A wedding: Miwa & Jun

I had a pleasure of photographing the wedding of this lovely couple.

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

It is funny how things happen sometimes. I was out on Lygon Street one weekend catching up with a friend. The cafe was pretty crowded so when another group came in just behind us, we offered the larger table to them and moved indoors looking for a small table enough for my friend and me. In the end, we ended up coming back to this group so we could share the table.

As it turned out, they were Japanese, and with my friend and I both speak Japanese, we chatted a bit. One person in the other group lives here in Melbourne, and looks after small events and stuff. Oh, my friend here is a musician and I am a photographer… let us know if you need a help. Oh, actually there is a wedding of friends coming up but they haven’t found a photographer yet. And it was only weeks away.

That’s how I got an introduction. I explained the style of my wedding photography, which is the same as my other event photography – documentary snaps. I imagine many couples expect more commercial/fashion shoot style wedding photographer, especially those who ask for pre-wedding shoots (popular in Asian countries – not Japan but seen a lot in other countries). They make saturated colourful images of the couple dressed up in dramatic, romantic setup, with relatively dramatic lighting and composition, and have the images done weeks or months in advance, so that they can be shown at the reception or used in invitational material and a wedding album. That is not what I do. Miwa and Jun had a look at sample images I have in public, on this blog and Facebook page, and agreed that they would be happy with my approach.

We initially discussed a possible 4-hour shoot but turned out to be a full-day work starting from 9:30 in the morning and finishing past 6:30pm. But thanks to some delays and the extra opportunities to shoot in the afternoon light, I was able to take advantage of the warmer late afternoon light for the street shots, which I thought I would have to struggle under the harsh mid day sun. In that sense, we were lucky things did not quite go according to plan and we were both flexible enough to make the best of the fluid nature of the busy day.

Miwa and Jun have kindly given me a permission to share some of the images with you, so here they go…

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

Miwa and Jun wedding 10 February 2014

So there you have it. They are really lovely, relaxed couple, just enjoying their day to the fullest. I’m looking forward to meeting them again, perhaps at another major family event in their life together…

Farm Vigano

Gorda

Thank you so much for your Like clicks here on WordPress, Facebook and elsewhere. And they all came in so quickly in the first hour or two. Thank you, again, for your support. Self doubt is a bad nature of an analytical person, but it can be totally balanced off by the encouragement of people like you, many of whom I have never met in person (and vice versa) hence no reason to ‘be nice’ to me πŸ™‚ Thanks guys!

So here I go. November photos part 1. Oh, the photo above is my friend’s dog Gorda. She is a little busy right now… almost reaching the tennis ball under my car.

Farm Vigano

If you know from the time I was still living in Osaka you would know that I love the open terrace cafe’s outside of town’s hustle and bustle. I used to drive that pretty French blue Mazda Roadster, with some girl with long hair in the passenger seat when I’m lucky, to a promise of soft bossa nova and good coffee. I haven’t bought a sport car that makes me want to drive every weekend just yet, but I found a place I’d like to keep going back to. As much as I’d like to keep it a secret of me and some lovely girl I convince to come for a ride with me, in this day and age of the internet nothing is spared anyway… so here it goes.

When I got there, it had just opened and was still deserted, with only one other group occupying a table. Sun was strong, breeze gentle, no sound of cars. And I found this after making one wrong turn. I really should consider never installing a navigation system in my car! The place was being set up for a wedding function – first for their business – that afternoon. I was allowed to take some photographs of the place, so with the only standard lens I had attached to my camera, I clipped a few shots. They said I’m welcome to come back any time to photograph more, perhaps when the wedding function is on, they even offered! I definitely intend to take up on that offer.

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano

Farm Vigano
10 Bushmans Way
South Morang 3752
Website

Leave the Ring Road at Plenty Road, drive up north (towards Mill Park / South Morang). Turn right into a residential area before reaching the Gorge Park… If you make the right ‘wrong turn’ like I did, you’ll find it there, at the end of the road where the rows of houses end.

See you there for a weekend lunch. Oh, if you have a MX-5 or the old ’69/’70 Alfa Romeo GTV that you could lend me (cannot afford one myself!), please message me!!

Oh, and the ladies out there, you know how to reach me πŸ˜‰

Wedding photo shoot: Yukiko and Hiro

I photographed this lovely couple’s special day. They tied the knot, just the two of them, with the Japanese photographer running around them all morning. We have discussed a lot of ideas about where and what kind of images they had in mind. I did some location scouting shoots and shared the images. And then, the big day came. We came out with some beautiful images from our half-day’s shoot, but here is a small collection of my personal favourites.

They registered their marriage at the Japanese Consul-General. Unfortunately they did not allow photographing on site, but we agreed to do a sort of ‘before and after’ series, in which I suggested that they changed their outfit and shoot the first series about the confession, romance and relationship, while after they are officially married, it is about being together, where they go hand-in-hand. I showed some shots on the back of the camera to share the idea I was going for, while I also directed them to live the confession, becoming the gangster or ‘yakuza’ on the backstreet, and we had the Osakan comedian’s cheeky smiles. Starting off very nervous and a bit stiff from morning cold air, too, Yukiko and Hiro quickly got on with this and we had a lot of fun. Well, check out the rest of the collection. Leave your comments, please.

Thank you, Yukiko & Hiro. I look forward to seeing you happy and smiling together for years to come!

Just the way you are

That was one of my favourites in the college years. I used to hum along to it as Billy Joel sang his romantic message to his (former) wife through my walkman’s headphones. Maybe I love the words so much, but I cannot explain any other way to describe my philosophy towards photograhing people. I just love you just the way you are, and that is what my photography captures.

This post is lots of words, but if you don’t mind it, please read on:

Mixi is a popular Japanese social network site. On the main page after log in, for the past few weeks I always see the same ad on the right hand side. It is an ad of the lip sticks called ‘Rouge Automatique’, with a slider on the side that reminds me of those ’80s big music stereo component and their equaliser sliders. Anyhow, I have problem with this photo, the one that is on my face as I log on every day.

Rouge Automatique εΊƒε‘Š
Mixi γ«γ„γ€γ‚‚θ‘¨η€Ίγ•γ‚Œγ‚‹εΊƒε‘Š

The first word that comes to my mind is ‘ooh, what a fake!’. Sure, MAYBE, she actually looks like this. Maybe she actually has those deep true-blue eyes. If that is the case, I’d say, that is a fake-looking face. In any case, it is quite obvious that this ad was not made for Japan market. You don’t find women with skin tones like her. And you don’t find women with such striking pinkish rouge on, unless you go back to the ’80s when she had a big stereo system in their living room, complete with 10-point sound equaliser sliders. When I saw this oddly placed unfashionable ad, it reminded me of a video I’d seen many times before. It was rather sensational and it was well received in creative world, so you might know this.

I believe it received a number of creative awards. It was not shown in the places I’d lived in, or when I was regularly watching TV any way, and I saw it for the first time in some meeting in an ad agency when I was working there in Singapore. It has a strong brand message, the kind that appeals to the user’s loyalty. But when I see this ad on Mixi, what I remember is the end product of the process, the manufactured face.

It was probably 4-5 years ago, when many of the photos used in printed advertisement were fake. With multiple lighting to create a sense of the place, rather than shooting in a real environment, the image was ‘improved’ heavily on Photoshop, removing irregularity from the skin, hair and shape of the body. It has become more of an issue since they have negative impact on the teenagers with their perception of an ideal adult woman. We adults know that there is no way such a human being could exist or considered ideal, but kids don’t know that yet and they are bombarded with such manufactured extreme images through media.

If you look at ads of automobiles on magazines these days, most, if not all, are manufactured images of cars driving smoothly in an impossible situation. They are products of 3D imaging and the amazing technology in texture graphics. They are there to impress potential shoppers with positive feelings, so that they actually go to the point of sale.

In fashion, perhaps as a rebound from the extreme length it’s once gone to manufacture perfect images, or as a simple change in trends, many images are made in a natural, simple manner. Even in the top fashion magazines, many photos are made with a simple single-lighting set up, and the photos are often used in print with very little modification.

I personally enjoy shooting in a documentary style, so I normally do not modify my images much. One exception would be one time when I was working on a mother-and-child series. The mother came in and said she hasn’t got a make-up on but she wouldn’t worry too much about it. I prefer to keep that mood going on, so we got right into it. Of course I took care in choosing the lighting, but there was a moment where the emotion was visible and I could see the connection between her and her baby. The lighting was not ideal but to me the main thing is capturing the real feeling rather than takng ‘pretty’ pictures. So we pressed on, and it turned out to be a beautiful image. The lighting, however, emphasised the skin texture a bit and made her look more aged than she was. After all, she, just like many women out there, would put a make up on before being out in public, and a photograph, by nature, is something that should be displayed in public, among their other family photos. So I put the image in Photoshop, and assumed the role of the make-up artist. I lightened the wrinkles ever so slightly, and also powdered the spots around her nose. It is just so light and natural, rather than manufacturing something artificial. It looked like she had her make-up on, and others may not notice it from the natural image. I delivered the print in 6″x9″ which is not a small print, and I’m sure she would have noticed the make up that somebody else put on her face, but there was no mention of it. It was me who encouraged to proceed with the shoot right there and then, and it was my job to ensure she doesn’t look older in the frozen memory called photograph.

Any photographer with proper image editing skills can do that much. Controlling the tonal contrast in parts of an image to draw viewers into it more strongly is something photographers are used to doing. But fundamentally, it is about what and how I, the photographer, capture. What I really care about is the integrity in the reality, the real feeling, the real memory at the real place in the history of people I photograph. That is why I normally go to the customer’s house or some place that is familiar to them, dressed up like they normally would, and use the lighting of the location as much as possible, to make photographs that look just like how everyone in the family would remember how they are in that place and the point in time. I photogrpah just a day in life of a family, birthday party, gathering of relatives and friends, to weddings, as well as other, more corporate or creative photographs. If you like to have photographs of your history, your family and friends, just the way you are, please speak to me. I’ll work according to your schedule and location as much as possible.

mother's embrace

Daisy make-up class

busy at one month out

Things have been rather hectic on my end, but hay fever aside, I am still alive and kicking! There have been a few enquiries for my service and responding to them took a little bit more of my time than I thought it would. As you can probably guess from what I say on blog, I am a detail kind of guy and once I start putting a document together, I tend to try to explain as much detail as possible in the most readable manner. While there are things that need to be mentioned to avoid surprises later, it is an opportunity to explain what I recommend and why. Each and every customer has her/his wishes and desires. I would really like to respond to each unique need, so I can satisfy each customer as they deserve. So what i am hoping to do is offering a framework which helps them work out what it is that they want, and give them an idea of how it works out in terms of pricing. I have not so far had a chance to put together the website but we are coming to the stage where it is reasonable to be out there. As for some of you with whom I have already worked with (i.e. I have photographed you), I would really appreciate your kind contribution to testimonials. I would like people to know how it feels to work with me, and I would like to offer exactly that, if not more, to everyone.

While the website is on the drawing board, a couple of projects I’ve been working on are coming to their final stage. It is time to optimise every image towards the target printing environment. Each paper, printer and print size requires the source digital image to be modified accordingly. If the target paper or printer in use is new to me, the test print is required, so that the final print can be adjusted to look exactly as intended. It takes time and require resources, but I believe that extra effort is the difference that viewers appreciate many years later when they come across the photograph. Sending a photograph to a quick print kiosk in the shopping centre is easy and quick. But easy job can only produce easy job quality. Given all the effort made in producing the beautiful images to start with, I would like to follow up with the workflow that ensures that quality at every step of the way. The projects will be finalised in the next fortnight and my prints will be mounted properly on beautiful white window mount board. I am excited to hear how people respond to the final product.

While I’m busy working with printing process, I am also scheduled to be photographing a few events in the next fortnight. I have been going through those jobs in my head and constructing images. It is fun because I would not really know it until the moment I finished shooting. It is not like I’m a producer who conducts every movement of a play on stage; I set a general direction to things as necessary, but I allow for the real life event to take its course, and wait for something exciting to happen before my eyes, for me to capture, frozen on a printed photograph for ever. Before the end of November, when I set off photographing on my travels, I would like to photograph a few more friendly dinner gathering, birthday, casual wedding or event. So if you have anything planned and are interested in having photographs of your natural expressions, please contact me as soon as you can.

Bride

Bride
Bride

I don’t consider myself particularly good at weddings. I’ve photographed a few in my life, some formal in a traditional setting, one religion or another, some modern, and some rather unusual and private. More than once I went to a wedding where somebody’s camera was somehow placed in my hands before things got going. For a bride who LOVES photographs taken, I brought a friend photographer together with me and gave her A LOT of attention, with cameras flashing her way from all over the place.

I do not like directing and I do not like to take over the show. It is, after all, the day for the couple. Well, ok, let’s admit it, it is the day for the bride and everything (should) take place exactly as she dreamed of. Although women seem to love to look at their wedding photographs again and again and again AND again, somehow I do not think a bride thinks much about the role of wedding photographer when she envisions her wedding day. She dreams of how she arrives at the venue of her wedding, be it a chapel, a park or the beach, and how she pronounces ‘I do.’ She knows exactly how her bride maids look and support her, and how her new husband stand exactly half a step behind and half a step on the side of her, never stepping on her train behind her. She knows exactly what makes her perfect reception, with perfect deco and lighting, and the perfect meal, perfect silverware and china, and the perfect speech. Her father cries as he takes her hand on the dance floor…

All that will be captured in spot-on focused and beautifully lit photographs in her album, like those stills of actors from movies. But she’d rather not have the guy with big camera and blinding flash passing her view every 2 seconds… It is not a movie set. She is not acting for the photographer so that the photographer can take the best shot.

That’s how I see it. The wedding. The girl’s most important day in her life. And I’m not a part of it (unless one day I end up being the one half step behind her), because I should be one of those guys in black suit walking around making sure everything works out just as she dreamed of. I do not ask the groom to do me a big dip while I take 2 minutes to take a picture of her looking uncomfortable. I do not ask them to throw the bouquet 10 times until I get the best shot. I don’t even ask them to freeze while cutting the cake, well, not more than a few seconds… I would walk around, see the venue as they see it, see the couple as the guests see them, and capture them. I would capture the family and friends with their smiles on, cheering on the newlyweds. I would capture the table setting, the result of her hours of consideration from the choices on the reception catalogue. And I would capture her, her partner, her father and mother, her girls in pink or purple or blue or whatever she’s chosen for them, and her partner’s parents so they won’t be upset when they are not found in the album later on. In short, I capture the moment. I capture the way you saw it, how you saw it, no more, no less. That’s my wedding shoot.

If you like the sound of it and would like to give it a go, well, let me know. Whether you want to do it again because you didn’t like the first one (not because of my photography but because things didn’t happen as you planned), or you loved the photos so much and want to do it again, well, I can’t take responsibility for the outcome of your marriage πŸ™‚

Now, about the bride in the photo above. I had a pleasure of shooting her about a month ago. I was looking for a photograph that she would give to her love (I assume that would be her husband). I wanted her in the photo to look up to him saying how much she loves him. I could have taken a photo of her with her mouth half open, and draw a balloon with the words on a piece of paper and put next to her. It works. Guys are easy. But really, that wouldn’t be classy, would it? She looked very classy, with her perfect dress, perfect jewelry and her perfect big brown eyes, and she deserved a classy, traditional portrait. She was a bit tired with all the attention and dress and all that when I approached her sitting in the couch. I said a few things into her ears, which did the magic, and that expression appeared on her face, in her eyes. I took only 2 or 3 frames and I was happy with the result. I just knew it was there.

That one shot would have made this bride very happy and me proud of being a photographer, for being able to capture that special feeling, rather than stiff looking nervous girl in front of a big equipment. And… when it comes to bringing out the real feeling on the face of the subject, there is no difference between a real bride and a model in wedding dress who must have been pretty tired after freezing smile at every photographer passing by. At least I’d like to think that her emotion was genuine and I was successful in capturing exactly what I was looking for.

Many thanks to the beautiful model and people at Creative Photo Workshops who allowed me to make this very quick 2-minute shoot at their booth that I passed by while attending the recent PMA Digital Life Expo. Those guys seem to be making beautiful fashion-oriented shots at their workshops, so if you are interested in learning portrait, maybe it’s worth a try.