Library of Inspiration

Defying Gravity

Whether it is hurdling down the runway for takeoff, defying gravity as it powers into the air, or screeching down to a halt, Takahiro Bessho is there to capture it all. Apprehending synthetic elements within nature has been the focal point of his premises. Takahiro thrives to capture beautiful landscapes but particularly favors scenes where both man and nature merge; a catalyst to his work. From a garden skillfully constructed, mirroring autumn in Kyoto, to the way light shines, baring a runway at sunset; his inspiration comes from natural settings that linger imprints of manmade creations.

“I see myself as a half landscape photographer and the other half to be similar to what they describe as an impressionist in painting. I want to express both the actual scenery and my own ambience in a photograph. That is why even if the photos are subjected to landscapes, it will reflect my personal image of the scenery, or a scene I have seen in a dream.”

His dedication for photography has led his photos to be widely acknowledged in the photography world. With no prior experience, Takahiro became interested in the field when he bought his first camera 5 years ago.

“Right around the time DSLR was starting to become very popular in Japan I got whirled into the hype. However, the used camera I purchased was half-broken where, one out of three times, the shutter would not release. It was very frustrating shooting with the broken camera because I could never take photos properly and I kept missing the opportunity to take good shots over and over again.”

“I then purchased a D800 which was the ultimate motivation to start photography seriously. Since I spent a costly amount for the camera, I thought it would be a waste if I did not take photos that were worth the price of it. I took countless amount of pictures and while doing so, I naturally became devoted to photography.”

Takahiro’s fascination with aviation photography started 3 years ago when he purchased the D800 and high quality lenses to reach maximum capability and control.

“My must haves for my kit are the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED and AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II. Especially with the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, even though I think I may not use it, I still take it with me. Even in areas where entry is restricted, you can manage to take shots using the telephoto lens.”

“I also make sure I take a wide-angle single focus lens of either the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G or AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED. In harsh conditions where there is hardly any light, and in places you can’t use tripods, for example the Temples in Kyoto at night, you definitely need a bright lens. I also take my fisheye lens with me; the lens distinct curve can be used to break out of the usual images were used to seeing.”

His photos take flight as every step is precisely thought through. When it comes to scenery, Takahiro says, the chances of capturing the right moment is very vague. Having a camera with good lenses is not enough to make a person a good photographer, he stresses, the key is careful precision. Simulation, preparation and persistence are essential factors when wanting to capture the perfect moment.

“This is the greatest difficulty that us photographers need to overcome. I have to be well prepared, or I risk the chance of taking the perfect shot when the opportunity comes. The most important factor is perseverance. The opportunity to take a good photo with landscape photography is very demanding. Nature, planes and fireworks all do not appear at the exact timing, as you desire. Which means to capture those exact beautiful moments, you need to stand by and wait for hours and at times, you need to carry the equipment and move frequently. To be able to do that, you need endurance.”

His impulse to capture images of airplanes at a moving force tells us much about his role in photography and his constant desire to distil these adrenaline-riddled moments into images. He has recently been focusing on taking shoots at night.

“The set up for a shoot shifts during different times of the day. Even the set up for takeoff and landing shots are different. Recently, I have been primarily focusing on takeoff shots at night, based on the premise that the plane will stop. At the place where I normally shoot, the plane takes off at a distance between 400mm to 500mm at 35mm full size. First, it starts with placing the focus precisely on the right spot, then changing the ISO gradually from 64 to 400 to adjust to the brightness of the sky.”

“At twilight it is set between 64 to 200, and at nautical twilight it is between 200 to 400 ISO. Generally, the aperture stays at maximum. But if it’s a very bright lens, the depth of field becomes too narrow so it is maintained at f/4 to f/5.6. With this setting, to shoot the plane in the dark on a dim runway, you need to at least have the shutter opened for 5 seconds. Depending on the state of the airplane, the bulb mode is generally set up to be on 5 to 10 seconds on the runway or when the sky is dark. Taking landing shots is much more difficult compared to the takeoff shots because of the aircraft’s force plunging through at an enormous speed.”

“The ISO needs to be at least over 4000, or at times set at 12800 or 25600, depending on the situation. This is because I want to maintain the shutter speed at 1/120. Assuming I’ve correctly calculated where the plane will land, my aperture is set at maximum. If the aperture is minimized even so lightly, the shutter speed and ISO will be at its worst state, so I use the aperture of the camera. Then once the plane pulls in where I placed my focus, I leave it at burst mode to take continuous shots while keeping the button pressed, until it stops at its full capacity. Compared to the settings for plane shots at night, the day shots are much easier.”

“The only thing I need to think about is what type of lens I need to use. I can even just leave it on Auto mode and switch between lenses depending on the subject I am shooting. When taking photos of people looking at the plane flying above, I recommend using a wide-angle lens less than 24mm, but to take the actual plane in the sky, a telephoto lens that is more than 70mm is needed. Whether it is people or the plane as your main focus, what you need to think about is the composition and the balance of the picture, using your imagination and creativity to take the best shot.”

Takahiro says his most memorable moment was when he was chosen as one of the top ten best photographers by the Tokyo Camera Club, the largest photography group in Japan.

“My photos were amongst the 10 of 22 million photos that were selected. The likelihood of my shots being chosen was extremely low; this was a huge honor. That feeling of utter joy will always stick with me. I also won a photo contest for Nikkor Club. Being recognized for my work has brought me great pride.”

About Takahiro

Takahiro Bessho, a university professor in Japan, first laid hands on a camera 5 years ago with no prior experience. His journey began when he started posting photos on a social media group called Tokyo Camera Club. Just a year later, he was selected as one of the ten best photographers in Japan. He takes photographs of landscapes in Kansai, mainly focusing on Shiga and Kyoto. He likes to take photos of vibrant colors of beautiful objects like planes, fireworks, autumn leaves and cherry blossoms.