Using the Fractal Filters in Tokyo

At the end of February I had a trip to Tokyo. Originally, this was so that I could go to the CP+ tradeshow in Yokohama to find new suppliers and interesting products for Rigu. The show was cancelled due to (understandable) coronavirus concerns a couple of weeks before I was due to leave, but I felt it was still possible for the trip to be worthwhile as long as I took precautions whilst I was out there to ensure my own safety as well as others. In Japan the COVID-19 response was very impressive, which sanitiser available at the entrance of the vast majority of shops, cafes and restaurants. Being a solo traveller my contact with other people was fairly limited, and with the city being much quieter than usual, it was possible to move around without being packed into trains like sardines to ensure a fair distance from other people.

Anyway, this isn’t a travel blog. Tokyo is a very, very photogenic city. Almost everywhere you turn you will find something that is interesting to photograph, and I decided to take a couple of Fractal Filters along with me as I thought they would be fun to use in places like Akihabara and Shinjuku that have lots of bright signs and colourful lights.

One important thing to remember about Fractal Filters and travel is that they need to go in checked/hold luggage. If you get to security with these in your hand luggage they WILL be confiscated since they look like a knuckle duster and are a big lump of glass. I can’t think of anything fun to shoot with them in an airport or during a long-haul flight so you aren’t missing out on much.

In my previous post about the Fractals my aim was to use them in a fairly minimal and subtle way most of the time. In Tokyo it was very much the opposite. Many areas of the city are an assault on the senses and the Fractals amplified that with really interesting results. Some of the shots were chaotic, almost creating an abstract pattern that was unrecognisable from the reality of the scene, whereas others drew focus to a specific point.

Personally, I’ve always felt that the Fractals work best when you have a subject in frame between 6-15 feet from you, which is why I love using them for portrait photography, but if you’re going to Tokyo and you own Fractals, you’re going to take them. Using them for landscapes or street scenes like these can be fairly hit-or-miss and there were plenty of occasions when I knew they wouldn’t be appropriate. As ever, the Fractals are a tool, and no tool suits every situation. They are fun to play around with though, and it’s nice knowing that my touristy photos of Tokyo are fairly unique.

As an aside, the Fractal prisms did have one unexpected side-benefit whilst I was in Tokyo. Personal connection. I’ve visited Japan three times, once with a friend, once with my partner, and this time on my own. Being on your own in one of the largest metropolis’ on the planet can be quite a lonely experience. English is more widely spoken than when I first visited in 2007, but generally it’s rare to engage in a conversation with a stranger.

The Fractals seemed to break down that barrier, people were curious about the lumps of glass I was wiggling in front of my lens and I would show them the back of camera and the effect the prisms created. It was nice to have a brief conversation with someone that wasn’t serving me my lunch for a change. Japan has a lot of photography & camera shops, but creative items like the Fractals are still rare and it was fun that people took an interest.

Rigu is the UK & Europe’s only distributor of the Fractal Filters, offering quick despatch and delivery, with no customs import hassles. They are listed on, but they’re under the global shipping programme, so you would be waiting for them to come from the US, and you’d be paying more.

Compared to purchasing direct from the manufacturer you will save money (before and after factoring in customs import charges) as well as benefiting from much quicker delivery and UK customer support.