Interview: Japan With A Spanish Outdoor Photographer; Fulfilling Her Dreams and Challenging Her Fears


Samira Aboudan, a photographer who invites people to confront their own fears and discover their dreams, is someone who had experienced these at first hand. With her Instagram followers, she bravely shares her depression and anxiety caused by her family problems and the difficulties she faced and how she overcame along the way of following her dreams. I talked with her about the trip she made to Japan.
So Now, I am sharing the interview with the Spanish outdoor photographer and biologist, Samira Aboudan, who showed us the importance of pushing her limits and chasing the dreams that people see as impossible.

Özlem Burcu: What is Japan meant for you? How is your Journey to Japan began?
Samira Aboudan: It has been my dream since I was in high school, more than 10 years already thinking about traveling to Japan. Since I was little I was very influenced by the Japanese and Asian culture in general, from the Bruce Lee movies to the first animes that came to Spain in the late 80's. I saw a lot of movies and many travel and photo documentaries, but in adolescence and the decade of the 20s, was when I focused more on Japan to see animes like Rurouni Kenshin ("Samurai Warrior" or "Samurai X" in Spain and Latin America), where I could get into the more traditional Japan.



Later, I started watching documentaries about the history of the country, its films (like "13 assassins" by Takeshi Miike), its food, other animes like "Samurai Champloo" and many more photographs of different places in the country. I even have the A1 (language level in the European framework) in Japanese.
All this was hooked me more and more, in fact, it was one of the things that I began to fool around with the camera since I was little I saw places so different that I wanted to learn how to capture them with the camera. However, I always thought it was a simple hobby, that I would never be able to go to Japan or that I would be able to dedicate myself to it.



My trip started as something very crazy and until almost today, I still do not believe that I have gone so far. A trip like this always you think you have to plan it and buy it all a year before, but no, there are times when everything comes up in an improvised way and that I like more every day.
We left at the end of July 2017, but I did not know that I was going until a month before the trip. If someone had told me at the beginning of 2017, that I was going to Japan, I would not have believed it, and it was all because a friend told me that she had vacations in the summer and wanted to go far, we were considering several options and finally we opted for Japan.
We were just the two of us, without hiring anything with any agency, we organized everything, which was great because we met directly with many local people who helped us, if we had gone with the complete package bought, the first thing would have cost us more expensive, and second, we would not have met so many people.

Özlem Burcu: How many times have you traveled to Japan? How long have you stayed there?
Samira Aboudan:It was the first time I traveled to Japan and I was there for two weeks, living between hotels with tiny rooms and even smaller apartments, come on, living Japanese style (compared to Spain, of course).



In addition, we also stayed in a Ryokan (typical Japanese accommodation) in Kanazawa, a place where we were treated very well and met very nice people, I recommend it totally, in my Instagram Stories the video of the place is saved (Karasawa Inn Ryokan is called), and others;)



Özlem Burcu: Among the places, you traveled in Japan, would you like to share the place that is special to you?(one As a photographer and one as your personal favored)
Samira Aboudan: A place only ?? How difficult! Kinkaku-ji, the streets of Kyoto called Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka, Ishibei-koji, Miyajima, Shirakawa-go, Osaka Castle, Hiroshima Castle ... However, if I had to stay with someplace, it would be these: the first time I turned the corner with so many crowded people and saw a spectacular golden temple, Kinkaku-ji, in addition to the samurai neighborhood and the Nomura House in Kanazawa, a place I wanted to be for years.



Photographically ... it is difficult because I visited many very touristy, busy places and most of the time it was difficult to make a different photo of the typical postcard (as it happened to me in Kinkaku-ji, in Kyoto, and in Asakusa, in Tokyo).
 
As a photographer, I am going to say a place, Kyoto, and a moment, when I could photograph the geisha in the image. I remember it was 10 in the morning, there was almost nobody and I was near Ninenzaka Street and Sannenzaka strolling with the camera. Suddenly we passed an intersection and, in a street that climbed uphill, there was this geisha with relatives and two others taking a picture (although I think it was a maiko, geisha apprentice). I saw my great opportunity. Without warning I left my friend speaking alone, I ran up that street very inclined as a crazy, as I approached I relaxed and stopped running (not to scare her), I approached her, I said kindly four words in Japanese while I pointed my camera, she answered me very kind "hai" ("yes" in Japanese), I bent down, I took several photos (in case some failed) and we kindly looked at each other smiling and said in Japanese: "domo arigatou gozaimasu" (thank you so much).


You can not even imagine how happy I was that day. The lights in the photo are hard (despite being so early, that's what Japan has), however, I did not care, I wanted to capture the moment and she posed for me.

Özlem Burcu: You have traveled to different cities of Japan such as Kyoto, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Shirakawa and you tried to capture the most beautiful, the most exclusive tourist spots and moments of nature. As far as I get, you are a very well-planned person. What are the recommendations you can give to the travelers who want to travel to Japan and take photos like you did?
Samira Aboudan: This trip I planned in full, from train tickets to the places we were going to see daily. However, photographically I had to have organized it much more but I did not have any more time, I explain how then.
Personally I would not go to Japan in August (which is when I went), very hot (really, it was very hot) and a lot of tourists, it's the bad thing about traveling in high season. If you can, travel in low season, in addition, times like autumn or spring are very appreciated by photographers.




To take photos you have to take light into account, so if you can, try to visit places when the sun is always on the horizon because it is when you will have the best light, either in the morning or in the afternoon (sunrise, sunset). Of course, if you are going to photograph outdoors, avoid the intermediate hours and keep in mind that the midday sun in your place of residence, is not the same as that of other more distant places. I live in Spain and I noticed the difference, at 9 or 10 in the morning in Japan there was the same solar intensity at 12 o'clock in the morning in Spain. Watch that because I had no choice but to take pictures at that time and I had to figure them out.



On the internet, there is a lot of information about it and there are also applications for mobile that tell you the position of the sun, the moon, at what time it gets dark, dawn and others to photograph. Also, if you have a camera with interchangeable lenses you can use filters, I was wearing a UV and another polarizer, the latter saved me many times. If you have a mobile phone, it's worth it too, some of my pictures are made with this one and nothing happens, as more photos are taken, you'll get better. My images are not special but, nevertheless, they are attracting a lot of attention, why will not it be?
I usually focus more on the details than on the landscapes, although I also do them (it's what it takes to be a travel photographer, you end up doing all kinds of photography), and I use the rule of thirds a lot, I like to focus the look at a subject.
And finally, Japan is very photogenic, in every corner there is a moment to photograph, but do not be with the camera all the time, do not see the world through the viewfinder or the screen continuously, make the necessary photos that you want but then Save it and enjoy the landscape. ;)

Özlem Burcu: Is there a very interesting moment that you have captured with your camera? Something that is unplanned and you are surprised that you catch that moment.
Samira Aboudan: An image crossing the famous Shibuya crossing. There were so many people that I had to improvise, I made many photos and videos from different perspectives (all trite, it is what has to go to very tourist places). We got into one of the pedestrian crossings only to get into the crowd while the traffic lights turned green. Although it seems very normal, it was an exciting moment when you start to hear the sound of the traffic light that is green for pedestrians and you can start crossing. I do not know how they do it but nobody bumps, it's weird. I was more excited because I was in a mythical place, crossing in one of the most famous crosses, photographed and filmed, I wanted to take a decent photo showing the moment, but without hitting anyone, I was also more nervous being surrounded by so many people (something that I do not like). So, in that moment of emotion, I took the camera with one hand, stretched my arm as far as I could over me and the others and made this picture of the image.



I thought I would move but no, it went pretty well. Sometimes, the best and most exciting thing is improvising, not planning. ;)

Özlem Burcu: Is there a photo you can call "the most peaceful moment" in Japan?
Samira Aboudan: Yeah, several. I love the silence and the sound of the Japanese wind chimes (called Fūrin), it is very relaxing, and that in the temples you found it very easily, anyone you visited was a good option. That peace, that simplicity is ... spectacular.



Another very "peaceful" moment was when I visited the House of the samurai Nomura in Kanazawa. A typical Japanese house, with a small but exuberant garden, with fish, fountains, many plants ... and a second floor where there were two rooms with windows that opened onto the same garden. I sat there and my friend made this picture for me. I loved.



By last. When I went up to the lookout in Shirakawa-go. It is one of the World Heritage villages, very photographed both in summer and winter. I did not think I was there, such a "strange" place, that it seemed to be taken from a story, a movie or a video game. While my friend was doing this picture I thought a lot about how I had gotten there and everything that trip meant. There were tourists, but it was not crowded, so I sat there watching the town from a distance, quietly.



Özlem Burcu: Do you plan to go to Japan again?

Samira Aboudan:Not yet, I have other destinations in mind right now, but I would like to return, but rather in the time of the cherry blossoms (the sakura in spring), in autumn (two very beautiful times photographically speaking), visit Okinawa , make a route like Kumano or Nakasendo or visit the island as a biologist, visiting places where there are animals (such as Jigokudani monkeys).



Oh, and go back to see Mount Fuji, I could not see it, we did not have more time and from Tokyo you could not see because the last days we caught the remains of a typhoon, all cloudy and raining.

Özlem Burcu: Is there a photo you think you couldn’t shoot in places where you've already gone?Or a place you think you want to go back and a moment that you want to take a photo of it?
Samira Aboudan: Yes, I wanted to photograph much better Kinkaku-ji (the golden temple in Kyoto). I was left with the desire to look for better angles, but you could not, it was a place full of people and with a very strict way to pass, you could not walk calmly at your whim.



I loved the temple but my photographs were the same as all the others, the typical postcard. However, I think I would go back to certain points where I already was and which were the ones I liked the most, but with more tranquility to stop and look for the "perfect" photo (which does not really exist), with better equipment and perhaps in a more photogenic time like spring or autumn, although the Japanese summer surprised me, it's very beautiful, full of green trees everywhere, I did not expect it at all. The south of Spain, where I live, is barren and with no exuberant vegetation, except for some areas, but when I arrived there I was very surprised by the change, I liked it.



I would also go back to Fushimi Inari to do the full route because when I was there we could not stay beyond one morning.



I would also do more street photography again. I did not like this discipline, in fact, when I was there I avoided it a lot, except when I arrived in Tokyo that I had no choice, it is so modern that I had to improvise. However, when I arrived at my house I started to see the work I did and I liked it since then my images always appear people, bored photos without these (or clear animals), something that did not happen to me before.



Of course, you have to leave your area to see further and realize that we put the limits ourselves. I demystified Japan a lot, I had it on a pedestal for years, like a god you can not touch, but no, it's there, the Japanese are there, they are people like all of us and, a few hours away (every day are less) and saving a little, you can achieve your dreams (whenever you get to work on it clear). Because dreams are to fulfill them, not to dream them every day and tell you that you are not able to get what you want, as I thought.



In addition, this trip meant for me a change, leaving behind all those problems that I had because of a difficult childhood (depressions, anxiety, low self-esteem, dependencies ...).



I overcame everything at 31 years old and here I am as if I had been "reborn" since I came from the trip, as if I were someone else, and I still have much to advance as a person and professionally, but there I am, walking the road. No place, culture or famous person is unattainable, they are normal, different people and places with many more people who know them, but only that. Japan taught me to forget my limits and my childhood fears, and I took it off the pedestal, but no, it did not disappoint me at all.


Before I went to Japan, when I watched a show about Japan on TV, I was very envious and thought I was never going to that place,but now when I see a documentary or something about Japan, I think it has been one of the best things I've done in my life, and I smile because what I saw and lived there in Japan, was spectacular. ;)

If you want to see the world through Samira's point of view follow her on Instagram!and
check her website!

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