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!

My 31st Year

I turned 31 in January. There was no fanfare or party (Coronavirus aside, I don’t do a lot on my birthdays) but I decided to celebrate it in my own way. It had to be something I enjoyed a lot, and naturally, the idea of a photoshoot came to mind. Leading up to the day I made preparations, the main one being bleaching my hair! It was the first time I’d ever done something like that, but I had a feeling bleached hair would look great on me (spoiler alert; it does). One person came highly recommended to me; a stylist named Mao who works at a salon called Diall House in Daimyo, Fukuoka. He was friendly and great to chat with while I was in the chair. If you’re in Fukuoka City and looking to get your hair done, shoot him a message! 

 After getting home, I started brainstorming what I wanted the images to look like, and an idea immediately hit me. “Why don’t I ape an i-D Magazine cover?”  I’ve always loved their covers. Plus, I have a soft spot for the ones from the late ’90s to the mid-2000s. I got my wardrobe together, created a tiny studio space in my apartment, and started shooting. 

 I decided to shoot tethered using Capture One Pro 21, using the Live View function to frame my shots. It took a bit of doing, but I was finally able to walk away with the image I was looking for, plus a few extras! 

 This past year has been rough for most of us, to put it mildly. Very literal death and destruction came in waves, and while 2021 hasn’t had the best start, I’m still hopeful. I’ve chosen to do what brings me joy, amidst all the chaos, and so I’m hoping I can do this once a month. A small shoot, a handful of images, to keep my work fresh. There’s no guarantee I’ll be able to pull it off, but as my Dad tells me, “Nutn beat a try but a fail.” 

 See you all next time!

How I Failed Vlogtober

A few weeks ago (eight to be exact) I was excited and proud to announce to the world that I would be participating in my very first Vlogtober. No, I wouldn’t be doing it daily, but I was trying to commit to a weekly schedule to show the world everything I’d been doing. 

As you can probably guess from the lack of blog posts, that didn’t happen.

I had very lofty ideas about how I wanted to shoot the videos that I couldn’t quite produce without putting in a fair amount of work.

That same week I started working at another school; then I was perpetually busy with writing lessons, marking papers and creating content for my students.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’d been busy. 

Back home in Jamaica, I routinely worked multiple jobs at once (you have to if you’re a professional photographer). That meant taking on many clients and scheduling shoots, while working at the Edna Manley College, while, at one point, working five nights a week and some weekends for a local newspaper. So I’m no stranger to pressure.

But what this experience here and now taught me is that I need to slow down, which is exactly what I decided to talk about for a bit in my video. The images from the video can be found below. Have a look!

Medium Format Film Portraits with Gabby

Hello, back again! I’m here to share a few frames with you from a trip I took to Nokonoshima Island Park this past summer with my friend Gabby. I carried my Mamiya m645 1000s medium format film camera and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to attempt some portraits with 120 film. It was my very first time shooting portraits with it, and I’ve got to say the results were pretty good! Since I don’t use a light meter, I try to meter with an app on my phone or play it by ear, and on that day I was doing a bit of both. Gabby was a great sport and incredibly patient while I fiddled with getting my focus right. 

These were shot on Kodak Portra 400 film. A local lab in my town developed the film after which I scanned it using a Skier CopyBox II and a macro extension tube on my Sigma 18-35mm lens. There were some issues with the development process as it left streaks on every frame, but in the end, I didn’t mind it too much. I still have a few more frames from that roll that need scanning but until then, enjoy these portraits!

My First Vlogtober

I decided to take part in my very first Vlogtober! For those who are unaware, in October many content creators try to make a daily video (or vlog). It can cover any topic, and over the last few years more and more Jamaicans have tried their hand at it; so I thought that it’s about time I did too. One thing to note is, I definitely won’t be doing a daily vlog. My schedule isn’t exactly flexible enough for that right now. BUT, I will be attempting a weekly one. I don’t have any specific topics in mind, but feel free to shoot me an email if there’s anything you’d like to see in a video!

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