- What’s the Story?
- Key Points
- What’s Included
- Spring & Autumn Sessions
- Accommodation & Booking
What’s the Story?
Japan is a country with one foot in the future and one in the past. It is a land where tradition and modernity meld into one another without distinction, a place where even the recent history of the last 50 years can be felt on the streets of the modern metropolis of Tokyo. Kyoto, one of the ancient capitals of Japan, now a cultural bastion, is a short ride away on the futuristic bullet train—a stone’s throw from the largest city on earth. These contrasting worlds will be the focus of our photographic journey together.
What We’ll Shoot
From the skies above of Tokyo to the quaint streets of Kyoto, we will use our cameras to explore themes and concepts in both photographic narrative and composition. During this photography workshop through the major cities of Japan you will learn about rules of framing as they apply to street photography, urban landscape photography, architectural photography, and even portraiture when we finally meet and photograph a geisha in Kyoto.
These concepts will all come together to convey a particular story about the places and subjects that we will photograph. We will give you the conceptual tools that enable you to capture your unique perspective of Japan. Of course, we will also support you on all camera settings and technical concepts that go into the process of creative excellent photos! Our goal is for you to finish our Japan photography workshop with newfound skills and approaches to photography.
Where We’ll Explore
The photography workshop begins in the Tokyo metropolis. First, will explore the streets of Ginza, lined by high walls of glass skyscrapers. Our search for photographic enlightenment will also take us into a few famed shrines and temples in the heart of the city. We’ll delve into the neon-lit streets of Shinjuku and Shibuya, and then duck into mysterious back alleys where the light streams in from above in a ghostly glow. We’ll explore the quarters of old Tokyo, the ‘shitamachi’ or ‘low city,’ where the houses date back to the post-war boom, their facades telling as many stories as the district’s elderly denizens. Before we leave the metropolis we will take to the skies in a helicopter and take it all in from high above the city.
Our journey continues in Kyoto after a short transit on the bullet train. Here we enter a world of mindfulness and nature. We’ll explore the environs of the Zen temple complex at Nazenji. The gardens will inspire our mindful eyes to create photos composed with harmony. We will head to moss-covered temples on the mountain-sides that flank the old capital, and find solace in places rarely traveled. Before our time is up in Kyoto we will make one excursion to Osaka, getting a glimpse into a Japanese city seemingly frozen in the bubble era, its streets harking back to another time. Finally, as a grand finale to our Japan photo workshop, we will spend time with a geisha, photographing her in a private session at a traditional tea house.
A Photo Workshop with plenty of Hands-on Coaching
- We are passionate about photography and as such have scheduled at least 6-8 hours a day of workshop time, including shooting and getting from location to location.
- We will walk… a lot. Please be ready to cover a few kilometers/miles on foot per day on some days (not every day of course).
- Each day is generally broken down into three slots of activities (morning 8/9am – 12pm, afternoon 1pm – 5pm, and evening 6pm – 10pm). Generally we always start at a fixed time but the rest of the day flows a bit in accordance with how the events of the day evolve.
- We will use two of the above time slots for structured, hands-on workshops/photoshoots while leaving the third time slot for free time or self-directed challenges.
- What is a Self-directed challenge? For those who want to shoot non-stop we will provide additional ideas and locations with specific concepts to work on during that time.
- Regarding feedback—we provide feedback on your photos on a constant ad-hoc basis during our time photographing together. However, we also schedule short 1-on-1 meetings with the instructors to give more detailed feedback on your images from the trip as a whole.
- At the end of the entire 9-day workshop we will have a shared dinner during which each participant can share a few of their photos with the entire group to sum up their experience.
What’s included in the Photo Workshop
- Daily photographic excursions with a local pro photo instructor
- Hotel stay for 10 nights
- Helicopter flight in Tokyo
- Entrance to Mori Tower observation deck
- Bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto
- Luggage transfer from Tokyo to Kyoto
- Geisha photoshoot in Kyoto
- Casual dinner with the group on first and final night of the experience
- Train pass (Suica/Pasmo) charged with 5000 JPY
A Photo Workshop set in Spring & Autumn
Japan is not only a country where tradition meets modernity. It is also a place where the seasonal cycles of nature are very much a part of the local culture. During spring and autumn the major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto undergo beautiful transformations.
Cherry blossoms, called ‘sakura’ in Japanese, bloom in the springtime, turning the environs of temples, shrines, and gardens into wonders of nature. The people of Japan also take to these places in droves, picnicking under the pink boughs of cherry trees. This makes for ample opportunities for candid street photography in a backdrop of spring.
In the autumn, the maple trees change to gorgeous shades of red, while the gingkos’ foliage turn into a golden yellow, their uniquely shaped leaves, themselves a symbol of Tokyo, carpet parks and gardens. Both Tokyo and Kyoto become natural tapestries of fall colors, offering up many fantastic photographic opportunities.
Though this photography workshop focuses on urban and street photography, we feel that a seasonal backdrop for your experience can only be a positive. So, we have scheduled two sessions for this photography workshop, one in spring and one in autumn, so that you can get the most of Japan’s most colorful seasons.
Photo Workshop Dates
Summer session: November 20 — 30, 2022
425,000 JPY per person on a twin room basis
*an additional fee of 45,000 JPY applies for single room supplement
- The base price is for double occupancy for all 10 nights (ideal for couples or friends traveling together)
- Single supplement for solo travelers is an additional 45,000 JPY
- Breakfast is included daily at the hotel
Requirements & Disclaimers
- You must be at least 18 years of age to participate
- You must have the appropriate visa and legal status to enter Japan for the purpose of tourism
- You must provide your own airfare to arrive in Japan.
- We reserve the right to cancel the workshop in the event that we do not reach our minimum number of participants (4 participants).
Payment & Cancellation Policy
Payment must be made in full at the time of booking. However, bookings are fully refundable until 30 days prior to the departure date, which make full refund cut-off date October 20, 2022. All other cancellations will be refunded as follows:
- Between 60 and 30 days before departure: 80% refund
- Between 30 and 7 days before departure: 50% refund
- Less than 7 days before departure and after departure date: no refund
Cancellations should be made via email with a clear subject line stating your intention to cancel. We will use the timestamp of this email to determine the cancellation term.
Photo Workshop Itinerary
Part 1: Tokyo
The Start of a Photo Adventure
Arrival & Orientation
Upon arriving in Tokyo, the entire group will go out for dinner to get acquainted with each other and the instructors. We will discuss everyone’s photographic goals and get to know each other’s work as well.
From Modernity to Tradition
Morning 8am start
Explore Tokyo’s modern architecture in Shiodome, Ginza, and Yurakucho all the while working on composition and framing. We will start from fundamental concepts, new to some and a review to others, to build a foundation of ‘photographic language’ for the entirety of the workshop. For the most part, we will capture architectural and street photography during this session.
Afternoon after lunch, 1pm to 4pm
Explore Hie Shrine situated in the Akasaka district for a taste of the more traditional side of Tokyo. Here we will work on capturing details that portray the spirit of a place in an ensemble of photographs. We will apply the same ideas at two other shrines in Ochanomizu, Yushima-seido and Kanda-myojin. All along the way, we will come across cherry blossoms if they are in bloom, or gorgeous autumn leaves in the fall.
Evening from approx. 5pm onward
After a long day, the evening is scheduled to be free. For those who want an extra challenge, we will provide recommendations for good shooting locations as well as feedback and challenges customized to your needs for an evening of self-directed shooting.
Into the Streets and the Neon Lights
Morning free until after lunch time
Enjoy the morning at your own pace. Once again, we will provide you with additional ideas and tips on where to go and what to shoot. It’s also nice to breath and spend a bit of time away from the group as photography also works well as a solitary and contemplative pursuit. You can use this time to soak in the atmosphere of the city.
Afternoon after lunch, 1pm to 4pm
Venture into Harajuku to capture the characters of the streets and their fashion. We will work on approaching street photography from various perspectives, candid and interactive, up close and from a distance. We will continue on to Shibuya at dusk and keep working on street photography techniques, capturing people set against the lightscape of the Tokyo dusk.
Evening from approx. 5pm to 11pm
After a break, we begin in Shibuya with a view of the famous crossing from above. From there, we will practice long exposure photography with the help of tripods. We’ll visit excellent vantage points throughout Shibuya before moving on to Shinjuku for more long exposure work, capturing traffic light trails and neon signs in a magnificent mosaic of color.
Urban Geometry and the Cyberpunk Metropolis
Morning 9am start
Meet local street photographer Laurence Bouchard, known for his high-contrast black and white style of shooting. We will work with him in his favorite spots around Ebisu and Roppongi, especially focusing on the National Art Center of Tokyo, a sprawling architectural wonder. This impressive will provide us with endless opportunities and photo ideas, rain or shine.
Afternoon from approx. 3pm
Visit Shibuya Sky for a panoramic view of the city from the rooftops of a 50-story building in the heart of the city, including a shot down onto the iconic Shibuya crossing. We will begin before sunset and watch the city transform before our eyes—and camera lens. No tripods are allowed on the roof of this building, so we will practice various techniques for shooting in low light conditions without the aid of a tripod.
Evening from approx. 7pm to 11pm
Dive into the red light district in Shinjuku, known as Kabukicho. Here we will capture the gritty underbelly of the city. We’ll explore a world of back streets and alleys straight out of Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell. The neon lights, window displays, and grime-filled alleyways make for an intense shooting locale that harkens back to a more ‘wild’ time in Tokyo’s past—the bubble era of the 1980s—when the economy boomed on the back of the hastily reconstructed metropolis.
Old Tokyo & A Helicopter Flight
Morning & Afternoon 9am to 4pm
Join local photographer Lee Chapman on an excursion away from the neon lights and into the old districts of Tokyo, where time seems to stand still, and the locals’ faces say a thousand words. Here we will practice street photography focusing on narrative, while Lee guides us through parts of Tokyo rarely seen by the eyes of outsiders.
Evening from 5pm to 8pm
Take to the skies in a helicopter for a cruise around Tokyo and capture the metropolis from the skies above. There are only 3 seats in the helicopter (in addition the pilot), so we will split up the group into multiple flights. Each flight is approximately 20 minutes in length. In the event of a full workshop, the instructors will not accompany the group during the flight. We will provide all tips and camera settings prior to liftoff.
Part 2: Kyoto & Osaka
A Trip to Traditional Japan
Morning 7am to 12pm
After a few days in the Tokyo metropolis, we will travel via bullet train to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient imperial capital. The city is in stark contrast from its counterpart in eastern Japan. Gone are the mega-dense urban hubs and glass skyscrapers, only to be replaced by wooden temples, towering pagodas, and winding streets paved with cobblestones.
Afternoon 1pm to 3pm
Upon arriving in Kyoto we will have some free time before check-in time at the hotel. We’ll use this time to explore Kyoto’s main train station, which is an excellent example of contemporary architecture providing a last taste of modernity where you will be able to apply much of what you have learned photographing Tokyo.
Evening 7pm to 10pm
After checking into our Kyoto hotel we will reconvene and grab our tripods for an outing to the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. This beautiful and mysterious shrine is home to thousands of vermillion gates, called ‘torii’ in Japanese. This attracts thousands of tourists as well, but there is a secret to avoiding the crowd—go at night. Since it is dark, we will employ tripods to get the best shots of the shrine’s many paths and passage sprawling up the mountainside.
Zen Temples and Natural Beauty
Morning 9am to 12pm
Enter a calm world of Zen temples in the Nanzenji temple complex. Here we will explore visual ideas for juxtaposing the natural beauty of the gardens with the traditional architecture of the temples themselves. There will also be room for street photography incorporating people into the scenes. Depending on the season and weather we will be able to use different effects to our advantage. Rain or shine, these Japanese temples will be a great source of inspiration and captivating imagery.
Afternoon after lunch, 1pm onward
Explore the Kurodani area for splendid views of cherry blossoms in the spring and autumn colors in the fall. The temple complex is also home to an ancient cemetery and pagoda. We will explore the grounds of this solemn place while photographing the old stonework juxtaposed with the blossoming spring colors or autumn foliage of the Japanese maple trees. We’ll end up at shinnyodo Temple, a large complex surrounded by gardens filled with sakura and Japanese maple.
Hidden Temples and Bamboo Groves
Morning 9am to 12pm
On the hilly outskirts of Kyoto Tanukidani Temple, a hidden sanctuary built into a mountainside, rarely visited by travelers. Here we will explore the mysterious and magical road leading up the mountain to the temple itself. We’ll encounter moss-covered stones and statues as ancient as any in Japan and learn how to photograph these details creatively. Just down the road from Tanukidani temple we will also visit a marvelous zen temple called Enkoji where we can take our time to rest in the pavilion while viewing the splendid natural view.
Afternoon after lunch, 1pm onward
After lunch we will head off to Adashino Nenbutsuji on the opposite end of the city. Here we’ll explore a small but beautiful bamboo grove, far away from the famous and overcrowded Arashiyama. We will also visit another nearby temple, Otagi Nenbutsuji, famous for its throngs of mossy statues.
Osaka’s Underground Markets
Morning 9am to 12pm
A short trip from our base in Kyoto, Osaka offers a glimpse into a retro Japanese city. We will first head to Tsuruhashi where we’ll explore a market that is seemingly underground due its streets being entirely closed in by rooftop canopies. This place is known for the many families of Korean descent who have made their home here. Though they are often 3rd of 4th generation born in Japan, we can still witness an interesting melding of Japanese and Korean culture and cuisine. In this ethnically rich location, we will work on our street photography and capture the bustle and energy of the market.
Afternoon after lunch, 1pm onward
Shinsekai and Dotonbori comprise Osaka’s downtown,’ both in the sense of being busy as well as hip and underground. Here we will continue with street photography in the lights and neon glitza of the city, capturing the vivid street life of Osaka’s urban center.
A Day with a Geisha
Morning & Afternoon 10am to 5pm
On this day we will experience the climax of our time in Kyoto—a photoshoot with a geisha and her apprentice in a private, traditional location. We will get to know the two young women and understand their lives, their reasons for becoming a geisha, and the challenges they face by taking on this esteemed line of work and lifestyle. On the photographic front, we will work on the usage of artificial and natural lighting to capture candid and staged portraits of our elusive subjects.
Evening 7pm onward
As a group, we will share one final dinner in Kyoto. This will be a time to reflect on our journey as well as show off the incredible photos we have collected over the preceding days photographing together.
The End of Our Journey
Feedback & Departure
On the final morning the instructors will be at the hotel to see everyone off and make sure they can move safely on to their next destination. We will also be available to review images on a 1-on-1 basis to give overall feedback from the workshop experience as a whole.
Is this workshop for me / Do I have the right photographic level to join?
This photography workshop is open to photographers of all levels, from beginner to advanced. We are adept at customizing our workshops to accommodate all kinds of people regardless of skill or interest. We are confident everyone can grow as a result of this photo adventure.
What kind of camera / lenses do I need?
A camera capable of manual settings is the only required piece of equipment. However, more specifically, full-frame, APSC, and micro 4/3 cameras are all perfectly fine, including mirrorless and SLR cameras, such as but not exclusive to Nikon and Canon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, Sony A6000 series, Sony A7 series, Fuji X series, Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless cameras, and Leica rangefinder and mirrorless cameras. In terms of lenses, a variety of focal lengths will be useful ranging from 28mm to 85mm (full frame equivalent focal lengths). In general, zoom lenses and primes can both be used on this workshop without issue. Finally, in some instances lenses with a max aperture of f/2.8 or more will also be useful but not required.
Will I need a tripod?
Yes, in a few cases, but if you don’t have your own, we can provide one free of charge when necessary. The times we’ll use tripods are few, so you don’t need to bring one if you prefer not to. However, you are of course welcome to have your own if you prefer.
Will I need a flash?
No, we will not be doing flash photography during this workshop.
Do I have to book my own airfare?
Airfare is not included in the workshop price and you must arrange your own flights.
Do I have to book my own accommodations?
No, we will arrange the hotel and accommodations for you.
Can I choose my own accommodation?
No, we would like everyone to stay at the same place to ensure a consistent and fun experience for all.
What kind of accommodation do you provide?
We will book western style hotels with beds and all of the conveniences that you would expect from an international hotel, although keep in mind that rooms in Japanese hotels tend to be on the small side compared to other countries. In particular, we choose hotels that are conveniently located in order to facilitate the photographic experience above all.
What if I want to stay longer / come earlier before the workshop?
In this case, we can help you with those accommodations as well. Please contact us for more details.
How much walking will there be?
For the purpose of urban and street photography, we have to walk all over the place (in addition to using public transport). So, please bring a good pair of shoes and be prepared to walk a lot of everyday.
Do you provide meals every day / How much will I spend on meals?
We provide breakfast everyday (at the hotel). And on the first night and final night we will provide a casual dinner at a restaurant. All other meals are not included. Meal prices range from 800 JPY to 1200 JPY for lunch and 1500 JPY to 2500 JPY for dinner. This does not include drinks, however water and tea are always free in Japanese restaurants. Also, tipping is not expected in Japan.
What is your cancellation policy?
Payment must be made in full at the time of booking. However, bookings are fully refundable until 60 days prior to the departure date, which make full-refund cut-off date Jan 29, 2020. All other cancellations will be refunded as follows:
- Between 60 and 30 days before departure: 85% refund
- Between 30 and 22 days before departure: 75% refund
- Between 21 and 8 days before departure: 50% refund
- Between 7 and 3 days before departure: 25% refund
- Less than 3 days before departure and after departure date: 0% refund
All cancellations should be made via email with a clear subject line stating your intention to cancel. We will use the timestamp of this email to determine the cancellation timing.
If you have any other questions of concerns that were not covered here, please contact us.