Blog

Moving on

Thanks for visiting my site, but I’m afraid that from July 2013 I will not be updating this blog. Here are two new sites I’ve set up instead! www.wedojapan.com and www.tonymcnicolphotography.com

http://www.wedojapan.com

 

www.tonymcnicolphotography.com

 

For photo enquiries please email me at tony@tonymcnicolphotography.com. For Japan-related copywriting, translation and other communications services please email me at tony@wedojapan.com

The only thing left to say is otsukaresamadesu!

The Orchestra of Nineteen

I’ve photographed the Tokyo Sinfonia a few times over the last couple of years. The first proper shoot was just a week the March 11 earthquake[L] when they bravely went ahead with a concert in Ginza. I remember the rehearsal being interrupted by aftershocks.

This shoot was in rather more relaxed circumstances. I took my lights and a dark backdrop to Ginza and photographed the musicians as they were waiting to perform.

I used a very simple lighting setup – two speedlights, two umbrellas and a backdrop. All I needed then was 19 smartly dressed musicians with instruments and smiles.

Members of the Tokyo Sinfonia

Members of the Tokyo Sinfonia

Members of the Tokyo Sinfonia

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Magic Mountains

Explaining the Shugendo religion would be a job for a book, not a blog post. But let’s just say it’s a colourful mix of Buddhism, Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, and even more ancient native animism.

Shugendo’s adherents are known as Yamabushi – men (and a few women) who undertake arduous ascetic training in the mountains. Favourite Yamabushi activities include hiking for miles on end, standing under waterfalls and walking on hot coals.

These photos are from a press-tour to Dewa-Sanzan in Yamagata, famous for its three Shugendo mountains. As you can see there was some great weather and I got lots of photos of our Yamabushi guide on two of the mountains: Haguro-san  and Gassan.

Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed at the third, Yudono-san. That was truly an incredible place, mysterious in the mist and rain. But you’ll have to visit yourself to see it!

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Stars in his eyes

I’ve done a few fun interview portraits recently. This one was of planetarium designer Takayuki Ohira. He started off making papercraft projectors in his bedroom and eventually came up with a professional-grade device that could show orders of magnitude more stars than any other. He’s quite the nutty professor, and a household name in Japan.

I wanted to show his projector in action so we set it up in a small meeting room at his company office. The light on his face came from a small hand-held maglite wrapped in foil to narrow the beam.

Pop fact for Nikon users: it was fun to learn that the projector uses off-the-shelf Nikkor enlarger lenses.

Takayuki Ohira, creator of the Megastar planetarium

Takayuki Ohira, creator of the Megastar planetarium

Takayuki Ohira, creator of the Megastar planetarium

Taking to the streets

It took me quite a few years of working as a photographer to get round to a proper project, but In 2012 I started not one but two. This is the second. (The first is here).

Hard to believe now with the pro-nuclear LDP just voted back in, but last Spring and Summer there was a real sense that the Japanese people were rising up against nuclear power. These were the biggest popular protests since the anti-Vietnam demonstrations of the 1960s.

There was a lot of argument about exactly how many people took part but the last July the Financial Times reported that 75,000 people were at one of the largest Friday night demonstrations.

Things are very different now. The protests have dwindled down to a hard core of determined, largely elderly, activists.

During the summer and autumn I covered several of the protests and set up this Facebook page (please like it – I am uploading new photos one by one).

Personally I am against nuclear power, but my main aim taking these photos wasn’t to put myself on either side of the debate. Rather, I wanted to show how strongly Japanese people feel about this issue.

Popular protest in Japan is very small scale and low key compared to the UK, where I come from. The protests really felt like an exciting time for Japan and Japanese democracy. Such a shame that they now seem to be petering out. As it happens, I’ve struggled even to find publications willing to run these pictures so far.

Anti-nuclear protestors demonstrating close to the Japanese Diet.

Anti-nuclear protestors demonstrating close to the Japanese Diet.

Anti-nuclear protestors demonstrating close to the Japanese Diet.

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