In praise of the umbrella

I have an umbrella fetish. There, I said it. Owning up to one’s addictions is the first step towards a cure but I see no end in sight to my craving for the ultimate umbrella shot.

It’s not a curse, it’s a blessing to have photographic obsessions such as this. One of the keys to keeping one’s eyes sharp is to have a few little ongoing projects; subject-matter to be constantly on the lookout for when walking around with one’s camera. I never just ‘go out to shoot’. I always go out with some sort of purpose and that way I keep creatively ‘on the ball’.

The umbrella obsession has paid-off too. In the past couple of years I have a few magazine features based on my rain and umbrella shots, the latest one comes on around June 11th – with Eurobiz magazine here in Tokyo publishing a set in their ‘Lens Flair’ section [a photographic ‘final word’ in the magazine’s back two pages]. Editors look for people who specialise. It makes good magazine fodder to have someone who is a bit of a nutcase obsessive about this subject or that.

See, I’ve now reached stage two of my addiction: denial. There is no addiction. It’s a healthy thing, this umbrella-stalking game.

Stage three is getting all of you addicted too….. visual quoting Ridley Scott as I go.

I’m sure many of you have seen his classic dystopian flick, Bladerunner. His neon-drenched city scenes in particular have a certain familiarity if you have ever visited or lived in Tokyo and were – it is said – based on the narrow, bustling streets of Kabukicho. Scenes I have watched play-0ut in my head and through my lens in various places around Tokyo when the rain has come.

What’s so special about Japan and the umbrella? Well, for me there is a particular ‘japanese-ness’ about the transparent umbrellas which you can buy for a few-hundred yen or even find handily left hanging on a railing, for free, after someone has done with theirs. These are the cornerstone of my obsession as it is through these – quite literally – that some of my best umbrella shots have been taken. Nothing quite mixes to perfection like a neon lit street full of transparent umbrella-toting Japanese, battling home in a spring typhoon.

There’s also a Totoro reference for me too, particularly the scene there is a piece of at about 1’05” in this trailer.

Throw in with the brollies, the neon and the rain the shallow depth-of-field of a 50mm f/1.2 lens or the crisp clarity of a 300mm f/4 prime telephoto and, well, actually… hmmm, I may have to excuse myself temporarily for a quick visit to the bathroom.

Right. That’s better. Where was I?

Yes, the photos.  And as they say in Spain; ‘mi kasa, su kasa’ [if you don’t speak Japanese, go look up the word for umbrella and you’ll get that little joke]

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If you’d like some cool, free umbrella and rain wallpaper for your iPod, iPad, Mac or PC, then click here.

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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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