Photo Shoot with Mayu

Yesterday I had a short but productive photo shoot for the June PPSOP photo contest. My model this time was Mayu, a woman I had met at the Kansai Scene 10th anniversary party recently. She was kind to accept, her busy schedule notwithstanding.

This was especially nice of her since we barely knew each other. She confided being nervous, and so was I since I didn't know how to make her feel better, and it is something I will need to address in future shoots. I can see how it can be a little nerve racking to have one's picture taken by a relative stranger, especially if you are a woman and the photographer is male. But we had lunch after, we talked about ourselves, and should I get the chance to take pictures of her again, she did say that she would feel much more comfortable.

Actually, in our conversation, I did discover that she has done plenty of photo shoot before for different companies she's worked for. My effective but ghetto set up must have looked exactly as I describe it, ghetto. But she really liked the results, told me she show them to her manager (she has a manager!?!), and I guess it goes on to show that less is sometimes more (the setup was basically the same as with Aya). Well, here are the results, I hope you like them, too.



The Osaka European Film Festival held a BBQ for the volunteers yesterday. The food was excellent, with Bulgogi beef, marinated chicken (my recipe: apple beer, grain mustard, Provence herb mix, black pepper), crab, various vegetable and so on. It was nice to catch up with some of acquaintances whom I hadn't met for some time. All in all, about 50 people showed up throughout the day, and here some snaps from the day.

Shot of Aya

Cindy gave me implicit permission to post the picture of her daughter, by posting it on Facehook before replying to my email! So her it is. Not sure if it's the best one, I haven't had to chance to really look at the lot yet.


Shoot With Aya

Aya is the daughter of my friend Cindy. After a call on Facehook for models for a current project, Cindy got in touch with me, saying that her daughter(!) might be interested. At first I was unsure about taking sensual pictures of a 16-year-old daughter of a friend, but it went really good.

It was kind of a strange feeling though, as I really looked at her a subject to be photographed, and nothing more. I hope I don't sound shallow or selfish saying this. At the same time, I was also hoping to please her, getting shots that she would enjoy as well. In any case, I got shots that I'm very happy with. I'd post a picture or two here, but I haven't heard form Cindy yet. I believe she'll be fine with them, but I would never jeopardize friendship for a picture.


Elements of Composition: Shape and Form

Some predate blog entries for prosperity. I live with my own blog tardiness. At first I planned to have a weekly entry on this subject but things rarely go as planned, just ask Murphy, whoever (s)he is (must be Eris' cousin or something).

In any case, with a weeks delay, I wish to talk about shape and form, two very important concept in composition. While similar, they are different. Shape is essentially bi-dimensional, while form is in 3D glory. To make the point across, without sounding pedophile I hope, image your own or a sibling's baby bum. Shot straight on, with direct lighting, it will look like two ovals, side by side. This is shape. Ovals. But shot from the side with side lighting, the sphereness, if such a word exist, will come out, showing three dimension.

Here are two pictures shot from a classroom. the composition in both is similar, but because of the angle, the left one shows only shape, the right one some form.

Now the form on the left one isn't so apparent, but we do get a better feel of 3D on the side of my face. By the way, when I shot these, I wanted to express the feeling of someone wanting to join the real world: sadly, many young people in Japan rarely venture out of their apartment, let alone their bedroom, preferring the comfort of their secure virtual world. I drew upon my experience of a young boy who couldn't join his friends in the swimming pool after an unfortunate bicycle accident 27 years ago.

Shape and form are so essential in composition, they are easy to forget. But they are fundamental to our understanding of the world. I think the human shape and form is the most easily recognizable one for us, just because it dictates much of our actions. In the left picture, even if the green and horizontal line occupy more space, our eyes are directly attracted to the human shape, because it isn't as abstract. Here are some more examples of shape.

As the two last pictures show explicitly, front and back lighting work best to express shape. In the middle shot, the shape of the buildings is easily identifiable, just like the location and participants in the last one.
Form on the other hand deal with tri-dimensionality and can be, at least in my case, harder to express. Conventional photography is flat, in 2D. The challenge with form to show an added dimension to a flat media. This is usually done with side lighting and shadows. I must admit my own weakness in this conjecture, form is not something I have focused on much, and I had to go back through some shots to find decent (not great) examples, although I did make an effort to shoot some this week, when I actually had time to shoot for my own leisure. Here are some examples.

Both the left and right pictures show a lot of shape, but also some form. The mountain one shows form especially in the top right side, where a second peak is discernible in the shadows. Same thing with right one, where the shape of the Shinkansen 500 series is highlighted by the Sun's reflection. With the middle one, taken between classes, the sidelight coming from the setting Sun puts highlights and shadow into the Udon banner across the street.

I'm not completely satisfied with the examples I gave in this lesson, I hope to provide more by next week, with an detailed explanation of the implied meanings of different shapes, although if you think 2 minutes about it, I'm sure you came up with valid guesses.


Pirates of the Dotombori 5th Anniversary Show

Last Sunday was the Pirates Of The Dotombori 5th anniversary party at bar Balabushka in Osaka. The improvisation comedy group had asked me to take shots of the show and I certainly did not pass the chance to see their funny antics again. Actually, that proved to be a little difficult at times since I was laughing so much, I forgot a few times to press the shutter (including Bill getting his diaper removed)! You can check out my photo gallery of the show here.

I thought that this show was much better than the free one a Fubar a few weeks back. I guess the larger crowd and special atmosphere of their anniversary inspired them. The show was also longer, and with a larger stage they had more freedom to do different things. It was really good, and I would not have been disappointed had I paid the very reasonable admission of ¥1500. Their next show will be at Tins Hall (outdated) on July 25, and the ticket includes food (BBQ). Come one, come all. AAAAARRRHHHH!!


Nomadesse in Concert

Nomadesse and her husband Philippe, French Canadian compatriots, played a small live concert in a small traditional Kyoto house (called machiya). I learned about them through a Montreal newspaper blog and we quickly got in touch. They played a variety of chansons in French, English and Japanese. Valerie's voice, her real name, is quite beautiful to listen to, and she sang by far the best live version of Country Road by John Denver; having only heard drunk salarymen sing it before, perhaps my judgement isn't too reliable, but she was very good!

There were other francophones, including some I had met before, and I had some good chats with they and locals. The high humidity and close quarters made everyone sweaty, but we hardly noticed, enthralled by Nomadesse's voice.

Well, here are some pictures, and if you're in Quebec City in the future, check her out!


On the BBC

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has a weekly photo contest and a picture I took during my mom's visit was selected. You can see the whole gallery here (beautiful shots in there, as always).


From Lines to Shape

I leave you with my final line shot, one of the train tracks coming out of my local station. I didn't think about it when I shot (I try to be modest), but in a way it's the perfect shot for this entry, as my next composition focus will be shape. Notice how the train tracks lead you to the exit, which is a nice rectangle. More on shapes and their (sometimes) implied meanings.


Some More Rain

In the train, on my way to Kyoto for a very wet KFMH3 run. It was quite hard focusing with the inconsistent rocking of the train. Autofocus couldn't adapted quickly enough, or would focus on the scenery, while manual focus was iffy at best. But I'm fairly satisfied with these.


Here Comes The Rain Again

The rainy season officially started this week in Kansai. A steady rain is currently falling and is forecast for the next few days. I'll need to find new opportunities to shoot. Perhaps work with my strobes? Use windows to backlight subjects indoor? Get into food photography? Develop my photoshop skills? So many possibilities...


More Lines

I have been continuing to shoot with lines in mind. Here are some shots taken since last Wednesday.

For this one, I used the river as a line to mark the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

The lines in the next shots are just there for style and aesthetics. Can you guess what the first one is? It is a color shot, even if it shows as black and white.


Photo Shoot with Tony Flenley

Tony Flenley is a British miso maker in Osaka. I interviewed and photographed him for an upcoming Kansai Scene article. When the call came out for this assignment, I was probably the first to answer (lucky timing), with the added bonus that I knew him: he's an occasional participant with some of the Kansai Hash House Harriers.

His factory is located near the Kyocera Dome near Osaka port, with big red doors as the entrance. The interview was a little different from others I've done since I knew him. Although we have shared a few beers and sake glasses before, it was the first time we were meeting in a dry setting! Some might argue that interviewing someone you know isn't true journalism, and I will agree if it were an interview with a controversial personality. But for a portrait, I think that knowing the person actually helps as (s)he will tend to be more forthcoming with information and feel relaxed, providing a better insight into the character.

In any case, the article should be out in either the July or August issue, and here is an outtake from the quick photo shoot. For Strobists, umbrella to camera left for fill light, as this was shot around noon. A reflector to camera right could have been nice, but I like the shadow as it adds some character.


Elements of Composition: Lines

I'm starting here a little side project based on the basic elements of composition. For those who have already studied composition, it might sound a little repetitive, but I think that some of my readers might not have read about it before. Photography, like any other graphic art, is based on some basic principles of composition. Pick up any book dealing with composition, whatever the media, and the same principles will come up.

The first element I will write about are lines. Lines are everywhere you look. They lead us on roads, they show us limits; they evoke sensuality on an exotic car or frame our thinking in statistical graphics. Vertical lines tend to show strength, horizontal ones often exude stability, while diagonals are dynamic. Include lines in your composition to lead the eye to your subject, add implied motion or just give your picture an interesting background.

All of these were shot in less than an hour, riding my bicycle back from my morning class. They aren't necessarily the best shots ever, far from it, but all of them were taken with lines in mind. I will continue to shot 'linear' shots for one week as a personal direction, before moving onto the next element of composition, shape.


Good Photo Session

On a morning run the other I noticed a bicycle sticking out of a river. I thought it would make an excellent subject for one of my current photo projects, Machine Death. Stupid as I was, I didn't go back the same day, although it wasn't so stupid as I had a fantastic wedding anniversary date instead.

What had struck me was how low the water level was, and I figured that since it hadn't rained since, the level had stayed the same. With this in mind, when I woke up at 5:12 this morning, I grabbed my camera, tripod and polarizing lens, jumped on my bike and went to shoot it. As you can see below, though, the water level had gone up. But that did not deter me and I came out with some interesting shots. This one is not my favorite, you'll have to wait for the exhibition to see the best one(s).

By the way, mom, thanks for the food coloring. I used but sadly the medium wasn't very good for this shot. But the color was perfect!


Perhaps The Last Shot of The Series

When I came back home tonight, this is what it looked like. Perhaps this will the final shot in the series. Godspeed.


Whitening Teeth in Post Production

Often it is the small details that make a good picture into a great one. In general I favor in the 'in camera' camp when it comes to digital photography (i.e. no cropping, very little color adjustments, no freaky effects, etc.), but there are things that cannot be done without the use of post production. Whitening the teeth of subject is one of them, and quite a simple one. Yes, one could argue that a photography should about capturing reality, but when you have a paying customer who couldn't care less about your artistic aspirations, following their lead is the way to getting more clients.

As mentioned, the operations are quite simple. Pretty much all software allows localized adjustments for saturation and brightness, and they will be your best help. What I have done so far with great results is to desaturatize the teeth, and then to make them a little brighter. I usually do not unsaturize them completely as it looks unnatural, and be careful with the brightening, you do not want your subject to look like Ross or that politician whose poster hangs near my building: I get blinded every time.

On the topic of post editing software, a lot of the free ones will do what the common mortal needs. I have used Irfanview and GIMP before with great results. I'm sure there are others out there, and they are probably as efficient. I use Aperture for most of my work, and sometimes turn on Photoshop, especially when I need to frame pictures or make multilayer shots. I imagine that PS can do most of what Aperture can, but haven't gotten used to the first one, I use it all the time. Coming back to the teeth, I guess one could create a separate layer for the teeth before doing the adjustments, but it seems like a lot of trouble for extremely similar results.

As I've said, I'm in the 'in camera' camp, and I like to KISS my post editing. But that's just my thing, I have seen some heavily produced shot, which left somewhat the realm of 'true photography, but that looked awesome anyways as images. To each his own.

Update on The Demoliton

I posted a few days ago about the demolition of my neighbor's house. This is what it looked like last night, Sunday. When I passed tonight, the only things remaining as far as I could tell were some garbage bags, cement slabs that were part of the foundations and musky tatami mats.

'This is the end... my only friend, the end.'