The portraits themselves are pretty straight forward from a technique standpoint; one softbox with a medium gray background -- classic Rembrandt lighting. What is not straight forward is how I had to shoot them. I had maybe ten minutes to set things up and get the light metered out before Yamada Sensei was right there waiting on me. So I got him in position and spent maybe two minutes rattling off fifteen shots. I worked to pull a smile out of him and was only given a bit of a smirk from him. I didn't dare push him for more though -- I knew I had already gotten what I was looking for within the first two or three shots anyway. Doing all this with people warming up on the dojo mat only inches away from you, and then having numerous others just watching you can be kinda daunting. The crazy thing is that my doctor had just given me the ok to walk on my ankle again for the first time after having not walked on it for three months, just a couple hours before showing up to do the portraits. What a way to ease into walking on it again don't you think?
I'm pretty happy with the results of it all -- it was totally worth the effort and pain I felt in my ankle later that night from being on it in such intense way all of a sudden. The man made me hurt without so much as laying a finger on me. Just check out the character in his face though -- he just looks cool:
Just click on each picture to see the full size version.
Here are a few candid I shots got of him teaching during the two day seminar that I kinda liked too:
Here is a video of Yamada Sensei at a Aikido demonstration in 1986 -- the 35 second mark in the video is pretty funny:
I so wish I could have gotten on the mat to train with him -- the dude is a true martial arts master. I did get on the mat, but it was to photograph him rather than learn from him -- big surprise me being a photographer and all right?
UPDATE: So it appears that you can only see the video if you are in Safari. In Firefox it just isn't there for whatever reason. Here is a link to the video I tried to embed above.