Japan Diary – Day 11
So… The last day of photography has arrived and we are spending it once again with the monkeys of Hell Valley. The weather forecast predicted some snow and we were definitely hoping that the meteorologists got it right this time. Snow and snow monkeys kind of go together… In the morning there was a tiny amount of fresh powder on the ground but nothing substantial. It was a bit colder today so we had great hopes. In the early afternoon the snowfall arrived! Short but very intense at times. This obviously gave us different opportunities than the day before which is always a pleasure. I managed a variety of different shots during the course of the day.
As the day before we left around 5 and made our way back to the hotel to pack our things for the long day of travelling tomorrow – A few hour of trains, 12 hours wait at the airport and then a 17 hour flight to Malta via Frankfurt.
The photographic adventure has once again come to an end. Thank you for reading 🙂
Day 9 on this trip with @wild nature fotoresor was purely a travel day. First, we flew from Kusshiro on Hokkaido to Tokyo. Once in Tokyo we grabbed a few trains to finally end up in Yudanaka, close to Nagano. A few minutes drive from Yudanaka and you arrive in Jigokudani or “Hell Valley”. It is called Hell Valley due to the thermal activity in the valley with steam and hot water forcing its way out from underneath, resulting in a “hellish” looking valley.
But I am not there for the thermal activity. Hell no! (pun intended…) The valley is also known for the wild Japanese macaques – also known as Snow monkeys. That! is why I am there 🙂 The monkeys are fed by the locals and also like to take hot baths in the thermal pools in the area.
No visitors are let in until 9AM so a relaxed morning for once with proper breakfast at the hotel etc. The only way to reach the area where the monkeys like to hang around is through a 1.6km track through the forrest. Once there its more like heaven than hell for me 🙂 Monkeys everywhere – In the pools, around your feet, in the slopes, in the narrow river and anywhere else you can imagine. Paradise…
As a photographer, at least for me, these situations can be a bit overwhelming and with the excitement it can be quite hard to concentrate on the job at hand. I find it hard to be creative. This has happened to me before and in some weird way I almost loose motivation to photograph. After a whole day shooting, I left the valley less than satisfied – photographically speaking. This is not due to anything else than my own way of dealing with these kind of situations. To myself I sometimes call this an orientation day. You get to know a new subject and a new area. Normally, the day after, you can put the excitement to the side and concentrate more on the photography and try to be more creative. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. The forecast is showing snow which would make me even more happy 🙂
Japan Diary – Day 8
Back in Kushiro and the Japanese cranes. Not the best of conditions with sunshine and not so many cranes. Sunshine and white birds doesn’t really go well together for photography. Sunshine in general is not the best for us to be honest. We want clouds!!! But you have to work with what you have and adapt to the conditions or go home. I decided to work with a type of photography that I personally love. Abstracts… For the technique I use the sunshine doesn’t really matter since i am not that interested in getting the fine details of the feathers etc etc. So day 8 was used to create wildlife art 🙂
Japan Diary – Day 7
Last morning with the eagles today. Yet another set of conditions… The pack-ice has moved too much eastwards, towards the Russian controlled Kuril Islands where the boats cannot go. This means that the eagles stay mostly around the harbour area. So totally different set of images again. The crew of the boats worked hard to get the eagles to dive for fish or to come close to the boat, but as always with nature you never know whats going to happen. Today the eagles seemed a bit laid back. Maybe not hungry enough after a few days of intense feeding in the pack-ice. Who knows… After some work we managed to get quite a few diving for the fish. Although, not as intense as previous mornings, in the end we walked away with quite a few images of the eagles after all.
After a lovely lunch with Japanese BBQ we packed all the gear in the cars again for the 3 hours drive back to Kushiro where we have another day with the lovely cranes before we head back to Tokyo and the Snow Monkeys.
Japan Diary – Day 6
So… An early wake-up again… 04:15. Eagles on the schedule once more. Yesterday we had “optimal” conditions with no clouds and a beautiful sunrise. The conditions this morning were different – cloudy and foggy. Some would claim the conditions were not good but i see them as different with new opportunities. Different conditions pose different challenges and opportunities which will result in different images. Useless having the same images as the morning before in my humble opinion.
The rest of the day we didn’t have any photography planned. We needed a few extra hours of rest and to go through the images of previous days. I find it useful to study the work from the days before to see what I can do differently in the coming sessions, study settings of successful shots to replicate them in similar situations etc etc.
Japan Diary – Day 5
Early start this morning. Alarm set for 4:15 and we’re in eagle-land… Incredible… Around 150 eagles around our boat this morning… A Mecca for wildlife photographers. So… before the excitement takes over too much. Let me explain. Basically we go out with a boat into the pack ice in the Sea of Okhotsk to the east of Hokkaido to photograph Steller’s sea eagles. After 10-15 minutes we reach the pack ice where the eagles land on top of the ice. From the boat they throw fish for the eagles so that we can photograph them properly. All set up by Wild Nature fotoresor
A pretty awesome sunrise, 150 of one of the largest eagles in the world, pack ice and a crew that is working hard for us photographers. Cannot get much better.
In the afternoon we left for Notsuke Peninsula an hours drive to the south. There we were searching for Sika deer and Foxes. The peninsula is literally littered with deer. They are everywhere and reminded me of being on the African savannah. During the few hours we were there we saw at least 6-7 foxes and some of them actually came up to us. Thats what happens folks when hunting is not allowed. Wildlife thrives and you can actually approach them and they are much less scared of you than normally.
At 16:00 we left Notsuke and 3 of us decided to go back for another try with the fish owl that we failed to see the night before. And we were not disappointed. At around 20:15 it decided to appear and show off its size and those gorgeous bright yellow eyes. As a bonus, 10 minutes after its appearance, it decided to give us a bonus performance. Some great images and all of a sudden the tiredness after a long day of photography just vanished. Back home, a quick hot bath in the thermal springs at the hotel and straight to bed. Tomorrow eagles again!
Japan Diary – Day 4
The main task for day 4 is to move base to Rausu which is on the north-east side of Hokkaido. We start off with some more swan-shooting though. Before breakfast we walked down to the lake to try to catch the swans when they come flying in but it was a very fogy morning and the swans didn’t actually show up. We suspect they waited for the fog to subside before coming closer to shore. After breakfast we packed all our stuff in the cars and had a few more hours with the swans before it was time to leave Lake Kussharo and relocate to Rausu. In Rausu it is mostly Stellar’s sea eagles we are after.
Once we arrived to Rausu we checked in to our new hotel and then we made our way to try to photograph the largest owl in the world – Blakiston’s fish owl. This is a very different type of photography than what we have done so far this trip. This is photography from a type of hide. The lady that owns the place has been feeding the owls since she was a small girl and has secured many generations of this owl. The species is endangered so this lady has done a huge conservation effort on her very own.
We stayed in the cold for 5 hours until 22:00 but unfortunately the owl never came. We had to leave to get some sleep for an early morning the day after. Some of us decided to go back in the evening the day after.
Another early morning 🙂 Left the guesthouse at 4:45 so getting out of bed at 4:15. Packed the gear in the cars and left for the Bihoro Pass for some breathtaking views over Lake Kussharo. Well in time for the sunrise, the setup was geared towards panorama shots. Temperature was a crisp and fresh -14C.
The sun rises relatively quickly so no time to fiddle too much with the settings etc. This kind of photography is really not my strongpoint. With that said, it is always great to challenge yourself with new tasks. With the sunrise done and dusted we drove back to the very photogenic Whopper swans. A new location this morning but in essence quite similar to yesterday. Managed to bag a few shots I did not succeed with yesterday which is always great. Back for breakfast and some well-earned rest…
After a lunch on town we went back to our Whooper swans and I decided to work a bit with some alternative technologies which I am not to comfortable using. Not too happy with the result but we all have to start somewhere they say 🙂
Still got some decent shots though.
Why not join Wild Nature Fotoresor on this Japan trip next year?
A nice sleep-in today. Alarm went off at 05:30. Bags packed in the car to move to a new location after another session with the cranes. Again, a different location for the cranes. We have been at 3 different locations altogether. Each location with its own pros and cons which creates new challenges and opportunities and different images. For the type of images that I prefer to create I think this last location was my favourite.
After a 4-hour session with the cranes we refuelled the cars and left for Lake Kussharo – a 90 minute drive to the north. We’re staying for 2 nights and we have some landscapes and Whooper swans on the menu. We arrived early afternoon and managed a delicious Japanese lunch in a traditional restaurant and even a first session with the swans.
The lake is frozen but thanks to the thermal activity in the area the hot springs feed into the lake and keep some small areas open for the swans where they tend to congregate in quite a large number.
After our first “taste” of the swans we headed back to our cosy little Japanese guesthouse, had dinner and start downloading today’s images from the memory cards. Another great day with Wild Nature Fotoresor
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