Haiku in the viewfinder
Kunito Imai is fond of animals and plants. In and around Tokyo he regularly searches out a small area of nature that he can capture in pictures using ZEISS lenses.
His motifs reflect the changing light of the seasons. Portraits of primates, still lifes of flower petals, alluring macro photos — for Imai it is the haiku, the Japanese short poetry form, that forms the common element.
Kunito Imai lives in the center of Tokyo. For a nature photographer, it’s not exactly the ideal location to live in. So when he’s not away traveling, Imai wakes up early and drives in the morning sunlight to his favorite green areas in and around the Japanese capital. “I know exactly which plants and animals I can find where. Depending on the season, I go to a different place and select the appropriate motifs. When I get there, I like to work spontaneously. It’s a bit like composing a haiku poem, in which I capture the natural changes during the year and boil it down to just three syllables. This picture of the macaque, for example, was taken in February at the hot springs of Jigokudani, Nagano, the world’s only ‘wellness area’ for wild monkeys. I really like the animal‘s facial expression. And with the ZEISS lens I was able to capture every detail of its fur, including the drops of condensed water in his coat.”
During the 1980s, Imai‘s father was often in Germany for business. On one occasion he brought back a special souvenir: a set of ZEISS binoculars. At the time, Kunito Imai didn’t know what was so special about them, but the name ZEISS had already made a stamp in his mind. When he took up photography in his youth and dreamed of becoming a nature photographer, at first he used the lenses of other manufacturers. It was only later that ZEISS re-entered his life: last year, after a long break, he began to photograph again, devoting himself to nature and purchasing a Makro-Planar T* 2/50. He was so enthusiastic about his experiences photographing nature and using this lens that he added the Makro-Planar T* 2/100 to his portfolio. Imai also owns the Distagon T* 2/35.
“I never regretted for a moment the decision to devote myself to nature and photography again. I constantly find motifs that have a special effect on me, such as this one of a leaf. It was the middle of winter, a rather boring time of year for nature photographers. I was up early and the sun was rising. Without too much thought, I took a picture of this ‘dying leaf’. It was only when I looked at the photo on the display that I was surprised: I had not expected such an appealing bokeh.” The word ‘bokeh’ comes from the Japanese word for ‘not sharp’ or ‘blurred’ — just one more reason for Imai to pay special attention to this stylistic element. Especially in macro photography, with its small depth of field, the out-of-focus areas in the background play an important role. And it is for that reason that Imai values the special look ZEISS lenses create.
“Normally I stop down both Makro-Planar lenses to f/5.6. In my opinion, it is with this setting that you achieve the best compromise between bokeh and sharpness. The small praying mantis, for example, has a very unconventional effect in front of the intense green-yellow bokeh of the meadow of flowers in the background. Sometimes I increase the aperture to f/2, but you can’t always be that daring.”
Despite the focus on the background, the main motif should also not be neglected. Details and colors, those are the things that really matter to Kunito Imai: “I really enjoy taking pictures of the colors in nature with a ZEISS lens. They are vivid, even downright sensual. The imaging performance is particularly evident with backlight. On top of that, I like the outstanding sharpness of ZEISS lenses. When I took this picture of the rare Forest green tree frog, it was already dusk. But with the Makro-Planar T* 2/50, I was still able to get a good shot. The receding daylight, combined with all the details you can see in the frog’s eyes, is just wonderful. Another example: the morning glory was not directly illuminated by the sun, yet it still seems to glow with light. I was fascinated by the colors and richness of detail. All of a sudden, a bee flew into the flower blossom; every single grain of pollen can be clearly distinguished. Finally, I just want to say that both Makro-Planar lenses have become absolutely indispensable for me as a nature photographer.”
About Kunito Imai
Kunito Imai lives in Tokyo and works for the local administration. He spends his free time photographing nature with passion. Even in the middle of the metropolis, he constantly searches for a bit of nature that can provide sufficient motifs for him to unleash his creativity. It’s only natural on facebook