Just a simple journal of my photographic escapades. I hope you enjoy.
June 17th, 2013
Over the weekend I was out in Osaka and Fukuoka (again) for the Red Bull King of the Rock (KOTR) regional qualifying rounds. If you don’t know what KOTR is, it is a one-on-one basketball tournament that is held all around the world, with the finals being held at Alcatraz, or “The Rock,” as you would know if you liked Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage movies or lived in North America.
Anyways, these regional qualifiers are pretty interesting in that they are being held with no crowd, and ANYONE can enter. What I mean by “anyone” is that over the weekend we had at least one player who is/was on Japan’s national team, and a couple players that are professional players here in Japan. It was kind of interesting to watch these matches as the level of skill was like David and Goliath, but this time Goliath was like “Hell no!” and kicked all the @ss he wanted to. David never had a chance in the court with these guys.
Because of this the first round matches were pretty one sided and predictable, but there was a fair bit of drama to keep things interesting for those who were in attendance. I have never really liked basketball, or most team sports for that matter, but I really enjoyed watching these guys fight it out. And yes, the games were very physical and a little rough at times, but that’s what it takes to win I guess.
As a photographer these events posted a few challenges for me.
1: These events were both held indoors, with very little air conditioning, and it is kind of hot in Japan right now (like 30+ hot) so even I had to watch myself and drink lots of water. Osaka was especially hot, and my shirt was soaked in sweat from pretty much the first coin toss. One hint I would have in this situation is carry a couple small towels in your bag, and drink water often, even if you are not thirsty.
2: Being held inside the venues were dark, large, and had very little character to them. I tend to not want to use flashes in these kinds of situations, but after consulting with the director of the event it was decided a couple flashes would be needed. The reasons for not wanting to use them is I don’t want to affect the athletes performances by blinding them every 5 seconds, and I am always worries they will get knocked over by a ball or player. It seemed though this time no one minded the flashing, and I was able to tie my stands down so even if they got bumped there would be no crashing.
3: How to shoot basketball in an interesting way, and yet have people be able to readily understand what the picture is of? This was not easy. Sure you could have wide shots showing the players, court, net and backboard and all that, but like I said, the venues were not very attractive, and I thought that would lead to some pretty boring shots. I did make sure to get some vertical shots of the guys doing layups and fighting for rebounds, but I found the majority of shots I took and liked were the one-on-one scenes where one guy would out maneuver the other and rush past to the goal. I think I got some pretty sick shots here, even though I got out maneuvered myself a few times, haha.
4: At the end of these events I have to take a portrait of the winner, and although I don’t think it is much of a big deal, the winner in both pictures is doing the same pose with the basketball. I really tried to do a different pose after the second event, but when I was moving flashed and that the winner changed to the same pose as the guy the previous day, and I didn’t notice as I more worried about my exposure. Boooo. Pretty sure Red Bull won’t say anything, but I am for sure doing a different pose for the next winner portrait!
All in all I think I did a pretty good job for my first ever basketball event, and even did pretty well in some random games I played with the staff during breaks, hahaha. Although it took for ever for me to stop sweating, haha.
So the next KOTR will be held in Okinawa in a few weeks, and it looks like I might be able to go!!! This one will be outside with lots of spectators so it should be a much different event for sure. Can’t wait!!
June 11th 2013
I seem to be saying this a lot these days, but man am I busy as of late. With last weeks X-Fighters I worked 4 days in a row, and never got to bed before 2am, now this last weekend I worked 3 days in a row, and again the sleeping times were anywhere from 2am to...geeze I can't really remember what time it was when I finally got some sleep Friday night.
The main cause of all this lack of sleep this weekend was shooting 3 Red Bull Thre3Style DJ events in a row. Friday was Osaka, Saturday was Hiroshima, and yesterday was Fukuoka. These events are tough to shoot here in Japan as the clubs are usually tiny and lighting sucks if there is any at all, but I must say I really enjoy them and had a great time over the weekend.
In Osaka the event was held at a club I gad never been to but I was happy to see it was quite large and had decent lighting so I was pretty happy at the start. Once things got started though I noticed right away that the club had placed a red light on the DJs that was there the whole time! I now call these kinds of lights the "Red Light Death" as it washed the DJ's faces in red light and didn't look all that good in some of the pictures. I played around with the flashes for a sec but nothing was improving the situation all that much so I just ran with it and shot avaliable light that night. Got some pretty sweet shots in the end and my Red Bull contact for the event was pretty happy about them so all was well. I ended up drinking with Red Bull people until pretty late which ment I only got a little sleep that night and was kind of hung over the next day as I made my way to Hiroshima.
The Hiroshima event was held at the same small club as last year, but the lighting was much improved this year for sure. Last year there were litteraly zero event/colored lights and that so the only light source I could use was my Nikon SBs tucked into the back of the stage. This worked well last year so I did something similar this year with even better results I would say. There were two other photographers at the event who were using a large flash on their cameras to shoot the DJ, and they were nice enough for sure, but they were not getting anything interesting this way (I looked at one of their cameras for a fe mins). Just your average club shots for sure. But by tucking a couple flashes in behind the DJs and turning them on and off from my camera to coinside with the left or right DJ I was able to get some cool back light that really mad the pictures stand appart. Thanks Pocket Wizard for making something that really works when I need it!
That night I was pretty tiered and there were WAY too many people in the club so I headed off as early as I could, which meant 2am...
And that brings us to last night in Fukuoka! This was also at a new club but it was a pretty nice place, small, but more open the the Hiroshima club for sure. Here they had some decent lights set up for the show, but I still decided to pop the flashes in the back as I did the night before. Again, good results and made some pretty cool looking photos (that I still have to edit...). Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or because it was my third event in three days, but this event went by SUPER fast. Before I knew it it was past 12 and the last DJ was playing. Wow, where did the time go, haha. In the end the club DJ was pretty good, and I had some friends come to the event so I ended up staying for a hour and dancing. Paying for it now as I had to get the 6:30am shinkansen back to Kyoto, but it was still fun.
One last thing I would like to say is a HUGE thank you to all the people whe were kind enough to let me move around the DJ booths and get my job done. At each event there were lots of people and not a lot of room around the DJs, but everyone did their best to be accomidating, well everyone but this one girl in Hiroshima(!) but what can you do eh, hehe.
Lots of other stuff happend over the last three days but if you would have to join me for a beer to get the juicy bits, nothing I need to mention here, hahaha.
June 6th 2013
So ya, last week’s Red Bull X-Fighters in Osaka was pretty much the most amazing thing I have ever had the privilege to be part of! There are soo many cool things that happened over my four days of shooting that I could probably write a sizable book but I will try and keep this post concise and just mention a few of the sickest moments I can remember.
First off, my role in the event was as one of 4 main photographers there to cover the entire event from start to finish. For me this meant I started on the Wednesday with a teaser jump with Josh Sheehan and Suzuki Daisuke at a crazy location in Osaka, and ended at about 2:30am on Saturday night after the main event. A long week to be sure, with 12-18h days, but soo worth it!
As this was my first X-Fighters as a main cameraman I must say I was quite nervous before the event. Many of the riders are people I have watched as a fan for years so having the chance to photograph them at X-Fighters was kind of a dream come true. Saying that, I was a little worried I would find out they were jerks, or accidentally piss someone off by taking too many pictures or nocking over their bike in the pits. You know, just some general pre-event paranoia, haha! To my relief though all the riders were AMAZING people and I was even able to make friends with several people over the 4 days. Making a good connection with the riders was one of my initial goals of the whole shoot as this only makes the work side of things sooo much more easy and fun. Guys like Levi Sherwood, Adam Jones, Tom Pages, and of course all the Japanese riders really made the event a blast and helped me calm my nerves during the first couple of days. Thanks everyone!!
Something else that really helped during the event was when I mentioned to a couple staff about how nervous and a little worried I was about being able to keep up (and hopefully surpass) the three other photographers who had come from overseas. After listening to my moaning all they said was “don’t worry about them, just take the pictures you think are good and everything else will be fine.” The confidence they showed in me was amazing and it was hard for me to not start crying with joy right there, hahaha. From then on I didn’t really think about what the other guys might be taking and just focused on the kind of pictures I enjoy taking, and in the end I got a lot of original pictures that the other guys didn’t, and I think this really helped me stand out. Thanks again to the staff for standing behind me when I needed it!!!!! Super appreciated it. And thanks also to the other three photographers! Learned soo much from these guys it is not even funny.
There are soo many other things I can say about the event, having the core Japanese FMX ground crew working the site with the international crew was amazing to see, having a good friend Taka Higashino WIN the event was absolutely amazing, having Red Bull take the time to say thanks and good by to Eigo Sato at the start of the event is something I will never forget, the general feeling of love and sheer joy that could be felt between the staff and riders the whole event, meeting so many Japanese fans before the event and having them say they have been enjoying my photos and that they wish me luck and knew I would do a good job, and knowing that Eigo was watching over all of us the whole time with the biggest smile you have ever seen on someone. And there are even more moments during the four days that will stay with me forever!
So in the end the event was a 100,000,000% success, and there are already rumblings of holding the event in Osaka again in the near future. I for one CAN’T F’n wait!
FYI, I have posted four albums to my Red Bull folder here on this site with all my best photos from the four days. There are a lot there, but please do check them out as there are lots and lots of good shots there, if I do say so myself, hehe.
May 28th 2013
In less than 24hs I will be working for Red Bull at the Red Bull X-Fighters in Osaka. This is easily going to be one of, if not THE, biggest jobs of my photographic career so far. One thing on my side this time though is I have been shooting FMX here in Japan on a pretty constant basis for the past 8 years so I think I know a thing or two about the sport. Knowing your sport is critical when shooting actions sports, so at least I will have this going for me for the next few days.
Tomorrow the job will start bight and early with a breakfast meeting in Osaka around 8am, and then off to shoot a teaser spot for the upcoming event. I am not going to say where we will be shooting, but it should be pretty cool to say the least. I am looking forward to seeing how the photos turn out. Now saying that, 8am in Osaka means I need to get up pretty darn early here in Kyoto, so I think I am just going to pop over tonight and stay somewhere close by to 1) get some extra sleep, and 2) Make sure I am not late to the meeting as that would just super suck!
Looking at some pictures of the course it seems like the riders will be very close to the fans so it should be a very exciting event for everyone, and maybe one time where the front row may NOT be the best seats as sitting up a little higher might actually give you a better advantage over the course. But anyway it goes, I don’t think there will be a bad seat in the house for this one. Lets just hope the weather holds up on game day!
Coming into this week I have been quite lucky with three FMX events going on in Japan over the last month. GO BIG! and the Odaiba event were two (which I have written about below) and this Sunday was the X-5 in Osaka, and event I go to almost every year. This year we had great weather sun wise (which my sun burt arms and neck can attest to no problem) but there was a fair bit of wind. The guys did a super job though despite the gusty winds and the crowd really enjoyed it! I think the best part was watching Kenny Ueno (pictured above) doing some backflips over the regular kicker. He has not been doing this as of late so it was good to see him pushing it and hopefully move onto some new backflip combos. It sounds like he is working on a few things in the foam pit so maybe we will see something new from him soon!!
Oh ya, the bikini car wash was pretty fun to watch as well, but I think I will be keeping those photos “private” as one or two people in the photos might not like having them on the net (or might get fired if they were to leak out, haha).
Anyways, wish me luck and send me some happy energy this week if you read this, pretty sure I am going to need it!
May 21st 2013
Only a week left before I start working at the Red Bull X-Fighters in OSAKA and I would be lying if I said I was not crazy excited & scared all at the same time. This will be the second X-Fighters I will have seen, and last time I was also there as an “official” photographer, but I know this time I going to be quite different for sure. Before I was just some intern sent there suddenly and the guys on site were not all that prepared to deal with me. But this time I am one of the 4 official guys for real this time, and the only one of us that will be able to speak Japanese, so I am pretty sure things will be quite different this time. Also, looking at the list of riders for the event I think there was only one guy that I don’t really know, all the rest are pretty much the super stars of the sport. Being able to work around these guys for the week and hopefully actually meeting them at one point or another is going to be pretty sick to say the least! Taka, I'm counting on you to introduce me to everyone, hahaha.
To help get people excited about the upcoming event Red Bull Japan held a small FMX demo in Tokyo this last weekend. Although I was not the official photographer for the event, I decided to head up anyway and hangout with the guys for the day. Sometimes NOT being the official photo guy has its advantages as I could shoot anything I wanted and didn't have to worry about branding at all, plus I could take my time with edits and upload the photos when I felt like it. Much more relaxing, but then again I don’t get paid…oh well, it was sooo worth the ticket price of the shinkansen to get there and back.
The only problem with the event was the wind was pretty strong, and acting very unpredictably all through the day, but the guys still managed to throw it down really well, and there was a pretty huge crowd gathered for both shows. This was because there was a live performance on the news that morning and many people came to see the afternoon shows. It was fun to hear people screaming (in fear) when Daice and Kota were doing their back flips. I guess they thought they were going to crash or something, haha.
All in all it was a great day, and I think I got some decent shots for sure. The off shots this time were really good as well, and for something different I decided to put them all in black and white. I really like how they came out, and might start doing more of this in the future again. It’s funny, whenever I shoot an FMX event my off shots get more views than the shots of the tricks, and people always mention how good my off shots are. This is great, but it would be nice to have someone say they like the actions shots as well, hehe.
Anyways, one more FMX event on Sunday before I head to Osaka for the X-Fighters!!! Anyone going to X-5? They have a bikini carwash contest…
May 9th 2013
Work at the university has me photographing a wide variety of people which means I get to me some pretty cool cats. This week, as part of my work for an English publication I produce twice a year, I was able to interview a grad student working on a flying robot that would eventually be used for search and rescue of indoor settings in disaster areas. Pretty cool stuff!
As you can see in the picture his robot is a quad flyer, which are really popular at the moment and something you may have seen on YouTube. The difference with this quad is that the student is working towards making an algorithm that will allow the quad to autonomously traverse the inside of damaged structures to find people and to map out the area. Sounds like something that would come from the terminator movies if you ask me.
He is still a few years away from perfecting his robot, but it seems things are going well and he has a lot of support from the school. One thing I was amazed at seeing live for the first time was the 3D Printer his research lab has purchased recently. If you are not familiar with 3D printing yet you will be in a few years, trust me. They are already selling small units at select Staples shops in the US even. Anyways, in his research and in building the quad there are times when he has to create his own parts, and instead of ordering something and waiting a week, or gluing stuff around together, all he has to do is create the part virtually in a computer program and then press print. 20mins later the part is finished! We made a couple small parts so I could film the process and it was quite mesmerizing to watch. One thin layer at a time, a small cog that was downloaded from the net came to life right before my eyes. SOOOO COOL!
Living in the world we do we often forget just how cool and advanced the world can be around us. Just look at your smart phone, in just a few decades we have taken the computing power of something that would have taken up a large and powerful computer at the time, and reduced it to the size of something that fits in our pocket, while at the same time increasing its computing power by 100s of times. The same can be said for DSLR cameras, the computers we use to edit, and pretty much everything else many of us use on a daily basis. Very cool, and I look forward to witnessing just how far things will go in the next 5, 10, even 20 years.
As for the picture above, it was shot using my Elinchrom Quadra with an umbrella and placed about 1m away from the subject to camera right (I think). I am pretty happy how these photos turned out, and that all the equipment (flash and Pocket Wizards alike) all worked together as by this time I was running out of time after interviewing and filming for about an hour. Looking back I do think bringing in the ambient light a little more with a slower shutter speed may help out the image, but that will be something I will look a trying more next time, er tomorrow actually, haha. If anyone has any suggestions on how to fix the image please feel free to let me know!
May 8th 2013
Busy as always this last couple weeks. Here in Japan we just had a wonderful break from the dredges of work call “Golden Week” (not really a week, and I didn’t get any gold but oh well) and I was able to get up north to a small area called Iwaki for this year’s first GoBig! FMX competition in Samegawa. As I didn’t really have any other plans for the vacation I made my way up a couple days early with the intent of learning how to ride a motocross bike (250cc) around the track they have there, and to just hang out with my friends for a couple days. Although I stalled the bike numerous times when trying to get going, once I was moving everything went well, and I rode better than most people expected me to for my first time, yea! Next time I might head up just to ride and not even take my camera, hahaha.
So after a couple days of beers, bikes, and friends it was time to get to work with the first GoBig competition of the year. And as there were LOTS of riders this year I knew it would be a busy day. One thing I really want to hit on here though is as FMX in Japan as been getting more and more popular, there has been a growth in the amount of people who want to film and photograph the events. This is all good and positive for the scene in a whole, but it seems safety has been forgotten buy a few people as of late. Shooting from outside the course is the safest place one can shoot, and often I get great pictures from there, but at some venues I really like to get inside/behind/around the riders to get “the best shot.” And having been shooting FMX for nearly 6 years I think I understand where is safe, and I think the riders know I will not do anything stupid so they are not worried when I am close by.
Saying that you can always be more aware of your surrounding and safety of the riders/athletes/anyone you are shooting for that matter must be your top priority, and the top priority of the event as a whole. It is one thing if I am shooting on a day where I am pretty much the only one there and there are only a few riders, but events like GoBig! where hundreds of people are watching and dozens of riders are jumping are a totally different monster.
A good example of this was with the jump design of this year’s competition. In past year’s at Samegawa there was a lot of room on top of the landing for people to shoot from there and still be safe, but this year’s design made that area very small and uncomfortable. During practice on the day before the event I wondered up while only a couple riders were on the course and you could tell right away it was just too small and not safe. Further more, the only place you could really stand would be right along where the guys would come to hit a super kicker, which is where a few of the guys were trying to get their backflips down. A scary trick for anyone that would be even scarier if they have to squeeze by photographers before the jump.
Needless to say I opted to stay below for the competition but several people did make their way up. And no, it was not safe. As this became all too apparent though one of the main judges made a great call and told everyone to get down off the top, thank you Cazy! Even then though there were several people who should not be inside the track shooting where ever they pleased, and even I had to warn a couple people here and there to watch what they were doing. One miss step while checking your shots and you could walk under a bike in the blink of an eye. Not something anyone wants to see!
So although on a whole the event went off great and it was a TON O FUN, there are a few things we will all need to consider for future events. I personally think limiting the number of people allowed into the track is needed, and these people need to be readily and easily recognizable by everyone else. A simple black MX-VIRUS STAFF PHOTO shirt or something like that would be great, and I for one would pay for the cost of the shirts in a heartbeat. Pre-registration for media, as well as a mandatory pre-event safety meeting for all media and staff would also be a good idea and something I think I will mention to the guys in the coming days.
Of course no one wants to take the “free” out of freestyle motocross, but as the numbers of media and regular people alike grow, it is only a matter of time before there is an accident, and then it will be too late. Remember, as a photographer it is YOUR responsibility to stay out of the way of the athletes. You are there for them, but you should never distract or be an obstacle to what they are trying to achieve.
April 19th 2013
After getting back from my trip in Iwate I had an evening to rearange my luggage and a quick sleep and then it was off to Hokkaido for my first real Red Bull "event" of the year. The event was called the Red Bull Upspring and was a snowboard camp for young Japanese boarders who have a chance of making it big in the snowbaord world. As a coach my friend Yuki Kodono also joined the camp. He has recently become a Red Bull athlete so it was great to see him and congratulate him on that and his recent wins and some international competitions. From the looks of it he will probably even be at the next olympics!
On my first day in Hokkaido I didn't get to the resort (Kiroro Resort) until the afternoon, but as soon as I arrived at the hotel I was asked to catch the next shuttle bus up to the resort and start shooting a talk session Yuki and another Japanese rider. It seemed the kids were a little overwhelmed/tired/unsure of themselves and were very quite during almost thewhole session. I was a little worried at the time as the mood was a little heavy, but I think that was more due to the rain the previous day, and the crazy wind they had had that day. The kids wanted to ride, but they just couldn't.
The next day though the weather was great with no rain, no wind, and pretty nice skies for most of the day. Getting up on the mountain early for "course check" I was even able to get first tracks and a couple really nice runs. Too bad I had to keep my bag with me though or else I think I would have go a lot faster. Don't really want to crash with all that glass and electronics in my bag. Saying that, this was my first time riding with my new f-stop bag and I must say it was really nice. The bag was snug and comfortable, and the waist and chest belts were great for distributing the wait around my body. Even one of the photographers from Transworld Snowboard was impressed with the bag.
Once the kids got on the hill it was time to get some work done. Unfortunatly as many of the kids hadn't had many chances up until then to actually hit the missive jumps there was a lot of check runs without any jumps. Oh well, I don't blame them. These 11-14 year old kids were hitting 18m jumps! And once they got warmed up there were some 720s, and even some 900s being thrown down. Sick stuff at any age and something I will NEVER be able to do in my lifetime. So once they did get jumping it was tones of fun to shoot. Knowing that Red Bull likes sequence shots I made sure to get at least a couple shot from each position and angle I was shooting so that I would have lots to work with and choose from when I work on building the sequences that night. Over all I am happy with the ones I shots, and happier still because of the 6 I made 4 made it onto the Red Bull Content Pool. The one you see above here is probably my favourite, and this kid really killed the whole time.
The last day of shooting, and the main day for outside media, was foggy allmost allday so everyone thought the kids would not hit the jumps. But before we knew it they just started rolling in and flying off! Like, when I went down the mountain to get to my shooting position I almost hit one of the jumps just because I couldn't see ANYTHING infront of me, like NOTHING! Of course when the kids started jumping the could see a little better and the hits were much better marked, it was still way to foggy to really be jumping. These kids didn't seem to care though, haha. Unfortunalty though, try as I may shooting at the big hits was kind of out of the question, I just couldn't see sh!t. Because of this I headed down to the last jump which was a hip, and a little out of fog, and basically just sat in the snow and waited for the kids to come by.
Here I tried a couple things with my new flash but found that the fog and it didn't really work well together and ended up just shooting natural lite. This was good in the end though as I was also able to make a pretty sick sequence here that is also up and online. Speaking of my flash, on the first day I tried setting it up in the afternoon to change up the look of some of the photos, but when I turned the unit on it just started repeat flashing even though I wasn't shooting anything. This had happend before, but I thought the problem had fixed itself. Not knowing what the problem was, and not having an internet connect through my phone I was forced to just put it away, booo. Chatting with the TW photographer though it seems the quadras can be sensitive to bright lite, and that might be why it was fireing like it was. Willing to try anything I wrapped the unit in the rain cover for my bag and tried again...problem solved! Looks like this got everything under control and I was able to shoot again! Unfortuanatly this was all discovered in the last 5mins of the day, hahah. Story of my life!
Anyways, in the end I think it was a great time in Hokkaido and I really enjoyed being on the mountain again and seeing all these little snot nosed kids killing it on the hill! Good job everyone!! Next year I really want to get out and shoot more snowboarding, especially now that I am meeting more and more poeple in the industry. Even sounds like someone with my unique stills in English/Japanese and photography could be needed in the Japanese snowboard industry. Yee ha!!
April 19th 2013
Last week I was back up in the northern area of Japan where the 3.11 disaster took place in 2011. This time I was in a small community called Taro that had probably over half of its buildings, homes, and people swept away in the massive 14m or so tidalwave that hit after the earthquake. Still very little rebuilding has been done, but the people are starting to move on and heal.
The task at hand for me this time was to take pictures of a project some of the university's students had been involved in at the temporary housing area in Taro. About 15 students from the university had created a large scale model of the city how it was before the tsunami was hit. They origionaly made the model all white, and then during the event they talked to residents of the area and had them paint their own houses in whatever color they used to be. The students also used arial photos to double check the colors and to paint what they could on their own as obviously not everyone would be able to make it to the event.
The really great part of this event though was not just the fact that the students had built something to keep on hand to help people realize just how much of the city was damaged, but what they were doing was a tool to help open lines of comminication with the local residents and have them remeber a time when the city was whole. Watching the people chatting with the students and pointing out different areas of the city was really interesting. Some people who had lived there all their lives would tell stories of where they had their first date, or where they went to school, the people who lived around them and things like that. By listening to these stories I think the students (and myself) really got a first hand sence of what the city and people were like before 3.11.
During the two days I was up there there was a couple times when other media were doing interviews, etc., in the small room used for the model so I decided to play outside with some of the local kids. To me this is also an important part of visiting these areas as the kids don't often get to play with non-Japanese people, or with each other for that matter. All we did was pla some baseball in the parking lots, but it was tones of fun. I am not sure how or why, but I always seem to be able to play with kids as if I was their same age, and they treat me more like a friend than an "adult." This time was no different, and we all had a great time as friends. I hope sometime this year I am able to head up there and play baseball with my new friends again.
April 11th 2013
This post has been in the works for about 6 months now. The above image you see is the first page of my interview in a French FMX magazine called “Freestyle Motocross.” This is my first interview in a major magazine and I must say I am pretty stoked to see this come to a reality. This is basically my efforts of the last 6 years coming together and being shown to the world.
This all started last year when I was up at the GO BIG! in Fujisawa. Just as I was about to get some sleep my phone rang with a message from Facebook. Always curious to see who wants to talk I checked it as I lay in my sleeping bag. To my surprise it was one of the guys that works at the magazine saying that he was interested in doing an interview with me and showing a bunch of my photos as well. Seems like he knew Eigo and Daice and had seen my photos around the web. Well holy sh!t, if that didn’t wake me up from my almost slumber nothing would.
Of course I replied right then and there with a resounding “hells ya!” So from there it was a lot of back and forth with the guy from the mag, deciding which pictures to use, and asking about my answers for the interview, and all that fun stuff. This process was really interesting and quite fun actually.
In reality the interview was supposed to run in the previous issue, but because of some internal stuff at the mag it had to be pushed to this issue. It seems that if I was to insist it ran in the previous issue the page count of the interview would have been cut, and the guys there really didn’t want to have to do this. It was amazing to hear them so adamant about running the whole thing with all the pictures we originally agreed on. Very professional on their part for sure!
Not much else to say, just that this is a pretty HUGE milestone for my photography career and something I will hold with pride for a long time. The magazine should be available in Europe and France for sure, but if you want to see the other pages of the interview, as well as a poster and some shots of Eigo used in the magazine, check out my Facebook page at the link below.
April 10th 2013
It pays to check Facebook once in a while. Looks like a Chinese magazine is using one of my photos from my shoot in Nagoya with Red Bull and 9-time World Champion Kenny Belaey. Sweet! Looks like they cropped the pic for the issue but like I care, haha. Looks good to me!
April 5th 2013
So spring has sprung in Kyoto and it has FINALLY warmed up enough to actually be comfortable in a t-shirt outside in the day and not need 20 pounds of blankets at night About time! Also, with spring's arrival in Kyoto the sakura (cherry blossom) trees are now if FULL bloom and making the city look even nicer than usual. Unfortunately the sakura bring a mass pilgrimage of tourists from not only around Japan, but the world as well, making it almost impossible to enjoy the trees at your own pace.
Lucky for me though I know of a couple areas in town that your average tourist can't get too so I have been able to enjoy the trees all the same. One such spot is a place along Kyoto's Katsura river, which is conveniently located about 20mins from my apartment by bike. There is a long stretch of trees along a narrow path that make a kind of sakura tunnel. The best thing is though, the two times I went there I shared the place with about 20 people in total, as opposed to the 20,000 or so I would have to share it with at the Philosopher's path or other areas in Kyoto.
Now I really wanted to use this area in a photo shoot, and I also wanted to get some practice with my new Elinchrom Quadra and the hyperSync feature my Pocket Wizards provide. So after a lot of e-mails and phone calls to various people I know, I was able to round up a young local B-boy to help out with the shoot. Great!
Wanting to keep things simple I decided on keeping the moves he would be doing to a single simple freeze he would be able to do over and over without too much effort. This was nice as it kept things easy, but I think next time I do this I would like to change things up a little more. As far as my lights, it was mainly just using the Elinchrom as the main light, and adding a little side light with an Nikon SB 900. The system worked great, so from there it was just up to me to find a good angle and shoot away. I should mention that as we were near train tracks there were many times verbal communication was impossible, so I ended up having to rely on raising a hand or leg, depending on what position my body was in.
After about 45mins of shooting under the sakura I decided to move to an area directly under the train tracks, and this is where I got the shot you see above. Pretty much the same set up as before, but now I have moved the SB-900 so it was directly behind the B-Boy to give me the rim light you see here. I think this really helps make him pop from the picture, and adds a lot of depth as well. We did a bunch of different stuff there, but in the end I think this is my favourite picture from the day. The B-Boy really liked it as well. Of course I have touched it up a bit in PS, but not too much really.
If you would like to see the other pictures I liked from the day follow the link below to my tensai-riot photography page on Facebook. Oh, and if you get that far, you might as well like the page as well, thanks!!
March 13th 2013
Seems like I have been moving non-stop for the last week or so, and falling a little behind on the blogging, woops...
Anyways, last week had me heading over to south China for a few days to do work for my university job. We were doing a bunch of interviews of students currently studying at a university there, and everything was pretty simple, just we were doing a two day job in one day, good times.
I am not going to write too much about the trip, just that the food was better than I expected (everything was SO good and cheap, and no wreaked tummy), the place was cleaner than I expected (not saying much as I was expecting death smog everywhere) and the people we met were very nice. I even got lots of "Hi" and "Nihao" from the girls at the university when we were walking around, never a bad thing! Of course I could not access several website like facebook and that through the hotel's WIFI, but at least they had WIFI so I could do some e-mails and that.
Probably the coolest thing though was through my instagram feed (user name: tensai_riot) a local Chinese flatland BMX rider was kind enough to drop me a line and give me his phone number so we could hook-up for a photo session if I get back that way. Sweet! I would love to travel and shoot different people and cultures around the world, and once I get my permanent residence here in Japan that is what I plan to do!
Coming back from China I headed home, reorganized my luggage for 10mins, and headed back out the door to Nagoya as I was going to be meeting friends at a Red Bull party that night, and shooting a BMX comp the next day. Not much happened that night except my one friend drank too much and almost feel asleep in his gyudon, but all in all it was a quite night to say the least.
The BMX comp was out in a park about 1h drive from downtown Nagoya. A full cement park that seemed pretty new, it was really nice and open and I even got a chance to ride around a little before anyone came and saw home much I sucked, haha. With a total of 60 riders in the competition it was a LONG day of shooting, and didn't really end until it go dark and the park people were super pissed that we were still there, whoops. The level of riding was everything from little kids just bombing around the track, to guys doing sick turndowns, 720's, tailwip flares, and other cool stuff that I don't know the names of. And other than a few sprained ankles it seemed like everyone had a safe and enjoyable time throughout the day.
As far as my shooting went, the park was rather large and it was hard to tell where people would be going so I just stuck with my 70-200mm/2.8 and followed as well as I could. During the day it became obvious who would be doing what and where so I tried to move around as I could, but space was limited so I think I mainly used about 3 positions. As the sun went down behind one of the hips I brought out my Elinchrom Quadra to try and add some fill light to the hip shots. As the riders were hitting other parts of the course I would just shut off my pocket wizard, and then when I knew they were going to hit the hip I would quickly turn it back on. This worked surprisingly well as the flash was ready to go every time just as I needed it.
As I was shooting and checking on the camera's LCD it was hard to see the fill light (I was wearing sunglasses as it was super bright out) but once I got the images on my computer I knew the flash had been doing its job right. Oh, and thanks to my PWs I was able to freeze the action perfectly using hypersync, even with the quadra. One thing I still noticed was the battery was not lasting as long as I hoped, but I think this is a byproduct of the hypersync and something I will just have to learn to work with. The two photos above are both examples of shots taken with the flash.
Anyways, lost of stuff coming up in the next little bit so check back when you can. And if you have read this far, THANK YOU!! I know someone has been reading this blog (other than my Mom) and I just want to say thanks!
March 25th 2013
Photographing a friend's funeral has to be the most emotionally challenging and draining thing I have ever done, and not something I want to have to do again for a VERY long time, like 100 years or so.
R.I.P Eigo Sato, Always Missed but Never Forgotten.
March 11th 2013
I think bitter sweet would be the best expression to describe how I fell about the above photo. This is from the press conference I shot for the upcoming Red Bull X-Fighters in Osaka, Japan and appears in the latest issue of a Japanese motocross magazine. Normally I am super excited when any photo of mine is published, but as Eigo Sato (the young Japanese guy on the far right) has recently passed away it is a little hard for me to be overly joyous about this.
Saying that, I think Eigo would be happy to see that the event is getting such exposure in local Japanese media; as it is these outlets that will help the event in June be a super hit. I hear they are already expecting a sold out stadium with about 10,000 people, so it should be a very exciting show to say the least.
When I originally shot this photo it was at the end of a long, nervous day of shooting so I was pretty tiered but it all went fine. Getting home I had some pretty violent food sickness so editing of the photo was at a pretty minimum for time, and after sending it out to Red Bull I really wish I had taken a little more time with the shot. Seeing it here though and talking to the Red Bull Japan people it seems that everyone likes the photo so all is well I guess.
If you are in Japan and are thinking of seeing the X-Fighters in Osaka make sure you apply for your tickets ASAP as it WILL sell out for sure, and it is going to be an amazing show!
Ride in Peace Eigo!
March 5th 2013
Trying to get my mind off of recent events for 5 seconds or so (failed miserably by the way) I headed down to Kobe to shoot some flatland BMX with Red Bull rider Yohei Uchino. He is a busy guy and kind of all over the place, but I was lucky to notice he was riding in Kobe via his Facebook feed so a quick e-mail later and it was a go!
Having been told things might get started around 1:00pm, I ended up arriving at 1:30 or so but Uchi was not there yet. Not wanting to be rude or pushy I decided to just hang out and wait for Uchi to show up, instead of calling and being all like "where the hell are you dude?" Besides, there were a bunch of other riders there so I was enjoying watching, and eventually shooting them as well. So about 3-4 hours go by and I had pretty much given up on Uchi coming by that day. It sounded like he had been up till really late having some kind of "adventure" with friends the night before, so I assumed he was just not up for it. No worries really, I was having a great time shooting the other guys there so it was all good for me.
Then, about 1hour before dusk Uchi shows up, and seems surprised to see me. He was even more surprised to hear I had been waiting until 1:00pm. Seems like he thought I would call when I was there, while I though he would just show up when he was ready. He had actually been out shooting with another photographer and was thinking of taking me along to a bunch of different spots to get shots...man I wish I had just called him when I got there, hahaha. So, lesson learned. Even if it seems like I might be a bit of a pain, just f'n call people, you never know what they have planned for you, haha.
Once he did arrive though we started getting some pictures, but we were loosing light very, very fast. I had a couple ideas for photos I wanted to try and take so with a quick bit of set up it was shooting time! Uchi had some new trick he wanted me to take (sweet!) but the timing was super hard, and it was dark, and I was far away, and I suck, hahaha. After a few tries I decided to just ask him to do some basic tricks so I could at least get something in the bag. 10mins later I had two pictures I am pretty happy with, so I think it was worth waiting around for four hours.
From there we headed into town for two more quick location shots. Out of the two I really liked the shot I got in front of the Daimaru shop. Before shooting I was told by the other photographer we may have ten minuets at best before the shop security ninjas pop out of the man holes and whoop our @sses, but in the end we were not bother by a single person. Even the people walking by couldn't care less of what we were doing. The shot I am happiest from here is the one you see above. One thing I found tough was using a shutter speed that could stop the action, but still let in enough light to show the building in behind, but still keep things in the background relatively dark compared to Uchi. Thanks to my pocket wizards I can use basically ANY shutter speed I want, yea for hypersync, so I think I ended up using something around 1,000/sec with a 2.8 aperture around 4000ISO. I could have gone slower and it might have produced a better effect, but in the end I am happy with this photo.
Oh ya, I should mention that I was also using my new Elinchrom Quadra with my pocket wizards, thanks to a $20 cable ordered through Amazon, and for the most part it worked great! Even the hypersync worked without a flaw, all the way to 8000/sec shutter speed! Insane! The best thing is, for the shots in the day, you can't really tell there is flash in the photos, and least not in the traditional manner. And the spread and power of the Quadra is so much better than my SBs that it was much easier to hit the riders with the flash than I had expected. The only downfall with shooting like this was I was doing a lot in full power so the battery didn't really last the whole day. Might have to invest in another battery if I am going to be out shooting events and that with Red Bull with this set up. That, and a small unit from pocket wizards to connect to the Elinchrom (a Power ST4) and I will have a three light set up with hypersync! For now it seems my SBs will be great for rim light or for adding light flare to pictures so I think I am going to stick with this set up for a while.
Lastly, I often pop a few photos up onto my Instagram feed (user name TENSAI_RIOT) but have never used hashtags in my posts. Last night I decided to try it for the first time and WOW! I got so many more likes and followers than I would normally get by just posting the photos. I think I am going to keep using the hashtags, and you should too!
Well, I guess I will leave off here. Going to head up to Iwaki this week for Eigo Sato's funeral and that. Hopefully I will get a chance to write about it when I get back. Sounds like Eigo's friends had a good time sending him off before he was cremated, which is custom here in Japan.
March 1st 2013
As you probably know by now Eigo Sato, a genuine hero and legend in the FMX scene, has passed away due to a bike accident yesterday while training for the upcoming X-Fighters in Mexico. There are no words to truly describe how I feel at this moment in time, but I would like to try and share what I know of the man who has been a true inspiration to me for the last 7 years.
I honestly don’t remember when exactly I met Eigo for the first time, some time in 2006 at one of the many FMX events I had gone to that year. Invited by my friend Suzuki Daice Daisuke to check out one of his FMX events, I was instantly enthralled in the sport, but more than that I was amazed at the people doing these crazy tricks with their motorbikes. And more than the tricks, it was these people, these friends that made me keep going back time and time again.
Eigo was not just one of these people, but he was the unspoken leader of these people, these people that I am lucky to call my friends. And although he was the “leader” he was not arrogant or loud in any way shape or form. He had a strength inside him that you new would come out if needed, but he was always quick to smile, quick to laugh, and quick to cheer on his fellow FMX riders, even in the middle of competition. I remember seeing this time and time again and thinking how big of a heart this man has.
Another this about Eigo is that me and him were born in the same year. Here in Japan this is important, and seems to automatically connect you to people you have just met who are your same age. This year we would both be 35. Seeing Eigo perform on the world stage year after year, winning competitions and always progressing was such an inspiration for me. “If Eigo can compete intentionally, then so can I!” is something I would often find myself thinking. His example of never giving up and never settling, always working to progress his art is what I strive to do, what I must do. This is something I will always remember about Eigo, and something I am truly honored to have learned from him.
I have many memories of Eigo over the years, all good, all GREAT for that matter. Being a photographer around the MX-Virus crew for the last 7 years I have been privileged on countless occasions to join Eigo and the guys for beers, BBQ, chatting and that. Just relaxing and sharing time with him and the other FMX guys is something I cherish, and even though Eigo has passed, something I hope to continue doing for many years to come.
Thinking back I think one of my favorite memories of Eigo was when I got the chance to meet up with him in Spain in 2011 for the X-Fighters there. During practice Eigo had banged his ankle really bad and was unable to compete in the competition. While we were leaving the venue I remember taking his picture and you could see he was upset about the outcome and not happy with himself. But when I saw this some part of me just spoke up and I yelled at him, “Hey Eigo, show me that smile of yours I love so much!” And in an instant there it was, wrinkles and all, the famous Eigo smile. I love that smile, and it makes me happy every single time I see it.
But soon I will have to travel up to where Eigo lived in northern Japan, a place still working on getting over the 3.11 disaster, and pay my respects to Eigo’s family. Not something I ever wanted to do, but something I have to do to honor his memory, and help out in any way I can.
The picture you see here is at the Red Bull X-Fighter Osaka press conference we had in Osaka a few weeks ago. This was the last time I saw Eigo. We got to talk a lot that day, and he was excited to discuss our possible trip to Mexico together, and a book we were working on. Well those plans are on hold, but hopefully I can do something to put my memories and photos together for everyone to share.
Ride on good buddy! I know you will be watching over everyone, don’t be too upset if we take a little time to get back around to “normal”, whatever that is.
Love you Eigo!!
February 26th 2013,
Been pretty off and on these last couple of months with not to many events and that to get out shooting, but I have been having fun none the less. One thing I have been getting up to is spending some of my hard earned cash on some new equipment to help me get through what is hopefully going to be a very busy year starting this spring. A couple things I really wanted to pick up before I got busy was some new camera/travel bags, and since I am sponsored by f-stop this was a breeze! One particular type of bag I wanted was something that was big enough to hold about 3 lenses but not over bulky, as I need to be very mobile during events but find my current bag can be a little too much at times. Looking on the f-stop site I found the Ando-18 and decided to try it out. Being somewhat waterproof, and the size it is is perfect for what I will be doing. After using it over the weekend and for my university job a couple times it seems to be good so far, and even did a really good job of keeping the dust off my lenses while shooting some minimoto 50cc on Sunday, more about that in a sec. The other bag I picked up is the Lightroom Roller Case, but as I have not had a chance to use it just yet I will save my review of that bag for another time.
Another tool that recently found its way to my front door was the new Elinchrom Quadra flash system. This is a professional flash unit that is battery powered by a rather small battery source and that can be taken pretty much anywhere you need to go. Having arrived on Saturday I have not really had a chance to dive super deep into it just yet, but I did manage to set it up and get some test shots in my apartment on Saturday without blowing anything up, so I was quite happy with that! Setting it up and trying a few shots with the umbrella it was easy to notice the amazing quality of the light compared to my Nikon SB-900. This is going to be a fun tool to use for sure!
On Sunday it was up at 4:00am and off to Ise (about 4hs away once we picked up a friend in Osaka) for a day of photos, 50cc motorbikes, and all sorts of fun. Of course I had the Quadra with me as I wanted to give it a try in a real world environment. The first thing I tried to shoot with the Quadra was the 50cc bikes flying through a banked turn. I had good success with this before and was hoping the Quadra would make the shots look even better. Unfortunately, one thing about the Quadra with the radio trigger that comes with it is it syncs at a shutter speed of 250, just a little slow for this kind of shot so I was getting some decent motion blur in the photos. OK...I kind of expected that. One other problem I had while shooting (and this is probably because I never really bothered to read the instructions) was the flash would at times just start to randomly fire off flashes every second or so. I have a feeling it was searching for the trigger or something like that, but it was really annoying. Randomly pressing buttons and shutting it off and on a couple times fixed it, but I think I need to spend some more time with the manual and figure out what I had done before I try to use it at any big event in the next month or so.
Saying that, when it did calm down and decide to let me shoot, it was a breeze to use! Being able to change to flash strength from the on-camera trigger is a huge help, and the quality of the light was really nice. Add an umbrella and you are laughing! And the fact that the battery is small in size and relatively lite in weight it is a breeze to quickly change position of the flash by yourself, with one hand even. Another aspect of the flash I love is the sheer power it has. Zoomed to 200mm at full power my SB-900 has done a pretty good job in the past at lighting up a rider against a setting sun, but the Quadra was able to light up the rider and the rest of the foreground as well against pretty much direct sun-lite! And that fact that the unit beeps when it is ready to fire again is super helpful, something I never have been able to get the SBs to do.
All in all I am SUPER happy with my recent purchases and can't wait to get out and do more shooting with the Quadra over the year!! Now to see what accessories I can get for it...someone please make me stop, hahaha!
February 20th 2013
Having been living and shooting in Japan for almost 10 years now it is interesting to see how people I have met here and there have grown and developed in the sports and other activities they are doing. One such person is a young Japanese snowboarder named Yuki Kadono (角野友基) who seems to be doing very well around the world in snowboarding, and is now getting picked up by Red Bull Japan as a sponsor. Good for you Yuki!!
I first met Yuki several years ago when shooting a rail demo for the local Shiga Prefecture Murasaki Sports. Then he must have been about 13 or so, and was pretty small, but he was having a great time riding the rails and did really well indeed. The picture above is from one of these demos, just look at that smile! Good looking young kid with a talent for huge air in snowboarding, any marketer's wet dream really, haha.
I met him again one other time at a snowboard party held in Osaka. It had been a couple years since meeting him for the first time, but he remembered me and we chatted for a bit. Really nice kid, felt bad for him though as he couldn't drink at the time and it was a pretty fun party.
Now that he is on Red Bull there is a good chance our paths will cross again in the near future. As he does big air it would be sweet to get out and do some huge sequences of him hitting a massive jump somewhere. Hey Red Bull Japan, you reading this???
Anyways, I will for sure post something here if it gets done so keep checking back when you can (^L^)
Oh ya, something big coming up in the start of next month that I am REALLY looking forward to! will mention something soon!
February 6th 2013
If you have been following this blog at all you might remember that I was a photographer at a small BMX flatland event held here in Kyoto last year called the "Red Bull Circle of Balance." OK, wait, I should reword that, it is actually one of the biggest flatland events to be held in the world, by Red Bull or any other company. It was a cool event and I learned tones from it, but that is not really want I want to mention here today.
During the event I got to know a couple gentleman who had come over from Europe to cover the event. Well, after the event I was contacted by one of them and asked if I would be able to provide some exclusive photos for a well known BMX magazine in France called ART BMX Magazine. Of course I was like "sure thing guys" and sent off a handful of photos to the magazine. Fast forward about 7 months and the issue has finally come out with my photos! Yea!!! What you see above is one page of the magazine, but there is also another photo of mine on the next page of the magazine as well, sweet!!
As I have not really shown any of my pictures from the actual event yet (to keep them exclusive for the magazine) I am happy that I can finally show these to everyone out there. Shooting the event was a real challenge, but not showing my pictures to anyone online was actually a bigger challenge for me, haha. I love to share as soon as I can, but this time I just had to wait...and wait...and wait. I was honestly thinking at one point they would just not print the photos as the event was so long ago, but I guess I was wrong!
Anyways, seems like 2013 has gotten off to a very positive start. Now it is time to really buckle down and get some work in. Chatting with the Red Bull higher ups on the weekend it looks like there are some potentially VERY sick events being planned for Japan this year that I REALLY want to be part of. Wish me luck!!
February 5th 2013
Yesterday was a huge day for FMX in Japan. Yesterday Red Bull Japan gave a press conference explaining how this year's Red Bull X-Fighters will be coming to Asia for the first time, and better yet, coming to Osaka! Having shot FMX a lot here in Japan over the last 6 years I must say I am very, very excited to hear this event will be held in Japan. At the moment FMX in Japan is still very small and minor as a sport, but when you think that 2 of the top 10 riders in the world are Japanese, the scene is doing pretty well.
I was asked by Red Bull to shoot the press conference, and it looks like I will be working during the event as well, so this is great! There is an official photo team for the X-Fighters that travels with the circuit around the world, so I won't be one of the "main photographers" but I will get the opportunity to work closely with the event. After seeing the event in Spain two years ago I have a good idea of what will happen, and really look forward to the chance to meet and greet the riders when they arrive in Japan. If they are anything like the guys that came over for last year's Red Bull Circle of Balance I know it will be a kick ass time.
All in all the press conference went great and was even broadcasted live on the net. About 25 different TV/newspapers/magazines came and got the word out to the Japanese people, now they just have to sell out the stadium, haha. Seriously though, even if you have never seen FMX before, these events are pure entertainment that anyone can enjoy. Make sure you check it out or you WILL be sorry!!!
January 28th 2013
To continue from the post below, the day after shooting that photo we were out in a small area outside of Nagoya hanging out at some dirt jumps. If you live in Japan, and especially the Kansai area you will know that this weekend was super cold, and snow almost everywhere, so pretty much every park and trail around Nagoya was not rideable, even the streets were super icy. So this was pretty much the only place we could go to.
Arriving I had my doubts that anything picture worthy was going to be done, simply because the trails were small, and the only decent jumps were still wet and soft. So for the first hour I just relaxed and complained about how cold it was and how I had to go to the bathroom but there was none there. Good time...
After a quick bathroom break down the road at the local Mini Stop and more riding had been done though the guys started hitting the jumps with some decent speed, even getting high enough to do a trick or two! “Yea, I can take some pictures that won’t suck!”, is pretty much what I was thinking when I saw this. Again, the rider to be doing the best tricks was the same as the previous day, Fumito Ando. A couple turn downs, table tops and that were tossed down before he started working on the no hander you see here.
As the jumps were still not that big Fumito really only had about half a second (if that) to toss his hands back all the way so timing was a little difficult. It took me about 3 tries to get this shot that I am happy with if position on. He really cranked this one too so I am glad I was able to get the shot. Also, it was pretty much the end of the day, so again, glad to get it, and glad to get it without him crashing!
This was pretty much my first weekend shooting anything other than flatland for BMX and I must say I really enjoyed it. With the size of the jumps and that my new FX Nikon fisheye lens was a super help, but I hope to be able to get out and try some different places and different lenses as well. Fumito seems keen on getting some more shots, maybe even in Osaka next time, so hopefully we can hook up again soon.
P.S. There is some improvements I would like to do to the editing of this picture, but for now I guess it is ok.
January 27th 2013
Headed over to Nagoya this weekend to meet up with a friend from my Red Bull adventures and do some BMX shooting. The main idea of the day was to meet up with a flatland rider who was coming from Spain, Alberto Moya, to ride around Japan, which we did, and was a lot of fun, but I will mention this part of the weekend in another post during the week sometime. I still have to look at the photos from the afternoon. But one photo I wanted to get to tonight (even though I am pretty much ready for bed about an hour ago, haha) is the photo you see above.
My friend I mentioned above has a BMX club at his university and has recently finished some small ramps that they use when it is cold/snowing/raining or any other kind of an ugly day. When we got there I was surprised at the smallness of the room and pretty much decided that not a whole lot of shooting was going to be done at that point. But after watching the guys for a bit and seeing a wall ride or two (as above) I decided I really wanted to try and get some shots. I should mention here that the night before my new FX Nikon fisheye lens had arrived, and after getting some good use with the flatlanders earlier in the day I decided it was time to bust it out again.
Setting up my SD-900 on the left of the shot and zooming in to about 180mm I pretty much had to make love to the back wall as to not get hit by the bike after the wall ride, good times! The first couple times the rider, Fumito Ando, went for the wall ride he actually smashed into a light fixture that was attached to the roof. So, after a little home repairs it was all clear to go for it. After that it was just me working on my timing, which was surprising easy. After a few tries it was a photo in the bag.
For such a simple room I must admit I really like this shot, and really enjoyed doing the shoot. Fumito is a really good rider and I think we will be doing some more shoots over the next bit some expect some more soon! Actually I got another really cool one today that I will post tomorrow in another blog, yea!!
January 23rd 2012
Last Friday I got a sudden call from my work while I was out of the office asking me to head up to Iwate Prefecture’s Miyako city on Sunday to get some photos of a young women working there. I kind of had plans, but I will take any chance I can get for a free trip up north, so I said yes pretty much instantly. Like who wouldn't go on a paid trip to take photos of a young women in Iwate??
This was actually my 4th time in the area since the 3.11 disaster took place almost two years ago, so I knew what to be expecting as far as the level of devastation and that, but what still surprises me is the sheer lack of progress on the re-building front. In the city of Miyako itself, when we drove around you could notice the odd new house being built, or a store that might not have been there before, but most of the affected area is still very much untouched. Sure, the areas have been mostly cleared of debris, but they are STILL demolishing buildings that were rendered unusable by the earthquake/tsunami. TWO YEARS LATER and they are still demolishing stuff, crazy. The picture above is a demolition site that was right outside our hotel, right across the street. They were still working on getting these buildings down all over the area.
One of the biggest issues as been that due to the disaster something like 30 years worth of garbage was created the moment the tsunami hit. So ya, clearing all that stuff out of these areas and getting it ready for something new will take a good while of time. Miyako is actually much better off than most areas as it has a giant cement factory that was able to get back and running only three months after the disaster, and was also able to help with processing a lot of debris from the surrounding areas. But there is still a LOT that has not been processed; 40%-60% is still unprocessed in some areas. Crazy!
Unfortunately, as we talked to local people, another issue stalling recovery is the lack of insight, ability, and power of the local/national governments. This has been well documented so I won't go into it here, but it seems that even the level headed folks of the northern Japan area are starting to get frustrated with the slowness of everything. And I don't blame them on bit.
Anyways, I know I have said this before, but please don't forget about northern Japan. Two years has gone by, but at this rate it will take another 30 years before things really get back to normal. If you are in Japan and you have a chance head on up and do the best thing you can for the community, spend your money! I know we certainly enjoyed some local cuisine and sake (a little more that I should have maybe, haha). Everything is amazing up there, and so worth the trip!
January 17th 2013
Although I have not gotten over to Osaka Station yet to see all the giant posters using my photos yet, it turns out that there are also smaller posters being put up all over the place around Japan. I am not really sure of all the places they are being put right now, but from the look of the information we got, it is in quite a large variety of locations to be sure. This is really cool in that sooooo many people walk though the stations every day on their way to and from work you know thousands of people will view these posters on an almost daily basis. part of me want to go and put my logo stickers on all the posters with my photos, but I don't think my office would appreciate my guerrilla marketing tactics, haha.
Anyways, if you are around and see one of these "Beyond Borders" posters let me know somehow! There is about an over 50% chance that the photo being used is mine! Oh, and I have uploaded several more of the designs being used to my "In Print" album on the site here, just in case you would like to check them out.
Cheers and have a good weekend!
January 15 2013
For work at the university I often get to tag along with some short-term programs when they go and do Japanese cultural experience type stuff. Things like cooking traditional Japanese food, visiting the Eiga Mura in Kyoto, meeting Geisha and Maiko san, and other various things like that. I would be lying if I said this was not my favorite part of my job as I get to meet the students, shoot photos, and experience things that most people, including Japanese people, don't get to do.
Yesterday I was off to Kennin-ji, a temple in the Gion district of Kyoto that is famous for having a ceiling painted with two giant dragons. Very cool and something you should certainly check out if you are in Kyoto. Anyways, we where visiting the temple for a shodo (Japanese calligraphy) class, but before the class one of the Monks was kind enough to show everyone around the temple and explain a few things to the students. As I was concentrating on taking video/photos I wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying, but I am sure it was riveting none the less. Our last stop of the tour was the aforementioned dragons. Now I should mention that the room was very dark, with the only real light coming in through an open window on one side of the large room. Trying to get anything with the students and Monk that showed any other detail in the room was just not happening, too bright a light with too dark a room. Expose for one and you kill the other, and I was not about to start trying to make some HDR stuff, just not worth my time in post.
So, moving away from the group to try and find a better angle I noticed this light coming in through yonder window ("yonder window"?? grade 10 Shakespeare creeping in my blog posts now, creepy, haha) was hitting the monk in a really nice way. So, I switched to my 70/200 lens and decided to try and get some portraits of the Monk as he was speaking to the students. As of late I have been working on my flash photography/portraits but there really is something nice about light coming in from a window. I am not going to go into anything technical here, just know that sometimes when shooting your best light can be simple light coming in through a large window. Depending on the time of day and the size of the window it is basically a giant diffuser of light that you can utilize for many different types of shots. Give it a try sometime and see how different your shots can be.
I had shot several different images of the Monk, but looking back through them in post I noticed the ones I really liked were the ones where you could see just a little more than half of his face being light up. Any less and it looked discomforting and unnatural, any more and you kind of loose some of the depth of the photo. I especially like this shot because the hands really add a sense of movement in the image.
So for a quick under 5 min portrait I think this is quite nice. If you want to see some of the other shots I got check out the Japan 2013 album here on my site.
January 8th 2013
On Sunday I headed out to Nara with some friends to enjoy some beer and BBQ while riding 50cc bikes and photographing the local guy's first practice of 2013. As this was also the first time for me to get out with the camera in any serious way I was looking forward to brushing off come cobwebs of my own and enjoy a day of relaxing FMX. And really, that is what it turned out to be.
There are only about three people who ride FMX in Nara, Ikumi, Genki, and Kota, and since Kota was working on Sunday it was just Genki and Ikumi. Further more, Ikumi was over jumping the landing and cased his balls really bad on one jump so he was out for the rest of the day. So, in the end it was just Genki jumping. This was actually quite nice as Genki is very good and I enjoyed shooting him, and there was ZERO pressure at all. I would have been happy if I had even one decent photo from the day, and in the end I got half a dozen I was pretty happy with. Right now as it is winter the sun is really low in the horizon all day and makes for really nice light on the riders pretty much all day long.
As there was maybe more beer drinking (by us, not Genki) and meat eating than jumping going on though I decided to grab Genki for some portrait shots at the end of the day. There were clouds rolling in so we were loosing the nice sunset light fast, but I was still able to shoot for about 10mins with some decent results. I am the first to admit that I need to work on my portrait photography. I love doing it, but don't get to do it all that often, and could use some real practice now before the Red Bull events kick into high gear starting this April or so. I will be ordering a new Elinchrom flash new and hope to be able to "master" that in the next couple months as well.
One thing about the day though that had me a little flustered was that my current pocket wizard set up is in the shop getting some much needed love (I tend to drop things once in a while) so I had to go back to my old Plus IIs. Two problems with this, I only have two Plus II units so I can only use one flash, and these only sync at 1/250th so I was not able to shoot like I do with my ttl5s which sync at pretty much any shutter speed. Hypersync is an amazing thing! In the end though everything seemed to work out and I got a few portrait and FMX pictures that I am happy with. This year is going to be a big year for FMX in Japan so I am glad I am getting an early start!
Lots more coming up soon so expect some more blogs soon =)
January 8th 2012
Back at "work" today at the university, but as it is the first day of the year and I was carful in getting everything done for my job here before going on holidays, I have really nothing to do today...yea?? booo?? Not sure which these days, haha. Anyways, one cool thing going on starting today is that a whole bunch of photos I have taken over the last year or so are being used by the university for promotional purposes. The school is starting a new campaign with the catch phrase "Beyond Borders" and to get this out into the public they are posting rather large posters in Osaka station and have a couple images that get run through a giant screen in Tokyo station as well. The image you see above here is of a female sumo wrestler and is currently on display somewhere in Tokyo station, have you been able to see it yet?
Having the school use so many of my photos in this way has been really exciting and validating for me. Here at the university I have been hired to translate Japanese to English and do other not so interesting jobs, but as I love photography and am not too shabby at it my office has let me kind of run with taking pictures of different events and that around the school. Even many of the colleges around the school have begun to ask for me to take pictures for their brochures and that, something that would normally be asked of a outside photographer. We still do hire many photographers to cover different events and that around the school, but the fact that about half of the 40+ images being used in the campaign are my photos and not from these other outside photographers is really cool.
And not only that, having images being used in these kind of high profile campaigns is great for my portfolio. Even after I finish working here at the university I hope to keep a connection with my office and continue to shoot for this school, and hopefully others around the Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe area. There are a TON of universities in Kyoto alone, and if I can use the images in this campaign and other images I have taken over the last couple years to entice other universities to use me as well, I could do pretty well for myself. Of course my first love is FMX and other action sports, but not too sure if that alone will be able to pay the bills all year round. So wish that it could though, haha.
Anyways, if you are in Tokyo or Osaka stations over the next two weeks make sure to check out the images. I was supposed to go to Osaka station myself today and get some images for the university's facebook but that is no longer needed so I think I will head over there on the weekend.
Lastly, thank you for checking out this blog from time to time, (I know someone is reading it!) and I hope you stick with me through 2013 and beyond! Lots of really cool stuff coming up this year so check back in when you can!!
January 2nd 2013
Happy New Years everyone! I hope you were all able to have an enjoyable time over the new years with family and friends. I sure know I did. After spending a week in Canada with my family, playing with my niece and seeing some old friends, I am now back in Japan and ready to start working on my 2013 New Year’s resolution: Get SH!T Done! I am really looking forward to this year as there are some big challenges and chances coming up for me, but I know no matter what happens it is going to be an interesting ride!
And to start off the year right I have gotten my first cover shot on Banzai Magazine, an FMX magazine produced here in Japan that I have been shooting for for the last couple years. I always hope one of my photos would be used for the cover but until now the main editor always seemed to prefer to use their own shots. Understandable, but I am happy with this opportunity for sure =) I hope this is just the first of many cover shots to come in 2013!
About the shot, the rider is world famous Eigo Sato at the 2012 GO BIG! in Fujisawa. This was the final stop in the competition, and needless to say Eigo killed it and took home the win, and the overall series. This whole issue is actually on Eigo so there are lots of other photos also being used inside. Although Eigo is young (34 years of age) in the FMX world he is the old horse, and is the oldest rider on the Red Bull X-Fighters Tour. Saying that, I know he is going to continue to kick ass for years to come. Oh ya, and if you didn’t know, the X-Fighters will be coming to Japan this year, and Eigo is going to be an integral part of that event. I am SO looking forward to it!!!
Anyways, there are a couple cools things coming up this week and next which I will write about soon, can’t say everything at once now can I, hehe.
Good luck to everyone this year, and hope to see you around!!
November 27th 2012
This last couple of weeks had me shooting several events for Red Bull on the weekends. One was a preliminary round for the Red Bull 5G video game competition which was pretty fun, but I would have loved to play more of the games myself, haha. The other was an athlete lesson with one of my favourite FMX riders in Japan, Eigo Sato. Having known Eigo for the last 6 plus years I was more than confortable shooting him and the other two riders accomanying him for the day; Genki Watanabe and Kohta Suzuki (Daice's little brother).
The concept of the event was that about 10 young MX riders would come and learn from Eigo and the guys about the finer points of riding an MX bike. At first no one was really sure how good the riders were, but with a couple crashes in the first 5 mins or so of them riding it become quickly apparent they were just starting out and needed work on the basics. So, while the riders went around the small track Eigo and the guys would give them advice on how to ride smoother, faster, and cooler, which is an important part of FMX. Although I was pretty busy snapping pictures of all the different things going on it seemed like everyone had a really good time and were genuinly interested in what Eigo had to teach them. By the end of the session some of the male riders were even taking what they learned and clearing one of the small jumps along the track, although there was a crash or two here as well, but no ingurys, these guys were tough.
Although I enjoyed the whole day, especially the last FMX session, I think the best part was taking a few simple portrait pictures of Eigo in the morning when there was nothing for him to do otherwise. I am the first to admit that I am pretty shy when it comes to asking athletes to pose for pictures, especially at the start of an event when they may still be a little nervous, but as I knew Eigo for so long I thought it was worth bugging him for 5 mins. Setting up one SB-900 to the right of the photo and setting it to 1/1 to kill the sun I just thought it would be nice to have Eigo relax and not really focus on what I was doing. I told him how to stand, and got him to move his bike in a better position, but other that that it was just the though odd "look over my shoulder" and "look at the camera" kind of session. However, a few times Eigo would get interested in what was going on on the track and react by talking to people, or laughing super hard. These are the natural moments I love to try and capture during a shoot. Of course you need the shots with the "blue steel" kind of look, but these relaxed and off the cuff moments are great to have as well. If I had asked Eigo to focus more on the shoot and pay attention to me only I know I would not have gotten this shot, and probably pissed Eigo off a little as well. Not something you really want to due during a shoot first thing in the morning, haha.
So what did I learn from this? Athletes can be amazing people to shoot, but their concentration can wonder at some times. Personally I find it is good to let them wonder a little bit, and see what occures in the moment. Unfortunatly this was my last Red Bull event of the year and now get to spend a little time with friends on the weekends and family in Canada at the end of the year. Wow, looking forward to that!!
November 12th 2012
Today I was fortunate enough to work with one of my favorite Red Bull photographers Rutger Pauw while he took shots for the Red Bull Flying Bach tour that is now hitting Japan. For the most part I made sure that I was helping out as much as possible, rather than try and get photos for myself. This way I was able to see how Rutger is using his flashes, the positions, and generally how he shoots his photos. Every time I get to work with him it seems like a mini internship as he always answers all my questions and seems to really appreciate my input into the shots. Needless to say this makes every thing so much more and rewarding as a photographer and someone helping out. Thanks Rutger!!
A couple times though I was able to grab my own camera and get a few shots here and there. If you don’t know what Flying Bach is, they are a dance troupe traveling the world and performing an amazing show that mixes breakdance and classical dance with the music of Bach to put on an amazing show. So needless to say these are some of the best dancers in the world! These guys really know what they are doing, and what they want to get done as far as photos and that. This is a super bonus as it makes the shoots go super easy, and helps me learn the finer points of shooting breakdancing.
The shot here was actually taken as Rutger was putting away his gear and was just like “hey, take some shots while I put this away, we have time so enjoy it.” The dancer was super into it as well so we played for a few minuets and got this out of it. If you have seen my blog before you will notice the place this is taken, Fushimi Inari Shrine, but me and Rutger both love it here so much we really made sure we took the guys down there for some shots. I was super lucky with this shot as well as it was the ONLY 2 mins where people were not walking along the path and into the photo. We tried to take a few more after this but there were always people in the shot so I was just like, never mind, lets just head back.
In the end I must say my first day of shooting with the Flying Bach people was GREAT! They are super cool people and really fun to shoot for sure. Still 4 more days with them so hopefully I am able to get some more wicked shots.
Oh, and I am pretty sure there are still tickets for the Osaka shows so get some if you like dance or just want to see something new and AMAZING!
November 10th, 2012
I have been thinking of things to do with my photos for a long time now, and I have come across a new site that is super clean and easy to upload photos to. The site is called society6 and has a lot of great designers and photographers on it, and even better the overall quality of what is sold on the site is super high. This is because just to sign up you have to pay one dollar, but this seems to keep out the people just looking for a free place to park their snapshots and taking up a lot of space on the site. This makes me also be carful when uploading shots as not to take down the overall level. Good to have only my best shots on the site as well, makes me look like I know what I am doing, haha.
Another cool thing on the site is you can make cases and skins for iPhones, iPads and mac computers. There is a bit of a learning curve when editing the photos to match the layout of the iPhone and that, but once you get used to it everything is pretty easy and quick. And man, the FMX ones I uploaded are sick! I like them all but can’t decide which ones I want to buy. Might have to get more than one!!
Anyways, I will keep uploading new new prints and photos as I can, so check the site and pick up something if you can. Oh, and if there is a photo of mine you like and would like to buy just let me know and I will post it up right away!
Here is the site here: http://society6.com/JasonHalayko/prints
October 25th 2012
Working with Red Bull I am often expected to get amazing pictures in some pretty difficult situations. This last Saturday night was no exception. The event was called Red Bull Night Sports and it was run by and for university students. The event was mainly indoor soccer, in the dark, with a supposedly glowing ball, and great music played by the Red Bull DJ. The students were great, the music was great, but shooting indoor soccer in the dark…not so great. And the “glowing ball,” well that could have worked better to say the least, but hey, they did what they could.
And even though I say “in the dark,” there were blue LED lights that were shining on the court, so at least the players could see and not run each other down (too often) and I could actually shoot the action without too much trouble, but only because of my D4 and 2.8/70-200mm combination I had going most of the night. You see, to stop action you need a faster shutter speed, which requires a certain amount of light. If you don’t have that light one thing you can do is open your aperture as wide as possible (2.8 in my case) and if this is not enough then starting to raise your ISO is really your only other option. With my D4 I have cranked my ISO to 4,000 with great results, but this night forced me to pop it to 5,000 for the first time. I am happy to say though that this still had less noise than my previous camera (D300s) at 1,000 ISO, so the pictures were still usable, and I was able to shoot at a shutter speed of 320, effectively stopping the action! Yea!!
Of course thanks to the blue LED light everyone looks like smurfs, but using a flash in this situation was just out of the question. Can you just imagine the carnage that would ensue if I was to pop a flash into the faces of the participants as they were running down the ball? No thank you. I have enough medical bills of my own to pay, thank you very much. If anyone has any good ideas on how I could have shot here I would LOVE to hear them.
In the end it seems like the students really enjoyed the event, and other than a few scratches on the gym floor everyone walked away injury free. I think Red Bull liked that photos for what they are and understand that circumstances I was under for the shoot, which is always a plus! I think my next event with Red Bull will be a video game contest, so hopefully it will be a little bit easier than indoor soccer in the dark, haha. If nothing else maybe I will be able to play some Street Fighter on a massive screen before the event starts!
October 9th 2012
I was up in Niigata prefecture over the weekend for what is possibly my last FMX event of the year, boooo. It was great fun though, and I will write more about the FMX part of the event soon, but I just felt like mentioning something about the shot you see above here first while everything is still fresh.
Back when I was in Austria for my internship with Red Bull there was a large photo of a guy on a mountain bike that was posted in the room I did my work in. I must have looked at that picture everyday, often wondered how they took it, and wanted to try something similar myself sometime. Well, over a year later I thought I would see what I could do while shooting the guys flying around on their 50cc bikes on the 50 course they had made for the event.
The idea was simple, use one flash to light up the face/front of the rider, and another flash to hit the back of the ride to give them a bit of an outline of light along their back. I had my SB-900 and SB-800 hooked up to my pocket wizards and placed them along the top of one of the bank turns along the course. The hard part here was how to balance the light from the flashes so everything looked good. As I had never tried this type of shot before it all came down to trial and error, luckily for me there were always at least 5-10 people flying around the course, so I had lots of chances to get things right, or as close to where I wanted to be as possible. Some problems I was facing during the process though was as it was at night, and poorly lit, it was hard for my D4 to do continuous focus on the riders so I had to pick a spot on the track and pre-focus, set the camera to manual and just make sure I timed it right. Not easy, but as I said I had lots of chances to get my timing right. Also, and I am not sure why, but sometime my pocket wizards were not communicating all that well and I had a few miss shots. The weirdest was that both flashes would fire when I was standing up, but if I crouched down to get a lower angle, one of them would not fire. No idea why.
In the end I tried this set up at several different times during the day, with a couple different lenses for different effects. At the moment I think I like this shot best, with the back flash firing straight into the lens, but I am pretty happy with a lot of the shots I got, both during the day and at night. In the future I would like to try this again though, maybe once I have purchased a full frame fisheye for my FX camera to replace my DX one, as I don't feel like using it on my D4 all that much these days. Anyone want to buy a nice, used fisheye??
Please also note that I have worked on this a bit in photoshop, but nothing too crazy and photoshop is something I need to take the time and really study over the winter.
Cheers, more to come soon, like a 40m sequence!!
September 26th 2012
September turned out to be a busy month as well, yea! Now that I have kind of bought most of the lenses I wanted for this year I am actually starting to save a little money here and there, imagine that!
Last week I was over in Nagoya (only 40mins by Shinkansen from Kyoto) for the Red Bull Central Impact which was held on and around the Nagoya TV Tower. I say on because for the first day we were about 90ms in the air on the top of the highest lookout area. Ya, on the TOP of it, outside, with very little between us and a nice freefall to hard concrete, ouch! The reason we were up there was to shoot photos and video of trials riding 9 time world champion Kenny Belaey doing his crazy stuff in a crazy environment. Sounds like fun right, too bad I had to be in that crazy environment too, haha. It really wasn’t that bad though, and we had a lot of fun!
At first the RBJ guys were talking about strapping a harness to Kenny and getting him to stall on one of the handrails right by the edge, sounded cool and would have made an amazing photo. Unfortunately, as soon as Kenny saw the spot and the condition of the wires/harness, he thought it would be too dangerous and didn’t want to do it. I totally understand his reason, one fall and a broken wire and he was D.O.N.E, still, it kind of threw our plans out the window, so we really had to improvise and figure out the best possible tricks for the area.
In the end Kenny had some good ideas of what he could ride well and safely, and we were and to chat about a couple ideas I had for images as well. Maybe because I was the only non-Japanese there, but me and Kenny seemed to hit it off quite fast, and were able to pop off a couple shots while everyone else was still getting ready. As we didn’t have much time up on the tower though it was pretty hectic. I should mention as it was a TV tower my pocket wizards didn’t seem to want to work unless I was less than 5 feet away…thanks TV radio waves, you jerks, haha. This added a little extra time in PS for me, but hey, I need the practice in PS anyways so it all worked out =)
The next couple of days we were also shooting Kenny around Nagoya, and at the actual even at the base of the Nagoya TV Tower, but I think the afternoon on top of the tower is something that is going to be a stand out memory for me for some time. Thanks again Red Bull Japan for putting me in a place that I would have never been before, shooting one of the world’s top athletes that I would have never met otherwise!
September 18th 2012
Seems hard to believe it is already half way through September, but here we are. All I can say is I already find myself looking forward to heading home for Christmas in Victoria. Something about the feel of my parent’s house at that time of year I really miss right now.
Anyways, this last weekend I was over in Osaka for the final qualifying round of the Red Bull Kart Race. Having shot the first round that was held in Beppu a little while ago I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be taken, and so found myself relatively relaxed throughout the entire event, yea! Maybe coming off the recent Circle of Balance (the biggest event in Japan this year) helped me stay relaxed for this event. Yea to confidence through experience!!
The first day of the event was just setting up the Red Bull signage and checking out the track. I was really hoping I would be able to ride one of the carts for a bit as well, but just as we were putting in the stakes on the last sign the rain came, or should I say DUMPED! It also brought with it thunder and lighting that was a little too close for comfort. Heading back to the hotel, as there was nothing else to do at the course but get soaked, lighting struck our immediate vicinity and took out the power at our intersection. Luckily the light had just turned green for us so we just took off out of there before traffic got crazy.
The next day the weather was much nicer, and we didn’t get any rain that would affect the event at all, yea! Knowing basically the types of photos I wanted to get I just spent the day going from point to point on the track trying to capture the go karts as best I could. Being someone who doesn’t particularly like shots taken from my own standing perspective (as it looks jus like I see everything all the time anyways) I found myself laying in the grass off to the side of the track, and pretty my anywhere I would not get hit by the karts. By doing this I think I was able to capture some cool images that most people would not be able to take. And with my 70-200mm (sometimes with an additional 1.7xs zoom) I was actually able to stay pretty far back and out of danger. Looking back on some of the pictures though one thing I think I should watch out a little more for is the tilting of the images while I am shooting. When done right this helps the picture in some situations, but I think I did it a little too much with some shots. Oh well, shoot and learn!
In the end Red Bull seemed really happy with the pictures, so job well done I guess. Too bad the finals for the kart races will be in Tokyo…I don’t think I will be able to go, boo.
Matthias Dendois performing at Circle of Balance in Kyoto, Japan on September 5th, 2012
September 12th, 2012
Busy busy busy. Seems like I have been saying this a lot these last couple of months, but it is still true this month. This month however though something a little different and exciting happened for me. Working for Red Bull there are a couple photographers from over seas that really stand out and do AMAIZING work at pretty much any event they go to. So jealous! One of these photographers is named Rutger Pauw and what is really cool is that I was able to work with him on the recent Red Bull Circle of Balance that was held in Kyoto over the weekend. You see, last year when I was in Austria he and another photographer visited Japan and gave a workshop for Red Bull, and I have been forever ticked off that I missed it, seriously, the timing could not have been worse, haha.
Anyways, I would be lying if I said I was not nervous about meeting Rutger, as I was not sure what kind of a person he was and wasn’t sure if we would get along. Well, after some food and beers the night before the first day of shooting, I had a good feeling we would be getting along just fine. Super nice guy, and just about as goofy as me, haha. I was very relived to say the least.
So the first day of shooting had us going ALL OVER Kyoto! From Fushimi Inari Shrine, to a small river, to a couple places in Gion, and ending up down by the river where we drink in the summer. All amazing locations to shoot flatland BMX, but I think my favorite bit would have to be the shoot in Gion. Red Bull had book two real Maiko (Geishya) for the shoot which was sooooo cool! They were involved in the shoot in a variety of ways, but the best part was when we had them walking towards the camera, and one of the riders Matthias Dandois would glide by on his front wheel. You can see this in the photo above. The girls thought this was amazing, and we had a great time shooting it for sure. Rutger got nice and low for a great angle and used some nice flashes to get a great shot, but I just kneeled down and shot as I directed the girls and translated for Rutger. I am happy with the shot, don’t get me wrong, but really like Rutger’s angle as well.
So after 12hs or so of shooting it was time to head back and go over the photos. I was super stoked that Rutger didn’t mind doing this with me so I could look over his shoulder and get a few tips while we worked, plus he is super funny so it was much better than sitting in my room alone, haha. I learned I lot just by watching, and got some ideas of what I would like to try with future shoots, but it will still take a long time to get better and figure everything out. Good to have a little but more direction than I had in the past though.
All in all I was with Rutger and the Red Bull guys for 4 days, so I will end here and write some more tomorrow. Thanks again Rutger, I hope to make it over for next year’s Empire of Dirt!!
September 3, 2012
Well my summer vacation has been over for about a week now, but still having a hard time “buckling down” and getting into work at the Uni just yet. Part of this might be because a week of my summer vacation had me up in the northern area of Japan (Iwate/Akita) taking photos, hanging out at the beach, making new friends, and generally just having a very, very good time. Lots happened that I won’t go into here, but I think the main event was the final round of the GOBIG! FMX series.
The last stop of the series had the guys riding in a MX park called Fujisawa. It has a lot of history in Japan and is a great place to go and ride MX, but I don’t think it has a permanent jump set up for FMX. This was actually my second time shooting at Fujisawa so I was excited to get back and enjoy a fun weekend of riding.
As I was already in the area visiting friends and having fun I decided to head to the course a few days early to hang out with the guys and shoot some of the prep and practice sessions. This is always nice and laid back, and gives me a chance to play with ideas or angles I might not have time to try during the actually competition. One thing I wanted to try out was using my new 70-200/2.8 lens and see how much an improvement it was over my old lens. OMG! So much nicer!!! Of course for the money I paid for it it should be that much better, but I am just saying that it worked great in everyway, and gave me such improved sharpness on my photos that I can never use that old lens again, ever, for anything! I am sure this will become one of my go to lenses over the next while, just hope it doesn’t destroy my shoulder, the thing is a BEAST.
Another thing I was looking to try was using my flashes to light the riders with a sunset/dark cloud background. This is something I has seen a lot of these days and really wanted to try it, especially since Fujisawa gets great sunsets at this time of the year. During the first day of practice the weather was perfect, and we got a really nice sunset to shoot with. Setting up my SB-900 I was able to get some decent shots, but could feel the limits of just the single flash pretty quick. Still, for a first attempt I think it went well. The second day of practice the weather was kind of crap by the end of the day, and there were some mean looking clouds starting to roll in. I decided to try and put the clouds underexposed in the background and light up the rider (Daice) with the flash, and got everything set up and 2-3 shots off and was ready to get some killer shots…when Daice finished practiced and stopped jumping, argh. Oh well, for the best really, 5 mins later it was pouring rain and practice was called for the rest of the day.
On the day of the competition I tried this again as we had a great sunset, but it seemed my flashes angle was off as none of the light was hitting the riders, like zero! So…as I didn’t have the time to try and adjust the flash after every jump, I just shut it off and decided to shoot the guys in silhouette. These turned out pretty sick actually so all is well that ends well eh.
From this experience though I have learned that I would like to invest in a larger more powerful flash that I would be able to use on shoots like this. They have a much wider light stream and would be much more usable in these situations than my SB-900. I think I should be able to order one soon, so hopefully I will have it before my next FMX shoot in October. Wish me luck!!
Oh ya, this week is the Red Bull Circle of Balance here in Kyoto. I will be with the guys all week starting Tuesday night, but really not sure what to expect just yet. Kind of nervous, but everything should go well…I hope =) Expect pictures early next week!
Things have quieted down a bit with Red Bull for the next month but I do have two FMX events coming up so that should be a lot of fun! Even going up north for a little work/play for over a week so that should be some good times as well! Can’t wait!!
This last weekend though I had a sudden phone call requesting my videographer skills (or lack there of) to cover a not so well known festival just outside of Nagoya. The name of the festival was the “Tennougawa Matsuri” and is really old, but not well known outside of the small area it is held in. Which seemed weird because it was a pretty big festival, and really cool. Basically, the festival is two days long, with a night and day festival. We only shot the night one, but this consists of 5 areas of the city decorating the tops of these elaborate boats with dozens of lanterns, it really is something you need to see to believe. So magical and like nothing else I have ever been able to see in Japan.
During the festival these boats come down the lake while fireworks are going off, and everyone takes a millions photos of them. We had a great seat to watch this and take video, but for some reason these dumb @ss boat drivers (smaller boats that ferry people around) decided to park right where we were and totally obstructed our view. I admit I got pretty pissed as I had to take video, but was able to convince the boatmen to let me on their boats, good think I speak Japanese!! In the end I was able to get lots of footage, so I think the guys will be happy.
I think my favorite part of the trip though was being able to photography/video three little 5 year old kids who were getting made up for the boat procession. These kids sit on the boats as kind of a figure head (I think) and are chosen from each area the boat is from. I think it is quite an honor to have your child chosen as the parents were more than happy to have me shooting and filming their kids. They were soo cute too, and pretty interested in my camera. I am not sure if I can do much with these pictures, but I want to work on them a little more, and maybe even try to submit them somewhere. I will write here if anything happens =) Even just being able to share in that moment was something unreal, really cool!
It looks like I will be joining the crew again next year for this job so maybe I will be able to get some even better pictures next time!!
DJ 8MAN performs at the Red Bull Thre3Style in Osaka, Japan on July 22nd 2012
July 26th 2012
Looks like I have a cold, and a summer cold in my throat to boot, yea!!! At least I can take it easy for the next couple of weeks, and then it is vacation time!!!! Anyways, that is not really what I wanted to mention here. What I wanted to talk about was the AMAZING Red Bull Thre3Style Final that was held in Osaka this last Sunday. Lots of work, but good times for sure!
This year's final was at Club Joule in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. It was my first time going to this club so I was not sure what to expect, but as I kind of expected, it was small. Not the smallest venue of the year, but small none the less, especially for the Japan finals. But in the end that was ok as the crowd just fit the room, with enough space for me to move around without too much worry. Much better than when I was in Hiroshima, haha.
As this was the final competition all the winning DJs from the previous competitions, plus the winner from last year's Thre3Style were there so it was fun to see the winners again and chat for a few mins here and there. Looking back on the photos one thing I noticed was my best pictures were of the DJs I had previously personally met. Not sure why this happens, but I seem to sometimes take better pictures of people I know and like as a person than someone I may not know or frankly don't like. Weird, but I guess that happens sometimes. Saying that, all the DJs really did put on amazing sets, and the crowd really enjoyed the show! I think the best part was when one of the DJs played some old school rock songs like "Highway to Hell" in his set. This got me singing along with the song and generally rocking out while I was taking pictures, which is always fun to do for sure!! He didn't win though unfortunately, it was DJ 8MAN who had actually won last year as well. I was really hoping someone else was going to get a chance to go to the world finals in Chicago, but I still wish 8MAN all the best and hope he rocks their socks off!!
Technically speaking this shoot was probably the least complicated of all the Thre3Styles this year. Pretty much every other club had kind of crappy lighting on the stage so I was forced to use my flashes to add light here and there. Not really hard, and I was going to do it this time as well, but as I was shooting I noticed the back lights they had on the DJs was actually pretty good, and gave some interesting effects when I got the angle right. If I got the angle wrong and the light went into my lense the sensor would get crazy overloaded and leave me with nothing I could use at all, but when I got it right I really liked the effect. Doing this also allowed me to shoot a faster burst of shots, and I didn't have to worry about blinding the people behind the DJ booths with my strobes.
One other thing that happened that I was happy about was when I talked to the event writer that has been following the Thre3Style tour. Just so you know, there was me and another photographer for the events this year. Me in western Japan, him in eastern Japan. Now everyone has their own way of shooting an event and I don't want to say who is "better" or "worse" but I was very happy when the writers mentioned my pictures captured more of the essence of the event, and they were surprised I was able to keep so much of the natural light while still using flash/getting the DJs face properly exposed. Thanks guys! Made my month!! I just hope Red Bull Japan notices as well and I get to shoot ALL the Thre3Syles next year!!!
Anyways, like I said, taking it easy for a few weeks and hopefully but I do have some FMX coming up soon so watch out for that!
Cheers, and I hope you enjoy your summer!!
My body is still trying to get over all the work and fun I had over the weekend. On Saturday I was able to pop down to Kobe for the practice sessions of the King of Ground BMX flatland competition they were having on Sunday. Having to shoot the Red Bull Circle of Balance this coming September I thought it would be a good way to get used to the competition format and see what kind of big moves the guys were going to do.
After watching the "expert" riders compete for an hour or so it was time for the pro guys to get some practice time in before the end of the day. Although the light was crap which made shooting photos rather difficult I did have some fun shooting video of the guys' practice session. When I get some time I hope to be able splice everything together and make a cool little movie or something. Might take a while though so don't hold your breath on that one.
The main event of the KOG was on Sunday, but I was busy all day shooting the finals of the Red Bull Thre3Style event in Osaka (which I will write about soon). Too bad too as one of the guys I know from the Red Bull Street Jam events won the contest! It would have been cool to see him and Viki and the other guys laying it down before September, but work comes first eh!
One cool thing though was that Viki and the guys went on a little mini tour of the Kansai area to promote COB to the local rider community. Even better was that their stop in Kyoto was only 10mins from my house! It was a little self run BMX shop in a residential area, something you would not just come across unless you knew exactly what you were looking for. So here we had some BBQ and beers while Viki, Uchi (the guy who one KOG) and Matthias Dandois hung out with the local riders and caused a few noise concerns for our hosts. After about an hour or so though it was time to head out (get away from people's homes) to a local spot for flatland at Kyoto University.
This was a pretty fun stop as I enjoyed getting shots of the guys chatting and hanging out with the riders, but we were not there too long. Some of the guys were getting tiered and kind of wanted to get back to the hotel. I couldn't blame them at all really, they had been going none stop since about Thursday of the last week! I myself was also starting to feel it, but even more so the little bit of BBQ I had earlier was wearing off and I was getting HUNGARY! On the way back to the hotel someone mentioned Ramen so I took Viki and a couple of the Red Bull guys to the best Ramen I know in Kyoto, Nagaha Ramen Miyoshi. Needless to say, they LOVED it, and my job for the night was done so it was off home and to bed. At least I got 5hs of sleep, but man it was a long Tuesday for me this week, haha.
The picture you see here is Viki getting light sabered by an evil sith loard that hangs out in downtown Kyoto. They guy really had no idea what was going on, but Viki was enjoying himself so its all good, hahaha. Epic times for sure!!
July 12th 2012
Continuing my photographic adventures around Japan these last couple of months I was off in Hokkaido for two days this last week shooting in Sapporo with Red Bull. Usually when I shoot with Red Bull it is for one specific event, sometimes with something else going on on the side as well, but this time was different. Over the two day I was to shoot the Red Bull Street Jam (tones of fun) a fly by, photos of a young skater (really cool kid) something called “Touched by an Angel” and a party at night. Wow, as soon as I saw this I knew it was going to be a busy weekend!
In the end it wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned while everything was explained to me on the Friday night, but it was still a lot more all over the place (if you know what I mean) than I am used to. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good weekend and everything went pretty much as planned, it just would have been nice to have a little more time to discuss things with the athletes for the Street Jam and things like that. Remember, photography is a lot about getting prepared, which can often take longer that the actual shoot sometimes. This time I had no time to prepare, and just had to react for the most part.
I think the funnest part of the weekend was the Saturday morning when we took the young skater I mentioned, Ryo Sejiri, to a small skate park for a photo shoot. I had to let the film guy go first, but this let me take a few minutes to just sit and watch his skating, see where he would do what trick, and think about the lighting I wanted to use. He was very good in the bowl they had, even if he said he was not very good at bowls. Once it was my turn I decided to get into the bowl and shoot up, to kind of exaggerate his height a little. We didn’t have much time so I had to work fast, but I think I was able to get a handful of decent shots in the 10mins I was allotted. Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten through editing these particular photos, but I really want to take my time and make something cool, so it is taking a little longer than normal.
In the end I ended up liking a lot of my own photos, and probably sent way too many off to Red Bull Japan for their website and internal use. So even though it was a crazy busy weekend, I think it was a good and productive weekend as well!
This Saturday will be my first off in a while so I am going to go beat on the old men at boxing and clean the apartment!! Not exciting, but I am soooooo looking forward to it. In Kobe on Sunday for Red Bull though, haha!
July 4th 2012
Like I said before I was shooting my first red Bull Kart Fight this last Sunday down in Beppu, Kyushyu. Probably my 4th or 5th time heading down to that area this year alone, wow!
The Kart Fight is a pretty simple event. People drive go-karts around the track, and the top racers move on to the national finals later this fall. The only problem is that I have not had the best of luck shooting car events in the past. Maybe it is because I don't drive and have very little interest in cars themselves, or maybe because I have just never really looked at pictures of cars racing all that much. Either way, I was determined to get some good pictures this time, as this was just one of two Kart Fights I will be shooting and I really wanted to show that I could get the cool shots that are needed.
Arriving at the course the first thing I noticed was the only branding I would be able to work with was the ever present Red Bull Arch, and the smallish Kart Fight stickers on the karts. No worries, I was looking at taking up-close shots of the karts with my 200mm lens, so this was pretty good actually. Sitting probably too close to the track I was trying to get as low as possible and cram as many cars into one up close shot as possible. It took a few tries to say the least, but I was really happy with how the auto focus was keeping up with the cars, and of course some rapid firing of photos helped give me lots of good shots to choose from. Still love the sound of 10 shots/second! Like a machine gun, haha.
So once I figured out this shot I decided to wonder that track and see what other angles I would be able to manage. There was a surprising amount of good angles, so I found myself really working the track. I was even laying in the wet grass at one point and shooting from my back through my legs to try and get as low as possible. Worked well, but everyone was calling me a pervert camera man, hahaha. Oh well!
In the end the event went great, and I event go to drive one of the karts around for about 30mins before the skies opened and decided to rain...NOW! So much rain at once, it was kind of scary on the way home actually. Got home safe though, and enjoyed a great evening with the Red Bull Japan crew, which is something I always look forward to when on these shoots.
Well, off to Hokkaido this weekend, which if you didn't know is the opposite end of Japan from Beppu. I seem to be going ALL OVER these days! All fun though, so no complaints from me =)
I will be posting the pictures from the Kyoto Thre3Style and the Beppu Kart Fight soon, so check back when you can!!
DJ BENT performs at the Red Bull Thre3Style in Kyoto, Japan on June 29th, 2012
June 30th 2012
Back in Beppu, Kyushyu today, must be my third time in Kyushyu in the last month alone, wow! But I am not writing about Beppu right now, just from it. Actually, as you can probably tell from the photo above I had another Red Bull Thre3Style event last night, yea! This time the event was in Kyoto too, double yea! I rarely get to shoot for Red Bull in Kyoto, but always enjoy when I do, something about being on “home” turf, haha.
Being pretty much the same event in different places with different people I don’t need to go into too much detail, but I will mention a couple things. The club was a place named Butterfly, and I have been known to frequent this club on the odd occasion it is a weekend...Anyways, this place gets pretty busy on most nights, but I was surprised at how packed it got for the event. And not only that, the crowd was AMAZING! So into the DJs and the music it was crazy. They were so crazy I actually found myself shooting more of the crowd than I even had in the past events. And overtime I took a shot everyone reacted to the camera in the exact way I was hoping. Thanks everyone for the help!!
The other difference was, as you can tell from the photo, one of the DJs was a “non-Japanese DJ by the name of DJ Bent, which I am assuming is short for “bento” or Japanese lunch box. He was first up for the night, and a really good DJ. What was great though is that he got the crowd in a frenzy about 5 seconds into his set. I was really cool to watch. As soon as he started playing everyone just went crazy! Haven’t really seen a crown go that nuts for the first DJ at any other events so far. Too bad he didn’t win, really thought he would.
All in all it was a great event, and I think I got some decent photos as usual. Too bad the internet at my hotel sucks and I can’t load the photos to Red Bull just yet, that will have to wait till Monday I guess.
As for tomorrow, I will be shooting the first Red Bull Kart Race of the year, probably in the rain! Yea!! But learning from my hell day at the Box Cart race, I have gotten a rain cover for my camera. Making a mistake is natural, but not learning from it makes you an idiot. Hopefully it works like it is supposed and I don’t destroy another lens.
Cheers! Enjoy the weekend. Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS TO TAKA HIGASHINO!!! Gold at the X-Games buddy!! SWEET!!!!!
NORI Vs ToMo
June 25th 2012
Yesterday the Red Bull BC ONE Tokyo Cypher was held at the new headquarters of Red Bull Japan in Tokyo. Before the event I got a little tour of the new offices, and man, they are cool. They have the top three floors, plus the main floor to use in a rather unique 9 floor building 10mins walk from Shibuya station. Each of the floors has been designed with a different theme, but they are all cool for sure. Lots of wood and open areas, and even a 60' T.V. with a PS3 and the special Red Bull/Gran Turismo 5 racing chair! Made sure I got a few laps in on that!
The event it self was in the basement of the building actually. There is a small event space there that Red Bull was aloud to use which was very convenient, but the place was pretty sparse and simple to say the least. White walls and simple spot lights were really all that was there to it. Still, people PACKED into the space, and the atmosphere was practically explosive with all the B-Boy/Girl energy in the place.
As everyone got there and registration too place participants started practicing right away, so of course we started shooting right away as well. And as more and more people came in I new this was going to be a crowded, and hot day. Shooting through the qualifying cypher was a tough job as people were super crowded in, the circles tiny, and the Red Bull branding minimal to a point of non-existance. This is always a tough part of shooting for Red Bull as that mark has to be in EVERY shot. I got lucky though and got some decent shots, but really had to work hard for them. I wasn't the only one working hard though. The participants just kept going and going, some almost getting into fights with each other over who was going to dance next. It was intense to say the least.
Once the judges came back and the final 16 were announce it was on to the head to head battles. Things is, did I mention it was crowded in there yet? Because there were so many people there that they were actually spilling out on to the dance area, something that is kind of a no no at these things. At the very least it takes away my ability to move around too much as if I were to sit in front of these people, which is what I normally do, I would be in pretty far and probably get in the way of the dances, and the last thing I would ever want to do is take out a participant.
But as things got going it seemed like I would be fine, and found a couple good shooting positions around the floor and that. One thing that was different about this event though was it seemed that 99% of the people there were either B-Boys/Girls themselves, or really into break-dance because the atmosphere was amazing! every time someone would through down a new move the crowd would go ape sh!t! It was something really amazing to see and be part of! Even one of our long time DJs, DJ Tee said he had never seen an event like that before, and trust me, he has seen his fair share of events in his time.
After the event we headed up to work on the photos in the Red Bull offices, which was much nicer than working in a tiny hotel room like I usually get to do. And after about 4hs of work it was too late to get back to Kyoto so I just crashed on the floor of the games room. Probably slept a good 3hs (at most) and then it was off to catch the first train back to Kyoto and work a full day at my "day job". Yea, I love Mondays when I am so tiered I can't even concentrate long enough to edit some photos for the universities website. I just seemed to keep going in and out of it all day. At least I made it though!
Anyways, I will post the photos soon so check back when you can! Oh, and if you are in Kyoto this Friday make sure you come down to Butterfly for the Kyoto round of the Red Bull Thre3Style!! I will be there shooting so say hi if you see me =)
June 21st 2012
As with my last two posts this will also be about a Thre3Style competition...sorry if I am getting repetitive, but it seems this is all am doing these days. Not that I am complaining at all, these events are so much fun! Just wish they didn't have them on Sunday nights when I have to work at the university on Monday morning. Can you say "fall asleep at your desk" kids? I knew you could...zzzZZZzzzZZZ
This most recent event was on last Sunday night, in Fukuoka, Kyushu. This was actually my second time being there this year, but I really like the city and the people so I was more than happy to be able to go again. The Thre3Style in Fukuoka was held at another smallish club called "Club X" and it was actually a club we visited when I was there before. At that time I had gotten a pretty bad impression of the place as it was not all that "bumping" when we went, and the clientele were kind of a weird mix of people. When I got to the club for sound check this time though it looked much better than before (cleaner?) and by the time the event got started there were lots of people there who made a really good vibe in the club (of course this is excluding the group of highly intoxicated Japanese business men who thought flailing around the dance floor was a good idea).
The event was generally the exact same as before so I won't go into details there, but I will mention my flash set up this time. As I seem to be trying something different with each event, in accordance to the set up of the booths and how much room I have, I have been able to learn a fair amount about flash placement. For this Thre3Style there was not enough room in behind the DJs to do as I had done previously, so I decided to break out two flashes, and set them up on the far sides of the DJ tables. On one side the flash was placed on my stand below and behind the table off to the side, and the other was placed on top of a speaker to the side and above the DJ. This essentially gave me four possible flash combinations I could work with throughout the night: no flash, left only, right only, left and right. The cool thing with the pocketwizards I use to set off my flashes is when I use the little remote device (AC3 ZoneController) that I can attach to my transmitter (Flex TT5) and I am to control the output of my flashes directly from my camera! Pretty sure other devices and methods also allow this, but I just love how easy it is with the pocket wizards, was such a help this time.
So while shooting I was making sure I tried the different possible combinations of flashes, and made sure I also took shots without any flash, just in case. The only real problem I had was some of the DJs just didn't seem to care at all about being there, and had pretty boring sets to say the least. Kind of hard to get into shooting someone who doesn't seem be enjoying what they are doing, but I still need to get the shots so I kept shooting anyways.
In the end the winner was a young guy who did his whole set without using headphones, which is apparently rather difficult. He was pretty shy when we tried to get a photo in the club when people were still there, as you can tell from the shot above. Next stop for the Thre3Styles is my "hometown" Kyoto, then off to the finals in Osaka next month. Come on out!
June 17th 2012
Just in Fukuoka now, at the hotel for tonight doing up my photos from last night’s Red Bull Thre3Style DJ event in Hiroshima. I am glad to say it was another good event, with a great turn out.
Showing up at the club in Hiroshima I was surprised with the smallness of the club, and was a little worried about being able to move around (like last time) but luckily the crowd was good and let me get around. There were lots of people, but they weren’t all up in the DJ’s face like in Nagoya. One thing that might of helped this was a giant pillar in the middle of the club that kind of kept people broken up and spaced out. That, and it was SO hot up by the DJs it wasn’t even funny. I don’t think I have sweated sooooo much at a club in my life, and I wasn’t even dancing!
One thing I really tried doing at this event was place my flash in behind the DJs to create a bit of separation between the DJ and the black background. I didn’t use it for every shot, but I noticed as I was going through the shots today the ones with the flash seemed to jump out a bit more to me. One thing I would like to try is putting something on the camera to focus the light a little more so it doesn’t bleed out so much, but that will depend on what kind of lights the club is using. I would say for trying something new I did pretty well, and am happy with the results for now.
One other thing that happened at the club was that while I was outside getting ready to shoot the DJ group shot, one of the video guys walked up with ear plugs, and was nice enough to give me a set! Saved my ears for sure! I have never been in a louder club, ever! Plus as I am shooting up by the DJ booths the whole time, with my head in the speakers for 2hours, I am sure I would have been deaf without the ear plugs. Even with them my ears were a little ringy at the end of the night.
Anyways, got one more event tonight in Fukuoka so wish me luck! Hopefully I can get some decent sleep tonight.
DJ DOM-AUTO performs at the Red Bull Thre3Style in Hiroshima, Japan on June 16th 2012
June 15th 2012
Been a while I know, been busy as always. Really enjoying all the Red Bull/FMX work I have been doing, but I think my body needs a rest soon. No rest for the wicked though eh, haha.
This last weekend had me shooting my first Red Bull Thre3Style (a DJ battle with qualifiers held all over the world) of the year in a small club in Nagoya. Having shot the Thre3Style in Nagoya two years ago I had a good idea of how crazy the party was going to get, but man, do they know how to party in Nagoya or what? Even though it was a Sunday, the house was PACKED, and everyone was having a great time. Especially all the young ladies that were right up by the DJ booths. Not a bad way to spend the night at all, if I do say so myself.
Although the event started at about 9:00, I had to get to Nagoya by 4:00 for meetings and light check and all that glamorous stuff. Nothing really crazy, and it was all over pretty quick, just had to shoot one group shot of the guys at the end of the meetings, and then it was back to relax in the hotel. Hurry up and wait is the name of the game for a lot of shoots you have to do as a photographer. I don't mind though, enjoyed a shower, charged my phone, and had a great bento for dinner. Refreshed and ready to boggy!
Heading back to the show it was evident the night was going to go well. People EVERYWHERE. A hour before the show and the place was pretty much already packed with all the beautiful people of Nagoya. Seeing the amount of people I knew I would not be able to move around much once the show got started and so I made my way to the front and started camping by the DJs. As more and more people came in I was getting nervous that I would not be able to move at all once things got started, but then I noticed two things. 1) A secret door for the bouncers to go out back (take people out back?) that I could use to swing around to the front quickly, and 2) a small area I could move up and behind the DJs (had to slide by some half naked dancers, oh the agony of my job some nights). With routs in place it was time to shoot!
The DJs at the event were great musically wise, but they could have done a little more entertaining themselves at times. Several of them were looking at their laptops almost the entire time. I know they are concentrating, but come one, have some fun! Saying that, the crowd went wild with pretty much every song, even though almost every DJ played the same LMFAO songs again and again.
At the end of the night I had to shoot the winner (who was rather drunk by that time) and head back to the hotel to pick out some pics of the night to pass to Red Bull ASAP. Not always the funnest part of the night, but it is nice to be able to go to bed knowing you got the pictures that you needed. I would have liked to dance with some of the female patrons though, especially the ones that were blowing kisses at me...
So now this coming weekend I am off to Hiroshima and the Fukuoka for the same Red Bull Thre3Style events. Should be fun, and I should be pretty much dead at work on Monday, but I think it is worth it for sure.
Cheers! See you there??
May 28th, 2012
So a couple of cool things have happened over this last week with concern to photography. #1) I finally got myself a full frame camera! The D4!!! This is my first new camera in 3 years or so, the last being my well used D300s, and probably the single most expensive thing I have ever purchased in my life. Just so you know, I don't (and never have) own a car. #2) I got to shoot the Red Bull BC ONE Osaka Cypher this last Saturday, yea!! Good times for sure.
To start, moving up from my D300s to the D4 is a huge jump in SO many ways, many of which I wish I had during April. The noise in the images is almost none existent at ISO levels I could NEVER have used for work on my D300s. This alone is gong to be such a HUGH help with many of my Red Bull and other action sports jobs. The 11 frames/second is also AMAZING, but I really need to be careful when shooting in this mode as it is very easy to rack up 100+ images in a few minuets of shooting. You kind of get carried away, getting high of the sound of the shutter shooting like the Gatling gun in the Predator, and then you look at your image count and realize your 32gig card is half full, and you still have 4hs of shooting left!
I could go on for a while about how amazing this camera is, and the quick learning curve I am going through, but let me just say this instead: going from the D300s to the D4 has been a super easy transition, thank you Nikon for having kept a general consistency in your design (some small things are different, but easy to get used to), and I am sure I was able to get better, cleaner, sharper images over all at the BC ONE than I would have with my D300s. And in the end I think that is what really matters!
Enough on the camera, on to the Red Bull BC ONE Cypher!
Being a fan of break dance since I got to shoot the even last year I was really looking forward to this year's cypher. Also, as it was to be held in an open, covered space at the newly completed JR Osaka Station, I knew I would have better light than last year, which really killed my while shooting. And having gotten to know several of the local Kansai B-Boys it was great fun to see everyone perform in the competition.
Like last year, the event started with participants creating circles where they would dance one at a time while one of three judges would watch and see who was the best. This is great for photos as there are lots of people standing around watching, and the action is pretty predictable. However, due to a lack of branding, I was limited as to where I could shoot, and the one circle at the front (where there was decent branding) kept getting smaller and smaller, making it hard for me and my 186cm tall body to squeeze in and get photos. At least being tall allowed me to reach up and over people to get some decent shots from above, so it worked out in the end.
After an hour of this, and another hour break for the judges to decide who was best, it was time for the 1 on 1 tournament to start. Once this starts things go very fast, and I have to focus quite hard, which means I don't really remember much of what happened, hahaha. What I do remember though is two dancers I had picked to reach the finals (and thus shot lots of photos of) were both eliminated early on...boooo! Not sure why one of them was eliminated really, but I guess the judges had their reasons.
As the tournament went on last year's 2nd place finisher was doing well, so again I started to focus on him, and he reached the finals! However...he lost...to someone both me and the other photographer didn't really get many great shots of. This is probably my best action shot of the winner here. He name is Babylon, and despite having the word "baby" in his name he was a very aggressive dancer, somewhat scary actually. That is until he won. Once he knew he won he had the biggest smile and seemed like a really nice guy. He was even nervous about having to talk for the winner's interview, hehe.
So in the end I think everything went well with both my new investment, and the event it self. I even got to meet up with some Kyoto people I met last year, so I hope to be getting some pictures of them practicing and that soon.
Sorry for the long blog, but thanks for reading!!
May 10th 2012
This last weekend I was able to trek up north to Fukushima Prefecture to cover the first round of this year's GO BIG! FMX competition held at the birth place of Japanese FMX, Samegawa's Mori Park. I always love going up to this place as it is super at home and relaxing, surrounded my hills and forests, and I know that as long as I can get there everything else will fall into place.
This year I was actually planning on heading up about 4 or so days early to hang out with Daice and the guys and enjoy my Golden Week (a holiday here in Japan) but work and other factors made it so I could only get up there the day before the competition. Oh well, I might just have to take a longer trip in the summer to make up for it, hehe.
The night we arrived the guys were busy cleaning up the course from the crazy rain that day and the day before, so there wasn't much else to do than hang out and enjoy some 100yen ($1) beers, something I was more than happy to do after the 2.5h bullet train and 4h car ride. Actually, there is a big silver container in the course where some people store their bikes, but this had been outfitted with a chicken wired DJ booth, dance lights, and even lasers to make a pretty kick @ss little makeshift dance club. After about 1,000 yen worth of beer and a small dinner I found myself in "the club" for the rest of the night, not something I was expecting when I left Kyoto that morning, but tones of fun none the less.
The next day everyone was up around 6am and working hard on getting the course ready, so of course I had to get up as well, booo. It was really nice out though so I didn't mind all that much. The course this year was a two tiered course, that ran in a circle with one jump below, and one jump up above. According to the guys the above jump put the riders much higher than they were used to, and the landing was much more narrow so it was rather difficult, but the fans really liked it! I myself found it a difficult angle to shoot, but really, almost every angle at Samegawa can be difficult to shoot, too many high trees that make it hard for the riders to stand out from the background.
All in all the GO BIG! competition went well, unfortunately a couple of the guys had accidents and had to be taken to the hospital. Get well soon!!!! Pretty sure the highlight of the day though was the crazy "train" run the guys did at the end. For those who don't know, an FMX "train" is when multiple riders hit a jump in quick succession on after another. Usually this is done with one jump, but this time the guys had set up three jumps in a row, and there were 15+ riders so everyone was hitting everything! It was a little chaotic, but the guys had planned to do some tricks in sequence so it looked REALLY cool. I think the best was when Kota, Daice, and Bupper all did back flips together, at the same time. You can see this shot above on the left. The right shot is pretty sick as well though eh!
Anyways, getting a little long here. In the end the results of the first round of GO BIG! were as follows,
#1: Eigo Sato
#2: Kugimura Kota
#3: Suzuki "Daice" Daisuke
Way to go guys, I look forward to seeing you all again soon!!
May 1st 2012
It looks like I have survived the month of April! Lets see, a quick review of the month, by the number: 12 days of shooting, 8 different events, 4 cities (Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka), made friends with 4 top Red Bull athletes and countless other cool people all over Japan. So ya, it has been an interesting month for sure.
Two of the eight events were held this weekend in Fukuoka, the Red Bull "Nighter" and the Red Bull Street Jam in Fukuoka. I already mentioned the "Nighter" below (what a great and crazy experience) but I have not been able to mention about the Jam just yet, so here we go.
With each Jam the members have changed, but each time the athletes are super pro, and tones of fun to be around. The Fukuoka Jam had Sean and Yosuke like before, but we were also joined by two new freestyle basketball athletes, and two new break dancers. One of the break dancers was a young B-Boy named Taisuke. As Taisuke is one of the Red Bull BC One All Stars he is very well known in the B-Boy community around the world . Also, Taisuke recently participated in and won a dance contest on Japanese TV that was broadcasted nationally, so spectators at the Jams recognized him and got pictures with him after the events were finished. I had the chance to photograph him before, but it was only for a couple hours, and we didn't have much of a chance to chat. This time though I had lots of time to communicate with Taisuke, and the other athletes as well, and this was one of the best parts of the weekend for sure.
All in all the Jams went by pretty smoothly, even though one or two people were suffering a little from the "beverages" that were enjoyed the previous evening. Being the third Jam in April I was also getting used to the event and everything seemed to go smoothly enough for me. No dropped flashes, no rain soaked gear, yea! The highlight of this Jam was for sure the final trick by Taisuke where he would flip over 6-7 people lying on the ground. I got about 5 chances to photograph this, but I think the one above here is the best. The timing of the shot, the reaction of the other athletes behind and all that really came together here. Some of the other attempts had me too far away, Taisuke's face facing the wrong way, Taisuke's face covered by a basketball, etc. But this is the joy of getting to shoot the same event over and over. You have many chances, and you can learn and improve as you go. Not always possible, but always appreciated! I showed this shot to Taisuke and he really liked it too, which is always the best to hear from any athlete.
So even though I still have some DVDs to burn, and invoices to send, my busiest month of photography has quietly come to a close. This month I only have the Red Bull BC One Osaka Cyfer and the GO BIG! FMX competition so I hope to be able to take it easy and maybe meet up some friends for drinks some time. June will have me all over the place again, but looking forward to it for sure!
Lastly, I just want to take a sec to thank all the guys and gals at Red Bull Japan for their support this month, the athletes for their effort and friendship (you guys were ALL so cool!) and everyone else I was able to meet who made this one of the best and most exciting months I have ever had. Like really, how often do you get to photograph a B.A.S.E Jump in a dome, from the field, or have drinks with athletes who are #1 in the world, or travel all over the country on someone else's dime? Too much fun, and I hope I can do it all over again very soon!
April 27th 2012
B.A.S.E Jumping, ever heard of it? Well, this is what you see in the above photo. But not only just "normal" B.A.S.E Jumping, this is inside a closed dome baseball park here in Japan, something I am told maybe be a first of its kind (legally at least). The man you see doing this amazing work is Red Bull's Cedric Dumont. He is a professional in every sense of the word. As it was windy during the day when the dome was open, he was more than ready to call off the jump, even though that was the only reason he was even in Japan at this time. All the way from Belgium, to watch a baseball game, and not jump, is ALMOST how the night ended, but the people at the dome were ever so kind enough to close the dome in the 6th inning so Cedric could his thing. Thanks people at the Fukuoka Dome!!
Anyways, as you can see here the jump was a success! Everything went perfect, and he even took the exact course he was supposed to, which helped me a lot as I was stationed in the left field and could not have moved in time if he decided to take a different course. Lucky me, just wish I could have gotten a little closer to the action, but didn't want to be in Cedric's way when he came down, just in case he did go off target a few meters.
This was actually one of the most stressful photos I have had to take yet, buy far. Due to my time of arrival in Fukuoka from Kyoto I was not able to watch the test jump, so I could not see with my own eyes where he would be going. I had some video to see, but being there live and getting a test shoot would have been so much better. If something like this pops up again I think I will insist that I be there for any kind of test jumping. Also, another part that was extremely stressful was that I was to run from behind the plate to where I would be shooting within 1-2mins. I had to get there, find "the best spot to shoot" and set up my camera all in the time it took to play a video of Cedric jumping. Man, I have not run like that in a while, hahaha. Sitting there waiting for him to jump I could feel my heart beating in my chest. What was probably less than 30 seconds felt like an eternity. Just waiting for the countdown to jump, and for me to cram my finger on the shutter until Cedric lands.
Well, as you can see everything went ok with the picture. Sure, I could have been closer, and I know it is a little grainy, but I am pretty happy with my first B.A.S.E jump shooting. I sure hope I get a chance to 1) meet Cedric again as he is a SUPER cool guy, 2)shoot more B.A.S.E jumping sometime in the future.
Thanks again Cerdic! I hope you got home ok =)
April 22nd 2011
Yesterday Arnaud "Séan" Garnier (as he is officially known) and Yosuke Tokota, two of the best freestyle football players on the planet, were kind enough to visit the university and give a show/demo for the school. Pretty cool to say the least, especially since I have been hanging with Sean for the last couple days, and I can't count how many times I have met Yosuke this month. Both good guys for sure!
Unfortunately, for reasons I will not go into here there were some issues with the flow of the show, totally the university's fault, and I was feeling kind of embarrassed at what was happening. Maybe it was because I have been at the Street Jams and Street Style events every weekend this month and have gotten used to the fast pace and flow of these events, but man, the show moved a little too slow for me. Worst part was, as the show was wrapping up it was looking like the two were not even going to be able to do any kind of demonstration (which was planned for the start but got skipped over by accident). In the end they got to do a small battle, but man, it could have been so much more exciting! The students present had no idea there were any problems, and it seems that everyone really enjoyed the show, just disappointed that Sean and Yosuke didn't have the chance to really do a good show.
But hey, these things happen, and you move on. At the very least I think some of the footsal players became quite interested and might pick up freestyle football as well. In the photo above you can see Sean showing some of his youtube videos to the footsal players at lunch. They really enjoyed the one where he schooled Neymar Santos a little while ago. Look it up, it is a very impressive video. Talking to Sean later he said this was his favorite part of the day, just chatting with the students about the sport he loves. Looking forward to hanging out with these guys in Fukuoka this weekend for the last Street Jam of the month!
April 24th 2012
Picking up where I left off yesterday, last Sunday was the Japan Final of the Red Bull Street Style competition. The winner of this competition goes on to the finals in Italy to compete for the world title. Man, I would love to be able to go and shoot that!
The final competition was held in Nagoya, in a shopping mall...ya I know, sounds lame, but it was actually a pretty cool place to hold the event. As you can see in the photo above the place was packed, but the event space opened up for about 2-3 more stories above this, and was packed with people all around it during the show. I think they said something like 2,000-3,000 people were clocked over the day.
Now of course, as with the other events, for me this place was a little dark for my camera to stop the action without any flash, but as there was another photographer, and a huge crew shooting video (in 3D to boot!) it was a little tricky to find a good spot. Deciding on one spot with my stand, and to carry another flash with me and use as needed I shot the practice session as usual without too many issues. One event that was new to the final was the mentoring session Sean gave to two groups of young soccer and freestyle soccer players. I really enjoyed shooting this and really wanted to get some decent shots of Sean interacting with the young Japanese players, which he did very well even with the language barrier. One thing I tried here was to sandwich Sean with my flashes, one on the stand high behind me to expose his face, and one I tossed on the judges' table to give a rim light from behind. It was a little difficult to line Sean up with the flashes while concentrating on my composition, but I am really glad I made the extra effort because the images turned out really nice. Too bad I couldn't keep with this set up during the actual event though.
Apparently a couple of the athletes mentioned that the flash on the stand was getting in their eyes and making it hard to see the ball, so I was asked to move the flash. Oh, I should mention this was about 10mins before the start of the actual competition! No worries, the last thing I want to do is make a fuss over a flash. So, looking quickly I remembered a media space had been set aside on the second floor, and that the other photographer also had a flash up there. Well, what is the worst that can happen? And actually, I was quite happy with the change in position, and no one seemed to complain. But as the flashes seem to mess up the video a bit, we were only allowed the one, so some angles had the players faces in a bit of a shadow, but nothing too harsh.
And so the competition begins, and I run around, trying to change angles as much as possible and cover the event as best I could. Fun stuff for sure! As the event went on the level of the players kept getting better, but you could tell some of the guys were quite nervous and not able to do their best. But that is part of competition, and something everyone has to deal with.
One surprise of the competition was that in a rather unforeseen decision by the judges Yosuke, who came in 2nd at a previous Street Style World Final lost one of the semi qualifying matches. When the judge's flags went up the entire venue fell silent, as EVERYONE else thought Yosuke had won, like everyone! I don't know what everyone was thinking, but I am pretty sure Yosuke played the better match, with fewer errors and great style. Maybe he should have busted out some bigger moves, but I am pretty sure he was saving those for the finals. Needless to say he was a little upset with the decision, but he is a good guy and I think he will have no problem bouncing back from this.
In the end Kotaro Tokuda took the title in a very close match that the judges had a very hard time calling. I hope he does well in the finals!!
So ya, that brings the Red Bull Street Style to a close for this year. As this event is only every two years I hope to be back again and see all the guys that were there this weekend. Good people for sure!
April 23rd 2012
I was off in Nagoya this weekend with Red Bull again, surprise surprise, shooting the Red Bull Street Jam and the Japan finals of the Red Bull Street Style. It was only three days of shooting, but as we did so much in those three days I feel like I was there for a week or more!!
The events started on Friday with the Street Jam being held at three different places around the city. Two of these were outside in shopping areas, and one was a night club. The night club was actually really fun to shoot, and I think I got some decent shots considering the size and less than amazing lighting, but the other two were outside and the rain really seemed to keep people from stopping and watching the show. If it was sunny and dry I think a lot more people would have stopped and watch the show. The first show was particularly sad as almost no one was watching. Saying that, the second outside show was at this really nice spot, just down the street from a girls university! A fair amount of the girls did stop and enjoy the free Red Bull and amazing show, and really got into it as the guys started pulling out bigger and bigger moves.
The Saturday had the Jam being held twice INSIDE a shopping center, and once outside at the same spot the event started, and sucked the day before. Inside the center was great as there was this giant glass window that went all the way up the one side of the building. giving a nice even diffused light. I should mention that having this behind me was great as it light every one up, including the crowed, but shooting against it was a little bit of a pain. To help remedy this I tossed my SB-900 on my stand at about 1/2 power and used it as a kind of fill/rim light, something I seem to have been doing a fair bit these days.
Everything went pretty well here, and I got some shots I am happy with, but I am really starting to feel the limitations of my current camera, the Nikon D300s. Good camera for sure, but I really need something with better ISO so I can freeze that action while keeping things properly exposed at these events. As I don't like going over 800ISO on the D300s I have a hard time sometimes getting what I am after. Soon though...very soon! Also, about equipment, have I said before how much I love my Nikon gear, especially since it seems to handle impacts pretty well. After the second event finished there were a lot of people wondering around the venue and one young man knocked over my light stand with my SB-900 and pocket wizard. The impact actually made the batteries fly out of the flash, but upon close inspection and testing, it seemed like it was fine! I am not going to say these things are unbreakable, but they are certainly a LOT stronger than I thought.
After that it was off to the same venue as the day before, that sucked, to shoot the last event of the Nagoya Jam. This time though there was no rain, and a new H&M store had opened up just down the street so there were WAY more people than before. So many actually I had a hard time moving around. But really, this event was fun too, and I even got to shoot some nice group shots of the Street Jam crew afterwords. Just glad a lot of people came because having a crowed in the shots really helps make things look better.
After the Saturday events it was back to the hotel and time to work on the photos, however a couple of the guys in the crew wanted to do a small photo shoot outside by a cool graffiti wall. So, from about 11:30 to 1:00 I was out in a parking lot lying on the ground shooting a couple of the guys doing there things and looking fabulous. I LOVE this kind of shooting! Just me and the athlete, and no one to poach my shots. As long as we are both having fun, and the athlete is not too tiered, I could do these shoots all night. Trying a couple different single light flash set ups we got some really cool styles and looks that I am quite happy with. I am especially happy with the shots I took with my Orbis ring flash attachment. I am going to review this thing soon, but until then, I just love the effect/light this little thing gives out. If you are thinking of getting one I highly recommend it!
Now I see this post is getting rather long, and lots happened at the Street Style finals, so I think I will leave off here with just the Jam info for now.
Oh, and the photo you see here is of the Red Bull athlete Sean Arnaud Garnier performing his signature trick. And yes, he goes through here legs. At least this time the girl wasn't wearing a skirt. haha.
To be continued...
April 16th 2012
I am officially half way through my busiest month of photography ever, and still doing pretty good. Yesterday had me in Tokyo shooting the Tokyo qualifier for the Red Bull Street Style event, which is a global competition to decide the best freestyle footballer (soccer) in the world. Last week I also shot the Osaka qualifier but didn't have time to write about it so I will mention both events now.
Osaka Qualifier: April 8th
Being my first Street Style event in two years I was a little nervous about the event, but was looking forward to a fun day shooting a sport I find tons of fun to watch, and do (although I suck, haha). Being the 4th day in a row of shooting for me my body was quite tiered, but some nice weather, and a non-hungover morning had me in good spirits and high energy for the event.
This year's Osaka qualifier was at the new Osaka station, so I kind of thought it would be in a nice looking area, but it was just kind of plunked into this covered area by the street that got almost zero natural light. Although it was super sunny out all day, there was no way I was going to be able to freeze the action, and have lower ISO (less noise is always better for Red Bull) with just the natural light available and my D300s. Playing with my flash on a stand with my pocket wizards I was really not that happy with just raising the stand and directly flashing the participants as the light was really harsh and directional, and just didn't look nice. Looking around though I noticed the ceiling of where were was low, silver, and reflective, so I decided to try and bounce my flash off of it, to disperse the light and kind of spread it all over the performing area. Well, this worked perfectly! At first I had the flash set to TTL, but as it was trying to nuke the images I changed to manual and 1/2 power, and this was just enough to bring up the light in the shots. Showing a friend of mine the images he mentioned the the light looked really nice (not knowing what I had done) so I would have to say mission accomplished!
The rest of this event was pretty straight forward, with a young guy I met at the event two years ago winning. As I had a feeling he might win I made sure to get lots of close up shots of him performing, and this paid off in the end as one was used on the Red Bull site in the event write up. Yea again =) All in all it was a good event, and although there are still areas I would like to improve on, I think everything well with my images and Red Bull was happy.
Tokyo Qualifier: April 15th
The Tokyo qualifier was held at some new mall at a station called Futagotamagawa (or "twin's ball river" whatever that means) and it was pretty nice, and busy. This venue was also covered (but with glass this time) so rain would not be a problem, but as the day moved on the sun went behind the large tower of the mall and we were in the shade again, all day. This made it once again dark, and cold! Luckily I had brought some extra clothes, and had my light stick to help me out again. I must say right now that the $150 or so I paid for my light stand, bracket, and umbrella has been the best investment for my photography I have made all year! This stand and bracket have come in soooo handy at events that I think I will never be able to go to any event without them again.
As there was no close roof to bounce off of I just put it as high as I could on 1/2 power and shot away. As there was much more ambient light this time it seemed to work just fine, and the light was quite natural looking, at least as far as I can tell.
The thing with this event though was I knew to of the participants from the previous week's Jam and after seeing them preform for two days kind of assumed they would be the two guys in the finals. Because of this I kind of focused on them more throughout the day (at least during their matches) and made sure to get some good up-close and other images. Unfortunately, although one of them ended up winning the qualifier, the other one had a small mistake in a match and ended up coming third...crap. And I didn't have many images of the second guy alone as he always had his back to me.
Why didn't I move around to get some shots with his face you ask? All around our venue were different shops like H&M and McD's, all of which I have to try to keep out of Red Bull images. So, the only angles I could get were from the one side, arg. This worked out fine in the long run, but it would have been easier to be able to move around a little more. But hey, I seem to be pretty good at making lemonade these days, so no worries, haha.
Anyways, in the end I found a couple more little areas I would like to improve on for the final next week in Nagoya, but I think I got some cool moments in the competition all together. I will be posting to the site here and facebook as well so check there if you actually read this far into my post (#^L^#)
April 11th 2012
Continuing on about my busy weekend with Red Bull in Osaka, on last Friday/Saturday I was able to shoot my first Red Bull Street Jam. The basic concept of this event seemed to be to introduce various events that Red Bull is holding throughout Japan to as many people as possible at once. The events that were being showcased during the Osaka Street Jam were BMX (with Viki Gomez from Spain), break dancing, and freestyle lifting (like with a soccer ball). All events that I enjoy watching, but need to work on shooting more as I will be doing several of these events individually over the year.
The locations for the events were somewhat spread over the city, Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Tennoji, but were pretty much the same more or less. I think I got my best pictures in Tennoji's Q'S Mall as these shows were on the second day, and during the day so there was plenty of light to allow for a faster shutter speed to stop the action. I also like a couple shots I got here where I was able to get directly above the action and shoot with my fisheye. Looked pretty cool with the crowd, and something I have always wanted to be able to do. The second show here also had a pretty decent crowd so it was a little easier getting nicer shots of the whole event floor.
I think the hardest place to shoot this time was Sankakukoen in Shinsaibashi's America Mura area. I like this park, and shot there two years ago with Red Bull, but the shows here were at 5:00pm both days, and by that time the sun is already behind the local buildings. I had my strobes working over time and got some shots that the Red Bull guys were happy with, but all in all they were pretty tough shows to cover. I will have more chances at the Street Jam in Nagoya and the one in Fukuoka later this month though so I hope to be able to take what I have learned about the flow and atmosphere of the event and get even better shots next time.
One thing that really surprised me about the events though this last weekend were just how physically tiring my body got after only three days of shooting. When I got back to my hotel room after the third day I felt like every muscle in my body was in pain. I get low a lot when I shoot, and go into some pretty Spider-Man like positions (or so I am told) when shooting and I think this is quite hard on my legs. I never notice while shooting, but when I am done it feels like I have been doing squats for the last hour. After a couple days rest I am starting to feel back to normal, but I think I am just going to take it easy this week and not push myself too hard. Too bad though, I really want to get to my martial arts class soon!
Anyways, I have four more days of Street Jams this month, so I think I will be able to get some even better shots next time! Can't wait!!
March 10th 2012
So the last four days found me shooting three different events for Red Bull, all in Osaka. The first was a lunch party/media event, the second was the Red Bull Street Jam (two days) and the last was the Red Bull Street Style qualifier round in Osaka. I think I will take the next couple of days to write proper posts about each event, as they each had their own challenges and points of learning.
The first event, the launch party/media event was held in a medium sized club in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. As a club to party at it was a pretty cool place, with high ceilings and a second floor area that could be used to shoot from above if needed. However, and this seems to be the story of my life these days, there was very little light so shooting was not an easy task at all. Luckily I have a couple lenses with nice glass (1.4 and 2.8) but I don't like putting my ISO up past 800 in my D300s if possible so I was kind of limited to what I could shoot. Also, as it was a media launch I didn't really want to start flashing people as soon as they came in, so I was searching for light most of the night.
The media event was simple enough, with various media people coming in and watching a presentation on the different events Red Bull does around the world. The cool part here is that 6 athletes were there to perform BMX, break dance, and freestyle soccer lifting. I had met most of them before so it was nice to seem them again, and it was great to watch them perform for the media peoples. However, no light plus fast moving athletes equals the need to use flash, preferably off camera. So I set up my flash on a stand and shot in a way to not block any of the media people, as they were the whole reason the night was happening. All in all these pictures are fine, but after the initial event the club opened its doors to a large amount of people who had been invited to come and have a good time and try the new Sugar Free Red Bull. Here I was able to move much more freely, and shoot with my external flash in my stretched out arm with my pocket wizards.
This is how I got the shot you see above of the Red Bull athlete Viki Gomez. As the people remaining were mostly non-media types I didn't worry so much about blocking anyone and just went at it. This was much more fun as the music and atmosphere was quite different and I was specifically told I could move anywhere I wanted. Also, the people watching were much more into the show, with lots of screaming and cheering when the athletes did something cool. I even found myself cheering here and there as I shot, haha.
Once the performances were over I shot a bit of the party, people dancing and screaming and stuff like that, but after I got all the shots I needed it was time for me to enjoy the night! Don't even ask what time I ended up getting back to the hotel that night (morning?) but needless to say, I had a great time! Thanks again to all the Red Bull Japan staff who let me work the party, especially those of you who gave me all the free drink tickets =)
April 4th, 2012
The last couple of days had me shooting the entrance ceremonies at my university's two campuses, one in Kyoto and the other in Shiga. Compared to last year's ceremony that was held in Osaka Dome, this year's was quite small and simple, happening at the different campuses, but it was still lots of fun to shoot.
As there were a lot of different activities going on besides the actual entrance ceremony, it was decided that I would cover what was going on outside (students coming and going, club performances, etc.) and a coworker of mine would cover the ceremony itself. He was kind of scared to be covering the ceremony as he doesn't have much experience shooting things like this, but as they did the same ceremony several time a day I thought it would be good practice for him and made sure he did it, even though he complained the whole time, haha.
I myself was able to wonder the campus, photographing whatever or whoever I came across. Of course there were a few things I NEEDED to shoot, like the students who set up booths to introduce their clubs, and all the stage performances, but it was all in all not a difficult day. Tiring yes, but not that hard. I think the funnest part was shooting the student performers on the stage. The "pro cameramen" the university often gets to shoot these events usually shoots quite wide to get the whole stage in, but the shots always seem so generic and boring. So, to try and get some shots that we may not already have on file, I was trying to get good close up shots of different performers with nice expressions. Filling the frame as much as I could with my 24-70mm lens, I found I was shooting right up front of the stage and off to the side. Of course the performers were dancing and doing things like double dutch and that so it was a little hard to follow the action at times, but I am overall happy with what I took, and think I was able to get many good images of the students that we did not have available in the past.
Although not all that glamorous, these kinds of days really help me to be able to practice my photography in a little more relaxed environment than an actual paid shoot (like with Red Bull for example) but I still know there is a good chance many of the images will be seen and used by the university so I am still motivated to try hard and get the best images I can. Win win situation for all involved really.
One unfortunate aspect of the weekend was that I seemed to have angered my lower back, and it is deciding to play mean and make we walk like an old man. Jerk back, haha. It is getting better each day, but I think I am going to have to rely on Mr Tylenol and whatever Japanese brand pain killers I can find to make it through this coming weekend of 4-5 days of shooting with Red Bull. If my next blog is a picture of me in the hospital you will know how it went, haha.
March 29th 2012
This last week I was over in Seoul again for an event the university was putting on in conjunction with the Japanese government. It was fun, and I will write about it soon (I think a couple shots I took will be in Korean newspapers), but after Korea I actually flew back to Haneda airport in Tokyo so I could participate in the finals of the Red Bull Paper Wings contest being held just off site of the airport.
The venue for this event, an old airplane hanger, was actually really cool with lots of history. Apparently it is the first hanger to have been built in Japan after WWII, but it seems that who built it and what it was initially used for are somewhat of a mystery. I was even told that MacArthur himself had it built, but like I said, no one seems to know. Also, after WWII there was a period that the Japanese were not allowed to built any planes of their own, of any kind. Once this ban was lifted though a new plane for domestic travel was developed in 1956 called the YS-11. It is this YS-11 (actually the first one ever built) that is normally housed in the hanger. I didn't know any of this before hand, but glad I was able to learn more about the site. Sounds like this was only the first or second time it had ever been used like this, so I feel pretty special to have been able to attend, and shoot the event.
As I was flying into Haneda the morning of the event I was not able to get there quite as early as I usually liked, but still had lots of time before the event to check everything out. As you would imagine, the hanger was huge, dark, and dirty, just perfect for pictures eh, haha. I used my flash throughout the whole day, positioned on a stand with pocket wizards, but Red Bull was pretty good this time with lighting so everything went better than expected on the light front. Still, I had to use a rather slow shutter speed to allow for an adequate amount of ambient light so I do have some motion blur at parts, but it seems to work with the planes and that.
All in all I think I was able to do a pretty good job, had a lot of fun, and for sure redeemed myself from the tragedy that was my last Red Bull event. Still lots to work on, but I will have lots of opportunities over this next month as I seem to have a Red Bull event every weekend for the next month...should be fun if I don't die, hahaha.
I will try to keep up today on the blog here though, so make sure to check back from time to time.
March 25th 2012
A while ago I was contacted to participate in a global campaign Braun (they make electric shavers if you don't know) was doing in major cities around the world. Basically I was asked to take photos of 50 guys with cool beards who are in Tokyo. Sure, sounds easy enough. Then I remembered that most guys here in Japan don't grow beards, at least not like the ones you see back home in North America. But hey, there are more people in Tokyo than Canada so finding 50 people shouldn't be all that tough...right??
So, with the help of a good Japanese friend as my lovely assistant, we set out into Tokyo's Harajuku, and Shibuya to hunt down some dudes with beards. The photos themselves were quite simple really, hold the contract, front, side, side, full body. Add some flash and put something "urban" in the background and we are on to the next person. Sounds easy, but it was finding this "next person" that was the difficult part at times. Sure there where lots of guys with beards in the areas we were wondering through, but some were scary, some were shy, and some just ignored us, haha.
Saying that, I was really surprised just how open and willing a lot of the people were. Here we are, two random people asking these guys to allow us to take their picture for some website, and they are just like "sure, no worries." Wow, thanks! A couple times even we would walk by a store and notice someone working there had a cool beard so we would pop in and my assistant would chat them up and ask if we could take their picture, and next thing you know this guy starts grabbing everyone that works there and gets them to help out too. Even goes so far as to tell us other stores with guys that would be good to shoot. SWEET! These really helped us A LOT as we were able to get 4-5 guys in one spot. I think if we didn't get lucky and meet so many great and helpful people we would have had a much harder time.
By the end of the two days I figure we walked about 16hs total, went back and forth from Shibuya to Harajyuku 6-7 times, and talked to close to 100 people on the street and in stores. Yes, we were tired, and yes I fell asleep on the last Shinkansen in the first 3 mins I was on the train, but it was well worth it for sure! As you can see above the photos are now on the Braun site, and you can see the url of the site in the image as well so make sure you check out the other pictures from Tokyo, as well as the shots from other cities around the world.
One last word of thanks for my lovely assistant. Without your help this would have been a much, much less enjoyable, and much, much more difficult shoot. Thanks again!!!
And thanks to all the people who let me photograph you! I hope you are able to see the photos and like what you see.
March 20th 2012
Been kind of up and down for me these days. Last week I was able to go to Seoul, Korea for my job with the university and this was tones of fun! Unfortunately as it was my first overseas work trip with the uni it kind of drained me, and I was kind of over tiered for the Red Bull Soap Box Race that was held on this last weekend.
This was my second time shooting the Soap Box Race, but unlike last time, this year the weather was CRAP! Wind and lots of rain, plus a lack of sleep/food/preparation made this for a very, very long day.
To say that I was not prepared for the rain would be an understatement. I forgot my rain gear, and didn’t have a rain cover for my bag, or camera...ouch. Needless to say I got drenched to the bone, and my 24mm-70mm Nikon lens got destroyed. Didn’t help that I dropped the lens as well. But thankfully that was not really what killed it, it was the 1000 liters of rain that went into the lens. Even after the drop it worked fine, and was focusing with out any problems, but part way through the rubber on the zoom came off, and water must have gotten in because it just stopped focusing all together. Shitty. My only really good lens and it is dead half way through the event, I wanted to cry at about this time.
But, I had to push on, even though I felt like passing out, haha. Have to really make sure to eat breakfast, and take food I can snack on during the event as I get kind of spacy when my blood sugar gets too low. I think I was about -500 part way through the day. Oh ya, I really need to drink Red Bull on these days as I just couldn’t get myself excited to be shooting in the cold wind and rain all day, but pretty sure if I had a couple RBs I would have been just flying around the event no problem.
By the end of the event my gear, and my heart were broken. Looking back on the photos I did “OK” for the conditions, but was really surprised to see that one of the other photographers got some amazing photos, way better than mine, even though we were shooting in the same environment. This just killed me, haha. I kind of figured/hopped everyone had a hard time, but that was not the case.
I think I learned several valuable lessons this weekend though. 1) Need to get my gear ready to shoot in the rain, as I am sure I will have to again soon. 2) Need to prepare better for events, even if I am out of country the week before. 3) No matter the conditions I have a job to do, and have to do it as best I can, every time. My personal problems have no place on site and should not affect my shooting. 4) Drink Red Bull before a shoot so I can get pumped and have more fun. 5) Don’t carry lenses in your pocket! You will drop them, and fixing a lens is more expensive than buying a decent water proof bag!
Saying that, I got super lucky with the lens. What I thought would cost around $600+ only ended up costing $250! So glad Nikon lenses are built like tanks!!
Anyways, lots of work coming up through to May so I hope to be able to redeem myself several times over! Gata work my but off this year, need to get better!!
February 28th 2012
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I was able to go up to Iwate at the beginning of the year and photograph a group of students from the university who were building a place for people who are living in local temporary housing to gather. You see, much of the temporary housing is too small for more than a couple people to comfortably sit in, so this kind of larger space was, and in many places, still needed.
Part of the trip in January was also to photograph the professor who designed the building and watched over much of the construction process for a Japanese magazine called AERA. For the last couple months the university has been featuring different professors in the magazine, with the professor being one of these people. Usually a cameraman from AERA would take the picture, but as they were not able to come to Iwate, and it was thought best to take it in the actual building once construction was finished, I was asked to take the photo, yea!
Looking at the photos of the professors that were in previous issues I was able to get a bit of an idea of the style AERA was looking for, clean and simple, but yet giving a glimpse into the professor's work/research. We decided though that since the students also played a HUGE part in the project, we should make sure we had a few of them in the photo as well. They were excited/nervous for sure, but I think it was very important that they were also recognized. They were the ones who shed all the blood, sweat, and tears during the construction period, not the professor.
The actual taking of the photo was not too difficult. The professor was very used to having his picture taken, and I had the students just chat with each other so as they were not too concentrated or worried about what I was doing. Most of the light was natural via a large window to the photos right side, but I did decided to toss one of my strobes in there as well for a little more punch. I think this help define the professor's features a little more, and helped bring him out from the background like I was hoping. One other thing I like about this frame is two of the students are looking up with a kind of wonderful look on their faces, kind of like they are thinking "we actually built this!" Not something I asked them to do, but a nice touch none the less.
In the end it was a quick 10 min shoot at the start of a long day of activities at the site. Everyone really worked hard to get this project finished, and were visibly moved by seeing their efforts take shape, but I think the people living in the area were the happiest of all. I hear they were already using the building as a day service center the week following the opening event.
So ya, this is my major magazine debut as far as I can remember. I have been published in MX/FMX magazines before, but this is the first time I am being published with my name in a nation wide, large scale magazine. The people in my office were even nice enough to insist that my name was in the photo, and not just "photo provided by XX University. Thanks for the support guys!
February 27th 2012
Been pretty busy with Red Bull these days, and can't say I mind it. Last week there was a Paper Air Plane Contest held at one of the university's campuses that I was able to go and shoot as a university employee. The event was to see who could get their plane to a) fly the farthest or b) fly for the longest time. Sounds easy, and I thought with all the origami people do here they would know how to make a good paper air plane, but a lot of the participants were having a hard time. Me, I was just enjoying the event, had some Red Bull, and shot like always. As there was no guarantee the photos I was shooting would even be used by Red Bull, I just made sure I had fun and let the chips fall where they may. Turns out everyone was happy with the shots and I might be able to shoot the finals in March, paid of course =)
Then over the last weekend I was able to head up to Hokkaido for the 2012 Red Bull Snow Charge. This would have been my third time shooting the event, but as you may remember there was an earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster the day before the 2011 event was to happen, so it was only my second time. Either way, I was really looking forward to getting revenge on this event as I was not too happy with what I was able to shoot in 2010.
The event was held at the Kiroro Ski Resort on the Saturday, but we all arrived on Friday for spot check, meetings and some late evening snowboarding! The snow was great so I was super happy to get some runs in! Even on Saturday morning I was able to get some spot checks, and runs in before the event started. I was thinking I would ride and shoot at the same time, so I wanted to see if this was going to be possible, and had nothing else to do so I though a few runs wouldn't kill anyone.
For this year's event I was stationed at the start and was to get shots of the participants as they were lined up for the start, and as they ran through the start line. At first I was told everyone would line up just under the big Red Bull arch, so I was busy trying to figure out what lens would work best from what angle. Once I had everything sorted out in my head though one of the guys came up and was like, "hey, we are moving the start line to here, but the arch will stay there". Thanks for the 30 second notice guys!! So I couldn't get the shot I really wanted and had to act fast to figure out what would be best with the new position. I really wish I had more time, but Red Bull was happy with what I got so no worries really.
The rest of the event I was running after the participants as they got their boards, then followed them down the mountain as fast as I could. The course was much faster this year though so I couldn't really catch up and get any shots. Was still fun to try to race them down, but I actually crashed once and got snow on my lens, haha. Everything was fine though, I seem to be good at falling with my camera, not that I want to do that all too often.
Looking back at the photos I think I did a much better job than last time, and was able to get good photos of the areas of the contest I was assigned to. I really hope to be able to shoot this event next year as well though as it was lots of fun, and I got to ride with the Red Bull guys as well!
Lots more Red Bull stuff coming up over the months so stayed tuned =)
February 22, 2012
Shooting for the university the other day I got to shoot a student that is part of the “Exploration Club” for a magazine the school sends out to alumni each month. The reason the student was being featured was they had rediscovered a cave that was once found about 30 years ago by their club predecessors. I say rediscovered because the map that was originally made some 30 years ago was actually incorrect and no one was able to get back to the cave since then, whoops.
At first me and my coworker O-san met the student in their club room, which was small and cluttered, and didn’t really give any sense of exploring or adventure. Oh, I should mention that I originally wanted to do the shoot in the actual cave, but it is probably under about 2-3ms of snow right now so…at the school it is, haha. Deciding the club room would not be all that good we asked if there was another place we could do the shoot, and luckily the club had a storage room we could go to one floor down.
This was much better, it was a little dark, lots of colorful helmets, various wet suits, and other items were all over the place. Cool, should be no problem. So I start to set up and see where I would like to put my flashes and start taking some test shots. As I am just starting to shoot O-san begins asking the student to move around and kind of starts to take over the shoot. Not cool. I don’t mind people making suggestions or pointing out things I may have missed, but his tone was not so pleasant.
But I worked on, trying to keep things in control as I had a good idea what I generally wanted to do. Now O-san, standing off camera, starts talking to the student. The shot was to have the student looking at the camera, but once someone starts talking to a subject off camera, of course this is where they start to look. Um, guys, mind if you look over here?? I know you are having fun chatting, but could we get this done???
At one point the student went to the bathroom so I mentioned to my coworker that hey, if you chat with them like that I can’t take any pictures, why not just leave that up to me? And that is really all it took for the most part, so that was good.
A lot of other things happened afterwards though that I won’t go into as this will just turn into a rant. But in some ways this was a good experience in patience for me. So many times these days, especially at the university, I have been able to work alone and take exactly the kind of pictures I want/think are best. This has been so great, and I have been learning so much, but I know this will not always be the situation, and as I get more and more paid jobs where I am trying to express someone else’s idea of what is the best picture, I am probably going to come across more and more people like this. Best to try and be calm, work with their ideas, but still incorporate my own style as a photographer. I know it can be hard at times, but convincing people with a smile probably has better results in the long run than trying to convince them with my fist, haha. Although sometimes it would be so nice to just open up and…just kidding =)
February 20th 2012
I had the rare opportunity to do a kind of Red Bull athlete shoot in Tokyo last Friday. The athlete was a break-dancer named Taisuke, and it was perfect timing as I was passing through on my way to Nigata anyways.
Before the shoot I was basically only told that I would be shooting Taisuke in Shibuya, Friday afternoon for about 2-3hs, but had no idea what the images would be used for or what kind of images they were looking for. No worries though, I figured it would all work out just fine as the Red Bull rep would be joining us and he is good at letting me know then and there if the pictures I am taking are what he is looking for.
So we all met up outside Starbucks in Shibuya and then headed off to some spots the Red Bull rep had picked out previously. This was helpful as I don't know Shibuya very well, but it would have been fun to just wonder and see what we find as well. The first spot was this wall with graffiti of some words written in red and yellow stars on a black background. Looked pretty cool, but I noticed right away that there were some barriers up with a sign on it saying something to the effect of "if you don't have a permit don't shoot here!" I pointed this out to the rep but he was just, "ah, that. Don't worry about it." OK, fine by me, haha. This places was not the best though as the athlete had to stand on a very thin concrete wall so the kinds of poses we could do were pretty limited. Shoot, shoot, shoot, and move on.
The next spot was a larger wall with more colorful graffiti. I really like a couple shot we got here as I was able to pull out the umbrella and get some nice flash going. By this time me and Taisuke were a little more relaxed, so that may have something to me getting better shots here. I was able to do some simple editing too that pops Taisuke out of the background and makes the colors in the graffiti look pretty cool as well.
Next we wondered a little further to some old abandoned house that was closed up and surrounded by barbwire. Pretty much had "DO NOT ENTER" written all over it. But again I was told "no worries" and Taisuke jumped in and up to the second floor, leaving me outside to shoot from the street. This also turned out pretty good as it was a nice dirty, urban environment, and something not too typically Tokyo. We didn't stay here very long though as the rep wanted to check out the almost finished Sky Tree and try to get some shots there as well.
Back in the car we were quickly running out of light, and realizing the Sky Tree is a ways away we decided to stop somewhere closer. I am not sure what the spot was where we stopped, but it had a nice old stone wall so I used that for a background and started shooting Taisuke doing some of his break-dance freeze moves. This was lots of fun as it felt we were working together to get some cool shots, and I was able to time my shots well enough that I didn’t have to keep asking him to do the same thing over and over again. As we were loosing light fast though I decided to try one or two more portraits with the wall, and then call it a day. This is the shot you see above here, and was shot with an Orbis Ring Flash attachment I had just picked up in Akihabara that morning. I will write another blog about that experience soon, but so far as I can tell I like the look of this ring-flash, and the ease of use. Although it is a direct on-camera flash, it is nice and even and has great drop off around the edges. Pretty sure I will be using this much more in the future.
Make sure to check out the rest of the photos in the Red Bull album!
February 20th 2012
About a week ago now me and some friends popped over to Busan, Korea for a quick weekend to celebrate a mutual friend's wedding. Living so close to Korea (only a couple hours by plane from Osaka) you would think I had already been there, but it was my first time, not my last by a long shot though I can tell you that!
Of course the clubbing, sightseeing, eating amazing Korean food, meeting amazing Korean people, shooting guns, and just generally having a good time was AMAZING, but I also enjoyed photographing some of the different aspects of a wedding in Korea. Pretty sure there are different little things that happen in various countries around the world, and Korea was no exception.
The main wedding was actually pretty "western" with the bride wearing a white dress and walking down the isle and all that, but it was the Korean ceremony that happened afterwords in private that I found especially interesting. There was the drinking of teas, eating of cakes, talking with parents, carrying the bride on the groom's back and walking around a table twice, etc., etc. One of the more unexpected rituals was when my friend's God Father (pictured above) had to toss a handful of chestnuts (I think that is what they were) into a sheet that the bride and groom were holding. The more chestnuts, the more kids they could expect. Well, out of the 10 plus that got tossed, everyone made it in, haha. You should have seen the look on the bride's face!
All in all I really found this 20min ceremony much more interesting than the wedding itself, and kind of wish I had more of an idea of what was going on. Maybe someone else will get married there again soon. Either way, I will probably find myself there again in the summer for a small vacation. Costs less for me to go there than Tokyo if I time it right!
Oh, and the shot you see here is of the God Father trying some of the ceremonial tea. This is his first reaction to the smell, and one of my fave shots from the weekend.
February 2nd 2012
More of the pictures from the +R Book are making their way online so I thought I would mention one pesky thing that was happening with them
When I edited these pictures I was quite careful, well as careful as time allowed, but when they were being uploaded to the website they were losing a great deal of color and looked super flat. Needless to say I was a little concerned/upset. Trying to think of what was happening I talked to the lady that is in charge of uploading the articles and she mentioned that maybe she "lightened" the photos. Really?? Why?? Please don't edit my photos without asking, please! I think almost any photographer would be upset if someone at a magazine or other publication was to just go ahead and edit the images without their input or consent. Pretty basic stuff really.
So after mentioning this to her as nicely as possible she agreed that any changes that were to be made should be made by me. She was very nice about it really. However...when the above image was uploaded it too was super desaturated and flat. Booo! Talking to the lady again she said she had only shrunk the image size to fit exactly in the space on the website. Ok, but what were you doing that with? Oh, some free software that has been on our 10 year old computers since she started 5 years ago. Ok...here is the problem.
So I asked her to re-size one really quickly so we can see a before and after. Even she was surprised she hadn't noticed the difference earlier. In the picture above the left side is the original and the right is the re-sized version. Just look at the skin color on the right side, yuck! I mean, I am not super at PS but even I know that is way off, haha. So, now when my pictures are to be used in this manner I am to re-size them so this doesn't happen again. It is not like someone at Time or National Geographic is going to ever see these pictures, but it is just the principal of having the best possible picture up that you can. You know?
Anyways, I will keep posting here and there on these portraits as I can. Just can't wait to see how they look after the designer has made the book!
January 20th 2012
As you may have known I have been shooting students (60+ in total) for this book that will be giving out at the entrance ceremony for the university in March. Although I shoot a lot of documentary style portraits at FMX events, for Red Bull and other stuff like that, this is the first time I am having to shoot so many people for one project. I am learning so much from it, but it can make for some long days.
Some of the days I only have to shoot 3 people or so, and it is nice out, and the places we pick are perfect, and everything goes well and all is right with the world. Several of the first days though I had to shoot 9 people, with only about 15-20 mins to meet them, find a spot on campus that has something to do with their campus life, photograph them, and get back to the interview spot to pick up the next person. Fun, but hectic for sure! For 57 or so of the 60 or so people I have been lucky and ended up with pictures me and the people in my office are happy with, but I would be lying if I told you there are not any that I would really like to go back and re-do on a nicer day. But that is just part of being a photographer I guess. Never be satisfied eh, hehe.
One of the pictures that was hardest for me to get would probably be the one you see here. This student was part of a club that makes and races cars. Really cool eh! I had seen some pictures taken around the same time last year and the car had already been completed, so I thought it would be an easy shot with the student standing by the cool homemade car. Yea...right... When we arrived at the garage the car was have taken apart and in the mess you see above. Ok...what else looks cool?? Nothing, the place is a huge mess and nothing is tweaking my interest. So I ask if there is anywhere else we can shoot. There is another garage where they are building the frame for the next car so I decide to have them take me there. We arrive and it is a much cleaner garage, brighter too, but the frame was just starting to be built and resembles nothing of what one would recognize as a car...great.
So we rush back to the first garage, at least it has flavor and really looks like somewhere students are working. So I set up and start shooting whatever might look good. Breaking out both the flashes and getting some students to work on the car started to get me somewhere. Keep shooting, keep trying, keep checking my watch. I was liking where things were going but I wasn't getting the spread or diffusion on my light that I wanted. How could I diffuse the light more? Looking to my left I noticed there was a giant white wall there...white wall...SB-900...and then a vision of Joe McNally bouncing one of his SB-something flashes of a white wall in one of the videos I had seen recently came into my head. Tried it, liked it, got the student to smile, and we were done! Yea!
Of course this photo is not going to win any portrait contests, and there are probably a million ways I could have shot it better in retrospect if I had more time, but time was exactly what I didn't have. In the end the photos I got here will be used in the book, and this one is already being used on the school website at the link here: http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/rs/category/r_na_hito/entry/?param=255
So all is well that ends well =)
I just have about 4 more students to take and then this project is finished. If there is some way I am able to post more photos I will, as there are quite a few I am pretty happy with.
January 17th 2012
Sorry for the terrible scan quality, but here is the cover of the new "Library Navigator" the university's library puts out a couple times a year. These used to be shot by a hired "professional" from outside the school, but they let me shoot them these days, and they always say they are super happy with the shots, so it is nice work to get.
Talking about this to a coworker though, by me taking these photos I am taking a paying job away from someone who is trying to make photography their living and I am not too sure how I feel about this. Being in the Office of Public Relations it is my job to photograph school activities and that, but more and more I am shooting this as "part of my job" that would have normally been paid to someone else. This is GREAT no pressure practice for me mind you, and I can't say no to my bosses and refuse to do work I am specifically asked to do, but what do you think?
I do a good job for the photos, and that is why I keep getting asked back, so I guess I should not worry too much. Just part of me feels a little bad about it, probably not going to stop me from doing it though =) I need the practice, and it beats translations ANY day hands down!
Jauary 15th 2012
Lots going on but nothing I can really post about just yet as it is work for the university. Lets just say though that one of my photos may just be appearing in an upcoming issue of AERA, a national publication here in Japan, yea!
Anyways, I noticed that I was getting lots of hits to my Neymar Santos photos that I took in the summer last year while on internship with Red Bull but I wasn't sure how so many people were finding the site. But looky here, Red Bull has an article on their website which is leading with one of my photos =) Thanks guys! Even has my credit right below it!! I guess people have been seeing this and then searching my name. Kind of an old article, so this may not be the real reason for the sudden surge, but it she is nice to see my photo at the top of an article on the Red Bull page. Great exposure, and feels good to have images I took in a pretty hard situation being put to use.
Gata keep at the portrait stuff though, which is one thing I have been doing at work for the university. I have to do portraits of about 60 students (3-9 a day) that will be used in a publication given to every incoming student in the new school year. Lots of pressure on time and quality, but I have been learning SO much from this work, and LOVING working with the students. I hope to be able to post a couple of the best photos somewhere, and will let everyone know when I do.
Anyways, first "quiet Sunday" in a while, so I should get back to cleaning my apartment, boooo.
January 2nd 2012
I have been home in Canada for the last week or so, just relaxing with the family and enjoying the holidays. Even though I live in Japan I really try to make it home at this time of the year to be with my family, especially now that I am an uncle! One problem though is that when I come back to this home I return to the 15 year old that didn’t do anything at home besides watch TV, haha.
Saying that, I was able to get through the photos I took in December at a bamboo forest, yea! This shoot was something I was really looking forward to, having seen the forest and the outfits at a previous shoot that didn’t work out due to rain. Also, as the forest was rather dark, even in the day time, I was looking forward to trying my new off camera flash/umbrella combination. I had just bought the umbrella and stand, for this shoot, and was (am) still not 100% sure how to use it the most effectively, but hey, why should that stop me from trying?
Playing with flash angle and power everything went pretty well over all. I think at a couple points I was over stressing the flash and it started yelling at me, and actually over heated a couple times. But nothing broke, and I was able to switch out my the flash for my extra one, and was able to keep shooting no problem.
Keeping calm and working quick but smoothly is something I have been working on and I think I was able to do this during this shoot. Never let them see you sweet eh, haha.
Anyways, this was just one of many “learning shoots” that I want to do over the year. Trying new things can be scary, but I figure I gata do it sometime if I wan to keep improving and developing. Might as well be proactive with this stuff =)
So HAPPY NEW YEARS, I hope it is the best year ever for everyone!!
December 12 2011
Over the weekend I was once again over in Awajishima (I think this is my 4th time this year!) for work, but this time it was for personal photography and not with my job and the Uni, yea! The shooting this time was kind of an attempt at revenge for a previous shoot in Awajishima that was to be of Korean dancers in a bamboo grove but was wrecked due to heavy rains. This time though the weather was great and we had no issues with wind or rain, just lack of light due to the early sunsets here in the winter.
Saying that, I still have to go through the 500+ Raw files I have from the 2hs of shooting we did get, so I am not going to mention much about that day just yet, but more about the next day of shooting, sorry. Since I was already in Kobe the group thought it would be nice to have me shoot the image they were going to use for the annual end of year greeting card (Nengajyo in Japanese) they send out to all their friends, supporters, venues, etc. I have become good friends with the members of the group so I really didn't mind, and this way I could stay over the Saturday night and enjoy the lunar eclipse naked in an outdoor bath in Kobe, which is a totally normal thing to do here in Japan after a long afternoon of shooting...trust me on this one.
So the postcard shoot was to be at 7:30am (ouch) in front of this giant 1:1 statue of a robot from the Japanese anime Tetsujin 28. Many people know of the real sized Gundam that was built in Tokyo, but as you can see from the image above this is much more cartoonist and stylized than the sleek and futuristic design of the Gundam. I was told that this was built as a kind of symbol of the strength of the people in the area who have been able to rebuild after the devastating 1995 Hanjin/Awaji Earthquake, and it seems that it has become quite the land mark. Even at 7:30 there were other people there taking its picture.
The shoot itself was fairly easy, just COLD. As one of the performers was in bare feet, and the other with open shoulders like you can see here, I made sure to pose them and ready the photo with their jackets on, and then got them to take it off for the final shots. This went well, but it was still pretty cold for them. One new thing I was trying was using an umbrella with me SBs and Pocketwizards to light the performers. For my first try I think this went pretty well, with only a few miss shots because I didn't wait for the flash to refresh. I did kind of blow out the clouds in a couple shots, but as I was shooting RAW that was not hard to fix, and I am happy with the shots over all. The best thing is they were super happy with what I was able to deliver yesterday, so it was a good shoot no matter what I think.
The photo you see here is actually my favorite shot from the morning. As we were deciding on standing positions everyone started goofing around and laughing and I figured I would just fire off one to get a nice off shot. As they are performers they all had nice "faces" in the posed pictures, but I think this photo really shows into their character as amazing people who love what they are doing. Much more the type of photo I enjoying taking, but probably not the photo they will choose for the post card.
So that was my last official photo shoot of the year for my personal work, might get to do a bit more this week at the Uni though. Our double dutch teams placed 2nd and 3rd at the world championships held in the US so I might get a chance to shoot them this week, which would be sweet!
December 9th 2011
Not that I am being lazy with the blog, just hard to find time to write this week...really...
Anyways, this last weekend I was off to Awajishima and Kagawa Prefecture with my Uni job. The students were going to learn about the affects of the Hanshin/Awaji Earthquake that pretty much took out Kobe and the surrounding area in 1995 and take some time to learn how to make Sanuki Udon and Akashiyaki, two local dishes. My job was basically to tag along, help translate when needed, and take some pictures/video for our English website. Not a bad weekend really, even got to eat some really good Sanuki Udon and vanilla soft ice cream with real honey inside, mmmmmm.
I have done these kinds of trips before and one thing that is always a challenge is to not get in the way, and not be annoying with my flash. I tend to go into super ninja mode on these trips and try to shoot people's natural reactions to whatever they are doing, but so many times I really wish I had used my flash. Of course at some events like a school festival where there are 10,000 people wondering around and it could be at night I really don't care about flashing a few people (that sounds bad doesn't it) but on these small trips with 40 students I tend to stay away from it. I think that this is because when I am doing something personal I tend to hate people flashing like crazy when it is really not needed. Maybe I am being too sensitive, or maybe I should just flash first and ask questions later, but the last thing I want to do is make the students uncomfortable on the trip, and around me. This will be something I will have to work through over the next year. Might have to take one event and just flash it and see what happens.
The above video here is what I ended up throwing together from the video and images I took. Nothing too crazy, but I really wish my camera took better video!! I have the D300s which is great for photos, but now that I have been taking more and more videos for the Uni I really wish I had something better. I am picking up one of the new GoPro Hero2, but that won't be the end all and be all for sure. Maybe when the D400/D800 come out I will be able to upgrade...and not eat for a month, hahaha.
From 1999-2001 I spent a total of about 15 months living in Morioka City, and APPI Kougen (a ski resort just outside of Morioka) in Iwate prefecture. It was my first time in Japan and I was able to make lots of friends and have many amazing adventures. Over the years I have been able to pop up to the area for this and that, but never for as long as I would like. To me, Morioka is my “home town” here in Japan.
This is why when the Great Tohoku Disaster struck the area on March 11th I was glued to my TV, trying to see where was affected and if anyone I knew was lost. Morioka itself was spared for the most part, but as you probably know many costal communities were wiped off the map in the unimaginably massive tsunami that struck the entire coast line. One of my friends actually lived just across from the ocean in that area, and his house was destroyed, but luckily he was in the hills that day taking photos.
Since this tragic day I have had a longing to travel up to the area and see old friends, and visit the devastated areas for myself. However, for the longest time the people of these areas requested that those who do not NEED to come up, please stay away for now. With the scarce resources in the area after the disaster, the last thing people needed was another mouth to feed and body to keep warm; March is still a very cold time of the year in Tohoku if you didn’t know.
This last weekend though I was able to travel to Iwate with my job at the university. I was to photograph a group of students who were building a soccer ball shaped building that will be used as a gathering place for those people now living in temporary housing in the area. The spot was on top of this large cliff, just above the ocean, and was an amazing location to be hanging out and taking pictures at for two days. I even got to chat with a couple old ladies living by the site It was very interesting to hear them talk about how even if they are ever allowed to return to where their homes once were and rebuild, they would rather just stay where they are and live out the rest of their days in peace.
The last day of our trip had us head down to one coastal area that was severely affected by the tsunami. The city is (was?) named Otsuchi, and was a small coastal area that was dependant of the ocean for its way of life. Driving into the city you could immediately see a vast area near the coast that was now nothing more than foundations, and the odd large building that was reduced to nothing more that a few walls and steel girders.
We stopped the car and I was able to wonder around with my camera for about an hour before we would have to head to the airport. One thing I was honestly amazed at was the openness of the area. Looking at the foundations you could imagine how tightly packed the houses and businesses would have been crammed into the area, but now I could see hundreds of meters with almost nothing obstructing my view. Another thing that I was surprised at was that the buildings that remained were completely open, without any walls, fences, or tape to stop anyone from entering the dilapidated buildings.
And so I wandered. First entering the Otsuchi City Hall I was greeted with a surprising amount of rubble, giant holes punched through the walls, and a quietness that was just a little unnerving. From there I wandered around, moving from building to building, taking pictures of what I could find as I went. The library was pretty much destroyed, but someone had carefully stacked all the remaining books along the walls, as if someone might still want to check them out for the weekend.
At one point during my walk I had to stop taking pictures for a minuet and just look around with my unfiltered eyes. Even though I had seen countless images of the area on TV and in magazines over the last 9 months, I was still hit very hard at that moment with an intense feeling of sadness and grief. Feeling the tears running down my face it was very hard for me to not just break down right then and there.
Gaining my composure somewhat I used the last few minuets I had to slowly make my way back to the car, still shooting what I could see.
In the end I was only able to spend one hour in one community, and yet saw destruction on a scale that I never once though possible outside of a war zone. And this is 9 months after the original disaster! The entire area is still a long, long way from recovery in any sense of the word. It will take time, but looking at other areas of Japan such as Kobe, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, even Tokyo, if any country in the world can come back from something like this, it is Japan.
November 23rd 2011
So a while back I got an e-mail from some guy claiming to be from a mathematical publication called "eureka" (at The University of Cambridge no less) who wanted me to send over a couple high res images of my sequence photography for their next issue. Yea...sure...you work at a math magazine and you want my photos for your next "issue." Smoking much???
As you can tell I was just a little skeptical, so I jumped on the net and tracked down their site, and to my surprise the guys name was listed as one of the publishers. Ok, so I replied to the mail through the address on their site, and what do you know, they really did want a couple of my photos for a story they were doing. Cool.
So I sent off the photos and actually forgot about it for a couple months. Then, the other day, I got he issue in my e-mail, and well, nice! I have no idea what all the K(K(1)...stuff means, but the images turned out alright, and full page too, with my name to boot!
So, to all my Junior/High School math teachers who thought I was mentally challenged and just decided to give up and not even try to teach me, my work and name has been published in a predigest math publication from The University of Cambridge, has yours?? Didn't think so!
November 17th 2011
Looks like the photos from the weekend have been posted to the Red Bull Japan page! I am always interested, and a little scared, to see what photos are posted to the site. Sometimes I am a little curious as to why they posted some photos but did not post others, but it is always interesting to see the shots the other photographers got as it gives me ideas for other possible angles and ideas for future shoots.
Looking at the photos I only have about 5 shots in the album it self, which out of 27 from 4 photographers (all who are full time profession photographers) is not bad...but not that great either. But eh, I take what I can. Saying that, what I am most curious about is the picture they choose to be the main image for the event report. To me (and I could be VERY wrong about this but) this should be the best shot with the most impact so that it makes you want to check out the rest of the pictures. I am not sure if this is really "the best photo from the day" but I am really happy that they have chosen to allow my photo to stand out like this on the top of the report. Kind of feels that although I may have lots the battle (number of photos in the album) I may have won he war (getting the top image).
Anyways, I will take these little pats on the back when I can get them, and learn from what I see of the other photographers, both positive and negative. Too bad that was my last Red Bull event of the year, but something tells me 2012 is going to be an even more interesting than 2011!
November 14th 2011
Had my last Red Bull event of the year this weekend! Of course I wish I was able to shoot these events every day, but part of me is looking forward to working on other projects for the remainder of the year. Anyways, the event was the 2011 Red Bull Holy Ride at Ishizuchi Temple on the island of Shikoku. As I was not really happy with my results from last year's Holy Ride I was really looking forward to this year's, and even got some new equipment for the job.
Because the event was in Shikoku, me and another photographer flew from Osaka on the Friday before the event and met the Red Bull crew at the airport. This was my first time flying with Red Bull so I was pretty excited. Nothing really happened on the flight, just read some stuff on my iPad, but it was fun none the less.
Once we arrived we waited around for the guys flying in from Tokyo, then all jumped in the rental cars and raced off to the event site. After a bit of a detour (which I didn't mind because we drove through some really nice mountains) we reached the temple, before it got dark, so we all took a quick walk of the course. If you have not seen the pictures yet, the course basically takes advantage of the long stone stairways of the temple, forcing the riders down the stairs at crazy speeds. I am sure I would have died on the first set in about 3 seconds if I was ever crazy enough to try it, but these guys killed it, with very few crashes. Compared to last year the course was shorter, but much more opened and varied than last year, and easier to shoot as well.
At the start of our little walk we bumped into Filip Polc, who was the official Red Bull rider for the event. I actually shot him once before at a Red Bull event in Nagoya a couple years ago so I was curious to see if he remembered me, and he did! We chatted for a sec then, but I was also able to chat with him throughout the event. This helped a lot actually because it made it much easier when I wanted to get some portraits of him during and after the event. I think this is one major advantage I have over the Japanese photographers with Red Bull, as I can freely chat with the overseas riders and make a connection that the other photographers might not be able to make. The funny thing is, although I would love to ask them a bunch of questions about what they do, many of these athletes often chat me up about living in Japan, speaking Japanese, and other things like that, haha.
That night we stayed at the temple, and the the next day started at a very, very dark (as in still night time) 5:30. Getting up early I headed out to scope out some spots and get some lifestyle shots of the preparations. Even though most of the shots taken at these times are never really used, I like this time because it allows me to warm up and meet some of the people. As everyone got ready though I was running around and figuring out where to shoot, and basically getting into work mode.
Once the event started all four of us photographers moved around the course, making sure no two people were shooting the same place at the same time. This was rather hectic, but I found I was able to get a much wider variety of shots than last year, and am generally happy with the results. There are of course still areas I need to work on, like the proper set up of my strobes, low/close panning with the fisheye, and things like that, but I am happy with the 20+ photos I was able to submit to Red Bull's content pool last night. I am especially happy with a couple of the portraits I took of Philip, one of which can be seen here. No perfect by any means, but something I would not have been able to take last year.
All in all this was a very informative and enjoyable weekend, and I am already looking forward to the first Red Bull event of 2012!! I have added the other photos to my Red Bull gallery so please make sure to check them out if you can.
November 10th 2011
Sorry for the lack of blog updates, been rather run off my feet these days and any time I have to relax I am making sure to try and take it. Saying that, things have been hectic with photography at the university these days, so I am at least having fun with my busy days.
One day in particular was one of the university's Gakuensai (school festival) that was held last Sunday. If you have never been to a Japanese university Gakuensai then it is a little hard to explain what is going on, but simply put, it is a day or two where all the clubs and groups get out on campus, set up stalls to sell food, perform on stage, have demonstrations, and all sorts of fun things like this. It takes up the entire campus, and tons of students and people from the local area come out to enjoy the day. It really is a lot of fun, and if you are in Japan and one of these is happening in your area you really should go check it out.
My job for the day was to shoot the Gakuensai, as in everything happening during the 8hs of the festival! This is not that easy of a feat, and had me going back and forth across the campus, going from one venue to the next, trying to cover as many of the events and stages as possible. I must have walked the entire 8hs of the day (my legs were pretty dead when I got home) but I think I was able to get a nice amount of coverage of the different events. Looking back I think the funnest events to try and shoot were the pro wrestling club (need to get out and shoot them again some time) and the various dancers on the main stage. The students really get into what they are doing and work hard at putting on a good show.
One thing that surprised me though was just how excited a lot of the students got when I went to take their picture. Although I had my name card and an arm badge showing I worked for the school, I don't think many of the students saw past the fact that I am non-Japanese (or gaijin) and seemed to just be super excited that a non-Japanese wanted to take their picture. I could be wrong, but that was the vibe I got. This made the day so easy and fun for me, and really helped pump me up and keep me going through to the night, even though all I had the whole time was 3 croquette and a CC Lemon, haha.
At the end of the night I must say I was beat! By the time I got home all I could do was microwave some 7/11 pasta and crack open a couple beers before it was time to hit the sack. Not a bad way to end a fun day though, haha.
November 3rd 2011
Been down with a cold this last week so I haven't really had the energy to do anything other than play video games and drink Canadian Dry. Feeling better today though so I thought I would write about last weekends "adventure" in Kobe and Awajishima.
The plan for the weekend was head to Kobe Saturday night, hang out with the Ching-Dul guys, and then head to Awajishima the next day to shoot their performance in a private bamboo forest. Sounds good right. Saturday was pretty good actually. I had my cold then as well so I couldn't drink much more than plum wine with hot water (really good by the way!) but the gentleman you see was such a funny guy. He is the owner of the place my friends took me (they go there ALL the time) and is quite the character. The only English he knew was "pretty good" which he liked to use for everything! I kept telling him his food was not "pretty good" but VERY good, but he would just laugh and give me this face, haha. Good times for sure!
SO the next day it was off to Awajishima, and wouldn't you guess it, rain... As we were driving it wasn't that bad, and even when we got there and walked around the site it seemed like we could have done it outside in the forest, but as time went on it got stronger, and stronger...and even stronger. So, the event got moved inside, to a home made stage in this large room. Not the best place I have shot to say the least. The entire place was made of exposed plywood, and there was only one light on the stage for most of the time, near the back so the performers were all back light. I tried to shoot, did everything I could short of standing up in the middle and flashing like crazy, but it was of no use. All I could really do is enjoy the music, and hope my cold doesn't turn to pneumonia while I sat in the cold room.
Originally we had planned to head into the bamboo forest after the performance and do some shots, which would have really been amazing, but the rain was too strong, and the ground too wet already. I was so disappointed, tired, sick, and frustrated that all I really wanted to do was go home, but we were invited for dinner so we had to stay for a couple more hours. Everyone was super nice and I would normally love a free meal, but there are some times you just want to be home and done with everything, and this was one of those times, haha.
The one good thing that came out of this was I was able to get the guys to promise that we would head back before the end of the year and do a straight up photo shoot, yea! I hope we can get there, and I can show how cool of a place it is. Just hope it dose NOT rain when we go next time, haha.
October 25th 2011
Last night was the first game of the RITSUDOSEN here in Kyoto. If you are unaware, the RITSUDOSEN is a set of baseball games between rivals Ritsumeikan University and Doshisha University. This rivalry goes back quite a while and both schools are quite serious about it to say the least. If nothing else it helps to add to the drama of the game and makes it exciting for everyone.
This was my first time shooting the RITSUDOSEN for the school as they usually have a photographer they hire, but since he was unavailable last night I was asked to go, yea! I spent the first couple innings in the camera "bench" which is right beside the team's bench. Although there were a couple of TV cameras in the room I was able to move around just fine, and had a great view of the home, the pitcher, second, and first. The only unfortunate part is I don't have a nice telephoto lens so I was using the 55-300 that my work has. The zoom was more than enough, but as it was a night game I was shooting on something like f/5 as my maximum aperture at 250, and was forced to crank the ISO just to try and get some good balance. The shots I got from here were OK I guess, and got lucky with a few plays at first and second, but I really wish I had a faster lens! Now I see why everyone has expensive glass at the pro games.
After a while though I decided to change positions to the reporter's room just behind home plate, this is where I got the shot you see here. As you would imagine, I was having to shoot through a window and a net, but with the zoom I was using the net got blurred out so much you don't even notice it in the shot. As far as the kind of photo I was looking to get, this position was much better. I was able to fill the lens with the players, and as the ball was coming directly at me, allowing me to more or less freeze its motion with relatively little difficulty. Other than having to shoot with a pretty bad lens, and deal with the lights of the stadium, I think it turned out ok.
The rest of the game I headed up into the stands and mainly took photos of the people and cheerleaders freaking out and cheering like crazy. If you have never been to a Japanese baseball game watch the 1992 movie "Mr. Baseball" with Tom Selleck. Although our game is on a much smaller scale, it will give you a pretty accurate view of what is going on in the stadium. Pretty fun really, but I think I was too close to one of the huge drums they use...the thing was SO loud! At least the cheerleaders are nice, accommodating and always willing to smile for the camera.
All in all it was a fun night. We ended up winning 1-0 so that was great too! And I was on TV too! There is another game tonight but as the school has hired another guy to come and shoot I think I will just relax and watch the game, maybe shoot some more of the cheerleaders, haha.
October 14th 2011
It is done! I just got the finished version of Hirofumi's CD cover that I shot I few weeks ago at Fushimiinari Shrine here in Kyoto. I tended to like the images you can see posted in this blog below, but I really like how this looks now that it is all done. I think I like how I was able to use the flash here off to the left with a gel to give the photo a darker, kind of evening look, even thought it was shot in the mid-afternoon. This is done by lowering your WB to about 3000 and then tossing on one of the orange gels that came with my SB-800 unit. Pretty easy, and as you can see the end results make the surrounding light kind of blueish/darker, while the light from the flash is brought back to normal with the gel. Having seen this done on Kelby Training just a day or so before the shoot I am pretty happy I was able to pull it off =)
Taking pictures is obviously a blast, but taking pictures that end up being part of something many people will see (and hopefully buy) is really amazing, like in a kind of addictive way that has me wanting to do more of this kind of thing much sooner than later. Have to get to work on that. If anyone has a need for anything like this feel free to give me a shout!
October 12th 2011
One of the nice things about my "real job" is that I get to travel via bicycle between two of our campuses several times a week. On nice days this is really enjoyable as I take a bit of a slow rout that sends me right up and through a couple nice temples in the area. On the way home last week I was riding by one of the temples when all of a sudden my way seemed block by a large amount of people crowding the street I was about to turn down. Stopping to see what was the commotion, it turned out there was a small parade coming down the street with people pulling cows, riding in buggies, and little kids dressed up as you see here.
Since I was coming back from a shoot at the other campus I had my camera in my bag ready to go so I jumped off my bike and squatted down as low as I could so I could get some pictures of the dressed up kids. No one seemed to mind so I just kept shooting away, but I did have to get out of the way of the cows a coupe times, don't want to get kicked by those big guys.
Although I wish I could have shot longer the parade was pretty much over as soon as I started shooting, and only got a chance to capture a few images. This is my favorite one by far I would have to say, as the composition allows you to see the women in the background with their kimono and the girl is looking at me as well. Plus I love all the details in her dress. As it was a little dark I shot on a pretty huge aperture so the DOF is pretty strong, but I like how that allows the girl to jump out of the image a little more than if everything was tack sharp.
So ya, if you ever wonder why people get stuck living in Kyoto, I think one reason is that you can still come across things like this on an every day basis, allowing one to enjoy the culture of this country in many unique and surprising ways.
October 9th 2011
Although it was about 24 degrees out and there is no snow to be found on any hills that I know of, today was my first day of the 2011 snowboard season. Not that we altered nature, we just went to an indoor hill and enjoyed a morning of riding the rails and boxes. I didn't actually ride myself and I would have most likely killed myself, but instead spent the morning taking pictures of the riders. As there were some pro and semi pro riders at the event it was lots of fun because they were throwing down some nice tricks, and some seemed to even follow me around the venue so I could get lots of pictures of them, haha.
This event was the first time I have been able to try out my new pocket wizards and SB-900, at all. As I just got them both last week I wasn't even really able to play with them much in my room, but I must say I am very happy with how they performed at the event! Even though the room was about -5 I had no problems with the batteries or any other aspect of the pocket wizards. The SB-900 is also amazingly easy to use, huge, but super easy to use. Still getting used to it, but I think I will have a great time using it in the months to come. I am also super looking forward to using the pocket wizards and the new SB-900 in conjunction with my current SB-800. As I have written below I am trying to lean more about photography and hope that with the addition of these new tools I will be able to get some cool shots at the next Red Bull event in November.
Anyways, it was a good time and I think it worked out well in the end, and I am looking forward to getting out with the new setup again as soon as I can =)
You can check out the rest of the snowboard gallery, cheers!
Sorry to keep it so short, it was been a busy weekend.
October 5th 2011
Two posts in one day...been a while since I could do that.
Anyways, these days I have been busy with so many things other than photography that I am having a hard time to get out with the camera like I used to. But, to keep me motivated and thinking of new ideas I thought I should start doing some reading and other kinds of research into photography and photoshop techniques. What you see here are two books, and a website that I have recently invested in.
The book on the right (by Scott Kelby) is something that just arrived so I have not really delved into it too much but from the looks of it will be a good introduction to studio shooting and post production with photoshop. The layout seems easy to follow, so I am hoping it will give me a little heads up for possible future projects.
The second book here is by Joe McNally and is more of a book of stories than a "manual" of photography techniques. But the way he writes is absolutely priceless. It is like you are sitting with Joe and chatting about photography over a beer. I highly recommend this book because it is easy to read, and is not all "technical" but dose have mountains of amazing information. I must give it to Joe for producing such an informative yet fun to read book. Can't wait to find some more time to finish it.
In the middle here you will find my iPad, with a screen shot of the Kelby Training site. If you don't know what Kelby Training is it is a site that has TONES of exclusive instructional videos on everything from photography to graphic design. Oh, and the people that do the videos are people like Joe McNally and other well know professional photographers. Watching a few of the lessons you notice the differences in the photographer's styles, but you really pick up a lot from each of the lessons. For me this is a little easier than reading a book because you can really see the process people take when shooting, and all the different steps they go through. At $150 or so a year it is really a bargain for the vast amount of information available. I hope to be able to find the time to watch many videos, and use that knowledge to further improve as a photographer. I actually already used a simple flash technique that I saw on one of the videos and that was the shot that will be used for the final project, cool!
Anyways, when I can't get out with the camera I want to try and learn what I can, as you can never learn too much, especially when everything is changing so darn fast!!
October 5th 2011
As I have written below, when I was in Austria for my internship at Red Bull Photofiles I got to take pictures of Neymar Santo's visit to Red Bull's Hanger 7, which is basically a place the owner of Red Bull shows off all his nice toys. The shoot itself was pretty fun for me, hectic, but fun, and I ended up getting images that we casual but showed Neymar having fun and enjoying his time, just what RB was asking for.
Now, almost two months later, the guys at photofiles, Luke and Leo, have been ever so kind as to send me this photo showing that one of my photos (outlined in pink here) from the day was published in the current Red Bulletin, a magazine RB produces each month of RB goings on. Although this is not the larges photo ever, it is my third time in the issue, and with each time there is the greater chance of people seeing my images, and my name. Woo hoo!
Thanks again for sending that over guys! I hope to get more e-mails like this in the future =)
September 27th 2011
Now don't get me wrong, I love my smugmug site here, but after a couple years of working with it I have uploaded literally thousands of pictures of tones of different events, making it kind of hard for people to find "my best photos." This is why I have decided to bite the bullet, pay some cash, and get a nice, clean, and simple portfolio site.
After looking around the net for the last couple months I had come across many different sites that would host photographic and other types of portfolios, all at different prices from free, to pretty expensive. Each one had their own positive and negative aspects, but I was more interested in overall layout and look of the sites more than anything else. After looking at LOTS of other photographer's sites I kept noticing that many of the ones I really liked we being hosted by a service called Livebooks.
Now this is by far not the cheapest site to use, but I really like how clean the site is, and how easy it is to get everything up and going. After the free trail period where I pretty much got the site to where I want it I have now "gone live" and the site is up for the world to see. I still have LOTS of work to do, but please check it out when you have a sec. I will still be using this site of course, but the other site will be a doorway for people to meet me and see my best images. I hope to be able to use it as motivation to get some better single shots as well and not just sit and wait for the next event.
Anyways, here is the site! Check it out!
September 25th 2011
On facebook the other day checking out some stuff and I noticed Elias Ambuhl had changed his profile picture on his page to the photo you see here. Now I know I like the picture, but to know that Elias likes it so much that he decided to make it his profile picture for thousands to see is AMAZING! Taking this photo was lots fun but I am supper happy it is being used in the ways it is.
Also, as you can see up here, the image is also being used on the official Red Bull profile page for Elias, yea!
Anyways, hope to do more work like this in the future! Let me know if you need any done =)
September 18th 2011
Last Sunday I was able to head over to a gym in Osaka for the Murasaki Skate School 2011. As the weather in Japan has been poor this year Murasaki Sports decided to hold the school in a gym, and build a park that the kids could enjoy. Great for the participants, bad for photos!
When I arrived the first thing I thought when I was the gym was "man, that is DARK!". There was no way I would be able to take any photos without the use of my flash and my flash cable. Trust me, I tried. But using my cable and shooting on camera I am at least able to raise the sync-speed of my camera, so it was not really that big of a problem, only that I could not shoot bursts of photos like I usually do for skate and that.
So as the event was a school I started by trying to get shots of the kids and the pros working together and enjoying the event. It was nice to see the pros really taking the time to talk with the kids and encourage them to try new tricks. Many of them were able to get better thanks to the pros' advice, and everyone really had a good time.
Noticing that the kids were getting better, and getting used to me shooting them, I then decided to try and capture some tricks of each of the participants. As some people were only learning how to do ollies this was not too easy, but I think in the end I got some shots that they should be happy with for sure. One little girl in particular really surprised me as she kept dropping in from about a 2m height and hit this one table top over and over again. She was getting really close to clearing to whole thing too! Something riders twice her age were not even able to do. I think if she keeps up with riding she should be pretty good in a few years!! I hope to run into her again then.
In the end the event went over very well and everyone had a great time, even if they super hot and sweaty the whole day! I was actually feeling a little sick from the heat, but managed to keep it together enough to enjoy some beer and korean BBQ for dinner with my good friend Yuya. Best beer I have had in a long time, haha.
Anyways, the pictures are in the SK8 gallery, so check um out if you like.
September 14th 2011
Last year at about the start of the snowboard season me and a friend of mine met up in Osaka for a Burton World Tour event. My friend's friend was actually participating in the event as both a Burton sponsored rider and the DJ for the opening act, a rap group called Soul Eater. As I had my camera (hoping to get some shots of the pros there) I decided to get some shots of the guys performing. Long story short, the guys liked the shots and I have been in contact with them in one way or another for the last year now.
Fast forward to last week, having a solo CD coming out soon one of the rappers, Hirofumi Kataoka, contacted me and wanted to meet up to do a shoot, yea! Since I have been back from Austria I have been wanting to do more shoots like this so it was perfect timing.
As Hirofumi didn't really have a clear idea of what he wanted it was up to me to brainstorm some ideas. Having lived in Kyoto for 8 years I have been almost everywhere so I cam up with a couple spots I thought would look simple and clean, but still be recognizable as Japan, as he did mention that he wanted to show that aspect in the cover.
Our first location was a HUGE set of stone steps that lead up to a temple located in Higashiyam. If you watch "Last Samurai" carefully you will see it there as well. After taking a few test shots it was looking like Hirofumi was kind of blending into the stairs too much so I decided to toss my SB-800 in behind him and a little ways up on the stairs so that I could use the flash to outline him in light from behind. Wow, what a difference that made! Even with his dark jacket (it was about 32 out but he wanted to wear the jacket as the CD is coming out in the fall/winter) he really popped out from the stairs. After a few more shots he struck a pose with his hand up in the air so I thought it might be interesting to try and outline just his hand, but what happened was the hand was not directly covering the flash, so I got this bright ball of light coming out of his hand. COOL! Sometimes little mistakes like this can help create something you never intended, but end up liking more than the original concept. My advice when this happens, act like you meant to do it and everyone will think you are amazing, hahaha.
I should mention here that I was about 50-60ms away from the flash, and it was super bright out, and I could not see the flash for most of the shots, so the flash trigger system built into my D300s and SB-800 would not of worked. For this I popped on my pocket wizards and shot in manual. It really took no time to set up, but as you can see it was worth it for sure.
The rest of the shoot had us wondering around Higashiyama trying a few different things, and then heading down to Fushimi Inari Shrine, where I got eaten by about a million mosquitoes. I love the place, but should remember to always wear pants there.
So this shoot was basically the first time I have really played with my single SB-800 and I must say I am pretty happy with the results. Thanks to my pocket wizards I was able to place the flash exactly where I wanted it without having to worry about line of sight for even two seconds. I will be getting some more equipment soon and hope to be able to keep shooting people like this in whatever time I can find. Care to join me?
You can check out the rest of the pictures at the link below: http://jason-halayko.smugmug.com/Music/Hirofumi-Photoshoot/19009279_nwssZc#1477216614_tSvzBHS
Been a crazy busy week for me for many reasons OTHER than photography, but I have managed to get through my photos from the weekend's FMX event and have added them to my 2011 FMX gallery.
The event itself was held in an area just by the ocean in Osaka, at a Hip Hop party that lasts from 6pm to 6am! As I am not a huge fan of Japanese hip hop I made sure I was there just in time to chat with the guys and get some pre-event shots before they jumped. Unfortunately, the weather here in Japan has been less than ideal these days and their first run that was supposed to be at 7pm was canceled, booo. Oh well, more time to hang out and take shots of the guys getting ready. I actually really like this time as the guys just let me take whatever I want and it is a great way for me to practice my "off-shots" and stuff like that. This time I got quite a few off-shots that I really like, so make sure you check them out.
By the next time slot rolled around the ground had dried quite a bit, thanks to everyone's hard work, and the guys were ready to go. One problem was that because of the hard rain during the whole day the guys could not do any practice in the day, so this was their first time jumping at the site. I am told that when you are riding at night you feel like you are going faster than you really are, and this is a really bad thing when you are jumping 20 some odd meters. One of the younger guys jumping, Rob, didn't seem to be able to adjust for this properly and landed a little short on his first jump, almost get tossed, but managed to just slide out into the crash pads. He was fine, and tried again, this time even pulling a trick, but when he came down he was still way short, and his bike tossed him about 5ms onto the concrete bellow. From where I was standing I could see everything and it looked like it really hurt, and he was. For a few minuets it was honestly very, very scary to watch him lie there with everyone around him yelling his name and telling him to breath. I really think it could have gone both ways for a bit, but he stuck in it and was soon taken away in an ambulance. In the end he broke his collar bone, cracked his hips, and punctured one of his lungs. He will be ok, but it will be a few months at least until he riders again.
Situations like these always have me conflicted as a photographer. Standing there with my camera I am unsure if I should shoot photos to show the dangers of the sport, or just keep the camera down and focus on helping a friend in need. I always seem to choose the former as I personally don't feel comfortable taking these shots and don't want to show friends in their most vulnerable, but always think I should get at least one or two shots. What are your thoughts on the matter?
After the accident that show was over, but the guys came back and rode again two more times during the night. I was happy they decided to ride as I was there to practice with my strobe and night FMX. As you can see the strobe (a single SB-800+pocket wizard) was lighting the riders up quite nice, but in the end I realized I still need much more practice with this, and may even have to buy a more powerful light if it looks like this is something I will be doing more in the future. My strobe was great to spotlight the rider in the air, but if I want to light more of the surrounding area it is not quite enough. Oh well, live and learn.
In the end I stayed at the event until about 5:30am, then caught the first train back to Kyoto. It was a long night, but looking back I am very glad I decided to go.
August 27th 2011
Was back in Japan for less than a week and Red Bull had me heading up to Chiba, which is an area outside of Tokyo, for the Red Bull Rising Spirit event. Fukushima was not the only area affected by the earthquake on 3.11, many areas in Chiba also suffered great amounts of damage. To help cheer the people in the area up Red Bull decided to hold an FMX and fireworks event at the local Aeon Mall.
As I was heading up from Kyoto RB wanted me there the day before to check out the site and get some ideas for shots and that. After getting picked up in Tokyo it was a three hour drive to the site, with only one stop for some amazing sushi! It was soo good but I will never be able to find the place again, haha. The only problem that we had this day was the insane rain that was falling in Tokyo. So much so that my shinkansen was actually delayed by about 30mins, good thing I always leave a little early!
Arriving at the venue I was greeted by all the FMX riders who were in the process of building the landing platform. As this was the first time to see many of them since the earthquake I was very relived to see their happy faces, and talk to them about how everything was going. To my surprise two of them had gotten married and one is now trying to have kids. WOW! So much can happen in 5 months, haha. After chatting me and another photographer wondered around the site and picked some good spots to shoot from, and then it was off to the hotel for dinner and sleep...ZZZzzzZZZ
After a quick Japanese breakfast of fish, miso soup, nato, and more things I still don't really enjoy for breakfast, it was off to the site. When we arrived the guys were putting the finishing touches on the jump so everything looked like it would go fine, until we noticed the wind. In FMX a tail wind is ok, but a head or cross wind are not very good. At the site that day we had a head wind, and a pretty strong one at that. So, even though they had spent the whole evening and morning setting up, the guys decided to take everything down and reverse the set up! OK...so no time to practice I guess. In the end thought this was a good decision as they were still able to jump as planned.
Although I shoot lots of FMX, a Red Bull FMX event is different. Normally I am free to take whatever, but with Red Bull you HAVE to have the logo in EVERY SHOT, but not so much that it is offensive or obvious. This is a challenge to say the least. In the shot you see here this was pretty easy as I was shooting down with my fisheye and was able to get the jump and the car in the shot without any problems. But shooting from below was much more challenging as often I only had one small sign to work with. In the end I was able to get shots RB liked, but I really wish I had gotten better ones myself.
All in all though it was a great event, and I was even able to take some portraits of the guys that RB seemed to like as well, yea! Oh, and I even meet up with an old friend from my days at the ski hill in Iwate!! This was great as he is a really good photographer and I hope to be able to exchange information with him in the near future!!
The photos from the day are up in my FMX gallery, so check um out when you can!!
August 17th 2011
Having finished my internship last Saturday I am back home now in Japan. I am pretty tiered from the busy last week I had I Austria and didn't get much of a chance to write about it here so I am going to make a couple updates during this week for any one interested.
So, last Thursday I was asked to go to Hanger-7 at the Salzburg airport and shoot a young soccer player from Brazil named Neymar Santos. If you follow soccer you probably know who this kid is (apparently he is the next Pele or something like that) but I had no clue until I asked my good friend Mr. Google. The idea of the time at Hanger-7 was to let him wonder around and really enjoy himself, and I would get photos. As he really seemed to be having fun it was not all that hard to get shots of him laughing and looking like he was having a good time. The only things that really made the time difficult/frustrating were the 6 people with Neymar that would never leave his side (so getting single shots of him alone was a rather tricky task) and the film crew who seemed to think I didn't exist and love to go right in front of me without even so much of a look.
In the above photos you can see one of the times Neymar was alone, sitting in the cockpit of an attack helicopter playing war. I must admit I would probably do the same thing if I got a chance to sit in there, haha
All in all it was a hectic shoot but I was able to get all the shots requested of me and in the end had a pretty good time. And really, Hanger-7 is a pretty cool place to shoot! After my shoot though Neymar and the crew headed off to a second location where there was actually a photo shoot set up, but that didn't go according to plan from what I hear. Too bad to because they had some really cool stuff planed too!
August 7th 2011
Coming up to my last week of my of my internship here in Austria! The last 5 weeks have been busy to say the least, but I really think I have been given many tools and skills that will help me further improve my photography when I return home to Japan in just over one week. One of these news skills is 3D photography. Although I am personally not a huge fan of 3D TV and movies and all that other stuff, there seems to be a demand for 3D, so knowing how and being able to produce these images is a good selling point for myself.
Normally 3D images are achieved by shooting the same scene with two different cameras set at slightly different angles, then those images are merged. However, since I only have one camera I have learned how to do the image in post with the help of a rather un-known program called Photoshop, ever ear of it? Although the process doesn't seem to difficult, it dose take a little time and patience to get the effect right, but not too over exaggerated. If you have some 3D glasses lying around you will see how the 3 images above are slightly different in the amount of depth that has been achieved in the image. I am still not sure which one I like more, but it is good to know the effect can really make everything pop out quite well. I hope I am able to utilize this technique in Red Bull, FMX, and other events in the future and have my images stand out just that much more.
Well, as it is a rainy Sunday here in Austria I think I might just be taking a well deserved "quiet day" and try to organize some stuff to help my last week go smoothly. Then again, someone is bound to call, hehe.
July 28th 2011
These last two weeks of my internship have had me learning all sorts of new things with photoshop that I really should have picked up by now, but never seemed able to learn. Things like proper color-correction, sharpening, retouching of faces, and other things that really reads to be done to photos before they are submitted to places like Red Bull’s content pool. Although not the “funnest” aspect of photography by a long shot, it is really something any professional, or striving to be professional, photographer must learn at some point. I know I have not been taught everything there is to know about PS (that would take YEARS), and this is simply an introduction, so I hope to be able to keep learning on my own when I get back to Japan. At least now I have a couple friends here that I can ask for advice and help when needed!
Also this week I was able to go through about 30+ feedbacks that have been sent out to Red Bull photographers around the world. If you don’t know, Red Bull photographers often get detailed feedback on shoots with many points of positive feedback and constructive criticism. These were great to read through and see what kind of common mistakes are being made around the world, and it is good to know that I am not the only photographer still in the process of improving my skills. I hope that the two pages of notes I was able to get become a good guideline for future shoots that I do for Red Bull and other companies as well.
The photos you see above here are of a co-worker here named Mike. We have been heading out to the local skate park with Leo and I have been able to play with my remote flash and try a couple different techniques. This has been great for me as it is a really relaxed atmosphere, and Leo has been giving me lots of advice. Also, I had a bit of extra time at the end of the day yesterday so I thought I would take pretty much everything I have learned so for with PS and see what I could do to the shots. I really like how they have turned out as they look much, much better than the originals. I especially like the sky, as it was pretty much blown out it the original shots.
Anyways, still lots to learn an do today as well! Just two and a half weeks left in the internship so I have to keep busy. Wish me luck!!
July 23rd 2011
Three weeks down and three to go, in my internship that is. This week, as you know, had me coming back from Madrid and working on my photos from last week with Elias Ambuhl in photoshop to get them just perfect for uploading to the Red Bull server. Although I thought I kind of knew my way around photoshop like any decent photographer dose...this was apparently NOT the case.
I tend to not do too much post production on my shots, for a couple of reasons: One would be to save time, and the other would be because what I know really only takes 2mins to do, haha. But this week we went into the depth on masking layers and using them to affect just the areas and parts of the pictures you want to. At first I didn't really think that the photos needed too much work, but after a few minuets of watching the guys show me a few techniques I could see a clear difference in the photos. I can't really go into too much detail as to what we went over exactly, but I think these basic ideas will help me get better, cleaner photos in the future. As we will be going on to more advanced post production next week, I am looking forward to learning even more, cool techniques to help improve my photos and bring me into the 21st century of photography!
Another aspect of the week was getting some honest constructive criticism of my recent photos. Most of the time in Japan and back in Canada everyone who sees my photos is like, "wow, these are great!" and that is about it. But here the staff and my boss are all very used to seeing and shooting amazing photos, and it is their job to inform me as to when and why I am not meeting the Red Bull standards. It is a huge hit to the pride, but things I needed to hear for sure. Getting photos that I liked criticized is hard, but taking it as a learning opportunity I feel what they have taught me will make me an even better photographer. Just have to make sure I don't make the same errors in my next shootings!
Oh, and there was some good news this week as well. Out of the five photos I sent to be uploaded from the Elias shoot, all were accepted, and two even found their way to the highlight section of the Red Bull Content Pool!! There are a ton of really amazing images in these highlight sections, so I am really happy to have two images from my first athlete shoot make there way in. Now to keep up that level for my next shoots here and back in Japan!!
Lastly, I have also posted my photos from the two days in Madrid at X-Fighters to the Red Bull section on my site. There are about 200 pics in the folder so take your time if you are going to check um out!
Anyways, LOTS to get through over the next three weeks! I will try to keep posting so make sure you check back =)
July 17th 2011
X-Fighters is over and I find myself in my hotel room here in Madrid thinking where did the time go. The last 3 days here have been an amazing and humbling experience. On the one had I have been able to participate in probably the most interesting and historical X-Fighters, seen the back stage action of the photographers and media, and got to hang out with Eigo Sato in a way I have not done yet. This has truly been amazing and something that I will hold dear for a long time to come.
On the other hand, with various riders crashing, including Eigo, an inability to get the images I was hoping for for various reason’s such as equipment limitations, venue limitations, mobility limitations, and maybe me being a little too carful to not step on any toes or cause problems (lived in Japan too long??). During the practice sessions I was able to get some good shots over all I think, but as there was zero crowd, and Eigo was out for the second day before I could get some up close shots, there is not much merit for Red Bull. And although I used my 24-70/2.8 during the finals and got some decent sequences, I really wish I had been able to bring a 70-200/2.8 to shoot some closer up pictures at night like I had gotten during the day.
This brings me to something a good friend of mine said to me during the event, “J, you should really get serious and get all the lenses you need.” Thinking about this I know he is right. If I want to really compete and work at an international level I need to at least have the standard lenses and other gear that are used by every photographer. Flashes and strobes and that are something else I also want, but before that I think I need another lens or two...but I am soooo poor!!!hahaha. When I get home I will have to set up a budget and see what I can do.
So now that the event is over and I have a full computer of images to go through all there is to do is head to the airport and sit for a couple hours and go over this $h!t. I know I have some decent images, but I really wana come back here in a year or so and get my revenge on this event! Not sure if I will be able to do it, but I think it will be a good goal for me to keep in mind while shooting in Japan. I for sure don’t want this to be my first and last chance to shoot FMX internationally! I think in some way I have grown from this experience and I hope to keep that growth and progression alive for the coming years. Wish me luck!
Oh ya, I forgot to mention anything about the above image. This is the winner of this year’s X-Fighters Madrid, Danny Torres doing something at only he can do. I like how this sequence came out, just wish I could have been a little further back to get the landing in as well, but this was a 32m hit, so it was HUGE to say the least!
July 15th 2011
In Spain right now enjoying the X-Fighters. This is my first time at a major international event as a photographer and I must say it is pretty amazing. Normally there is a tight crew of four guys who shoot the X-Fighters for Red Bull, but with a little luck I have been able to join as the invisible extra man. I am not officially part of their team by any means, but they are letting me enjoy the experience and learn what I can from the event. In this way I don't have the same pressures, and won't have to stay until 4:00am tonight to finish the photos like they will, but I do miss out on a couple things. But really, I am just happy to be here.
If you don't already know, the venue it self is a bull fighting ring they have converted into a FMX course. It is really tight, and actually much smaller than I expected, but I think once everyone gets into the ring tonight it will be pretty cool as the bikes are right there in front of you. So far I have only really shot practice, and some off shots of Eigo in the paddock, but it has been fun for sure. I was hoping to get a little more time with Eigo, but the riders are so focused it is hard to drag them away for some pictures. Even worse is that Eigo has hurt his knee and will not be jumping in the main event, even though he qualified 6th, booo. That was kind of the whole reason I had come...but I guess I will try and take what I can and enjoy the event to its most!
I will write more tomorrow or so on the actual event, but for now, this shot you see here is of Red Bull rider Robbie Maddison doing his now signature move the volt. It is a pretty cool move, with Robbie spinning 360 on the bike while the bike stays in forward motion. The only problem is it seems the trick is still not perfect, and he crashed once in practice yesterday, as well as today really hard. He has been taken to the hospital, but I hope he is alright!! I was hoping to get the same sequence with all the crowd in the shot tonight, but I guess that will have to wait for someone else. Too bad.
Anyways, now I am just hanging out in a friend's room waiting for the real event tonight. Not sure what kind of pictures I am going to be able to get, but I know it is going to be a crazy time! And the after party should be pretty nice too!!
July 13th 2011
It is only Wednesday and it has already been a pretty packed week. Monday had me shooting portraits for the boss of the agency I am doing my internship at. Considering he is a very accomplished and well know photographer in his own right, plus my boss, I was a little nervous about the shoot to say the least. Even worse was that he is an very, very busy man so I would only be able to shoot him for about 10-15 mins. Oh ya, did I mention these shots would be used as his media pictures...ya, just a little pressure here, haha.
But he came out and we started chatting and shooting, the shoot went really well. He is a really nice man and was in no way out to intimidate me when shooting. He gave me some ideas, and listened to my requests without hesitating, it was quite fun actually. In the end I gave him a selection of photos and he choose four that he liked the best, I was happy to see that two the shots he picked were my favorites as well, yea!
Yesterday, Tuesday to be specific, had me out helping a well know Red Bull photographer shoot the 9 time champion of the Red Bull high diving series, Orlando Duque, If you follow the high diving series you would know that Orlando actually broke his leg really bad in a sky diving accident, putting him out for the season. As such, he was visiting Red Bull’s training center (an AMAZING building) for treatment. Both the photographer and Orlando were amazingly nice, and although I had to do a lot of running, it was a very enjoyable shoot, and I learned a ton. Watching Orlando get his leg stretched and massaged was a little hard though, looked really painful.
The second half of our shoot that day had us head up to a local cliff diving spot to get some pictures of Orlando on the cliffs at sunset, but not diving. Having arrived about 2hs early for the sunset we ended up sitting at a hotel restaurant that had amazing snitzl, and even got some free ice cream! After our early dinner it was time to hike to the cliffs and see what we could do. Having arrived just in time for some really nice light the photographer was quick to move and set up some shots. Watching him move and think of shots with the sun slowly sinking away was interesting. He was quick, but not rushing or panicking, a good lesson to learn.
Now today had me doing my own and first official athlete shoot for Red Bull. I was to shoot a young 19 year old name Elias Ambuhl, who is an up an coming free skier from Switzerland. As his was training at the same center we were at yesterday I thought I would get some shots of him hanging out and getting tested. This was great as it game me many opportunities that I had not originally planed on, and allowed us to hang out and kick a soccer ball around. He was really cool the whole time and made the shoot super easy for me. I hope all athletes I shoot at that cool. During the shoot I didn’t really have any time to set up my flash so I was trying to utilize the natural light as much as possible, and since there were lots of windows this was not too hard. I want to learn more about external flash and speed light and soft boxes and and all that, but I light the look of nice natural light so I might stick to it for now.
In the afternoon I wondered around with Elias to get some more portraits and other shots, but I think the most interesting one is what you see about here. This was an idea Leo and Lukas had, to shoot this kind of shot in his room. Getting to the room it was pretty small, but I think we used the space well, and the end result is pretty interesting. Let me know what you think =)
Anyways, I am now on a train to Vienna to catch a plane to Madrid to shoot Eigo Sato and the X-Fighters!!!! It is going to be a very long couple of days in Madrid, but it should be fun. Just hope I can get some cool off shots of Eigo as that is the main reason I am going.
Wish me luck!! And I will post all the good shots from Elias’s shoot next week, Monday or so if I can.
Cheers, and thanks for reading the huge post, haha.
July 8th 2011
Life in Austria Week 1
So I have made it through the first week of my internship relatively unscathed. This week has had me learning a more streamline approach to my work flow, what the guys are looking at when photos are submitted, how the feed back is done, and stuff like that. Pretty straight forward, but it has really been a great introduction to everything going on at Red Bull that concerns the photographer side of the events and shoots.
I was also lucky enough to tag along and help out on a athlete shoot held at the office, and up at a ruin near Fuschl, which is the village the office is located in. I won't go into too many details here, but this was really great fun, and I think I learned allot about the athlete shoots just by watching, as I couldn't understand 95% of what was being said that whole day, haha. But honestly, I have forgotten just how draining it can be to not understand a language, especially when you are trying to pick out any and all useful information. Saying that, the photographer really took the time to show me things and discuss some ideas, so that was very nice.
The week ended on a bit of a high note with me and a college from Venezuela, Leo, heading into Salzburg to check out some local skate shops and do a bit of skating, him, not me. One thing I discovered is that in Austria too, my feet are too f#%"&n big to buy shoes...I honestly thought I could find something in my size, but even the only pair of 13 DCs were too small. Like come on feet, do you hate me that much!?!? Anyways, the high note of the night was going down to the river in Salzburg and doing some skate shots. As we didn't have a ton of time we just hit up two spots that Leo wanted to do, and I set up camp to try and get a couple decent shots. The best two shots I got are the ones here, which I think both of us are happy with. I know if I could ollie that board I would be pretty darn happy, haha.
Next week in my internship I am pretty busy with a couple shoots. One is of the owner of the agency I am at, one is of a Red Bull athlete coming for some training, and one is of the X-Fighters in Madrid. The last one is still only 99.999% confirmed, but I really hope I can go. I am still a little nervous about the shoots, but I am going to go out Sunday and do some practice shots with Leo so that should help me work out the kinks ahead of time. Anyways, today it is off to an air show to hangout and enjoy the weather! Should be fun =)
July 4th 2011
Life in Austria Day 3
Yesterday I decided to head into Salzburg and check out the old city that you see here above. It is basically the old part of the town that has been kept as it would have been oh so many years ago, except now there is a Mc D's and other modern businesses in some of the older buildings. Making sure to wonder on by these, I decided to explore the city for the first time with no real plan at all, just see what may come my way.
Although the entire city is quite amazing, I stumbled upon a church, the one you see in the photo here, and decided to wonder in. I am very much not a religious person, but I must say I very impressed with this building. HUGE ceilings, amazing art work on the walls, and there were even some young girls singing while I was in there. Trully amazing experience. I probably spent 45mins in here alone taking photos and looking at everything.
After that I decided to hike up to the Festung Hohensalzburg, which was once a castle on the hill top above the old city, where I took this picture from. As you can se you get a great view of the city. Probably would have been an even better view if there was no rain, but oh well. Again, I was just amazed at 1) the sheer size of it, and 2) the beauty of the architecture. I found myself wondering around, trying to find and see every little corner possible, and was never disappointed with what I found. The only thing I wish I didn't see was the chastity belt they hand on display...ouch for sure. Oh ya, a little tip, they do have a cable car that goes up to the castle, but if you are young and at all active just hike it and save yourself a few Euros, only took like 10mins.
Once I came down from the castle it had started to rain pretty good so I thought it was a good time to catch the bus home, my legs were pretty tired from the 4hs of hiking as well. Before catching the bus though I thought I would try and buy a simple bowl and spoon so I can have cereal for breakfast in my room, but soon discovered that as it was Sunday, NOTHING was open in the city center, not even a connivence store. Oh well, my bus was to come soon, so I headed back and waited, and waited, and waited...seems there was something wrong with the bus and it was 1h late, and when they only come one an hour, that hurts. But in the end I got back, had another AMAZING meal at the hotel (I drank a wine I liked for the first time EVER!) and crashed out at about 10:30 again as the jet lag just doesn't want to let me go. But I feel great this morning, and excited for my first day of internship!
Wish me luck!
Anyways, time for some eats and then start the grueling 30 meter commute to the office, haha
July 2nd 2011
Life in Austria Day 1
So I flew into Salzburg yesterday and I must say, after 20+ hours in transit I actually felt pretty good when I got to the Salzburg Airport, maybe it was all the coke I was drinking on the plane to stay awake... After arriving I took a local bus to the main bus terminal in the city and I was really surprised at how much the buildings and atmosphere of Salzburg reminded me of Vancouver, in both good and bad ways. The good way was that it was NOT 35 degrees with insane humidity levels (like in Japan right now), but more like 20 and rather dry. Also, it seemed that a lot of the apartment buildings I saw from the train were like lots of the old ones in Van, so I felt strangely comfortable for being in the city fro only 20mins.
Oh ya, if you can't tell that was the good part. The bad part was when I got to the central station to transfer buses. Due to some bad timing I had about 45mins to wait for my bus, which gave me ample time to take in my surroundings. Watching the people around I noticed the area was much like Main and Terminal in Vancouver, lots of people going about their business, with one or two that might benefit from a little more government care if you know what I mean. There was this one guy who was either dunk or crazy and took it upon himself to yell at everyone around, right at the spot I had to wait for the bus...thanks dude, you rock. Never mind that I had no idea what he was saying (I don't speak Austrian at all) but it seemed like he was getting rather excited, that is until some dude just shouted him down like crazy and shut him up. Thanks!
Getting to the hotel I realized where I will be calling home for 6 weeks is actually much like the Whistler Village back home, and again I found myself strangely comfortable in a very short amount of time. My room is small, but has everything I would hope to need, and there is a restaurant in the hotel that is very good, even with someone that speaks English! Just finished a great pasta for dinner, of course accompanied by a huge local beer for less than a third of what I would pay in Japan, very dangerous, hahaha.
The area itself is really nice and rural, with many hikes and walks available. The photo here is from a hike I went on this morning to a place called the "Ruine Wartenfels," which is an old ruin of a stone building in the mountains just up from the village. It was actually a really nice hike, but it started pouring rain on the way home, so I couldn't explore as much as I would have liked to. Did find the path to the peak of the mountain there, so I think I will try that one day over the next couple weeks. Looks like it will have an AMAZING view of the valleys around the area.
Other than that it is now 8pm and I am starting to feel the jet lag kick in, or maybe it is the massive beer I had with dinner, so I will leave myself here. I will update as much as possible about the details of my Red Bull internship, so please check back often! The rest of the pictures from the day are in the "Austria Off Shots" album in my Red Bull gallery.
June 21st, 2011
About two weeks ago I was able to head over to Nara's Meihan Raceway again for some FMX shots. The event this time was a national MX race that the guys were going to jump at during the lunch time break. The only problem was the day before there was torrential rain in the area that destroyed the approach and made it impossible to jump where planned. Luckily the event was being held where Kota and his Thugway team usually practice, so they were able to just move the event down to their normal practice area, which was not as heavily rained out. Looking at the spot they planned to jump I really wish they had been able to jump there as it would have made some cool shots, but at lease the event was not canceled!
Having no car of my own I needed to get picked up by Kota on his way out to the event, meaning I had to meet him part way at a station at 7:00am. Although 7:00am is not too early, to get the on time I had to get up at about 5am! Not that I mind getting up early, but it did kind of take some energy out of me for the day. Need to make sure I keep at least one can of Red Bull in my bad for these kind of situations, haha
Once we got there and I met the other riders, you could really tell they were quite nervous, especially a new rider who would be jumping for the first time in-front of spectators. I tried to warm up by getting shots of the guys getting ready, but they were pretty tense to say the least so I made sure I was not too in their face. Once practice started Kota and Rob were doing fine, but the new guy was not even able to hit the jump. I think out of about 20 attempts he only actually jumped 3 times during their practice session, ouch. Mind you, the approach was slippery, and riding off before you jump if you are not ready is much better than just going for it and crashing hard.
After practice we just hung out and waited for everyone to trickle down from the main race to see the show at 1:00pm. We were joking that it would be great if 10-15 people would show up, but then 200 or so people showed up, and you could tell there was a bit of nervousness in the air. Once they got jumping though everything went great! The new guy hit all his attempts, and was able to get some nice heal clickers and that in to boot. Of course the biggest reactions were from Kota's backflips, air plane, and rock solid (Rob hand a couple nice ones as well). The crowd was actually really vocal, and even applauded several of the tricks. I think my fave was the trick you see here, Kota's back flip heal clicker to one handed landing. I didn't even notice the one handed landing until I started making the sequence though, hahaha.
In the end I think the guys, and the crowd, really enjoyed the event, and the rain was kind enough to hold out until about 10mins after everything was done. Perfect timing for sure! This was my last event before heading to Austria for my internship so I am glad everything went well. As I leave at the start of next month expect LOTS of blog entries over the next 2 months! CAN'T WAIT!
Cheers, and maybe I will see you at the X-Fighters in Spain!
June 20th, 2011
Been darn busy these days, darn busy indeed. This weekend had me heading down to Okinawa, which is only about a 2h flight from Osaka, for some martial arts training and touristy stuff. Having never been to Okinawa I was really excited to go, and since they just finished their rainy season we were lucky enough to have some great weather. And when I say "great" I mean "so hot that the only time I was not sweating was when I was having a cold shower or lying in my hotel room with the a/c blasting away." I kind of go used to it after the first day, but still, I am Canadian, and my body dose not like the heat all that much.
Anyways, having this be my first time to the tropical south of Japan I found myself shooting off lots of shots of this and that, the roof tops, carvings, us being silly, and things like that. It really reminded me of the time I first arrived in Japan and everything was so new and different that I would take hundreds of photos everywhere I went. This time I didn't really take "hundreds" of photos, but still shot quite a few. Unfortunately, as martial arts training, not photography, was the main purpose of the trip, I wasn't able to get out quite as much as I would have liked with the camera, and was kind of forced to just shoot as we walked and make sure to not fall too far behind.
The best place we visited by far is the area is where the above photo was taken. This place is called the Shurijo Castle Park, and is a site where a castle has been rebuilt to (almost) its former glory. You see, the whole area had once been bombed and burned out during WWII as it was a site for Japanese military operations, and then a university was built on the site, and once that moved several years ago people realized the importance of the site and decided to restore it. One of our friends is actually a tour guide for the site and he told us tones of interesting stuff, but I think I will leave that for you to discover if you are down there. Here is a link if you are interested in visiting: http://oki-park.jp/shurijo-park/english/
I got several photos from this site, and from a couple other areas so check out the Japan 2011 album if you are interested. I really hope to be able to head back down to Okinawa in the fall, and this time spend a little more time with the camera.
June 7th 2011
Looking at my calendar this morning I am noticing a lot of photo work coming up at work over the next 4 weeks, so I will be busy, but it is a good kind of busy, if you know what I mean. Actually, I have already been able to do a couple things this month for work, one of which was quite interesting indeed.
This last Saturday I headed up to a machiya studio in Kyoto to shoot a "Lolita Fashion Design and Ochya Party" that one of the professors at the university was putting on. If you are not sure what "lolita fashion" is don't worry, you are not alone. Although "lolita" is a term I think most English speakers are familiar with, the lolita fashion of Japan is not really like that, but more of a fashion based on old style English dolls with all the frills and bows and that. If you have not seen these girls walking the street it is hard to understand what the fashion looks like, and unfortunately I don't think I can load any of the pictures here to show you. Needless to say, watching these girls serve and drink Japanese tea, and eat Japanese sweets in a traditional Japanese machiya while wearing what are pretty much old English period clothes was something new to me. I was quite surprised though, after a while of shooting the girls they seemed to actually blend into the surroundings quite well, and it didn't seem all the weird after all...weird.
Another job I had to do this week, yesterday actually, was photographing too young ladies who run a coffee shop just up the street from our campus. Before the shoot one of my coworkers warned me that one of the ladies was quite scary, and that she did not want to have to look at the camera, AT ALL. So, being prepared for a hard time I headed to the coffee shop to find to me bewilderment, to really nice ladies that have a passion for coffee, wow...scary stuff. Yes, one of the ladies didn't really want to have her face fully showing, but after taking some shots, and me joking around to loosen her up, we were able to get some nice shots that the ladies, and my coworker (a different one) were happy with. Being able to not only communicate, but actually joke around with people in Japanese is one thing that saves me more than any "photographic technique" I have learned over the years. Of course this depends greatly on the situation, and being able to read people quickly (I feel I have developed this skill from being a server and bartender in Canada for about 8 years) is important, but don't be afraid to act relaxed and confident during a shoot, even if you are freaking out on the inside, because the last thing you want is to freak out the people being photographed.
Anyways, the shot here is of the lunch the ladies were making for customers while we were finishing up. Looked so good I thought I would snap a shot. Just might have to head over there one night for dinner with my new iPad as they have free wifi as well, yea!
May 31st 2011
In roughly one month, give or take a day or two, I will be starting my long awaited internship at the headquarters of Red Bull, just outside of Salzburg, Austria. Even as I type this part of me still feels some disbelief that I will soon be heading to Europe to embark on 6 weeks of what I hope to be intensive studies in action/life style photography. Although I have reached a decent level in my photography, before being chosen for this internship I felt I was coming to a sort of plateau in my abilities and was starting to wonder what I could do next to continue to improve. Now, as if someone had been eavesdropping on my thoughts, I will be off to the old country to learn as much is humanly possible about photography, and maybe even myself, in a 6 week period.
As part of my preparations for this internship I have splurged and picked up two pieces of very different equipment that I hope will help me obtain the maximum results during my brief stint with Red Bull: Nikon's 24-70mm/2.8 zoom lens, and an iPad2. First, about the lens. Although if you look at focal length alone I have the 24-70mm range locked in with my current lens set up, but as anyone who has done a little serious photography knows, lenses are not about focal length alone. As I am often in darker than ideal situations the constant 2.8 aperture this lens provides is nothing less than a life saver. Case in point, I received this lens the day before shooting the Red Bull BC One last Sunday and when I got to the event I was soooo glad I had it. The venue was small, and dark, with fast moving dancers. It was a constant battle to find the right balance of shutter speed and ISO so as to have bright sharp photos with as little graininess as possible, as Red Bull has warned me about high ISO photos in the past. In the end I am sure that if I had to rely only on my other lenses I would have missed crucial shots, and just had a much more frustrating day in general. One other point of the lens is the speed it can focus. Holly H-E-Double Hockey Sticks! This monster is fast! Now that I have used it I think this is going to be my go to lens for quite some time, and as it is not DX, I can even use it if/when I go full frame...in like 100 years, haha.
The other tool (toy?) that I have picked up is the iPad2. Now I am sure that one or two people out there are rolling their eyes at me for this one, but let me explain my reasons for picking this up as a serious tool to help me during my internship.
1) Figuring that I am going to be taught a massive amount of information, I wanted something that I could use to quickly jot down notes anywhere that I could then come back to to clean up and organize. I have tried this with a note book and pen in the past, but it never seems to work well for me. Having typed on the iPad2 with great ease though, I am pretty confident I will be able to keep this a routine. Also, I have bought a drawing/note taking app so I can also just write stuff out, but never have to worry about loosing scraps of paper with vital notes.
2) Figuring I am going to have the chance to meet many people that I would like to show my photos to I figured having them in an iPad would be quicker and easier then having them printed or getting them to visit my site.
3) I like to read magazines about photography/snowboarding/skateboarding/FMX, etc but hate having to throw them out eventually as they take up so much space. Now, I can carry a huge library of magazines and books with me to read over at my leisure. I know some people were disappointed in the screen resolution, but really, the magazines still look great, and being able to zoom in with the spread of your fingers really makes reading a breeze. Oh, and if you have one of these and like anything to do with Red Bull, download the Red Bull Bulletin app, truly an amazing way to read a magazine!
4) GAMES! Although this won't help me much during my internship, I am sure I will enjoy the flight and layovers WAY more now that I have several addictive games on this thing as well, hehe.
So other than picking up a new travel bag and some more contact lenses I think I am pretty set to jet off and enjoy the life of a Red Bull photographer for a while. I will try and update my blog as much as I can while I am over there so stop by and see how I am doing once in a while, make sure I have not gone crazy from all the European beers, haha.
May 27, 2011
Having a "real" job while trying to do photography can have its pluses and minuses. One plus is that no matter how little photography I do on the side I still get my pay check each month from my job, so I am not too stressed out about money and that too often. One minus though is that, like this last Sunday, when I have an amazing event/photo shoot that is sooo much fun and stimulating, but then have to go to "work" the next day and stare at my computer and scrounge for work to do. Some days this can actually provide a nice balance in my life, but more and more I find I wish I could challenge myself a little more during my regular work hours.
So, as I work at the PR department, and have felt like trying some food photography these days, I decided it might be a decent idea to take pictures of the meals available on campus and create a simple page on our website to show this. I have only taken photos of food with my DSLR once(I take them all the time with my iPhone), and that was several years ago, so I was pretty much starting from scratch you could say. Of course the first thing I did once I decided to start this project was look online for the many tips and tricks the professionals use, and I was happy to read that the vast majority of people seem to agree that a simple set up is fine, and natural light from a large window is usually best to light the subject. Great! That I can do.
Unfortunately, the first place I went was a basement cafeteria with small windows that were not letting in much light. I did what I could, but with the poor light, and it being my first try, it is the picture I am least happy with. As I went on though I think I started to get the hang of it, and the places I was shooting seemed much better lit. The shot you see above here is probably my favorite for color and composition, and the food was pretty darn good too. Oh ya, I forgot to mention, that I had/got to eat the food as well, yea! Some of it I got the students who helped out to eat, but on more than I few occasions this allowed me to have lunch on the school, which is always a nice perk of the job.
In the end though everyone seems to like the page, and I think I learned a couple things that I can transfer over to my private work eventually. Here is a link to the page I made, check it out and let me know what you think!
May 24 2011
This last Sunday I FINALLY got to shoot another Red Bull event! This time the event was the Red Bull BC ONE Osaka Cypher, which is a qualifying event for Red Bull's international break dance competition the Red Bull BC ONE. Although I have shot many live music events this was my first time shooting break dancing, and let me tell you, shooting a guy singing on stage in a relatively static position is WAY easier than trying to freeze the acrobatic routines that would make the Cirque du Soleil members jealous these guys were pulling off.
The event itself had over 100 B-Boys from around Japan converge on an old building factory in Osaka that has been converted into a event space. To start out the numbers of participants in the main tournament battles had to be dwindled down to 16, so the first hour was a free dance time where participants made random circles and showed off their moves to the other participants, and more importantly, the judges. These judges would wonder around the venue and select who they though would be best to participate in the tournament.
During this time I was also free to move about the venue and shoot whatever caught my eye. There was not a lot of branding, so it was a little difficult to get "the shots that Red Bull wants," but as I was able to use my flash this is when I seem to have been able to get the most colorful and interesting shots. One shot here in particular shows the winner of the event mid-flip, frozen in action from the flash, but with lots of light coming in from around him as well. Also, with all the people standing around you can really get a feel for the atmosphere of this part of the event.
After the 16 were chosen it was time to battle! Each dancer got three "moves" to show their stuff to the judges, who judged the participants on a variety of points such style, smoothness, etc. During these battles I tried to move around and get as many different angles and shots as possible. I found that being close to the mat my fisheye was quite helpful, but by stepping back a bit my new 24-70mm 2.8 really came in handy. One thing that did give me a little trouble though was not blowing out the whites in some of the participant's clothes while they were dancing in the spotlight on the dance floor. As I was not able to use my flash it was a constant battle with finding the perfect balance between a slow enough shutter to allow enough light in to show what was going on and a fast enough shutter to freeze the action. I think I did a decent job on this for the most part, but this is something I really want to discuss with the Red Bull guys during my internship this summer.
At the end of the day a winner (the guy here) was announced and after some shots of him it was off home to dig out the best shots of the day to send to Red Bull that night for their press release. Only 1,400+ photos to go through, easy as pie...it was a rather long night, hahaha.
Lastly, one thing about the event that amazed me was how crazy good some of the kids were that came out. Simply AMAZING to watch these little guys kill it, and get cheered on by the older dancers. One kid, probably about 10-12 years old, actually made it to the semi final round, and put up a great fight, but eventually lost out to the guy who one the event. I honestly thought the kid took it, but I think the judges were not only looking for the best all around dancer, but someone they were confident could handle the stress and pressure of the next round to be held in Taiwan next month. Either way though, the kid KILLED it and I am sure this was not the last I see of him!
May 19th 2010,
Lots going on for me these days, just not too much time to write about it here, booo. One interesting thing I had to do was make a page for a pamphlet that is going to be given out at the All Japan MX race that will be coming up next month in Nara. During the lunch break 4 friends will be performing FMX at the event, and the page is an introduction to the team. The team itself consists of the four guys you see here, and as far as I know the team was recently formed from members of MX-Virus, and Bully, which are the two main FMX teams here in Japan.
Kota is by far the best rider of the team, with many flip variations that are always fun to shoot, but Rob and Genki also have quite a few tricks up their sleeves, no back flips though. Ikumi has just started out, but is stable and has a few tricks he can pull. I am sure the show they put on will be great, and I am really looking forward to going and shooting the guys. I don't think they will jump too many times though, booo.
This is actually my first time making a page of any kind for the FMX guys. Normally the guys make them using my photos, and then send me the data when they are done. Kota and the guys in the team though are not really all that "computer savvy" so I was asked to design the page according to the simple instructions Kota gave me. Only having a couple days to do this in my spare time I wasn't really able to do anything too crazy design wise, but sometime simple is best, and really, I am not kidding anyone when I say design is not my expertise, although I do enjoy it very much. In the end though I only needed to make a couple small edits to the original design, and the guys really like how it turned out. I was even able to put my logo in the page, which was very nice of Kota for asking me to do.
Anyways, if you are in the Kansai area June 12th come on out to MEIHAN in Nara and check out the event. Should be a good time at the very least!
Hope to see you there!
May 5th 2011
Right now Japan is enjoying what is called "Golden Week" which is about a week where three holidays line up and everyone gets pretty much the whole week off depending on where you work. For the last couple of years I have been able to get up north to shoot an FMX competition in Samegawa, but due to the earthquake, etc., the event was canceled, boooo. So for this Golden Week I decided to stay local, and head out to Nara to shoot Rob, Kota, and anther new rider practicing.
The place where they train is called Meihan, and I have been there before a couple years ago, but this was my first time this season. The whole area is set up with different tracks for cars, bikes, go-carts and MX. If I rode any of those myself I am sure I would find myself out there pretty much every weekend. We were kind of off in our own area that has been set aside for the guys to train so it was really relaxing and we could do anything we wanted really. Being used to shooting competitions with lots of people around, this was a nice change of pace. The guys would ride for a bit, break, chat, ride some more, break, lunch, ride a bit more, and then we were done. Nothing crazy, but it was lots of fun. I even got to ride the 50cc around a bit which is always tones of fun.
For the pictures this time I kind of wanted to try some different angles, and I found that as Kota was doing lots of flip tricks I would try shooting from behind, something I never really try at the comps. I am quite happy with how the pictures turned out overall, and really enjoyed editing them a little differently than I have done in the past. Even played with the sequences I made as well so make sure you don't miss them.
There will an event at Meihan in June so if you are around make sure you come out and enjoy the fun!
May 2nd 2011
So although I have known about this for quite some time now, I thought I would wait until it was officially official before I told the "world" that starting from July 4th I will be partaking in an internship with Red Bull at their headquarters in Austria!! Part of me still does not believe that I will be able to do this so I have to keep reminding myself that it is real, hahaha.
I was first e-mailed by my contact at Red Bull Japan last year about the possibility of doing the internship. He mentioned that there was this great opportunity with Red Bull, but that I would have to take 6 weeks off of work to be able to go. As soon as I read the e-mail I asked to talk to my boss in private so I could discuss the impossible feat of taking a full 6 weeks of my job to do the internship. In my old position at the university (and with my old bosses) this would have been a 100% no go from the instant I opened my mouth, but it seems the bosses in my current position actually want me to succeed as a person and understand I won't be here for the rest of my life because they were cool with it right away.
Then began the long process of sending e-mail back and forth with the Red Bull Japan office and the HQ office, but in the end all was good, and I am now scheduled to arrive in Salzburg on the 1st and start on the 4th of July. There are still many thing that are unclear to me about the whole internship thing, but looking at the before & after of photographers who have participated in the internship in the past, I have a good feeling that it will be an intensive month and a half focusing on improving my photography skills, and getting the amazing shots that Red Bull is so well known for around the world! This is something I am in desperate need of as I have not actually "studied" photography since high school about 15 years and there is a mountain of techniques and skills that I have not been exposed to since.
This might sounds crazy, but about a week before being offered the internship I had been talking with my wife about what I could do to improve my photography. Maybe I could take some courses, or try and find a pro in the area that I could work under from time to time...and then this gets presented to me. Good timing? Good karma? Good luck? Not sure what to think, just that this is a real chance for me to bring myself up to the next level and get some experience and exposure that could open many doors for me down the line.
Lastly, I have ordered myself a iPad and hope to be able to use it as a kind of journal of my trip, and will hopefully be able to create something out of it and the pictures I take there that I can share with everyone interested. Won't be for a bit though, but should be a fun project while I am there/when I get back.
Anyways, wish me luck!
April 27th 2011
Last Friday had me shooting a live event in Kobe for my friends in "Ching-Dul," a Japanese/Korean fusion band that brings the sounds and instruments of both cultures together to make one amazing sound. If you have seen my music file you will notice that I have seen them live quite a few times, but it is always an enjoyable show with tones of energy.
This show was held at a rather well known live house in Kobe's Sanomiya area called "Chicken George" and the show had special meaning for the band as some of them were in the area during the huge earthquake that destroyed the city in 1995, and were reminded of this due to recent events in Fukushima Prefecture. Having not visited Kobe for a while, I was reminded also that although Kobe was destroyed at one time, it is now a bustling city with tones of life and energy. Seeing that again gave me a little peace, knowing that if Kobe could come back this far in so little time, then Fukushima and the surrounding areas are far from a lost cause.
Back to the show, as this was the first time this year I was able to shoot the guys, and the venue had pretty interesting lighting, I found myself shooting WAY more shots than I usually get. Could have been the beers during the shows, but I was really enjoying myself and the music, and I think that loosened up my shooting finger as I ended up with close to 1,000 shots during the 2h show...wow. I guess shooting too much is better than not shooting enough, but this added a couple hours of editing to the post-gig work just to weed out the duplicates and other non-usable shots before starting the real editing. In the end I got that number down to about 250, but still quite a few shots for one show.
Anyways, as always the show was a blast, and I think they will be happy with the photos. If you want to check out more of the shots see the top album in my music folder on here.