Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2020 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 694)

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2020 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 694)

Today we continue our travelogue series covering my recent Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure. I’d like to start by answering a question to last week’s post from Paulo Silva. Thanks for the great questions Paulo! Although I’ve answered in the comments for last week’s post, I’m going to include my answers here too as this is probably useful for others as well.

Why do you use apertures so small as F/16 with such wide focal length as 22mm? For the longer I understand if you want to keep everything in focus but as wider than 22mm or 35mm, wouldn’t you get the lens best performance (keeping everything in focus) and using a little bit wider aperture (say f/8 to f/11), having in mind that diffraction usually starts to show with f/11 and smaller? I know that it depends on the lens you’re using, and my experience is only with APS-C sensors in which diffraction happens sooner than with Full Frame sensors.

Another question, if I may, is where did you put your focal plane? At the trees or did you use some kind of hyperfocal distance?

Question from Paulo Silva

OK, so my settings are usually the result of thinking through what I want to do with the elements of the image, and also based on testing my gear to understand what it is capable of. There is also a hint in the text for last week’s post with regard to those particular scenes. Here too is a gallery of the images, to save you going back to the previous post:

The main reason for those particular images is because I wanted to get a shutter speed of between 1/20 and 1/40 of a second to cause the snow to streak slightly. It’s hard to see in the web versions, but it makes a beautiful pattern over the trees at these shutter speeds. If that requires me to stop down to f/16, I’m fine with that, because I test my lenses as described here https://mbp.ac/594 to see where diffraction starts to kick in. I built the functionality into my Photographer’s Friend app to also display diffraction warnings when calculating depth-of-field, which I also reference, but I’ve found that my gear does not start to visibly show the effect of diffraction until I stop down to f/22, but the depth-of-field does increase.

For example, the hut and tree shot with the dark sky was shot at 91mm, and at f/16 the close foreground snow is starting to come out of the depth-of-field. For the snow pillows shot, I was trying to get a slow shutter speed to record the water movement.

For the dawn mist in Biei shot, you’ll see that I opened it up to f/11, because, firstly, I was hand-holding, but also because the foreground snow was not going to be important, so I didn’t need to stop down so much. For the blue waterfall, I opened up to f/11 and adjusted my ISO to get a 1-second shutter speed, again, so make the water look the way it does. For the raven’s in the tree shot, I opened up to f/11 to get a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, but I didn’t want to go any faster, because I wanted the flying birds to blur slightly when flying.

I have to admit, that these are perhaps better examples of my thought process because the low light causes me to decide where the trade-offs will be played out. With brighter scenes, I generally just shoot pretty much everything at f/14, but this is more out of habit. Before I really tested my lenses I used f/14 as my soft-ceiling, and f/16 was pretty much the highest I would go, but that is no longer the case.

I am aware that some people like to shoot at f/8, mostly because they’ve read somewhere that this is the sweet spot for the lens, but this in my experience is generally completely unnecessary, and often causes them to have to focus stack, etc. I rarely focus stack, and I mean like, almost never, and the thought of having to do that to overcome an obstacle that does not exist turns me completely cold. Before anyone makes a decision like that, they need to test their lenses and find out where diffraction starts to become visible for all of their lenses. 

Also, as you said, crop factor cameras will start to see diffraction at wider apertures, so you do need to test, but my app also shows the warnings accordingly when crop factor sensor sizes are selected. In case you haven’t seen it, you can check out Photographer’s Friend here.

People also, in my experience, have a very poor understanding of depth-of-field, and very few people understand that depth-of-field is directly affected by the megapixels (resolution) of the sensor in the camera. You get shallower depth-of-field with higher resolution cameras, if, as I do, you check critical focus at 100%. This is what I enabled with the Pixel Peeper mode that I built into my Photographer’s Friend app. When enabled you can clearly see the difference in depth-of-field as the sensor resolution increases.

Regarding Paulo’s question about where I focus, most of the time I am focusing on the main subject, to give it the clearest pixels. I occasionally focus around a third into the screen when I need more depth-of-field, but I generally feel that the main subject is best. With the shadow of the tree shot, for example, I recall focusing on the middle of the shadow, as it was about one third into the scene, but also because the shadow was the main subject of this image, not the tree itself. This also helped me to get more focus on the foreground snow.

The Coast

OK, so let’s continue to discuss the next ten images from this trip. After leaving Biei we headed over to the coast, which is a relatively long drive, so after our morning shoots before we leave, the next opportunity is usually the Shinto Torii gate that you see in this image. I had been excited about the fact that it was going to be a high tide on both evenings that we’d be able to visit this Torii, but as you can see from the sky, it was relatively clear, and I’ve found over the years that a clear sky, which indicates high atmospheric pressure, has more effect on the sea that the tides at this particular location. If it was overcast, meaning low pressure, the sea would have been up over the concrete base and the sky much more interesting.

Torii Gate at Dusk
Torii Gate at Dusk

Some members of the group got some really nice shots with the sunset reflecting in the pools between the rocks in front of the gate, which was great! We’d come back here the following evening, but once again despite it being high-tide, there was a clear sky, so it didn’t really work again.

We also spend a lot of time at some other locations in this area while we are there though, and one of them you can see in this next image. I like this spot because there are tetrapods lined up along the shore, often covered in ice like this, and then there is a line of tetrapods out in the sea, which add an element of interest to break-up the otherwise somewhat monotonous sea.

Icy Tetrapods
Icy Tetrapods

One thing that came up as we shot here, is how do I focus to get both the foreground icy tetrapods and the distant tetrapods sharp, and this is also related to Paulo’s earlier questions, so I’ll explain. Now that I’m using the EOS R with the electronic viewfinder, I can do this directly in the viewfinder, but in the past, I would do this same thing in LiveView. Basically, I zoom in on one of the extremes in the focus, either the foreground or the distant objects. Then, having set my aperture to something hopefully small enough to get both subjects in focus, I hold down the depth-of-field preview button, which I have mapped to the exposure lock or asterisk button on the back of my EOS R.

Then, say if I’m looking at the near subject, I physically move the focus out with the focus ring, until I see the near subject start to go soft, then pull back a little again, so that it’s still in the near end of the depth-of-field. Then I zoom in on the distant subject and check that it’s also in focus. Sometimes I have to pull the focus back a little to check that it does out of focus when I do, as it’s easier to then see when it comes back into focus. There is also focus peaking indication in the EOS R which helps, as everything that is highlighted has a sharp, in focus, edge.

You can see how little snow we had this year in this next image. Normally this beach has around 50 cm of snow and is difficult to walk on, but this year we were able to walk around quite freely. Rather than fighting it, I used the sparse snow as part of the composition for this shot, using it as leading lines towards the outcrop of land and the tip of triangular tetrapods.

Sugar Coated Beach
Sugar Coated Beach

Just in case, we swung by the Torii Shinto Gate one last time on the way out of town for on the last day in this area, but with the lower tide and clear sky the water was so far back that I found out for the first time that there is a second concrete base under the one you see in the earlier photo, which was also visible, so I had the group stay on the bus, and we started our journey to the next location, shooting some of my favorite spots along the way, the first of which, you can see in this next image.

Three Types of Tetrapods
Three Types of Tetrapods

I shot this with my medium format film camera, the Rolleiflex, and I’m pleased that I did because my EOS R had mysteriously switched to 12-megapixel mode without any warning the frame after the previous image of the beach. I noticed it around fifty frames later, and have no idea why it switched. This happens when you put an EF-S or crop-factor lens on the EOS R, but looking at when it switched, I had not even taken the lens off the camera, and I don’t own an EF-S lens, so nothing should have caused this to happen. I tell you, in general, I’m very happy with my Canon gear, and I love the EOS R, but when I found out that this had happened I felt like throwing my camera into the sea. Luckily the Rollei came to the rescue, and I still have some high-resolution images from this part of the trip.

I really like how we have the three distinctly different types of tetrapods at this location. The practice golf-balls in the foreground, the angular tetrapods in the middle, and then the rounder-legged tetrapods out in the sea. The word Tetrapod actually means four-legged and is a trademark for the original company that made them, but I just call all of these wave-breakers tetrapods.

We swung by the boat graveyard that I also love to shoot on the way to the next location, but again the lack of snow didn’t make it look very pretty. Luckily we had some snow while we were there, so we were able to get some nice shots the following day. On the first day in this area, we continued on to the Noshappu Fishing Port and photographed the boats there, and as we got settled into our shooting, the snow started, giving us a nice clean white foreground in the most part.

Noshappu Fishing Boats
Noshappu Fishing Boats

This is another shot from my Rolleiflex that I was quite happy with. I actually had a few problems developing my film from this trip, as I tried different developing chemicals, based on a recommendation from a previous post about developing my own film. The original Ilford DD-X that I was using gave great results every time, but I found that I needed to tweak the Adox Rodinal development process quite a lot before I could get results I was happy with from the Lab-Box that I shared with you in Episode 682.

The main problem was that I started out diluting it at 25:1 as that gives faster development times, and I was also agitating every thirty seconds based on advice from the Lab-Box folks, but it turns out that both of these things resulting in very grainy negatives when working with Rodinal. I started diluting at 50:1 for almost double the development time and also reduced the agitation to 10 seconds every minute, and also not turning the handle on the Lab-Box as fast, and I’ve found that this gives me much better results.

Here’s another shot from the Noshappu Port, this time shot with my EOS R. I’m really pleased that I’m able to get very similar looking images from both cameras in many cases, obviously when I’m converting my EOS R images to black and white, that is.

Line of Boats at Noshappu
Line of Boats at Noshappu

I found myself looking at my focal length quite regularly as we shot, and whenever I was around 50 millimeters focal length, I reached for the Rollei to get a film shot, as it’s a 75mm lens, which is about 50mm in 35mm sensor terms.

It snowed some overnight, so the next morning we revisited the boat graveyard for much better-looking scenes than the previous day. We also had a great sky at times, with the low sun illuminating the clouds from the side adding some nice texture, enhanced a little in Capture One Pro mind.

Boat Graveyard with Wild Sky
Boat Graveyard with Wild Sky

I feel somewhat privileged to watch these boats slowly decay over the years, and this year was no exception. More of the cabins seem to have collapsed and more bits are falling off as these boats succumb to the elements.

This next photo is a secondary Boat Graveyard further into the port than the first and was pretty nice this year because of the lack of snow. There’s a rugged feel to this shot that I find appealing, helped, once again, by the sky detail that I pulled out using Capture One Pro.

Second Boat Graveyard
Second Boat Graveyard

There’s a little more grass and dirt showing through than I’d like, but I think that just adds to the overall grungy feel, so I’m pretty happy with the results of our visits.

I’m generally a glass-half-full sort of person, so rather than concentrating on what we lost through the lack of snow, I really enjoyed getting into the stuff that we gained. The next image is usually out of bounds because the snow is too deep to get to this part of the port, but that wasn’t the case this year.

Boat Cabins
Boat Cabins

I believe these boats are still sea-worthy and in use, so this isn’t a graveyard, as such, but I still like the overall rugged feel and mood of these shots, and all in all, I was very happy with what we got this year.

In the afternoon, we swung by the fish drying frames, and once again I shot them with my Rolleiflex as well as my EOS R. I like both shots, but I think the square format suits this shot, so I’ll go with the Rollei version.

Fish Drying Frames
Fish Drying Frames

We were lucky again here, as we’d been told when we spoke with the people that own these frames a few days earlier that there was no snow on the ground. There were only a few centimeters of snow when we got there, but that is enough to clean up the scene like this, so once again we were very fortunate.

We’ll finish there for this episode, as we’ve reached our ten photos. I have not had time to create an extra episode for next week, and I am leaving for the first of this year’s two Japan Wildlife trips tonight, so we’ll be skipping next week, but I’ll be back in two weeks time to conclude this travelogue series and start to update you on the wildlife tours.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure Tour

If you are interested in joining the Landscape tour in 2021 or future years, check out the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa.


Show Notes

Check out details of future Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventures here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Hokkaido Landscape Tour 2019 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 649)

Hokkaido Landscape Tour 2019 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 649)

Today we conclude our three part series of travelogues to walk you through my 2019 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure Tour & Workshop.

[download id=”55697″]

We pick up the trail as we leave Wakkanai and head around Cape Soya at the northern-most tip of Japan, making a few stops to photograph the fishing boats that are brought up onto the land to stop them from getting crushed by the sea ice.

Fishing Boats On Land for Winter

The high winds that they’d had shortly before we arrived in this part of Hokkaido had blown the snow away in some coastal areas, so there wasn’t a great covering of snow beneath or around these boats, and unfortunately this was one of the days that we had an almost clear blue sky. I did a long exposure to try to get some movement in what little cloud there was, and it registered slightly just above the boats, but not much to speak of.

Fishing Boats On Land for Winter
Fishing Boats On Land for Winter

Because there was a messy foreground, I cropped tightly in to the bottom of the boats in camera, and I cropped down from the top to remove the boring sky in post. At this point, this is more of a documentary shot to show you what we were photographing, but I don’t really like it that much as a photograph.

My settings were 25 seconds at ISO 100, with an aperture of f/20. I stopped down this far to get a long shutter speed. If I recall I was using my 10 stop Neutral Density filter, but it was so bright I had to either stop down the aperture more, or nest a 3 stop filter on top of that, and I went for the former option. My focal length was 50mm.

Sawaki Port Tetrapods

We had a reasonably long drive down the East coast of Hokkaido, to the small port town of Ohmu, where we’d spend the next two nights. The main attraction here is the small harbour with some beautiful strategically placed tetrapods in the sea and the black rocks on the beach. In this first photo you can see the sea washing up around the rocks, but also the line of tetrapods reaching out into the sea to the left, and some of the other tetrapods in the distance.

Sawaki Port Tetrapods
Sawaki Port Tetrapods

There’s also a lighthouse on the end of the quay wall, that adds a nice frame over the water and helps to bring the eye back around to the tetrapods. As the light was fading towards the end of the day, I didn’t use a Neutral Density filter for this shot, and at this point, with the ambient light I was getting a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds with an aperture of f/16, at ISO 100. The focal length was 24mm.

Buried Brook

Another thing we like to do from this location is drive inland to see what the conditions present us with. As you can see from this shot, the grasses were showing through quite a lot again, but I enjoyed these scenes, as they give us something to play with compositionally.

Buried Brook
Buried Brook

The trough that we can see working its way through the snow in the left foreground is caused by a brook that has completely covered over with snow. The longer grasses are obviously growing along the stream as a source of water. I painted a mask over the sky in this to darken down the clouds a little. The shutter speed was a 1/50 of a second at ISO 100, and an aperture of f/14, at 45mm.

Seven Samurai

Towards the end of the day, we were back at the harbor, and here I had framed up the seven tetrapods that I sometimes think of as Seven Samurai. I don’t quite know why. Maybe I see these shapes like the Kabuto Samurai helmets. Also probably how they are just standing their, calm and cool.

Seven Samurais
Seven Samurai

I was using my 11-24mm lens for this shot, at f/13, with a base shutter speed of 1/40 of a second, but I put a filter that I cut out of a sheet of gelatin neutral density film and had slid this into the holder on the back of the lens. It was an ND 10000 filter, which extended my 1/40 of a second to 4 minutes at ISO 125.

Trees in Shadow, Mountain in Light

As the snow that we’d hoped for more of started pounding down on the areas that we’d just left, we made our way to our final location for the last two days of the tour. Our first visit to the port that we start with was a bit of a flop. When we arrived we had a beautiful heavy grey sky, but like magic it cleared up as we got out of the bus and started shooting, leaving us with way too much contrast making the boats look pretty bad. None of the shots from this shoot made my final selection.

I was happy with the contrast that the sun provided at our second location though, and because the clouds were rolling across the sky their shadows were dancing down the side of the hill that you see in this next photograph. I played with a number of styles of shadow, and one of my favorites was when just the line of trees and strip of snow in the foreground were dark, but the hill brightly lit, and then all contrasted against a dark grey sky.

Trees in Shadow, Mountain in Light
Trees in Shadow, Mountain in Light

I do like it when everything is very similar tones, like some of the shots from last week, but when the conditions don’t allow for that, I feel it’s important to be able to still make the most of what you have, and playing with these contrasts was very enjoyable, and I do like the results.

I used a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second with the aperture set to f/14 at ISO 100. I was using my 100-400mm lens for this shot, with the focal length set to 220mm.

Fishing Boats in the Snow

The following day brought us a little snow, so I took the group back to the fishing port that we’d visited and got harsh light the previous day, and as we shot, the snow started to get heavier and heavier, enabling us to get the sort of shot that I much prefer, with the snow visible in the scene.

Fishing Boats in the Snow
Fishing Boats in the Snow

Of course, for this shot, I’d positioned my camera so that I was looking along the line of boats, and also went low, to accentuate the small drifts of snow between the boats and their shadows, which helps to complete the feeling of the repeating pattern. My shutter speed in the snow was a 1/15 of a second at f/14, ISO 100, and a focal length of 88mm.

One of the reasons that I make sure we get two days in each location is exactly because of this kind of scenario. When you rely on the weather doing something specific, and you only have one shot at it, you are much more likely to come away with nothing. When you have two days though, you can learn what the location is like on the first visit, even if the conditions aren’t great, then come back and get your shots much more efficiently when the conditions align with your hopes and expectations.

Saroma Tree

This also gave us enough time to visit the tree that you see in this shot, which I thought looked beautiful with its sprinkling of snow on its branches, but more so because of all the tall brown grass around it.

Saroma Tree
Saroma Tree

The falling snow that we left in the port, was, as I expected relatively fleeting, but leaving when we did, enabled us to get a dramatic sky in the background of this shot, but the snow gradually clearing to the right caused the sky to brighten slightly, showing the transient nature of our conditions.

My settings for this shot were 1/50 of a second at f/14, ISO 100 and a focal length of 35mm. I continued to be highly impressed with the image quality from the EOS R and found shooting with it throughout this trip completely enjoyable.

Trees in Snow Storm

As I walked back to our bus from the tree, the scene across the road caught my eye. I’ve looked at this many times, and photographed it a number of times, but it’s never really amounted to anything, until the grasses showed through like they are in the photograph.

Trees in Snow Storm
Trees in Snow Storm

Of course, in addition to the grasses, the thing that made this shot for me is the snow, driving diagonally across the frame, reducing the contrast between the foreground and the distant trees. This provides a painterly look that really appeals to me. In fact, I almost called this image Turner Trees, but I figured that was perhaps a little bit too pretentious. My settings for this shot were 1/30 of a second at f/14, ISO 100 at a focal length of 74mm.

High and Low Trees

Because we’d also got more texture in the sky, we revisited the location that we’d shot on the previous day, with the shadows on the hill, and this time I’d like to share an image of the scene just to the right of the earlier scene that we looked at.

High and Low Trees
High and Low Trees

The sun was still playing games with the clouds causing some dramatic shadows, but the texture in the sky really helped to add some drama to this shot. The texture on the hill as the snow had blown away from parts was also fun to play with again. My settings were f/14 for a 1/125 of a second at ISO 100, and a focal length of 263mm.

Notoro Lighthouse and Okhotsk Sea

By the time the final morning came around, and we needed our plane to fly back to Tokyo, it was a relief that the snow storms affecting most of the rest of the island were holding off a few miles north of where we now were in the middle of the east coast of Hokkaido.

Notoro Lighthouse and Okhotsk Sea
Notoro Lighthouse and Okhotsk Sea

The winds did provide some dramatic waves on the way to our main stop for this last morning, so we stopped the bus and shot this image from the road, capitalizing on the rough weather. I had now packed my tripod away in a box to leave with the bus company until the next tour which I’ll be half way through when I release this episode, so I shot this handheld, and of course turned of my two-second timer, so that I could time my exposure to capture the waves in pleasing locations in the frame.

I also increased my ISO to 200, for a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second to help me almost, but not quite freeze the movement of the sea. I feel that understanding how much things like snow and water move during the exposure can really help us to craft and mold our images into something that we can more easily previsualize with the help of these tools in our mental toolbox.

Guest Comments

That brings us to the end of my 2019 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure. As usual, I did my walk around the bus with a digital recorder to record a comment from each of our guests, and I’d like to play you that now.

<< PLEASE LISTEN WITH THE AUDIO PLAYER ABOVE TO HEAR WHAT THE GUESTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE TOUR >>

It was lovely hearing from each guest again there, and I really appreciate their kind comments. Thank you all!

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2021

As the 2020 tour is now full, I’ve started taking bookings for 2021, so if you are interested in joining us, please check out the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa, and use the Reservation button towards the bottom of the page to pay your deposit and secure your place.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2021

Show Notes

See details of our currently available Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure tour here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #3 Wakkanai (Podcast 559)

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2017 Travelogue #3 Wakkanai (Podcast 559)

My Hokkaido Winter Photography Adventure tour for 2017 was a huge success and incredibly productive. This is part three of a travelogue series to share with you the locations we visited including a selection of photographs to illustrate our progress.

At the start of day eight, we got up early and headed back to one of my favorite spots on this winter landscape tour, the boat graveyard. This is where nine boats have been abandoned on the ground beside a fishing port, and in the winter, the snow enshrouds them, forming what I consider to be one of the most beautiful subjects I’ve photographed.

I mentioned last week that we seemed to be constantly on the edge of a weather system that brought us sunshine one moment, then heavy snow the next, and this pretty much always presents us with awesome skies as backdrops for our photos, or in the case of this image, the sky can become a major part of the photograph (below).

Boat Graveyard with Big Sky

Boat Graveyard with Big Sky

As detailed and complicated as the sky can get here, I love the simplicity also provided by the fact that there is nothing behind the boats but a narrow strip of beach, and the sea. I shot this at 16mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens, but if you go much wider that this, or go further along and turn your camera back to the right, you actually start to get the edge of the fishing port in the right side of the frame, and I generally like to avoid that.  My shutter speed for this image was 1/30 of a second, at f/14, ISO 100.

Not Seeing Issues with the 24-105mm Mark II

In addition to these wide shots, which I do enjoy shooting at this location, I also like to go long, as I did in this next image (below) which I shot with my new 24-105mm Mark II lens, at 93mm. A number of people have emailed me asking about the 24-105mm lens, as there have been some not-so-favorable reviews published. All I can say is that I am not seeing any of the issues described in these reviews with my copy of this lens. It’s as sharp as it was in my initial tests at all focal lengths and in all shooting conditions, and I’m still very happy with it.

Most of all, I am really enjoying photographing without a gap in my focal lengths. For a tour like this, and even now for most international tours when I don’t want to take my 200-400mm lens along, I’m shooting with the 11-24mm, the 24-105mm, and my 100-400mm lenses. This along with two Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies is like the holy grail of camera gear for me, and I’ve never been happier with my kit.

Seen Better Days

Seen Better Days

Anyway, back to this photograph, as you can see, the 93mm focal length from a bit of a distance enables me to zoom in on a smaller portion of the boats, also making the waves in the distance a little larger, adding to the story of the harsh conditions in which these subjects sit. This focal length also enables us to enjoy more subtle details, like the texture of the snow and the fishing net draped over the bow of the boat. I shot this at 1/20 of a second, at f/14, with ISO 100.

Just ten minutes after the previous image, the snow was back with a vengeance and I made this photograph (below). You can see that I was still at pretty much the same angle as the previous image, but I pulled back to 32mm so that I could capture the snow driving through the air. The snow cloud had made the sky very dark, although I have enhanced the sky in these images with my black and white conversion in Capture One Pro. I’ve also added an Adjustment layer over the sky to make it darker still and bring out the detail in the snow.

Boat Graveyard in Driving Snow

Boat Graveyard in Driving Snow

There is more to the port at this location, but I rarely shoot it, because every time I start to walk away, the weather changes, presenting yet another opportunity, so I just keep going back and shooting some more. On this occasion, I did go through to the port and shoot a few images, but my boat graveyard remains a firm favorite, so we’ll skip those photos and move on to the later shoot.

Before going to lunch, we visited the fish drying frames in Wakkanai, and with permission of the owners, had a good walk around them and made photographs like this (below). I used a ten stop neutral density filter to give me a 40 second exposure here, which makes the sea in the distance smooth over, and the clouds which were moving from right to left also smoothed over.

Fish Drying Frames

Fish Drying Frames

I was actually happy that the nettings used to keep the birds off the fish that’s drying in the frames has also blurred on the top, making it less obvious. The netting on the sides is still visible, but the top has smoothed over considerably as it was catching the wind and moving more. The wind was a challenge with the long exposure, but I found that if I placed myself between the wind and the camera, and pushed down on the top of the tripod legs, I was able to get a nice sharp image. I’m sure by now you can guess my other settings, but for good measure, this was shot at f/14, ISO 100.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon in one of the fishing ports in Wakkanai. This is a nice spot, with lots of boats in various locations and formations. The boats are brought up on land like this over the winter to stop them getting crushed, as the sea ice works its way down from Siberia and often fills these fishing ports. In this shot (below) I was attracted by the foreground boat on the ground, but with five bigger boats lined up behind it, almost like a kid playing on the ground with his big brothers looking over him.

Noshappu Fishing Boats

Noshappu Fishing Boats

As you can see the sky was a very uniform gray, and therefore in some respects not as interesting as I’d have liked, but in black and white I like how this makes both the boats and the sky look almost the same tone, and this also in my mind helps us to concentrate more on the form of the boats and the Japanese writing on them. As there wasn’t much to smooth over, I shot this without a neutral density filter for 1/6 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

Noshappu Fishing Boat

Noshappu Fishing Boat

Running with the gray sky, I found this boat without any distracting elements in the background, and photographed it in portrait orientation (right).

The almost milky feel of the bow of the boat with that uniform gray sky for some reason really appeals to me, and this has turned out to be one of my favorite images from the trip.

I was initially a little distracted by that large chunk of wood dangling from the boat on the left side of the photograph, but for some reason, even that now appeals to me.

Maybe it’s because it makes the image just a little asymmetrical, despite my tendency to line up a shot like this so that the center of the boat runs perfectly down the middle of the frame.

I shot this also at f/14 for a 1/6 of a second at ISO 100.

As the day drew to an end, with the heavy overcast sky blocking out most of the light from the sun, I found myself with a small problem to overcome as I shot the next photograph (below).

Because there were a lot of grasses that had not been buried by the snow, I decided to pull back a little for this next image and include them, but the wind was blowing them around quite a lot, and I was down to more than a second exposure at ISO 100, so I decided to increase the ISO to 400, for a shutter speed of 0.3 seconds. I then used my cable release so that I could start my exposure when I saw the wind die down, so that it wouldn’t blow the grasses around too much.

Noshappu Fishing Boats

Noshappu Fishing Boats

There is still a little bit of movement in some of the heads of the grass, but that amount I’m happy to leave in, as it shows the dynamic nature of the foreground, but much more than this, and I feel it can come across more as a distraction. I actually went on to shoot some more images at ISO 800 and 1600 to get the grass perfectly still, but I preferred this version with that touch of movement.

The following morning, we left Wakkanai, and started our drive to Soya, the northern-most tip of Japan, where we’d stop at a couple more fishing ports before heading down the coast to our new home for the next two nights. We stopped first at a smaller port with a single line of boats, and I made this photograph (below).

Fishing Boats in Snow

Fishing Boats in Snow

Here I was working mostly with the snow drift and texture in the snow. I also used a ten stop neutral density filter for a 25 second exposure, this time at f/16. I probably should have gone back to my favorite f/14 for a 30 second exposure, but I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t do that. At this point I’d managed to catch a cold that was going around the group, and was running on auto-pilot for most of the day. I was actually relieved that it was a drive day, so that I could get a bit of a rest of the bus. I think the group generally enjoys the drive days too, as we are full on for the rest of the time, when we don’t have to drive far to our locations.

A little further along the road, we stopped again at Soya Fishing Port, and I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t good snow cover in front of my favorite line of boats, that I usually shoot there, and there was something piled up near the end of the line too, so that shot wasn’t to be this year. I do quite like this photo though, from the other end of the port, with a line of smaller boats that were up on the land, and I included just the back of a larger fishing boat to add scale (below).

Soya Port Fishing Boats and Ship

Soya Port Fishing Boats and Ship

I also did a few long exposures of this scene, but I ended up preferring this image at 1/40 of a second instead. I just like the detail in the clouds for this one, so my long exposures didn’t make the cut. Another element that I like, but you probably won’t be able to really see in the web version, is some fox footprints that run up the snow a little way in from the right side of the photo. I was back to f/14 for this image, at ISO 100.

We took our group photo after this, at the monument marking the actual northern-most tip of Japan, and beneath the clouds we could actually see the Russian island of Sakhalin in the distance, which was a nice bonus for the group. We continued on for an hour before lunch, then had another couple of hours drive down towards Monbetsu where we’d spend the next two nights.

We did have just 20 minutes of light left though, as we passed the port at Sawaki, so we finished the day with a short but very exciting shoot of the waves at high tide that were washing right the way up to the harbor wall next to the road, as you can see in this image (below).

Sawaki Fishing Port at High Tide

Sawaki Fishing Port at High Tide

Even as we started shooting the light was so low that without neutral density filters we were getting shutter speeds of more than a second at f/14. My favorite photo from this session was a two-second exposure at ISO 200. You actually get a different effect in the waves depending on wether the waves are rolling in or drawing out. Most of the time for this look, I prefer to capture the waves when they are drawing out, leaving these beautiful streaks around the rocks and tetrapods in the sea.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2018

We’ll wrap it up there for this third travelogue, and conclude this series next week, picking up the trail at the start of day nine. I have now updated the tour page and started taking bookings for the 2018 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure tour and workshop, so if you think you might be interested, please do take a look. You can find the 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

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue #3 (Podcast 509)

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue #3 (Podcast 509)

Following our Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour for 2016, this week we conclude our three part travelogue series to walk you through this minimalist photographer’s dream tour, illustrated with a total of 36 images.

Today we pick up the trail at the end of day seven, as we head back into the city of Wakkanai after photographing the Boat Graveyard that we saw at the end of the last episode, and we stopped briefly to photograph some avalanche prevention gates affixed to the side of a hill. This was just a quick, stop the bus, all jump off, shoot, then jump back on the bus again, kind of shoot, but I quite like the resulting image (below).

Avalanche Prevention

Avalanche Prevention

To photograph this I used my 100-400mm lens, hand-held, for a 1/400 of a second exposure. I increased my ISO to 400 to give me a faster shutter speed, but I ended up zooming out to 148mm, meaning I could have gone slower, but like I said, it was a quick jump off then back on the bus photograph. I was careful to not crop off the gates as much as possible, but there were actually two gates on the left edge that were just creeping in, so I cloned them out. I had seen these when I shot the image, so I allow myself to do that.

My rule with cloning stuff out is that I’m allowed to do it if I saw what I am cloning out when I made the image. If I didn’t see it, it stays, and I have to decide whether I should scrap the image, or live with it. This is a little bit heavy handed, for sure, but this is how I’ve trained myself to fully scan the frame when shooting. It stops me from being sloppy with my composition.

After lunch, we headed to one of the main fishing ports in Wakkanai, and were treated with a beautifully heavy and textured sky, as you can see in this image (below). This is one of those shots where the color was hard to throw out, as there was some late afternoon color in the sky, but Hokkaido in the most part to me is about the structure of a scene rather than the color, and a black and white conversion really brings out the detail in the sky, and the fishing boats give us a lovely base for the photo.

Wakkanai Fishing Boats

Wakkanai Fishing Boats

I was also happy that I could frame this in such a way that there were relatively clear gaps either side of the boats, and I moved left and right to find the perfect spot to include the lighthouse on the far left, and not include another boat that was just out of frame on the far right. This was a 1/5 of a second exposure at f/11, ISO 100, and a focal length of 28mm.

Wakkanai Fishing Boat - Urara

Wakkanai Fishing Boat – Urara

I love shooting lines of boats, as you might have noticed, but I really like it when there is one boat sitting alone, with relatively wide spaces either side, like the one in this photo (right).

This is just to the right of the line of boats in the last image, and I kind of wish that the raised object and boat mast was not there in the bottom left, but I don’t dislike that enough to clone it out.

I really love this perspective with boats though. It’s not a huge boat, but they feel powerful and daunting when framed up like this. I was also really happy that the darker clouds were all framing the boat, with lighter but still heavily textured sky above it.

This is totally natural. All of the changes I made in Silver Efex during the black and white conversion where applied to the entire image.

There is a little bit of a halo around the bottom edge of the boat either side, but that doesn’t worry me too much in this image. This was a 0.3 second exposure at f/11, ISO 100, at 28mm.

On the morning of day 8, we left Wakkanai, and headed for Soya Misaki, the cape at the northern-most tip of Japan, where on a clear day, you can actually see Russia to the north. We stop at a couple of ports on the way around the cape, and this next image is my favorite from the first stop (below). Those are probably fox footprints leading into the scene, through the beautiful soft, textured snow.

Boats with Fox Footprints

Boats with Fox Footprints

I tried two compositions here. This one, and a second with the footprints leading in from the bottom right corner. At the time of shooting this, I felt that the bottom right corner composition was better, but when I studied them on the computer, I decided to go with this image, because it felt more like I was being lead into the scene by the footprints. When the prints came in from the right corner, it felt more like I was being told a story about someone else walking into the scene, rather than me being in the story, in the first person.

Other than that decision, the image pretty much composed itself. There was a black wall that started to show on the left above the boat if I went any wider, and I wanted to leave a little bit of space to the right to give the boats and footprints room to breath. The black sky was amazing, but I didn’t want it to rule image. Also, there was a crane doing some maintenance in the port just to our left, and the shadow was hitting that back wall from time to time, so I had to wait until that shadow dropped behind the front of the middle boat. Lots of stuff to think about, but it came together pretty well I think.  This was a 1/200 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 70mm.

Next up is a line of boats that I’ve been photographing here since my reconnaissance trip for this tour in 2011, except this year there was an extra boat on the right end of the line (below). I shot this at 16mm with my 11-24mm lens, so a 16-35mm lens would have done the job as well.

Soya Harbour Fishing Boats

Soya Harbour Fishing Boats

I used a strip of ND 4.0 rated triacetyl cellulose filter in the gelatin filter holder on the back of the lens, as this lens has a large round front element, and so I can’t use my regular screw-in filters with it, and I hate those huge filter systems that I see people struggling with on my tours.

See episode 465 to see what I’m talking about, but the ND 4.0 filter is the equivalent of an ND10000, and gives me 13.3 stops of darkness, for a 210 second exposure, which is three and a half minutes, at f/11, ISO 100. That of course is why the clouds have streaked out the way the do here.

We continued on, down to the small town of Ohmu, where we were to spent the next two nights. There’s a lovely port at Ohmu with some very nicely positioned tetrapods, that we can see in this image (below). Unfortunately, the weather that makes Hokkaido so appealing for winter photography had started to close in on us. As we got off the bus to photograph this scene, I asked the group to shoot it as if it was our last visit, because we may end up stuck in the hotel for a few days.

Ohmu Port with Tetrapods

Ohmu Port with Tetrapods

Well, it turns out that this is exactly what happened. The storm came in on the end of day eight, and although we got up and went down to the harbor at dawn the next day to take a look, the beach on which we stood to make this photo was basically underwater. The sea was so rough that I got a face full of salt spray as soon as I got off the bus on the road above the port to see if we could shoot, and salt water is not good for gear, and we also would not have been able to keep it off our lenses long enough to get a photograph, so we went back to the hotel for breakfast.

We had planned to do half a day of workshop sessions at this location anyway, so we extended that to a full day and we kept our eye on the news of roads across Hokkaido being closed as the day progressed. The following day we were due to leave Ohmu for our next location, but despite waiting until 4pm for news of the roads opening, they didn’t, so we ended up doing some more workshop sessions and then stayed a third night at the same hotel.

The following morning, which was now day eleven, the roads were still closed, but with cabin fever starting to set in, we went down to the port, and although the sea was still very rough, and coming way up the beach, the wind had dropped considerably, so there was no longer any sea spray. Game on! We planned to shoot for 30 minutes before breakfast, but were ended up doing 45 minutes, as no one could stop shooting, including me. During this time, I made this photograph (below).

Ohmu Port with Sea Trails

Ohmu Port with Sea Trails

The tetrapods in the middle of the right side of the image are the ones from the previous image, so you can see how much higher the sea was coming up the beach. I was basically timing my shots so that I caught the waves drawing back out, leaving these lovely streaks in the image. At this point, I was using a 1 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100, at a focal length of 18mm.

For me, the lines created by the water and the foreground tetrapods grab my attention and lead my eye into the frame, where I find the lighthouse and then go further along to see the waves crashing against the wave break in the top left quadrant. I then come back around, down the line of tetrapods to the left then back into the scene and around to explore the detail in the right side.

Having finally dragged ourselves away we returned to the hotel for breakfast, and to the news that the roads were now cleared of snow and opened at 7am, so we could check out and make our way to Lake Saroma, the last location of the tour. We’d lost a day or so from each of these last two locations, but this is always a risk when photographing in Hokkaido, and, we made up for it over the next day and a half, as you’ll see.

Our first port of call mid-morning (pun intended) was a port on Lake Saroma, where they have line after line of fishing boats that have been brought up on shore for the winter. Here’s one of these lines, in this next photo (below). To the right, you can actually see that there’s another line directly behind these, and perhaps also make out another line starting in the distance on the far left.

Toetoko Fishing Boats

Toetoko Fishing Boats

This is an 80 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 59mm, shot with my 24-70mm lens. I was really just attracted to the shear number of boats here, and liked the repetition. The great thing about this port though, is that unlike many of the other ports, you can easily walk around the back of the boats for detail shots such as this next image (below).

Fishing Boat - Sanpoumaru

Fishing Boat – Sanpoumaru

Out of 92 images from this trip, my current final count, only six images were left in color. I generally think of the Hokkaido landscape in black and white, and I could probably convert these boat detail images too if I wanted to create a cohesive set, but at this point, I’m just processing each image for its own aesthetic value, and so I’ve left the color in for now. One of the things that caught my eye with these boats, is the way the snow has drifted from behind them looking almost like the wake in the water as they actually sail the seas.

After a few hours in the port, we went for lunch, then headed over to a place where there are some nice trees on the top of a hill, and some other nice stuff to play with. Here is a photo (below) of the stand of trees along with a line of other trees below them. This is a little bit busier than much of the minimalist work we do here, but I still kind of like the lines of fences and the play between the stand of trees on top of the hill and the line of trees below.

Stand of Trees with Fences

Stand of Trees with Fences

This was a 1/30 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100, and a focal length of 263mm. Again here, I was using my 100-400mm lens, although I could have gotten away with my 70-200mm and a 1.4X Extender. The other thing I like about this photo is that because it’s shot with the 50 megapixel 5Ds R camera, I can literally zoom in to various parts of the image to enjoy a number of different images with the one photo. It’s been around six months now since I started shooting with the 5Ds, and I can tell you, every time I use it I just continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with it.

I can’t take full credit for this image, as Jenn, a participant that we’ll hear from shortly, had just made a joke that she was “starting to get the hang of this minimalist stuff” although she used a different word beginning with “S” instead of stuff. As we laughed and I looked up, we noticed a fox walking along the line of the fence, so I couldn’t resist shooting this myself as well (below). It is of course different to Jenn’s shot, but I wouldn’t have even looked up there if it wasn’t for her comment.

Fox with Fence on Hill

Fox with Fence on Hill

This is the 100-400mm lens right out at 400mm, and I had my shutter speed at 1/25 of a second, so the fox isn’t totally sharp, but it has enough body to keep itself in the photograph. My other settings were f/14 at ISO 100, although you could probably have guessed this by now anyway. There’s something very stark yet strangely comforting about this photo to me. This fox lives in a very harsh environment, and yet with his warm coat, he’s happy enough just walking around in the drifting snow, doing his thing.

The following morning was our last chance to shoot before we had to drive to the airport to fly back to Tokyo, and I decided to take the group back to two locations, and give them an option of which to shoot. I went back to the main port on the Saroma Lake to work the lines of boats a little more with around a third of the group, and the rest of the group worked the area around a tree that we have shot in the past, but didn’t get to as a whole group this time because of the day we lost to bad weather. This is the last photo of this series, from the port (below).

Fishing Boats with Snow "Fuumon" Wind Patterns

Fishing Boats with Snow “Fuumon” Wind Patterns

I’m really attracted to the patterns formed in the drifting snow as the wind whistles between the fishing boats, so that’s really what this shot is all about. There wasn’t a lot of texture in the sky, so this is just a straight 1/80 of a second exposure, at f/14, ISO 100, at 50mm. The texture in the snow is lovely here, and I also quite like the shadows to the right side, from the other line of boats just out of frame. My last shot of the tour is those boats to the right with their stronger shadows due to the sun coming through the clouds a little bit stronger than I usually like, but when it gives us this texture in the snow at the right location, I can kind of live with that. 🙂

As usual, after our final shoot, I got out a digital recorder and went around the bus to record a message from each of the participants, which I’d like to play you now.

[GROUP MESSAGE AUDIO – If you were reading, you’ll have to listen to the audio with the player above to hear what each participant said about the tour.]

It was really nice to hear everyone’s voice again there. I had a great time on this tour with these wonderful folks, and would like to thank each of them once again for joining us. Thank you too for listening to what we got up to over these last three episodes. I hope you have enjoyed it.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017

We are now taking bookings for the 2017 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure, from January 8 to the 20th, 2017, and the places are already starting to sell, so please don’t hang around too long if you’d like to join us.

Hokkaido is the northern-most island of Japan, and as you might have noticed, it is the minimalist winter landscape photographer’s dream. This will be our third year running this very special dedicated landscape tour in Hokkaido. For details and to book your place, please visit the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017


Show Notes

For details of the 2017 Hokkaido Landscape Photograph Adventure visit the tour page here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.


Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 508)

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue #2 (Podcast 508)

Following our Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour for 2016, this week we continue our three part travelogue series to walk you through this minimalist photographer’s dream tour, illustrated with a total of 36 images.

We pick up the trail in the afternoon of day three when we were in the foothills of Mount Asahi, after shooting the last photo that we looked at in part one of this travelogue series. There are some birch trees and the darker trees that we can see in this fun photograph that I shot laying on my back in the deep snow (below). I know that this kind of image is done a lot, and I shoot them quite often too, but I just like doing this.

Trees in Mount Asahi Foothills

Trees in Mount Asahi Foothills

I shot this with my 11-24mm lens wide open at 11mm, to really distort the scene, making it look like the trees are all leaning in, although the reality is of course, that they are all just pointing pretty much straight up at the sky. There was probably only about six to eight feet between each tree as well. The exposure here was a 1/50 of a second, at f/11, ISO 100.

Before breakfast on day four of the tour, we walked to Shirohige or White Beard Falls, not far from the hotel, to photograph these beautiful blue falls. It was snowing as we photographed the falls, and there were varying degrees of mist forming, meaning that we had to either shoot in the pockets of clarity when the mist cleared, or use the mist to good effect. Here is a shot of the falls when the mist cleared (below).

The Man in the Falls

The Man in the Falls

I used a 0.5 second shutter speed, so the snow has recorded as quite long streaks in the image, but I quite like that effect. You can also see the beautiful blue from the mineral content in the water as well, although I have pumped this up slightly in post to make it a little more saturated. I titled this image The Man in the Falls, because of the profile of the man’s face that you might have already noticed in the bottom right corner of the images.

This was shot at f/14 with the ISO set to 200, so that I didn’t get too long a shutter speed. The snow would start to reduce the contrast in the image a little too much if I went more than half a second or so. The focal length here was 241mm with my the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens.

After breakfast we set off for a relatively long drive to the west coast of Hokkaido, and we pulled in a few seascapes as we drove towards Haboro, where we’d stay for the next two nights. This first image (below) is from down on the beach where there are some half-buried tetrapods, and I framed this in such a way that you can also see the distant tetrapods in the sea.

Obira Tetrapods Near and Far

Obira Tetrapods Near and Far

This is a 30 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100 at a focal length of 59mm with my 24-70mm lens. It’s also a Lightroom black and white conversion, as I mentioned last week, I’m finding myself using Lightroom instead of Silver Efex more and more, when a more subtle conversion suits the image. I love using Silver Efex when I want to make the image dramatic, but I’m enjoying keeping my work limited to the raw file right out of the camera when Lightroom gives me enough control, rather than having to create a TIFF file, to work with it in Silver Efex.

We were about to leave this location, but the sky started to give us some nice color, and we did not have time for another shoot at a different location before it got dark, so I extended our time at the same spot, which resulted in some images with some nice color in the sky as the sun went down, as we can see in this next photo (below) of the same tetrapods that were in the distance in the previous image.

Obira Tetrapods

Obira Tetrapods

This was a 75 second exposure at f/18, ISO 100 at 135mm. I have to admit that I had caught my dial and shifted to f/18 without realizing it. I normally don’t go smaller than f/16 and f/14 is my usual soft-ceiling, so I am pretty sure this was an accident. To get this long an exposure I fitted an ND1000 neutral density filter to my lens, for 10 stops of additional darkness.

On day five, we drove along the coast from our hotel to a place where there are some other nice tetrapods to shoot on the beach, but from this location, I actually found this next image quite fun (below), looking a little like a nuclear waste warning symbol. There is a concrete pier that runs out into the sea, and I noticed these three legs of a tetrapod just sticking out of the choppy sea as I looked over the edge of the pier, so I decided to do a long exposure of them with the ND1000 fitted again, along with an ND8 filter for 13 stops of darkness.

Tetrapod Nuclear Waste Warning

Tetrapod Nuclear Waste Warning

I processes this in Silver Efex Pro and added a bit of a vignette in Lightroom to darken the edges down a little. The sea was quite choppy, so the sunlight was catching the water causing light squiggles everywhere, so this is a fun image to view up close as well. I shot this with a 60 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 65mm.

We also visited a new location where we’d found there to be a Shinto Torii gate on a concrete platform just off the beach in a little cove. As you saw from the last image though, this is one of the few days where we had a lot of direct sunlight, and although they were OK, our photos of the Shinto gate from day five turned out to be insurance shots. We had some much better dramatic skies on the morning of day six as we started our drive to our next base for a further two days, so we went back to the Torii for one last shoot before leaving the area, and this shoot resulted in this image (below).

Konpira Jinja Torii

Konpira Jinja Torii

This was a 30 second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 38mm, once again converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro. I have to admit, I’m getting a little bit tired of cleaning up the white lines around dark objects when you push the contrast in Silver Efex, so in this image, I worked with the naturally bright area behind Torii, and allowed that to stay light removing the halo from the image in Silver Efex rather than in Photoshop for this. I think that also builds on the idea that the gate has some religious significance as well, so I quite like the results.

Later in the day, we visited one of my favorite locations on this tour, which is the small fishing port not far from Wakkanai where we’d spend the next two nights. Wakkanai is the northern-most city in Japan, with a population of 37,000, so compared to the small fishing town that we’d spent the previous day in, it actually feels more like a city.

Anyway, back to the port, my first photo from this location is this one of what I have affectionately termed the Boat Graveyard, where there are nine fishing boats that look as though they are just left there to gradually fall apart (below). I was surprised to see such a large pattern in the sky when I processed this image though. I saw a couple of bright patches in the sky when I shot the image, but Silver Efex brought out those large streaks in the sky that I had not seen. The Rishiri island is over there behind the snow clouds, and I think the island is disrupting the air flow causing that cool texture to form.

Boat Graveyard with Disrupted Sky

Boat Graveyard with Disrupted Sky

I shot this with a 1/30 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 16mm. My final selection of images from this trip, which is down to 93 as I prepare this episode, actually still contains some 15 images of these boats, as the sky and amount of falling snow gave us lots of variation to shoot, but I’ll keep it down to two images now and one more from the next day before we finish today.

This next photo of the Boat Graveyard is really more about the winter sun. I hate it when the sun comes out completely on this trip, but there are times when it just pokes through the clouds enough to add an additional point of interest, as I believe it does here (below).

Winter Sun

Winter Sun

This was a 1/50 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 24mm. I ended up with a 50th of a second exposure because the sun was brightening things up a little, but this is still just about enough to be able to see some movement in the falling snow, which is what I like. Depending on the size of the snow and how quickly it’s falling, I like to try to use between 1/15 and 1/30 of a second when possible.

For the last few hours of day six, we went to a couple of the factories that have the fish drying frames that you can see in this next image (below), shot with the permission of the owners. These racks are great for creating graphically structured images, and this year there were some fish hanging from the frames in almost equal numbers on both of these racks, which I quite liked.

Fish Drying Racks in Snow

Fish Drying Racks in Snow

This was a 1/10 of a second exposure at f/11, ISO 200. In this first frame I was using my 11-24mm lens at 22mm. I got quite close to the racks and pointed my camera up, to cause this distorted look, which I personally quite like, although I know it annoys the hell out of some people, especially architecture photographers who like to see everything perfectly straight.

In this next image of the same racks, I walked back through the snow and part way up an embankment, and used my 24-70mm lens at 70mm, zooming in on the scene, which causes the perspective to look much more natural, with the verticals pretty much straight (below). You can also see that the gap at the end of the frames is larger in the zoomed image, enabling us to see more detail overall.

Fish Drying Racks in Snow

Fish Drying Racks in Snow

This was a 1/4 of a second exposure at f/11, ISO 200 at 70mm. Personally, I’m more about how an image makes me feel, and in the first photo of the racks, they feel much bigger to me as they taper off towards the top of the frame. That’s what happens when we look up at things, although it is exaggerated by the wide angle lens.

On the morning of day seven, we headed down to a location where I know we can walk out across some land and get to the sea, where I was hoping to find some driftwood etc. on the beach. When we got there though, I was pleased to find that we had a wonderful sea mist called “Kearashi” in Japanese, as we can see in this image (below).

Sea Mist - Kearashi

Sea Mist – Kearashi

This was a 1/200 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 70mm. The Kearashi as far as I’m aware is caused by the relative warmth of the sea on very cold days, so it’s much warmer than the air temperature. I think I recall seeing that it was about -9 or -10°C at the time, which is about 14 or 15°F, so cold, but not uncomfortably so. Even if you click on this image to view it larger, you might not really be able to appreciate all the snow flakes suspended in the air, which I love. I always really like it when I can see something in the air, adding to the atmosphere of a photograph.

The previous image is only about 10 minutes down the road from my Boat Graveyard, which we revisited for a while, before going back into Wakkanai for lunch. This is the last image that I’ll share from this location, but once again, you can see that I’ve been playing with the affect that the snow has on the scene (below).

Boat Graveyard in Heavy Snow

Boat Graveyard in Heavy Snow

This was a 1/125 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100 at 24mm, so I didn’t have as slow a shutter speed as I’d have liked, but the snow at this point was big and falling quite quickly, so it recorded pretty well in the image. I also seriously like the quality of light in this photograph, with the much darker patch of snow to the left side of the frame, almost like a shadow cast from the darker cloud below the winter sun, and the back boats are much darker than the ones closer to the camera, which are lightening up along with the snow in the right foreground. The texture of the snow is also really nice in this one, so it’s turned into a bit of a favorite from the trip.

OK, so that’s our twelve images for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with this tour, and I’ll be back next week with the third and final part of this series, with twelve more images from the end of day seven through to the end of the trip.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017

Before we finish, I wanted to mention that we are now taking bookings for the 2017 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure, from January 8 to the 20th, 2017. Hokkaido is the northern-most island of Japan, and as you might have noticed, it is the minimalist winter landscape photographer’s dream. This will be our third year running this very special dedicated landscape tour in Hokkaido. For details and to book your place, visit the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2017


Show Notes

For details of the 2017 Hokkaido Landscape Photograph Adventure visit the tour page here: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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