Cotswold based photographer Graham Borthwick is still discovering his style and genre of photography. His recent work has concentrated on landscapes, he also has a taste for wildlife, architecture and aviation work. He completed the LRPS in 2014 and is now working on his ARPS. In this guest blog article Graham shares his experience of visiting Japan for the first time and capturing his visit with the SIGMA 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art and the SIGMA 24-105 F4 DG OS HSM | Art lens.
There is not that many times in your life that you get the chance to visit a country that has been up on your ‘bucket list’ for an absolute lifetime. But in October I got that very opportunity and of course, my Canon 5dSR with two very capable Sigma Art lenses joined me on my adventure. Whilst this is not a technical review, I hope this narrative will capture some of my thoughts on the region, the people and my photography whilst demonstrating the potential of some amazing equipment.
My trip consisted of 6 nights in Tokyo, but in the month of planning I had available, I decided to take the effort of spending one day in Kyoto and another exploring Mt Fuji before enjoying the sights and sounds of what Tokyo itself had to offer.
Coupling the Sigma 24-105mm | Art and 12-24mm | Art to my Canon 5DSR gave me the chance to capture in detail almost every moment of what I experienced and, whilst every location was quite heavily populated with tourists, I found an extreme peace at each turn; this peace translated into some rather calming and focused photography.
Already familiar with the focal range, I could quickly and efficiently capture moments with extreme accuracy. The almost silent focusing system of the lenses meant minimal disturbance to the environment I was photographing and whilst I am not technically minded, the results of the images were stunning. It was a delight to know I could rely on the Sigma lenses to produce the results I was seeing in front of me and the level of detail was stunning. Whilst the high resolution of the 5DSR assisted, the combination with the Sigma lens meant I had the confidence in what I was about to shoot which in turn gave me some excellent images; especially important when you may never get the chance to go to back to the same location again!
First stop could only have been the famous Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine adorned with its striking orange torii. Equally stunning was the autumn colours surrounding the Kinkakuji Temple, or more commonly known as the Golden Pavilion and the green expansive heights of the Bamboo Forest Walk.
After about two hours of travelling and three different trains, day two was a slight disappointment. Due to the timing of my visit I already knew that I could not climb Mount Fuji but I had hoped to get some stunning wide angled water reflection shots mixed with the autumnal leaves of the surrounding trees around Lake Kawaguchi, situated to the north of the mountain. However, weather did not help matters and I did not get to see the mountain, so disappointingly felt that this was almost a waste of my time. Undeterred though, my research did present me alternative opportunities and I found a cable car that took me some of the way up to Mount Kachikachi. This forest covered hill was quite a climb, but offered me some stunning misty images that took my breath away, all thanks to the Sigma lenses. In quite low light, the Sigma lenses gave me a great opportunity to capture imagery that was crystal sharp, whilst striking a key balance between colour and light yet capturing the moments of tranquility. Once again my gear did not fail me!
Not only that, but the return journey back to Tokyo gave me the chance to seize another part of the Japanese culture, its people. The gentle rocking of the mountain train coupled with the cold damp air and the comfy seating being blasted by the strong warm air heaters made the train another place of peace and rest. There was an atmosphere of tranquility and people would simply fall asleep, resting where they could and that made for some great photographic opportunities.
This now left me with 3 days to explore Tokyo and I did just that. Tokyo’s mix of modern architecture combined with its traditional temples and sights were a joy to experience. Not only that but the people were just as inviting and it did not take me long to settle in; the variety of opportunities meant I was going from street to landscapes to portraits to urban quicker than you can change a battery pack. However, my already gained confidence in both lenses meant it translated into a known reliable shooting experience. However, after the first day of shooting, I did not expect to get back to my hotel to discover that Typhoon Lan had made its way into Tokyo. Saying that even though the rain was torrential my kit did remain dry and the waterproofness was certainly given a good testing throughout.
The rain did not stop but that added to the atmosphere of my work; the rain meant ground reflections, which coupled with the bright neon lights allowed me to create work akin to Masashi Wakui. Streets were lit up and people eating food, drinking and having a good time, all whilst looking like it would be a scene from Bladerunner. During the day, popular shrines gave me the chance to capture the traditional payment of respects whilst dressed in kimono attire, another mix of old and new. The chance to capture a traditional wedding and a ceremony of prayers for poetry was unique and one that I will not forget.
I have also said I would never return to a holiday location more than once, there are so many that I want to see and know that time and money will never allow me. However, and a big however, the diversity and joy of what Japan has to offer is simply and truly inspiring, on both a personal and photographic level. The chance to capture this with the Sigma lenses was an equal delight and I think the images will speak for themselves. As I stated, I am not qualified to speak to the technical spect of the Sigma lenses, but in my opinion these two lenses were superb, they were accurate, quick, reliable and sharp, quite a find when you consider the alternatives and their cost. I now intend to submit my images in a portfolio for my ARPS in 2018.