All posts filed under: Locations

Recent Portraits: Yoshiyuki Sankai of Cyberdyne Inc.

I think I was about 8 when I watched James Cameron’s fantastic documentary Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the first time, and by golly that film scared the bejeezus out of me. Something about that scene where Linda Hamilton gets nuked, has her skin burned off and is turned into a skeleton in her nightmare really caused me to crap my pants. Also, the bit where the T-1000 stabs that carton of milk was particularly upsetting to me, for some reason. But the scene that really lodged itself into 8 year old self’s head was the death scene of token black character Miles Dyson, Cyberdyne employee and inventor of the microchip technology that would eventually lead to the self-aware computer called Skynet and all the nuclear shenanigans that entailed. In this scene Dyson, in keeping with the fine tradition of all token black characters in cinema history, has been shot and left for dead by all the white characters who have vacated the area quicker than a train carriage emptying out after a particularly bad fart. Poor Dyson, wounded and unable to …

Portraits from the Archives: Toyo Ito

Never let it be said that I am not an unstoppable content producing machine. I churn out photos like my camera has some form of irritable bowel syndrome, which in itself is a great metaphor for most of my photos. The thing I tend to forget about is the part where I put them up somewhere to be seen; namely on this blog. If anyone’s counting (and I doubt anyone is), you’ll find that I wrote a grand total of 4 blog posts last year, averaging one every three months which equates to typing roughly one word every 6 hours. A pretty gruelling schedule you might say and I say yes, by the time I got to typing my typing fingers had all been tuckered out by the endless button pushing, dial spinning and head scratching that my job requires of me. Facetiousness aside though, I think we can safely delete the title ‘social media guru’ from my LinkedIn account profile, as last year I probably put as much effort into self promotion as a bodybuilder puts into binge eating. …

It’s…THE YEAR OF THE SHEEP!

Happy New Year everyone! You guys know the drill by now – at the end of each year I shoot a Nengajo (a type of Japanese greeting card for the New Year) of my close friends/team members in the theme of a movie poster, featuring the animal of the year’s Chinese zodiac. You can check out the previous ones here and here. This year it was to be the year of the sheep, so I rounded everyone up, threw them into a car and drove down to a farm outside Tokyo to do the photoshoot. Well, actually it wasn’t quite so simple as that, as there was a fair bit of work involved in putting together all of the costumes and props, which meant hours trolling websites and vintage clothing stores around about Tokyo in order to find exactly what I wanted. I also needed to find a farm which would grant me permission to use their paddock and sheep as props for a whole afternoon, which meant driving down to several farms to check them out in person. Given that …

On Hasselblads, Noh, and freelancing for a living

Sometimes I wonder if being a freelance photographer these days is a bad idea. Honestly, I do. I could count off the number of gripes I have about my chosen career and you’d have walked off in disgust before I’d even got started. To list of the main ones; it’s a terrifying world with no one to take you by the hand and guide you. Work and money don’t just fall into your lap – you have to go out and find it, and once you do, you have to fight off other photographers to keep it. You don’t get paid when you take time off to go on holiday. And then there’s the endless amount of drudge-work to do in between shooting that never seems to end or dry up. Taxes, insurance, rent payments, gear payments, more taxes – and in my case, visa applications, all sapping away at the resources you need to keep yourself motivated to get out there and keep that momentum up. A lot of people out there romanticize the …

NOT a list of 10 things I’ve learnt from shooting 4×5

*Warning: sanctimonious rant ahead* I don’t know what the heck is the deal with people on the Internet these days, but there seems to be an overabundance of ‘wisdom lists’ propagating amongst photography blogs in particular. ’10 things I’ve learnt from street photography’, ‘9 things I’ve learnt from developing film’, ’26 life lessons I’ve learnt from greasing my shutter button’ etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam. People like this kind of thing I guess. Numbers, metrics, concrete results – if you’re shooting photos and spending the nest egg on gear and workshops then I guess being able to quantify your progress into discrete bullet points makes the whole game of photography a little more palatable for the average weekend warrior/aspiring photographer. Also, I hear the list thing is good for search engines, so if increasing that statistic is your focus as a photographer, good luck to you. So, lists. I dislike them for no rational reason and thusly have taken my first good step into crotchety old man territory. Frankly though, if we’re talking about things …

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!