Fashion photographer in Tokyo: Kiko in Todoroki

A couple of hours in a part of Tokyo that feels totally like the countryside, gave us a lovely set of fresh, nature-filled fashion photos.

I was first introduced to Kiko by a friend of mine who’d taught her when she was at high-school. It took Kiko and I ages to actually get together and do a fashion shoot together. She’s busy, she travels a lot and most of the time she lives in Paris. But, all good things come to those who wait and despite the fact we didn’t have much time to actually do the shoot, it all worked out really well.

Location, location, location…

Obviously, for any shoot to go well you first have to have a photographer, a model, preferably a hair & makeup stylist as well…. and a nice outfit or two. After that, it’s really don to the location to make the whole thing sing. Locations don’t have to be glamorous or far-flung to be great. They just need to have the right  potential and knowing what that potential is forms a large part, for me, of the pre-visualisation of any shoot.

And pre-visualisation really always is a very large key to the success of a shoot.

Todoroki: a bounteous ravine of nature in the city

I’ve known Todoroki pretty much ever since coming to live in Japan. I found it the first autumn we lived here, which is a little over ten years ago now. In autumn it really is at its finest, as all manner of trees conspire to create a super-rich palette of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. Higher up, out of the ravine and near the shrine, you can walk at tree canopy level. It’s magical. No trip to Tokyo in autumn should miss out Todoroki.

Kiko was due to leave for Paris around the start of September last year. We shot together at Todoroki at the very end of August. I’d never really spent much time there outside autumn, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect but I knew we’d be fine.

The ravine, and the path by the stream there, is narrow. My only concern was people: us having enough space to shoot and having a background that wasn’t always full of people walking along the riverside.

It worked out ok. There were quite a few people there, as Todoroki is also a great place to take the edge off of the summer heat and humidity. We worked around it. That’s what you do.

A great palette of greens,  I knew we’d have and Kiko and Tomoko (the stylist Kiko loves to work with in Tokyo the most) put together an ensemble of clothes and accessories that really worked well with the nature.

Lights, camera, action: what gear did I take?

Summer in Japan is no time to be carrying a lot of gear. The humidity is punishing. But, I’m an idiot and never learn. So, inside my trusty ThinkTank ‘Airport Accelerator’, I had the Hasselblad H4D-40 with my  80mm lens, plus the Nikon D800e and about five of my favourite primes. I really wasn’t sure what sort of vibe we’d end up wanting, so I took one of my Elinchrom Quadra Ranger lights, the battery pack, the small reflector dish and grid and a monopod.

Summer. 34C. 80% humidity. I’m carrying 20kgs of crap.

Yep, like I said: I’m an idiot.

We tried the light at first and it was, yeah, sort of nice but… no. I didn’t like it so much and not using it would free us up a lot.

A big rule on shoots is not to cripple yourself by using gear just because you humped it out to the location. Yes, I was a muppet to take a load of crap I didn’t need. But, no point being a complete muppet by using it when it obviously wasn’t going to work.

So, after that we pretty much stayed with the Hasselblad and its 80mm f/2.8 lens, and the Nikon and my 35mm f/1.2 Kerlee lens. I broke out the 80-200mm zoom for the Nikon on a couple of shots.

What about the post-pro?

Not much, to be honest. The Hasselblad – with its CCD sensor – pretty much nails the colour right there and then. If I’m unsure of exactly what White Balance is going to work, I get out the Nikon, switch it Live View and get myself into the ‘K’ (Kelvin value) mode and dial in a specific value of Kelvin on the screen…. as I can eye-ball it. When I se what I like, I take that value of Kelvin and transfer it to the Hasselblad.

In the end, all that was done to the files in post was (first in Phocus for the Hassie files and Capture NX-D for the Nikon) subtle changes of EV, highlight and shadow recovery. Then, in Photoshop, some tweaks of shadow, midtone and highlight colour balance using the ‘Image>Adjustments>Colour Balance’ tools.

Change size to 1920px on the long side (pretty much my go-to size for stuff on the web), add watermark and save.

Links, acknowledgments and miscellany…

Huge thanks to Kiko, obviously, and you can find her superb and valuable High Fashion Renaissance website here. HFR is all about, well, here’s what Kiko says:

“The HFR community is for anyone who feels insecure about themselves and their bodies. Now you have a platform to speak up, express, share!  It shall also be my endeavor to make fashion designers realize that they have the power to transform the industry into a healthier and happier one. That is the high-fashion renaissance we will usher in together!”

Thanks, too, to Tomoko Iwanaga for her superb work on hair, makeup and styling. You can find her website, bio and contact details here.

If you fancy heading out to Todoroki yourself, autumn is definitely the time to go but it’s lovely all year round, mainly for the peace, quiet and for the feeling that you’re miles from Tokyo but still only 20mins from Shibuya. Here is the station on the map. You can see the ravine just to the bottom left of the station.

And, finally, here are the pictures…

These are my favourites. Kiko had a few others she liked. But these are the ones I thought worked perfectly. Thanks for visiting. If you’d like to shoot with me, drop me a line.

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