I’m Unashamedly a Photographer Suffering from Gear Acquisition Syndrome

I’m an amateur photo-hobbyist living in Tokyo, Japan. I picked up photography around 3 years ago, thinking I could jump into a new realm of the world that I’ve never understood before. Prior to picking up a camera, I was a normal college undergrad who put studying first before most of my hobbies; however, photography taught me that I should cherish the people and the moments around me and try to remember them especially as a foreigner living in a wonderful place like Japan.

I am unashamedly a man “suffering” from G.A.S., and I shoot with whatever I find interesting within my range of affordability. This came in the forms of Nikon D810 (and D800, D750, Df etc.), Canon 5D Mark III (and IV), Fujifilm X-Pro2 (and X-T1) all the way to Hasselblad 500C/M, Pentacon Six TL, Nikon F3 and many other cameras.

Currently I am shooting with a Sony A7 Mark II, with lenses that include the FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, FE 85mm F1.4 GM, FE 35mm F1.4 ZA, and FE 28mm F2. I recently downgraded from the A7R Mark II to this camera to purchase more lenses, and I am looking forward to the imminent release of the A7 Mark III to upgrade again. For film I use mainly use Portra 400 for the great skin tones, but I will also shoot Fuji 400H if I need that gorgeous cyan tint (though sometimes I do ask my developer to remove that tint). I generally shoot portraits (documentary, cosplay, family photos etc.), but I also have a great interest in street photography. I just cannot give up shooting street in such a photogenic place like Japan. I would like to dive into landscapes and such, but I still need to work on some post-processing techniques.

Why did you get into photography?

I got into photography to get away from the noises from everyday life, and to find something that I could express myself with freely while also having creative-control over what I want to do. I’ve been so focused on studying for the past decade of my life, trying very hard to fit into society, but I think my personality was never fully in display with what I tried to accomplish. Photography became my escape as well as my tool for reconnecting with the world.

What photographers are your biggest influences?

Mainly Japanese photographers. Including Hideaki Hamada, Hirofumi Nagano, Kojiro Hosoi, Seiya Nakai and many more.

How long have you been shooting?

I started shooting 3 years ago when I was a sophomore in college. I picked up a Nikon Df and a AF 35mm F2D and have thus never looked back.

Why is photography and shooting so important to you?

As explained earlier, photography became something that I cannot be separated from anymore. It is now my most focused hobby that I still eagerly want to get better at everyday.

Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

This is an interesting question. I guess I have always looked at myself as more of a documenter who records moments. This doesn’t mean I see these two roles being totally separated from one another, but if I have to be specific, I would say a documenter.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images?

Nothing, really. I shoot instinctively and try not to get all the “rules of thirds” and all that into my mind when I shoot. That’s something I would like to study when I am off-shooting.

Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?

I have come to realize the importance of making peace with oneself. I have had days where I shot many photographs that I thought was great on the back-of-the-screen, only to find them disappointing afterwards on the print or on the computer screen. I have thus always told myself that I should go in-and-out of every shoot feeling open-minded and always strive for better when I have time.

Want to walk us through your processing techniques?
I edit with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for my digital pictures. I must admit I’m not that good at post-processing, but I do watch a lot of tutorials online to learn new techniques.

For film, I send them to local developers I trust and I always discuss with them through about what I want my pictures to be like.

What made you want to get into your genre?

Like many, I have a loved-one who enjoys her photos to be taken. This pushed me to take portraiture very seriously.

Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision
I have juggled between mirrorless and DSLRs. I find both very necessary for how I shoot, and I shoot differently when I use different styles of cameras. I shoot very sporadically and I don’t like a lot of pausing and shooting, so I ask a lot from my cameras for AF and good pace.

DSLRs, obviously, have been helping me to get my job done in terms of offering excellent AF and low-lag time. But they are just too big for me to go out on dates.

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, are small and light. The Sony A7 series of cameras have been an enlightenment, giving me great IQ in small packages. I would like a joystick and much less latency in later models though, it does seem more sluggish than a lot of DSLRs out there. A9 seems great, but I can’t afford it unfortunately.

What motivates you to shoot?

Honestly? My girlfriend. There’s nothing much to say here. I don’t have a personally guru or inspirational quotes to motivate my photography. My girlfriend shares her opinions with me about what I do, and I always try to impress her. That’s about it.

Be sure to check out Michael’s Instagram for more.