Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Talk While You Shoot. At the Sakura (桜) Festival

Not a big fan of people photography, I just couldn't resist taking this shot. I was in the mountains of northern Okinawa shooting Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) for a local magazine.



Along came a bus with huge handicapped symbols painted on the sides and several attendants helped the group assemble for a photo under the trees.



When I noticed the little cameras and cellphones they were using, I asked if I could shoot some photos and the attendants agreed. My next question was " Is there an email address I can send the photos to"? No one had an email address or, at least weren't going to give it out to some foreign stranger. Some of the folks in the crowd had already started smiling when they saw that the old man with the big camera, speaking Japanese was going to take their picture, so, I figured I'd better get shooting and forget about the paperwork.



The few times I do shoot photos of people, I always ask permission first and try to get a model release signed after showing the subject a preview on my LCD screen. My forms are in Japanese as well as, English and basically give me the right to have the photo published, entered in contests or anything else I want to do, within the law. In return for their signature, I promise the subject a copy of their photo.

These folks were bussed away when I got distracted and started shooting some birds in the Cherry Blossoms (桜). If only I had gotten a picture of the bus so my wife could track-down the name of the rehabilitation center they had come from !


There was a series of about a dozen shots I had taken, moving from right to left and talking as I fired away. At first, not everyone was smiling. The tall gentleman standing in the left side of the first picture actually was wearing a frown as if, maybe he didn't want some foreigner snapping his picture.

By the time I shot this last picture he was having a hard time holding his smile back! How'd I do it?


There's an ancient language in Okinawa that's not Japanese: Uchinaguchi, or Okinawa Hogan that only older folks speak. For many years it was banned by the government of Japan and could not be taught in the schools. When I used the old Okinawan dialect and told everyone how young they looked and how pretty the women were, they LOVED IT !


Depending how you intend to use a photo and the laws of the land you want to use it in you may or may not need a signed release. Newspapers, being editorial in nature, may not require a release. Some places regard a crowd of 16 people or more as being a public event, and no release is required. Other places require a release form signed for every recognizable person in the photo. General rule of thumb: ALWAYS GET SIGNED RELEASES, even if you're taking a picture of someone's dog, and especially, if you're taking a picture of someone's minor child !

Okinawa is a small island, so. I will eventually track this group down, not to get a release form signed; just to present them a framed copy of their favorite photo, because, that's the way I am !
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