A touching story about love,loss & family – A Bride, A Train, A Groom in Japan

*To bypass the intro and go straight to the love story scroll down to the bottom of page.

Being a photographer is a lot like being a hairdresser, everyone has a story.  My job is to figure out what story they want me to tell through my images. Sometimes that is easy and well, sometimes it is not.

The Studio got a call in December from a return client who wanted me to shoot some bridal shots of her daughter in her wedding gown. She was to be married in Japan and wanted something creative done locally before moving.

On Dec. 16th,  Mom, Dad and Rin showed up at the studio with only a dress and a pair of shoes in hand and absolutely no idea what they wanted photographically, just something different, something that would represent who Rin was.

Obstacle #1- I am primarily an available light photographer by choice and on this particular day we had ice fog, it was too frigid to go outside or so I thought and too dark to shoot inside.

Obstacle #2- When Rin showed up lets just say her attire was a touch alternative. Black skinny jeans, combat boots, hoody pulled over her head and a black leather coat. This was who she was… not like everyone else, she walked her own path. She was a budding musician who likes black and red, that was all I had to work with.

Obstacle #3- When she stepped out of the dressing room there had been a total transformation. Before me stood this soft, beautiful, frail young women. What now I asked myself, how do I blend the two.

Idea #1-  I took Rin into my home where I have a black leather couch with a skylight directly overhead. I positioned her on the couch, lowered my chandelier down from the ceiling for some foreground interest. I got up on a 10 foot ladder with my Canon Mark III and a 24-70 f2.8 lens and shot these images below at  IOS 1250 – 60th of a second @f2.8

By this time I was charged up and wanted to shoot something else.  The week before I had noticed two abandoned train cars left on one of the tracks in Troutdale, I have never seen them do that before.

Idea #2- Take Rin down to the tracks and shoot some environmentals.  Two totally opposing elements; a Bride in a gown on abandoned rail cars, right up my alley!

Obstacle #4- It was freezing outside and I wasn’t even sure if the rail cars would still be there but Rin was all for it.

I shot the follow images with my Canon 70-200 2.8 lens at 1/60 @f3.2-ISO 640The next shot shows a frightened Rin as a train rushes by us on the secondary track.  The whistle was deafening and the wind made the temperature even colder. Rin was amazing, she pulled herself together long enough for me to get some great images of the train streaking behind her.

What follows is a real life story written by Rin’s Mother.  At the time she had no idea that I would attach it exactly as she wrote it.  You see I had called her and left a message saying I would like to feature Rin in a blog and had a couple of questions,  one was how Rin and her fiance’ met?  What I got in return had the makings of a movie.  PLEASE READ ON!

Hi Colleen,

Glad to get your call.

Your ideas for the blog sound terrific.

The way I heard it  .  .  .

Rin took note of Shun on the Portland State University campus.  He is  very handsome and tall and geeky, just like she likes ’em.

Rin claims she “didn’t stalk him.”  Which of course means, that’s exactly what she did.

Anyway, Rin went up to Shun and told him that they needed to know each other.  He was a little surprised, but as they say “the rest is history.”

 They are living in Tokyo.  He works in business and she is pursuing a music career  (rock and roll;  metal;  alternative).  Guitar and lead singer.


Rin’s  fairy tale story is just that.  Her single Mom died when Rin was 12.  By age 15 she was on her own and eventually in that most dreaded of circumstances.  Tom and I watched over her (unbeknown to DHS).  In August 2011, we legally adopted her as our own.

You see, Lucas (our son) was her fiance (not her brother as Deb assumed).  Luke passed away and left us and Rin in a world of hurt.  We huddled together and came out of the grief a new family unit.

Her very scratchy and unusual life has produced a very independent and confident young woman.  Helps that she’s also beautiful.  See, I can say that since she’s my adopted daughter.

Rin doesn’t tell everybody about her childhood, but those close to her always seem to pick up that there’s something inside that’s very unlike most girls her age.  She’s just 22 but she’s lived many, many life-years.  Definitely not a typical girl from Lake Oswego!!

We are so glad that you took Lucas’ senior pictures.  He choose you out of the dozens of mailings we received back in 2004.  And now, you’ve shot the beautiful bridal photos of Rin.

So happy are we.

Thanks, Colleen.



Rin is marrying Shun Oka.

Their wedding will be April 1 (yes April fool’s Day;  they think that will be funny!) in Yamaguchi, Japan.

Shun and many generations of the Oka family are from  Yamaguchi.  Our guide book say it is “in the hills  of far South Japan where old-world atmosphere hangs over a modern city that is cut through by a narrow scenic river.”

The ceremony will be held at the temple garden of Joei-ji.  Cherry blossoms should be in full bloom!!!!  Flickr has some really pretty pictures of the temple garden.

I’m going to scan two of my favorite photos from my wedding.  It was held in 1969!!!!!  One is of me and my Dad,  The other is of me and Tom’s (my husband) grandmother.

My dress was by Priscilla of Boston.  I think it was the second dress I tried on.  I had no big dream plan for my wedding or my dress.  My Mom did the whole thing.  Remember it was 1969!!  And that’s the way Mom ran things. She was good!!

The dress was altered by Sandy at a boutique in Lake Oswego called Silkwood.  The dress had been “preserved” after my wedding. However ketchup still remained as spots down the front of the dress.  Silkwood used “harvested” lace and patched over the stains.  You’d never know.

We found those awesome gloves Rin wore at

Her equally awesome wedding ring is by “Chrome Hearts” and is called “Dagger.”  Oh my.

So that’s more than you asked for,  I got carried away.

Thanks Colleen.

Rin’s photos are really special.

How fortunate am I to be a photographer!  We impact peoples lives in ways at times I don’t understand! We capture memories, moments in time that last forever. We make people happy and feel beautiful and important.  How lucky am I that they choose me to do that, that they trust me enough to put themselves in my hands.

I am so Grateful and so Blessed!


3 Responses

  1. Colleen I love her story! You work is beautiful, as always! The photos are stunning!!! (so is the young woman)

    January 31, 2012 at 5:10 am

  2. Rin holder-Oka

    This is Rin. It is a beautiful post, when I read it I don’t believe the words written. Its a good reminder, and seeing the pictures of me in my dress with the sad but happy story of my life makes it better in a way.

    January 31, 2012 at 7:18 am

    • Thank you for letting me share it Rin. You are a beautiful young Lady with an amazing life ahead of you…enjoy it to the fullest!

      January 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm

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