• Jason Halayko

Getting Ideas Out of My Brain (Flatland BMX)

Many months ago I saw an image on Instagram of a wooden lookout tower somewhere out in the unknown countryside of Japan. It was a unique design and something I have not seen elsewhere. However, it was not the outside of the tower I was interested in, but the inside. It was hard to tell in the photo I saw, but I thought there might be just enough room to get a flatland BMX rider inside and do some cool shots from above, from inside the tower.

Now I should point out that the photo I originally saw had no name of the tower or location, and even after doing several reverse image searches on Google I couldn't for the life of me find the name of the tower. With little initial luck I ended up putting the idea to the back of my mind and move forward with other more pressing projects and jobs, but I never totally gave up on the idea of the shoot.

Fast forward through a very busy first few months of the year and out of the blue I see the picture of the tower pop up on my Instagram feed yet again! By this time work had slowed down a bit so I decided to hit the internet again and see if I could find my wooden tower. But alas, every internet search I did came up with NOTHING! Fearing I would never find it on my own I took the quest to Facebook, and asked my 1,983 "close friends" if anyone had any idea where this place might be. And what do you know, what I couldn't find through months of looking online was tossed to me 10mins after asking on Facebook. Thank you Facebook friends!!!

So now I knew where my tower had been hiding all this time, and look at that, its only a couple hours from Tokyo!! With this new information in hand I contacted my good friend and local flatland rider Kitayama Tsutomu, and a few days later we were off on our adventure to find my wooden tower and get some cool photos!

Being the "on the fly" kind of guy I am, and the fact that public transit is amazingly good here in Japan, I didn't really bother to do more than a quick google maps search for the spot, so imagine my surprise when we arrived at the local train station and found the only bus to the spot ran but 3 or 4 times a day...and the next one was not for another 4hs... TAXI!!

Now don't get me wrong, I am by no ways a rich man, and this shooting was entirely for fun, so dropping $50 on a taxi to get to some mysterious wooden tower I wasn't even 100% sure we could shoot in was not my first option. But we had come a hour out of Tokyo by train already (an actually super fun ride as me and Tsutomu played PUBG Mobile the whole ride) and I wasn't about to turn around without at least getting to the spot and seeing it in person.

SO now we are in a Japanese taxi going through some pretty rural roads, and eventually heading up a one lane road into the mountains. It was actually a really nice ride, and I aways enjoy getting out into the countryside when I can, especially after moving to Tokyo.

Arriving at the spot I could see the tower off in the distance as soon as we exited the taxi. It looked exactly as I thought from the outside, but what would it look from the inside? With an excited feeling I made my way to the tower, and was happy to see it was in great shape and looked quite nice. At first me and Tsutomu checked the floor in the middle, and I was super happy to see that it was flat enough for Tsutomu to ride, and clean enough that we didn't have to spend any time cleaning the place up.

From there I ran up the tower to see what I could see from the top down. I knew generally what kind of image I wanted to take, but you never really know what you are going to do until you are standing right there looking at your location in person. After taking a few test shots without Tsutomu riding I noticed that by using my 24-70mm lens zoomed right out to 24mm and holding it right above the middle of the floor, which killed my shoulders after a while, I was able to get this kind of cool S curve composition from the set of stairs going up and down the tower. Cool beans! Not what I was thinking of doing before going, but it looked better than my original idea so I stuck with it.

To add a little pop of light onto Tsutomu I placed my Broncolor SirosL 800 just outside the entrance of the middle area, making sure to not make it too strong and "flashy" while still adding a touch of light to the scene. Without the flash Tsutomu was quite flat and hard to make out, but the flash really helped to make him pop out against the stone floor. These Siros L 800s can be heavy, but I am super happy I made the effort to bring them with me on this outing.

After an hour or so of working on different tricks, trying to find one that would look the best and easiest to understand from directly above, we got the image you see here. I must say I am quite happy with how this turned out, and very happy we made the effort to head up and try to get a photo. Now that I finally got this idea out of my head its time to try some other ideas I have now and see if they work out just as good!

Finally, once we had the photo I initially wanted to take we started playing around a bit at the base of the tower, getting some different action angles with the fish-eye and some portraits. It always good to try different things, as time allows, even after you have "the shot". You never know what you will get, and shooting is so fun why stop at just one cool picture! Cheers!

Please enjoy a couple more images from the day below.


Jason Halayko  I  Tokyo, Japan  I  

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