The Chris Willson Photography YouTube channel is going to be rebranded as Okinawan Spirit – 沖縄の心 . The new title better represents the contents of the channel, and where I want to take it in the future, sharing the beauty of Okinawa and its unique culture.
This channel is where you can find the Sensei:Masters of Okinawa Karate documentary series, the pilot episode Drive Okinawa a series about the owners of classic Japanese cars in Okinawa, and various other mini movies about life in these beautiful Ryukyu Islands.
We have a couple of big announcements regarding karate in Okinawa.
Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate SERIES TWO coming in 2022
After the extremely positive feedback we got about the first series of our documentary about Okinawan karate, we are going to make a second series that will be released in 2022.
You can read all the details about series one, our future plans, and fundraising here: Sensei Documentary
The next big news is that we are going to be offering a streaming service for karate seminars in Okinawa. This will be organized, hosted, and interpreted by James Pankiewicz of Bujin.tv with the filming and streaming provided by Chris Willson and Yuki Willson of TRAVEL67.com. We’ve created a great way to help reconnect Okinawan karate masters with their students around the world. Our experience with videography allows us to provide audio and visual quality far superior than a simple webcam.
Of course we’re still continuing to document Okinawa’s martial arts sensei for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. As the global pandemic eases we are excited about visiting the dojos of masters that we have not yet photographed, particularly on Okinawa’s outer islands.
In July, I photographed kata champion, and Goju-ryu master, Norihiko Masuda. We started the shoot at 7AM in Onoyama Park in Naha City. There were very few other people around, but we did have one extra person joining us. Uezato-san from the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper came along to take some behind the scenes pics of our shoot, and interview both us and Masuda Sensei about the Karate Masters Portrait Project.
After taking some environmental portraits near the Onoyama Park shrine, and the torii gate, we took a few extra shots at the entrance to the Budokan (martial arts hall) where Masuda has won many competitions.
This was the first shoot I’d done with the new Sony A7RIV camera, and I used the 24mm f1.4 lens and the 50mm f1.2 lens. (Thank you to Uetsuki-san at Kitamura Camera Chatan branch for helping me trade in several of my Pentax lenses for the new Sony 50mm.) Off camera flash was done with the Profoto B1 strobe.
It was good to hear Masuda Sensei telling Uezato-san how valuable he believes our portrait project and video series are. Masuda Sensei is going to assist in introducing us to some of the Goju-ryu masters we have not yet had the opportunity to photograph.
After the outdoors shoot we went over the Aragaki Dojo in Omoromachi to take the studio portraits of Masuda Sensei. Shot with the A7RIV and the 50mm lens.
One big advantage of using the Sony system is that I was able to quickly switch from shooting stills to recording some video footage of Masuda Sensei with the same camera.
A huge thank you to Masuda Sensei. The article for the Ryukyu Shimpo website / newspaper will hopefully appear sometime in August.
For many years I shot exclusively with the Pentax 67ii medium format film camera system. When the Pentax 645D digital medium format camera arrived I switched to shooting digital, and I’ve shot stills with the 645D and 645Z until now. The 645Z remains one of the best cameras for portrait photography.
A few years ago I also began shooting video. I started with the Sony A7Sii and then as things progressed with the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series I purchased a used Sony FS5 cinema camera. As the documentary series has continued I’ve had to purchase more Sony lenses, and in the near future will need to update both the Sony bodies to the latest models.
数年前、私はビデオ撮影も始めました。最初はソニーのA7Siiを使っていましたが、「SENSEI: MASTERS OF OKINAWAN KARATE」シリーズの制作が進むにつれ、中古のソニーFS5シネマカメラを購入しました。 ドキュメンタリーシリーズを続けていくうちに、ソニーのレンズをさらに購入しなければならなくなり、近い将来、ソニーのボディを両方とも最新モデルに更新する必要があります。
Having two completely separate systems for photography and video has created its own set of challenges in terms of storage, cost, and ultimately how much gear I can physically carry when going on a shoot.
Maybe in my 20’s I could carry a full rucksack, plus pelican cases, tripods, and lights, but I’m definitely going to struggle now.
I have to choose a system that will cover both professional videography and professional photography, and the best option for me moving forward will be to switch my digital stills cameras over to Sony.
The result is that I’m going to be selling all my Pentax digital gear ( I will still be keeping my Pentax 67ii and the K1000) and reinvesting the money in a high resolution Sony cameras for stills (A7RIV) and a couple of Sony lenses.
If you’re interested in purchasing either the Pentax 645Z system or the Pentax K1 system please get in touch. Ideally the buyer would be in Okinawa, Japan would be okay, and I’d ship overseas in certain circumstances.
Pentax 645Z with 90mm, 55mm, 35mm, 300mm, 135LSmm ¥700,000
Pentax K1 ¥100,000 Pentax 24-70 2.8 ¥100,000
Pentax K3 ¥40,000 Pentax 35mm f2 ¥20,000
I’ve been really happy shooting with the Pentax digital system for the last decade, and for photographers the 645Z and K1 are fantastic. It has been an honor to have had my photograph exhibited numerous times at the Pentax Imaging Forum in Shinjuku. I’ll continue to be a Pentaxian with my Pentax 67 film camera, but hopefully when I’m out shooting both digital stills and video, my camera bags will be a much lighter using just one system.
Episode #11 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate Series has just been uploaded to YouTube and will be also available on Bujin.tv in the near future.
Toshihiro Oshiro is 9th-dan in Shima-Ha Shorin Ryu karate, and 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu Kobujutsu. He learned karate and kobudo in Okinawa, then for several decades taught in the USA. In 2018 he returned to Okinawa. In this interview he talks about his life of martial arts, and his analytical interest of body movement. A huge thank you to Oshiro Sensei and his students, both in Okinawa and overseas, especially Kenji Hirai for setting up the interviews and translating.
A huge thank you to all those who have sponsored and supported this series. Without so much help from the international karate community, we would have struggled to film the interviews, and we definitely wouldn’t have been able to archive the bulk of the raw data. A few months ago one of the 24TB (yes TB not GB) drives failed and luckily I’d been able to purchase enough backup drives to have some redundancy in the system, and no karate data was lost.
Making the series has taught me so much about filmmaking, but also about the realities of film production, and distribution.
Episode #12 is going to be with Zenshu Toyama 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate 當山 全秋 範士十段 剛柔流空手. We are also working on a special reunion episode between Seikichi Iha Sensei and Koichi Nakasone Sensei, and an interview with iaido master Hamamoto Sensei. So if you haven’t done already, please subscribe to the YouTube channel, and don’t forget to like the videos, comment, and share them.
Sean Connery drove the Toyota 2000GT in the 1967 Bond movie “You Only Live Twice.” In Japan, a 13-year-old boy called Michio saw the iconic Toyota on the cinema screen, and it became his dream car. The 2000GT was Japan’s first supercar, extremely expensive and very rare. This mini documentary is the story of how Michio spent the next 40 years striving to achieve his goal.
We filmed the interview and driving sequences in winter 2019 and spring 2020 just before COVID-19, and I spent lockdown editing when possible. Murata-san, his wife (a jazz singer whose tracks are used in the documentary), and his 2000GT are doing well. He’s even started restoration on an early VW Beetle convertible.
I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Murata-san’s various restored cars over the last decade. And although I haven’t driven any, there are a few pictures I’ve shot that make Yuki and I look like we’ve upgraded our vehicles recently!
I hope others enjoy watching this documentary as much as we enjoyed making it. Murata-san has introduced us to the local Okinawa car community, so there may be another video later in the year, it may even include an orange and black Nissan with the numbers 432 on its side.
Daniel Craig has stated that the Toyota 2000GT is his favorite Bond car of all time. As for me, I actually own my favorite Bond car, it even has a working ejector seat!
Our team have worked with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology for several years. We’ve photographed and videoed several events including graduations and TEDx events.
Recently we were one of the teams asked by OIST to produce some new commercial photography. The photographs will be used in a variety of media, and as they appear in public, we’ll be able to share them. This week a new banner promoting research appeared with two of the four images created by our team. I shot the first pic and underwater specialist Shawn Miller shot the third pic.
A couple of weeks ago I spent the day exploring the northern part of Okinawa known as Yanbaru. Here are a few snaps from a fun day out.
I joined a guided walk that meets up at the Yanbaru Visitors Center and “Road Station” that opened in February 2020. There’s a mini supermarket packed with local produce if you need to stock up with snacks before your hike, or to buy ingredients for dinner after your adventure.
A guided walk teaches you far more about the local flora and fauna than if you just treated the hike as a way to burn off calories.
The guide was able to spot numerous critters, and explain the names and special features of the many plants along the trail.
There was a good viewpoint from the summit on the trail looking out towards the Okuma Peninsular, and then we descended back down through the forest.
We stopped for lunch at Maruhira restaurant while heading north on the west coast. If you contact the restaurant in advance they can prepare a vegan lunch menu which is delicious and cheap. (Call Taira-san on 070 5536 2802)
In the afternoon we took another short hike around Daisekirinzan the rocky trails in the national park just south of Cape Hedo.
At Cape Hedo there is a fantastic new visitors center with an ocean-view cafe on the second floor. The cafe was closed on the day I went, presumably due to COVID-19 precautions at the moment, but looking forward to getting a coffee there on my next trip up north.
On December 19th, 2020, James and I visited the dojo of Zenshu Toyama, in Awase, Okinawa. Toyama Sensei is 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate, and one of the style’s most senior practitioners. We photographed Toyama Sensei in October 2013, but on this day we returned to interview him for Episode 12 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. As it had been 7 years since our previous visit, we also shot some new portraits.
Our goal is that Episode 11 with Oshiro Sensei will be released in February 2020 and then Episode 12 with Toyama Sensei will be released in March or April 2020.
Thank you to Toyama Sensei, his daughter Hideko Toyama, Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane for their assistance on the day of the shoot.
Last Saturday, I photographed Toshihiro Oshiro, 9th dan Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu karate, 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu kobujutsu, for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. We shot the studio style portraits at his dojo in Itoman, and then yesterday photographed him again on his local beach. We also interviewed Oshiro Sensei for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate series, and the episode will be available on YouTube and Bujin.tv early next year.
It was a real pleasure to hang out with Oshiro Sensei and his students. I got to learn some more fascinating aspects of Okinawan culture (use a light grip on the weapon), and the stormy weather conditions worked in our favor for photographs.