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 Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:05:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/cropped-japanorama-www-icon-512x512-125x125.png Japanorama http://www.japanorama.co.uk 32 32 9868597 High views in Tokyo: the new Tokyu Plaza in Ginza/Yurakucho http://www.japanorama.co.uk/high-views-in-tokyo-the-new-tokyu-plaza-in-ginzayurakucho/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/high-views-in-tokyo-the-new-tokyu-plaza-in-ginzayurakucho/#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:05:42 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1537

It’s been just a few months since the new flagship Tokyu Plaza mall opened in Ginza/Yurakuch, Tokyo. And it offers some amazing new high views.

A new high view is always worth visiting. Tokyo has some great ones but the new Tokyu Plaza store in downtown Tokyo has a superb view from its 12th floor, marked as ‘R’ in the lift… for ‘roof’.

There are windows so you are shooting through glass and if there is strong sunlight you’ll need something to cut the reflections; a dark jacket sweater or similar – placed behind the camera – will do the trick.

I haven’t tested the place with a tripod yet. There is plenty of space in between the railing and the glass but it’ll be down to the staff/security guards as to whether you’ll get away with using a tripod. I’ve actually not seen a security guard up there yet.

A long exposure at night will give you the zebra-crossing below the building and the expressway (motorway) weaving through Ginza directly ahead of you. It’s definitely something I’ll be trying next time I go there.

I was there the other day with a student who I was doing a photo-tour/lesson with. IT was during the daytime and I had limited lenses on me and no tripod. So there are just a few views from the place.

Great spot though. Recommended if you are near or in that part of town.

Find it on Google Maps here.

The building’s website is here.

My shots from the other day, shot with the 14mm and the 80-200mm lenses.

ginza-new-view-alf_3909 yurakucho-h-alf_3915 yurakucho-shinkansen-alf_3912 yurakucho-new-view-alf_3889 ginza-toycars-alf_3897-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3900-sq yurakucho-new-view-alf_3911 ginza-toycars-alf_3894-sq yurakucho-new-view-alf_3887 yurakucho-new-view-alf_3886 ginza-alf_3891 yurakucho-new-view-alf_3906 ginza-sq-alf_3884-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3902-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3899-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3896-sq ginza-sq-alf_3885-sq ]]>
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Cup ramen shooting: a cinematic Norie in Shibuya http://www.japanorama.co.uk/cup-ramen-shooting-a-cinematic-norie-in-shibuya/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/cup-ramen-shooting-a-cinematic-norie-in-shibuya/#respond Sat, 17 Sep 2016 03:30:26 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1529

Over the last couple or three years, I’ve done a few of what I call ‘cup ramen shoots’. The idea is basically to shoot a fashion set in about the time it would take to unwrap, add boiling water to and prepare a cup-ramen [cup noodle]. Which, depending on the variety of noodle, is between 3 and 5minutes. It’s a bit of a laugh. It’s also very good exercise for me, my model and – if it’s part of a lesson – my students. 

Just like for athletes, I think it’s really important for creative professionals to have exercises and routines to keep fit. I have a few of my own which also get me out of the creative ruts I often find myself in; those times of the month where you just take a look at your work and think ‘this is crap and I’ve lost my mojo’.

The ‘cup-ramen shoot’ is one of these exercises. I usually mix it up with one or two of the other ‘creative gymnasium’ routines that I have: one prime lens, one light, one gel, one modifier.

Yesterday I’d been doing an all-day photo tour/lesson with Michael, who is in Japan for a month from Germany. It’s his first trip here. We visited a load of cool places during the day and as Michael likes shooting models – in and out of the studio – we decided to hook up with Norie in Shibuya for a quick shoot and a beer to end the day.

Everything we did took about 30mins, which included finding the location, thinking about the setup, Michael shooting what he wanted to and me shooting a few frames (the cup-ramen part, as all my shots took less than 5mins).

Michael told me he had a great day. Seeing the very quick setup I shot gave him, he said, real inspiration to pare things down a lot and concentrate on limiting himself more. Limitations, IMHO, are a great way of focusing and honing your skills. Limitations like:

  • One light.
  • Monochrome only
  • 3200K only
  • 5min time limit
  • 36shots only
  • No deletes
  • One prime.

etc etc….

Keep it simple. Do it often. The eye is a muscle. So is your brain. They need regular exercise. Repetition and routine can be very useful for keeping the photographer fit and on the ball.

Gear used in my shots:

  • Nikon D3S
  • 14mm f/2.8
  • 24-70mm f/2.8 [Michael’s lens]
  • 1 x Nikon SB-800
  • Radio trigger for the flash
  • 1 x red gel
  • 1 x green gel

My photos

norie-shobuya-alf_3941a norie-shinuya-alf_3934a norie-shibuya-16x9-alf_3926a norie-shibuya-alf_3925a norie-shibuya-alf_3924a ]]>
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Teaching photography: shooting location portraits in harsh sunlight http://www.japanorama.co.uk/teaching-photography-shooting-location-portraits-in-harsh-sunlight/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/teaching-photography-shooting-location-portraits-in-harsh-sunlight/#respond Thu, 18 Aug 2016 01:08:55 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1444

Paul being back in Japan gave us an opportunity to meet up again, go out and for me to help him get his head around shooting portraits in nasty sunshine….. ahead of a trip he’s doing in the near future, to shoot a motorcycle team at the Bonneville Speed Trials.

I hate summer in Japan. If it wasn’t just about me [uprooting the whole family for the whole summer is a bit tough], I’d leave Japan in late June and return in late September. The sun here is brutal in the summer and combined with humidity that ranges between 70 and 90%, being here can make for a miserable experience. I like sunshine. I like warm days. But 37degrees C and 80% humidity in Tokyo, or anywhere else for that matter, is a bit too much for this Englishman.

The angle and temperature of the sun – combined with the humidity – can really make for punishing shooting conditions.Certain times of the day are really out of the question for portrait shooting in the Japanese summer unless you find shade. If your subject is people, there is also their welfare to think about…

…and your own. By the end of the day we were all rather sunburned.

So, with Paul heading off to Bonneville sometime in the near future [no shade on the open salt flats] we thought we’d have a go at filling him up with some techniques for overcoming the conditions and getting great shots. Although I took along a stack of gear [small flashes, one big light, modifiers etc] I wanted as much as possible to have Paul use his own gear. Most of the day we paired up his two Nikon speedlights with my monopod and some basic modifiers. I use the monopod a lot, as a lighting boom when I have someone to assist me and as a manageable ‘two lights on a tall stick’ rig to hold myself when I have no help.

Each of the locations was somewhere I’d shot before. On arriving in each place, Paul and I had a walkaround to see what was possible. In many cases the first shots Paul pre-visualised were ones we didn’t do. One of the skills I wanted him to pick up was the ability to walk into a location, scout it quickly, see the obvious shots and then spot the less obvious opportunities. Whether you decide to play it safe by shooting what’s obvious first or, by having what’s obvious as a backup plan if the more interesting shots don’t work out, it doesn’t matter. Seeing as much potential as possible is the key.

Here are the edits I made of a selection of Paul’s shots, to go in the CD layout which you see below:

edits-www-_DSC3961b edits-www-_DSC4041c edits-www-_DSC4088a edits-www-_DSC4121a

For most of the day, Paul’s two speedlights on the monopod – at half or full power – was enough [occasionally gridded but mostly bare] to get all the shots we made. Typically we were shooting our model in shade and mimicking the angle of the sun with the flash. Or, standing our model with his back to the sun and using the flashes to bring him up to the same or more brightness than the sun.

Most of the shots were made with the flashes 45degrees out from the model and at a down-angle of 45degrees.

As with most of these sorts of lessons that I give, we went with a ‘product’ as the result to aim for. In this case it was a music CD: the debut album of a young, male artist who we pretended lived on the coast and whose music was inspired by the area.

It allowed Paul to channel his thoughts, here primarily into shooting for the square format of CD artwork. Plus, across such a layout there needs to be continuity and narrative.

Here’s a few words from Paul about the day:

“Mid-day, hot, hard sun-light – exactly what I was looking for! I’m eager to learn how to take portrait pictures in such conditions in order to prepare for a photo shoot I’ve upcoming next year. And to top the whole thing, for the best part of the day, Alfie made me use my own equipment available to me.
This was more than just learning a bit about how to set the camera – it was about visualising the final image in a square format for the CD cover, how to make use of the ambient light, how to control the light with two speed lights on full power and last but not least daring to explore locations I would have walked passed in ignorance.
I learnt a great deal again about how to go about on the location itself, identifying the right spots, preparing the speed lights to shoot from the right angle, bringing a bit of drama into the composition and of course getting the camera and flash settings right too.
Alfie has this gift when teaching, to push you out of your comfort zone and to be motivated to take a better shot each time.
His passion for what he is doing is clearly infectious. I was also amazed how well Joe participated with all the patience needed and simply followed your instructions.

Thank you for the day and for the sunburn that went with it ;-)”

There’s a gallery, below,  of Paul’s favourites from the shoot. All of his shots are pretty much un-edited, straight from the camera.

Underneath that is the music CD layout I made from several of his best shots.

Huge thanks to my eldest son, Joe, for being the model. Big shout out to Yoshiko for coming along to help and add a little craziness to the day, as only she can 🙂

small-PhotoLesson-094 small-PhotoLesson-118 small-PhotoLesson-080 small-PhotoLesson-180 small-PhotoLesson-092 small-PhotoLesson-089 small-PhotoLesson-084 small-PhotoLesson-095 small-PhotoLesson-069 small-PhotoLesson-093 small-PhotoLesson-207 small-PhotoLesson-184 small-PhotoLesson-178 small-PhotoLesson-085 small-PhotoLesson-061 small-PhotoLesson-102 small-PhotoLesson-131 small-PhotoLesson-058 small-PhotoLesson-097 small-PhotoLesson-155 small-PhotoLesson-123 small-PhotoLesson-192 small-PhotoLesson-181 small-PhotoLesson-103 small-PhotoLesson-055 small-PhotoLesson-136 small-PhotoLesson-114 small-PhotoLesson-045 small-PhotoLesson-098 small-PhotoLesson-185 small-PhotoLesson-202 small-PhotoLesson-108 small-PhotoLesson-110 small-PhotoLesson-096 small-PhotoLesson-067 small-PhotoLesson-070 small-PhotoLesson-099 small-PhotoLesson-117 small-PhotoLesson-205 small-PhotoLesson-087 small-PhotoLesson-151 small-PhotoLesson-175 small-PhotoLesson-210 small-PhotoLesson-174 small-PhotoLesson-142

The CD layout:

CD laout made from shots taken on the workshop


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Camping in Japan: by the shores of Lake Motosu http://www.japanorama.co.uk/camping-in-japan-by-the-shores-of-lake-motosu/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/camping-in-japan-by-the-shores-of-lake-motosu/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2016 04:18:06 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1382

There are some great campsites in Japan but many have too many rules. Our favourite campsite in the area around Mount Fuji is just the right balance of freedom and regulation.

We love camping. We wish we had more time to do it but busy work and school schedules often make it difficult to get away. Last weekend, though, we packed up a rental car and headed off for a great site we know on the shores of Lake Motosu, in the ‘Fuji Five Lakes’ region.

Motosuko is the lake and Mt. Fuji view that is on the back of the 1000¥ banknote. Whilst there is a campsite directly below the roadside viewing area for that precise view, it’s too overburdened with rules. You have to take all your own rubbish away with you [kind of fine unless like us you are in a car that is already packed to the roof with stuff for the weekend]; there are no open fires allowed and you have to check out by 10am.

Our preferred campsite allows you to relax; open fires are cool as long as you are safe and sensible. Fireworks are limited to handheld items: no massive rockets or projectiles. There are ample rubbish collection facilities and the campsite staff take away the refuse each day. Checkout and pitch vacation is 12noon. Much more sensible and a lot more relaxing.

Here’s the location of the campsite we like: click here for a direct link to the location on Google Maps.

Campsite by Lake Motosu, Japan


The site has a mix of tent pitches and small buildings with tatami flooring that you can use for sleeping. The tent pitches are a generous size. We have a massive tent and the pitch was big enough for the tent and the car.

Toilet facilities are ok. There is a mix of outhouse/built toilet blocks and the kind of portaloos you find at music festivals. Shower facilities were 100¥ for three minutes. Water was piping hot.

Washing-up sinks and food preparation tables are dotted around the site.

There’s a little jetty for the kids to jump off of, into the lake.

If you’re a strong swimmer or like snorkelling [as I do] then the lake is perfect. The first 4metres of the lake, out from the shore, goes from paddling depth to about 1m 40cms. After that it shelves very quickly, as lakes do, and gets very deep.

The snorkelling is great as the water is crystal clear.

If you have small children [our youngest, Charlie] is 6 and a half, then there are plenty of parents and older kids swimming all day. We watched Charlie for the first few hours then left him pretty much to his own devices. Japan is good like that; people tend to keep an eye out for each other.

There is rowing-boat rental for 1130¥ for an hour or 3000¥ for the whole day.

There is a small shop on-site, selling the essentials [snacks, soup, noodles, beer etc]. The nearest proper supermarket is the excellent Forest Mall, Kawaguchiko: it’s around 14kms or 25mins drive away. There is an Aeon Super Value market there, a home and DIY centre that also has all the necessary BBQ, camping and outdoor products, a drugstore, Daiso 100¥ shop, Mos Burger and one or two other things. There was no coin laundry at the mall or the campsite.

We spent two nights and three days at the campsite. Myself, the wife, our two teenage kids and one primary school aged child… tent and car cost 10,070¥.

The views from the site are superb. At night the sky is full of stars, during the day the views are breathtaking. Great site. We’d go again tomorrow given the chance.

Here are some shots from the Nikon, that I took during our stay. There’s another load of shots from the Hasselblad, which I’ll sort out and upload soon. I’ll get the iPhone shots out of the phone and put them here later too.

motosu-camping-2016-ALF_2138 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2246 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2131-sq camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2222 motosu-camping-2016-ALF_2138-40-diptych camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2233 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2228 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2179 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2161a camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2182 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2221 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2206 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2154 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2173 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2226 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2140 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2237 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2199 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2239 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2259 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2219 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2224 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2208 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2263 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2234 ]]>
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Sumo wrestling: shooting the morning practice http://www.japanorama.co.uk/sumo-wrestling-shooting-the-morning-practice/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/sumo-wrestling-shooting-the-morning-practice/#respond Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:58:55 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1319

I’ve shot the sumo wrestling tournaments a few times but had never been to a morning practice session. Thanks to John Gunning, I got to go along this week.

Apparently someone much more famous than I had cancelled on going to the sumo practice with my friend John Gunning. So I got their seat. Nice.

Kiyosumi-shirakawa is a neighbourhood I go to fairly often, because it’s eclectic, interesting and not so far from where I live. I’d never really noticed that there were sumo stables there. So it was cool to find out there’s another reason to love the area.

Morning practice for the sumo is a superb thing to visit. For the uninitiated, there are a few rules to get your head around but anyone who is naturally polite, quiet and well-mannered will get on fine.

Sitting cross-legged for three hours and not going to the toilet requires some focus. I’d recommend not drinking to much coffee before you go. I’m glad I hadn’t.

We had a good spot to shoot from, right next to the ring. I took just a couple or three lenses: 50mm f/1.2, the 135mm f/2 DC and an old manual zoom; the 36-72mm f/3.5 E. Proved to be a good mix. The lighting wasn’t too bad so I was basically shooting at 1600ISO the whole time and with the larger aperture lenses keeping the shutter speed up around 1/640sec.

I shot with two of the Nikon Picture Controls I have: Monochrome 2 [higher contrast, sharpened, red filter] and the Kodak Ektachrome P [pushed saturation, crushed blacks].

All these shots are straight from the camera, simply converted to JPEG from the RAW files using Nikon Capture NX-D.

Looking forward, via John, to a long and productive relationship with a couple of sumo stables. It was a great intro. I like sumo anyway but seeing the practice has put a new spin on it for me and I gotta say…. much respect to these guys. They work hard.

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Photowalks in Tokyo: the textures & colours of Moto-azabu http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photowalks-in-tokyo-textures-colours-of-azabu/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photowalks-in-tokyo-textures-colours-of-azabu/#respond Sat, 07 May 2016 14:25:29 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1270

I went out with one of my photography students today, to have a wander around parts of Azabu with the intention of looking at texture and colour. Here’s some of my shots from the walk we had together.

Tokyo is a fascinating and multi-faceted city. Walk a few metres from any main road and you can suddenly find yourself in a quiet backstreet that has the feel of a small village. Tokyo is, perhaps, nothing more or less than thousands of villages strung together.

Meeting with one of my regular photo students today, we decided to focus on textures and to shoot in colour, Several of the first lessons we’d done together had been spent shooting only in monochrome.

The area around Azabu-juban is full of characterful backstreets. A few of the areas we explored today were ones I hadn’t walked around for maybe five or six years. It was nice to go back, to see how they’d changed. Some had changed a lot and may soon not have any resemblance to what they used to be like. That’s happening all the tie in Tokyo, more so recently it seems. Maybe I’m just getting more sensitive to the changes but they seem to be speeding up.

All of the shots in the gallery below were shot with either the Kodak Ektachrome P picture control I made for the Nikons [which resembles the crushed blacks and over-saturated colours of a kind of twist you could put on the E6 process, that I used to do in the darkroom]. Or, shot using the Vivid-02 picture control that I adapted from the ‘Vivid’ that comes supplied with every Nikon DSLR.

The files have simply been converted to JPEG from the RAWs that I shot today.

If you fancy taking a lesson with me, drop me a line. Thanks for reading.

Moto-azabu: May 7th, 2016

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Assignment out-takes: Hyogo & Tottori for SAS Airlines http://www.japanorama.co.uk/assignment-out-takes-hyogo-tottori-for-sas-airlines/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/assignment-out-takes-hyogo-tottori-for-sas-airlines/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 14:09:32 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1167

One of the things about shooting travel photography, especially for inflight magazines, is that there is a lot of material that doesn’t get used. This is the first in a series of articles about the out-takes that occur when on assignment.

In June of 2015, I travelled to Hyogo Prefecture to shoot a story on Kobe beef for SAS Airlines magazine. Some of the inflight magazines give me an idea of how many pages the article will be before I go away. This time that didn’t happen. I had a list of things to cover, people to visit and shoot. It would be a fairly busy trip, covering almost 1000kms of Hyogo and Tottori Prefectures in three days.

I’d been to a few parts of Hyogo before but never along all of the northern coastline and that was my favourite part of the trip.

Here’s what SAS Airlines’ magazine used from my shots taken on the trip:

SAS Airlines story on Kobe Beef shot by Alfie Goodrich

SAS Airlines story on Kobe Beef shot by Alfie Goodrich

The Takeno and Kasumi coastlines are part of a Geopark that stretches along the entire northern border of Hyogo and into Tottori. I’d been in Kinosaki Onsen to shoot the shop that sells the beef from the first farm I’d shot and from Kinosaki it was a fairly short drive up onto the coast.

The road is beautiful, winding and exciting to drive. Each curve brings a new vista into sight and there are some truly amazing places that I found. I hope, soon, to go back and to try and run a photo workshop in the area as there are many sights which would make excellent places to shoot landscape and fashion.

Tottori was somewhere I’d only ever quickly been through and it was my first time at the famous sand dunes. I’ll be aiming to go back there for a shoot of my own soon, too.

Takeda Castle was the highlight of the return trip to Kyoto back through Hyogo after my second farm shoot. It’s an amazing sight, quite a walk from the top car-park and rewarded me with some excellent views and a good workout!

As well as the stuff that got into the SAS magazine, I used a bunch of shots from the trip along with an interview with the chef of the Park Hyatt, Tokyo, in the magazine I recently designed and produced for Housing Japan. You can see that here. The Kobe Beef story starts on pp41.

A gallery of the out-takes from my trip to Hyogo and Tottori:

sas-www_8444274 sas-www_8444418 sas-www_8444027 sas-hyogo_ALF_4525 sas-www_8444242 sas-www_8443987 sas-www_8444326 sas-www_8444177 sas-www_8444282 sas-www_8444243 sas-www_8444324 sas-www_8444040 sas-www_8444434 sas-www_8444417 sas-hyogo_ALF_4589 sas-www_8443998 sas-www_8444218 sas-www_8444252 sas-hyogo_ALF_4843 sas-www_8444085 sas-www_8444000 sas-www_8444397 sas-www_8444420 sas-hyogo_ALF_4908 sas-www_8444197 sas-www_8444400 sas-www_8444273 sas-www_8444267 sas-www_8443999 sas-www_8444387 sas-www_8444215 sas-www_8444269 sas-www_8444276 sas-www_8444394 sas-www_8444403 sas-www_8444320 sas-www_8444281 sas-hyogo_ALF_5263 sas-www_8444036 sas-www_8444289 sas-www_8444214 sas-www_8444014 sas-www_8444082 sas-www_8444301 sas-www_8444035 sas-www_8444241 sas-www_8444321 sas-www_8444245 sas-www_8444167 sas-www_8444317 sas-hyogo_ALF_5236 sas-www_8444409 sas-www_8443979 sas-www_8444335 sas-www_8444407 sas-www_8444015 sas-www_8444302 sas-www_8443966 sas-hyogo_ALF_4572 sas-www_8444158 sas-www_8443955 sas-www_8444162 sas-www_8444283 sas-hyogo_ALF_5021 sas-www_8444386 sas-www_8444327 sas-hyogo_ALF_4610 sas-www_8444121 sas-hyogo_ALF_4569 sas-hyogo_ALF_4888 sas-www_8443977 sas-www_8444411 sas-hyogo_ALF_4513 sas-www_8444416 sas-www_8444235 sas-www_8444193 sas-www_8443968 sas-hyogo_ALF_4983 sas-www_8444194 sas-www_8444098 sas-www_8444013 sas-www_8444330 sas-www_8444051 sas-www_8444248 sas-www_8444055 sas-www_8443973 sas-www_8444279 ]]>
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Photo walks in Japan: off the beaten track in Kamakura http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photo-walks-in-japan-off-the-beaten-track-in-kamakura/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/photo-walks-in-japan-off-the-beaten-track-in-kamakura/#respond Tue, 03 May 2016 06:31:11 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1096

Kamakura makes a great day-trip from Tokyo but it’s good to get away from the main touristy areas. This walk is one I have been doing for years. It’s great in any season, takes you through some amazing but quiet and tranquil shrines and brings you out to the Kamakura’s north beach. 

Kamakura is rather small for a city but was first designated one in 1939. Historically it is best know for once being the de facto capital of Japan and one of the periods of Japanese history is named after it.

Kamakura today is popular for the giant buddha and for the countless shrines. It’s also a popular seaside resort but less so, perhaps, than the nearby island of Enoshima – to which it is joined by the charming ‘enoden’ train.

I first visited Kamakura in 2002 but it wasn’t until around 2009 that I discovered the route I’m going to map out for you below. Since finding this more tranquil side to the city, I rarely go back to the overcrowded areas which are popular with most visitors: the main shrines, the giant buddha etc. This is just my personal preference. There’s plenty to see on the main drag and also up in the charming satellite of Kita-kamakura. I just choose to stay away from the throng.

The route starts at the station and after wending your way a little out of the main part of town through a couple of curious shrines, you find yourself on a walk up into the forest which brings you to the first main stop on my route: Myohon-ji Temple.

I’ve spent hours at Myohon-ji. It’s a beautiful place in any season but autumn and spring are when you’ll see it at its best. In summer, though, the deep cover of green trees provides welcome respite from the heat.

The folks who tend to and run the temple are pretty laid-back. I’ve shot fashion and portraits there, some of which you can see in the galleries below. And as long as you’re not using stands or tripods up on the temple walkways, there’s really no problem with shooting there.

From Myohon-ji the route winds its way gradually towards the bottom of a large hill, where you’ll find the pretty temple of Chosho-ji.

Spend some time here as there are plenty of nooks and crannies to photograph, before heading up through the graveyard and over the hill.

At the top of the hill the route get a little complicated to follow, as the path narrows to what looks like an entrance into someone’s garden. But, shortly after that it widens out again and you’ll find yourself on the little road that heads all the way down the hill.

The residential areas at the bottom of the hill can be a little confusing to find your way out of but aim for Komyo-ji Temple, which is fairly easy to find.

Komyo-ji is quite a sprawling site and has a beautiful outer gate. Inside there are two quite distinct sections of the temple, both beautiful. At one side of the back of the temple is a large pond. On the other side, a stone garden.

It’s a place that, again, I’ve spent at least an hour photographing.

The map of my walk, with key waypoints marked:

Photowalk in Kamakura

Click here to visit the map on Google Maps.

From there it’s a five minute walk onto the North Beach which, in the summer, is covered with pop-up restaurants, bars and places you can rent a deck-chair and parasol.

I’ve generally started this the walk about 10am, taken it a relaxed pace, stopped at Myohon-ji for at least an hour, broken for a lunch bought from the Lawson convenience store in between Myohon-ji and Chosho-ji temples and it’s got me to the beach for sunset in the autumn and spring. Summer setting sun is a little later but in the summer there are plenty of ways to kill time on the beach until the sun drops…. with a drink or something to eat.

The sunset from the beach here is stunning if you get it on the right day, which I have been lucky enough to do a couple of times in my life. The view of Fuji across the bay is great, it’s a peaceful place [a little less so in the height of a summer weekend] and from the beach it’s an 40mins walk back to the station through some funky little backstreets.

Gallery of miscellaneous shots taken on the route:

kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0011 kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0001 kamakura-ir-DSC_4614bsm kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0052 kamakura_august2012_001 kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0040 kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0023 kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0041 kamakura290410_MMFC0018 kamakura_ALF0077 kamakura-ir-DSC_4586a kamakura_ALF0062a kamakura_august2012_005 kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0002 kamakura_august2012_003 kamakura_august2012_004 kamakura010510ALF_2624a kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0050 kamakurawalk_1110_ALF_7631 kamakura_august2012_002 kamakura_MMFC0021a kamakurawalk_1110_MMFC0045

Gallery of shots made with Mari at Myohon-ji, Chosho-ji, Komyo-ji and then at Hayama [about 20mins drive from Kamakura]:

ALF_1516a_574px ALF_1533a_574px ALF_1558a_574px ALF_1579a_574px ALF_1598a_574px ALF_1612a_574px ALF_1638a_574px ALF_1655a_574px ALF_1660a_574px ALF_1660b_574px ALF_1677a_574px ALF_1704a_574px ALF_1717a_574px ALF_1738a_574px ALF_1747a_574px ALF_1750a_574px ALF_1753a_574px ALF_1769a_574px ALF_1779a_574px ALF_1812a_574px ALF_1828a_574px ALF_1836a_574px ALF_1839a_574px ALF_1850a_574px ALF_1860a_574px ALF_1869a_574px ALF_1926a_574px ALF_1984a_574px ALF_2048a_574px ALF_2061a_574px ALF_2076a_574px ALF_2111a_574px ALF_2182a_574px ALF_2234a_574px ALF_2249a_574px ALF_2303b_574px ALF_2344a_574px ]]>
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Fashion photography in Tokyo: Mari, one speed-light and some gels http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-tokyo-mari-one-speed-light-and-some-gels/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/fashion-photography-in-tokyo-mari-one-speed-light-and-some-gels/#respond Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:47:16 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1065

It’s been quite a while since I went out shooting with Mari. We put that right yesterday, with a quick trip to Yurakucho.

I used to hate flash. Part of that is because, after something like 13 years of shooting only music photography, I was fed up with being told not to use it. Pretty much every gig I ever shot would be preceded by someone from the band’s PR or the venue coming out and saying ‘first three, no flash’. So I learned to shoot everything without flash.

Learning lighting at college was first done with constant lights which is a great way of learning. The flash work came after you’d got used to seeing the light, seeing the shadows, getting the angles right.

College was mostly about using flash in the studio. I don’t mind the studio but I much prefer working on location. The buzz for me is walking into a location with a model, clothes, the camera, a light or two and quickly coming up with the best way to use all of it to create something cool. Approaching a location that millions of folk might walk through every day [on their way to work, to go to the shops] and to turn it into something completely different, that makes people go ‘eh? that’s that place? I’d never have guessed…..’.

Mari and I met primarily for me to give her a few copies of the Housing Japan magazine, which she features in twice. As we find it impossible to be together and NOT shoot some photos, we decided to do that to. I never have to worry about telling Mari ‘to wear something that’s good to shoot in’, as she is the consummate professional and will always turn up in exactly the right ‘something’ anyway.

I was feeling slightly lazy and knew  that by the time we met I’d have a stack of heavy magazines in my bag, so I packed light on the gear front: Nikon D800e, 28-80mm G series variable-aperture zoom [the ‘plastic fantastic’, I call it], one SB-800 speed-light, a monopod, a clamp to mount the flash onto things, some gels.

There’s nothing like limiting your gear choices in order to squeeze out the creativity.

There were a few spots in the Tokyo International Forum that I’d wanted to shoot in with Mari and I’d recently sent her a photo of one, that I’d shot with my phone.

She came along yesterday dressed in a nice white ensemble: trousers, jacket and t-shirt. It sort of looked a little ‘Jedi meets couture’. Turned out that the lighting we used really helped the ‘sci-fi’ feeling.

We shot in five spots around the Forum, inside and semi-outside. Mostly inside as it was raining all day yesterday,

I either used the SB800 mounted on the clamp or on the monopod. Stands aren’t allowed at the Forum. Nothing resting on the ground, in fact. So when the security guards were close by, I had the foot of the monopod rested on my leg or foot. You can see the placement of the strobe on the clamp in this shot below: clamped onto the glass partition between the escalators. These clamps are great. Cheap, light and with a ball-head on them. I also had a 15degree grid on the flash. Ideally it would have been nice to have a higher angle on the light, clamped on the wall where I was shooting from. The SB800 just doesn’t have the throw for that, though.


The monopod is fairly tall and makes for a great one-man-band rig. You can get it high above the model and lean it in to get a nice down-angle on the light, all with one hand whilst holding the camera in the other.

The gels are a set of Selens gels; about 25 colours in a wallet. I got them super cheap from Meking Studios’ store on ebay. Super easy to use, great variety of colours and colour-correction gels.

The whole set you see below took us just over an hour. Lots of fun.

How come the blue and red in some shots?

I work a lot with custom white-balance in the camera, usually beginning by using the Live View on the camera, setting the white-balance to the ‘Kelvin’ setting and then scrolling through the colour temperatures, whilst eyeballing the way the world in front of me changes colour on the screen of the camera.

Yesterday I was using colour temperatures of between 2500K and 3500K to get the ambient light a nice shade of blue, with a red gel on the flash. Red and blue are always good bed-fellows. The coour combo and Mari’s clothes really made for a nice sci-fi feel.

If you’re interested in booking me and a model for your own personal ‘use Tokyo as my studio’ session, drop me a line. I do lots of those sorts of lessons and ‘location shooting photo tours‘, exploring some cool spots across the city and using them all as locations for the model shots. It’s a lot of fun and usually teaches folk all sorts of things about how to see the potential in even the most ‘normal’ of locations. We usually shoot ambient and some flash.

Here’s the set of shots from yesterday’s outing with Mari:

mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8351 mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8337a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8315a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8257a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8326a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8270a mari-hirao-internationa-forum-ALF_8308a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8237a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8377a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8380a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8275a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8336a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8398a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8319a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8355a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8392a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8365a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8247a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8340a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8247 mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8384a mari-hirao-international-forum-ALF_8349a


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Creating a magazine for print: art-directing, shooting & designing for Housing Japan http://www.japanorama.co.uk/creating-a-magazine-for-print-art-directing-shooting-designing-for-housing-japan/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/creating-a-magazine-for-print-art-directing-shooting-designing-for-housing-japan/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 02:11:27 +0000 http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1055

Towards the end of 2015, I was asked by a Tokyo real-estate company I was shooting for to get involved and design the next issue of their magazine. It’s been a journey of a few months, but at the beginning of April the magazine was released and everyone’s happy with it. Result!

Prior to taking on the job of re-designing Housing Japan’s magazine, I’d made dozens of e-magazines and worked on components of the print magazine design process. So I knew how everything worked but hadn’t ever done it all myself.

There were some fairly targeted goals for the new mag, foremost of which was making it look more ‘editorial’ and less like a promotional publication. There’d been one key distribution location for the previous magazine where they’d felt it looked ‘too much like a catalogue’ to want to have it on display. Having them accept the re-designed magazine into their establishment gave me a huge sense of satisfaction.

Incorporating Housing Japan’s corporate colours into the magazine in a new way was something I wanted to do first. The multi-coloured swatch of purple, two shades of both blue and green is a nice palette to work with and my first thought was back to the Realworld music label created by Peter Gabriel, with whom I’d worked a lot during my time in the music business. Realworld releases were always very easy to spot on the shelves of the music store, even if you only had every piece of product displayed spine-on. The Realworld ‘colour bar’ was something that had always struck me as a great piece of very simple branding.


So the spine of the HJ magazine has a colour bar just like it. Thanks, Peter Gabriel and Realworld for the inspiration.

Next I went through a few font auditions. I like fonts. I’m a bit of a type geek.

We ended up with Lato for body text and the rest of the family was Raleway, Montserrat, Minion Pro and Varela Rounded.

For the features inside the magazine we had a long list of possible topics, subjects and people in our sights. That got paired down and modified over time but we still ended up with a nice blend of lifestyle, food, fashion and travel. Over the past two years I have shot for a lot of inflight magazine clients. They tend to ask for a lot of pictures, to cover a massive swathe of subjects around their core focus. Those shoots had left me with a lot of awesome material that they’d never used. Some of that has finally, now, made it out into the light inside of the Housing Japan magazine. There’s lots more left to publish, too… which is great.

Feature on Kobe beef and the chef at the Park Hyatt The inside of the feature about Norie One of Ben Torode's fabulous aerial images

To keep the production process as streamlined as possible for the first issue, it transpired that most of the photography inside was mine.

As well as items from my back-catalgoue, we shot some new material too: the feature on Norie is one that incorporates new shots and some from before. The cover was a new one, the first shot of a shoot that we did across Zojoji and Roppongi in three hours one recent morning.

The cover shot was very simple: Nikon D800E, Nikkor 36-72mm E series manual lens, one SB-800 flash on a monopod and shot through a 20degree grid.

The red there at Zojoji’s front gate is awesome. The top that Norie wore was chosen especially for this shot, adding a nice swatch of complimentary colours.

So that’s it really. Less writing, more chance for you to see the magazine for yourself.

At the foot of this page there’s an embed of it at Issuu.com. You can flip through it here or click to go direct to the Housing Japan magazine on Issuu.com

I’d like to take this last section to thank some key people:

Hashimoto-san at Housing Japan for commissioning me to do the work.

Adam German at the company, for taking a quick conversation outside over coffee and turning it into a commitment, for his support throughout the production process and for writing some of the key articles.

Robin Sakai at Housing Japan was my partner for the whole process, including helping out on the shoots we did. Robin’s been tireless in assisting me turn this magazine around and keeping me focused on all the key points.

Thanks to Ben Torode for letting us use two or three of his awesome aerial shots of Tokyo.

Thanks to Norie for the shoot and for being our cover girl.

Thanks to all of our advertisers.

Thanks to all of you who have picked up the magazine and read it so far.

I’m looking forward to making the next one!

Click here to visit Housing Japan magazine on Issuu.com

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