A Stranger at a Time: Day 31

Sorry for the month-long delay in uploading this last picture of the challenge. It really was taken on New Year's eve at a friends home. He had a little party with fantastic homemade Indian food (he's Indian) and while he was cooking I took a picture of one of his friends. Not the best of the lot, perhaps, but being New Year's eve, we all had other stuff on our minds. Here I think he's thinking about the fab food he's gonna chow down on soon! Bon appétit!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 29

Today I went to the Kuromon shopping arcade to get some delicious tuna sashimi (I know, I know) and fresh wasabi for my son's birthday party with the in-laws. On my way back I got pictures from other bicycle riders; I guess just like with hikers, since I was on my bike, we shared something so it was easy to get their portraits. Here is my favorite, and first of the bunch, actually.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 28

Sorry, I missed a few days again. Same lame excuses as before.

For my son's birthday today, we went to Tempozan to see the Penguin Walk. Although he didn't really understand what was going on, he did enjoy going out (that's my boy) and I hoped the watching the funny penguin walk would entice him to walk (perhaps it did have an effect, he it standing more now, and he did take a few steps since)!

On the way back to the station I saw this lovely couple and asked for their picture. As their expressions show, the guy was more happy about it than his girlfriend! Thanks guys!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 25

So this is Christmas, and why I have worked?

Well, the reasons are plenty, but I was glad to assist this friendly and lovely Spanish couple for their Japanese wedding. So they weren't really strangers because it was an assignment, but being so busy taking their picture, I couldn't be bothered to ask anyone else, before, during or after. This may not be the most wedding-like picture of the bunch, but it is one of my favorite. Salud!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 24

I went to Gregory Collet in Motomachi, Kobe to buy some delicious pastries (delicious, as always) at for our Xmas eve dinner. Hungry, I stopped at this ramen shop and the 'red' tonkotsu ramen I had were delicious: the noodles were thin like I love them and the soup base had a seafood taste (I think) which I've never had anywhere else (could have been part of the 'red' paste that was added, I don't know). In any case, after my hearty and satisfying meal, I asked the chef for his portrait and he agreed. More a snap than anything else, I was happy to include the red bowls in which my soup was served. Gochisousamadeshita!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 23

Sorry for the delay in posting the pictures. It's been a busy holiday season, and to be honest, there are days when I barely went outside, like today, so I have missed a few days. But most days I was out, I did try to get pictures of strangers, although not all really fit the category 100%.

This gentleman is a good example. Not too difficult to get the father of the bride to pose at a 2nd party, especially with a beer in his hand! But to my defense, people around you are a great place to find great subjects. Best to Guillaume & Mana!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 21

A funny thing my wife and I noticed while hiking is how friendly people are on the mountains, often saying hello as we pass each other, but this friendliness basically always stops as soon as we leave the trail. Of course, on the practical side, if you say hello to someone you are more likely to remember them, which could prove useful if someone got lost, while in crowded streets it would be very tongue-tiring to say hello to everyone!

I often travel by bicycle to go to work and today was no exception. On my way back from my Wednesday morning job, I recently started seeing this jogging woman who always says hello. This morning I told myself I had to ask her for a picture, and although surprised, she readily agreed. Hello to you!

A Stranger at a Time: Day 20

This is the 20th day of my experience. December is the 12th month. This is post #240 of this blog.
20 x 12 = 240
Coincidence? You'll be the judge!

In any case, finding willing models wasn't so difficult today. Part of it was choosing a good location, an illumination event like there are so many these days. And then, a bit to my surprise, asking directly for a picture is easier than first trying to establish a conversation. When I started the project I would often start conversations, and then ask for a picture, which often ended up with negative answers, especially with women. But yesterday I asked 5 different women if I could taker their picture and 3 agreed. I suppose that with all the nanpa going on, if I ask for a picture they know what they're in for and don't think about it more. Perhaps being a foreigner helps, as some acquaintances suggested.

I liked this picture more than the others, especially because of the woman's natural smile and look. I hope you like it, too.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 19

That's right, I skipped a day again. We did go out on the 18, to watch this year's Renaissance Illumination in Osaka with Kazuma. However, he quickly became fussy, so taking picture of a stranger was far from being at the top of my priorities. With the festive atmosphere, I doubt it would have been very difficult, so I don't feel like I've really missed anything.

Today I found another photo enthusiast. This one was waiting by a freight train line crossing the river, hoping a train would pass by. Apparently the schedule isn't so fixed, and as time was getting late, he thought it would not show. I could still get a shot of him, with the bridge across the river in the background.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 17

Bars are an easy place to find willing subjects. They're natural meeting places and I suppose that the alcohol helps people to rid of their inhibitions through inebriation. In any case, after a work year-end party I went to one of my favorite bars, Captain Kangaroo with a coworker and quickly found a subject, Kimi. She was surprised at my request but seemed rather flattered and she quickly agreed to pose for me. Later I also took flash pictures, but I prefer the 'head on' look on this one, even if the digital noise comes out more.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 16

A little unsatisfied with yesterday's inability to ask people for their pictures, I tried harder today. The first two politely declined, and the third one, after refusing pictures of her but accepting some of her dogs, finally agreed to a 'group' picture with her dogs, Sakura & Kato (?). The weather was cool, but the late afternoon sun produced beautiful light. I'm not much of a dog fan, but it's rare we encounter people walking their cats!

A Stranger at a Time: Day 15

Wow, already half the month has passed. I managed to find willing subjects about 87% of the time (more if I don't count the day I didn't even try), that's a pretty good average. I'll try to keep it up!

Today I saw many interesting models, but it was hard to find the nerves to actually ask them (the main purpose of the exercise). In a park I saw a young man dancing with a large flag and decided to ask him. I was relieved when he agreed. We talked as I got my camera out of my bag, and I was surprised to learn that he did it just for himself, that he didn't belong to any group or entered competitions! He reminds me of my capoeira teacher somehow, as when he started it, he had no idea where it would lead him. On the picture, I like his confident look.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 14

With the Candle Night, finding my subject was more a matter of ample choice than lack of. In this kind of event, it is pretty easy to find willing subjects, especially with a staff badge around my neck! But any model wouldn't do. As it was candle night, I wanted to find someone who represented winter well, and as luck would have it I found the perfect model staffing a booth nearby Pr-y's.

Candle Night x Pr-y

Last night was the Chayamachi Candle Night, and in collaboration with Atelier Corners and Rissi Inc, Pr-y had a booth showcasing the artists' pieces. In part due to a great location (Good work, Kasatani-san!) and favorable weather, many people passed by the stand and inquired about Pr-y. Both other photographers, Yoshida-san and Rob Whalbers, were there, and we exchanged views on many things, including the amazing equipment some passerbys had. All in all it was a fun night, (with the help of my wife's Xmas present down jacket which kept me warm).


A Stranger at a Time: Day 13

In the evening I passed by the Nikon Salon in Umeda to check the weekly exhibition. The first one was a series shot in 1993 and 2009 in East and West Berlin. Some of the pictures were very interesting, especially the one showing a pair of windows surrounded by a large number of bullet holes.

The second were street photography in a little neighborhood (shitamachi) in Tokyo. The contrast was pretty strong, these images being a lot livelier than the Berlin ones that were absent from any human presence. The photographer for this second exhibit was present and after introductions, he agreed to be photographed. His exhibit ends today, don't miss it!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 12

The banks of the Yodo river are a great spot to find willing subjects, it seems. Although I was later denied by a sheng player, my first attempt with this man and his dog, Taro, proved fruitful. I get more success asking directly for pictures than first striking a conversation. Although the man isn't facing me, his dog is, and I like the relationship between the two. It dawned on me later that I should have crouched a little for the picture, I think. Orange filter B/W conversation with some added blacks.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 11

You may wonder what happened to day 10? Well, the only time I left my place was to go shopping downtown with my family and didn't want to bother/embarrass them with my asking people for their pictures. Having gone downtown, I think it would have been easy to find a willing subject.

The next day I joined the Sanjurokumine Mountain race in Kyoto, and walking to the start, I noticed this staff whose pink jacket, yellow sweater and bleached hair really stood out. The plan was to upload the picture in color, but the red filter really highlights what first attracted me to him, so here it is in black and white. Shot with my cell phone.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 9

Wow, already day 9 of this 31-day challenge. I struck out one day, not bad I think; I did much worse the month I tried to do sit-ups every day!

After a morning shoot for the PR-Y project and I meeting about a Christmas Day (hmmm) wedding shoot (oh!), as I was riding my bicycle back home, I spotted someone carrying a large format film camera on a tripod down the street near the Higobashi Beer Belly (that'd be an awesome client to have!), I directly asked him if I could take his picture. Being a foreigner, he was startled and thought I made a mistake, that I was asking him to take my picture, and I when I made myself clear, he asked me why. I answered he was carrying a nice camera and that seemed to satisfy him. Photographers are a weird bunch, but we understand each other and he was happy to oblige. I captured him with some late afternoon light coming through buildings. We went on to talk shop, and he was on his way to try to get reflections off the water of the towers on Nakanoshima, but with the wind, the water was pretty choppy, so he probably didn't get the shots he wanted, if he even tried.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 8

This morning I took two portrait in less than 15 minutes! Excellent, I won't need to carry my camera for the rest of the day. I usually always do, but since I'm planning a short run after w*rk to test my shoulder, I'm happy to leave as much extra at home as possible.

The first gentleman was fishing under the rain at a pond in Itami. After taking some scenery shots, he noticed me, we exchanged pleasantries, and I asked him if I could take his portrait. He used to shoot film quite a bit and bemoaned the instancy and shoot-and-delete aspects of digital photography. I partly agree with him, but each media has it particularities, and no one is forced to press the shutter. I was happy to be able to get lots of shots last Sunday while taking pictures of my friends doing capoeira. They'll be glad to have the option of choosing between many pictures, something I couldn't have done with film (actual film and development are expensive) since I was doing this as a service to my fellow capoeristas.

A few minutes later, going through a temple, a woman asked me directions to a place I didn't know; actually I didn't even understand the type of place she was looking for. After some explanation I deduced it was some sort of learning center related to temples, but I could be wrong. She was holding a nice pink umbrella and with the colors of the leaves and the rain, I thought it'd be perfect as an autumn scene. She readily obliged to my request, and we then went searching for the place she was looking for, but to no avail. Hopefully she found someone who could guide her better than I.

I decided to put two pictures today since both were significant to me in their own way.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 7

Along the Yodo river going to w*rk this afternoon, I saw a man with a paragliding sail practicing catching the wind. I jumped at the occasion and went to ask him if I could take his picture. As with yesterday, I started by taking action shots, but then went for a portrait. In the ensuing discussion, I learned that this young 67-year old had started paragliding only 2 years ago and couldn't go enjoy it these days because of a knee injury. Pretty cool for a man past conventional retirement age and sporting a necktie while practicing his hobby (during his lunch break I assume).


A Stranger at a Time: Day 6

Armed with my trusty D40, my engagement present, I spotted this lone man dancing in the park. I'm a little disappointed with the picture, if only because it isn't a portrait per se. He's doing his thing for me, but it doesn't engage us as viewers very much. But, as far as one of my primary goals with this challenge is to get the nerves to go to strangers and ask to take their pictures, I can say mission accomplished.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 5

Today I failed to get the portrait of someone. As a result of yesterday's injury I spent the whole morning - early afternoon at the hospital. I guess I could have asked either the doctor or the nurse who fell in love with Kazuma, but let's just say my head just wasn't into a photographic state of mind, even if I did get some x-ray done.

Later I tried at a busy station, Kyobashi. After many unfruitful attempts, it dawned on me that the only strangers asking questions at night there are offering evening services, either food or otherwise... Maybe if I would have shown my camera right away, their reaction would have been different. I'm afraid to show it immediately based on recommendations from others, but in this case, maybe it would have been better.

Oh well, let's not give up!


A Stranger at a Time: Day 4

Again a (kind of) lucky day for me. The shot is of one of the people I did capoeira with to get my new cord. I actually blocked very well one of his attack, I was quite happy with myself. Sadly, later as I joined the open roda, I dislocated my shoulder... As a result, this shot was taken with one hand only. I guess he wasn't a complete stranger, but chance meetings are often good opportunities for pictures. So far, I think it is my favorite, he nicely posed for me under a light above, creating a natural vignette effect.


A Stranger at a Time: Day 3

Today was a little easy again as I could get a shot of the owner of the dance studio where I do capoeira. I really wanted to get a shot of her when I noticed a Makoot doll on the wall. These dolls are created by Makoto at Atelier Corners, and the link above goes to the article I wrote for Kansai Scene on the artists there. Sorry if I'm late putting the shot up, the weekend was pretty busy.

A Stranger at a Time: Day 2

With a capoeira lesson in the evening in Minami, Osaka, I decided to go down early and hang out at Triangle Park to find subjects. It was relatively easy to get couples and single guys to pose, but every attempt with a single woman proved fruitless, not that I asked so many. The area is a popular 'nampa' pick-up spot, so the women probably thought I was doing just that. Perhaps in the daytime it would have been easier.

The picture below is a bit over-exposed, but at least now I know what settings I need on my camera and flash to get good results. I removed some highlights to make it more presentable. It was the guys bright red hat, glasses and jacket that caught my eye first. I guess they were out on a date.


Thirty Day Challenge: One Stranger at a Time

Since seeing this TED Talk, I've been doing 30-day challenges; in October I opted to do sit ups daily and failed, while in November I decided to go dry, and except for a few moments, especially during OEFF parties, it was much easier than anticipated.

This month I've decided to go out of my comfort zone and try to get the picture of consenting stranger a day. After what I think were failed opportunities, I got the courage to strike up a conversation with a benevolent Osaka citizen who was raking leaves on a path I often use when riding to work, only to get rejected.

Luckily by coincidence I ended meeting a spectator of the OEFF and while enjoying some refreshments (OK, post-w*rk suds) I took this shot of the bar's (only?) staff. I cropped to 4x5 and converted to B/W; history will tell if I do the same with the others (4x5 more likely).


On the Way To and Back from Takatsuki

As a personal challenge and for some cross-training towards the Sanjurokumine Mountain race in less than two weeks, I rode my bicycle to w*rk in Takatsuki, about 26km one way. Of course, you know me, I had some of my camera gear with me, in part for Kameraoke 6, and here some shots from the journey. The last one is a B/W conversion with quite a bit of post-production done in Aperture 2.


Kameraoke 6

You have less than two weeks to enter Kameraoke 6 and record pictures of the six senses! Having woken up at some ungodly hour and not being able to fall asleep, I decided to take the first train to Sumaurakoen station to explore a sea platform I thought could be a good location for long exposures. As I was paying my access (What? ¥200? At least it's cheaper than ¥1,200, what fishers need to shell out), I noticed beautiful colors in the sky, but they sadly disappeared as I was making my way along the wharf. Oh well, the colors weren't the main purpose of my visit, although they could become it on a future visit. I looked around and found some great angles to shoot. I may end up using one of the shots under the theme 6th sense. Here's an view of the ensemble. As T-800 said: "I'll be back."


OEFF Wednesday

Today was the last day of the festival. After little sleep, I went back to the Hotel Elsereine. Fatigue started to really affect some volunteers, but not to the point of giving inadequate service. One of the most interesting thing was seeing Thierry Faber reaction to the attention he was getting; he is 'only' a film editor, he is not used to the spotlights, but I feel he wouldn't mind getting more! I think most remaining guests and volunteers probably went out for dinner but I declined, having some editing of my own to do tonight for their website, needing to wake up early tomorrow morning, and most importantly, wanting to see my son for more than a few minutes!

Well, I hope you enjoy my posts and you should be able to see some pictures on the OEFF website in the near future. The picture below is of the Kindergarten program where children learned about cinema through animation, getting the chance to do some stop-animation; since it was for children of all ages, I joined, too!

OEFF Tuesday

Sorry, no time to write much, but Tuesday I only got the chance to attend a party in the evening. The guest of honor was the lovely Natalia Verbeke. Wish you were there!


OEFF Monday

Because of regular w*rk, I didn't spend the whole day at the festival today. I went around noon to take pictures during the rehearsal of Cuore, an old Italian silent film to which two pianists played music. After see the rehearsal, I really envied those who could see the whole program. Live music with films is quite an enjoyable experience.

After w*rk, I came back to Hotel Elsereine to attend an Italian aperitivo, with most guests and many spectators present. All enjoyed the hors-d'œuvres and the drinks flowed freely. I met another Québécois, talked with many of the guests and volunteers, and just had a merry ol' time.

OEFF Sunday

On Sunday I covered the events held at the Hotel Elsereine from morning to evening. With different sponsors offering free stuff (free alcoholic drinks before the evening showing), kids events, a symposium, showings with guest Q&A and signing sessions, it certainly was a busy day! But it was all good, friendly (but physically cold!) volunteers helping. I got to the see Ireland's The Guard, which was a pretty funny 'odd paired cops' movie, with philosopher gangsters. It will be shown again this week, don't miss your chance.

OEFF Finland Day and Party

On Saturday I attended the Finland section of the OEFF at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. The museum, designed my Ando Tadao, is a must-visit. I'll have to go back another day to visit the collections. Mikko Koivumaa of the Embassy of Finland was in attendance and proved a very friendly conversationalist, especially when we talked about the Montreal Canadiens, of whom he knew quite a bit (he was a fan of Patrick Roy since early).

Two movies were presented, Twisted Roots and Forbidden Fruits, which sadly not so many people came to see. The following party in the museum's restaurant proved more popular, with close to 60 people in attendance. Attracted by Finnish food, the people came out and had a good time, Mr. Koivumaa's open disposition helping. A great day all around.


OEFF Opening Gala

Friday the OEFF kicked off with the Japanese premiere of Wim Wenders' 3D Pina. Sadly I couldn't join the projection, but I didn't join the opening gala after at Hotel Elséreine in Umeda (very beautiful, great food and attentive staff, by the way). Most guests were in attendance (one missed his flight!) and the evening was filled with encounters with new and old faces. I was pretty tired after a long morning jog, but the atmosphere kept me up.

Today I'm off to the Hyogo Prefectural Museum to cover the events around the theme of Finland: two films, followed by a Finnish dinner party. Should be good!


Pina 3D Behind the Scenes

The OEFF has started and since last week you can take a look at the behind the scene pictures of Pina 3D taken by Donata Wenders (wife of Wim Wenders). Great multimedia exhibition held at E-ma, don't miss it if you are in Umeda!


FAM: Final Lesson

Today concluded the first edition of the FAM course (From Auto to Manual Master Mode) with my guinea pigs. We focused on chasing the light from different angles and worked with light modifiers like reflectors and filters. They all learned a lot, we all had a great time, they gave me positive feedback and insightful ideas to improve it, I had them use some the stuff I have and maybe encouraged them to buy some stuff (mostly a polarized filter), so really, there's not much more we could ask for. We finished at a small restaurant by the river where we enjoyed some cold drinks and nice food, including deep-fried boar and deer (maybe would have been better grilled to preserve the taste, but it was good nonetheless)!

Here are some shots I took during the day. Enjoy!

Waiting for the guys at the station (JR Takedao)

Nathan using the rail to get his shot

This lesson was about seeing the light, at the end of the tunnel or not 

While getting our refreshments, beautiful sunset skies



The thing I like best about photography is exploration (one of my favorite songs, although not directly related to photography). Of course I haven't been shooting seriously for 20 years, but so far there are still so many things to learn and discover, it's grand. In this way, it mirrors life itself.

The good old creative question 'what if?' is at the center of this process. Sometimes it involves new equipment, but more often it's just using the equipment you already have and trying out new things in new ways.

Anyways, here are three shots (the effects are all in-camera) I took this week that go in that direction. I hope you like them.

Osaka European Film Festival 2011

Well, it's that again, friends, for the Osaka European Film Festival. Once more, don't miss the chance to see quality and challenging movies that are unlikely to make it to the theaters here, except for a few ones. I'll be on location to take pictures as usual, I hope to see you there.


Back From Montreal

At the end of last month I spent two back home in Montreal to present my baby to my parents; they were happy to see and hug him, but they didn't change any diapers. Luckily people other than my biological parents did! It was a great trip, mostly took family pictures, but also some for an eventual Kansai Scene article on my hometown. By the way, in this month's edition of the magazine, I have my Rokko Trail feature: check it out!

I leave you with two abstract shot at a cottage by lake Lyster. Enjoy!


Corners Fifth Visit

I went at Atelier Corners yesterday for my 5th shoot for the PR-y project. All members were in pretty good condition, although Mami-chan was much quieter than usual. I bought some stuff and had a good time photographing them all, especially Koh-chan, my main subject. He shook my hand at some point, I couldn't determine if there was any special reason or not. You can see more pictures on my updated page of my website.


FAM 3: Long Exposures and Metering

Today, Barry, Nathan and Toshiyuki came out for lesson 3 of FAM (From Auto to Manual). Sorry if I didn't put an entry for FAM2 but it was a busy weekend. In lesson 3 we focused on long exposures and metering in harder situations. The got out a kick of what dSLRs in manual mode can produce. I was just happy that they got the same WOW I got when I started discovering the possibilities. Here are some shots of the day.

Self portrait