Night photography for Tokyo-based photographers is undeniably one of the most exciting things to do after the dark comes in the country of The Rising Sun.
As one of the most visited metropolises globally, Tokyo becomes even more beautiful during the night. The city lights make for incredible night photography, and the light trails from the traffic or the rivers’ boats make long-exposure shots look surreal.
Table of contents:
- What are the top locations for night photography in Tokyo?
- How to plan for night photography and long-exposure shots?
- Follow me on Instagram!
What are the top locations for night photography in Tokyo?
This is a great question that I always ask myself as a photographer based in Tokyo, and I am still trying to find answers for it. I usually use a sort of combination between Instagram and Google Search. It is not easy to find good spots for night photography, and sometimes the tags and keywords used only go for a broad area and not a specific location. Hence, this article introduces you to at least one great spot, in my opinion.
So, what are the top locations for night photography in Tokyo? The simple answer is… I don’t know. Like really. At the moment, I know a few spots for Tokyo Tower(expect a future article on this) and this place in Chuo City(part of Tokyo) over Sumida River. But I promise to find more fantastic sites like this.
Where exactly is this place? I didn’t know, but let me tell you my experience shooting these long-exposure photographs over the Sumida River. The first step was to check the hashtags on Instagram, which led me to some incredible images. Trust me; I was wowing like a child in front of my iPhone.
After checking a few posts, I could find one mentioning Ishikawajima Park. The fact is, all these images contain the park itself, but if you go there, in no way can you shoot these images. I then headed over to Google Maps and saved the location to visit it later.
I confess I remembered the buildings since my first trip to Japan, sometimes in the spring of 2014 when I even took the first photo of this place. That was a bonus because it helped me find the exact spot; keep reading to find out how. When the time was right, I jumped on my mamachari bicycle and headed to Azamino Station to take the Den-en-toshi Line train downtown.
As you may imagine, once I hit the park, in no way, shape or form would any boats cross the park so I could photograph light trails. Like most times, it caught me off guard, and I had to run as the sun was close to the setting.
Do you remember the bonus I mentioned above? Because I saw the buildings way back in 2014, I recalled it was from a boat. It helped me because I knew then that I needed to find a high-ground location.
Once there, I realized there could be only one exact spot to shoot the images I was after, Eitai Bridge became my target location.
Yes, it’s time for you to save a pin on your Google Map for your later reference. That is the place you want to go to if you’d like to create similar images with what I did.
It may surprise you, but planning is mainly done once you get the place figured out. I usually divide my planning into two main steps: location and gear.
Obviously, it would be best for you to do some research; even so, expect the unexpected. Reread the above for detailed explanations of what can go wrong because it will.
I want to talk about gear for this part of the article more than the location.
Camera equipment is important but not nearly as essential as knowing how to use it. You will need a camera, various lenses, and a tripod for this.
Let me tell you what I do before going out to shoot long-exposure photography. It should not surprise you that I start with cleaning the external front element of all lenses I plan to have with me. The next step is to check the batteries and charge them. I only have two for each camera, but I can use all four batteries in both cameras, should the need arise.
After that, I mount the two lenses I think I will use on each camera that day. The next step is to check the memory cards and format them in the camera. Here you need to know, and I can’t stress enough how important this is, format the card only in the camera you will use it. This way, you avoid inconsistencies in how the camera handles the memory cards.
As an OCD person, I double and triple-check if I have everything in my backpack. Once that is done, I mount the tripod plates, and everything goes to the door. Here I check everything one more time because, you see, last time, I was close to forgetting the remote release for my trusty Nikon D750.
A remote release will make a world of difference for night photography because you have not to touch your camera while the shutter is open to record the photos on the sensor. Why? Because every time you touch your camera, even if it’s on a tripod, there will be vibrations that will affect the photos, the so-called blurry photos. So, you don’t want any of this. Remote release for you!
Another reason you want a remote control is that you will shoot manual in bulb mode, most of the time for night photography. This means you will press at least twice the button on your remote(if it isn’t a fancy remote with a timer on it). I use the remote control three times for each shot because I set the camera to mirror lock-up, meaning that I press once for the mirror to go up and wait for a second or two for the shake to be over, and then I start the exposure, followed by the third press to close the exposure.
This isn’t a tutorial on shooting night photography using long exposures, but rather a chit-chat with my friends. So, there you go; I told you almost everything you should consider before going out with your camera to shoot some fantastic night shots.
If you’re curious to know what gear I used for the photos in this article, here it is:
Nikon Z6II, FTZ adaptor with Nikkor 35mm, f/1.8 set on a tripod.
Nikon D750 with Nikkor 20mm, f1/8 set on a tripod.
Exposure times varied between 30 seconds to over 3 minutes.
Follow me on Instagram!
I would love to hear from you here in the comments below. Of course, it’s much easier to talk over social media, as it is instant. It will mean the world to me if you take the time to follow me and connect with me on my Instagram and see more about how the world looks in front of my lenses. It’s enough to click below, and it will take you directly to my travel account.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. This one was more like a friendly confession.