One ofthe monkeys at Arashiyama in Kyoto

Assignment out-takes: shooting in Kyoto for the Canadian Automobile Association magazine

Back in February, I spent a few days in Kyoto to shoot an assignment for a Canadian magazine. Here’s some of my out-takes from the shoot.

Kyoto is always nice to visit. It can get hellishly busy, though and it was a day and a half before I realise I was there during Chinese Lunar New Year. That made for a few challenges, mainly due to the insane amount of people who were everywhere, all the time. Kyoto is always busy but at Chinese New Year, it gets crazy busy.

I was due to be in the city for three days. I had to up that to five to get everything done as it just wasn’t possible to shoot around the tourists all of the time.

My other main challenge was that the piece I was shooting was due out in the Summer issue of the magazine. On my way to Kyoto, from the windows of the bullet-train, I was anxiously watching the drifts of deep snow and hoping that there wouldn’t be any on the ground in the city itself. I got lucky, the snow in Kyoto was basically confined to the mountains on the edge of the city and even the landscapes I shot where you could see the peaks weren’t obviously too ‘winter’.

But, snow is one thing. Kyoto is cold in February and I also had to avoid a lot of outdoor people scenes as everyone, for the most part, was wearing heavy winter clothing. You can’t really Photoshop that and, besides, this is travel work that needs to reflect reality and excessive post-pro just isn’t my thing.

I had a few ‘must shoot’ requests from the editor, a mix of places, food and portraits that keyed-in specifically to currents running through Selena Hoy’s text. She’d visited the city before me. Sometimes it’s great to go with the writer but sometimes it isn’t possible and sometimes it just doesn’t work that well: me there with all my gear is not the easiest way to keep the travel lean or keep a low profile for a writer.

I’ve done lots of these sorts of assignments now and I’ve got a good handle on prioritising my shots, planning which ones o do in what order, which ones to do in bunches (because of location or time) and which things to skip. Food is always the tricky one. Restaurants typically want you to shoot in between lunch and when they set the place up for dinner. If there are a few restaurants to shoot, that can mean some scheduling issues: every restaurant wants you to shoot at the same time of day. So you’re usually left shooting them on separate days.

Anyway, scheduling wise the Kyoto shoot went well, although there was a fair amount of ground to cover and I was, like I said, dodging tourists the whole time. That meant getting up super early most days but some places the tourists have the same idea. Largely things were fine. I did have a few issues towards the end of the week, just with my patience running out. And I do realise that, as a travel shooter, I’m part of what contributes to increased visitor numbers. However, when you rock up to take a shot and are just about to push the button when a tourist steps right in front of you and spends 10minutes shooting shot after shot on their phone, with no regard for the fact you are standing there…. well, that made me blow a fuse. It wasn’t pretty, it was loud and I felt a little bad but the guy had it coming. Basic manners and empathy are all that’s needed to stop this shit from happening and the guy in question had neither. So, there you go… he got both barrels from me.

All in all a great time. Lovely to get to see the monkeys up at Arashimaya again. Been years since I’ve been there and this timeI really had a great time. The first time was just too quick. One of the monkeys and I got super attached to each other for about 30mins. He was posing for me on a fence post and we just had something going on with each other. He’d look deep into the lens. I’d snap, he’d look somewhere else. He knew how to model, that’s for sure. Those are some of my fave pics of the week.

Nishiki Market is always good and it gave me a chance to speak to some friends there who run stalls and make some new friends in the market too. The tram (Randen) ride out to Arashiyama is something I’d never done as I typically shoot that place loaded with gear (for fashion or something more than just travel). So I always usually drive. Awesome, as always, to see my friend Sara Aiko. She modelled for me in a few shots where I needed a person but needed someone tame, beautiful and knowledgable about specific type of eatery. Sara knows Kyoto like the back of her hand and she knows the coolest spots. Check out her new business, Curated Kyoto. If you need a guide when you visit, there is no better recommendation I could make.

The head monk I shot at Shourinji is also a total sweety. Super chilled, as you’d expect for someone running zazen meditation sessions, but super into his photography as well. You can find his Instagram here. He was blown away by the Hasselblad I had with me. When I told him I’d been an ambassador for the brand, he insisted on a selfie with me and I ended up on their website. The temple is in a great part of town, is soooooo peaceful and, yeah, the folks there are just lovely.

Some of these shots you see below have been edited. Most have not. I make a set of candidate images for the editor when I get back from these shoots. Some they use, some they don’t. The feature – which you can see here online or by clicking the photo below – was expanded as they liked the shots and wanted more in there. But, a lot don’t make it. That’s fine. Space is limited, editors have their style, favourites and a brief to keep to. I don’t get attached to anything I shoot for magazines. If they use it, great. If not, it’s not the end of the world. I get paid, I get the photos for myself and everyone’s happy.

Assignment out-takes: shooting in Kyoto for the Canadian Automobile Association magazine

Hope you enjoy looking through these. It was a fun trip. It’s always a challenge to drop in for a few days and soak up the essence of somewhere. But, well, yeah… I think this set sort of does.

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