Born in Tokyo in 1958. Graduated from the Department of Journalism (Newspaper/Printed Media), Nihon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. As a step towards reaching his aim of participating in the Paris-Dakar Rally, he made his first journey across the Australian Outback by a motorcycle, and instead discovered a passion for the Australian continent. Currently a free-lance photographer, Aihara is also active as a “Friend of Tasmania” (goodwill ambassador). Works by the renowned photographer have been exhibited in shows in Australia, Europe and around Asia.
*“Sharaku” literally means the “fun of photography” and is also the name of a master of ukiyoe woodblock prints in the late 1700s, famed for his portraits of kabuki actors.
I spend about 70% of the year in Australia, capturing the beauty of its deserts and jungles. Since I first visited Australia as a student, I have been captivated by that country. I think that today many equate my name Aihara with Australia.
But the image that came to mind when I first held the X100 was a pot-belly stove heated passenger train in winter in Japan – the emotion-packed scene of a rural train line in snow country that only can be experienced in Japan. With the X100, I felt that I could reproduce native Japanese scenes in black and white tones just as I envisage them. In order to enjoy my brief holiday in Japan, I traveled to Tohoku and Hokkaido with the X100 in hand. Taking photos is fun. And because it is enjoyable, you want to do it again and again. Thus begins my “Sharaku” journey.
You can’t enjoy travel without new encounters. On the stove-heated train that I had been looking forward to experiencing, I became acquainted with 2 women travel companions as we grilled and snacked on surume (dried cuttlefish) on the pot-bellied stove. I decided to try a few shots and pointed the lens of the X100 in their direction.
With protestations of “What? Are you going to take our picture?”, they turned kind smiles in my direction. They were very natural. Great smiles. And as I continued taking pictures, our conversation became even more lively.
Usually I mainly shoot with an SLR camera, but when I turn my camera on a subject, I am met by an exaggerated expression, a stiff face, or perhaps a question like, “Are you covering some news?” However, the X100 is different. When I turn its lens on a subject, the face remains just as it is, letting me release shutter and capture the shot I want.
Also when I pull back for a shot, X100 lets me capture a photo with everyone not paying attention to the camera and looking quite natural. If everyone were looking at the camera, it would not be a snapshot, but as you can see here, I was able to capture the homey relaxed atmosphere in the train carriage.
While some may stress techniques like “snaps are best taken with an XXmm lens” or “this type of scene is what makes a great snapshot”, the most important thing to remember is not to destroy the atmosphere of the scene. Having a camera that blends with the surroundings is vital. X100 indeed becomes a part of the setting of the stove-heated train interior.
The interior of the local train line was rocking even more than I expected. Of course, the greater the rocking, the greater the possibility of blurry results. In order to get a sharply focused photo under such circumstances, it is, of course, better to use a faster shutter speed. And because I want to beautifully reproduce the color and “bokeh” effect gradations, I want to avoid increasing sensitivity as much as possible.
The maximum aperture value of the X100 is F2.0. With X100’s F2.0, I did not feel that sense of regret that happens when you use an F2.8 aperture and wish you had one more stop so you could shoot at a faster shutter speed.
Not only in the tight confines of the rural train, but also in the backstreets of an unfamiliar city or dimly lit interior of Australian pub, the brightness of the lens will be a helpful edge for my photography. Moreover, because it is compact and light, there is no need to call it day because you are tired from lugging around a heavy camera and equipment. With X100, your scope of photographic possibilities expands.