Lukasz Palka is a Polish-born, American-raised expat living in Tokyo, Japan. He had various interests in the arts his whole life, photography being one of them. Lukasz shed many of those other preoccupations about ten years ago and focused solely on photography. These days, he runs his own business called EYExplore, dedicated to teaching photography to people visiting or living in Tokyo. It’s been a great honor to interview Lukasz Palka, and we wish you a pleasant reading of his fantastic story.
The First Steps in Photography
AP: Lukasz, thank you so much for finding the time to give us the interview. It’s a great honor for us, and we hope you will enjoy all the questions we have prepared for you today. So, let’s begin. How it all started?
Lukasz: My earliest exposure to photography was through my father. He always liked taking pictures and had an old Praktica when I was a kid. In the early two-thousands, he also got an early digital camera. With cameras around, I also liked to take photos, but my pictures back then were completely boring—random stuff around the house or simplistic tourist snapshots from family trips. It wasn’t until I came to Tokyo in 2008 that photography became a passion. The motivator was simple: I needed a reason to get out of the house and explore the city on my own. So, I got a Nikon D300 and a 35mm lens and did exactly that. Photography was simply a friend who could accompany me on my walks around the metropolis. From there, it became a passion.
AP: What an incredible start! Do you have any formal education in photography, or were you self-taught?
Lukasz: I am 100% self-taught. I am always curious, so whenever I don’t know something, I look it up online or in the manual. I also experimented and made many mistakes, but by scrutinizing past images, I could learn from those mistakes and improve my technique. Composition, framing, and storytelling are the most important aspects of photography that I learned over the years. Another factor was feedback from the online community. I participated in a few street photography groups, which were invaluable in building an instinct for good work versus mediocre work.
AP: What genre are your photos?
Lukasz: I often think of myself as a street photographer. My biggest passion is shooting candid photos of people in the city. But I also do urban landscape, urbex [urban exploration], long exposure night photography, architecture, and so on. The common theme of all these genres is the city, so I these days I call myself an “urban photographer.”
AP: How would you describe your photos?
Lukasz: A friend of mine once dubbed my photography “hyperrealism.” What this means to me is that the photos are clear, colorful, and vivid. I tend to strive for a kind of technical perfection as well as a strong feeling or emotion within the photo. In terms of theme, most of my work is a portrait of a great city: Tokyo. I photograph its buildings, its streets, and its people.
Equipment and Techniques
AP: We admire the way you take your pictures. What kind of equipment and techniques do you use to take such photographs?
Lukasz: I shoot on a Nikon D4 these days, with a Zeiss 28mm f/2 most of the time as well as Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G for cityscapes and urbex. I used to go with a Nikon D3 and a Voigtländer 40mm f/2. I mainly use prime lenses for street photography. I like manual focus and took the time to learn manual techniques.
In terms of editing, I use Adobe Camera Raw. I keep it simple for street photos but will go into depth when editing a landscape or urbex photo.
AP: Thank you very much for highlighting a list of equipment you use with our readers. We are more than sure they will find it very useful. What is the latest project you’ve worked on so far in Japan? What inspired you to start working on it?
Lukasz: Actually, I recently had the pleasure of working with Nikon Europe on a project called Cutting through the Chaos.
It was an exploration of stories and moments that could stand out amidst the turmoil of the Tokyo metropolis. As far as personal projects go, I am working on a book about Tokyo. It’s been a long time coming, but the concept is becoming clear in my mind. The inspiration lies simply in my experience of living here, while the motivation is to create a work that encapsulates the narrative and feeling of that experience. I want people to see what I see and feel the same sense of wonder and bewilderment I have felt over my years exploring Tokyo.
The Formula for Success
AP: Publishing a book is a wonderful idea! We wish you much inspiration in your work. What is the formula for success in your activity?
Lukasz: Persistence. Over the years, I’ve consistently produced work. I shoot all the time, and I edit constantly. Though I shoot thousands of photos a month, I currently have zero backlogs of photos to edit. I am always producing and posting on my blog daily or twice daily. This affords me the mental freedom always to move forward. Having a constant flow of content online is also good to get some attention. I’m terrible at face-to-face networking, so most, if not all, of my opportunities have come from online inquiries through my homepage or blog.
But the main thing is an obsession with producing work. I don’t wait for inspiration or ideas. I go out and shoot. I walk around till I’m tired and hungry. I ask the question: I wonder if I can go up there and get a photo? And then I go and do it. On the back of my business card, I have this quote that sums it all up: “Creativity is the product of curiosity and rigor.”
AP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed on Astrum People?
Lukasz: As a photographer, I would love to see an interview with one of my all-time favorites: Alex Webb. He has been a great inspiration for me in my work!
AP: Thanks, Lukasz. We will do our best to contact Alex Webb. Is there someone who supports you in your creativity?
Lukasz: My father has always been a great supporter. He was my initial introduction to photography, and to this day, he’s there to talk about gear, techniques, and so on. Also, my girlfriend is here daily, giving me feedback and supporting my projects when she can. She is also a great photographer in her own right!
Golden Tips for Photographers
AP: The works of your girlfriend look gorgeous! Please tell us three lessons you believe are essential for every photographer.
- Don’t wait for inspiration — get out there and shoot.
- Don’t get distracted by what everyone else is doing — it’s great to be inspired, but the endless flow of content on social media can be demotivating. Do your own thing!
- Don’t give up too early — keep at a project until you’ve explored it deeply. If you’re interested in something, then pursue it. Don’t quit because it’s hard. Only quit if it no longer interests you.
Lukasz, it has been a great pleasure for us to have an interview with you. Thank you so much for sharing such an incredible and inspiring story. We wish you outstanding achievements, continued success, and more creative projects. To learn more about Lukasz Palka’s photography, visit his website.
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