Experience Japan with Mike Kelley + Simon Devitt

Experience Japan with Mike Kelley + Simon Devitt

3 upcoming workshops
September 2 - 6, 2024
September 7 - 11, 2024
September 11 - 15, 2024

Mike Kelley and Simon Devitt are back for another architectural photography workshop. 

This time, group attendees will venture to Japan to visit the Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse in Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture. Building on our experiences with past workshops, this adventure promises to be an unforgettable experience for participants.


Ther are three separate groups available for this workshop.

  • September 2 – 6, 2024 (sold out)
  • September 7 – 11, 2024
  • September 11 – 15th, 2024 


$4,950. The itinerary below details what is and is not included for each day of the workshop.

About Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse

Suiden Terrace opened in 2018  was designed by award-winning architect Shigeru Ban. Ban studied architecture at both California’s SCI-Arc and New York’s Cooper Union and has become one of the most respected architects in the world, pioneering one-of-a-kind design languages via the use of thoughtful and innovative materials. 

Throughout his career, Ban has consistently and successfully blended modern designs with innovative materials such as cardboard and paper; for example he was the first architect in the world to design a code-passing structure made out of paper. Ban has also taken on many humanitarian causes such as refugee shelters and short-term pavilions, all of which are made out of sustainable materials. 

The hotel sits atop rice fields and beautifully reflects its natural surroundings and features bright minimalist decor inside – an inspiring setting for making photos, learning more about the business of architectural photography and enjoying the company of other professionals looking to improve their technique and level-up in their careers. As Suiden Terrasse is located in an agricultural area, their on-site restaurants feature farm-to-table menus filled with seasonal produce and seafood.

Tentative Workshop Itinerary

Day 1: 

  • Activity: Check in to Daiwa Roynet Hotel Yamagata-ekimae in Yamagata Prefecture at your leisure.
  • Included: The price of the hotel
  • Not included: Transportation to hotel and meals

Day 2:

  • Activity: Board a private shuttle which will take all attendees to Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse, approximately two hours away.
  • Check-in to Suiden Terrasse
  • The rest of the day is yours. Enjoy the spa, grab dinner with other attendees or shake off that jetlag!
  • Included: Transportation to Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse and lodging at the hotel
  • Not included: Meals, spa treatments, etc.

Day 3: 

  • Activities
    • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel 
    • Workshop day 1 will commence
    • Break for lunch at the hotel
    • Resume workshop day 1 activities
    • Group dinner offsite
  • What’s included: Lodging, breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • What’s not included: extra snacks

Day 4: 

  • Activities
    • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel 
    • Workshop day 2 will commence
    • Break for lunch at the hotel
    • Resume workshop day 2 activities
    • Group dinner offsite
  • What’s included: Lodging, breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • What’s not included: extra snacks

Day 5: 

  • Activities
    • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel 
    • 12:00 PM: Depart for Yamagata City Center
      • We should arrive in Yamagata at approximately 2:00 pm, but please give leave extra time when booking any departing flights as it’s always possible we may encounter unforeseen delays due to traffic and construction detours.
  • What’s included: Breakfast, transportation to Yamagata city center
  • What’s not included: lunch, dinner, lodging in Yamagata 

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the full tuition due? Tuition is due in full upon reserving your spot. Tuition is non-refundable but is transferable. If you can’t make it, you’re welcome to give your spot to a friend — just let us know beforehand. However, you can pay in installments using PayPal.

Why is the workshop so small? We have taught many workshops in our careers and agree that it’s nearly impossible to teach adequately as soon as class sizes get larger than eight people. Due to the specialized equipment and wide open spaces required to have everyone not only learn about, but also practice, architectural photography, we kept it small and intimate so that attendees not only get a chance to make amazing photos, but also have plenty of time interfacing with instructors.

Which airport do we fly into? The nearest airport is Yamagata Airport (GAJ). It is located ~30 minutes from Daiwa Roynet Hotel Yamagata-ekimae.

How do we get from the airport to Daiwa Roynet Hotel Yamagata-ekimae? All attendees will be responsible for their own transportation – traditional taxis are recommended as Uber is not available in the area.

How will we get to Suiden Terrace? An APA representative will meet you at Daiwa Roynet Hotel Yamagata-ekimae at 12:00 pm and help you board a private shuttle, which will take all students to Suiden Terrace.

What is included in the price? Instruction, transportation to and from Shonai Hotel Suiden Terrasse (unless you need to leave earlier than our planned departure). A breakdown of what is included on each day is listed in the tentative itinerary above. Airfare is not included and must be booked by attendees separately.

Can I bring my significant other, a friend or family? Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate guests beyond the workshop participant. All hotel, car and meal reservations have been made to account for only the number of attendees + instructors and assistants. 

What equipment should I bring?

  • Gear – Mandatory
    • Camera
    • Lenses
    • Tripod
    • Blank memory card
    • Card reader
    • Laptop
    • Any/all cables for your gear
  • Gear – Nice to Have:
    • Rain cover
  • Clothing:
    • Pack layers
    • Rain jacket
    • Waterproof shoes
  • Food:
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included on days 3 and 4. But you are welcome to bring additional, personal snacks. Each room at Suiden Terrasse is equipped with a mini fridge.
  • Medication:
    • If you have any allergies, please let us know and also bring an EpiPen, and/or any other medication required to treat an allergic reaction.
  • Suggested:
    • Hippo portable wifi. Rent from Narita. Perfect (and necessary) for navigating Japan when you’re not in a hotel

About the instructors

Mike Kelley is a photographer based in Los Angeles, California, with an established local practice and occasional travel assignments when he can be lured beyond the idyllic weather of Southern California.

I’m a photographer based in Los Angeles, California who specializes in photographing architecture; I also have a mild airplane obsession.

I grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts: a small coastal town that’s one part postcard and one part dramatic Boston movie.  Here I was lucky enough to meet a number of amazing teachers who opened my eyes to the world of art and design; this would alter the path of my life in more ways than I could ever imagine.

After studying studio art and environmental science at the University of Vermont, I moved to Lake Tahoe, California, in hopes of becoming a professional snowboarder (graduating right after the ’08 recession made this seem like a great idea). A couple of years and too many injuries later, I found myself taking up an offer to photograph a few homes for a client I’d met while recuperating. What started by chance turned out to be the perfect mix of technical challenge and creative outlet, and I decided right there and then that it absolutely must be my career.

In 2018, I founded the Architectural Photography Almanac, a resource for architecture photographers and those in the architecture industry seeking to learn about the craft and theory of architectural photography

Simon Devitt is a photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand, with an established international practice throughout Australasia and further afield.

I am a photographer with a strong practice focus in Photography of Architecture, currently based in Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, in Aotearoa New Zealand; with an established international practice throughout Australasia and further afield.

I have both a strong sense of home and a wanderlust which goes right back to when I was born in a sandstorm beside a sleeping camel in 1973.

Working in many different settings across cultures around the world has had a great impact on my professional practice, which has been greatly enriched by my experience of each particular context: Shanghai and its people, the fruitful silence of a Japanese bamboo forest, the light in Los Angeles, so different to the harsh, more direct light in New Zealand.

In fact, I love LA light, so diffused, as if a giant soft box had been placed over the sun. On one particular occasion, standing with my camera equipment in a very suburban street in Echo Park I noticed that I had caught the neighbours’ attention. A few came up to ask what I was doing, in a cutely nosey, neighbourly way, all of them appearing to act as a neighbourhood watch of sorts over the house I was photographing and for each other. I felt a great sense of community and a few of them even made it into one of my pictures.

I intentionally add people to my photos—their appearance allows a sense of scale and a place in time.

I am the author of the award-winning photo-book Rannoch and the All Things Considered series. Photo-books bring together my passion for image, place and language, which started in 2013 with the launch of Portrait of a House, my first self-published photo-book on the Athfield residence in Wellington. Since then, I have published the Ripe Fruit series (2018-2019) and Cape to Bluff (2022).

My images feature in many books and collaborations including Long Live the Modern (2009), Group Architects: Towards a New Zealand Architecture (2010), Athfield Architects (2012), Summer Houses (2011); as well as in numerous national and international magazines such as Elle Decor (Italy, UK, Japan and South Africa), Architectural Digest (Germany), Dwell (USA), Habitus, InDesign (Australia), Architecture NZ, Home New Zealand, Urbis, Interior (NZ).

I lectured in Photography of Architecture at the University of Auckland for 10 years, where I have also had the pleasure of offering the annual Simon Devitt Prize for Photography since 2008.

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