Japanorama http://www.japanorama.co.uk For lovers of photography and Japan: photography in japan, photo tours in japan, photo agency in japan, learn photography in japan Tue, 09 Feb 2016 06:07:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://i2.wp.com/www.japanorama.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/cropped-japanorama-www-icon-512x512.png?fit=32%2C32 Japanorama http://www.japanorama.co.uk 32 32 Ambient Music by Alfie Goodrich: “First Steps Outside” http://www.japanorama.co.uk/ambient-music-by-alfie-goodrich-first-steps-outside/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/ambient-music-by-alfie-goodrich-first-steps-outside/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 05:59:41 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=942

After an extremely long break, I’ve recently started making electronic music again. It’s so far proving to be a lot of fun. 

In the late 1990s, I got my first home PC and with it copies of a few pieces of music software, including Reason, Acid Loops and one or two more.

As a young kid I loved messing around with my dad’s Betamax VCR which had an ‘audio dub’ feature on it. Taking bits and pieces of feature-films, cutting them and editing them into short trailers, then dubbing over music: one or two summers between the ages of 10 and 13, it became quite an obsession.

A couple of years ago I bought a Zoom H4n audio recorder.

More recently I got Garage Band for the Mac.

A few trips to the recycle shop here in Japan, Hard Off, added a really nice Roland A-49 midi keyboard and a fot pedal into the mix.

I’ve also been collecting samples and recording my own, with the H4n out and about in Tokyo.

A buddy has used a track I made for one of his time-lapse movies.

Mostly it’s just a bit of fun for me but I do plan, in the future, to get more into being involved with making short films and I can see the music as a very integral part of that experiment for me.

This track was made with some astronaut audio loops and all done via Garage Band.

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Shooting with the Hasselblad CFV-50c, 500C/M and 120mm macro: a study of Tokyo Tower http://www.japanorama.co.uk/shooting-with-the-hasselblad-cfv-50c-500cm-and-120mm-macro-a-study-of-tokyo-tower/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/shooting-with-the-hasselblad-cfv-50c-500cm-and-120mm-macro-a-study-of-tokyo-tower/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 03:45:26 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=842

I was recently commissioned by Air Mexico magazine to put together a series from Tokyo on the theme ‘red’. In the end, it comprised a few new shots as well as a bunch of older stuff. The shots in this article, made with the Hasselblad CFV-50c digital back on an old 500C/M body, were part of what I submitted. In the end, the magazine went for different shots. So it gives me a chance to show them to you now.

I’m very fortunate to have spent 2015 being an Ambassador for Hasselblad in Japan. I still have a nice relationship with the company, which continues to give ma wonderful opportunities to use their gear.

My own Hasselblad is the H4D-40, with an 80mm lens. It’s a wonderful machine and the colour from the CDD sensor is consistently wowing me.

Occasionally, though, I like to have the opportunity to use the CFV-50c back, typically on an old 1960s 500C/M body that the company has at their shop in Harajuku, Tokyo. It’s a different experience, matching old-style operation [shoot, wind-on] with the latest state of the art sensor tech. The camera slows me down, to focus and meter and the wind-on puts the gap back in between two photos again.

More often than not I’d go out with the 80mm Carl Zeiss Planar f/2.8 lens on the camera. It’s great for portraits and street and a whole load of other types of shooting. I hadn’t really shot the old C 120mm f/4 macro before, well not for a long time and not since film days. So it was a lot of fun to have the lens on the CFV for a day.

The 120mm is a super-sharp lens which equates to about 85mm on the CFV’s sensor.

I had the camera for a couple of days, just with the waist-level finder.

The WLF turned out to be perfect for shooting the Tokyo Tower and, with the way you cradle the camera in both hands to look down into the finder, without a doubt lead me to a few angles that I wouldn’t have found with an eye-level viewfinder.

Together with the specific view of the 120mm prime, it all helped me to generate a set that was more about elements of the tower contrasted against the perfect deep-blue sky that day. I concentrated on parts of the structure, the curves, the rivets, the arcs of steel.

Rodchenko, back in the 1920s just after he got his first Leica, mocked this sort of photography. ‘Belly button photography’ [with the camera held a the waist] as he called it was a thing of the past. It was wonderful how the Leica freed him up to explore new viewpoints – over his head and straight down – and the work we most know Rodchenko for today is the ultra-geometric, the extreme viewpoint photography that he was able to get with a camera that he could, for the first time, hold up to his eye.

But, after many, many years of people having cameras up to their eyes, it pays to go back in time and look through a waist-level finder every now and again. Not ever camera has the ability to do so, but many modern cameras now have flip-up screens and finders and it all works out to the same thing: a different viewpoint, lower down and offering new perspective on the world around you.

Rodchenko’s pillorying of the waist-level view is because of his marvel at the new freedoms he got with a camera to his eye. But it’s worth remembering that, nowadays, we often hear people do similar things when they suggest shooting with an iPhone is not ‘real photography’. Or that shooting with a zoom is lazy and primes are much better.

There has always been a multitude of different photography gear. There have always been different methods, ways of using gear. There are many pieces of good advice about how using one piece of gear will make your eye better at seeing the world. Rodchenko proved that with his Leica. But like a lot of people today who get absorbed and obsessed with their own way of shooting, Rodchenko talked-up his methods by shitting on other people’s way of doing things.

Examining different viewpoints, using a different lens, limiting your number of shots with your digital gear in the way a roll of 24-exposure film does: these are just a few of the ways to put new life into the way you see the world around you. Enjoy them, experiment. Try to remain positive, exciting and engaging without needing to talk someone else’s methods down.

My shots of the Tokyo Tower, with the Hasselblad CFV-50c, 500C/M and 120mm f/4: excuse the quality on some of the shots. Not sure why, but the JetPack gallery plugin is having a real issue rendering the sky without ‘stairs’ in the JPEGs, despite the files looking great on every app before I upload them.

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Textures & Colours of Tokyo: Akabane http://www.japanorama.co.uk/textures-colours-of-tokyo-akabane/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/textures-colours-of-tokyo-akabane/#respond Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:00:02 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=793

At the risk of over-singing the praises of Akabane [there’s been a few articles here about it recently], here’s some shots from a recent walk around the area. On a day I felt in the mood to focus on textures, colour and shadows.

There’s one thing Akabane is very good at serving-up and it’s ‘shabby chic’: old stuff, faded stuff, overgrown stuff, stuff that seems a little neglected or past its sell-by-date.

Akabane has a lived-in look. And a lot of history.

The shots in this gallery were shot pretty much on the same route you’ll see in the article I recently put up about the walk Paul Rasmussen and I did last year.

Some places I’d seen before, some on the same route Paul and I did which we managed to walk past.

All of the pics here have been exported from the RAW files through Capture NX-D with either no adjustments or, if adjusted, with very simple tweaks of shadow slider and exposure compensation. 

All of the colour ones were shot in the ‘Ektachrome P’ picture control I have made for Nikon.

Since the website got hacked, the two articles about the picture controls have disappeared. I am going to get something back online very soon, with files to download.

Textures of Tokyo: Akabane backstreets

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Photo walks in Tokyo: the Old Tokaido Road, Shinagawa. http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photo-walk-in-tokyo-the-old-tokaido-road-shinagawa/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photo-walk-in-tokyo-the-old-tokaido-road-shinagawa/#respond Sun, 07 Feb 2016 09:32:37 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=686

The Old Tokaido Road is the ancient route between Tokyo and Kyoto, which comprised of 53 stations [stages]. Stage 2 runs from Shinagawa to Suzugamori, where I live with my family. It’s an area I have explored a lot over the past 16 years and makes a wonderful photo walk.

There’s  a link at the bottom of this page, to a Google Map that I made, with the whole road and several of the key shrines marked,

The photos in the galleries below run from about 2002 all the way through to some I took a couple of days ago. The Tokaido Road from our house in Suzugamori is a superb route to walk, taking you through a lovely network of shrines, past small family-owned shops, a canal, over two rivers and into the glassy skyscraper district of Shinagawa Inter-City. It’s a route of visual diversity and contrast; peace and quiet and city bustle.

A mixed collection of photos from the Old Tokaido Road, from 2002 onwards:

aomonoyokocho_kagamimochi keihincanal_ALF7457a snow_kyutokkaido_iphone_IMG_3760 aomonoyokocho_shrine004 kitashinagawa_ALF3716 chevycamaro_samezu keihincanal_tachiaigawa_003 _ALF3372_blog_620 mita_ALF3537_01 honda_n600_tokyo_001 kitashinagawa_ALF3728c keihin-cosmos-nov2010_MMFC0039a honey-willy_MMFC0037 keihincanal_tachiaigawa_002 keihincanal_tachiaigawa_005 hosenji_statues_yakuzabenz keihincanal_ALF4387bsm_a aoyomonoyokocho_09100020-a 150113-snow__ALF1801-diptych 150113-snow__ALF1843_620px kitashinagawa_EPS6809_blog kitashinagawa_EPS6803_blog aomonoyokocho_shopsign0001 keihincanal_09100025 shinagawa-matsuri2011_MMFC0016 kitashinagawa_EPS6806_blog keihincanal_tachiaigawa_001 hosenji_bhuddas002a that_coupe_001 shinagawa_jinja002

Up until fairly recently, in the early 1960s when land reclamation to the east took off apace, the road was right next to the sea. You can still find remnants of that seaside culture: a piece of the old sea wall, carvings on a shrine that mark where once there was a fishmarket. Before Tsukiji Market, the main vendors of fish on Tokyo Bay worked around the Tokaido Road area. It was where the emperor came to fish. Place names like Samezu and Omori-kaigan hark back to a coastal culture. Some of the best seaweed was farmed in the area, all the way up the late 1950s.

A few photos of the glass, steel and modern textures of Shinagawa Inter-City and the area around the Konan exit of Shinagawa Station:

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I love the walk and do it often. Along the way to Shinagawa are several of my favourite local spots to relax and chill-out: the Keihin Canal near Tachiaigawa and farther down the road, Ebara Shrine which sits on the Meguro River.

At New Year, my family and I walk the shrines of The Seven Gods of Good Fortune. Our new year’s eve is often spent, around the turn of midnight, at one or other of two special shrines which are both on the Tokaido Road.

A collection of fashion pictures made on the Keihin Canal & inside Shinagawa Inter-City:

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Fishmongers, vegetable shops, bicycle repairers and shops selling rice-crackers rub shoulders with a few new cafes, traditional guest-houses, dog-grooming salons and a host of characterful restaurants.

It’s a ‘down at home’ sort of place, quiet and peaceful but never more than two streets away from the main road to Yokohama: the Dai-Ichi Keihin.

A collection of photos I took a few days ago, whilst doing a photo tour with someone:

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Here’s the Google Map I made, which shows the route of the road all the way from Shinagawa to Suzugamori. Click the pic below to reach the map on Google.

Photo tours of Tokyo: The Old Tokaido Road

If you are interested in doing a photo tour of the area, drop me a line.

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Fashion photography in a haikyo: Shinyong & the Australian designer http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-a-haikyo-shinyong-the-australian-designer/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-a-haikyo-shinyong-the-australian-designer/#respond Thu, 04 Feb 2016 03:15:19 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=659

Back in December of 2014, I ventured a couple of hours drive out into the countryside of Saitama to shoot some pics for a young and very talented Australian fashion designer, Neville Antoinette.

Haikyo or ‘abandoned buildings’ have always fascinated me. As a kid I grew up along the road from three deserted and abandoned oast-houses, which for summer upon summer – until they were converted into luxury dwellings – were the scene for a myriad of childhood games and adventures.

After that, the abandoned concrete structures and shacks on the beaches of Dungeness held similar fascination. Just before moving to Japan, in 2007, a wonderful day was spent at an old tyre and rubber factory on the edges of the Forest of Dean. There’s a few pics of that below. It was, during WW2, the place where PLUTO [Pipeline Under the Ocean] was manufactured; the undersea petrol hoses that would carry fuel across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy during and after the D-Day landings. One of the pics I shot that day [the sinks] was chosen as the BBC photography section’s ‘picture of the month’ at the time. There’s also a nice one of my son Joe, when he was about 6.

lydbrookfactory_004 lydbrooksinks_001 lydbrookfactory_003 lydbrookscales_001 lydbrookfactory_001a joe_080707_01

Back to a cold December morning in 2014 and my friend and model, Shinyong Lee, and I headed off to Nezu station to pick up designer Neville Antoinette, his girlfriend [now fiancee] Tara Elizabeth, plus a suitcase full of Neville’s awesome outfits.

Our target for the day was an abandoned mining village in deepest Saitama, which I had heard of from one of Japan’s leading urbex and haikyo photographers. Locations are a guarded secret, save they get destroyed or closed up due to over-attention of looting. I’d once committed the enormous faux-pas of letting the world know the location of one superb haikyo in Kinugawa. It was soon after shut down and boarded up. I may not have been solely responsible for that happening as, when the eventual closure of it was on the TV news, years of pressure from the local community was cited as the reason. Still, I felt bad about the fact that I may have contributed to a superb haikyo going ‘offline’ and was not going to let it happen again.

All iPhones were set to airplane mode once we arrived at the mining village, save any GPS data in people’s snaps be unwittingly shared. Despite the location being pretty well-known, I haven’t shared where it is and won’t be doing so here.

The last few hundred metres to the village are through a narrow and very basic tunnel, roughly hewn through an imposing rock-face and not dressed: jagged walls, a rudimentary lighting system and ventilation pipes caught the headlights of our 4×4 as we made our way gingerly through. After three hours in the car, everyone was starting to nod off to sleep. The tunnel created a sense of impending adventure that brought everyone back to life and excited about what we may find.

The village was abandoned about 20 years ago. The exodus of people had begun before but everyone had left eventually and what remained was an amazing complex of around 40 hours, two schools, a hotel and various other buildings. Our mission was not to explore it all, as that just wouldn’t be possible in the 4hrs or so of light we had left by the time we’d arrived and got ourselves set up. We were there to get a couple of Neville’s outfits shot, in the best couple or three locations we could find.

I was excited. Neville is an inspirational young designer and the outfits were extraordinary. No shoot can really succeed unless you have something of a concept and our concept needed to be more than just ‘whacky clothes in deserted building’. Plus, when I’m shooting with models, I like to put a story into their heads… something for them to imagine and use to get ‘into character’. Modelling is not so different to acting and Shinyong has done a lot of acting too, so she can work with a story, a ‘role’ really well.

Our story for the day was that this young woman – Shinyong – had travelled back in time [Neville’s clothes would suit the future very well] and come across a place where she felt a connection; maybe it had been where her family had come from generations before.

This was enough and Shinyong disappeared into her character.

We found some great places. Lots of them. Too many of them. I need to go back and will do so once the winter snows are over. As it was, going in the middle of December, there were flurries of snow and you could feel the winter setting in. The place is bleak. I’m a bit too focused sometimes, with models, and Shinyong has been in rivers, out in the cold for hours and in sorts of weird locations for me… but with decrepit and decaying buildings, you can’t take any chances. You need daylight to work, unless it’s just one of you who doesn’t mind more severe adventures.

I won’t write too much more. There’s more pictures than the ones you see below, which I havent even gotten around to editing one year or more later. I don’t mind that, though. It’s good to go back to old pics and re-imagine them long after they have been shot. It brings fresh vision. So there will be another article on here at some point soon, as I have the fire in me to re-edit these shots and work on more of the ones we took.

The shots below were taken in the old junior school and the old ryokan. We didn’t move anything. Everything here in the pics is as we found it.

Lighting? I had the Alien Bee ringflash which was used into a large umbrella on one occasion. The rest of the shots were lit with small speedlights, fired with radio triggers.

Some of the later shots were just made with what ambient light I found.

Cameras and lenses: Nikon D800E, 50mm f/1.2 and 1.8, Nikkor 36-72mm AiS, 20mm f/3,5 AiS.

Great day out. Good team. I’ll be going back soon, with more clothes and a different model.

Neville and Tara are on an epic European adventure now.

Shinyong has been so busy with singing, movies and all sorts of other stuff that we haven’t seen each other for ages.

Good to be busy though.

Hope you enjoy the pics. We had a lot of fun making them. The edits are over a year old. I’m not 100% happy with them now. But, that’s editing for you…. tastes change. The multiple exposure edits were done to convey a sort of ‘dreamlike’ quality to the story.

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Adam: the first shots for his modelling portfolio http://www.japanorama.co.uk/model-portfolio-photography-tokyo/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/model-portfolio-photography-tokyo/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:14:49 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=639

Once you’ve made the decision to get into modelling, the next thing to do is to get some good photographs shot.

I’ve shot a few first folio sessions for models and it’s always a fun thing to do, seeing the model go from being nervous to really enjoying themselves and relaxing into it. Especially when they begin to display a real flair for being in front of the camera as Adam did.

We ended up keeping it simple, partly because no agency wants a folio that is full of over complicated shots; it’s all about simple head-shots, some good full-lengths and that’s it. Nothing too fancy.

We met up in Asakusabashi because of the mutual convenience of railway lines from Adam’s place in Chiba and mine in Omori.

Plus, Asakusabashi has some great light, good long straight streets [for depth], some grungy backgrounds and it’s quiet and sort of out of the way. My eldest son, Joe, came along to help.

I’ve walked past a series of old railway arches with great, grungy old shuttered doors on many times. I’ve done a little ambient light shooting there with models but nothing with flash.

We started there, against a nicely textured old shutter door, with one big light into a large umbrella. Worked nice.

In nearby spots we worked a few angles in the middle of the street.

Around the rest of the neighbourhood we shot a mixture of flash setups and sets just with natural light and the big aperture lenses I’d taken with me: 135mm f/2, the 50mm f/1.2 for the Nikon and the 80mm 2.8 on the Hasselblad H4D-40.

Once done, the three of us had some food and Adam and I had a couple of pints. Nice afternoon out, some good shots. He’s a nice lad, Adam. He’s a good looking lad, too. His first application to an agency has gone in and we’ll see what comes of it.

Once the weather warms up, I’ll be aiming to get him out to do some portrait and fashion workshops with me.

Here’s a few of the shots we got. 

If you need to get some headshots and a series of simple location fashion photos done for your book, drop me a line. 

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Portrait photography in Tokyo: Nissan LEAF Owner for the 2015 COP21 Climate Talks http://www.japanorama.co.uk/portrait-photography-in-tokyo-nissan-leaf-owner-for-the-2015-cop21-climate-talks/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/portrait-photography-in-tokyo-nissan-leaf-owner-for-the-2015-cop21-climate-talks/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 07:54:19 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=621

Back in November of last year I was commissioned by an advertising agency to shoot a portrait of a Japanese Nissan LEAF owner, for display as a huge print on the Nissan-Renault stand at the 2015 COP21 Climate Talks.

It looks like a simple portrait but as usual there is a story to these things…..

The commission came in and I was told the lady lived ‘in Tokyo’. The agency asked me for ‘typically Tokyo and Japan locations’ that might come to mind, for the shoot.

There are many but the list of ‘instantly recognisable as Tokyo’ locations is not as easy as you think, once you really sit down and think about it.

Tokyo Tower

….and, well, that’s sort of it.

There are shrines, dozens of amazing ones, but they could be anywhere in Japan and people outside of Tokyo won’t instantly think ‘Tokyo’ when they see them.

The Sky Tree is a bit too new to be ‘instantly recognisable Tokyo’.

I have shot at a few spots around the Tokyo Tower, for Ferrari and one or two other car companies.

Then the people at Nissan here in Japan got back to me and said that the lady had just two hours for the shoot and that she lived in Machida.

Machida is about 50kms from central Tokyo and about 90mins drive, with the daytime traffic.

So, the Tokyo Tower idea was out of the window.

I looked up the lady’s neighbourhood on the map. StreetView is an amazing tool for planning location shoots, when you can’t instantly go to the location to check it out.

Her neighbourhood was lovely… if you want total suburban peace and quiet. But it was, to be very honest, visually dull as dishwater and, more importantly, nothing in the scene below screams ‘Tokyo!!!!!’ or ‘Japan!!!’

LEAF-owner-streetview

The lady I was to be shooting runs a rabbit boarding house. Yes, she looks after people’s rabbits when they go away. The client wanted a pic of her and her own rabbit.

I kept looking on StreetView, for a suitable ‘typically Japan’ sort of location in her immediate neighbourhood. There are plenty of shrines but when you look closer you see they are really boring or there’s no way to get the car close enough.

Then I hit upon one little shrine, about ten minutes drive from her house, that seemed like it would fit the bill: a stone ‘tori’ gate right next to a road, in a quiet neighbourhood.

Seemed perfect.

LEAF-owner-streetview3 LEAF-owner-streetview2

I turned up in the area one hour before the shoot and drove from her house to the location, to check exactly how long it took and to do the route myself so I could lead the convoy of her car, Nissan PR guy’s car. Never assume people know everything in their neighbourhood. Turned out to be true: the lady had no idea of the shrine I was talking about.

I got the location, shot a few test shots with my iPhone using my rental car, which was a little smaller than the LEAF. Perfect. No cars around, totally quiet residential surroundings. The spot would work fine.

iPhone test shot of my rental car outside the shrine iPhone test shot of my rental car outside the shrine

Went back to the house, met the lady and the guy from Nissan and we headed out to the location.

On arrival, it was pretty immediately apparent that on that day of the week, around 2pm, the schools finished early….. and the tiny narrow road past the shrine had a car needing to pass by every five minutes or less. The road directly in front of the shrine was super narrow. Japanese people are also very careful and over-conscious of space to pass, so even though the lady’s car was parked how I would describe as ‘off the road’, no one would pass it.

The Japanese really have an issue with judging distance, in my experience. In England, someone would feel happy with 12″ or 18″ gap to get their car through. Not here. No one would pass. They wanted us to move.

I’d set up one Einstein light on a stand with a large 60″ umbrella by the side of the road, to light the lady and her rabbit as they stood in front of the LEAF.

I had figured out that 28mm on the Nikon was perfect. I’d wanted to try the 28mm on the Nikon and drip back along a small path to shoot 80mm on the Hasselblad. In the end I had no time for that.

We got about 26 shots, being constantly interrupted by cars, a bus and a truck wanting to get past. Each time we had to move her car, put it back in the right spot. It was a nightmare. The clock was ticking.

In the end the Nissan guy said to me ‘we can’t keep doing this’.

He was really stressed out. More stressed than myself or the lady whose picture I was shooting. Even the rabbit was cool.

‘I DO realise that’, I said. ‘But I need five more takes of this and then we’ll leave. I can’t leave until I know for 100% sure that I have the shot.”

So that’s what we did. Five more mins, a total of 26 frames across what took an hour but 45mins of that was moving the car around and out of people’s way.

Turns out the client in France was super happy with the shot.

…and here it is. The final print was a square crop of this.

Portrait of Nissan LEAF owner for Nissan-Renault and COP21 Climate Talks 2015

I wished I’d had more choice of poses and cuts to show them but it just wasn’t possible and I knew for 100% sure that we had two or three perfect frames, where the car was good, the lady was good, the rabbit was good.

A stressful shoot, which had been just five days from commission being given to shot having to be handed in to the client.

It was printed up 3metres wide on the Renault-Nissan stand at COP21, in the venue’s main foyer area. Nissan-Renault provided all the electric vehicles foe the COP21 last year. It was a big deal having the shot there.

I never did get to see a shot of the pic in place above the stand, which was a shame. But the client was happy.

…now all they need to do is pay the bill.

Nikon D800E
Nikkor AF-D 28mm f/2.8
Einstein light in 60″ umbrella at camera right
Mini Vagabond battery pack

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Tetsuro Shimaguchi: A Japanese samurai performance http://www.japanorama.co.uk/tetsuro-shimaguchi-a-japanese-samurai-performance/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/tetsuro-shimaguchi-a-japanese-samurai-performance/#respond Wed, 03 Feb 2016 04:48:00 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=565

I was recently invited along to a performance of samurai sword craft in Mitaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. The invite came from Mone Ohashi, a ballet dancer I recently shot some pictures with. Mone was performing in the event, too.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. From what I could see on the invitation, the venue was a small basement room in Mitaka. I’d heard about Tetsuro Shimaguchi before, from his work on the first Kill Bill movie. It was his event. I wasn’t entirely sure what part Mone would be taking.

I found the place pretty easily, close to Mitaka station and already full of people by the time I got there. I took one of the three vacant seats, at the very back of the room, and settled down.

The performance kicked-off with a stirring, emotive piece of music that was reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for the Last Samurai. I love that soundtrack. I love Zimmer’s work in general. But the Last Samurai soundtrack is something I remember listening to a lit in the last few weeks of my father’s life and after that, in the run-up to moving to Japan.

Superb music was to be a theme of the evening’s performance, as various of the players combined in ‘sketches’ to illustrate components of the samurai’s art and place in Japanese folklore.

There was the mother defending her young son against attackers. The son then gets trained by a lady samurai, played by Hiromi Matsumura – who is one of Shimaguchi’s core performers and a stunning practitioner of katana. This sketch brought a lump to my throat.

Mone came on as the young lover/girlfriend/wife of a man who was beset on all sides with samurai. Both Mone and her love die at the hands of the swordsmen during this sketch, which was beautifully played out again with superb musical accompaniment. I’m a total sucker for music, visuals and this sort of atmosphere. Hence, I was in tears by this point.

I’m totally content being a sad, old sentimentalist who cries when the snowman melts at the end of Raymond Briggs’ classic animated film. Or, in this case, who succumbs to the combined emotional onslaught of spectacular performance skills, swordsmanship, Japanese exoticism, great music and the cosy anonymity of a dark room.

The whole event was a wondrous counterpoint to having been out all the day teaching and walking in the cold in modern Tokyo.

The talk at the end of the performance was wonderfully informative, light-hearted and a great way to round-off the whole event.

I met and spoke with Shimaguchi-sensei after the event and hope, sometime soon, to team up with him for some photos. He’s a lovely guy: warm-hearted, talented, humble and with presence and poise. Just like all the samurai I have met and worked with in Japan, a lot of whom I shot for a feature in this year’s Mercedes-AMG magazine [which you can see here].

Samurai are a group of people I never tire of being around. Not sure I’d have been able to say the same thing in 1716….. when they’d have been out for my head! I’m glad for the way times have changed.

Tetsuro Shimaguchi’s website is here.

Pictures from the event all shot with Nikon D3S, in-camera monochrome using predominantly my Monochrome HC-01 Picture Control. Lens was a 135mm f/2 AF-DC. Everything was up around 3200ISO and shot at f/2

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Travel+Inflight Magazine Photography, Japan: Portfolio feature for Air Mexico http://www.japanorama.co.uk/travelinflight-magazine-photography-japan-portfolio-feature-for-air-mexico/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/travelinflight-magazine-photography-japan-portfolio-feature-for-air-mexico/#respond Fri, 22 Jan 2016 00:41:15 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=554

I’ve been shooting and providing photos for Air Mexico for a few years now. The company that produces the magazines is part of the TIME group in Mexico. The thing I most love about the team there is that they allow me an incredible amount of freedom and control.

Sometimes I get assignments to shoot new material, which has seen me shooting pics at sushi restaurants, Tsukiji fishmarket, hotels, a cocktail bar, various shops and around the streets of Tokyo.

Then sometimes I get a feature come my way which is about fitting pictures from my back-catalogue into and around copy that the magazine has had written. I’ve illustrated a short-story by a leading Mexican writer that way and most recently have provided pics for a showcase issue of the magazine, focused around the colour ‘red’.

The ‘Red’ assignment was a mix of both off the peg and newly-shot stuff. For the opening double-page spread, the shot of Tokyo Tower was a new one. I spent a few hours at the Tower with a Hasselblad CFV-50c digital back on an old Hasselblad 500C/M film body. Lens was the old V series 120mm f/5.6. Sharp as a razor, that lens. In the end, the magazine chose a wide shot, which was made with my trusty old Nikon D700, which I’d just fancied taking out for the day [having long-since retired it from front-line duty].

The rest of the pics are a mix of ‘sort of recent’ and ‘actually quite old’. The one that has most emotional connection for me is the shot of all the ‘omikuji’ [paper ‘wishes’ or good luck charms] tied onto rails at a shrine in Kanagawa. The day I shot that was about a week after the Great East Japan Earthquake, in March 2011. Myself, my family and my best-friend from the UK – Sam – were staying a couple of days with friends outside Yokohama. Every photo that got shot in the first days and weeks after the quake is imbued with a special resonance for me.

You can see a few more features I’ve shot for Air Mexico, Accent and Aire magazines and for the Travel+Leisure/Mexico magazine that is also published by them, here at my portfolio website.

air-mexico-tokyo-red-1 air-mexico-tokyo-red-2 air-mexico-tokyo-red-3 air-mexico-tokyo-red-4 air-mexico-tokyo-red-5 air-mexico-tokyo-red-6

 

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Fashion photography in Tokyo: shooting Reverie http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-tokyo-shooting-reverie/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-tokyo-shooting-reverie/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 14:21:58 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=450

Sometimes you meet someone you click with. Sometimes you meet someone who thinks the same way you do. It doesn’t happen often but it when it does, it’s magic.

Reverie contacted me a couple of months ago, asking me if I’d be interested in shooting with her when she visited Tokyo. I emailed back and asked if she had a budget. She didn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those photographers who sits at home making memes about how hard it is to make money or how little people respect the value of my profession. Every person gets their case heard and after putting Reverie’s name into Google, it was case closed: yes, I’ll shoot with you, budget or not.

This was a lady who obviously had the ear of some great fashion designers in Italy. Reverie also writes for i-D magazine, a personal favourite of mine from way back when and not just because of the date I once had with the owner’s daughter (that didn’t go well but I was young, stupid and far too boring for her so I don’t blame her for not coming back for date no.2).

Over the course of a few weeks Reverie and I exchanged some emails. She sent me some pics of the clothes she’d be bringing on her trip. The black and white, Mary Quant-style outfit had me particularly keen.

In the meantime, I dug a little deeper into Reverie’s online persona: art appreciator, performance artist, lover of Japan and photography. Sounded good. I checked out a lot of pics she’d had taken in the past. This was obviously a lady who had a very developed idea of what she wanted, who had good taste and who knew what she was looking for.

My wife gave me a little shit for agreeing to spend two days with someone for no cash reward. I love my wife. She keeps my feet on the ground. I explained this was a shoot worth doing. Now she’s seen all the pictures that Reverie and I took together, she totally agrees with me about taking the shoot.

When someone contacts me about shooting fashion, the first thing I ask for is pics of the clothes. I need to see the style, the colours. I need to understand against what backdrop I can put the person and their outfits. You can’t just go out with a model and some clothes, anywhere, and expect it work. Homework, folks, is the key to a great result.

I eventually got a shot of every outfit Reverie would be bringing to Tokyo and I was excited. A week passed and she arrived in Ryogoku, staying in a hotel right next to the Edo Tokyo Museum – where she was visiting to write up a piece about the Da Vinci exhibition that’s on there right now.

Turns out that Reverie comes from Vinci, Leonardo’s home town. Nice.

Day 1 we met and had a chat in the lobby about where we’d go and shoot. We started off local, right around the corner in fact, in a garden I’d once trapsed through but never paid much attention to. The pics in the gallery, with the oval bank of flowers behind her, are from that first cut.

Rule No.1: go with the flow for the first cut. Reverie had spent 24hrs exploring her neighbourhood and she’d found a great spot that I didn’t know about. We shot two outfits there. It was awesome.

After that she changed and we headed into Asakusa. I really wanted to shoot the monochrome outfit there, in monochrome.

Ended up as some of the most special shots we got in the two days we spent together. The ones with her in the crowd, walking up the steps into the shrine….. they’re special. We got a lot of great shots together but those pics at Senso-ji really hit the nail on the head for me.

I had a busy week. We shot Monday, took a rest day on Tuesday and agreed to meet up again on the Wednesday. Turns out that was an inspired decision: Mon and Weds were amazing weather, Tuesday was disgusting.

Day 2 we spent based out of Hasselblad’s offices in Harajuku. Reverie brought a few outfits and Hasselblad gave her somewhere to change, somewhere for us to make some decent coffee and have some great chats [William, Liz, Seiko, Nagai-san and Cedric…. thanks for the hospitality].

We first shot a cutesy outfit around Harajuku and Design Festa [thanks, Nigel] and after that headed out to the old olympic stadium and Yoyogi Park.

At the stadium I got the 80-200mm out for the Nikon and this is where ‘wow’ turned into ‘yabai!’. There’s a few shots from that cut which made hairs come up on the back of my neck when we got them. That happens two or three times a year and I shoot a lot of photos. I was excited. Reverie was busy learning new Japanese words for how excited I was.

Really, well… if you pinned me down and put a gun to my head, I couldn’t really say which was my favourite shot of the two days.

The one we got in Kuramae, with the girl in kimono – enjoying seijin-no-hi [coming of age day] with her mum… that’s a winner. But there were so many it’s really hard to pick.

Good collaboration is a wonderful thing….

I met a new person.

Turned out we might be soul-mates.

We were enjoying an awesome coffee, in an amazing cafe, when we heard about David Bowie’s death.

We were sitting together at Hasselblad when I discovered this website had been hacked.

We shot some photos which have – only three weeks into 2016 – benchmarked my year.

Maybe it was all a dream…. but maybe that’s what you get for shooting with a girl whose name means ‘a state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing’.

I’ll let the lady herself sign this article off…..

But do go and check out her website here: artmoodon

“I have got a french (and official) name, Reverie. But I have also got a Japanese name which is Yumeko. I’m an italian performer, journalist, artists’ model. I’m also the founder of a particular website focused on the art and fashion world and in which I talk about art, sharing pictures of my sensitive meetings with the works of art (artmoodon.com).

My very first sentence in life was “Art is beautiful” and I have never stopped to think that is absolutely true. I have travelled a lot since I was a baby. I went for the first time in Tokyo when I was 11 years old and it was love at first sight. Since then, I always love saying that ‘my heart is withe with a red point in the center.’ 

After a second voyage to Japan five years ago, in which I visited Kyoto spending the new year between Shizuoka and Fukuoka and discovering the imperial rituals, foods and traditions, I have finally come back to the hometown of my heart!

I have to come to Tokyo because of two important exhibitions dedicated to the Italian Rennaissance but I would like also to see some characteristics of city that I have never discovered before! So I decided to surf the Internet looking for a photographer based in Tokyo, to take some shots in the most particular places of the city… And I immediately foundthe amazing Alfie Goodrich!

We stayed together for two days taking hundreds of pictures, discovering the city and knowing more and more about each other. We undestand that even if we don’t live so close we have many things in common. We love Tokyo, the politeness of Japanese people, the photography, the matcha lattes of Japanese bars, we are born in the same month, we don’t understand why the Japanese gyms are open for 24hours… and we also like so much the word “yabai”.

Thanks to Alfie, I discover the Senso-ji Temple, Harajuku and the Takeshita street,  Yoyogi Park. I didn’t get lost in the subway lines, I laughed about the different pronunciation of Shouganai (c’est la vie and we can’t do anything about that) and Shiyouga nai (I have no ginger!) and I understand that I have to come back soon because I love Tokyo and because I love working with him.”

Here’s the gallery of shots we made together. Neither of us could cut it down farther than seventy-nine shots…. happy days.

alfiegoodrich_8448020 alfiegoodrich_DSC0447 alfiegoodrich_DSC0461 alfiegoodrich_DSC0174 alfiegoodrich_8448197 alfiegoodrich_8447931 alfiegoodrich_DSC0534 alfiegoodrich_DSC0063 alfiegoodrich_DSC0282 alfiegoodrich_DSC0336day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0027day1 alfiegoodrich_8447881 alfiegoodrich_DSC0262 alfiegoodrich_8447988 alfiegoodrich_DSC0361day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0165day2 alfiegoodrich_8448112 alfiegoodrich_DSC0504day1 alfiegoodrich_8447857 alfiegoodrich_DSC0199day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0003 alfiegoodrich_DSC0035day2 alfiegoodrich_8447842 alfiegoodrich_DSC0454 alfiegoodrich_DSC0404 alfiegoodrich_DSC0226 alfiegoodrich_DSC0208day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0480 alfiegoodrich_DSC0490 alfiegoodrich_DSC0268 alfiegoodrich_8448048 alfiegoodrich_8447960 alfiegoodrich_8448131 alfiegoodrich_DSC0149day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0493 alfiegoodrich_DSC0488 alfiegoodrich_DSC0398day1 alfiegoodrich_8448126 alfiegoodrich_DSC0013 alfiegoodrich_8447922 alfiegoodrich_DSC0193 alfiegoodrich_DSC0039 alfiegoodrich_DSC0411day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0104 alfiegoodrich_DSC0380 alfiegoodrich_DSC0054 alfiegoodrich_DSC0368 alfiegoodrich_DSC0217day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0475 alfiegoodrich_DSC0133 alfiegoodrich_DSC0354day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0545day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0271 alfiegoodrich_DSC0344 alfiegoodrich_8447943 alfiegoodrich_DSC0522 alfiegoodrich_DSC0205day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0366 alfiegoodrich_8448013 alfiegoodrich_8448100 alfiegoodrich_DSC0032day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0163 alfiegoodrich_DSC0162day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0207day1 alfiegoodrich_DSC0006 alfiegoodrich_DSC0425day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0114 alfiegoodrich_8448153 alfiegoodrich_DSC0004 alfiegoodrich_DSC0251 alfiegoodrich_DSC0540day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0144day1 alfiegoodrich_8448160 alfiegoodrich_DSC0241 alfiegoodrich_DSC0030 alfiegoodrich_8448096 alfiegoodrich_8448039 alfiegoodrich_DSC0309 alfiegoodrich_DSC0461_01 alfiegoodrich_DSC0498 alfiegoodrich_DSC0015 alfiegoodrich_DSC0124 alfiegoodrich_DSC0262day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0236 alfiegoodrich_DSC0049day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0330 alfiegoodrich_DSC0310 alfiegoodrich_8447847 alfiegoodrich_DSC0316 alfiegoodrich_8448092 alfiegoodrich_DSC0465 alfiegoodrich_DSC0021 alfiegoodrich_DSC0258day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0149day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0152day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0426day2 alfiegoodrich_DSC0401day1

 

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