All posts filed under: Locations

What to say when photographing people

Here’s something that I’ve never really thought about all that much – what exactly do I say to people during a photoshoot?  More importantly, what’s the right thing to say? I shoot photos of people for a living and I think I am confident in winning the trust of my subjects, but to this day I’ve never really sat down and tried to break down my process for approaching my subjects and – essentially – getting them to do what I want before my time is up. So let’s begin at the start of this whole process – I’ve arrived (hopefully) early at the location, and set up my gear.  Next is usually the painfully long wait for the subject to arrive/get interviewed/finish getting ready, in which every possible excruciating thought passes through your mind: ‘what if he/she is in a bad mood?’ ‘what if the lighting I’ve set up doesn’t work for them?’ ‘what if they take a look at the setup and don’t like it?’ ‘is there a better spot I could have …

GAIJIN: Hugh Ashton, Writer

Here is another addition to my side project of Gaijinwho do interesting things around and about Tokyo (click image for larger version).  This time I’ve photographed freelance writer and novelist Hugh Ashton, whose been living in Japan for nearly a quarter of a century out in Kamakura.  Of the many things he does, one of his most notable recent endeavours is expanding the venerable mythos of Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Watson.  To date he’s written three volumes of Holmes novellas / short stories and 1 full length novel, is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and enjoys the approval and endorsement of the Conan Doyle Estate (the writer of the original books).  Pretty cool stuff!  Other than that he freelances for various domestic and overseas publications and has a website here where you can check out his books. Many thanks must go to the people of the battleship Mikasa Preservation Society which was where we shot this photo.  She’s an English-built ship from the 1910’s complete with Victorian-style fittings belowdecks, and …

Nintendo’s Miyamoto Shigeru – It’s on like Donkey Kong (Literally)

In the lead up to the release of the Wii U console recently, I photographed Nintendo’s creative brain and main game designer, Miyamoto Shigeru. This man is credited with creating some of video gaming’s most famous franchises, including Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda, to name a few; he is an elder-statesman, a legend of the nerd world and being a massive nerd myself, I was literally over the moon at the prospect of meeting him and photographing him (I think Zelda: A Link To The Past for the SNES is one of the greatest video games ever made). Better still, the photoshoot would be at Nintendo Headquarters in Kyoto, so I would get a bit of travel in to boot. In addition to all of that, we got to play the at-the-time unreleased new console, the Wii-U, with Miyamoto-san giving us the lowdown on all of the new features and specs while trying to knock us into bottomless pits. All in all, one of those awesome jobs that makes me glad I’m a photographer. I …

Shooting portraits of Japan rock legend, Yazawa Eikichi

Several months ago I had the rare and unexpected privilege of photographing one of Japan’s most recognisable icons – certainly its most famous musician, Yazawa Eikichi. Just to give you non-Japanese guys an idea, he’s a bit like Bruce Springsteen  in that he’s been around for decades, is old-school yet constantly active and has a major (seriously, major) following both young and old. Certainly someone that you don’t get access to all the time. So anyway the brief for this particular shoot was to get three different shots in an HMV record store, one for a double spread with room for text, one for the cover and a headshot for inside. I guess I don’t really need to mention that the allotted time for a celebrity of this guy’s stature that the allotted time was 10 minutes. This kind of thing is par for the course on shoots like this, so it’s really up to you to figure out how best to allocate your time so everything runs smoothly. First things first in this process, …

Restored Nissan GTR

Sometimes I get to shoot some really cool stuff. Like this restored vintage Nissan Skyline GTR for Motorhead magazine, the ‘World’s Greatest Custom Culture Magazine’. I do a surprising amount of work for car magazines – including this piece here for Top Gear magazine. The man in the below photo is Sato-san, the owner of the garage and the one who painstakingly and lovingly has refurbished this extremely old car. Very interesting stuff, always a good lighting challenge and obviously very fun to hang out with people in different fields who are also passionate about their craft. Shooting for car magazines is also a great exercise in discipline for me;  I need to constantly remind myself to keep the car as the center of attention, since my instinct as a portrait photographer is always to focus on the person. Got some really cool stuff coming up soon – I’ve been busy shooting and have a whole grab bag of portraits of cool people waiting to be posted. More later!    

Bad Girls

Don’t be trying to sweet-talk these two – all they are interested in is stolen champagne, suitcases full of money and fast living. You’ll never pin them down, you’ll never catch them napping; try to move in on them and all you’ll find in their wake is the dust settling, blood-stained bills littering the ground and quite a few broken hearts. They are…Cashed-up and Dangerous. Such was the theme of a little photo shoot that I did way back earlier this year. This is another photoshoot in my loose series exploring common motifs in cinema. The other ones I’ve done are here and here. We all had a blast shooting it, tell if you think I managed to make it work!    

An easy on-location composite

Alright! Time to get back to posting some editorial. I get to shoot a lot of these CEO-type portraits and the challenge in these situations is to get an eye-catching, interesting shot within a limited timeframe and no prior knowledge of the location. A lot of the time it’s possible to shoot something good with available elements but sometimes those elements jump out at you and form a picture in your head that you can’t shake.  Such as in the case of Akoni CEO Rob van Nylen, where the coolest room in the building happened to be the tiny smoking room / broom closet on the top floor. After moving everything out and arranging everything the way I wanted we shot this photo: This was done with two lights: an Eintsein with a reflector + 30 degree grid boomed over my left shoulder, and an SB-900 in an Orbis ring flash, on-axis. If this confuses you, check out the MS Paint-inspired lighting diagram above.  If it still confuses you, go look at Lighting 101 at …

Test shoot with Alex + Einstein + Vagabond

Hey guys, thanks for checking out the blog once again. Here’s a little test shoot that I did with Alex, and the Einstein + Vagabond system that I acquired earlier this year in Los Angeles. I don’t think I’ve done a post about this lighting setup before so here we go: holy CRAP these things are amazing. These are possibly the best lights on the market right now. There I said it. I virtually stopped using my pair of Profoto D1s ever since I got my single Einstein and Vagabond set. WTF?? That’s right, the pair of high-end lights that cost me over $2000 have been replaced in my bag by this diminutive single flash head that has a retail of only a fraction of the price. You like that disgusting iPhone photo of all this sexy swag on a bed (next to some junkfood to boot)? Mmmm such glorious, gluttonous lighting prOn. If Broncolors are the Victoria’s Secret Angel equivalent in the lighting world then the Einstein is like the plain next door neighbor …

Mukojima, the Tokyo geisha town

Somewhere in the middle of Tokyo’s older quarter, near Asakusa but slightly too far from a subway station to make it easy to access, is the quiet district of Mukojima. Hidden in the nondescript grey and brown buildings are the homes, restaurants, and training houses for Tokyo’s geisha. Here it is not uncommon to see a fully garbed geisha or maiko quietly having coffee in the homely kissaten (cafes), or crossing the street to go from one interminable location to another – a sight that is typically thought to exist only in Kyoto. It’s an undiscovered part of Tokyo that has quietly come along through the ages without invasion from the eyes of tourists. Here’s a few photos from a story I shot around the area, some of them are from the street, others are portraits of some of the subjects interviewed for the article. Hope you enjoy them!