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the view.

20 Feb 2013


It all started with this blog post.

I wanted a similar view.  It was probably the only thing I specifically planned for in advance of my trip to Tokyo: I wanted a photo from that vantage point.  Or something very, very close.  I wanted to see — and capture — Tokyo from way up high.

It’s not a regular sort of thing for me, wanting the crazy birds-eye perspective of a city.  And I live in New York City!  I’ve never been to the Empire State Building, or even to the top of Rockefeller Center, even though I work just a stone’s throw away from the place.  But it suddenly became a mission of sorts, this perspective, for the Tokyo trip.

And so if you want to know anything about how I travel, it’s this: I travel very, very lightly, personal-effects-wise.  I forget to pack deodorant.  I maybe pack 3 pairs of socks for a 7-day trip.  No, what happens when I travel these days is that half my suitcase is taken up by film.  No joke.  (And you know what else?  45 rolls of film ends up being incredibly heavy.)  And when I’m out and about, I carry two bags, stuffed with three cameras and at least 6 extra rolls of film.  I’m neurotic about having enough film on me at all times.  Neurotic.  And I need to have all three cameras — Hasselblad, Leica, and Contax, all loaded with different film stock — so I can be sure to capture the right sort of mood.  I mean, duh.

And so wanting this view became an exercise in just how much of a caricature of myself I could possibly become.  Watch.

Tipped off by a photographer friend of Dom’s, we started out here.  Yes, the city government office building’s 45th floor has an observation deck that you just need to queue up for.  It’s totally free.  It’s also, after we showed up there, excited, totally …. not worth it.  Or maybe it is, and our expectations were too high.  But it was a muggy day (for February) and Mt. Fuji was nowhere to be seen, and the observatory deck itself was maybe sort of wanting.  Dom thought we’d be able to go outside.  Nope.  No such luck.


But whatta gift shop!


But I’d heard good things about Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, in Roppongi; perhaps this would be the view I had been searching for.  And so on Wednesday afternoon, I set off from Dom’s place, not too far away, and timed it so that I’d make it to the building by around 4:30, with just enough time to capture the sunset.  I wasn’t the only one with this idea.  (Tourists!  We’re a predictable bunch!)


And the 52nd floor of the place proved magical, with an almost 360 degree view from inside the building.  (It’ll cost you 1500 yen, about $17, but it also gets you into the Mori Art Museum, so it’s totally worth it.)  While I waited for the sun to see I snapped some shots from inside, with all three cameras.  Yeah, yeah.  Shut up.

mori 4


And then, just after 5pm, it was time: nearly sunset.  I’d bought an additional ticket for the SkyDeck, the outdoor viewing area above the 57th floor.  You know what?   It is windy when you’re up that high.  Also: February — freezing.  We — about a dozen of us — were only allowed to bring our cameras (limited to two, but well, hey, good thing the Contax is small and fits into my jacket pocket?), no bags, no extra stuff.  Because again, WINDY.

But totally worth it.  Did I get the same view?  I don’t think so.  But hey!  Mt. Fuji!  And just a lot of other good stuff.

To wit – the Hasselblad + Portra 400:


With the Leica + treasured Agfa RSX 50 expired slide film that I’d been waiting eons to use:


The Contax T2 + Fuji Neopan 400:


My favorite of the lot (and well, three cameras, there’s quite a bit to choose from):



Neuroses: Getting you the perfect photograph since I don’t even know when.





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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 Feb 2013 2:04 pm

    Hong-An, these are mind-blowing in their beauty–the richness and density of space in these images is palpable even when the image is mostly sky. It feels as though you could run your fingers through that sky. Absolutely love them!

  2. 20 Feb 2013 4:41 pm

    You really should head up to Top o the Rock (skip the Empire State) on a clear day. NYC from up high is loverly (no Mt Fuji, though. Maybe the Fresh Kills landfill will suffice?).

    Also: insanely jealous of this entire Tokyo trip.

  3. 21 Feb 2013 1:03 am

    My favourite is the second on the Hassleblad, with the broadcasting tower. The splash of red brings up the pinks and complements the blues. I love those red and white towers. I have I don’t know how many photos of the ones near me.

    I feel your camera carrying pain. I’ll be going to London next week with a Mamiya C330 and a Nikon 35ti, and there are four more cameras waiting for me when I get there. 45 rolls though? You know they sell that stuff in Tokyo, too, right? ; P

  4. 21 Feb 2013 3:59 am

    This is probably a stupid question, but what advantages are their for film cameras over digital cameras? Is it preference, just a hobby, or is it more professional?

  5. 28 May 2013 9:34 am

    Amazing post and photos ❤
    I also travel with a lot of films and cameras but I think you beat me with 45 rolls 🙂

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