I don't know why I am shocked that the year is over. It's cliché to say, but time really does fly and the older I get, the quicker it goes.
In many ways, 2018 has been one of the best years of my life. My wife still hasn't divorced me. My three-year-old son is the coolest guy I know. I have gained twenty pounds in cinnamon roll weight (which means I have gotten to eat heaps of sweet treats). I am very blessed.
It was also a great year behind the camera. I found a comfortable rhythm this year and, as a photographer who loves to shoot a variety of genres, I was grateful to have had the opportunity to photograph a range of assignments for an array of clients. From an amazing photo tour in Vietnam to a commercial project with a sumo champion, travel editorial assignments to a portrait session with a royal couple, 2018 was a roller coaster ride that kept me challenged.
My first commission in 2018 really set the tone for the year. In early January I met Garrett and Kalika, an artistic and fun-loving couple working on their post-graduate studies here in Japan. Instead of a "normal" couples session, K&G decided to have their portrait session inside of a tattoo parlor. Being inked head to toe myself, I felt at home documenting the lovebirds getting their wedding bands tattooed.
January is usually a slow month for photographers and 2018 was no different. But it didn't take long before the assignments started coming in. I spent most of January, February, and early March completing smaller editorial projects, shooting headshots (indoors thankfully). and creating content for brands like the InterContinental Hotels Group. These first few jobs of the year eased me an incredibly busy spring season and kept me toasty during the chilly months.
As spring approached, bookings really started pouring in. The weather shifted (as did my mood) and I was thrilled to once again get outside with individuals, couples, and families. I even managed to spend several days working with a few happy couples who decided to elope in Tokyo.
Without a doubt, 2018 was my busiest spring portrait session to date. By the end of April, I was completely exhausted but had enjoyed every last second of the two-month run of portrait sessions in Japan.
The summer season kicked off with a bang. In early June, I packed my bags and headed to Hoi An to co-lead Pics of Asia's Central Vietnam Tour. For five days, legendary travel photographer Etienne Bossot and I worked with a full tour of eager participants. From Hoi An to Hue, our tour focused on travel portraiture and helped participants hone their travel photography craft.
Check out a larger collection of images from the 2018 tour and then book your spot on one of the 2019 Central Vietnam tours.
With the Pics of Asia tour completed, I headed to Bangkok for a few days to complete some preliminary research for a personal photography project. In Thailand I got the chance to complete some research, shoot a bit of street, and enjoy some much needed alone time.
June's travel schedule didn't let up. From Bangkok I journeyed back to the motherland. After recovering from jet lag, I made my way to Lake Tahoe, Nevada to complete an editorial commission for The National, Amtrak's bi-monthly publication.
Most of my time in Nevada and California was spent photographing the Tahoe basin. I was in awe with the region and was reminded of how much I love vast, open spaces. It was my first time experiencing Tahoe but it certainly won't be my last. I can't wait to share some work from this trip once the feature is released next summer.
Upon return to Japan, I jumped right back into my routine and tackled a pair of commercial projects. My first assignment was to capture a traditional Awa Odori festival for Rosetta Stone, a language development software company. Then, I put on my corporate photographer hat and worked with JLL, a UK based property management company, to document office culture in their Tokyo branch.
With the pair of commercial assignments done and dusted, I had a few portrait sessions with some really personable clients, the kind of people who I love to work for. Two of my favorite sessions were with Felisha and Aki. Both clients are young entrepreneurs and I was honored to spend some time with them to help them with their personal branding imagery.
Next up was an assignment for the Wall Street Journal documenting the Japanese Army's Airborne division. This assignment was one of the more memorable experiences behind the lens in 2018. I was honored to photograph the assignment for such a prestigious publication. But more, I was honored to spend some time with some of Japan's finest.
See more of my personal edits from this assignment here..
As we moved into the fall, I braced for a handful of event photography assignments. I worked with Ipreo and then for InfoPro Digital. Then, I joined up with a cohort from Hugo Boss for a few days to document their Million Euro Club events here in Japan.
With the corporate events completed, I switched gears again and tackled some portrait sessions that had been on my calendar for months. One of the sessions that stood out was with Krista and Andre, a Canadian couple coming to Japan to say "I do."
After planning for over six months, I was so happy to finally meet Krista and Andre in person. Our day together was full-blown (6 locations). From their wedding ceremony in Koishikawa Gardens to stuffing their faces with pastry in Odaiba, Krista and Andre had a spectacular day exploring the Japanese capital. I couldn't have asked for better clients or a nicer day as a portrait photographer.
Since the fall had popped off with such a busy start, I decided to take a small break and headed south for a few days. Joined by my life-long friend Jason, we had the chance for some rest and relaxation as well as the chance to press the shutter just for the joy of it, without pressure, agenda, or deadline.
In October I had another string of events to photograph. First, I covered an opening for Lottusse, a shoe manufacturer based in Mallorca, Spain. Soon after came an afternoon with the tech giant AppDynamics. The last event in the series was with the Wharton School of Business, a branch of the UPENN.
After these events, I bounced back into travel photographer mode for Viator, a tour company owned by TripAdvisor. For two weeks I focused my energy on capturing an array of subjects for Viator's Japan-based tours. Over the course of the assignment, I was in Kobe, Hiroshima, Nara, Nikko, Osaka, Arishiyama, Kyoto, and Tokyo.
In the end, I was worn thin. Yet, I was really happy with the work I produced and grateful to have worked with a wonderful group of editors. Moreover, I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to get out of Tokyo and revisit some of the sites in Japan that are dear to me.
My last commercial photography assignment of the year was with Kemono, a food and beverage company based in Singapore. The job was one of the most interesting of 2018. Along with a great team from Kemono and my digital-tech Dylan Goldby, I crafted some wacky images for the F&B company that will soon be featured on their social media channels.
While the images from the commission are licensed exclusively to Kemono, I happy to share a light test from the shoot below. Behold, the great Hiroki!
Again, the weather turned and the air in Japan became crisp which means I get giddy. It was time for me to break out my sweaters and house slippers. It was time for Gold Rush to return to television. It was time to snuggle up at night in fleece blankets with my wife. It was also time for my last string of portrait sessions of the year.
For several weeks, I worked with an amazing client cohort.. I photographed families I have known for years and got to meet a lot of new family photography clients along the way. I photographed children and seniors, large and small groups. I was even lucky enough to have an afternoon session with a royal couple (damn you non-disclosure agreements).
To close out the year, I had several last minute editorial commissions. For Game Informer Magazine, I worked with Tetsuya Mizaguchi, the creator of Tetris Effect. Next came a Tokyo-based travel piece for Mabuhay, Philippines Airline's in-flight magazine.
The last of the editorials was an afternoon with naturalist Tony Wu for Lifehacker. Tony's commitment to photographing the natural world is unparalleled. His work not only captures moments under the sea with some of the world's most fascinating creatures, it also helps scientists understand marine life and climate change better. Our afternoon together in Yokohama was the perfect capstone to an amazing year of photography assignments.
With the leaves fallen and the temperatures plummeting, I had the chance to sit around the office and take stock. One of my last tasks of the year was to get my desktop and hard drives organized.
I felt cramped by the massive amount of images on my computer. Before sending most of the snapshots I have made around Tokyo to the digital graveyard, I decided to start a series of Japan-based photo journals. I was happy to post few of these journals before the year's end. With those posts completed, I had some room to breathe and was able to get digitally organized.
To see some of those snapshots from Tokyo and throughout Japan, check out the following journal entries:
Tokyo Photo Journal #1
Tokyo Photo Journal #2
Japan Photo Journal #1
December is winding down. It's almost Christmas and the new year is right around the corner. The booking requests have calmed down and I am entering the slow season. I am cleaning gear and scrubbing the desk, washing my bags and formatting memory cards.
I couldn't be more pleased to have a bit of time to do the things that none of us really ever get the chance to do. Sit down. Breathe. Reflect.
I made 175,000 images in 2018, Most of them were rubbish. But, there were a few keepers. My success this year isn't found in the amount of quality of images that I made. Success wasn't found in consistent bookings. I don't feel successful because I had an image or two published.
I feel that 2018 was a success because I gave my best effort. I was vulnerable. I failed at a lot of things this year, so many things. I found success in failure. Those failures have helped me grow personally and professionally. Because of those failures and my willingness to learn from my mistakes, 2018 was a hell of a year.
Happy New Year. Have a safe and peaceful holiday season.
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