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Master Higa and the Minotaur

Last week I was chatting with Mark Thorpe about his upcoming time-lapse workshop.  He mentioned that Sunday 5th of June was a new moon and possibly the best day of the year for photographing the Milky Way. Mark would be heading out to Mount Fuji, but I thought I’d head over to Zakimi Castle in Yomitan. I doodled the castle and stars on a piece of paper. Then continued to doodle adding  a minotaur into the doorway.

zakimi minotaur sketch

I actually have two animal masks sitting in my office. One is a hippo and the other a bull. They hippo has been used for a few rather bizarre photo shoots.


I realized that to create a minotaur all I’d need is the bull mask and a suitable torso. Luckily my mate Adam has both the right physique and was free on the Sunday night.


Still doodling on my piece of paper, the image was lacking a foreground subject and could use a hero. I’d previously photographed 8th-dan karate master Masaharu Higa at Zakimi Castle and knew he lived locally. I could always give him a call and see if he was around on Sunday night.


Yuki and I arrived at Zakimi at 8PM and it was obvious we weren’t going to a clear star-filled sky. Adam however was already in the car park, and another friend Jamie had come to assist. I put a red gel in front of a Profoto B1 strobe then Yuki held it behind Adam in the castle doorway. Jamie stood where Higa sensei would need to be in the final shot. It took a few minutes to adjust positions, focus and lighting until everything looked reasonable.

At 9PM Higa sensei arrived with his gi and a pair of sai.  He moved to where Jamie had been standing, and I took a 15 second exposure. The strobe was triggered by the shutter, then I manually fired a speedlight illuminating Higa sensei before painting in the walls of the castle with a flashlight.


And there we have it. From doodle to photograph with a lot of help from my friends. Thanks to Mark Thorpe for getting the ball rolling, to Trevor Williams for being my light painting guru, to Yuki and Jamie for assisting, and most importantly to Adam “the minotaur” Burns  and karate master Masaharu Higa.

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