I did all I could to learn about Ashli and her family before proposing a location, talking turkey, or even thinking about portrait session dates, I like to gain a sense of who a client is and how, specifically, I can craft a custom session for them ( I don't believe in cookie cutter experiences).
I learned that the Dunphy family has lived in Asia for several years now. They like to travel. They value art. They they enjoy their time together as a family. Over email, the Dunphys seemed like my perfect family client.
After hearing about the asian adventure the Dunphys have had over the last few years, I knew that Patrick and Ashli would be down for any location I could come up with. The kids on the other hand, were my primary concern (as always). I wanted Sam (age 4) and his sister Liberty (16 months) to be as comfortable as possible throughout our time together.
Sometimes during sakura season, clients want to join the tourist throngs at Yoyogi or Ueno Park. While the sakura are beautiful in these hot spots, they are the antithesis of a great location for family portraits. Taking the Dunphy kids to one of these spots during the sakura peak would be pure madness.
Considering this, I was delighted to learn that the Dunphy family was very flexible about their shoot. While they wanted to somehow incorporate the cherry blossoms into their session, the little pink and white blooms did not have to be the sole focus.
I was relieved and excited to find a location that fit the bill. I was also excited that we would all be spared of the human throngs politely jockeying (as is the Japanese way) for selfie-position under the blooms.
I started my search for a spot that offered more than just the famous spring blossoms and settled on Nogawa, a suburban park thirty minutes by train outside of downtown Tokyo. Locals from Fuchu, Mitaka, and Chofu wards are quite familiar with Nogawa and prefer it to any of Tokyo's downtown gardens or plazas because of its accessibility and serene nature.
I knew that there would be sakura in bloom in Nogawa. I knew that there would be a playground to bribe the children with. I knew that there would be restrooms and facilities without lines. And, most importantly, I knew that we would have the expansive suburban landscape mostly to ourselves.
Ashli, Patrick, Sam and Libby showed up exactly on time for our shoot. After chatting briefly about our portrait session, I opened my gear bag so that the kids could inspect the tools of the trade. I pulled out my camera and got to work.
As we sauntered along, I learned more about Ashli and Patrick. Patrick flies planes and Ashli is a photographer and potter. I learned about their experiences in Tokyo and we chatted about Seoul, South Korea, a city where both the Dunphys and I lived for some time. Through our conversation I noticed a lot of commonalities and felt as though I was photographing old friends from "back home."
I was really impressed with the Dunphy family. For nearly two hours both the kids and the parents did their part to make a great portrait shoot. We walked through nearly half of the park and it was finally time for the kids to really let loose. Instead of pressing on, we decided to stop, relax, and let Liberty and Sam run wild at Nogawa's playground.
At the end of it all, I was thrilled that we selected Nogawa for our family portrait session location. I was also grateful to have had such relaxed, personable clients during sakura, the most hectic season for any photographer in Tokyo. My initial suspicions were correct. The Dunphys were the perfect family portrait clients.
Are you searching for a family photographer in Tokyo? Contact me today to begin planning your family's session.
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If anyone has the art of food down to a science it is the Japanese. Everywhere you turn there is some sort of delciousness being prepared. From full blown kaiseki meals to surprisingly light tempura dishes, Japanese food is known for its simple flavors and exquisite presentation. Even school children enjoy this cultural tradition when they open their lunches to find animal shaped rice balls and carefully carved vegetables.
This February, Qatar Airways contacted me with a very specific challenge. The in-flight magazine wanted me to explore the art of Japanese food. Commissioned to shoot Empire of the Senses, an editorial exploring the art of Japanese cuisine. While on assignment, I was tasked to align my photographs with Oryx's March theme completely dedicated to "taste." With this in mind, I made my way to some of Tokyo's finest restaurants to shoot (and nibble) some of the finest food Japan has on offer.
Naturally, I was very excited to accept Oryx's challenge. I was also excited to see the piece come through design and into the hands of readers on all Qatar Airways flights. Read the full editorial piece here.
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Sapporo, Japan | Hokkaido's Urban Hub
With a backpack full on lenses, extra underwear, and a heavy sweater I headed off to snowy Sapporo. After spending most of the winter in Tokyo, I was excited to get a change of scenery.
I had been to Sapporo a few times before so I knew that the city contrasts more than it compares to the Japanese capital. The urban hub of the "North Island" is slower and more relaxed in pace. People are eager to stop for a chat and the weather, unlike Tokyo, screams winter. For these reasons alone I was happy to head north.
After landing at Chitose Airport, I was eager to take the scenic train into the city and get out into the streets. But unlike my previous trips to one of the world's snowiest cities, I was in Sapporo to document the essence of the city for The New York Times. I put my personal agenda on hold and got to work as soon as I stepped off of the train at Sapporo Station.
Over the next couple of days, I ran a "photographer's decathalon" to show The Times' readershhip what is possible with 36 Hours in Sapporo. But even with a specific assignment, I still managed to turn my lens here and there and got some snapshots of one of my favorite cities in Asia.
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Age of Exploration
Ran is beautiful, soft spoken, and has a tender disposition. She is pleasant to be around. Immediately you can tell that Ran is turning into a wonderful young lady.
What you can't readily tell is that Ran has an interest in modeling and wants to cultivate that interest. She has come to one of those pivotal transition periods in her life where exploration is necessary for evolution. Ran is at one of those ultra-exciting portions of life where anything seems possible.
Here is where I come in.
I decided to meet in Koenji, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Tokyo known as a stronghold of Japanese subculture. I wanted to shoot in a location that would provide a variety of portrait possibilities. Koenji was perfect. It has a plethora of scenes and is not clogged with throngs of people.
Ran and her lovely mother Rosemary showed up right on schedule and we spent some time getting to know each other (email can only take you so far). Even though I had just met Ran, I was proud of her for taking a step to pursue something new and was grateful that she had asked me to take part in the process.
After sharing a high five, we got to work.
By the end of our session, Ran and I had crafted a wide variety of images in a short amount of time. Though she is nearly at the end of high school, Ran's session wasn't about creating senior portraits. Her session was about moving forward in life and stepping out of comfort zones.
I love working with clients like Ran, people who are willing to explore their interests and take risks. To me, just booking a portrait shoot showed that Ran was willing to allow herself be vulnerable. This, in itself, proves that she is mature beyond her years.
I was honored to work with such a kind and eager young woman. In fact, Ran served as an inspiration, reminding me that there is great potential in personal vulnerability and that every stage in life is full of fresh possibility.
There is no time like the present. Book your portrait session today!
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Over the years I have had a lot of experience working with musicians. I have photographed some of the biggest acts in rock-n-roll. I have also had the chance to shoot solo artists in small, intimate settings. No matter the scale, there is nothing quite like photographing live music. For me, shooting a concert is the epitome of "event" and one of my favorite jobs as a professional photographer.
I was recently contacted by the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin (KOB). The group was about to embark on their 2017 Asian tour and wanted the first stop of their run documented. I was asked to shoot the group's rehearsal, backstage banter, and portions of their Tokyo performance. I was very pleased to be considered for the job and jumped at the chance to get behind the scenes with an ensemble as renowned as KOB.
Upon arrival, I was led into the depths of Sumida Triphony Hall, an exquisite venue on the outskirts of Tokyo. After the customary greetings and an appropriate amount of bowing, I made my way through the maze of greenrooms to the stage landing. It was then that I stopped in my tracks, a bit dumbfounded.
With a lot of backstage experience, I am rarely surprised by much. But this scene thoroughly impressed me. I was taken aback by the magnitude of KOB's tour production: 120 musicians from 19 different countries, a vibrant conductor, publicists, handlers, road crew, and sound techs all scurried around me.
For a moment, I let my mind wander away from photography to a place of sheer amazement. Who was responsible for getting these classically trained musicians and their instruments to Tokyo? Who arranged accommodation? What did the airlines say when over three hundred oversized hardshell cases came rolling into the airport lobby? Who insured the millions of dollars worth of antique instruments that lay about? I was star struck, not by a celebrity, but by a secret star who oiled this machine. I wanted to shake that person's hand.
Instead of seeking out the mastermind-tour-manager for an autograph, I shook my head at the scene and reminded myself why I was in one of the most beautiful venues I had ever seen.With my head on straight, I got to work. For the next few hours I happily clicked away, providing KOB with imagery that will later remind them of the first stop of their 2017 Asian tour.
Is your organization in need of an event photographer in Tokyo? If so, get in touch today!
Each summer I pack my bags and head out of Tokyo. The summer heat in Tokyo is frankly oppressive. I would much rather spend several weeks of June and/or July soaking in the cool mountain air of Asheville, North Carolina. In my quiet Appalachian hometown, I get to spend time with friends and family, fuel up on fusion sushi (which in Japan is akin to blasphemy), watch fireflies dance, and play with the neighborhood dog named Roxy.
Another benefit of traveling to America is getting the opportunity to collaborate with some of my favorite people. Last summer, my good friend Amanda Anderson of Dollbox Productions and I got to work with the lovely Sarah Harris on a styled shoot. Thanks to the great people of Asheville Glamping, we had the perfect location. We worked in AG's Airstreams and took advantage of the secluded property right outside of city limits.
At the end of it all, I dig how the portraits turned out and look forward to working with this great team again this coming summer!
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Not all of my photographic work is portraiture...
Much of my editorial photography steers completely away from my work as a portrait photographer and focuses on places and things. In fact, most of the photographs I take in my free time are of these other nouns.
Of course I love making portraits when I travel outside of Tokyo. After all, I am primarily a portrait photographer. To me, there is nothing as special as making a human connection and photographing a new friend. But, the non-human elements that one finds throughout their travels are just as helpful in creating a sense of place as the people we encounter along the way.
It is rare that I take a photograph that could be considered epic. Most of the photographs I take don't even deserve a post on my Instagram feed. But, every time I click my shutter I do aim to document something, even if I am doing the documenting for my future self. In the same way students take notes to assist in their cognitive processing of information, making images helps me form a sense of place and helps me place myself in a new environment.
I take snapshots that will later spark memories. I take snapshots to help me reflect on my overall experience. Yet, the snapshot is not only taken for reflection later on down the line. When I pause to take a photograph, I actively acknowledge my subject and focus all of my attention upon it. When a frame is print or publication worthy, that is just the icing on the cake.
On a recent trip to Thailand, I was admittedly snapshot happy. I loved every second of my time shooting frame after frame of everything and nothing. Snap. Snap. Snap. I got into a rhythm of shooting and moving on instead of pouring over every aspect of the shot, shooting the scene dry, hemming and hawing over my exposure levels until I was grumpy because I wasn't making "the perfect shot."
Professional photographers take hundreds of thousands of photos a year. But most of these images are just snapshots. That's okay. Despite what many pro photographers will say, snapshots are just as important as those grandiose, larger-than-life images all photographers seek to capture and share.
Snapshots are quick, fun, and easy. They don't take a great deal of thought and only require us to focus on composition. But more, snapshots are equally as capable of telling a great story and helping viewers (and their authors) gather a sense of place.
When I got home from Thailand, I quickly imported and backed up all of my files (a lesson any seasoned photographer has learned the hard way). When I started reviewing the frames, I noticed a trend. I had spent much more time photographing non-living nouns than I did making portraits. I usually have a pretty balanced collection of images. But on this trip, it seemed as though I had focused on things instead of making crisp, portraits.
I am fine with taking a breather from portraiture and shooting something a bit different. I am fine with the fact that I shot a massive collection of Thailand snapshots instead of grinding those epic landscape panoramas and exquisitely lit portraits out.
Snapshots are more than what they are given credit to be. Not only do snapshots help to tell the story of a place, they will in some way help me hone my skills with my one true photographic love; portraiture. Years from now, the snapshots will also jolt my memory and remind me of a relaxing trip to one of my favorite countries in southeast Asia.
What do you like to take snapshots of when you travel? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below!
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After years of photographing families, I have been able to reflect on what makes for an awesome family portrait session. There are so many things that families can do before, during, and after a shoot to ensure that they have a spectacular time and come away with a set of stellar shots.
So, what exactly can you do to help me capture the photos you have always wanted?
Ten Tips for an Amazing Family Portrait Session
1) Come to your portrait session well rested
Do you ever get cranky when you don't get enough sleep? If you or anyone else in your family is tired, your photos will show it. I am always able to get the best results when everyone is feeling fresh. A well rested family makes for an energy fueled session.
2) Consider your family's routines
When considering the best time for your family portrait session, it is important to take children's routines and your individual needs into account. I will always do my best to work around your schedule. But, planning ahead ensures that our portrait session is priority number one during our time together.
3) Be on time
Coming to your family session on time (or even a bit early) is always best. The more time I have with your family the better. The beginning of our session is always about establishing a relationship. The better I know you as a family, the better I can capture you.
4) Be my stylist
I need your help to make the portrait session run smoothly. No, this doesn't mean that I need you to stand behind me and clap your hands so that the kiddos will look at the camera. Your job is more akin to a stylist. Make sure your family's clothing and hair are to your liking throughout the session.
5) Bring an additional change of clothing
If you are unsure of which clothing choice will work best for your family portraits, bring an extra change. Prior to our session, I will offer suggestions about clothing that makes for great imagery. But, if you are hemming and hawing over which outfit to wear, bring an extra along.
6) Bring a favorite item
Parents of young children sometimes choose to bring along a special item to include in their portraits. Does your kiddo have a ratty old stuffed animal that they never want to part with? Now is the perfect time to document it before it finds its way into a keepsake box bound for your attic. While I don't shoot a lot of portraits with props of any sort, there is a time and a place for those special keepsakes.
7) Sustain the smiles with bribery
Of course I am a proponent of intrinsic motivation. But, I am not above cheap bribery to get a great portrait. Keep a bag of goodies on hand that can be used to motivate your child through the portrait session. Something yummy to eat usually does the trick for young children.
8) Don't worry about the photographer
I am not stressed out by your child's unwillingness or cheeky backtalk. I am not freaked out by a kid throwing a tantrum. I am also a father and know all too well "how it is." I am ready to capture the smiles between those meltdown moments. Don't worry about me!
9) Be flexible
A family portrait session is all about having fun. Every portrait session is unique and I will work with you to capture the very best moments for you and your family to love and enjoy for years to come. As we work together, keep an open mind and be flexible.
10) Treat yourself
I always advise families to treat themselves to something nice after our shoot. Seeing that you are out and about, you might as well extend your family's special day together. Do you have a favorite ice cream parlor or kid's museum? Plan a special treat after our session so that you can keep the good times rolling.
Are you interested in a family portrait session? Put these ten tips to practice during your own session. What are you waiting for? Book a shoot today!
Tokyo Is For Lovers...
Whether you are an art lover, neon lover, adventure lover, arcade lover, book lover, cat lover, music lover, fashion lover, or about any other type of lover you can think of, Tokyo has what you are looking for. But, there is one type of lover that I especially relate to: photography lovers.
Sure, it is easy to find photo galleries and camera service centers. Within minutes, you can find Nikon and Canon stores and hipster camera stores selling leather straps. But, it is even quicker to find an interesting subject to make a photo of in Tokyo.
In photography chat groups and popular discussion boards, I see a topic tirelessly repeated amongst my colleagues. Many photographers endlessly complain about how they would shoot "better" photographs if they lived in a place that was inspirational to them. Photographers from all over the world seem to grumble about their current home base.
Everyday I hear photographers claim that there is "nothing to shoot." Sadly, these shutterbugs want to turn their lens on a world that they don't know, instead of the world they do. While I too love travel photography, I get just as much satisfaction pointing my camera at everything Tokyo.
Even though I have lived in Asia for eight years, I am still constantly inspired by the surroundings of my adoptive home. People watching on the inbound and outbound trains never gets old, nor do the lights and glitz of Ginza, gloved taxi drivers, ginko trees, elderly women sweeping temples, fashionable youth of Koenji, or the neighborhood fruit vendors. I love photographing the back alleys and seeing the seasons change within the confines of the city. I adore the delicate food and the massive power towers. Even a single cigarette butt on the sidewalk is fascinating (seeing that there is hardly ever litter to be found in Tokyo) and worthy of a snapshot.
For those photographers with a drive to shoot "something different," I urge you to revisit what you already know. Take a deep look at what, at first glance, appears to be mundane and then get all Matrix with it. "Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth... There is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends but only yourself." See the mundane in a new way and challenge yourself to photograph what you know in ways that you didn't know were possible.
Tokyo remains a city for lovers; especially photography lovers. But, Tokyo isn't the only city for image makers, for image lovers. Photographers should be able to find and shoot inspirational frames in any place they call home.
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Proposing is a big deal.
Asking someone to marry you is, hopefully, a once-in-a-lifetime moment. You want everything to be perfect, everything to go just as you have planned. After all, most of us only get the one shot at popping the question and, for the one being asked, the proposal is what fairy tales are made of.
Those four simple words make up one of the most important questions you will ever ask in life. So, if you are going to ask, you might as well make it memorable. Edwin sure did.
Edwin is a romantic gentleman.
He didn't just pop the question without really, really thinking it through. He knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Yen (that much was apparent in my communication with Edwin). But, what he didn't know was how he was going to do it.
For months, Edwin and I communicated about his proposal. He had great ideas and I was determined to find a location in Tokyo that met Edwin's vision of the perfect proposal spot. I scouted locations and reported back to Edwin several times until finally, he had a perfect proposal plan.
The elaborate proposal started when Edwin and Yen's friends faked a trip to Las Vegas for Yen's birthday. Instead of heading to the glitz and neon of the Vegas Strip, Ed whisked Yen off on a whirlwind trip through Asia. After stopping off here and there in Asia, the lovebirds finally arrived in Tokyo. But here, in Japan, Ed had another surprise up his sleeve.
There on the moon bridge in Tokyo's Koishikawa Garden, Ed got down on one knee and found the courage to utter those four simple words. And with tears of happiness, Yen said "Yes."
I was honored to photograph Edwin and Yen's proposal.
Taking part in such an intimate moment in others' lives is an honor that few people get to experience. It is moments like this that solidify my love of photography and remind me of my love for my own wife.
Congrats Yen and Edwin! I wish you both the best as you move into the next chapter of your lives together.
Are you thinking about a surprise proposal here in Tokyo or somewhere else in Japan? If so, contact me today to find out how I can help ease the stress of your engagement proposal!
Award winning photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. Specializing in portrait photography, he shoots a variety of portraiture, editorial, and event, and commercial photography assignments. Andy is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.