Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yamada Sensei

 Recently I had the honor of having Yamada Sensei, the highest ranked Aikido practitioner in the Western Hemisphere and Europe, give me a few minutes to do these portraits of him prior to him teaching a seminar here in Atlanta. I say it was an honor doing so because I believe that photographing anybody that is at the top of their game in anything is a true honor. Think Eric Clapton or Bob Dylan when it comes to music. Think Barack Obama or George Bush when it comes to politics -- or think Jerry Springer or Maury Povich when it comes to trashy daytime TV host. Well Yamada Sensei is that guy when it comes to Aikido. He's famous in Aikido circles and travels the globe teaching it -- all the while getting treated like royalty by those that he is teaching while doing so. You can, and should, read more about him on his website or on his Wikipedia page.

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 and learn from him, but couldn't due to my ankle injury -- 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.

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. 

2 comments:

ShadesOfGrey said...

Where's the vid, Keith?

Keith Taylor Photography said...

@ShadesOfGrey

Not sure what is up with that. It shows up in Safari but not Firefox? I just updated the post with a link to the video at the very bottom. Thanks for letting me know about the issue with it!

Keith