A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to photograph a karate world champion, Andrea Klementisová. After winning numerous karate championships around the globe Andrea moved from Slovakia to Okinawa. She has assisted Okinawa prefecture with the promotion of karate overseas, and helped with the organization of tournaments. She is now also teaching classes at the Asato Dojo in Naha, City. Meeting Andrea also gave me the opportunity to start a new series of portraits, Sensei: The Next Generation. Unlike the original series of portraits which are all shot with a single key light, my thought is that these will also be lit with a rim light from behind. Shooting with a single light against a black background worked well with the oldest karate masters as they usually had either white hair, or were bald. If you photograph a person with black hair against a dark background, they can sometime melt into the darkness. Adding a rim light or hair light helps the subject stand out. James and I also recorded an interview with …
After a four-year hiatus, the dragon boats are once again racing during the Golden Week holidays. Friday afternoon had the finals of the regular races with the boats crews made up of both locals and Americans. The sky was overcast, but luckily it was not raining on the day. After these races the special dragon boat race took place, which the crews in traditional costume, along with flag bearers and karateka. I’m not sure of the names of the sensei performing with the black-robed crew, or the blue-robed crew, but the white-robed crew was led by Onaga Sensei, a karate master I’ll be photographing in the coming weeks. Checking back through my archives I found a pic from 2011 when I actually managed to get in one of the boats for a race. Can’t believe I was shooting with a medium format digital camera, in the rain, on a boat that might sink! After going further back in the archvies, I found images shot with the Pentax 67ii medium format film camera around 20 years …
A great experience photographing Tomoko before she leaves the island next month. Bise Village in Motobu Town is famous for its fukugi trees Garcinia subelliptica which are used as windbreaks and provide shade. The idyllic tree-lined avenues are particularly photogenic and are recently the setting for a Japanese tv drama Chimudondon (ちむどんどん). Professional photography/video in Bise Village of clients in formal wear (bridal or kimono) now requires booking and a shooting fee, but it remains one of my favorite locations. Kimono styling by Yuki. Sony A7RIV with 50mm f1.2 lens. Profoto B1 strobe with softlight reflector to add a little fill.
National Geographic France opens their new feature about Okinawan longevity with one of my portraits of Shiroma-san a student of the Matsubayashi-ryu Arakaki Dojo training at the beach. Very pleasing. https://www.nationalgeographic.fr/voyage/sante-okinawa-le-pays-des-immortels?
A little video I created showing cherry blossoms across Japan. Images were taken between 2002 and 2023. Some were the Pentax 67II medium format film camera, some were the Pentax 645D, the Pentax, 645Z, and the most recent were the Sony A7RIV.
Yoichiro Kuniyoshi is 6th dan in Uechi-ryu karate, a student of the Uechi-ryu master Kiyohide Shinjo. Recently Yoichiro Kuniyoshi set up his own dojo in Yomitan so James and I stopped by to take some portraits of him and his younger brother Wataru Kuniyoshi (3rd dan). After shooting portraits in the dojo, we popped down to the beach where Kuniyoshi performed the kata Sanchin, as his younger brother punched, kicked, and smacked him with a piece of timber. Images shot with the Sony A7RIV with the 24-105mm lens. Strobe used was a Profoto B1 with a white softlight reflector.
On the east coast of Okinawa Main Island, two farmers are both busily harvesting their crops. Ishigaki-san is digging up ukon (Okinawan turmeric), while Teruya-san is cutting down and chopping up the sugar cane.
Nobuko Oshiro of the Okinawa Karate-do Shorinryu, Taishinkan Association was awarded the rank of 9th-dan in January 2023. She continues to be the highest ranked female karateka in Okinawa. In 2015, I photographed her in her dojo, and amongst the sugar cane fields that surrounded her home in Sashiki Town. We are hoping that we will have the opportunity to interview her for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series.
In spring 2022 I spent several months traveling around Japan updating four chapters of the guidebook Essential Japan by Fodor’s Travel. It was great to be back in Hokkaido, and introduce some of the amazing places to ski and snowboard, plus fantastic opportunities for wildlife watching. In Kyushu I had great experiences exploring the volcanic scenery of the island, and meeting some amazing people. My time in Western Honshu was when the cherry blossom was in full bloom, so many of the sights were looking particularly stunning. I’ve been updating the Okinawa chapter for numerous editions of the guidebook, but my daughter has given me new insights into what makes attractions, hotels, or beaches family friendly. Updating the guidebook also revealed how tough the pandemic has been for many people and businesses. So many restaurants, bars, and even hotels had closed for good. As things return to (a new) normal I hope that everyone is able to get back on their feet once again.
Season finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power tonight. Reminded me that I hadn’t shared the pics I took when visiting the El Patio Ranch in Aso, Kyushu. Active volcanoes gurgle away across the region, but the blackened landscape is actually due to noyaki grass burning that takes place each March. Burning the old grass encourages fresh new growth, which produces rich pasture for the local cows. The El Patio Ranch is located in Aso and visitors can take short rides around the area. The ranch dogs often join for the walk, and seem to be loving life in Kyushu’s version of Mordor. I gave the pics a quick colour grade, and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio crop to get in the mood for tonight’s finale