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Photo Clinic 2016: Photographers From 12 Countries United by Photography

In April 2016, amateur photographers who emerged as PhotoMarathon winners in the various Asian countries visited Japan. The 23 individuals, including staff, came from as many as 12 countries in total. I participated in this 8-day tour of the Tohoku and Hokkaido Regions as an instructor. The trip was filled with happy and touching moments, something I will remember for a lifetime, and I still interact with the other participants through social media. I would like to share our photography trip with you in this article. (Reported by: GOTO AKI)


Gaining inspiration from your subject in the spirit of photography

At Photo Clinic 2016, participants learnt about Japanese culture, shot photos and studied photography techniques. The photography trip this year was a trip around the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions, coinciding with the best time of the year for viewing Japanese cherry blossoms. During the Clinic, participants were free to capture their shots while visiting the attractions in each region.

The participants had very different individualities: Some wanted to capture their human subjects in a shot like an advertisement, while others wanted to snap candid shots of people in natural poses. Throughout this trip, I tried to bring out the qualities of the participants without giving my personal opinion as much as possible.

On the second day, participants photographed cherry blossoms and historic sites at Eboshiyama Park and Yamadera in Yamagata Prefecture. Just as the sun was setting and the participants were showing signs of fatigue, two maikos specially arranged by Canon made their entrance as surprise models. At once, the participants were invigorated and started shooting enthusiastically. I was surprised at how popular Japanese women were; the participants’ enthusiastic proactiveness was a culture shock for me in a way. Watching the participants meticulously photograph any subject that caught their fancy, it felt as though I was looking at love for photography in its rawest form.





People who take good photos usually have an appetite for challenge

The participants spent all their time during the 8 days together, but not one argument broke out, creating a wonderful air of mutual respect.

When the participants photographed their human subjects under the cherry blossom trees and wanted to increase their variety of shots, they asked me technical questions like, “Which angle should I photograph Aki-san from in this spot? What kind of lens and aperture should I use?” My suggestions were to create foreground blur by shooting from a low angle, and to use lens with a longer focal length so there was not too much distortion.

When participants could not explain their own works smoothly, I backed them up with “This is a good shot because the subject’s involvement is captured and tells the story behind the photograph.” As we spent more time together, the participants had more questions for me.

Some of the participants who were not used to going nude in front of others challenged themselves to an open-air bath in a hot spring inn, which also gave them a taste of Japan’s unique culture. As a Japanese, I was happy that they drank sake and soaked in the hot spring on that day. That night, I felt that their willingness to try new things would enable them to take good photographs.

The following works are some of the wonderful shots taken by the participants during this photography trip. I will explain them as we take a look.

Photography by: Ignitius Kong (Malaysia)
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF135mm f/2L USM + Extender EF2x III/ FL: 270mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/350 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

This work made use of multiple exposures, and combines the easily recognizable elements of a lady in Japanese dress and cherry blossoms like an advertising spread. I think the photographer was strongly motivated by his desire to create a unique piece of work.


Photography by: Shaun Tan Chun Weng (Singapore)
EOS-1D X/ EF50mm f/1.2L USM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.5, 1/2000 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 160/ WB: Auto

An elderly man gazing at a town recovering from the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Maybe it is his back turned towards the camera that adds some sentiment; the subtlety of the photo almost makes you feel like you can imagine how he is feeling even though it is not captured in the photo. This work gives me a sense of hope.


Photography by: Trinh Trung Dung (Vietnam)
EOS 6D/ EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 16mm/ Manual Exposure (f/8, 1/125 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

This shot was taken from a high position while considering perspective, and captures an everyday scene in Japan. It would have been best if the children were running down the centre of the path, but this is one of the challenging yet interesting aspects of photography.


Photo Clinic provides a unique photography experience crossing cultures

It was like the insecurities the participants had before they came to Japan had disappeared. Even on the last day of the trip, the participants were all smiles as if they had known one another for years and continued to shoot energetically.

I would like to express my appreciation once again to have had the opportunity to meet the participants. Although the participants came from 12 countries with different cultural backgrounds, and their ages ranged from 18 years to 44 years, the harmony that was fostered among them was a unique experience made possible because we were united by photography.

The best photo was the memento we took on the last night at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Have a look at the smiles on our faces at the time, just as fatigue was peaking. The smiles will tell you about our Photo Clinic trip.

4 months after the photography trip, we still keep in touch today through social media. As I look back on this, the Clinic was not just an experience to travel to Japan, but also an occasion for us to experience incredible photography that will shape the rest of our lives. Thank you, everyone.

Next year may be your turn! Want to take part in this wonderful Photo Clinic trip? Take part in PhotoMarathon for your chance to emerge as one of Asia’s upcoming photographers! I truly look forward to meeting you in Japan.



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Born in 1972 in Kanagawa Prefecture and graduated from Sophia University and Tokyo College of Photography. GOTO published a photo collection work titled “Land Escapes”, continuously held some photo exhibitions at Canon Gallery since 2010 and shot Japanese landscapes for Canon Calendar in 2015.