Bry Ony, breast cancer survivor, for Pink Magazine

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Bry Ony, a New Zealander living in Tokyo, is more full of life and zest than anybody I’ve met. She seems to appreciate and savor every moment, and when around her, one soon becomes joyful oneself. I photographed her for the cover of Pink magazine, which is devoted to informing women about breast cancer and encouraging them to get early examinations. Since Bry is obviously a survivor, I wanted the tone of the shoot to be positive and uplifting, so I chose Shinjuku Gyoen as the location – perhaps the most beautiful park in Tokyo.

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Interview with Dave Powell, Tokyo Street Photographer

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How did you get into photography?

I was looking for a hobby that would allow me to balance work and life. I have a very dynamic and busy schedule, which makes it difficult to have hobbies with starting times like Tuesday at 7PM, so I needed something that would be extremely flexible. Photography turned out to be just that. It is something you can do anywhere, anytime. I often do my best photography commuting to and from work. The more I got into photography the more I realized how many other people were into photography. I made some amazing friendships and business contacts through my photography. Hobbies are the great equalizer and bring lots of people together.

Who and what are your inspirations?

I get a lot of pleasure in capturing a story through a series of pictures or capturing a moment and sharing it with people. I get a lot of personal satisfaction when people enjoy my work. As ShootTokyo has grown in popularity I have really gotten a lot of pleasure out of that and hoping that I might have inspired a few people to get out and shoot. I really enjoy going out shooting and being alone inside my head while I am out shooting. I also enjoy going out on photo walks with others which ends up being more social than anything else.

If you had a million dollars to spend on any project, anywhere, what would it be?

I think I would travel to a lot of cities and try to tell the stories of the places by photographing people and some of the places that make that city or town unique. I would love just to wander through different cities and let my camera guide me where to go. Often when I go out shooting I am not following a pre-chartered course. I am simply out shooting and seeing what I can find. If I find an interesting area I’ll stay and spend time. Often this can be the best way to explore a new city.

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Who is your favorite photographer?

I really like Jay Maisel. I think he does an amazing job of capturing his city. I took his workshop in NYC and it was an amazing experience. He gives so much of himself and his time during the workshop. I know many people who have taken the workshop and everyone has the exact same view of the experience. I also really like the work of Elliott Erwitt. I have one of his contact sheets hanging up in my office at home. I really like it. Lastly I am very intrigued by the work of Vivian Maier.

Why Leica? How does it influence your style of shooting?

I get asked this a lot. Photography is very much a lifestyle for me. I always have a camera with me. When I first got into photography I was shooting an SLR. It was very difficult to try to always carry that with me as I was going about my day professionally. Often it would be in my bag and then eventually left at home as it was just too heavy. With a Leica it is very easy to always hang around my neck as I commute to and from work. It is easy to bring out to a dinner. If I brought a big SLR to a business dinner it could be a bit awkward whereas my small Leica often becomes a conversation piece.

At the end of the day you should shoot whatever gear inspires you to go out and shoot. There is no right or wrong answer. If the answer for you is an iPhone, then fantastic, shoot away.

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Do you shoot with other cameras?

For Digital I shoot a Leica M9-P and M Monochrom. I also shoot a Leica MP-3 for 35mm film and a Hasselblad 501CM for Medium Format film. I use a Ricoh GR for my digital point and shoot.

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Dave is the photographer behind the popular blog ShootTokyo where he shares his love for photography, life in Tokyo and travels around the world. You can find him on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+.

Dave has recently launched a Kickstarter Project to create a book based on his photography. Check it out: Here.

Magnus Hansson, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Japan, for Eurobiz Magazine

Cars are one of the most beautiful things to photograph – they’re basically sculptures on wheels, and when the background and lighting are right, they look amazing. On the other hand, when the background and lighting aren’t quite right, cars can be incredibly tough to photograph. In this case, I carefully chose a backdrop that complemented the color of the car, and also didn’t ‘compete’ with it visually. I then used a little fill flash to brighten up Magnus’ face (the existing sunlight was coming from above and behind and was quite harsh). Afterwards, using Lightroom, I was able to recover some of the highlight detail in the white reflection on the car.

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Einstein E640 Flash from Paul C. Buff: A Review

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Note: This is more a set of impressions than a scientific review. You won’t find any specs or technical comparisons, but instead general observations and feelings about this product.

Having owned three Alien Bees for nearly a decade, I finally decided to upgrade to a new flash system. The Alien Bees have served me well – one of them fell from nearly ten feet, slamming onto hard concrete, and although the plastic casing was cracked, the flash itself worked fine after that. I’ve put the Bees through hundreds of photo shoots and thousands of exposures, and they’ve never let me down. So, why did I decide to upgrade?

One reason was simply the length of time I had used the flashes – almost ten years. Although they worked OK, I was becoming increasingly concerned about ‘pushing them too far.’ They were still working fine, but starting to exhibit signs of wear – crackling electrical sounds now and then, plus a broken fan in one of them. I had heard horror stories of the capacitors in flashes breaking down, and making a loud sound like a gunshot. Another concern was color inconsistency. After reading about the poor color consistency of Alien Bees, I finally tested it for myself, and sure enough, the lights are pretty inconsistent, especially when shooting at a lower power.

Having decided to purchase a new set of flashes, the next question was, which brand? It seems that Broncolor is the best of the best – most consistent, reliable, powerful, not to mention they have the prettiest design. But the price is quite high, unless you need the action-stopping capability of a flash like the Scoro. Profoto is another great brand – the universal standard for flashes. A flash like the D1 Air is quite reasonably priced, although you must factor in the cost of accessories – simple things like honeycomb grids or electrical cords are very expensive in the world of Profoto. Also, although I admire the D1 Air’s austere and elegant industrial design, I couldn’t see any other advantages over the Einstein. There are many other flashes available – Elinchrom, Comet, and many smaller brands, but none of these inspire much of an emotional response on my part – they seem to simply ‘getthe job done,’ and little more.

I chose the Einstein for several reasons. One was obviously the price; since Paul C. Buff sells directly, without any retail middleman, he can keep prices incredibly low. Another reason was the ability of the Einstein to switch between ‘color mode’ and ‘speed mode’ – you can choose whether you want extremely accurate colors, or very short flash durations. And finally, although the Alien Bees weren’t perfect, they had served me quite well over the years, and I wanted to continue using products from the same company.

So, how do I like them so far? I‘ve only had them for several months, but here are a few observations:

-The build quality is surprisingly good, a huge step up from the Alien Bees. High quality plastic, and a rugged feeling to them.

-I am also surprised by the design. After looking at pictures of the Profoto D1 Air, which looks like the flash James Bond would use if he were a photographer, I was worried that the Einsteins would look too much like toys. However, I’m pleasantly surprised that in real life, they look cooler and sleeker than I had imagined.

-The electronic menu, although a little confusing at first, gives you a great deal of valuable information, and is very well thought-out.

-As expected, when in ‘color mode’ the colors are indeed extremely consistent, regardless of the power setting of the flash.

-Photographers are always concerned about how powerful a flash is, but what about how weak it can be? One of the greatest characteristics of the Einstein is that you can shoot at 1/64 of full power. This way, I can shoot wide open, the flash very close to the subject, without having to use neutral density filters.

-The Commander system works fabulously. Until now, I’ve been using only Pocket Wizards, and one of the nice differences is that the PCB system is so tiny and light, compared to the relatively bulky Pocket Wizards.

-The customer service at PCB is outstanding. When I first started using these Einsteins, I had an issue where the slave eye (little white thing on top of the flash) was picking up signals from an overhead fluorescent light, and causing the flash to fire rapidly. I inquired about this to PCB, and got immediate responses from staff who seemed genuinely concerned. This is always a good reason to go with ‘the underdog.’ (By the way, if you should encounter this slave eye problem, the solution is simple: turn off the slave eye in the menu.)

-Anything negative to be said? Well, the recycle time for full power still leaves something to be desired – it takes 1.7 seconds. Not exactly the same as the Broncolor Scoro, which can produce ten flashes per second at full power! Then again, most photographers simply won’t need the capability of a Scoro flash.

Altogether I’m very happy with this flash – very logically designed, from the ability to choose ‘color mode’ or ‘speed mode,’ to the LCD interface, which is a unique item for flashes, to the Cyber Commander system, which works great and is incredibly compact. And don’t forget, PCB accessories like softboxes, beauty dishes, etc. are reasonably priced, well-designed and durable.

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Kazuo Matsui, for In Touch Magazine

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Athletes are always a joy to photograph. For one thing, I’m less drawn to how a person looks, and more to what they’ve accomplished. Athletes are the epitome of this kind of person: through endless training and devotion, mixed with talent and a dash of luck, they’ve made themselves into something special. Also, the clothes. In this day and age, when people are increasingly dressing down, it’s great to see uniforms with special numbers, logos, colors and so forth. Baseball uniforms in particular have a certain old-fashioned charm.

Kazuo was a real pleasure to photograph, since he was so friendly and cooperative. The first picture was taken in a little sports area at the Tokyo American Club. The netting in the photo, although it seems like it’s part of a larger stadium netting, was actually just a tiny patch – if I had moved my camera a few centimeters, the illusion would have been ruined. For lighting, I gridded my softbox to create a soft and flattering but slightly contrasty look, closer to real sunlight than a regular softbox. After doing this photo, we took some pictures inside the building, where I had prepared a makeshift studio for the occasion. Although Kazuo suggested wearing his jersey again, the simple shirt he had on was perfect so we went with that instead. For these pictures, I was looking for the ‘real’ Kazuo, the extraordinary baseball player who was also an ordinary guy.

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Three Japanese Legends

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One of the exciting things about being a photographer is meeting great people. Fascinating, interesting, accomplished, inspiring people. And sometimes there occurs an even more rare situation – photographing not one, but several great people. This shoot, done for In Touch magazine, was of three Japanese legends: Junko Koshino, fashion designer; Norika Fujiwara, model and actress; and Junko Tabei, the first woman in the world to climb Mount Everest.

Before the shoot, I checked out several locations at the Tokyo American Club, which publishes the magazine. The club is full of breathtaking locations, but as soon as I saw this purple velvet booth, I knew it was perfect for the cover photo. During the shoot, I first photographed them with a round table – normally in the booth – in front of them, but then realized it was distracting and removed it. What resulted was this kind of ‘altar’ type enclosure, which frames the women beautifully.

Lighting was another consideration. I needed to mimic the overhead chandelier to some extent; copying it exactly would have resulted in an overly intense spotlight effect, but not copying it at all would have looked strange. So I kept the lighting high and central, but also soft and broad enough to light all three women evenly.