Volcano Museum 4. Haikyo Wedding

Mike GristGunma, Haikyo, Models, Museums 23 Comments

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.

Haikyo Bride

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!

Windswept bride.


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-

1. First road trip

2. History

3. Return in HDR

4. Wedding shoot

5. Documentary shoot

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.

Comments 23

  1. I can’t believe you managed to get another fresh take on this place! Kudos! Were the snakes and other creatures still safe at the end of the shoot? With all the exposure this place is getting, I dare say that it will be locked up sooner or later… Or they might starting you rent for your shoots ;). Nice work with the flash though. That’s probably next on my list after the new tripod and ultra wide angle lens!

  2. Couple of things,

    I like this new take on the (kind of dried up) haikyo scene. Glad to see some photos that incorporate both the models and the haikyo together! Some of them are pretty good! Glad you’re putting the sb600 to good use.

    Second, site design. I’ll admit, I’m kind of relieved that you got rid of the old light blue and orange design, never thought they were suitable colours for a haikyo site.
    I like the white page on the black background, but not sure about the white banner on top… Maybe play around with that more?

  3. I have 2 favorites, both windy.
    The one captioned Windy but Fun is GREAT.
    And Windswept Bride is an amazing shot! If that was a photo memory for my wedding that would be the best I could imagine.
    Great Background of the mountain… everything in that shot is awesome!
    To think this is your first practice with people together with Haikyo, amazing – you can only get better!

  4. Yo Mike! Thanks for the publicity… haha… good selection of photos to upload! hide my stomach and bald patches well… hahaha … we had great fun!! Will send you our photos when ready… somehow…

  5. Wow…   Amazing shots. You definitely captured most of the classic “pre-Wedding photoshoot” poses, but incorporated the Haikyo background very effectively. 
    The 100 yen umbrella definitely seems to have done the job. Though you might want to invent a method of raising/lowering and changing the angle of the umbrella for future shoots. Having the flash come from a higher angle better represents sunlight. 
    Great shots, and wonderful story! 
    Thanks for posting this!   

  6. ((((((

    I’m glad to see you are finally actually using your SB-600. You can never get good at shooting if you don’t actually shoot (especially when working with models/people as subjects).

    “Windswept bride” is by far the best shot of the group.

    I would have to disagree about there being no hard shadows though. Many shots have the bride’s face in complete shadow, especially her eyes.

    Still, a good first attempt at shooting people.

    Keep the momentum going and have another shoot at least within two weeks to give yourself the best chance to improve on this first shoot.

  7. Very nice work here and an interesting new approach to haikyo photography.

    I especially liked the wind-blown veil and dress on the roof, like “Windy but Fun”. The shots remind me of Gene Kelley’s dream ballet sequence in “Singin’ in the Rain”.

  8. Post

    Mike Gak- It`s funny how responsible I felt for the place when we were there, actually. I was closing doors, turning off lights, and putting things back in their proper places like some kind of janitor. Strange. As for the snakes- I didn`t bring them out for this trip.

    Can Mike- `Some of them are pretty good`- thanks, Mike 😉 Pleased to hear the newish site design works better too. Spent a heck long time figuring out how to do rollovers, having wanted them for years.

    Tornadoes- It was great to shoot them, they were so lively. I just got into position and then they did the work. I imagine it`s not how most shoots go.

    Ember- Thanks so much! I`m really pleased with what I managed to get, and psyched for future shoots. I still have lots of ideas I`d like to try out at this one location, actually, but there was no time. Maybe down the road I can.

    Dom- You`re looking good! I love the leap photos of you, very athletic, and not looking tubby at all!

    Mike- Cheers, and good points about the umbrella. It actually can change position quite freely, angles and height. The highest it goes is probably only a bit above 7 feet, but I think I can make that work. Thanks for your comment 🙂

    Jason- Hard shadows, I wonder if you`re looking at the outdoor shots when you say that? All of those were shot without flash, largely because the momentum of us as a group just seemed to leave the flash behind. And also because setting up a flash for the wider shots, like Windswept, or for when they`re both separated at the binoculars, would have been difficult. Point taken though, flash then would def have helped.

    Next shoot, am working on it already, we`ll see…

    David- Thanks, and Singin` in the Rain? Sweet!

  9. Love the binocular shots 🙂 And the bride is gorgeous.
    I got a very cute fun vibe from most of the photos which got me wondering,
    What would a Haikyo Wedding be like? I’d want to get married in ??????? if it was legal…
    Great site btw *thumbs up*

  10. Oh, by the way, I like your re-design! Fits the theme you’re going for very well. One thing though, the dropdown box for Strange Japan goes under your Facebook share icon when you hover on it…

  11. Mike with the yellow avatar: What you said about the increasing profile of haikyo; thats something that worrys me a little too. I really doubt another set of photos will make any difference with a perpetually high profile place like this, but the point remains. No other country that I’m aware of has quite the open and public view of urbex as Japan. In some cases, entries are routinely barricaded once mentioned on the web.

    Of course, coverage isn’t restricted to the web. Over the last few months I’ve begun to see haikyo shows or segments on Japanese TV pretty much weekly, sometimes in the alleged “haunted sites” which are significantly more controversial to enter. Annecdotally, Ashio was even promoted on the Yamanote line last month. I did a double-take when I saw the giant ad at the front of the carriage (so glad I’d forgone the morning coffee from the vending machine that day!)

    The irony here is pretty much as MJG says. Most every haikyoist I’ve met adhered to the leave only footsteps, take only photos mentality at anal, practically OCD lengths – a pro bono janitor! But of course, the real issue that gets these places blocked off isn’t damage to the site, but fear that one who is not cautious may accidently damage themselves.

  12. Crazy concept! I love it!
    I know where i ll marry now!

    the binocular one makes me think to the Antoine de st Exupery words “Love is not to look at each other but to look into the same direction’ (not sure about my translation…).

    Anyway, i wish them happiness!!

  13. Post

    Leni- Thanks, and it was a lot of fun, so it`s good that comes over in the photos. A real haikyo wedding, well, I think it would be great. Bringing a haikyo back to life with that kind of celebration of life, no matter how brief, would add a whole other level of poignancy I think.

    Florian- For sure I will, though increasingly finding there`s not much left to explore in Kanto.

    Mike Gak- Cheers, and well spotted on the dropdown menus. How to fix it? No idea.

    Paul- Ashio was promoted on the Yamanote? That`s quite a contrast to the usual sort of thing they cart out for tourism purposes, skiing and foliage and shrines and the like. I suppose there`s good hiking there, with the ruins and museum as a plus.

    As to the rising profile of Japan`s ruins, you make good points. I don`t know that it`s a problem either, but definitely an interesting phenomenon to watch. A few nights ago NHK apparently ran a special expose on Gunkanjima. It`s gone mainstream!

    Appreciate your comments on the photos too, thanks!

    Kikinawak- St. Exupery is the `Little Prince` author, isn`t he? Beautiful quote, thanks for sharing. And when you`re ready to get married (in a haikyo), call me up for the shoot 🙂 Very reasonable rates 😉

  14. I feel your pain. I still have about a dozen unpublished places on my HD and six to eight locations to go to – then I’ll run out, too, if I don’t find new sources.
    When I went to Kyushu I met people at all three haikyo I shot: Gunkanjima (expect a report with pictures in about 2 weeks…) and the Shime Mine are tourist spots now – and the Kaiten Base was populated by haikyoists *and* cosplayers. (No fisherman though…)

  15. Pingback: Keishin Hospital 4. Model Shoot | michael john grist

  16. Where is the asama volcano museum? I spend a few weeks in karuizawa every year and am also fascinating with all decaying ruins. There are LOADS of them all around karuizawa. I can’t think of anything that matches this volcano museum with blown out windows though. The ‘lake new town’ on the south side is defininately creepy though now its been shut down.

    I like your haikyo photos but this wedding shoot concept doesn’t really work for me somehow. For dramatic effect these types of backdrop might fit better into video.

  17. I really enjoyed looking through those photos. Everyone I know that has gotten married has the bog standard photos. In front of the Church, at the registry office etc. This is simply a breath of fresh air and also looks fun!

  18. That is certainly a bit out there, bro! But some of those pics looks amazing… a really special memory for that couple. Reminds a bit of phoenix from the flames 🙂

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