Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #4 Saroma (Podcast 560)

by | Feb 13, 2017 | Podcast, Travelogue, Workshops | 2 comments

In this concluding episode of a four part series covering my Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017, we visit the Sawaki fishing port at Ohmu, go inland for some detail abstractions, and finish our tour with two days at Lake Saroma.

We pick up the trail at the start of day nine, when we returned to the Sawaki Fishing Port to photograph the rocky beach and tetrapods, that you can see in this first image for today (below). I really like the high vantage point, from the wall above the port, that we saw in the last image of episode 559, but with the sea calmer now, it was nice to be able to not only get down on the beach, but also lower my tripod for this low, more intimate perspective.

Rocky Beach and Tetrapods

Rocky Beach and Tetrapods

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says every image needs a good foreground. In fact, I’ve now seen way too many images that have a really uninteresting over-accentuated foreground, simply because people have had this drilled into them.

There are times however, when the foreground does have enough interest to warrant getting down low and showing the details, and I believe these wet black rocks fall into this category. I also like how the sun catches the wet rock more to the right side, and this gradually decreases over towards the left side of the frame.

The other so-called rule that I’m breaking with this image is that I put the horizon line almost along the center of the frame. This was of course done on purpose, as I like the balance afforded to the image by including almost as much sky as foreground, especially here because there is plenty of texture and detail in the sky. If the sky was just grey I would have pointed the camera down more.

Capture One Diffraction Correction

Another thing that I’d like to mention about this image is that I stopped down the aperture to f/16, which you’ll probably recall is a third of a stop smaller than my usual landscape aperture of f/14. I did this partly because I wanted a slower shutter speed, but also because I wanted good focus from the nearest foreground to the distant objects, but it does start to introduce just a slight amount of diffraction, which is what happens when light passes through a small hole, causing the image to become slightly softer, despite the deeper depth of field.

It’s not a huge issue at f/16, and I am usually more concerned about this at f/22 if I have to go there for some reason. One thing that I’d been looking forward to testing though, is the new Diffraction Correction feature in Capture One Pro version 10, that was released recently. I turned this on under the Lens Correction tool panel, and did notice that the foreground rocks became slightly sharper, so this seems to be working nicely. I’ll try again soon when I have to stop down further, but for now I’m happy that this new checkbox does something useful.

My other settings for this image were a focal length of 13mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens, ISO 100 for a 0.6 second exposure.

Looking for Image Sets

After a morning photographing in the port, we went for lunch, then headed in-land, to see if we could find some nice landscapes. We did shoot some landscape work, with one image that I like with various patterns in the different types of trees, but from the same location I wanted to quickly share the next set of three images.

I first noticed this batch of twigs sticking out of the snow just off the road, and framed them up in a place that enabled me to surround the twigs with only snow, and nothing distracting sticking in or out of the side of the frame. If you click on the image to view it larger, you might be able to see the very fine tendrils on the ends of the twigs, which I thought made nice graphic elements for this abstraction.

Winter Twigs

Winter Twigs

Once I’d found the first image though, I decided to look for more, to see if I couldn’t create a mini set of images. A little further along the bank there was another group of twigs that I found somewhat pleasing, as we can see in this image (below). I actually prefer this to the first image, as there are less cut-off twigs, and more of those tendrils on most of these.

Cheerleader Twigs

Cheerleader Twigs

With two images in my set now though, I set out to find a third. Two is just a pair, but three is a set of images. Not finding anything initially, I crossed the road and started walking along, and as the patches of twigs started to run out, I found this last image to complete my set (below).

An Intimate Audience

An Intimate Audience

The major difference between this and the first two images is that there is no crossing of the twigs. None of them overlap. I feel as though this one is almost like a dancer on the right, with a small, very intimate audience, watching from the left.

I shot all three images at ISO 100 for 1/20 of a second at f/14. They were already almost black and white, but I did convert these images to black and white in Capture One Pro, and although you won’t really be able to see in the web version, the texture throughout the snow looks almost like that seen in textured fine art media, like Breathing Color’s Pura Bagasse Textured. Because of that, printing on a textured media would probably not work so well, but I’m looking forward to getting some time later in the year to print these out of a beautiful smooth matte paper.

After our in-land shoot, we started our drive south to Lake Saroma, where we’d spend the last two nights of the tour, in a beautiful hotel overlooking the frozen lake. Our first shoot the following morning was at the Toetoko Fishing Port. For my first shot from this location, I was photographing straight down between two lines of fishing boats (below).

Toetoko Fishing Boats with Footprints

Toetoko Fishing Boats with Footprints

There are line after line of fishing boats like this, but this is the only one that had relatively undisturbed snow between them, apart from the old footprints, which I feel actually add to this image, mostly because they are smoothed over a little. If these had been fresh prints it wouldn’t have worked. We had a great sky though, especially that small patch of detail at the vanishing point, so I was happy with how this turned out.

You will have already guessed that I shot this at f/14 with the ISO set to 100, and the shutter speed was 1/50 of a second. My focal length was 27mm with my new 24-105mm Mark II lens.

Video Coming Soon

As we started to photograph these boats, Rob Bampton, the incredibly talented videographer that I took along to cover this trip for us, flew his drone about a foot over our heads and straight down the middle of this line of boats. We laughed as the participant next to me felt the wind on her head as we got “buzzed”.

The footage that Rob captured here and throughout the trip is really quite amazing, and enables the viewer to really experience this tour first hand, so I can’t wait to share that with you, probably in March when I’ve completed all of my winter tours for this year.

Going wide for the previous shot enabled me to tell the bigger story of the multiple lines of boats, but I went a little narrower to 43mm for this image (below) so that I could show more of the details of these beautiful, rugged fishing boats, that have been brought up on land for the winter, to avoid them being crushed by the sea ice.

Toetoko Fishing Boat Sterns

Toetoko Fishing Boat Sterns

The sun was coming from camera right, so the texture is the snow is beautifully accentuated and the backs of the boats lit with a lovely soft, diffused light from the somewhat overcast sky. I have a tendency to try to include all of my subject, so I sometimes find it difficult to crop off the top of the rigging on these boats to the left of this image, but I’d have had to go much to wide to include that, and that would have taken away the detail that we have in this final image. Sometimes you just have to make a decision, and cut off certain features of your subject for the greater good. Again, I shot this at f/14, ISO 100, with a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second.

To my back as I shot the last few images, there was a line of larger boats, that we can see in this image (below). I was attracted to this line because of the way the snow has drifted forming ridges between the boats, but also because the larger boats gave us a better look at the screws and rudders, which I thought added something to this image over the previous ones.

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Neutral)

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Neutral)

Making Use of Color Channels

The bottom of each of these boats is actually a different color, with some being red, and some being blue. It can sometimes feel a little wasteful to throw out this color information, but I personally just much prefer to see these images in black and white.

This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore color in our black and white images though. In the above image, I left the color channels neutral, but in this next image, I reduced the red channel to -35 and increased the blue channel to +25, to give me this version of the same image (below).

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Red Dark, Blue Bright)

Toetoko Fishing Boat Screws (Red Dark, Blue Bright)

Not only will you notice that the second boat from the right now looks a little lighter than the first and third boats from the right, you will also see that this new version now has much more contrast between the rightmost screw and its background, which was the red underside of the boat behind it. Part of my intension with this photo was to highlight the boat screws, so this interpretation enables me to do that much more effectively.

In the afternoon, we went in land to a location where there are some nice copses on hills, and first of all, I shot the next image (below) which I like for its simplicity. The trees are relatively sparse, and I like the fence that lines the top of the hill, then starts to work its way down the right edge in the heavy snow.

Copse and Fence

Copse and Fence

There was a slightly darker sky which I think works well here, and then a patch of snow in the foreground which is much steeper than the rest of the hill, giving the snow an area of slight variation too. This scene is quite a distance from the road on private land, so we can’t climb up to it, but with my 100-400mm Mark II lens I was able to get this framing that I’m happy with.

As we approached this location this year, I noticed an angle that I’d not seen before, so we went there after the previous shoot, and I created a number of new images, including this next panorama which is five 5Ds R images stitched together in Photoshop (below). I’ve made the web version of this image wider than usual, so open up your browser window nice and wide and click on the image to view it in more detail. Remember too that if you want to stop the images from automatically advancing, just place your mouse over the image.

Copses Near and Far

Copses Near and Far

I was attracted to the idea of two separate copses on nearby hills, and how the fences seem to punctuate the hillside, in some ways almost stitching them together. This series of images were shot at 255mm, f/14 at 1/20 of a second, with ISO 100.

The following morning we visited a tree that I have shot many times now. There was a little less snow than usual this year though, so the grasses around the tree weren’t as buried as they usually are. This added a little complexity to our compositional decisions, but I was happy with the few photos that I got. This one (below) appeals to me because I was able to get a little patch of clear snow in front of the grasses, but also place these two tall grasses along the left side of the frame.

Lake Saroma Tree with Grasses

Lake Saroma Tree with Grasses

The main thing that I try to do when composing an image like this, is to find a place where I can get as few objects leading to the edge of the frame as possible. There are a few grass stems going out of the frame in the middle band, but the foreground was quite clear here. Also, this angle enabled me to place the sun behind the tree, so the bright area of the sky around the sun became easier to manage, and it gave more pleasing shadows, as they seem to radiate out from the tree. This was an 11mm focal length at f/14, 1/125 of a second at ISO 100.

The previous day we’d visited the Toetoko Fishing Port in the morning, so on this day we went back in the afternoon for some slightly different light. I had a photo to share with you from that session, but I chose to include the second example of using the color channels earlier, so we’ll skip that one.

The following morning, we basically have a couple of hours to shoot as we head to the airport, so we visited Cape Notoro, and photographed the lighthouse there. It was a little disappointing aesthetically to see that they’ve now put solar panels on the roof of the lighthouse and built a steel fence around it, so my best angle was this image with the foreground grasses hiding most of that (below).

Notoro Light House

Notoro Light House

This was also the first day of the trip where we had mostly clear skies, which I’m not usually a fan of, but as we had to fly back to Tokyo in the afternoon, this was probably better than a snow storm, which could have resulted in a delay return, so all was good. I shot this at 35mm with an aperture of f/14 for 1/160 of a second at ISO 100.

Again, all of the images that we’ve looked at today were converted to black and white in Capture One Pro, my new raw processing and image management software of choice. If you’d like to try it, you can download a fully functional trial version and if you choose to buy it, use the code AMBP for a 10% discount.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this concluding episode in this four part travelogue. I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us vicariously as we circumnavigate the northern part of Hokkaido in this true winter wonderland minimalist tour and workshop. If you are perhaps interested in joining us on a future tour, please do take a look at the details on the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa, and if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line via our contact page.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

Show Notes

See details of the tour and sign up for next year here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Download Capture One Pro here: https://mbp.ac/c1download

Music by Martin Bailey


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  1. BrotherBloat

    As always, a superb selection. I was just talking to a friend of mine that this workshop / trip is on my bucket list 🙂
    My favourite shot is the final one of the light house – it really lends itself to a lovely colour inversion – white ground and dark sky in your B&W edit.

    • Martin Bailey

      Thanks! I hope to see you on this tour at some point.


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