Shutter Advance
Jason Garcia - NYC + Tokyo

US West —> US East Coast + Japan = My Story

Almost thirty years ago, my starter camera was the Minolta X7a. That rig did what I needed it to do. Even though I aced my photography courses in school, growth was needed and I changed the way I looked at many things. Since then, I’ve used over a dozen cameras that were instrumental for gaining knowledge. My posts tell a bit about my thoughts and process for a particular excursion or moment. See my YouTube channel for content and other bits that will help you capture better images.

I’m Jason Garcia.
Welcome to my blog about how I shoot behind the lens and what’s captured in front of it. I have many stories to tell, so take a trip with me.

Nikko – Beautiful. Decay.

A couple hours from Tokyo, via the express train, Nikko offers some amazing sights and sounds. Not only were we able to marvel at all the historical treasures, but we had the fortune of seeing a fire ceremony performed by one of the priests in a temple. Pretty amazing. Alas, no photos of that. Another interesting observation that I had while walking the small and off-the-main-drag streets was how many houses and other buildings are vacant and decaying. Broken windows, doors, roofs, walls, and so much more. Overgrown weeds and grass hide houses like a camouflage blanket. If you don’t know, Japan has an aging population and it is very evident here. There is beauty, but there is also sorrow amongst the green hills.

Kurayami Matsuri in Fuchu – The Darkness Festival!

The Darkness Festival, or Kurayami Matsuri happens once a year in Fuchu City, Tokyo, and it was definitely a sight unlike I’ve ever seen before. I didn’t know the history of the festival or the shrine that it’s associated with, but after reading more, I have learned that the festival has roots to the 12th Century. Please learn more by clicking the link above. Click smaller images to enlarge.

I hope my photos tell a small tale of what it was like.

I tried to find that perfect photo! Ginza, you didn’t help.

Ginza is definitely hip, in an over-the-top, high-end, shop-till-you-drop way. Heh. Regardless, the skyline is pretty incredible. The signs, the lights, the architecture… it’s all pretty busy and I actually had a hard time trying to find that perfect photo. I wanted to take those “seldom-seen” photos, but I couldn’t find anything compelling, until I saw the angles in some of the storefronts and tops of the buildings.

640 – Speed: 1/80 – F/stop: 4.5

160 – Speed: 1/100 – F/stop: 4.1

Tengu called me this time. CRAZY!

Another trip to Kamakura led me to Kencho-Ji Temple which is the oldest Zen training monastery in Japan and constructed in the 13th century. Totally amazing! There were many amazing things to see and I tried hard to photograph the “sights unseen” as much as possible. The bamboo photo kind of depicts that. The little shack back there was hidden very well. Everyone concentrates on the the typical and overlooks many unusual things!

We decided to walk up the path towards the top of the mountain. It was getting harder and harder and I didn’t want to go on, but something told me to keep going. Around one of the corners was an amazing sight – a hillside gathering of Tengu statues. I was pretty freaked out (in a good way) because I love these mythological creatures. I took way too many photos.

Enjoy the video.

Get out of the city, but beware!

Shutter Advance - Tengu

The city of Tokyo is amazingly awesome, but sometimes I need to get away from it all and take in some nature. Thankfully I can take one train to Mt. Takao. It’s an hour away from the middle of Tokyo proper and super easy to get to.

Upon arrival, you’ll notice that it’s pretty quiet. Well, you’ve been sitting on a train that rumbles across the tracks (and you just came from the busiest train/subway station in the world. Ah Shinjuku.) Alas, upon arrival, you’ll exit the station (Takaosanguchi Station) and walk up the hill amongst little shops that sell trinkets and food. That short walk will guide you to a tram or ski lift that will take you to paved trails so you can visit ancient cedar trees, temples, and “protectors” of the forest and temples. Those “protectors” (Tengu) have an interesting history.

The photo here shows many O-mikuji (fortunes) that have been tied to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires in hopes to reverse a bad fortune. Not all O-mikuji are good and if you don’t receive a good fortune at the temple, tie it up and have the tree bear the bad luck for you.

Take a trip to Takaosan and take in beautiful sights and sounds, but beware of bad luck! Kidding. It’s all good.

I don’t like rock & roll. I love it.

I’ve seen a lot of bands and I’ve held that camera up to my face more times than I can count, but I always seem to have a good time. The best shots, in my viewfinder, show a bit of action and “flash trails”. Not all photographers like that action and many like super clean and crisp images. That’s just fine, but I really enjoy crafting my images differently. Flash. Set f/stop. Set ISO. Flexible shutter speed. And that shutter speed will help determine the amount of trails and “action.” Need more action? Reduce that speed. My recommendation? Flash + f5.6 + 200 ISO + 1/3 shutter. Move up to 1/5, etc. and see how the images change.

I always shoot in RAW file format and edit in Camera Raw. For the top two images I reduced the Highlights to a minimum (kept the Whites at 0), making the images pretty flat looking but keeps the texture of the shirts. I then opened them in Photoshop and adjusted levels. I brought my right slider (adjusting whites) to the left and adjusted the slider on the left (adjusting blacks) just a bit.

These are my preferred methods, and there’s no right or wrong way to do this. You have to treat each image differently. Do you need to dodge your mid-rage areas of the image? Are you going to burn certain areas to enhance others? Your take. Remember to enjoy this process! I demand it! 😉

Cherry Blossoms, Everywhere.

It’s cherry blossom season in Japan, so that means insane amounts of people trying to take the same photo. Well, that’s my perception at least. I live at ground zero for the viewing activities and sometimes one has to own up and just go down to the Meguro River, deal with the crowds, and see all the beauty that the blossoms behold.

I make a concerted effort to capture images that might be a little bit different. What’s going on around these little blossoms? There has to be wildlife, signage, or people doing crazy stuff in order to capture their special photo. Think differently. The river is teaming with waterfowl, reptiles, and avian, all waiting for their 10 seconds in your camera’s viewfinder.

This is the perfect time for you to think about composition and there’s also a serious source of depth of field going on. Think outside the box (I hate that term), but you must; Spend time looking at shadows, angles of the riverbank agains the curved branches, blossoms at the base of trees… all that.

You need to experience this amazing sight, so come during the week and early in the morning so you can miss the hoards of people. Here’s a map. Enjoy!

Shutter Advance isn’t just about that lever on your camera that helps move film onto the internal spool, it’s about advancing in the art of photography… a duality of sorts.

Not only do I describe how to take quality photos, but it’s a place for me to show you how other photographers view their subjects, what kind of gear they use, and what aids them in capturing a compelling image. As time goes by, I’ll be building the YouTube channel for just that. Stay tuned and don’t forget to drop me an email: contact-at-shutteradvance-dot-com

Kyoto, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 250

Speed: 3200

F/stop: 5.6

I recently read something about how one’s photographs shouldn’t just be beautiful, but timely images that should be compelling and should stand the test of time. That’s great advice, but don’t forget to have fun. Don’t get lost in the, “I have to create this type of image because it will be more persuasive and powerful.”

Like when you’re in Kyoto and see Geisha in training who is walking with a man who obviously doesn’t want to be seen… this photo has a lot of things wrong with it, but it has everything right with it. Look at the gal’s hands, the look on her face, and everything else around her. There’s a story there. Don’t forget to tell it.

Meiji Jingu Shrine –  Tokyo, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 160
Speed: 1600
F/stop: 3.5

ISO: 200
Speed: 60
F/stop: 4.2

ISO: 160
Speed: 640
F/stop: 4.5

The temperature in Tokyo was 72°F today. That meant I was bound and determined to get out, which I did.

I’ve been to Meiji Jingu before, but this time I explored a bit more and took paths and trails that very few people were on. There were hundreds of folks wandering around the main square of the shrine, and that’s fine, but I wanted to get away.

I encourage you to walk towards the center of the park so you can hear the crows in the enormous trees above and the doves in the leaves near your feet.

500 Rakan – Kawagoe, Tokyo, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 50

Speed: 240

F/stop: 2.0

The 500 Rakan in Kawagoe, Tokyo, Japan took my breath away. These were carved between 1782 and 1825 and no two are alike. I had the privilege of speaking with a gardener there and he described how they were made, what they stood for, and what are carved on them. Some are playing instruments, some are laying down, but most of all, the animals of the Junishi are carved on to twelve of them. Take a trip to this area, soak up the rich history, and find the statues.

Tokyo, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 200

Speed: 1/6

F/stop: 5.6

Tokyo has an insane music scene. You want it? Tokyo has it. I recently went to a club in Kichijoji to see a few bands. I was warmly greeted by the most awesome party band in the world! I mean it. Do you want to see a rockin’ good fun show? VM5 will give you just that. These people rocked it so hard!

Here, I’ve used my staple settings for live music. The only thing that changes is the speed. ISO and aperture stay the same… always. Want a crisper shot without the flares? Move that shutter speed up. I like the feel of action, so here I’m down to 1/6th of a second. Try it. You’ll like it.

In this video, you can actually see me taking shots at the show. How did I find this video? Ha!

Kanazawa, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 160

Speed: 80

F/stop: 5.2

Kanazawa, Japan, is so beautiful. I intend to go there when it’s sunny! Alas, I had a good time finding all sorts of stuff on the beach, including starfish, bits of pottery, sand dollars, and good ol’ sea glass.

Kanazawa obviously has a fishing industry and it was cool seeing this boat tied up a few meters from the sea.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, NYC

Camera: Canon 20D

ISO: 100

Speed: 250

F/stop: 6.3 (left) 7.1 (right)

Momentum Magazine asked me to capture images around North Brooklyn that were accessible to bicycles. I had a great time peddling all over Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, and other cool areas.

In these photos, you can see how I wanted to deliver different depth-of-field shots. What was important to the magazine, their logo on the bell or the bridge in the background? I left it up to them to choose.

I did a bit of post production for the publisher, but in the end, they edited the heck out of them anyway. These two shots I have edited myself so you can see what I like in an image. There’s room for copy, headline, etc. Your decisions behind the lens will help the designer, art director, and copywriter.

Governors Island, NYC

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 160

Speed: 500

F/stop: 9

Governors Island, in NYC, has a rich history. Before earning its current name in 1784, its canon fortifications helped deter British warships from navigating up the East River. The stories go on and on.

For me, I like to go there to get away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Take a walk up hills of grass and soak up 360° views of the harbor. There are countless photo ops there. When I saw this bird house, I had to get the right angle so that One World Trade was in the background. So fun.

Kyoto, Japan

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: various

Speed: various

F/stop: various

I didn’t leave much information about the speed and ISO about these images, mostly because I’d like you to focus on the composition. This whole session was shot in black & white. I didn’t want to edit color images and I wanted a “no going back” type of scenario. If your camera has a feature that allows you to shoot in black & white, try it out. You’ll look at situations much differently.

Remember rules of odds and thirds as well as framing. Composition is king.

In post edit, I brought out some whites and darkened shadows a bit. This helps bring out your subject matter. This is most evident in the photo on the right where it is framed nicely. Your eyes go to a particular area. Please click to enlarge.

James Beard House, NYC

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 160

Speed: 60

F/stop: 4

This is Christopher Newstrom, working hard at the James Beard House in New York City. The kitchen is super small and there’s not much room to move, but images can be found in the right place at the right time.

With so much aluminum in that kitchen, my flash was creating crazy highlights, so I used a diffuser while bouncing that light straight up.

Remember the Rule of Thirds in any occasion and wait for the right moment to grab that image. It can be tough, but be patient.

Cobra Ramen

Brooklyn, NYC, NY

Camera: Lumix DMC-G6

ISO: 3200, 2000, 1000 (kitchen) · 160 (table w/flash)

Speed: 40

F/stop: 5 · 3.5 (table)

A difficult situation will work out. You just have to tell yourself that. This was one of those difficult situations where my flash wasn’t doing what I needed it to do. The kitchen was super small and there were to many shadows no matter how much bouncing was used with that flash. I opted to not use it in the kitchen. Insanity.

Tell a story. What is the end result? Where is the person in your images going on their bike? What are they cooking? What are they painting? Start to finish is always fun and will be more interesting than just that final product.

The Ice Cream Shop

Camera: Canon 5D MkII

ISO: 200

Speed: 200

F/stop: 3.5

That perfect lighting can be found. Thankfully there wasn’t anyone at the place where we needed to be. For this particular setting, I had my ISO on auto. I mean, time was of the essence! Ice cream was the bribe for letting me take this photo.

No post production went into this piece. I encourage you to adjust shadows and whites, take out any blemishes on skin or clothes, and do a bit of work on your files. However, Gia, my daughter, was obviously playin’ hard. I wanted to leave everything as is.

The Sea Ranch

My honeymoon to The Sea Ranch was filled with eye candy. I was able to watch the grass waving in the wind as I heard the ocean pounding the rocks in the background. Deer munched on berries outside our window and they barely flinched as my wife and I chatted them up.

Composition is king in situations like this. Beauty can be masked by a poorly-crafted image, so I took my time with thirds and framing.

At this time, the Canon S100 was perfect for placing in my pocket so it didn’t burden me on hikes down to the beach or up in the misty mountains. The work is the same. The only thing different is the camera in my hands.

The Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch

The Sea Ranch, California

Camera: Canon S100

ISO: 80
Speed: 2000
F/stop: 2.0

ISO: 80
Speed: 200
F/stop: 4.0

ISO: 80
Speed: 1000
F/stop: 2.0

In 2009, I was hangin’ out at a café in downtown Phoenix. I was chatting with a few people there and I noticed a house across the street which had burned down… pretty much. Perfect photo opportunity. I grabbed a gal nearby and asked her to help me with setting the mood. In post production, I added some grain and made sure the blacks were solid. It’s quite an emotional piece. I thought I’d bring it back for you to see.

Burned Down Houses – The Desert

Camera: Nikon D5000

ISO: 1000

Speed: 500

F/stop: 11

Source Victoria, a super cool band from Phoenix, asked me to come to their studio sessions. I definitely didn’t turn that one down. Not only did I shoot tons of photos of them making music, but I took some interesting shots with 2x, 10x, and 18x filters for my lenses. Depending on the zoom, I could generate a cool vignette around the sides. This was not created in post production.

The settings on my camera were pretty insane since there wasn’t much light in the studio. Alas, I think that Nikon did a good job.

Source Victoria Studio Sessions

Camera: Nikon D5000

ISO: 3200

Speed: 1/8

F/stop: 3.5

Exposure Compensation: +1.33

The Cedar Fire, in San Diego, took many lives and burned tens of thousands of acres. Not only did it impact my family, but their neighbors and neighborhood.

This is one of the last photos I took with my Minolta X7a. It was cold, rainy, and I don’t remember what settings were used, but that’s not important. I haven’t touched this up, brightened anything or made shadows darker, etc. It was important for me to leave this photo as is.

Faith lost or gained?

Cedar Fire, Julian, California

Camera: Minolta X7a

ISO: ?

Speed: ?

F/stop: ?

My history of capturing images.

It was ALL about live music and DJ nights. I went to shows, so why not bring my trusty Minolta X7a? I was running a flash, so I put that speed on 60 and hoped for the best. Sadly, all my prints from the early ’90s are gone. Alas, something happened. Not only did I leave Southern California, but the digital camera came along and changed everything. I experimented with different shutter speeds, focal lengths, and ISO. It was ON! I needed more compelling subject matter, so I began to take photos that were a bit “personal” and this helped my composition and lighting. I’ve shot presidential candidate campaign rallies, weddings, restaurants when business is busy, architecture, nature, portraits, and live music. What a ride. What’s my focus now? Let’s find out, together.




I live in Tokyo. Let’s capture some images.

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Lumix · Canonet · Pixel

I'm Jason Garcia - Cameras in hand

Who am I?

I’m on the street, out in nature, at the shows… with cameras in hand.

First was a Minolta X7a, then came Nikon, Canon, and now I’ve gravitated to a micro 4/3 Lumix. It’s light. It’s what I need.

We all have our phones to take those instant photos, which I still do (and often) yet I gravitate to my big camera when I’m looking for purposeful, well-crafted images.

Join me.

Skills  & Abilities

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