Read our updated interview with acclaimed Toronto photographer Taku Kumabe, aka @smaku. Learn about Taku’s philosophy and approaches to landscape and bird photography.
We originally interviewed Taku for the Tdot Shots Five Questions Interview in 2019.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how you got into photography?
My name is Taku Kumabe, a freelance photographer and art director in Toronto. Photography has long been a passion of mine ever since I picked up my parent’s old film camera. Once I realized I could capture a moment in time and relive that experience all over again through my images, I was hooked. I bought my first (film) camera the day before a family trip to Italy and basically learned how to use the camera throughout the trip.
What is your motivation to do nature and bird photography?
I am inspired by anything out in nature as it allows you to better appreciate your surroundings no matter where you may be in the world. I by no means call myself a bird photographer as I am only just starting to enjoy this craft. But realizing the many challenges of capturing birds in their essence and moment, really makes you want to try harder to get that one shot you envision in your mind. It’s these challenges that keep me motivated and keep me wanting to learn to better myself as a photographer.
Cormorants in flight over Lake Ontario. Slow shutter and panning at the same time. Photo by Taku Kumabe.
Do you approach shooting birds differently than landscapes? Different gear?
Yes, most definitely! With landscape photography, you may be more inclined to capture the entire scene in front of you. The scenery in front of you doesn’t move erratically, and you get to appreciate being in that moment. But in capturing birds, you will likely want to capture the beauty of their details or capture them in flight–all while tracking them and composing the shot on-the-fly (pun intended) while standing a good distance away from them. These two subject matters require lenses on the opposite spectrum: a wide angle for landscapes and a telephoto for birds (although don’t let that limit you in your creativity).
The longest reach I currently have is 200mm, which is nowhere near what you may want for bird photography. I know my limitations so I work around them. I know I won’t be able to get those juicy frame-filling close-up shots unless I’m somehow able to get real close to the birds. So when I’m out shooting birds, I try and tell their story by incorporating their surroundings, which shows them in their context. I hope to get one of Nikon’s upcoming z-mount telephoto lenses to allow me to get more up close and personal with birds.
Sandhill Cranes. Long Point, Ontario by Taku Kumabe
How does shooting nature in Toronto differ from other places you’ve visited? Is it harder to find natural spots here? Any tips?
When you look at a map of Toronto you’ll realize that it has a lot of green space scattered throughout the city. With the Don river on the east end to the Humber river on the west, there is an abundant number of places for you to explore. I tend to gravitate towards the parks on the west end of the city mainly because it’s quicker for me to get to in the early morning hours. I don’t think finding natural spots in the city is any more difficult than finding a Starbucks in your neighbourhood.
I look at Google Maps and look for green space along the river or lake to look for interesting spots to explore and photograph. You’ll be surprised at what you find when you do the same.
Duck on a foggy Lake Ontario, shot from Humber Bay Park. Photo by Taku Kumabe.
Congrats on the Nikon ambassador position! How did that happen? How did you connect with them?
Thanks! It’s a real honour to be recognized for your work. I am very excited for the opportunity to represent them and inspire everyone through my photographs. Over the last few years I’ve been working with them doing things like presentations, photowalks (pre-2020), and creating social media content for them. While it never crossed my mind, I’m happy they thought becoming an ambassador was a natural progression in this relationship. To be honest, this came as a total surprise when they asked me one day. There was silence on the call after they asked me since they caught me off-guard and I didn’t know what to say. Haha!
I’m a firm believer of shoot for yourself and not for anyone else. You will enjoy the art of photography much more that way—and when you do get recognized for your work, you will be that much happier because it’s your work that you can feel proud of.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us Taku.
Read the original interview from 2019.