Anthony Wood | Tokyo Headshot and Portrait Photographer

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Thoughts, experiences, and photos of life and work in Japan by Anthony Wood | American Headshot and Portrait Photographer based in Tokyo, Japan

Traditions || Buddhist Monk

Buddhism, while not a cultural aspect native to Japan, has a very long history in the country and very deep roots in Japan's culture. So naturally, the purveyors of Buddhism, Buddhist monks, fit well with my current and ongoing project to photograph people who are involved in or connected to the traditions of Japan.

Earlier in the year, I traveled down to the southern end of Chiba Prefecture to photograph a monk who is in charge of a small temple in that area.

We began our day of shooting in a small grove of trees that I had spotted during a previous visit to the area. It had been instantly clear to me when I first saw the location that there were interesting compositions and photos to be found within.

Not surprisingly, the suggestion of taking photos within the grove earned me a few strange looks. It would be unreasonable of me to expect others to readily share the same vision as me though, so that's why, no matter how obvious something may seem, I always make the effort to offer a simple explanation of what I'm seeing or doing. This usually works to quickly do away with any uncertainties and helps to put subjects at ease.

Into the trees we went. I first directed the monk to a spot that would allow the trees to be part of the composition without becoming an unnecessary distraction. I then took a similar approach with the lighting. That is, the lighting was primarily set up to illuminate the subject without having it overtly obvious that he was lit by off camera flash.

The second location was inside the monk's temple. I had initially thought to position my subject in front of the temple's altar, but quickly decided against it since it made the resulting image feel too busy. I instead opted to use an simpler area off to the side.

This side area however didn't have much going for it in the way of interesting light. I wanted to see some dynamic light coming through glass doors that were behind the monk, but being that the sun at the time was shining on the exact opposite side of the temple, it wasn't going to happen without waiting for the next morning's sunrise or coming up with some sunlight of my own.

I decided to create a little sunlight myself. I did this by positioning a single flash covered with an orange gel outside the window and adjusting it until it raked across the wall behind where the monk was positioned. It's a very simple step, but one that gave me the dynamic light I was seeking.

The final shot of the day was also done inside the temple and was actually taken with the monk facing into the setting sun. The only problem was that before I could make much use of it, the sun had fallen below the horizon.

With no warm light from a setting sun to be had, I needed to improvise. So, I once again created my own sunset. To accomplish this, I used a couple of carefully positioned small flashes that were covered with orange gels.

The last of the images below is the result of one flash lighting the subject, a second flash creating the highlights on the exterior edges of the temple as well as the highlights down the hallway, and a third flash (without any gel) set directly behind the monk. The third flash had the purpose of separating the monk from the background and helping to maintain a sense of shape in the monk's black robes.

All in all, it was a great day of shooting with a fascinating subject and interesting locations that allowed for, what I think, are some worthwhile photos. Check out a few photos from the shoot below.

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 僧侶  ||  Anthony Wood ©2014
 僧侶  ||  Anthony Wood ©2014
 僧侶  ||  Anthony Wood ©2014
 僧侶  ||  Anthony Wood ©2014
 僧侶  ||  Anthony Wood ©2014