I found a shop crowded with film camera buffs, all in their 60′s or older.
The Ginza, especially on the weekend, is a photographer’s paradise teeming with photo opportunities.
By 5:00 pm the crowds were thinning out and the light had changed completely. We got back together and walked over to a stand-up bar under the tracks near Yurakucho Station. Alfie went over our photos, answered questions, and gave us more insight about street photography.
I’ll definitely do more workshops with Alfie and highly recommend them for other photographers looking to improve or hone their skills.