Bonding for the Future

Minamisanriku - It has been one year since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked the Tohoku region of Japan and sent a series of tidal waves that wiped out much of the northeast coast and created an ongoing nuclear crisis. In the small town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, more than 75% of the city was destroyed. The town was literally washed away.

More than 500 people died and over 100 are still missing. On Sunday, March 11, it was standing room only at the Bayside Arena where more than 3,000 people gathered to pay their respects to those who had perished and those who are still missing. Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda addressed the nation at a memorial service in Tokyo that was simulcast to all the memorial services across the country.

The Emperor expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his country and to the world for their overwhelming support. “I hope that all of the people of Japan will sympathize with the disaster victims and that persistent efforts will be made to improve the situation.”

Prime Minister Noda was deeply saddened by the loss of life and vowed to do everything possible to speed up the recovery and help people return to their hometowns. “We will stand by the disaster victims during these difficult times and work together to fulfill the historic mission of reinvigorating Japan through reconstruction.”

Minamisanriku Mayor Jin Sato (above), who himself barely survived the tsunami by clinging to a broadcast antenna atop the three-story Minamisanriku town hall building and Miyagi Prefecture Governor Yoshihiro Murai also spoke at the service.

The service featured several chorales of students from the local elementary schools each singing songs they had written and ended with a presentation of flowers for all in attendance.

As I was leaving the service, someone was calling my name. I turned around to see Mitsuaki Maeda, his daughter Juri and niece Megumi. I was very happy to see them. I held back tears as Megumi showed me a picture of her mother and father who passed away in the tsunami.

When I first met Mitsuaki in June of last year, he introduced Megumi to me as his own daughter, It was only later that I learned that his brother and sister-in-law had died and he had taken on the responsibility of caring for Megumi. It is this deep commitment to family and values that keeps bringing me back to Minamisanriku.

Mitsuaki (far left) is one of the people who truly inspires me to help the people in Japan. He lost his brother, his sister-in-law, his home and his sushi restaurant. Yet, despite his tragic losses, he still wears a smile on his face and remains positive about the future.

I met him and his family for lunch the following day at their temporary housing unit. He told me that my friend Ken and I were the first people he ever met outside of Japan when we were there cooking a barbeque for the evacuation shelter he was staying at. Since then, he said that he is now learning English and watching American movies because he wants to learn more about life and cultures outside of Japan.

Kizuna is the Japanese word that describes the bond and emotional ties between people. Since the triple disaster, it has become more widely used as more people create those bonds by working together to rebuild their lives and their communities.

During these past few days, several people have told me that they really appreciate it when people come to visit them. It’s not the donations or the money that are important to them. It’s the relationships with others that raises their spirits. It is my hope that these bonds, the spirit behind kizuna, will last forever.


Have a Heart, Buy Some Art!

please feel free to share this with a friend...or two or 100...

the MIHO gallery
is now open!

i have chosen a few select photos from my travels to Hawai'i and Japan as well as a series of flowers. prices vary depending on the size and type. some are limited edition prints (signed and numbered : more expensive) that are ready for hanging while others are mounted and ready for framing.

so for the month of February, i am kicking of the grand opening with the "Have a Heart, Buy Some Art!" campaign to help raise money for a few long term projects i have been working on. it's a sweetheart of a deal for family and friends. you'll automatically get 20% off and 33% of your purchase will be tax deductible and will go towards making this world a better place.

to place an oder:
go to the MIHO gallery
click on limited edition prints and fine art prints.
find the perfect photo(s) for your wall(s).
click on "add to cart" to see the different sizes available and prices.
write the name/number of the photo and pick a size/price.
click on contact and email that information to me.
do not purchase the photo through the website. you won't get the discount or the tax deduction.

the final prints will not have any of the text on them. it is merely a security feature built into the website so that people don't steal my photos. yes, unfortunately, people do do that.

to order your print(s) or for more information, please send me a message by clicking here or on the contact button on the MIHO gallery site.

here are the projects you can support...

Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace
in partnership with the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA)
i am documenting stories from atomic bomb survivors to archive their stories and to create a traveling exhibit to promote world peace. i have over 100 survivors signed up from South Korea, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the US.

Ai Love Japan
in partnership with Pacific Film Currents
my friend Ken and I are documenting stories of tsunami survivors in Tohoku Japan to share with people in the US to encourage people to do more and give more. and in the process, we are learning about the community needs and raising money to provide direct aid to help them rebuild their lives.

the Garrett Miho Foundation
We assist children of single parent households so that children can continue to have access to activities and programs that provide life experience, leadership skills, interpersonal relationships and build self esteem. we are now supporting children in Japan who lost one or both parents in the tsunami.

thank you very much for your support...together, we can make this world a better place.


why our prices are "WACK"...

i read on the Sportsshooter message board about a bride to be in Seattle, WA who posted an ad on Craigslist searching for a wedding photographer and she was appalled at the rates photographers were charging. in her words, they were "WACK" for charging so much.

here is her ad in its entirety...

WHY is finding an amazing wedding photographer so difficult? :/

I am a Bride who is getting married this summer and have yet to find a decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer.

WHY because the word "WEDDING" is involved photographers think they can change you $ 3,000.00 for wedding photos? Oh, because no bride is going to go without so they are going to pay it, because they HAVE to. They are ripping people off for all they have! Why when you want to get married it costs you AT LEAST 15 grand after all is said-and-done? Its such CRAP!! I love all you $ 3,000.00 photographers out there but i think your prices are WACK. All your doing is hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them.. and thats owrth 3 GRAND!!! You're making so much money its crazy. I just wish people would be more realistic. I mean the "average" persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you're going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!?????? So that maybe they will not be able to feed themselves or pay any other bills they have, right? It makes me SICK!

I know im speaking for more than just myself right now. Alot of brides out there think the same thing. & I bet all you fancy photographers wont even read this. oh-well.
Maybe there are cheaper photographers that will read this and LOVE to take my photos :)
~ ~ ~ end of ad ~ ~ ~

i'm not surprised that some people feel this way. i've heard it a few times myself. so i couldn't help but respond to her ad to try and explain to her why good wedding photographers charge $3,000 (or more) to shoot a wedding.

this is what i emailed to her...

dear puget sound bride...
i am sorry you are having a difficult time finding a photographer for your wedding.

but there is a reason why some photographers charge $3,000 (or more) to shoot a wedding. and if you really think about it, there is a reason why you haven't hired the $1,000 photographer...you don't like their work.

so, aside from the obvious fact that talent cost money, there is more to it than just 'hanging out at a wedding taking tons of photos and editing them'.

most likely that $3,000 photographer has an assistant and/or a second photographer. i don't do a wedding without one simply because i can not be everywhere. having a second photographer provides a different perspective of the same event, thus giving you more photos. if your photographer is not providing a second shooter, hire a different photographer or be prepared to be disappointed.
cost - $300 - 700

plus the cost of prints
cost - $200 - 400

outside of the wedding day, we will meet with you at least twice, once prior to the wedding and once after the wedding. sometimes more depending on the circumstances.
approx. 3 - 5 hours

if we haven't shot at your wedding site, we'll also go scout out the location(s) to see what the lighting is like and to figure out where to shoot your formal photos and group photos.
approx. 1 - 2 hours

we will also go to your wedding rehearsal to get an idea of what your ceremony will be like. at least i do. i don't like surprises.
approx. 2 hours

you are also paying for experience. we are prepared for just about anything. the more weddings a photographer has done, the more he knows what to be prepared for and what to do when a crisis occurs. like buying the bride a martini (or beverage of choice) when she's stressed out about the limo driver being late. or having bobbie pins or spare buttons ready. i carry a 'bride and groom' kit with band aids, towel wipes, thread needle, tissue, mirror, lighter, swiss army knife, pins and clips of all sizes and a myriad of other little things that may come in handy.
cost - priceless

when we are not shooting or editing or meeting with you, as business owners, we also need to take care of our business. we need to do our bookkeeping, our marketing, our equipment maintenance. yes, you pay for part of this because these are parts of the cost of doing business and part of the money we earn needs to cover the time to do these things. our work is more than just the wedding day and editing.

on top of that, we also have to pay our own medical insurance, equipment insurance and liability insurance, which might be something you might not realize if your employer provides this for you. this is also the cost of doing business.
cost - $500 - $800/month

as a professional photographer that only does photography for a living, there are three reasons that i can think of that a wedding photographer would charge less than $1500 for a whole day wedding...
1. he/she has a full time job and does it on the side for extra income. thus eliminating the need for a steady livable income or having to pay for their own medical insurance...and i forgot to mention, retirement planning.
2. he/she can't command that much money because their photos are not worthy of that rate, and therefore, can not be a full-time photographer.
3. he/she doesn't understand completely the value of their work or the cost of doing business and will either quickly learn to adapt or go broke trying.

so, yes, good photography cost money and unfortunately, this is what has happened with the advent of the digital revolution. because there are no film and processing costs, people have begun to believe that photography has gotten cheaper, but the reality is that it has not.

i spend more time at my computer now because of it. i also need to upgrade my cameras and computer every 3 years. in the film days, i shot with the same cameras for 15 years and didn't even need a computer except for invoicing and bookkeeping.

so i hope that i have added a little insight into why some photographers charge $3,000. it's not that we are trying to rip you off (ok, some might be because some aren't worth that much). but honestly this is what it costs to run a photography business successfully.

but i do wish you luck finding a 'decently priced, exceptional, amazingly talented, fun photographer.' while 'fun' should be included, 'decently priced' and 'exceptional' and 'amazingly talented' are usually mutually exclusive terms not typically found describing the same thing.

it's not impossible...but in the end, that old saying 'you get what you pay for' usually applies, so choose wisely. you don't get a second chance. there are no do-overs.

and a little advice, you might want to change your ad so you don't sound like a disrespectful, demanding bride. while this is your day and it IS all about you, having a bad (yet honest) attitude about what we do for a living is not going to win over any self-respecting photographer. any photographer, regardless of their rate, is not going to want to work for someone who belittles their profession.

respectfully yours,

an amazingly talented photographer (but not cheap)
~ ~ ~ end response ~ ~ ~

photographers, please feel free to forward this any time you feel the need to. it is unfortunate that some people feel this way, but sometimes we need to inform the misinformed.

if you want to read a couple of more responses, read these:
Nikki Wagner
Kristen Booth