Japan 2017 – Day 16 – April 2 (B’bye!)

We checked out at 7:30 am in order to catch our train. It was chilly and wet and our mood was a bit somber because it was our last day in Japan.

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In the station we bought our last bento box and took a bullet train to Shinagawa (Tokyo) then the Narita Express to the airport. We had reserved our seats on the train so we were in the “Green Car”. We overheard some idiot Americans complaining about there not being seats available when the truth was, they hadn’t reserved any. They were politely (and I mean VERY politely – almost apologetically – as is customary in Japan) to go to another car that was not reserved seating. Whenever I travel, I am often embarrassed by Americans. The entitlement, rudeness, and lack of respect for other cultures is such a shame.

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I LOVE THESE BLUE ROOFS!

I LOVE how clean Japan is. We traveled many many miles and I never saw as much as a tissue on the railroad tracks.
And while I am at it, the Japanese have a lot of tile roof houses. My favorite are these beautiful blue, almost iridescent, tiles. I want one!

Carol and Russell were on a different plane for the trip back, so we said our goodbyes and waved as they hauled luggage, some of it ours that we had dumped on them – thank you Carol and Russell.

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At the Narita airport we made our final purchase…Royce Chocolate. There are some things the Japanese do better than anyone else. Sushi (obviously), sake (Obviously), beef (Matsusaka not Kobe), and chocolate. If you ever have Royce Chocolate, it will make the best chocolate you have ever had, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 6 or 7. If you ever have it, you will immediately go out and buy a ticket to Japan so you can go get some more.

In the Narita Airport we had our last meal in Japan.
Squi, with his eternally positive nature, had Cherry Blossom Cake!
Kaz had Japanese meatloaf and tempura shrimp.

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I am embarrassed to say, I had a McDonald’s Cheeseburger. I think it was a “I’m unhappy to be leaving, guess I’ll go eat worms and pout” kind of thing.
Kaz just rolled her eyes and told our son, “You can’t take the white trash out of your Daddo!”
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We were lucky and caught a great tailwind, so the flight only took 8 1/2 hours instead of the usual 10. We arrived at LAX and although it felt good to be home, we dreaded coming back to a society that doesn’t have a lot of the things we enjoyed so much in Japan…cleanliness, politeness, and the best food in the world.

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Tokyo – Fri. March 18 & March 19 – 2016

I will be shooting headshots and portraits for Japanese public figures and actors!

We still have several spots available.

Please contact Sayoko or myself directly.

 

headshot photography in Japan

headshot photography in Japan

PDF:

Tokyo Shoot 2016

 

 

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Everything is beautiful … NOT!

In the 1960s, Ray Stevens wrote a song titled “Everything Is Beautiful” and it won him a grammy. Perhaps it was the idealism of those times or maybe a personal philosophy that gave birth to this song. It starts out with children singing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, a song I remember singing in church when I was a child.
“Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world”

Like Disney’s “It’s a Small World”, this song has a worm like infectious tune that rolls around in your brain like a marble in a barrel. A child, once he has learned this song, will hum it, whistle it, and sing it until adult ears bleed. Not only is the tune contagious, the lyrics are ideal and Pollyanna to the point of near myopic blindness.
After one chorus of “Jesus Loves the Little Children”, Mr. Stevens’ song moves into his “Everything Is Beautiful, in It’s Own Way” mantra.
The notion he puts forth in this song is that everyone and everything is beautiful in it’s own way. That if we CHOOSE to see the good, choose to find the positive, and choose to open our hearts to love, then …”the World’s gonna find a way”.

The first thing I want to say is, whatever you do, DON’T listen to this song on YouTube or anywhere else because it will stick in your head. In less than an hour you will be begging for some Beatles, the Who, or a good dose of Led Zeppelin.
But beyond that, I have a bit of a dilemma. I am embarrassed to admit, I actually agree with Mr. Stevens… in theory. I truly WISH it was that way. I WANT to believe the best of people. I WISH the world would live in love. Personally, I choose to live my life that way. I choose to believe the best of people, trust people, and see the best in them … BUT… at 62 years of age I can say it’s not only incorrect, it’s dangerous to walk through life with rose colored glasses.
I have had people steal from me, cheat me, and deceive me in many ways, but I STILL choose to believe the best. I choose to be this way because I cannot live my life in paranoid, bitter, and angry resentment for the few times that people have chosen to be dishonest, deceitful, or deceptive.
As the old saying goes, I can’t allow “one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch” for me. I love life. I love people. I am happy when I see generosity in the world such as the relief efforts for the tsunami in Japan. I am happy when I see a child share a toy.

“Everything Is Beautiful in It’s Own Way” is an ideal I wish were true, but when I go downtown Los Angeles, I won’t leave valuables in my car and I won’t leave it unlocked. What I WILL do, is be the best person I can to everyone I meet. I will try to add something good to the world. And through personal experience, I now have a fairly perceptive filter on who to trust.

The way I see it, not everything is beautiful in the world, but I can add my small part to what is beautiful and I can revel in all the beauty around me. People who refuse to love again because of having experienced heartbreak, are protecting and empty house. Love will teach us freedom and experience will teach us discretion.

Now if only I could get that stupid song out of my head. I’m going on YouTube and look for “Stairway to Heaven”!!! Yeah… gimme some Led Zeppelin

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Trying a new “method”….

 

Shooting head shots for actors in Los Angeles for over 35 years has brought a host of experience my way.  Just when I think I’ve seen everything, some wacky actor comes up with a whole new weirdness.

I once had an actor walk over and touch my forehead with her index finger and inform me that she had to “get in touch with my third eye” before we could shoot. I was just glad she didn’t stick her finger in either of the other two eyes.

This last decade has brought a wave of “Method Actors” that feel compelled to get in touch with their deep feelings before they can smile for a commercial shot. Any photo seems to come with a period of time where they stare at the floor and dig up piles of past crap so they can emote.

While I think this is a big fat waste of time and energy, I nevertheless, just hang out by my camera waiting for them to make their magic so I can take a photo.

Here’s a video of one such actor. He’s kind of new at this, but I think he has talent. He seemed to lose it at the very last second though and took it out on his cell phone.

 

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Repost – Japan Trip 2011 – Day Two – 11/12/11

Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to JapanYesterday was eventful. I spent pretty much all day at a local studio. My gf, who does a lot of management, PR, scheduling, office duties, and a host of other things for my business, worked out a deal with the 3 owners of an art studio not too far from where we are staying at the Shinjuku Hilton.

We arrived at the studio, and the first thing the head dude said to me was he knew me from DA and was a fan. That seemed to me a good way to start but the next words out of his mouth were asking if I’d shoot some nudes of HIM! OK….awkward moment. I assumed the other two guys knew my work also (figured he told them) so I said,”Sure…no problem”.
I spent the entire day shooting the 3 guys and doing wacky images of them and of course, a nude of the leader of the pack. Part of the deal is, I had to shoot photos of their studio for the web. They moved into this new space just two weeks ago and were pretty excited to get the ball rolling on renting and doing their art thing. I was impressed at some of the paintings and sculpture around. There was a five foot long and 4 foot tall walking fish that was equally amusing and creepy.
Another deal that my lovely gf worked out was for me to shoot a few photos in exchange for my tour guide services and translator. So after spending the entire day shooting, I was ready to take a break.
BUT… a dinner was held here at the Hilton in honor of my friend Jim Beaver who is here with us. I mentioned in my last journal, he is one of the lead actors on “Supernatural”. I have never seen the show, so I had no idea of it’s popularity but I’ve been educated by the people mobbing him. Poor guy. He is ever so gracious to his fans.
Again, my gf did the event planning, so the dinner was wonderful. She had scheduled him time at every table, so not one fan was disappointed. Each fan got to ask him a couple of questions, have a photo op (guess who took those photos?), and be generally in the presence of someone they admired. I DO have to say that I never really understand the whole star struck thing though. Guess I’ve been living in LA and rubbing shoulders with enough celebs that I have a clear idea about them being just ordinary people with extraordinary jobs. Jim however, is an extraordinary guy.
He walked around Tokyo yesterday site seeing by himself. But it seems his iPhone GPS signal was bouncing off the buildings so was horribly inaccurate. He got lost. He was a bit frustrated but decided to sit, have a meal, and figure it out. Thing is, he had bought a rather expensive gift for his daughter and didn’t have enough money to pay for lunch! LOL His Japanese is sparse, so he struggled and struggled to try and tell the poor waitress his issue. He finally returned to his iPhone and a translation app, and was able to tell the story. The waitress was fairly upset because she said the owner would be upset at her. It was a tiny lil hole in the wall place (where the best food is always found), and so they didn’t take credit cards. He wandered around FOREVER (his words) to find an ATM, then went back and paid the balance. The waitress was ASTONISHED Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to Japanthat he returned. I’m not… it’s exactly what I would expect of him, and of course, exactly what I would do.
He got lost on his way back to the hotel, but finally made it in time to shower for dinner.
After dinner, I was surprised to find out one of the fans had GIFTED us all with a “nice” visit to the local KARAOKE bar!!!! Can I just state for the record, how much I detest even the IDEA of karaoke?? OMFG. SO…off we go, and I ordered copious amount of Asahi to survive. Self medication was MY approach to surviving karaoke. I could write 27 entire journals about the evils of karaoke, but the Japanese are freaks for it… well, that and panchinko….but that’s another story. So there we sat, Jim, my gf and I, and a bunch of Japanese fans of Supernatural, in a room with a HUGE video screen, two unfortunate microphones, lots of beer for me, and OMFG… (you really can’t make this stuff up)…TAMBORINES!!! I no longer have any fear of hell because I certainly have been there.
Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to JapanAfterwards, the three of us strolled (well, THEY strolled, I staggered)  back to the hotel, through streets of hookers, temples, BAD American fast food (yes – you CAN get a SPAM burger here at the local Burger King), and shop after shop of souvenirs.
How the tour guide/translator, one of our friends, Jim, my gf, and someone I still don’t know, all ended up back in our room drinking, I have no idea….but I fell asleep…content with another madhouse day in Japan.

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Re-post – Japan Trip 2011 – Day One 11/11/11

Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to JapanTime is certainly displaced. We’re not really suffering jet lag but it’s obvious our bodies are weirded out by being here.
My girlfriend and I traveled today to Atsugi, about an hour train ride from Tokyo. We had some business to take care of there. It was a bit frustrating because we couldn’t get everything done we needed to, but the traveling to and from was delightful.
I was amazed, looking out the train window, there was not ONE piece of litter. I think we traveled 20 miles or more before I saw so much as a tissue paper beside the tracks. The Japanese, even in the less affluent areas, are incredibly tidy.
During the morning commute, the subway trains are packed so full there are literally uniformed individuals called “pushers” whose job it is to shove people into the cars as tightly as possible. As the doors slide shut they get very aggressive and carry out their job of sardine commuter packing very seriously… and they do it with smiles and white gloves and a charm that everyone not only tolerates but respects.
Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms goes to Japan with Kaz and Jim BeaverIt seems there is a favored practice here, especially in Tokyo, if one desires to remove himself from the gene pool, to use a swiftly moving subway train as an exit strategy. Flinging oneself in front of said speeding subway is pretty effective and dependable. It’s also an efficacious way of thumbing one’s nose at those left behind because there is a hefty fine levied on the surviving family of the jumper. Today we sat in the subway for an extra 7 minutes so the cleanup crews could gather parts and pieces of some disgruntled soul. I don’t think “cleanup crew” is a job I would ever apply for. I prefer to interact with human beings with all their parts assembled correctly and firmly attached. What amazes me is we were only delayed 7 minutes…these guys clean up fast! In Japan it is disgraceful to be late, so perhaps this manner of suicide has more implications than the obvious.
We continued our journey and it was amusing to see modern architecture blended in among old old temples. We passes mile after mile of packed high rise apartment buildings. It terrifies me to imagine what a lethal virus could do in Tokyo.
We did have a short bit of entertainment from a psychotic dude on the train. Seems a few of his personalities were along for the ride and they decided it was a good time to announce he was gonna take a singing test. He then became his teacher and said a few corrective words, then went back to being “himself” and proceeded to sing for us all. It was short and ceased to be amusing after the third or fourth time through his recital. But it was a way to pass time as we sat waiting for arms and legs to be tossed into plastic bags somewhere down the tracks.
Then there are all these young Japanese girls in school girl outfits. Perhaps it is the better part of discretion not to comment here.. Geeeeeeez
Los Angeles Photographer Michael Helms at Budokan with Jim Beaver Tonight we went to Budo Kan and saw Def Tech. I had no idea what either of those things were but there I was shooting photos of the whole thing. It was loud, young, and Def Tech certainly seemed well received.  Maybe I’m getting old but I’m truly not impressed by electronics. BUT there were some tunes they played that made it obvious there was talent on stage. Guess I’m an old fart… I just LIKE rock and roll.
After the concert we took a long stroll in the rain and went to a little hole in the wall restraint I love here in Tokyo. If you’ve never had shishito peppers….yum…. get some!
I passed on the horse sashimi.
I am here with my girlfriend and my dear friend, Jim Beaver, who is one of the lead cast members of a TV show called “Supernatural”. I’ve know Jim many years and it’s fun to see his career doing so well. He gets recognized a lot here in Japan and he said there was a “small mob” waiting for him when he got off the plane here. How do people find out these things??
Tomorrow night there is a dinner here for him… a bit of PR for the show.
More later… Asahi  in Japan, mmmm….good beer.

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