I`ve been thinking for a long time about shooting models in a haikyo. I bought a flash (SB-600), a flash-stand, and even took a lesson on flash, but still the thinking remained thinking and not shooting. I had no desire to go on a practise shoot that wasn`t in a haikyo, but I was too shy to take a model solo to a haikyo without any experience. Quite a quandary.
In the end the answer came to me, in the form of Dom. Dom found my site and got in contact about his vision for a wedding photo shoot; him, his fiancee Liduina, and 5 of their best friends in full wedding regalia, in a haikyo. They`d bring their own shooter so the pressure wouldn`t be on, the vibe would be great since they`re all good friends, and the setting would be dramatic with great costumes they would provide. It was exactly what I`d been looking for.
This past Sunday I went to meet Dom, Liduina and company at 7am at the Shinjuku Hilton. They`re all from Singapore, and had come to Japan for a group holiday, with the extra idea to shoot pre-wedding photos. I don`t think I know any other Singaporeans, so we had a lot to talk about in the car on the 3-hour drive up to the Volcano Museum, our first target haikyo. I had no idea Japanese anime was so popular outside of Japan, while I think they (wasuuup Greg, Roger, Melissa, Edmund, Willis, Dom, Liduina) were quite surprised that I was so ignorant of it, even after 7 years living here.
We talked lots more, and then we were there.
As we walked up the steps to the old museum I couldn`t wipe a dumb grin off my face. I`m not really sure why it was there. Was I happy to be sharing one of my favorite places in Japan? Was I happy to be about to shoot people in a haikyo for the first time? Perhaps both. Either way, it was exciting. At the entrance Edmund pulled out his anime mask and wooden sword and started leaping around- providing the standard Museum shot with a bit of a difference-
After that we were in. The guys all headed off, exploring the roof with the ethereal music, the displays with the working lights, the cellar with the jarred snakes, while Liduina got into into the wedding dress and Melissa helped out with makeup. Again I was grinning dumbly, both when I`d bump into the guys and when I saw the dress. Wow. What a dress. I immediately began to worry about it getting dirty or damaged, but they didn`t seem too concerned, so I rolled with it.
While all that was happening I set up my makeshift flash. I had done a bit of research about flash-diffusers, and even gone to price a few that are called shoot-thru umbrellas. They are basically white umbrellas you attach to your flash tripod and you shoot the flash through them to spread the light out and avoid hard shadows and people that look `flashed`. In Yodobashi I found some, the cheapest of which was about 6,000 yen. Of course I`d have to buy a special attachment to make it fit to my tripod, so that would be another 6,000 probably. I got disheartened and turned away.
On the net I found a guy with the same problem- (lost the link, sorry…). He solved it by simply snapping the handle off a 100-yen regular umbrella. I decided to do the same. To bolt it onto my tripod I used a biro pen-lid and duct-taped it to the flash. It actually looks a lot neater than you might think, and it seems to diffuse the light pretty well- as I ended up with no hard shadows.
Here`s my setup-
Sb-600 with 100yen umbrella shoot thru.
We set up for the first shoot in the volcano diorama, site of many great group shots in the past. I think everyone had a camera, many with dSLR`s, but as it turned out I was the only one with off-camera flash. I`m curious to see how their shots turn out, as the ones I took without flash were really quite dark.
Liduina in front of the volcano, with hard hat still life. 50mm prime, with SB-600 diffused.
Shooting people, using flash, and using a diffuser were all new things for me, so I was changing settings as best I could on the fly. Add to that the three other guys with cameras and we`re all weaving around each other, and the fact that Liduina was freezing whenever she took off her jacket, and things were a bit crazy. All great fun though.
My set up.
Liduina and Dom.
A bunch of strawberries- a prop I think they sourced on-site.
They model fear.
This shot could have been so much more. I`m not really sure why it wasn`t. Probably my composition is all of, should have gone landscape to really capture the ruin of the balcony around them. Ah well, live and learn.
Goofing off came naturally to them both 😉
A shot that hints at the ruin they`re in, but not really enough. Didn`t flash them enough too, I guess.
Dom poses easily.
Dome flattens the dress against the wind.
Windy but fun.
Dom leaps towards his love.
Dom leaps a bit too much for Liduina.
Moving the bride was quite a production because of the dress- so many folds and layers to lift up and protect. She bore it with great patience though 😉
Dom pats down again.
What is he looking at? What is she looking at?
Beautiful binoculars bride.
Ha ha, she`s not looking at him!
Dom is ordered to stop making faces and give his best `GQ` look.
Dom shows us he`s got the goods.
The gang of us all, me lying at left. I cut my hand on the fragmenting concrete getting into position for this shot, racing against 3 cameras set to 10-second fuses.
So that was my first haikyo model shoot. I`m very pleased with the results, and again I`d like to thank all the folks who made it possible- Dom, Liduina, Greg, Edmund, Willis, Melissa, and Roger. Thanks for dinner too- I`ve never been so full of grilled meat in my life!
So- haikyo modelling! In all likelihood there`ll be more to come. I`m in touch with a few models now, and we`re discussing places and times. What exactly I hope to do with the shots that I get, who knows. Perhaps all this is just an extension of a really fun hobby, and the only place you`ll see these photos is on this site. That`s fine, if that`s how it goes. It`s a great way to meet people and do fresh creative things with this hobby. If on the other hand it somehow led to photos being sold, people booking my service as a haikyo guide or haikyo model photographer, well that would be cool too.
See other posts on the Volcano Museum here-
See more Japanese ruins (haikyo) in the galleries:[album id=4 template=compact]
You can also see a curation of world ruins in the ruins gallery.