Once in a while, we receive a unique request for a photo adventure—typically a request for access to a unique place such as Nakagin Capsule Tower, but sometimes the request is centered around a particular project or shooting style. For example, some years ago there was Damien Drew with his search for Wabi-sabi in the old and decaying districts of Tokyo. Well, a few weeks ago, we received one such unique request: scout locations for shooting 360° photos (and video) of Tokyo.
We were contacted by 360° photographer Peter Van den Wyngaert, founder of Little Planet. It turned out he was in town for the IVRPA 360° Photography Convention being held in Tokyo. Not one to miss an excellent shooting opportunity, Peter tasked EYExplore to take him to few hidden locations (not the usual famous spots) while still offering a view of interesting Tokyo landmarks. However, the most important stipulation was that each spot offered a true 360° view, meaning that balconies and windows were out—it had to be rooftops—which naturally let Peter to express interest in our Tokyo Vertigo photo workshop.
With all this in mind, I got to thinking and scouting. Having spent a lot of my own time on rooftops all around Tokyo, I quickly thought of a few candidate shooting locations, however I could not be sure if the spots would work for Peter’s 360° photo setup as we usually shoot in only one direction at a time. So, I had spent a few nights revisiting some of my less-traveled spots to confirm that they would work well. In fact, we skipped all of the usual locations we do on Tokyo Vertigo as they were not in line with Peter’s creative goals. After a night of scouting I narrowed down my list and confirmed the final details with Peter.
Peter had told us in advance what kind of kit he would be using, but it wasn’t until the night of our photo adventure that I got a real handle on his elaborate setup: a large and tripod equipped with a mount for a carbon fiber pole with the ability to extend up to 6 meters. Despite the strength of carbon fiber, at such a height the pole would flex, especially in the wind, so the solution was to attach guy wires to the head right under the camera mount and anchor them to the ends each of the tripod’s three legs. Once extended the whole thing looked more like a radio mast than a camera set up.
The rig is topped with either a very high resolution SLR—Canon 5Ds with 8-15mm fisheye lens—for shooting photos, or a GoPro Fusion for 4k 360° video, or even a GoPro Omni (complete with 6 GoPro Hero 4’s) for shooting 360° video in 8k. Whichever camera was mounted to the rig it looked like an expensive ornament atop a carbon fiber Christmas tree.
I wanted to impress Peter right off the bat, so after picking him up at his hotel we took a taxi to a location that offers a splendid view of Tokyo Tower. The tower was not lit in its typical fully illuminated orange and white. Rather, it was adorned with small blue lights at the vertices of its structure, red-lit at the base, and topped with its usual bright glow at its highest reaches. It was quite impressive against the night sky. Peter erected his setup in no time and immediately got to shooting. It turned out that this first spot was a slam dunk, as Peter was awarded in the Futurescape category for this image at the IVRPA Tokyo 2018 Google Street View Challenge (he also won two more awards, which made him the Grand Prize winner).
On a typical Tokyo Vertigo, my job is not only to lead our clients to hidden vantage points, but also to give guidance on camera settings and to coach them on composition. In the case of a 360° photo, composition is a moot point as the goal is to capture 100% of everything in every direction. And regarding settings, Peter is a consummate professional, so there was little need for my input on camera settings. Of course, to offer my support, I held equipment, helped carry the 6-meter pole, and shined a flash light on Peter’s kit bag in the darkness of the rooftops—anything it takes to make the experience smooth for any photographer booking with us.
After a couple rooftop spots, Peter wanted to find a location that included lots of motion. I had another rooftop planned, but it did not fit the bill, so instead we made our way to the middle of Kabukicho and set up on the median where Peter shot photos as well as 360° timelapse video, wrapping up around midnight.
Overall, the evening was a success and Peter was quite happy with the locations and results. Before parting ways, I offered one more location that might be of interest to Peter: the newly opened observation deck at on top of Magnet by Shibuya109. The place just started operation in late April—so few people know about it—and at the very least I thought Peter should check it out. We shook hands and parted ways, but Peter was not done with EYExplore’s services just yet!
A few days later we received another email from Peter. He had gone to the Shibuya crossing shooting location, but—unsurprisingly—the staff at Magnet were not very keen on allowing a random photographer appearing out of nowhere and setting up a tripod and 6-meter pole. Due to the language barrier, Peter could not really get across what exactly he wanted to do, and that it would be done safely and at no inconvenience to the establishment’s clientele. So, once again Peter called on us to arrange a shoot. At this point, my colleague Axel sprang into action, contacting the venue and making his way up the chain of command until finally he was able to get in touch with Magnet’s PR agency. After some negotiation and many assurances, we were able to get Peter 30 minutes of unfettered shooting with his setup. And the result speaks for itself!
Peter is a professional photographer for hire, specializing in 360° photography, 360˚ timelapse videos, and VR content. You can admire his work and reach out to him via these channels:
Check out the Shibuya Crossing View 360˚ Photo in it’s full size here and you can also see the Shibuya Crossing in 8k 360˚ Video on Peter’s YouTube channel.