Hanami in Naka-meguro, Tokyo

Naka-meguro in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward is probably one of the best-known of cherry-blossom locations in Tokyo. It can get extraordinarily busy on the weekends so, typically, I do photowalks there mid-week to avoid the worst of the crowds. Lots of people makes for great shooting opportunities too. But, when one is walking with a group of people, the potential for getting terminally split-up from each other is never far away. So, mid-week it is for the organised walks; weekends for the solo shooting.

This year I walked the area with a few of my regular students – including Gwenny Ruiz, who was in town again from Amsterdam. Our framework for the walk was to create some multiple-image canvases – diptychs and triptychs – which would tell a story of some aspect of the area and the season in one eye-ful.

Part of this post will show you how I go about making those sorts of images. There is also a gallery of my shots from the walk; all straight out of either the Nikon or the Mamiya cameras I was using on the day. Other people are sending in their shots and I’ll post them here once they are all in.

Here was the brief for the day’s walk….

Way back, ooh, a long time ago I did a project with students on story-telling with multiple images: diptychs and triptychs. It’s not a new idea but one that I like to re-visit every so often because people always come up with some superb results and making these montages of images is a lovely way to tell stories in one eyeful.

Here’s a link to an article on the website that went up ages ago, all about a little project done with these multiple-image stories.


Hopefully some of the images there would get people thinking.

So how did we plan to tell stories with sakura?

Here were a few of the suggestions I made:

  • Close, closer, closest: shoot from 10ft away, shoot from 5ft away, shoot a super close-up and you would end up with something that, perhaps, tells the ‘story’ of one flower. The super close-up might go in the middle of the three shots when displayed in the final piece. It might look more balanced like that. Worth a try.
  • The flowers, the watchers, the keitai: shoot a scene of people shooting the flowers on their mobile-phones [keitai]; shoot a shot of the flowers they are shooting; shoot a shot of their mobile-phone screen – with the flowers on that they are shooting.
  • Macro: shoot a petal on the left, shoot one on the right, shoot the middle of the flower and display them in a line.

As it turned out, people tried a little of all of these ideas and threw plenty in of their own too.

Here’s a short description of how to go about making a ‘canvas’ on which to place your individual shots and display them as a ‘story’. Apologies for not having this as a screencast video as I still dont know why my PC will not record the audio properly when I make the videos of what I am doing on my screen. I’ll get it sorted sometime soon. In the meantime, here are a few screengrabs from Photoshop which will show you the steps I take when making a diptych or triptych:

[click on each of the images to see a large version]

Step 1:

Edit your original images just as you would normally, to make them into individual finished pictures. My editing workflow always starts in the RAW processing software that suits best, which for Nikon would be ViewNX and for the images from the Mamiya, Capture One.

What gets edited in these packages? – generally it’s only changes of white-balance and exposure. Both programs have a good mechanism for pulling back the highlights and bringing up the shadows. The Mamiya in particular has a very broad dynamic range on its sensor, meaning that I am able to over-expose highlights by three stops [sometimes even more] and then bring them back in Capture One. This is what is meant by that phrase you may have heard: ‘shoot to the right’. This is shooting to the right -brighter – part of the image histogram. Shadows, after a point, contain nothing but noise in digital images so it’s better – often – to over-expose the highlights [where there is more information in a digital image] to bring up the shadows.

Step 2:

I bring the individual images into Photoshop to finish off the editing, apply any ‘style’ to the shots I think is appropriate.

Step 3:

Having decided [probably near the beginning of the whole process] how to use the images in conjunction with each other, I take a look at how large each of them is and make a new canvas appropriate to this size.

Step 4:

I drag the flattened, edited images onto the new canvas and re-size them to fit with each other: if my montage is horizontal, I make sure the height of each image is the same. If it’s a vertical diptych or triptych, I make sure the widths are consistent. I use the View > Snap item on the menu. This allows you to drag the images precisely next to each other, then use the right arrow key to space them away a few pixels; in this case 8 pixels or eight presses of the arrow key.

Step 5:

I adjust the amount of spare canvas around the images to make a pleasing composition, flatten and save as high-rez for possible printing or publication and as a low-rez version in JPEG, for my blog, Flickr etc [first adding my watermark and copyright information]. I also added a little hand-written text, made using the pen I have for my WACOM graphics tablet.

Et, voila!

Here’s the finished image

Here’s a gallery of Amanda Edney’s shots from the walk:


Gwenny Ruiz’s gallery is here:


Gwenny also made a triptych [click it to see the full-size version]

Paul Church is sending in some shots for a gallery but his triptych is below [click it to see the full-size version]

And here’s a gallery of some of my shots from the day; all straight out of the camera.


Here are one or two edited shots from the walk:


Hanami in Japan, 2011: The Girl on the Bridge, Naka-meguro, Tokyo

Hanami in Japan, 2011: Naka-meguro cherry-blossom

Hanami in Japan, 2011: People enjoying the blossoms in Naka-meguro

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Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

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