Tomorrow I start on a pilgrimage. I want to keep the details quiet until I arrive tomorrow. There are some clues in this post.
I’m super excited! It will be an adventure and I love an adventure. It’s going to be physically challenging. I also get to travel with friends from college that I haven’t been able to spend much time with in the last ten years.
So stay tuned! I’m hoping for daily posts or updates.
EDIT: JULY 2019
That might have been the hardest trip of my life. We averaged about 25km per day. On our longest day, we walked 40km. Sometimes in rained, many days the mud was treacherous. I slipped, did a face plant, but escaped injury. At the end, it was VERY hot.
My travel companions were very fast so there wasn’t as much time for photography as I’d hoped. I’m still working on photos and trying organize things into a cohesive story in stead of an exhausted blur.
I took two cameras:
Canon Eos M5 with the 18-55 mm lens and the 22 mm (barely used the second)
Because of time constraints, I used my iPhone a lot more than I planned to. I miss the large file sizes the Eos M5 delivered but I’m generally pleased with the iPhone photos.
Deciding what to do with the photos is a long-term plan.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve been working with a writer on some articles about Japan that are published in some online Tokyo magazines. I had the privilege of accompanying the fabulous Joan Bailey to do photography when she went to Tochigi to learn about yukitsumugi silk. I have a very keen interest in traditional crafts and artisans in Japan so I was very excited to be working on this.
Yukitsumigi is a designated intangible cultural treasure in Japan. The complete production of the silk is by hand. It’s extremely labor intensive. Two things that make yukitsumugi unique (other than completely un-automated production) is that the fabric lacks the regular shine of silk since the strands are not twisted; and the pattern is not dyed or painted onto the fabric after weaving. Instead, the threads are dyed before hand, looped and knotted according to complex calculations then dyed. The pattern of the dyed threads emerges as the fabric is woven.
This was my first time to work with Joan and Gaijin Pot and Savvy Tokyo. Our guides were great and the artisans incredibly friendly and generous with their time. I hope to do more stories like these in the future.
You can read Joan’s article at Gaijin Pot here. Joan goes into much more detail about the silk. The photos are by yours truly. Here’s the link for the article for Savvy Tokyo piece.
I had a great time working with the models, make up artists and other photographers shooting these images. Looking forward to creating more images and meeting more amazing people!
Styling for Emi by Lori Ono and Camilla Douraghy
Styling for Menya by Lori Ono and Camilla Douraghy
Make-up for Yukari by Daniel Bodin and Maya Webb
Styling for Sepha by Sepha
Styling for Jessica by Lori Ono, Make-up by Daniel Bodin
Styling and Make-up for Candice by Daniel Bodin
Night time at Onishi Summer Matsuri provides lots of interesting scenes and light and color for photographers. This summer festival has been voted the best festival in the Kanto region. People come back to this little town just for the festival because of it’s warm atmosphere and spectacle. When the danjiri (wagons) meet to compete for the lantern dance and music competition, you can see how hard the people of Onishi work to get to the talented level the achieve.
I’ve been obsessed with the ice monsters, the juhyou, of Zao Ski Resort in Yamagata Japan. They are pine trees covered with snow, frozen then sculpted by the high winds. I first saw them on a ski trip ten years ago. At that time, I only had a really cheap point and shoot digital camera and it did not enjoy the cold. Plus I was skiing. It is very hard to take photos on skis or on deep snow wearing ski boots.
Last year I finally figured out how I could get the photos I was looking for–snowshoe around the area. It didn’t really matter that I didn’t know how to snowshoe. I was determined to do it. Snowshoes HAD to be more stable than skis. I convinced my friend, fellow photographer, Maria Trabucco to join me.
I found a tour guide, Ito-san, who was a certified guide as well as an instructor! Excellent! The one thing about traveling with a photographer is how long it takes to move along. We are always stopping to take a shot. It was good to have a guide who understood.
I wanted to bring a medium format camera but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to carry a large camera safely. It would have been fine… sigh. But I suppose that’s better than crying over a broken, beloved camera. I vowed to pack light. I was worried about my fitness. Would I be able to carry my gear around a mountain in deep snow all day? I ended up bringing three cameras: the pinhole converted Minolta7, iPhone and my Canon EosM. It seems like a lot of gear but it all fit into a smallish backpack with a change of clothes included.
Shot with iPhone
Shot with Eos M
We had amazing weather for February. It was warm enough we even saw the unkai, a sea of cloud in the valley, that usually only appears in March. The last time I was on the peak, it was -30C and this time it was just below 0C. Snowshoeing was not as hard as I thought. It was certainly work, but I was much more stable than on skis. I fell quite a bit but always managed to keep the camera out of the snow. Priorities, right? The other challenge was the intense brightness at the peak. It was hard to compose images because of the glare.
So what was your toughest location shoot? How did you overcome your challenges?
I met Daniela Arias last summer in Onishi, Gunma while she was doing an artist residency at Shiro Oni Studio. From: Patagonia, Argentina, currently Buenos Aires
Currently: Illustrator for graphic design and editorial.
Tell me about your work and your medium?
I started in graphic design and moved into illustration. Mostly I use water color and pencil on paper. I like lines. I paint as if I’m using drawing material.
I love illustrating. When I imagine something it’s like a comic. I imagine things in panels. I think I don’t communicate very well. What I do is like a bridge. If I have a pencil I can draw and I feel like people can understand who I am or what I am thinking. But I think whoever is making art is doing that. Interesting Point that Daniela Made During Our Discussion
We make what we make to understand who we were before this moment. What makes us the way we are now.
Why did you choose to come to Japan.?
I’m a big Japan fan. I wanted to come to Japan for ten years. I really like that in Japan people talk about anime and manga and it’s not just for children. Even adults have a favorite Studio Ghibli movie.
Why did you choose Shiro Oni?
I decided that when I come to Japan I wanted to have a real taste of what it is like to live in Japan. I like what Shiro Oni is trying to accomplish. It was great to participate in the culture here. I’m in the matsuri (festival) not just taking pictures of it.*
What are you working on now? I planned to do an illustrated travelogue. After meeting local people. I changed my idea. I want to make short stories, fantasy-style recollections of my travels. I also want to do some portraits–not a real life style. I like drawing people the way I remember them.
Louise Rouse is a British illustrator and designer.
Louise did the concept and styling of the shoot and Michelle was an amazing assistant director. The idea was yukata in Yoyogi Koen with (hopefully) a few of the rockabilly guys and gals that perform near the entrance, or beating the heat with a nice kakigori (shaved ice with sweet syrup). We got a couple of shots with a great rockabilly couple.
It was a super hot summer day but it was worth the effort. Lots of compliments on the amazing Hiroko Takahashi yukata Louise bought and many people admired the hair by Hikaru Terada.