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.
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