At the close of each year, I take some time to reflect on my rotation around the sun and this year is no different. As 2019 comes to a close, I am looking back over the past year in order to take stock before moving into 2020, a new decade and an opportunity for a fresh start.
Part of me feels like a bit of a plonker publicly writing about my year. I ask myself if I would do the same if I was an accountant, barista, or sanitation worker. I think I would. The written reflection itself is a way of taking stock and helps me get my head on straight.
2019 was an amazing year as a photographer in Japan, a year loaded with commercial, travel, editorial, and portrait assignments. For sure, 2019 was my busiest yet. There were many professional highs and, honestly, some pretty low lows.
As the year progressed, I learned a several things about myself as a person and now, reviewing the images I made in 2019, I am learning a thing or two about myself as a photographer.
2019 Year In Review
I said hello to 2019 in Koh Samui, Thailand. While on vacation with my family, I got the chance to make a frame or two without any associated pressure. As in years past, starting the new year off with little stress was a good way to set the tempo for the year (though, the next twelve months didn't turn out as carefree as I had hoped).
Making images without any attached deadline or specific angle always reminds me of why I picked up a camera in the first place. I love making photos and, stripped for all constraints, I was grateful to shoot some photos just for the hell of it.
Returning to Japan, I got straight to work. My first editorial photography assignment of the year came as soon as I returned to Tokyo. Mabuhay Magazine, sent me over to Tsurutokame, an amazing sushi restaurant operated by an all female staff, to make some portraits of the chefs, management, and exquisite sushi on offer.
Up next was a multi-day event for ShipChain, a logistics platform utilizing blockchain to provide increased visibility, traceability, and efficiency. The January conference gave both investors and employees a glimpse at what was in store for the company in 2019 and beyond. In addition to shooting the event, I was also commissioned to photograph a full run of corporate headshots. ShipChain wanted an editorial feel to the imagery and I was happy to oblige.
Another editorial assignment rolled in from SkyLife, Turkish Airlines' publication crafted for first-class passengers. I was tasked to shoot a group of spectacular chefs and the Japanese cuisine they are known for. From piping hot sukiyaki to Michelin Star winning tempura, I was happy to photograph the chefs, the dishes, and to sample some of the finest cuisine in the Japanese capital.
Next was a chilly portrait shoot with Kyoko Matsushita, CEO of Essence’s Asia-Pacific region for Adweek followed immediately by a personal branding session with Melissa, an Australian television presenter making waves here in Tokyo.
Unlike years past, January and February were busy. As the snow fell in February, I hit the road to document some of the tours offered by TripAdvisor Experiences. From the sumo stables of Tokyo to the iconic slopes of Mount Fuji, the commercial project kept me busy for a few weeks and was a great way to close out the shortest month of the year.
March finally came but spring was still a way off. Temperatures remained chilly and luckily my next commissions were indoors. In March I switched to event photography mode and worked with the both the Government of South Australia and the organizers of the Tokyo Marathon.
With the pair of events completed, I packed my bags, hopped on the Shinkansen, and headed south for a commercial photography assignment. In Kyoto, I worked with EPH, a brand new boutique hotel. I collaborated with EPH's management to create a visual identity for the brand that would set a precedent for their future projects that are expected to open in other locations throughout Japan.
My time in Kyoto wasn't just limited to the interiors and exteriors of EPH. To help expose their hotel guests to Kyoto's rich cultural heritage, EPH also commission me to produce an image library for their social media channels. For a few days, I hit some of my favorite spots in Kyoto, Japan's cultural center.
As soon as the Kyoto-based project was completed, I boarded a Seoul-bound flight. It was awesome to be able to return to Seoul, the Korean megalopolis where I once lived for six years.
For this two-week trip I was happy to be shooting again for the fine folks at TripAdvisor Experiences. It was odd being back in Korea as a travel photographer. But, I enjoyed seeing many of the tourist-trail-sights with fresh eyes and with a specific task in mind.
Back in Tokyo, the spring came in with a roar. My first big project of the season was a week-long stint with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The assignment was to capture the ins and outs of MIT's Technology and Innovation Bootcamp where participants from all over the world met to discuss a range of topics. From healthcare innovation to artificial intelligence, participants were offered a series of lectures and were formed into groups to ideate solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems.
With a bit of a break before the inevitable portrait season rush, I had the chance to sit down with Japan Station, a podcast produced by Japankyo to talk about how I ended up working as a photographer in Japan. If you want to hear some extended thought pauses and me say "um" way too many times, you can listen to the episode on itunes here.
The weather began to warm and portrait photography requests began rolling in. For a few weeks, I spent most of my time shooting family portraits, personal branding sessions, pre-wedding portraiture, and proposals in and around Tokyo.
At the end of the spring portrait rush, I popped down to Kobe, Japan for the New York Times. I was tasked with an assignment for the NYT travel section shooting 36 Hours in Kobe, Japan. I have always liked the port city and was happy to spend a couple of days exploring Kobe for one of my favorite publications.
Back in Tokyo I was given the green light from my friends at TripAdvisor Experiences to photography "my Tokyo." It is always a privilege to be given free rein by a client to shoot a subject in my own style. Needless to say, I was thrilled to head out to photograph my adopted home in the way that I see it.
I again made the switch from travel to commercial photographer (though the lines between the two genres are at time blurry) and spent several days with the New Sanno Hotel to help them revamp their food and beverage program imagery. The hotel, run by the US Naval Joint Services, has six brands. It was challenging to develop an imagery plan that would stretch across each of the hotel's restaurants. But I was up for the challenge and was pleased with the content created for the New Sanno.
Next up was another commercial hotel photography project. After a successful first round with the EPH brand, I was commissioned to photograph EPH in Takayama, Japan. EPH Takayama is as amazing as the Kyoto location. More, EPH Takayama is a refreshing alternative for travelers who like new, boutique accommodation.
EPH Takayama is designed to reflect the natural environment found in Gifu Prefecture. Instead of the deep reds used to highlight EPH Kyoto, EPH Takayama uses greens and blues to calm guests. For a week, I worked with management to create advertising imagery that will help propel the hotel's business in Takayama.
After wrapping up my work in Gifu, I returned to Tokyo to tackle back-to-back editorial assignments. My first project was to photograph the reemergence of Japan's kissaten cafes for +852 Magazine and then to capture a slice of the Tokyo bar scene for Conde Nast Traveler.
Then, before the end of May, I had a short string of couples portrait shoots. I had a blast working with pairs from France, America, and Taiwan in some of my favorite locations in Tokyo.
My last project of the spring took me Bangkok, Thailand for TripAdvisor Experiences. I was given a lot of flexibility to shoot the city in any way I saw fit. From Bangkok's street food (which the metropolitan government is attempting to get rid off) to magnificent examples of Thai architecture, I had a blast on the assignment and couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up the first half of the year.
At the beginning of June, my family and I headed to North America for a much needed break. For two months, we spent lazy days in Asheville, Chicago, and Toronto. But, just as in years past, I had the chance to get the camera out to photograph the people who mean the most to me.
Worked picked up as soon as we landed back in Tokyo in early August. First up was a week-long editorial photography assignment for CAA Magazine. The project had me out in 105 degree heat, inside Michelin Star restaurants, and sipping cocktails in one of Asia's 50 best bars. I was happy to see the issue eventually come to print (Winter 2019) and to have landed the cover/s.
Soon enough, the heat broke and another string of portrait sessions came. I crammed in several family, personal branding, and couples photography sessions and was grateful to have worked with such amazing clients.
After the portrait string, it was time to pop back to Kyoto to photograph the details of the stunning Machiya Shinsen-en. This new property is a machiya-style residence blended with a modern boutique hotel. The two sections of the property are both exquisite and are on the top of my list for chic, affordable accommodation in Kyoto.
From Kyoto, I headed back to Takayama, Japan to shoot the food and beverage program for Hids' Cafe, the restaurant adjacent to EPH Takayama (a property I photographed earlier in the year). Hids' menu is one of the finest in the sleepy town. I was delighted to help the cafe with their commercial food photography and to support the Hids' as they enter the Takayama market.
My last editorial portrait commission of the summer came from GEO Saison Magazine. I was tasked to photograph the world-famous gastronomer Charles Schumann in one of Tokyo's most iconic watering holes.
I met Charles on the 52 floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the New York Bar (You'll recall the space from the film Lost In Translation). While Charles and I didn't take the time to mention the film (though I did lounge in THE Bill Murray seat), we did manage to relax a bit, enjoy the views of Tokyo, and make a portrait or two.
Autumn arrived and I was glad to be rid of the heat and humidity that make summer in Tokyo less than desirable. I was ready for my favorite season and eager to be in the final stretch of the year.
My first autumn highlight was photographing Shinji Hattori, CEO of Grand Seiko (GS). Working with the Financial Times and GS, I worked quickly with Hattori-san and was happy to have the chance to drop off my grandfather's old Seiko watch for repair.
Another highlight from autumn was again for The New York Times. I headed out to cover 36 Hours in Yokohama, a piece highlighting Japan's second largest city. While Yokohama doesn't get as much attention as the nearby capital, it is stocked full of amazing experiences. Hopefully the 36 Hours piece will shed some light on the city by the bay.
Next up was a round of corporate portraiture for McKinsey and Company, a worldwide management consulting firm. My subject for the day was Tiffany Kwok, an Expert Associate Partner at the firm.
Still in portrait photography mode, I worked with David Ramis Åhfeldt, a guitar player in The Ocean (which happens to be one of my favorite bands). David needed some content to showcase his guitar, a custom-made axe crafted by Mozer Guitars. It was great to spend some time with David, help him showcase Mozer's impressive work, and chat about the state of heavy metal.
Soon enough the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicked off. While I didn't attend any of the games (I am just not a sports fan), I was invited to photograph a handful of events related to the international sporting event. I worked with Gullivers Sports Travel to capture their RWC Forum events and spent some time with Carters (a New Zealand based tool manufacturer) photographing their All Blacks (New Zealand's national team) event.
In late October I sat down with Megapolis Magazine for an interview about travel photography. I was honored to share some thoughts and images with the Ukrainian based magazine and was, admittedly, shocked to find out that the interview ended up running in six different print magazines on shelves throughout the Ukraine. If you have the interest, you can find the english language version here.
Before October's end I knocked out a quick assignment focused on Shinjuku for American Way, American Airlines' inflight magazine. The small piece highlighted five great spots in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's most well-known neighborhoods, where one can stuff their face and/or wet their whistle.
At the beginning of November, I made my way back to the Kansai region to highlight a collaboration between tech giant Lenovo and Japanese industrial manufacturer Yanmar. The assignment was one of my favorite in 2019. It was amazing to see the scale of Yanmar's corporate and manufacturing hubs and to make some images of the folks who actually produce the company's equipment.
After returning to Tokyo, I spent five days with a wonderful group of doctors from Takeda. I was commissioned to document the pharma company's President's Club incentive tour to Japan. From Gala dinners to a behind-the-scenes look at Team Lab's (now) famous digital art exhibition, tea ceremonies in Kamakura to tours of Takeda's facilities, the assignment was filled with a variety of photography tasks.
The weather finally turned and it was again sweater weather. The end of the year was coming but I wasn't quite yet finished.
In the beginning of December I accepted one final commercial photography commission from MindValley Productions, an e-learning community based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was tasked to photograph Ken Honda, the bestselling author of Happy Money (and all around nice guy) for a finance course that will soon go live on MindValley.
To end the year, I was honored to see some of my work land on the cover of GEO Special Magazine. The issue, dedicated completely to Japan, was GEO Special's rebranding issue and I couldn't have asked for a better way to close 2019.
Without a doubt, it has been a hell of a year. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to do what I love to do here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, and beyond. But more, I am blessed to have a loving support system. I would like to publicly thank my beautiful wife Laura who has gifted me with her patience and support.
I can't wait to see what 2020 has in store. I am just as eager to share the work created in 2019 that, as of now, I am obliged to keep under wraps. Thanks so taking the time to have a look at my 2019 Year In Review.
I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a joyous transition into 2020.
Related Blog Posts
There are as many types of event photography as there are kinds of events. But If I had to name my favorite type of event to photograph, it would quickly say incentive tour photography.
Incentive tours are intensive and often stretch across several days, Basically, these tours are the marathon of the event photography world. Incentive tours are multi-faceted and require much more than an on-camera flash and a high ISO. I don't just arrive and snap photos of a CEO giving a speech or attendees partying the night away at a gala event. There is much more substance and much, much more to capture.
Throughout an incentive tour, I am allowed to photograph guests in an array of situations and utilize a variety of photography techniques. I also love that incentive tours give me the opportunity to engage with participants and feel included in the event (instead of standing dressed in black, off to the side).
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company during their President's Club Tokyo visit. For four days, I was with the Takeda crew every step of the way. Of course we visited Takeda's Tokyo headquarters and the Shonan Health Innovation Park (iPark) in Yokohama. These locations allowed attendees (who came from all over the world) to see Takeda's operational hub.
But, like most incentive tours, the group didn't spend the majority of their time with professional development. Instead, the President's Club utilized most of their time exploring Japan's capital. From Team Lab's now famous Planets exhibition to the streets of Nihonbashi, tea ceremonies to the Giant Buddha of Kamakura, the group experienced a quick, but genuine taste of what Tokyo and its surroundings has to offer.
In the end, I was grateful to spend time with the group from Takeda and was honored to be their multi-day event photographer. Congratulations to all of those who were selected for the Tokyo President's Club tour!
Are you planning a multi-day event or incentive tour in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan? If so, I would be honored to chat with you about my event photography services. Contact me today to get the conversation rolling.
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Earlier this year, I linked up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to cover their Technology & Innovation Bootcamp, an accelerated-learning program for students to learn and practice leadership principles. This year's Tokyo Bootcamp focused on Technology and Innovation, allowing participants from all over the world to gather in the Japanese capital for an intense week of collaboration in hopes of solving some of the world's toughest problems.
Sponsored by Nikkei, the University of Tokyo, and Sony, the week was filled with intensive ideation sessions paired with a lecture series given by scientists, medical doctors, engineers, and inventors. During the course of the week, I was fortunate enough to attend several lectures by both Sanjay Sarma and Joi Ito, two rockstars of the intellectual world. While looking down the barrel of a lens, I was able to hear the ideals of some of the foremost authorities on IOT (Internet of Things), artificial intelligence, and the forecast for our world (it isn't good folks).
MIT is well-known for innovation and for promoting new ways of thinking. In MIT fashion, I was given the go-ahead to utilize some uncommon event photography techniques, produce a massive amount of black and white imagery, and shoot the week-long event in any way I chose.
MIT’s encouragement was empowering, Moreover, it made me respect MIT for upholding their core values even with their vendors.
When a fellow photographer asked me how my week with MIT went, I responded with a single sentence. I said that the easiest way to feel intellectually inferior is to attend a lecture given by any MIT professor. Sure, I wasn't the brightest crayon in the room, any of the rooms. But after a week spent absorbing the thoughts of some of the world's intellectual authorities, I came out feeling a bit brighter (even if my small intellectual surge was solely due to proximity).
Are you in need of an event photographer in Tokyo for a corporate, private, or government function? If so, reach out today to find out how I can help tell the story of your single or multi-day event.
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Running enthusiasts have their eye on the Tokyo Marathon. Not only is Tokyo on everyone's bucket list as a travel destination, the marathon is one of Asia's premier competitive events for runners. Because of this, an average of 38,000 athletes flood the Japanese capital every year for one of the most anticipated street races in the world. It's a big deal.
The Tokyo Marathon isn't just a foot race with a cash prize. The week-long event has charitable components and offers family sprints. There are week-long expos and "friendship runs." For serious competitors, there is more at stake. This year's Tokyo Marathon served as selection trial for the 2019 IAAF World Championship in Doha, effected the Marathon Grand Championship Series, was the Japanese Olympic Trial for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and was a portion of the Abbott World Marathon Majors Series XII.
While I wasn't on hand to capture runners from all over the world hustling through the streets, I was lucky enough to provide event photography coverage of the marathon's afterparty held at Happo-en, one of Tokyo's most exclusive event venues. From Sumo wrestling demos to fresh sashimi, awa odori dancers to live calligraphy performances, the lavish party was accented with iconic cultural elements from Japan. Without a doubt, the party was the perfect capstone to an amazing week of marathon events.
I was honored to work with the event coordinators from DMC Japan, Happo-en staff, and all of the race participants who chose to party the night away. I am already looking forward to next year's marathon celebration.
Are you hosting an event in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan? If so, reach out today to secure your event photography service and rest easy knowing that the story of your event will be professionally captured.
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It is always a pleasure receiving an inquiry regarding a government event. It is especially nice when the Government of South Australia needs an event photographer in Tokyo. I love working with the crew from Adelaide. The GSA staff is witty and kind. The GSA events are well planned and are, frankly, just a good time all around (the wine and lamb, some of South Australia's finest exports, are always on offer).
The Government of South Australia recently opened a new Trade and Investment Office in Tokyo and I made it out to the Australian Embassy to photograph the ribbon cutting ceremony. But, the day wasn't complete without celebrating the offices' opening Aussie style. After the ceremony, we moved from the embassy to Happo-en, one of Tokyo's finest event venues.
Throughout the banquet, quests were treated to delicious plates of succulent lamb and fatty tuna, world-class wine, a peak at new trade opportunities, and excellent conversation. As always, it was an honor to serve the Government of South Australia. I congratulate them on the opening of their new office and the business opportunities that are on the horizon here in Japan.
Are you organizing a government or corporate event? If so, I would be honored to be your photographer. Contact me today to discuss how I can best serve you here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond.
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Live More, Bank Less. DBS' motto, from a marketing perspective, is sound. I agree with DBS. We should all bank less. We should work hard and then appreciate the fruit of our labor. Banking aside, we should all just live more.
I recently spent a few days with the senior staff and board members of DBS bank. It didn't take long for me to realize that this group is hardworking, forward thinking, and in need of some rest and relaxation. With an itinerary expertly crafted by The Conference Room (an Australian event planning company), DBS' 5-Day incentive tour was designed to help attendees live more, celebrate their accomplishments, and to rejuvenate here in the Land of the Rising Sun.
After spending some time in Tokyo with the fine folks of DBS as their event photographer, I could see that they do their best to practice what they preach. The corporate powerhouse has worked tirelessly to craft their bank into one of the world's most sound financial institutions. Now, upholding their motto, DBS realizes that success is nothing if it can't be enjoyed.
On their second night in Tokyo, the cohort from DBS hosted their Golden Jubilee Gala to treat their staff and Japan-based clients to a wonderful evening full of entertainment, food, and great company. Tokyo's Palace Hotel was the perfect location for the celebration and an event photographer's dream.
During the VIP bash, attendees were nothing but smiles. From culinary masterpieces to a martial arts dance crew, a custom designed chocolate wall to elegant flower displays, the production of the event was impressive to say the least. I was thrilled to take part in the evening's festivities and to help DBS celebrate its tremendous year.
Are you searching for an event photographer in Tokyo or throughout Japan to capture your corporate, government, or private event? If so, contact me today to find out how I can serve you!
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A few weeks ago I linked up with the fine folks at O Hello Media, a media production company based in Colorado. OHM was searching for an event photographer in Tokyo to work with AppDynamics, one of their clients currently on a global showcase tour.
Eager to learn more about who I would be serving, I surfed the ole world-wide-web to see what I could find out about AppDynamics. AppD is an application performance management and IT operations analytics company. Based in San Francisco, the software power-player focuses on managing the performance and availability of applications across cloud computing environments. Even though AppDynamics was purchased by Cisco in 2017, it is still run as an independent business unit within Cisco's Applications business.
After learning a bit about AppD and seeing the kind of events they have previously hosted, I realized that that AppD is as legit as it comes. I knew that a company like AppD would produce an event that would offer the chance to utilize an array of event photography techniques and that their upcoming showcase in Tokyo would be a stunner.
With O Hello Media's direction, we moved forward, planning photography services for the Tokyo stop of AppD's global tour. AppDynamics was very specific about the type of event photography that they needed. In their brief, the client specifically mentioned that they wanted me to shoot with creative angles and create some imaginative event photography. They needed me to capture authentic moments of engagement and asked me to ensure that the images "popped."
Clearly, AppDynamics wished to elevate the stale standards typically associated with event photography. I was delighted to hear that AppDynamics wanted to mix things up a bit and that they were giving me the go-ahead to experiment (as long as I delivered a product that was on brand and of the highest quality). I was up for the challenge.
When I arrived at the Park Hyatt (the amazing property in downtown Tokyo where Lost In Translation was filmed), AppD was ready for the event. It was obvious that AppD's Global Tour crew was a well-oiled machine.
Even though I arrived over an hour before the event's scheduled start, the breakout session room was in order and the ballroom was aglow with beautiful, gelled lighting. The expo area was fully staffed with AppD's tech experts and branding elements were tastefully placed throughout the reception area and near the top-notch catering provided by the Park Hyatt. After a few minutes roaming through the venue to get the lay of the land, I opened my gear bag and got to work,
In the end, I was incredibly happy with the collection of images I produced for AppD. The images I delivered fit AppD's brief and were engaging, creative, colorful, and a bit more enticing than what is usually produced at technology expos. Thanks to AppDynamics and O Hello Media, it's a wrap for another great event.
Are you searching for a photographer in Tokyo, Japan to tell your event's story? Whether a corporate, government, or private function, I am ready to shoot your event. Contact me today to learn more about my event photography services. or to get the conversation rolling.
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I am all about life-long learning. Whether it be taking a class in my spare time or learning something from a fellow photographer on Youtube, I think a constant search for knowledge is time well spent. Considering this, I was excited to hear from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business regarding one of their upcoming Joe Talks events in Tokyo, Japan.
I was familiar with Joe Talks and was eager to learn more about how I could support Wharton photographically with their event. After all, an evening of event photography and the chance to hear some presentations from some of the finest business professors in the world sounded pretty good to me.
Paying homage to Wharton’s founder, Joe Talks are rapid-fire presentations from star Wharton faculty. Each presentation, lasting about fifteen minutes, energetically showcases Wharton's thought leadership in business, analytics, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The lecture series brings experts in the Wharton community directly to alumni across the world and offers former graduates the chance to learn more about current business topics. More, the alumni events serve as the perfect opportunity for previous Wharton graduates to network.
On the day of the event, I arrived at the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo, Japan about an hour before the presentations began. I wanted to arrive early so that I could take a look at the venue, prep my gear, and to meet Lisa, Wharton's event coordinator.
With more than a year of communications between us, it was awesome to finally meet Lisa and to put a face with a name. Lisa was just as friendly in person as she was throughout our online communication. I could also tell by glancing around the venue that she was an amazing event coordinator. After meeting Lisa and having a peak around the ballroom, I knew that the night would run smoothly.
For Wharton's Tokyo 2018 program, there was a solid lineup of presenters and topics of interest:
Once the presentations were over, it was great to see alumni connect and network. I was also thrilled to see the camaraderie that Wharton graduates have with one another.
In the end, it was an honor to document the event for Wharton and I feel that I am a bit more knowledgable about some key trends in the business world due to the stellar event.
Are you searching for an event photographer in Tokyo or throughout Japan? If so, contact me today to find out how I can help with your private or public event photography needs.
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