Tokyo Skyline – Dealing with time travel

The interesting thing about hurling your body from one side of the planet to the other is that your body clock gets out of synch with the solar day. From France to Tokyo is about a 12 hour flight, but it is also about ten hours further around the globe. Novelist William Gibson referred to jet lag as waiting for your soul to catch up. And it can feel like that!

So how do you deal with it? Well, there are the practical things like ‘drink lots of water’ or ‘stay awake until dark’ – which is generally good advice. And I do all those things and usually adjust within a couple of days. In the meantime you have a wonderful opportunity to take photos that no-one else is awake for.

If your body is ten hours out, you will be quite nocturnal for a while. And let’s face it, late night TV is pretty boring – especially if you can’t understand a word of it. So you look out the window.

In our case, we were on the 16th floor of a hotel and had a great view over the city. This is a great opportunity to take a time series around the day-night cycle. And it goes like this:

First, you’ve unpacked, found some green tea or milk for your coffee, and it’s now late-ish afternoon.

Tokyo afternoon

Tokyo afternoon

Then you have some dinner and lie down exhausted at sun down. By now you are talking gibberish and – in the case of Tokyo – struggling to comprehend the fast array of controls that operate the loo. By 8.pm you are asleep.

You wake at 1.00AM and your body is refreshed and ready for the…um… day. Even in Tokyo the shops are closed. It’s time for a glass of water – while the light streams in the window from the myriad lights stretching off to the horizon. Time to grab the camera.

Tokyo night

Tokyo night

Don’t forget the circular polarising filter – otherwise you will take great shots of your room reflected in the window. The filter won’t get rid of all reflections, but it will enable you to reduce them. Turn off the room lights – all of them if possible, after setting up your tripod and attaching the remote trigger – now you can do some long exposures and really pull out some detail from that amazing skyline.

Tokyo blimp

Tokyo blimp

Then you lie down again hoping to sleep some more.

Around 4.00AM you are wide awake again. Don’t waste it – grab the camera and check out the pre-dawn light. Now that makes it all worthwhile!

Tokyo dawn

Tokyo dawn

By 6.00AM you are ready to see the city come alive – take the camera and step outside for those big city, deserted streets shots. And the street sweepers, and the setting up of the market stalls and… the possibilities are endless. I’ll do another post on street photography soon 🙂

How do you deal with jet lag? Let me know in the comments 🙂


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