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

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

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2015 #1 (Podcast 457)

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2015 #1 (Podcast 457)

Last week, I completed a 12 day Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure with special guest David duChemin and 13 other amazing photographers. This was the first landscape only tour that I’ve done in Hokkaido, and we had a pretty amazing time, so from today I’m going to walk you through a selection of photographs from the tour to give you a taste of what we got up to.

Before we start looking at the images, let me give you a little background about this tour. When I first started doing my Hokkaido tours, I had it split into two parts, a Landscape leg and a Wildlife leg. People could book for one or the other or both initially, but we found that the people that liked the landscape leg didn’t really enjoy the wildlife part and vice versa, and the majority of our participants seemed more attracted to the wildlife than the landscape, so we stopped doing the landscape leg after a few years.

The main landscape leg of the original tour was held in the Biei area, in central Hokkaido, and this is where we spent the first three days of this new 12 day tour. The rest of the tour was based on a reconnaissance trip that I did in January of 2011, four years ago now. Many people had been asking about a Hokkaido Landscape tour, and I figured it was worth putting something together, but then as the business grew we started to do two wildlife tours each season, and this landscape tour kind of got put to the back-burner until this year.

I really wanted to make this happen though, and so when my friend David duChemin asked if there was any way to do a Hokkaido Landscape tour, this was my obvious choice, so I finalised the itinerary and started to take bookings and now here we are a year later with some great memories and a new tour on our yearly schedule.

I ended up with 79 images from this trip that I’m happy with, and although I’m sure I’ll remove a few from my selection as I live with them for a while, I decided to try to get down to enough images to talk about this tour in two episodes, and I’ve selected 24 from my 79, so we’ll discuss 12 images in this and another 12 in next week’s episode.

We start in Biei, a particularly beautiful part of this wonderful northern-island of Japan. You may remember photos from this area some years ago, if you’ve been following the podcast for a while. I planned for three days in this area, because it really requires falling snow to make it as beautiful as it can be, and we didn’t get any snow on the first day. We still have some beautiful photos, but it didn’t really start to kick in until the middle of the second day.

As we drove to our lunch location, I noticed a tree on a hill with a fence almost along the ridge of the hill, but this was on a busy trunk road, so we turned the bus around, and we got off in a safe place a little up the hill, and walked down to a location where we could see this scene (below).

Hanazono Tree with Fence Posts

Hanazono Tree with Fence Posts

The sky was starting to fill with hazy snow-clouds, and although there was some heavier clouds drifting through the scene, I waited until it was clear and white to make this photograph. The tiny amount of contrast between the top of the hill and the sky makes it difficult to see the transition, but I love that. I like it when the viewer of the image has to work a little to understand what’s going on, and here you have to work even harder because the line of the fence can almost make you feel that it marks the top of the hill, but it doesn’t.

Note that this and all but one of the images that we’ll look at today have been converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro 2. I just find that the majority of the images I shot on this trip looked much better in black and white, which is a good thing, because I love black and white, and intended to do just this with the majority of this work as I worked each scene in the field.

As the snow set in, we went back to the grounds of the Takushinkan gallery, home of the late Shinzo Maeda’s work, and now also his son Akira. Shinzo Maeda really put Biei on the map as a landscape photography location, but unfortunately we were so busy photographing the area that we never actually made time to go into the gallery and take a look at his images.

The line of trees that we see in this photo (below) is just behind the gallery, and I’ve photographed these many times in previous years, but the snow that we’d been waiting for reduced this scene to this very minimalist line of trees. If you look closely, you might also be able to see the lines of the snow in the air, and striking lines across the tree trunks too.

Takushinkan Trees in Snow

Takushinkan Trees in Snow

I love this effect, and it’s much more apparent in this next image (below), from just up the road from the Takushinkan, again with a very subtle line of the top of the hill. I like to use a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second for snow scenes like this, as it’s just long enough for the snow to leave a streak across the image, rather than just being a stationary dot. There’s a time and place for stationary snow, but for these landscapes I just think the 1/15 of a second exposure works well.

Biei Trees in Snow Storm

Biei Trees in Snow Storm

I have a handful of these that I really like, but I’ll just share this one more (below) before we move on. This again is just a little further up the road from the Takushinkan, and it a simple line of trees, again in heavy snow, with a 1/15 of a second exposure. You may need to click on the image to really see the detail, but in this one you can also see the snow in the air more easily, and I love the detail in the line of trees, with the snowy brush-strokes across them.

Biei Trees in Snow Storm

Biei Trees in Snow Storm

We’d visited this location on the first day, but when there is no snow, there are mountains and other elements in the background that really don’t allow for this very minimalistic scene. It’s so much better when the snow comes to enable you to really reduce the scene to the few basic elements of an almost only implied hill, trees and snow.

The snow remained into the following morning, so we revisited another of my old haunts, where my tree is still sitting proudly atop of it’s hill. Many of the trees in this area are named, such as the Parent and Child trees just across from this one, but this particular tree doesn’t have a name, although we’ve started to call it Martin’s tree.

My Tree

My Tree

The photos of this tree from the first afternoon without the falling snow were OK, and different, but I love it when I can reduce a scene like this, so as I headed up the hill back to our bus towards the end of our session here, and the snow started to fall a little heavier for a while, I couldn’t resist making this photo.

On our last morning in Biei before moving on, we visited the White-Beard Falls, that you can see in this photograph (below). We didn’t necessarily need the snow on this morning, but we’d hoped so much for it on the first couple of days that there seemed to be no stopping it now, so we worked with it. The mineral content in the water actually gives it a beautiful blue tint that is enhanced by the dawn light, and a little bit of Lightroom work.

White-Beard Falls

White-Beard Falls

This was a 1/5 of a second exposure at ISO 800 as the light was pretty low. Working with the movement of the snow though, I like how the snow flakes seem to have scribbled on the image, leaving their crazy abstract trails all over it. I wonder if you can also make out the man’s face in the centre of the left third? It’s a profile looking like he’s looking upwards toward the top left corner of the image.

After breakfast we checked out and started to drive over to the western coast of Hokkaido. The heavy snow prevented us from taking the originally planned route, and it added a few hours to our drive, but we always knew that this was a risk on this tour, with the harsh Siberian weather often beating down on this part of Japan.

Further up the coast, the weather actually got quite warm for this time of year, with temperatures drifting around 0°C (32°F), which did make it easier to photograph, although I would have preferred to enable the participants on their first visit to experience the real Hokkaido weather conditions.

In this next photograph(below) from near Rumoi, we see our first contact with Tetrapods. The word Tetrapod actually means four-legged and is a classification of animals, but it was used here in Japan by a company called Fudo Tetra Corporation who are a major producer of these wave breakers, used to protect the shoreline or seawalls from the pounding waves.

Tetrapods in Storm

Tetrapods in Storm

Luckily for us, these Tetrapods are often placed in the sea in such a way that they can add a really quite beautiful additional elements in an otherwise quite boring seascape. Here I used a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds to record some of the movement of the waves in this rough sea.

We can see the same group of Tetrapods appearing in a supporting role in this next photograph too (below). Here’s we’d climbed down to the beach, where there was a second set of Tetrapods sunk down in the sand, and there was a rock that had been trapped between two Tetrapods, which I thought was another nice element for this photo.

Near and Far Tetrapods

Near and Far Tetrapods

I’d broken out the ND400 nine stop neutral density filter for this image, and was now shooting 30 second exposures, making the sea much smoother, although the rough seas still kept a lot of texture as they washed up against the shore, and in the foreground left their image on the beach as the waves rolled in and out.

A little further up the coast on the following day, we stopped at a small harbour and spend 90 minutes photographing the various features such as a stone pier and, you guessed it, more Tetrapods (below). The compositional opportunities are endless, and even from this batch, I have a number of different shots that I really like. Here I chose to show you pretty much the simplest one, with just a patch of Tetrapods and a natural rock and the patterns made by the waves during this 30 second exposure.

Obira Tetrapods

Obira Tetrapods

Having spent two nights in the centre of the western coast of Hokkaido, we had a good drive up to the northern tip where we’d spend two more nights. Of course, the drive to our next location is always a part of the overall experience, and we continue to look for opportunities such as this one (below) along the way. We found these interesting multi-layered Tetrapods including the type in the foreground that look like giant practice golfballs, some of which were broken forming an additional layer of interest.

Golf Balls and Tetrapods #2

Golf Balls and Tetrapods #2

For much of this trip we find ourself standing on pretty uneven ground through the snow, and this was a particularly nasty spot, as we were standing on these golfballs in the snow to get this shot. You have to be careful not to let your feet slip down into the holes, although with care, you can stand on the edge of these holes to get a footing and set up your tripod, so it works both ways.

Although I had many locations already scouted out, we spent a bit of time between known locations just heading down roads that had been cleared of snow, enabling us to drive on them, and that’s what lead us to shots like the last one, and as we headed back to the trunk-road, we stopped to quickly shoot these amazing withered plants that we noticed dotting the snow-covered landscape (below).

Stark Ballerina

Stark Ballerina

I called this photo “Stark Ballerina” as there’s something about the pose that really reminds me of a ballet or jazz dancer in one of those extreme poses that they hold for a moment before collapsing down into a crouch. I know it’s probably just me, but there’s something very stark and beautiful about both the physical image and the mental image I’m creating from this.

We spend a further two days in Wakkanai, the northern-most city of Japan, and with that location as a base, we photographed things like these fish drying racks (below). There were a few fish out drying too, and we met the owner of the company who’s land we’d gotten permission to be on to photograph these.

Fish Drying Frames #2

Fish Drying Frames #2

This was a 75 second exposure, now using both an ND400 and an ND8 stacked for just under 12 stops of neutral density. There wasn’t as much detail in the sky as I’d hoped, and my initial edit that I shared last week had a bit of a halo around the frames, so I’ve reworked this making the sky much whiter, and starker, which is probably closer to the original feel of the photograph. This actually takes us to the end of our 12 photographs for this episode. We’ll pick up the trail again next week, with the rest of the two days we spent in Wakkanai.

If you use Instagram, you can see more of this work that I posted as the tour progressed, as I’ve just started using Instagram with the username martinbaileyphotography, which is the abbreviation of my company name, as Martin Bailey and most of the reasonable variants were taken. You can also see photographs from the other amazingly talented participants with the hashtag #sakeandsnow.

As you know I’m traveling again from next week with the first of my two Snow Monkey & Hokkaido Winter Wonderland Tours for this season. I’ve a lot to catch up on during this week at home, but if at all possible, I’ll record the second part of this and release it next weekend before I leave, so you won’t have to wait too long to conclude this first Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure travelogue.

As I mentioned in my brief hello from Hokkaido recording last week, I have now started taking bookings for the 2016 Hokkaido Landscape Tour, which you can find at https://mbp.ac/hlpa including buttons to pay your deposit and make your reservation if you’d like to join us for another wonderful adventure.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2016

Click for Details


Show Notes

2016 Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Martin on Instagram: http://instagram.com/martinbaileyphotography

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.