Street Portraits with Minori in Shibuya

Last month while in Tokyo, I had the absolute pleasure of photographing Minori!

Portrait of a Japanese woman, Minori Abe, with blonde highlights in her hair, standing in front of a store window with a yellow neon sign.

During the promotion of my most recent mini-portrait sessions, we had a lovely conversation and decided to do a simple environmental shoot on the streets of Shibuya. In less than an hour, we created gorgeous images using the environment as a backdrop.

In my blog post about my portrait session with Sally, I mentioned that it’s paramount for my subjects to feel as comfortable as possible in front of the camera. I firmly believe you don’t have to be a model to strike a pose and enjoy doing it, so Minori and I had a lot of fun trying different kinds. 

What I found was that she was a natural at it! She’s very bubbly and dynamic but also can pull out steely and focused expressions. I wanted to photograph her in a way that captured this essence as we wandered around the streets. I love the variety we got in the end, and I’m happy to share these images with everyone!

UEKI Steel Material for TRUe Magazine

In December of 2022, the lovely people at the BrandsOnSpeed agency contacted me and tasked me with creating images for issue 17 of TRUe, the customer magazine of the TRUMPF Group. My last assignment with them when incredibly well, so I was happy to work with them again. 

I travelled to Utsunomiya in the prefecture of Tochigi to photograph Yoko Ueki, the CEO of UEKI Steel Material (植木鋼材), and Hideo Nakamura, director of business development.

TRUe was writing a story about the strength of heritage and using the past to forge a new future. UEKI Steel embarked on a new venture of using Kumiko woodcraft techniques with precise laser-cutting technology to create beautiful works of industrial art. Spearheaded by Ms Ueki, who had this epiphany in 2019, the company spun off a new line called ’maasa’ that creates a range of products from lampshades to wall bars and jewellery. The key to this being possible is a TRUMPF laser-cutting machine. 

When I arrived at UEKI Steel, I had the chance to meet Ms Ueki and Mr Nakamura. They gave me a quick tour of the facility to see the laser-cutting machine and then the maasa showroom with beautiful, precision-cut products on display. I immediately started mapping out the best ways to photograph not only Ms Ueki and Mr Nakamura but the products and the TRUMPF laser-cutter. I had already made a shot list; the only thing left was the method. 

In the end, I decided to photograph things from a journalistic perspective. I asked them to talk about their favourite pieces from maasa and had them move around the room. During all of this, I made sure to capture various products in the photos as well. We also got some great images with the TRUMPF laser-cutter, and while in front of it, a joke was uttered that got some laughs from both Ms Ueki and Mr Nakamura. Sadly the joke was in Japanese and a bit too quick to make out, but because I was focused, I captured one of my favourite images of the entire shoot! 

Overall the assignment was fun, and it was a pleasure to work with both BrandsOnSpeed and the TRUMPF Group again! You can see the full gallery of images here.

A LinkedIn Refresh: Portraits with Sally

Half-body landscape portrait of Sally Davies.

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, but I’m back and happy to share more of my recent work with you! 

While promoting my most recent mini-portrait sessions, I spoke with my friend Sally Davies from the firm recruitment Robert Half. She’s a talented Recruiting Manager with their Digital Marketing and Brand Communication team, who covers roles such as brand communication and management, digital marking and media planning. Being a high-level professional, she felt it was time she updated her headshots and portraits for her online presence, and we discussed how best to get it done. 

Like so many people, Sally isn’t always fond of having her photo taken, so I made it my goal to make her feel as comfortable as possible during our session. As a photographer, I find it’s important to connect with my clients to make them feel at ease in front of the camera; not everyone is a model, even if they look like one! We spent a little time talking through the looks and poses to go for (with me demonstrating each pose, it makes it easier!) and then started a casual conversation while I warmed up with a few photos. When she began smiling at the beginning, I knew we were in for a good session, and the results show exactly that!

Thank you, Sally, for trusting me to take these wonderful photos of you!

Happy New Year!

My first blog post for the new year; welcome! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful time bringing it in, and if not, I hope the year gets better for you.

I don’t have much to say this time, but I would like to share some of the last images I took in 2022. 

Towards the end of the year, I began taking short walks with my camera around my town. I’ve never considered myself a landscape, architecture or street photographer, but I love looking for interesting compositions and light and shadow wherever I can find them. It can be during a studio shoot or a photo walk in a rural town in southern Japan; it doesn’t matter. What matters is making an image that makes me and my viewers feel something.

These are just a smattering of shots. Sometimes I would go on multiple walks during an entire week but only take one photo. Sometimes I’ll take multiple in a single night. But it felt good to take them either way.

To that end, here are some photos I took on the streets that made me feel something. And I hope you like them too.

Portrait Testing with Julia

A few weeks ago I was in a bit of a rut and decided to do a small project to keep my skills intact. As a photographer, it’s vital that you keep working and practicing, even if it’s not a paid job. I hadn’t done studio portraits in a while, so I put together a mood board with the type of lighting I was looking for and started the planning process. I reached out to my friend Julia to see if she was interested in being a model for me, and thankfully she said yes! She had experience working as a model before, so I was grateful for her help. 

We found some excellent studio locations for rent, but sadly they were all booked out; that’s when I decided to improvise. I went to the nearest Yodobashi Camera and bought some sheets of grey paper, then took them back to the hotel I was staying at and stuck one to the wall. My general rule of thumb is that I’ll always try to work with a neutral grey backdrop; it’s easy to make it white, black or to colour it with a gelled light. 

As this was just a test shoot for me to get my groove back, so to speak, we kept things very simple. We started with a bare face, then added a bit of colour to the lips and then eyeliner to complete the look. Julia’s eyes are piercing blue; I wanted to highlight them, so I used a clamshell light setup with a reflector. This ensured sure the catchlights were right where I wanted them. Though minimal makeup was used, the images were shot and edited with the spirit of a beauty shoot with a very light touch. Julia did a wonderful job with me working as a one-man-band and on a limited timeframe.

Flavours and Sights: 4 days in Fukuoka for Lonely Planet

In early autumn, while settling in and preparing for the leaves to start changing and for the weather to get nippy, I received an email from a Photo Editor at Lonely Planet. If you don’t know, Lonely Planet is one of the most well-known travel publications operating today, so I was very interested to find out what was coming. They had written an article about Fukuoka Prefecture in southern Japan for their Best in Travel 2023 roundup and needed a photographer to help put images to the excellent words on the page. 

Screenshot of Lonely Planet article on Where to Eat in Fukuoka, Japan

The article was about the best places to eat, drink and sightsee in Fukuoka, taking me from Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu, all the way to Nokonoshima (Noko Island), off the coast of Fukuoka. 

After discussing the logistics, I packed my bags, strapped up my boots (well, my Nikes) and set off on a journey that would eventually take five days and six nights to complete. I pulled on all my skill as a documentary photojournalist to capture scenes of both daytime and nightlife activities, people enjoying each other’s company and enjoying great food and drink. 

Photo credit: Third image from Shutterstock

Photo credit: Photos 4 - 6 Courtesy of Restaurant Sola

Photo credit: First image from Shutterstock

While I can’t list every individual location, they’re all in the article 4 days in Fukuoka, Japan: how to eat your way through the city. I have to give massive kudos to the writer, Stephen Lyman. He’s been in Fukuoka for many years, and I’ve experienced a number of excellent places thanks to his work! For anyone thinking of visiting Fukuoka, this list will be indispensable. Enjoy the photos here, then hit the link to read the article!

Canycom Inc. for TRUe Magazine

One of the best things that can happen on an assignment is when you work with wonderful people on multiple occasions. That’s exactly what happened when I worked with the fine folks of Chikusui Canycom Inc. once again!

I’d previously photographed sections of their factory for the TRUMPF Group’s Annual Report. This time, I photographed Hitoshi Kaneyuki, the company’s Chairman, for issue 16 of the TRUMPF Group’s customer magazine, TRUe. The wonderful people at the BrandsOnSpeed agency got in touch after seeing my images, and we discussed the best way to make the photos pop!

The article was about the company’s future and its ethos that its products should be functional and fun. This idea is seen in their ride-on brush cutter, the Masao. Different from most lawnmowers, this brightly coloured vehicle takes its design cues from racecars. Once I saw it, I knew I had to use it in the photos.

Even though we didn’t have much time with him, Chairman Kaneyuki was very energetic and willing to try out the ideas I had in mind.

This image was the very first one I visualized. Once I saw the vibrant red of the Masao, I immediately thought of the best way to emulate this iconic poster from the classic film Akira. I changed the direction of movement so we could see the Chairman’s face and placed a light in a softbox camera-left to add some fill light to the scene. Then I climbed a few meters up on a ladder to get the shot lined up. In the end, it’s my favourite photo from that day!

We took various photos of the Chairman riding and posing with the Masao and told him to do whatever felt comfortable. Thankfully he was very dynamic, and his personality shone through. 

We also walked along the factory floor and documented the process of building parts and assembling the vehicles. 

All in all, it was a successful shoot day, and I’m proud of the images we produced! 

10 Minutes with Mao

Portrait of a Japanese man with tattooed arms and his hands on his head.

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. Here’s a quick update on some shots I recently enjoyed taking.
While on set shooting my friend Gabby’s latest line of ceramic wares (you may remember my previous post about her work), her friend Mao stopped by. You might also remember him as the man behind my first bleached hair look back in 2020. Mao has always been an effortlessly cool person with a sharp eye for style, so I pulled him aside for a few minutes to get a few very quick portraits. We only had a few minutes, but I enjoyed taking these photos of him!

Portrait of a Japanese man with tattooed arms and his hands on his shoulders.
Portrait of a Japanese man with tattooed arms and his hands in his pants pockets.

Corporate Reportage for TRUMPF Group Annual Report

The TRUMPF Group is a German company specialising in industrial machine manufacturing and software solutions and operates in every major market worldwide. Each year they release an annual report with this year’s titled In the Field. In each market they have dedicated sales representatives and service technicians who serve as the face of the TRUMPF Group, travelling across regions and interacting with customers to meet their needs. They aimed to dedicate a section of the 2020/2021 annual report to these workers.

I was contacted by the Fotogloria agency on behalf of the TRUMPF Group to document a key sales representative in the Kyushu region. He had seen my corporate reportage portfolio and ascertained I was the right fit for the assignment. Shortly after, I was able to get in touch with Takefumi Hori, who was friendly and talkative, and who I would be shadowing to capture the necessary images. Together we travelled to Ukiha, Fukuoka to document him working with a client and I created the photos during that time, from the moment we met to when we parted ways.

The project that caught the agency’s attention was my corporate and industrial photography for Jamaica Pre-Mix, as they liked the style of imagery. Using that as a base, I decided to approach this assignment from a more photojournalistic perspective, using only natural light (as opposed to using speedlights for the Pre-Mix project). I asked Hori to go about his day naturally so that the captured images would be as organic as possible. Fortunately, he also had great camera awareness, and in carrying out his duties would position himself accordingly. With experience comes the development of your own photographic style, so even though the method was different I was still able to achieve what the client had in mind based on my previous work.

Working with Hori, Fotogloria, and the TRUMPF Group was a pleasant experience that was capped off with a selection of great images!

You can find the full gallery here!

Portrait and Still Life Images for Megami Ceramics

My time spent in Japan has allowed me to meet several interesting people, and one is Gabby Headly. While both of us started our time here teaching English, we both spent time pursuing our dreams and talents; in my case, it was photography, in hers, ceramics. We realised we had somewhat similar backgrounds (we both studied media in university with various disciplines under our belts) and a love of art. That became a common ground for a great friendship. So when Gabby decided to launch her ceramics line, Megami, she contacted me to create the visuals for her website and her debut exhibition. 

The exhibition, titled Setsuna (刹那), was the result of time spent in Japan honing her skill after years of study. This was both in her native country of America at the venerable Howard University and in the small but culturally rich town of Hita in Oita prefecture. 

Her vision for the images was quite clear and could be separated into three parts; minimalist photos of her pieces shot on black, others with her pieces shot on a tatami mat layout, and portraits of her holding the ‘hero’ pieces as well as solo shots. 

After discussing how to bring the ideas to life, we set up a makeshift studio in her apartment to shoot the pieces using a mix and natural light and flash. I did my best to use the lighting to accentuate the shapes and curves of the ceramics to give them as much character as possible. Over a few days, I was able to dial in the lighting and edits and photograph all the items. Then came the tricky parts; the portraits. 

 For the first day of portraits, we travelled to a location in Oita called Sakuradaki and made a 15-minute trek to find an absolutely gorgeous waterfall. After an entire day of rain, the clouds parted just enough for us to get some wonderful light for key images. Being that close to the waterfall also meant that we were constantly being sprayed with a fine mist of water; by the end of the shoot, our clothes clung to us. 

On the second portrait day, we ventured into the middle of a mostly dry riverbed in Hita. With our friend Deidre-Ann working as an assistant, we set up the tatami as a backdrop and she acted as the counterweight. I got as many photos as possible in the waning light. 

Right at the end, I was also able to take a few medium format shots with my Mamiya M645 1000s; and they came out surprisingly great! While I haven’t done official scans yet, here’s a taste of what they look like.

All in all, this was a wonderful project. I had a great time working with Gabby, and I’m happy I could help her showcase her talents! Check out Megami Ceramics and have a look at her work. 

 Special thanks to our friend Deidre-Ann Johnson for being a great assistant and behind-the-scenes photographer! To see full-sized images, check the project gallery here!

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