Faces of Tokyo Series: Country Line Dancers

December 12, 2008 · Print This Article

The only reason why I know about the country line dancing scene in Tokyo (and it’s much bigger than you might think) is because one of my longtime private students is the Queen of Country Dancing in Japan (my given title for her).  The name she uses is Lily, which suits her well.  Another longtime private student of mine, Mami, is one of the stars of the country line dancing scene.  They run CLUB HOWDY, and on this past Sunday they threw their largest dancing event of the year, the Club Howdy Christmas Party (attended by 220+ people).  They hired me to take group photos of the dancing teams and other portraits.  This was my first official photography job of my burgeoning photography career!

In preparation for this job, I bought the excellent Nikon SB-600 Speedlight.  I have long thought flash was just for amateurs because I had no idea how great a real external flash could be.  I am now a total believer.

Aya was my invaluable assistant on this job.  The groups of dancers started coming all of a sudden.  I felt a rush of nerves and excitement.  I had no idea what I would do or how I would do things, but it all happened so fast I just had to step up and start pretending like I knew how to take good group shots.  And by thus pretending I quickly grew confident and my photography instincts kicked in and I was thoroughly making sure no one’s face was obscured as they posed in groups of five, ten and sometimes fifteen or more!  Again Aya’s help was immeasurable giving the countdown in Japanese, though she said “3, 2, 1″ in English!  This allowed me to concentrate on framing the shot and holding my Nikon D80 steady until I pushed the shutter.

Since many of the dancers were wearing cowboy hats, it made it a real challenge to make sure no faces got blocked.  I learned that some groups knew how to pose as a group without any help (see above photo), while with others Aya and I had to do some significant rearranging to get a good group shot.  

As soon as the formal part of this photography gig started, I knew without a doubt that this is how I need to earn my living in the future.  All the people who talk about “loving their work,” I could never understand them.  After just a few minutes on my very first photography job, I could understand them perfectly.  You have to do what you love, if not, then you are truly working in the grinding it out sort of way.  And who wants to work?  If you do what you love as your work, then it’s not really work.  

CLUB HOWDY has dance classes of varying levels and styles (not just country line dancing) all around Tokyo.  A few of the instructors can speak English.  For more information check out their site:

MORE in the FACES OF TOKYO SERIES:

FACES OF TOKYO COUNTRY LINE DANCERS PHOTO GALLERY: 
A fair cowgirl from the prairie Sparklingly patriotic dancer I was told this guy never smiles, nor does his wife.
This dance class knew how to line up well for a group shot on their own She won a prize for her costume Country rock star?
Lily is the Queen of Country in Tokyo Mami was the star of the night Two cowgirls tipping their hats (my suggestion)
High class country style A real Japanese cowboy Sharing a laugh between dances.
This woman made a very good Santa Patriotic tie An old cowboy stretching his limbs
She's definitely feeling it. Very patriotic shirt. The old cowboy in the middle just turned 80 years old!
He reminds me of Asa from the soap opera One Life to Live The woman in the center is a great clog dancer and a dead ringer for an American Indian woman Some traditional country clothing
Not everyone danced in totally country looking clothes Couple dancing caught in my SB-600 speedlight  

Comments

25 Responses to “Faces of Tokyo Series: Country Line Dancers”

  1. on December 12th, 2008 6:56 PM

    Wow Jason, you captured some wonderful faces and expressions there moments there and the lighting is great too. Congrats on the job!

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Danielle. Getting the Nikon SB-600 Speedlight really helped with the group shots, and experimenting with it for candids was fun too. That experimenting produced the lead photo (blurred horizontal background).

    Reply

  2. Maho
    on December 12th, 2008 7:29 PM

    Hey your skill has been really improving! I heard of your photos gaining many good reputation from my mom. They are impressed a great deal. I was also impressed how big my mom is gonna be…She used to be slim!!! Anyway… The photos are superb. Keep up! ;)

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks! Your mom is a much different person than my first impression of her years ago when we saw her at Ochanomizu. She is very genki and strong, and she makes a great Santa Claus!

    I did actually make one settings mistake that didn’t allow me to get as many good candid and dancing shots as I would have liked. At least I’ll know better for next time.

    Reply

    Maho Reply:

    No worries that was a good start and you will be much better next time. It’s obvious that you are potential. Oh I passed your question about my mom’s appearance to her and her answer was “It’s human evolution”! Santa Claus was a good choice for her I guess.

    Maho

    Reply

  3. on December 12th, 2008 9:01 PM

    The photos look great. Congrats on your first photo gig!
    I am dying to get the sb-600 or sb-800 to help step my game up. How do you like the 17-50 2.8??

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Jay.

    I went with the SB-600 just based on price. It was much cheaper (like half of the SB-800).

    I really like the Tamron 17-50mm XR Di II. I haven’t had a chance to use it that much yet, but for group shots it was great. I’ll test it out in the field tomorrow literally, as I hike up a mountain in Yamanashi Prefecture. I’ll try to get some good forest shots, waterfall shots, and panoramas from the summit.

    A friend also just bought that Tamron lens yesterday on my recommendation. Unless you can afford the Nikon 17-55mm, there is no better mid-range zoom out there.

    Reply

  4. on December 13th, 2008 1:20 AM

    I did not think there were any cowboys and cowgirls in Japan. Learned something new about Japan again.

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Glad I could bring to light a new scene in Tokyo. They all have a whole lot of fun at their events and welcome guests.

    Reply

  5. on December 13th, 2008 1:48 PM

    It always amazes me how Japanese people take fairly unknown customs/traditions from other countries, well the US especially, then totally take them over and make them their own. This just goes to prove that if you look hard enough, you can find any kind of group/circle/club operating in Tokyo, no matter how outlandish it may be.

    Congrats again the photo job.

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks Can.

    Yeah, I’m always amazed by the different hobby groups you can find in Tokyo. Same for old toys and collectibles you can find in Japan. I always wonder how those things ever made it to these shores.

    Reply

  6. on December 13th, 2008 4:40 PM

    You got some excellent shots here and got paid for what you love doing which is something that is not that easy to do here in Japan. I am looking at purchasing a speedlight did you get it from Map? I also just got through a couple of nikon DVDs which had some good advice about creative lighting which may interest you although via Bittorrent (http://www.demonoid.com/files/details/1702229/6976998/)

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Thanks, yeah, it was a real thrill to earn doing something I truly love.

    I actually got my Speedlight from Bic Camera as I had some points and other circumstances made me buy it there. At Bic it’s ¥27,500 and at Map it’s ¥25,000 so it would be better straightup to buy it at Map.

    Thanks for the tip about the Nikon DVDs. I’ll check it out. The SB-600 has a huge manual and I have only barely cracked it.

    Reply

  7. on December 14th, 2008 4:27 PM

    Jason, I just watched the Dark Knight for the first time. One word:

    Awesome.

    Make that three words:

    Awesome
    Awesome
    Awesome

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Great…glad you finally got to see the movie! Was it on the newly released blu-ray version?

    The only other 2008 movie I can recommend as much as The Dark Knight is Wall-E. Have you already seen that?

    Reply

    Tornadoes28 Reply:

    Yes, it was.

    I have not seen Wall-e. Maybe I will rent it.

    Reply

  8. Todd Johnson
    on December 15th, 2008 1:42 AM

    Great shots, Jason! I’m glad to see that you got at least one pic of the lone foreigner that was dancing at the event. Unfortunately, I changed from my white shirt with red bow tie and cummerbund to black for the Cha-cha performance and left it on for the rest of the evening. Doesn’t show up so well in the picture. You didn’t happen to get one of Mami and me dancing in the Cha-cha performance together, did you? For some reason, we completely forgot to have a group picture of our Cha-cha team taken…

    If you or anybody else is interested, there are other couples dance events going on around the Tokyo and Yokohama area: http://www.westiejapan.com, http://www.moon.sannet.ne.jp/swing/ are a couple of the ones that I go to for West coast swing and hustle. Westie Japan will be having a Christmas dance party on Dec. 23 at Zero Hour Studio in Roppongi. There are also lots of Salsa and Argentine tango dances , which are pretty easy to find online. Also, once a month Lily, Farly, Mami, and I with several other Club Howdy dancers get together for couples dancing (Swing, Country two-step, Nightclub two-step, Waltz, etc). Anyone interested could contact Lily and I’m sure that she would let them know our schedule. The more, the merrier!

    Now, seeing that everyone else who has made a comment has a web-site, I guess it’s getting time to start my social dancing in Tokyo/Yokohama blog.

    Best wishes on the start of your photography career!

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Hi Todd….thanks for all the info about other dancing events.

    Sorry, I did try many times to get a good shot of you and Mami dancing, but unfortunately none of them came out too well due to human error.

    And yes you should start your own social dancing website, I think you’d have the market cornered! Using Word Press or Squarespace, it’s pretty easy to start a website.

    Reply

  9. Mami
    on December 15th, 2008 12:02 PM

    Thank you so much!
    Lily shows your photos in each class everyday.
    Your photos makes everyone happy!
    I think that more people request you to take the photo if the next chance exists.
    And … Thank you Aya-chan!

    Reply

    Jason Collin Reply:

    Your welcome…thank you for the chance to take the photos!

    I’m glad everyone is liking them and I hope there is another chance to photograph Club Howdy dancers!

    Reply

  10. on December 31st, 2008 5:06 AM

    That is rich. Great find.

    Reply

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