Nature photography in Tokyo
In June 2014, the Japanese nature photographer Kunito Imai reported on his wanderings through the green oases of Tokyo, delighting readers with his stunning images. We talked to Kunito again and asked him how his photography has developed in the last few years.
“I still live in Tokyo but I’ve moved,” begins Kunito, who found his way back to nature photography three years ago after first experiencing this genre in the 1980s. “I live near a pond. There are a lot of birds and flowers and now I can even take photographs early in the morning before I go to work.” Kunito, who works in an administrative function, spends the weekends on his hobby. He heads to the botanical gardens and nature parks located throughout the city, places that form an endless source of inspiration and motifs for him. His travels are also dominated by nature photography. At least once a year he travels outside Japan, always to a special destination: he flies to Taiwan to photograph rare water lilies.
For a long time I thought you couldn’t make good photos in the rain – until I shot this image of water lily
“Since our last conversation I have gained lots of experience,” says Kunito, explaining his working method. “It’s getting easier to recognize small nuances of light or good locations. On the whole, I can now judge situations better, and as a result I have more opportunities to make good photographs.” As an example, he mentions a picture with water lily. “For a long time I thought you couldn’t make good photos in the rain – until I shot this image of water lily. The blossom is glowing, while the dark leaves give the image a somewhat dramatic look,” comments Kunito. In the same breath, he praises the advantages of his ZEISS Makro-Planar T* 2/100. “It’s not only an excellent macro lens; I also use it every now and then as a telephoto lens. The color rendition is so impressive.” Kunito does not use a tripod, as he finds the set-up too time-consuming.
You can only try to be part of nature and do what is possible in that particular situation.
The biggest challenge in nature photography, according to Kunito, is the constantly changing conditions. “The light changes constantly. So does the direction of the wind. You have to be very flexible and sometimes make fast decisions and simply realize that, in the end, you can’t really control anything,” he says, describing his philosophy. “You can only try to be part of nature and do what is possible in that particular situation. And then be very happy if you get good results.”
But nature follows certain cycles and even if many of Kunito’s images are created spontaneously, the seasons play an important role in planning his nature photography. “If the end of the year approaches and I am not completely satisfied with my results, then I know that I can do a better job in the next year. That’s very exciting to me.” When photographing animals, more detailed planning is often required. For example, the mating period for the Forest green tree frog lasts around four weeks. During this period, Kunito regularly visits the places where these animals prefer to stay.
For Kunito, a subtle atmosphere created by light and, of course, colors are among the most important factors in creating a good picture, which is why he likes using ZEISS lenses. “Often, nature photos are strongly oversaturated. Then the colors look unnatural and I don’t like that at all. With ZEISS lenses, it’s different. Above all, I like the representation of primary colors, especially red. Also, the images are sharp with clearly visible details. For these reasons, the lenses are not only excellent for taking realistic images, but also images with an artistic approach.” Kunito meanwhile uses a whole range of ZEISS lenses. His equipment includes the Distagon T* 2/25, a Distagon T* 2/35, a Makro-Planar T* 2/100, an Otus 1.4/85 and an Apo-Sonnar T* 2/135. But his absolute favorite lens is the Makro-Planar T* 2/50: “It’s not only the ultimate macro lens, but a real all-rounder: easy to operate with outstanding imaging quality,” underlines the 44-year-old. “If I were allowed to take just one lens with me to a remote island, it would certainly be this one.”
Series: Nature Photography 1/3
About Kunito Imai
Kunito Imai, born 1971, lives in Tokyo and works for the local government. After a long break from photography, he now devotes all his free time and his travels to nature photography. He particularly likes to visit gardens and parks in Tokyo, where he searches for motifs in these green oases.