How I got the shot: photographer Ben Weller on capturing Kyoto’s live music scene

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travel photography

Introduction:
In collaboration with National Geographic Traveller (UK), we had the opportunity to speak with photographer Ben Weller about his experience capturing the vibrant music scene in Kyoto, Japan. Weller shares his insights on the image he captured, the challenges he faced, and offers advice for aspiring travel photographers.

The Shot: Roccon at Socrates
Weller introduces us to the image featuring the punk duo Roccon performing at Socrates, an underground music venue in Kyoto. Commissioned for a City Life feature on Kyoto’s music scene, Weller aimed to convey the raw energy and passion of the artists. By shooting from a low angle and utilizing a wide lens, he immersed readers in the lively atmosphere of the underground club.

Equipment Used:
Weller discusses his choice of gear, employing two Fujifilm mirrorless cameras—the X-H2 and X-H2s. Equipped with a wide, fast prime lens on the X-H2 and a zoom lens with a speedlight flash on the X-H2s, he experimented with long exposures and flashes to achieve a psychedelic, electric feel. Despite the high ISO setting resulting in noise, Weller skillfully processed the image using DxO Pure RAW software.

Considerations for Public Event Photography:
Weller emphasizes the importance of obtaining permission and agreements before shooting at public events. He highlights the significance of building relationships and taking the time to establish contact with venue owners and musicians. By doing so, he secured permission and a free ticket to the show, ensuring a successful shoot.

Challenges and Solutions:
The dark and constantly changing lighting conditions posed a challenge for Weller. To overcome this, he opted for manual exposure, allowing him to control the camera settings and capture the action effectively. By pre-setting his camera, he could focus on anticipating great shots amidst the dynamic atmosphere.

Advice for Aspiring Travel Photographers:
Weller advises aspiring travel photographers to approach their surroundings with a keen eye, capturing the essence of a place through its people, culture, and unique sounds. By carefully observing and seizing moments that tell a story, photographers can build a diverse portfolio showcasing their abilities. He encourages photographers to explore their hometowns and construct narratives that reflect their vision and creativity.

The Significance of the Assignment:
While Weller had visited Kyoto numerous times, this assignment introduced him to an unexplored facet of the city—the underground music scene. He credits writer Daniel Stables for uncovering this angle, rekindling the excitement that initially drew him to photography. The assignment allowed him to fuse his passion for live shows with travel photography, creating a captivating visual narrative.

Conclusion:
To delve deeper into Ben Weller’s photographic journey through Kyoto’s music scene, including the full shoot and interview, readers can visit the online publication. The June 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) features his work, providing a captivating glimpse into the vibrant underground culture of Kyoto.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about travel photography

What was the inspiration behind capturing the live music scene in Kyoto?

The inspiration came from a City Life feature on Kyoto’s music scene, written by Daniel Stables. The aim was to explore the streets, visit clubs, and capture the gritty, raucous vibe that pulsates through the article.

What did the photographer want to convey through the captured image?

The photographer aimed to convey the energy, ferocity of sound, and passion of the artists in the image. By shooting from a low angle and utilizing a wide lens, he wanted readers to feel immersed in the underground club, experiencing the powerful presence of the performers and the intense sound blasting from the amps.

What equipment did the photographer use for this shoot?

The photographer used two Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, the X-H2 and X-H2s. He had a wide, fast prime lens on the X-H2 and a zoom lens with a speedlight flash on the X-H2s. The combination allowed him to experiment with long exposures, flashes, and available light to capture the psychedelic, electric feel of the scene.

What considerations should photographers keep in mind when shooting public events like this?

Photographers should not just show up and expect to be able to shoot. It is important to take the time to make contact with event organizers, venue owners, or musicians, and obtain the necessary permissions and agreements. Building relationships and establishing connections will greatly contribute to a successful shoot.

What were the challenges faced by the photographer during this shoot?

The club had dark and constantly changing lighting conditions, which required the photographer to shoot in manual exposure mode. The photographer had to pre-set the camera settings to anticipate good shots amidst the dynamic atmosphere. However, despite these challenges, he successfully captured the vibrant energy of the music scene.

Any advice for aspiring travel photographers?

The photographer advises aspiring travel photographers to really see and observe their surroundings, capturing the essence of a place through its people, culture, and unique sounds. By focusing on capturing moments and weaving them into a story, photographers can build a diverse portfolio that showcases their abilities. Exploring one’s own hometown is a great way to practice and develop their skills.

Was this assignment typical of the photographer’s career?

The photographer mentioned that although he had been to Kyoto multiple times, this assignment allowed him to discover a new side of the city—the underground music scene. It brought back the excitement that initially drew him to photography and merged his passion for live shows with travel photography, making it a unique and fulfilling experience.

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5 comments

JohnDoe87 June 7, 2023 - 12:14 pm

Wow, what an amazing article! I never knew Kyoto had such a vibrant music scene. The photographer, Ben Weller, did a great job capturing the energy and passion of the artists. Can’t wait to see more of his work!

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TravelAddict22 June 7, 2023 - 12:14 pm

This is a super cool piece about travel photograpy. I loved the way Ben Weller described the challenges he faced in shooting the live music scene in Kyoto. It’s inspiring to see how he overcame the dark lighting and captured the raw energy. Definitely gonna try his tips!

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WanderlustFanatic June 7, 2023 - 12:14 pm

Kyoto’s underground music scene?! Who knew?! Thanks to Daniel Stables and Ben Weller, we get a glimpse into this hidden gem. I love how Ben emphasized the importance of building relationships when shooting public events. Great advice for all budding photographers!

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PhotoEnthusiast June 7, 2023 - 12:14 pm

This article on travel photography is a must-read! Ben Weller’s experience shooting the punk outfit Roccon at Socrates is exhilarating. The way he described the gear he used and the settings he adjusted gives me a better understanding of capturing live shows. I’m inspired to improve my own skills!

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GlobetrotterJane June 7, 2023 - 12:14 pm

Kyoto is now on my travel bucket list! Thanks to Ben Weller’s stunning photography, I can feel the energy and passion of the music scene right through the screen. His advice for aspiring travel photographers is so valuable. Time to grab my camera and explore my own hometown!

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