Japanorama For lovers of photography and Japan: photography in japan, photo tours in japan, photo agency in japan, learn photography in japan 2016-09-27T08:43:55Z http://www.japanorama.co.uk/feed/atom/ http://www.japanorama.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/cropped-japanorama-www-icon-512x512-125x125.png Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Shooting in Tokyo for D’Marge magazine & Vacheron watches]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1641 2016-09-27T08:43:55Z 2016-09-27T08:43:55Z

A day out in Tokyo shooting some of Vacheron’s latest watches on location for D’Marge magazine.

I’d first come across D’Marge magazine via Flipboard, as it was part of a newsfeed on ‘mens fashion and lifestyle’ that I subscribe to. I’m no clothes-horse but I keep an eye on the mens fashion and lifestyle news for ideas and cues on what the latest styles of photography are in that world.

D’Marge magazine’s strap-line is ‘For Magnificent Bastards’, so I figured that any job for them would probably be fairly interesting. The blog’s founder, Luc Weisman, would be my model for the day and we had a few of Vacheron’s latest watches to use as props. We also had one of Vacheron’s senior folks tagging along with us for the day. Vacheron’s watches are not cheap. I dread to think what the ones we used that day are worth but I did overhear a figure of $300,000 as the total value of what we were carrying.

Luc named his style blog after a term he used to describe ‘damage’.

“A mate of mine, an American, used to call me up on a Friday and say, “Hey man, let’s go out and do some ‘d’marge’ this weekend,” says Wiesman. “So, when I started the blog I didn’t really know what I was starting or what I was doing… I called it D’Marge and it just stuck.”

Luc’s a cool guy. Some folks in Luc’s position and having the lifestyle he has can be overbearing and over the top. Luc wasn’t like that at all and from the moment we met, at Tokyo’s Andaz Hotel [where Vacheron had been hosting an event], I was happy that we were going to have a good shoot and a good time.

I’d taken along a student for the day, to assist. Dualta Daly had spent a few days with me on his travels, learning some more about travel photography. We’d also done a day of shooting with a model, just previous to my shoot with D’Marge. Dualta was free for the day and glady came along to help. The whole experience turned out to be very useful for him. A kind of ‘on the job master-class’ to finish off the two days of teaching I’d just done with him. Very capable second pair of hands and good company, too.

At the hotel, Luc showed me a few samples of the kinds of things he’d shot before and we headed off to do the first cut. The watches were the major component of the shoot but the pictures were not all going to be close-ups of them. The idea was to shoot Luc in different outfits, different locations around Tokyo that tied in with the idea of a ‘travelling man of sartorial elegance’.

We shot around Toranomon first, did some closeups of the first watch back int he hotel lobby and then headed for Tokyo Station, shooting a few more shots on the subway as we went.

We hit the elegant domed entrance of Tokyo Station, shot on the bullet-train platforms and in the busy concourses below the platforms.

After that a little more shooting around the station, on the roof of the nearby Kitte building, before we headed back to the hotel for the ‘evening wear’ shots, in Luc’s room, the hotel corridors and lastly out in the streets nearby.

A Behind The Scenes Video from the Day…..

All in all we shot in about seven or eight locations, across about only five hours and on a day that was hot and very humid. That’s always a unique challenge, especially when you are shooting with people who don’t live here and who are used to the weather.

Shoots like this are about knowing the city well, knowing what you can do in which location, getting around quickly and working with a minimum of gear but squeezing the most from it.

I used a Nikon D800E, Nikon D3S and Hasselblad H4D bodies. Lense-wise it was mainly 50mm f/1.2, 80mm for the Hasselblad, 135mm f/2 DC, 28mm f/2.8 AF-D and the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8. One strobe got used, with and without grid.

Pretty much everything was styled in-camera on the Nikons, using the ‘Ektachrome 2’ Picture Control that I have made, for crushed blacks and punchy colours. I tend to play with the White Balance a lot on location and remember one moment, down underneath Tokyo Station, where I used the Live View to show Luc how we could get a lovely colour grading at 3030K. It’s nice when a client looks at what is on the screen and says ‘wow, that looks like a finished, graded shot’.

Everything was shot hand-held.

The gallery below is a mix of shots that were used by D’Marge for their article and shots that got rejected. On the rejects, it was mainly that we had enough shots already in the piece that said ‘lifestyle’, where the watch was a bit less the main event. The shots outside at night, with the taxi and waiting by the side of the road, were particular favourites of mine.

Great day. Lovely people to work with. Nice results. As we used to say in Wales: tidy!

See the finished article here.

A gallery of photos that were used and some of the out-takes….

dmarge-luc_alf_8415__ dmarge-luc_alf_7855 dmarge-luc_alf_0039-tight-crop__ dmarge-luc_alf_8175a dmarge-luc_alf_7707_ dmarge-luc_alf_8195 dmarge-luc-alf_8314 dmarge-luc_alf_0161_ dmarge-luc-alf_8289 dmarge-luc_alf_0039_ dmarge-luc_alf_0219_tight-crop_ dmarge-luc-alf_8328 dmarge-luc-alf_8392 dmarge-luc-alf_8257 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Fashion shooting in Komazawa Olympic Park: Mari Wears Mecci.]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1628 2016-09-26T05:02:40Z 2016-09-26T05:02:40Z

Last summer I got together with a model and one of her favourite Japanese fashion designers, to make some photos in the area around the old Olympic stadia in Komazawa.

Mari Hirao is a model I’ve worked with quite a lot before. She’d told me a little about her friend, Ayako, the fashion designer. I’d seen a few of the shots that Mari had done before, wearing Ayako’s creations. Seemed like a very creative lady so when the idea came up doing a little shoot together, naturally I jumped at the idea.

Ayako – who designs under the name ‘mecci’ – had a few new clothes that she needed some shots of. I’d seen some photos of the pieces and one place immediately came to mind as a location: Komazawa Olympic Park.

Why? There’s something both futuristic and retro about Komazawa. It is a vision of the future from 50 years ago. Designed and built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, once centrepiece of the approach to the gymnasium is a large tower-like sculpture. Both gymnasium and tower were designed by Yoshinobu Ashihara, who also designed Ginza’s landmark Sony Building. The tower sort of feels like it should be in a movie like Gattaca, In Time or some 2000AD comic about a spaceport of the future.

It seemed the perfect place to shoot the mecci dresses which to me had a feel of a sci-fi future about them.

August is not pleasant in Tokyo. Hot, humid and in a place like Komazawa Park – surround by expanses of reflective concrete – a bit like being in a furnace. The light in Tokyo in the simmer is super bright. Quite different to anything you’d have experience in the parts of Europe I grew up in and around.

My son Joe came along to help. Keeping him and me cool, keeping the model, designer and make-up lady cool… it was all quite a job. The massive 72″ Westcott lighting umbrella came in handy as a sunshade.

I used one two Profoto B2 lights for the shoot. Each they lick out 250W which is OK but not really enough to kill super-strong August sun. So I paired them up, sometimes bare, once in an umbrella and for the shots in the yellow dress, under the trees, in a softbox.

We shot in three or four different spots around the park. Each piece needed front, back and side angles – as each piece had many details specific to each angle.

Great fun. Didnt take us more than an hour. Very hot day but everyone was very happy with the results.

The photos….

mari-mecci-editeda_8445429-2 mari-mecci_edited_8445466a-2 mari-mecci-edited_a_8445489-2 mari-meci-edited_a_8445350-2 mari-mecci-edited_a_8445437a-2 mari-mecci-edited_a_8445477-2 mari-mecci_edited_8445380a-2 mari-mecci-editeda_8445333a-2 mari-mecci_edited_8445329a-2 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[iPhone photo digest: December 2015 to February 2016]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1568 2016-09-26T01:44:37Z 2016-09-26T01:44:37Z

I tend to periodically dump all the shots from my iPhone’s ‘camera roll’ to folders on my external hard-drives. It keeps me from filling up the phone, helps me not lose anything. 

This post is the first of a little series I’ll do, going back through those folders and picking some of my faves.

All photos below shot and edited with the phone.

Typically, I am shooting ‘straight to Instagram’ and often just doing that in square aspect. Edits are done with just the filters available to me in Instagram.

2016-16iphone_img_0918 2016-16iphone_img_0896 2016-16iphone_img_0913 2016-16iphone_img_0852 2016-16iphone_img_0853 2016-16iphone_img_0884 2016-16iphone_img_0827 2016-16iphone_img_0851 2016-16iphone_img_0800 2016-16iphone_img_0819 2016-16iphone_img_0824 2016-16iphone_img_0796 2016-16iphone_img_0799 2016-16iphone_img_0773 2016-16iphone_img_0794 2016-16iphone_img_0751 2016-16iphone_img_0753 2016-16iphone_img_0759 2016-16iphone_img_0706 2016-16iphone_img_0745 2016-16iphone_img_0749 2016-16iphone_img_0651 2016-16iphone_img_0663 2016-16iphone_img_0579 2016-16iphone_img_0625 2016-16iphone_img_0643 2016-16iphone_img_0576 2016-16iphone_img_0578 2016-16iphone_img_0558 2016-16iphone_img_0569 2016-16iphone_img_0575 2016-16iphone_img_0518 2016-16iphone_img_0525 2016-16iphone_img_0459 2016-16iphone_img_0510 2016-16iphone_img_0435 2016-16iphone_img_0440 2016-16iphone_img_0371 2016-16iphone_img_0403 2016-16iphone_img_0410 2016-16iphone_img_0346 2016-16iphone_img_0369 2016-16iphone_img_0281 2016-16iphone_img_0294 2016-16iphone_img_0311 2016-16iphone_img_0271 2016-16iphone_img_0276 2016-16iphone_img_0260 2016-16iphone_img_0266 2016-16iphone_img_0198 2016-16iphone_img_0114 2016-16iphone_img_0194 2016-16iphone_img_0076 2016-16iphone_img_0086 2016-16iphone_img_0040 2016-16iphone_img_0051 2016-16iphone_img_0037 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Fitness regimes for photographers, staying sharp, getting out of the rut: the photographer’s gymnasium]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1558 2016-09-26T04:00:28Z 2016-09-26T01:04:23Z

One question I get asked a lot is about how to ‘get out of a creative rut’.

For me it’s not just about getting out of a temporary funk, a creative cul-de-sac or talking myself out of the fact that one day a month I’ll wake up and think all my work is shit.

As a professional photographer, it’s more about my staying fit on an ongoing basis and for that I have developed a bunch of regular exercises.

Pro photographers are visual athletes. We need to stay fit, stretch and warm-up our muscles. The eye IS a muscle. It needs regular exercise.

Here are a few of my exercises. I like to call all of this stuff ‘my photographer’s gymnasium’
1. 24 shots, no deleting, one prime, black and white.
2. Put all the prime lenses on the floor in a circle, spin a bottle and shoot for a week with the lens the bottle picks.
3. For those without primes, go to https://www.random.org/ and put the numbers for the widest and longest ends of the zooms you own into the random number generator and shoot for a week at the focal length the RNG picks.
4. ‘The Square Mile’: shoot 24 pics [one ‘roll of film’s worth’] within 1sq mile of your home, ever day for three days. Variation: make those 24shots last a week.
5. ‘The World at My Feet’: 24exp, one prime, only subjects at your feet.
6. ‘The World Above My Head’ same rules as above.
7. If you have galleries nearby, go see an exhibition and write 250-500 words about it.
8. Set the ISO, set the aperture, guess the speed: this one I do once a day at least. Keeps the part of my head that is a light-meter sharp.
9. Put the 50mm on, focus it manually at 3m [10ft] and then go hip shooting in the street to see how many subjects at 3m you can get sharp.
10. Use random.org to get you to a place you’ve never been before. This is how I do it in Tokyo with that Random Number Generator [RNG]:
a. Give the main railway hubs a number: Tokyo 1, Ueno 2, Shinjuku 3 etc etc. then pick one with the RNG.
b. Give all the train lines using that station a number, then pick one with the RNG.
c. Using the total number of stations on the line you get picked, use the RNG to pick a station.
d. Go to that station and shoot 24 shots, one prime lens.
11. Using my iPhone, shoot just square photos, in monochrome.
12. Using my iPhone, shoot panoramas but vertically, not horizontally.
13. Using my iPhone, walk into a place. Take a look around. Close my eyes. Imagine directly in front of me is 12 o’clock. Hold the phone out at 12, 9 and 3 o’clock and take a photo each time.
14. Start a Tumblr just as a scrapbook. I used to keep scrapbooks, real ones, but I dont really buy so many magazines now. Tumblr is a great way to create an inspiring scrapbook you can keep in your hand the whole time you have your phone. I use mine all the time, on location and in the studio. To keep me inspired, remind me of poses, colours, makeup, hairstyles, light, etc etc . Here’s mine: http://alfiegoodrich.tumblr.com/

These are a few of my exercises. I have quite a lot of others as I am teaching regularly and use them for students.

The other big thing I do is to ‘collect things’. I don’t collect real things much these days as we live in a small flat and when we moved here from the UK, we used that opportunity to free ourselves of ‘collecting’ or ‘hoarding’.

So, I collect things with my camera. It helps keep my eye sharp, to never be outside the house with a camera ‘just to take some photos’. My collections mean I am always looking for something. It’s the photographic equivalent of going to a yard-sale or antique fayre and having the excitement of ‘maybe I’ll find something for my collection’.

I think perhaps too many people out there in the photo community online or offline obsess about projects. Yes, they are good but projects are sort of like ‘work’. You still need recreational photography and exercise to balance that ‘work’.

For my workshops on ‘visual literacy’, I have a worksheet which I’ll take with me to an exhibition. If you want to take a look at that, it’s here:


It can be a great way of structuring how you look at the work you see on the walls.

With my model friends, I do the ‘cup ramen’ shoots from time to time. One strobe, one prime, five minutes time-limit for setup and shooting. This article is about a recent one of those shoots:

Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[High views in Tokyo: the new Tokyu Plaza in Ginza/Yurakucho]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1537 2016-09-19T13:05:42Z 2016-09-19T13:05:42Z

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.

yurakucho-new-view-alf_3911 yurakucho-new-view-alf_3906 ginza-sq-alf_3884-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3896-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3899-sq yurakucho-new-view-alf_3889 yurakucho-new-view-alf_3887 ginza-toycars-alf_3900-sq ginza-alf_3891 ginza-toycars-alf_3894-sq ginza-toycars-alf_3897-sq yurakucho-h-alf_3915 ginza-sq-alf_3885-sq yurakucho-new-view-alf_3886 ginza-toycars-alf_3902-sq yurakucho-shinkansen-alf_3912 ginza-new-view-alf_3909 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Cup ramen shooting: a cinematic Norie in Shibuya]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1529 2016-09-17T03:32:06Z 2016-09-17T03:30:26Z

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 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Teaching photography: shooting location portraits in harsh sunlight]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1444 2016-09-06T00:52:03Z 2016-08-18T01:08:55Z

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

The CD layout:

CD laout made from shots taken on the workshop


Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Camping in Japan: by the shores of Lake Motosu]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1382 2016-09-06T00:53:28Z 2016-08-11T04:18:06Z

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.

camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2237 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2224 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2259 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2161a camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2234 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2182 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2199 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2173 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2221 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2179 motosu-camping-2016-ALF_2138 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2131-sq camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2140 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2263 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2239 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2233 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2219 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2154 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2246 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2226 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2208 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2222 camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2206 motosu-camping-2016-ALF_2138-40-diptych camping-motosu-2016-ALF_2228 ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Sumo wrestling: shooting the morning practice]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1319 2016-09-06T00:53:54Z 2016-06-24T00:58:55Z

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.

ALF_8666_sumo-small ALF_8522_sumo-small ALF_8441_sumo-small ALF_8585_sumo-small ALF_8719_sumo-small ALF_8544_sumo-small ALF_8756_sumo-small ALF_8547_sumo-small ALF_8556_sumo-small ALF_8532_sumo-small ALF_8724_sumo-small ALF_8490_sumo-small ALF_8489_sumo-small ALF_8619_sumo-small ALF_8491_sumo-small ALF_8632_sumo-small ALF_8608_sumo-small ALF_8664_sumo-small ALF_8730_sumo-small ALF_8649_sumo-small ALF_8538_sumo-small ALF_8440_sumo-small ALF_8662_sumo-small ALF_8498_sumo-small ALF_8636_sumo-small ALF_8460_sumo-small ALF_8465_sumo-small ALF_8737_sumo-small ALF_8425_sumo-small ALF_8482_sumo-small ALF_8555_sumo-small ALF_8753_sumo-small ALF_8476_sumo-small ALF_8588_sumo-small ALF_8591_sumo-small ALF_8512_sumo-small ALF_8750_sumo-small ALF_8670_sumo-small ALF_8715_sumo-small ALF_8584_sumo-small ALF_8450_sumo-small ALF_8552_sumo-small ALF_8595_sumo-small ALF_8545_sumo-small ALF_8593_sumo-small ALF_8716_sumo-small ALF_8698_sumo-small ALF_8558_sumo-small ALF_8507_sumo-small ALF_8647_sumo-small ALF_8653_sumo-small ALF_8567_sumo-small ALF_8755_sumo-small ALF_8695_sumo-small ]]>
Alfie http://alfie.photography <![CDATA[Photowalks in Tokyo: the textures & colours of Moto-azabu]]> http://www.japanorama.co.uk/?p=1270 2016-05-07T14:38:36Z 2016-05-07T14:25:29Z

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

moto-azabu-textures__DSC0109 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0110 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0111 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0112 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0113 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0114 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0115 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0119 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0120 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0121 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0122 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0123 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0128 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0129 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0130 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0132 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0133 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0135 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0138 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0139 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0140 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0142 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0143 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0145 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0147 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0149 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0150 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0151 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0152 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0153 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0154 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0155 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0160 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0162 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0166 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0169 moto-azabu-textures__DSC0171 ]]>