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Off Camera Flash with the Profoto B2


During the 2017 Kyoto Workshop it was great that I could introduce new pieces of equipment and techniques to others in the group.  One of these was the Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash System.


This strobe allows me to add light to my images to make the subject pop a little more and add catchlights to the eyes. I also use it to fill in shadows. In the featured image taken at Fushimi Inari Shrine I used the Profoto B2 with no modifier, while the image taken at the Philosopher’s walk below (right) was with a shoot-through umbrella.

The system works really well. Dividing the head and the battery pack makes life for the assistant easier as holding a B1 light on the end of a pole can be top heavy. The option to use the pack with two lights is useful, and also gives you redundancy if a flash bulb stops working.  I used the Profoto Air Remote triggers with my Pentax cameras, as there is still no Pentax TTL/HSS trigger (unlike Canon, Nikon and Sony).

On this trip I decided to take a “shoot-through” umbrella deep translucent S,  rather than my OCF beauty dish as it can be opened and closed so quickly, and although a little bulky it fits  alongside a Lastolite Extending Handle on the side of the Lowepro Whistler backpack. When not in use, the Profoto B2 battery pack fit in the base of the bag while the flash head was carried in the top pocket.



Tea with a maiko


One of the highlights of the Kyoto Photography Workshop was tea with a maiko in Gion.


The maiko we met was Kanohiro-san who is just 18 years old.  After her years of training she will become a geiko (Kyoto geisha).  We took photos and asked her many questions with Yuki interpreting for the group. Kanohiro san was very happy that we were so excited to met her.


She gave us tea, performed a traditional dance, then posed for individual and group photographs. A really memorable experience with a lovely young lady.




Photo by Ashley Michaels

Studio Workshop – Medics

Another fun themed studio workshop. After covering the basics we used a multi strobe setup to produce clean medical images on a pure white background.


Images shot with Pentax 645Z with 90mm. 4 light strobe setup with two background lights, a 3×4′ softbox, and a softlight reflector white. Profoto D2, Profoto compact, and Profoto 7a generator system.


A big thank you to Keith, Tyson and Allison for joining the workshop and being willing to dress for the part!


Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

What’s the difference between a geisha and a maiko? How do you tell them apart?

A geisha, 芸者, is a professional entertainer, the direct translation of the kanji would be art person.  Geiko 芸子 is sometimes used when referring specifically to geisha from Kyoto.

A maiko 舞妓  is a geiko in training. This process takes many years as she masters the various instruments, dances and social graces required to become a geiko.


Geiko walking down Pontocho Street, Kyoto

Along with their age, there are other ways to distinguish maiko from geiko.

The hairstyle of a maiko is created with natural hair, while a geiko wears a wig. A maiko usually has many more ornate accessories that adorn her hair.

For footwear, maiko usually wear okobo (platform sandals) while the geiko wear zori (low sandals).

The inner collar of the kimono is usually red with patterns for maiko and plain white for geiko.


Maiko walking along Pontocho Street

And when looking from the back, the obi of the geiko is folded to form a box knot (taiko) while the maiko have the obi folded in a longer elaborate display  known as darari.


Maiko walking along Pontocho Street.

In the image above, I like the expression on the lady’s face as she looks up at the maiko passing by.


Geiko getting into a taxi on Kiyamachi Street

All images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70mm f2.8 lens. A great combination for street shooting.





Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Toei Company produces anime, movies, and Japanese historical dramas. The Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a theme park where you can stroll through movie sets of Edo Japan, encounter ninjas and samurai, and buy souvenirs from various TV shows.


Pretty Cure aka PreCure Japanese anime characters by Toei at the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

The park is worth a visit if you are traveling with children, but if you’re only in Kyoto for a short amount of time it’s better to check out Kyoto’s real historical buildings rather than a movie facade.

Young Ninja statue at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Young ninja statue at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Ninja statues on the walls at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Ninja statues on the walls at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Woman dressed in Maiko / Geisha costume at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Woman dressed in maiko costume at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan


Japanese woman in traditional kimono with wig at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70 f2.8 lens.

Samurai show at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Samurai show at Toei Kyoto Studio Park, Kyoto, Japan

Ryoan-ji Rock Garden, Kyoto

The rock garden at Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of a hire-niwa. 15 rocks are positioned in a large flat area of small stones without hills or ponds. I wanted an image that tried to show it as a place of quiet reflection, which is a little tricky at most times of day. However, if you’re the first person to arrive you may get a few moments of tranquility.


Pentax 645Z with 25mm (top image) and 55mm (bottom image).

The Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji

I’ve visited Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion several times over the last 15 years. Usually it’s been overcast, but on my latest visit there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This was the perfect opportunity to get a wide establishing shot with plenty of room for text (thinking about the needs of clients).

Shot with the Pentax 645Z and the 25mm lens held high above my head to get the correct angle. A shutter speed of 1/800 second and several bursts allowed me a sharp image without a tripod.

Geisha in the Rain

It’s raining, but you’ve still got to go to work. So you grab your umbrella and book a cab for yourself and a couple of workmates.


The taxi arrives.  The driver helps to keep your clothes dry as you get in the vehicle. Cherry blossom covers the trees.


Ready to go, the evening awaits.


Fushimi Inari Shrine – Location Scouting

It’s been a while since I updated the blog. Many busy weeks, the last couple of which were spent in Kyoto prepping for, then teaching the 2017 Kyoto Workshop.

Before the students arrived I spent about a week revisiting various locations thinking about possible images we could shoot, but also general planning including access, the amount of walking involved, the time required, bathrooms, and restaurants.

Fushimi Inari Shrine with its tunnels of orange torii gates is one of Kyoto’s most famous locations. In 2004, I shot this post’s featured image  with the Pentax 67 medium format film camera.

At Inari shrines, foxes are revered as messengers. Fox statues and symbols can be found at the shrine and beside the various mountain trails.


The orange torii gates are donated by individuals or business to the shrines. There are signs at various points on the route giving pricing for different sizes of gates.


While scouting the trail, I came across Takeda-san who was finishing the painting of a new torii gate.


I spent a few minutes chatting to him, and watching him work. Always a pleasure to see what is happening behind the scenes.


The main thing I learned from this day of scouting was that the number of tourists visiting Fushimi Inari is growing year by year. If you want images of the shrine without the crowds, you are going to have to visit early.

4 people, 3 dogs, 1 happy family

A wonderful family session booked by Michelle Gramkow Cronbaugh who wanted to capture memories with her husband, two lovely children and three dogs. 

Good luck with all your future adventures. I’m sure Okinawa will always hold a special place in your hearts.

Michelle Gramkow Cronbaugh Family Shoot

More information about family sessions in Motobu, Okinawa can be found here.