Like a Fish That Found Water – Tatsusawa Falls 2021 (Podcast 756)

Like a Fish That Found Water – Tatsusawa Falls 2021 (Podcast 756)


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I’ve spent a whole lot of time over the last few weeks working on a new Patreon program and an all new MBP Community site which I’ll be providing more details on later, but I was able to take few days to wind down my whirling dervish and visit a place that is very close to my heart. Old time listeners will recognize the waterfall that I visited, as it was the image used for the Podcast graphic for a number of years in the early days.

Back then, I used daylight white balance for most things, as auto white balance was still very much hit and miss, and this resulted in my earlier shot having a very strong blue cast, and I recall one troll from the old community screaming “WHITE BALANCE!” at me along with a whole slew of possibly drug induced profanities, shortly before I deleted his account. The white balance comment was one of the only things he said during his crash and burn last few days in the community that actually did make sense. I decided to leave the image blue, and I loved it for that quality, but there was not doubt that it was not quite as natural as I’d hoped it would look. I won’t link the image here as I want to keep my current visit images at the front of this post, but I am also slightly concerned that the impact of the earlier blue image could overpower the visuals that I share, so there is certainly still something in that earlier image that I feel really worked.

This was mainly a business trip, to shoot these falls, but we tagged on a short diversion to visit the grave of my wife’s father, who’d passed away early last year, but the Tokyo pseudo-lock-down prevented my wife and I from attending his funeral, which was extremely upsetting for my wife. As Tokyo is currently enjoying a respite from the pandemic, with incredibly low new daily cases being reported, and the lifting of the request to not move between prefectures, we decided it was time to put some flowers on his grave, light a few sticks of incense, and pay our respects to the great man that lies within, along with the rest of my wife’s deceased family.

We did an about turn after that though, and hopped through the mountains to the Uranbandai area, and on to the Tatsusawa Falls. The actually name of the falls is the Tatsusawafudo Falls. Fudo is often used in temple names, and there is a small temple just in front of the falls, which give the place an even more spiritual feel, but the temple was built there by people that worship the mountains and nature, a common thing here in Japan, with the Japanese belief that there are gods in everything around us playing a strong role in our daily life.

The timing, according to plan, put me in front of the falls 10 minutes before the sun dropped below the horizon. The sun does hit the face of the falls around noon, as the sun shines through the valley, but I don’t like to photograph falls in direct sunlight. This first shot was actually 10 minutes before sunset, but the shadow of the valley walls and heavy tree growth afforded me a four second exposure without any Neutral Density filters, and as you can see in this first photo, it helped me to capture what I truly believe to be one of Japan’s most beautiful waterfalls.

Tatsusawa Falls
Tatsusawa Falls

I used an aperture of ƒ/10, at 24mm, which gives me adequate depth of field. I generally like to shoot waterfalls between a half a second and a full second, because the water can move around so much that it starts to decrease definition, if you do longer exposures, but there is not a huge amount of water that flows over the ridge of these falls so it works well even with multi-second exposures. Everything about these falls is, in my opinion, perfectly balanced. They are also pretty much a perfect 3:2 aspect ratio, fitting perfectly into the frame of a 35mm sensor camera. The low light and balanced appearance makes them the perfect subject.

The sun was below the horizon by the time I shot this next image from a little further back and slightly higher vantage point. I wanted to include some of the trees, and as you can see, the fall color was just setting in. I’d actually hoped for more color, as mid-October is when the trees around these falls are typically at their best, but it’s obviously not cooling down enough at night yet, so the color is a little late.

Tatsusawa Falls with a Smidgen of Fall Color
Tatsusawa Falls with a Smidgen of Fall Color

Not to worry though. I was honestly just incredibly happy to be in the field. Pulling back a little enabled me to include some of the forest floor, and we can see that it is very much typical Japan semi-tropical undergrowth, with the ferns and plenty of moss on the rocks. I have to admit that I’d slipped through a gap in the fence where it says no entry, as the boardwalk down to the face of the falls has fallen into disrepair, and is very slippy. The following morning I’d find myself flat on my back as I walked down the wooden slope, so I can appreciate why they are making it out of bounds, but I’ve never been one for staying behind keep out signs. I spent most of my childhood in an area of the local park that was marked Keep Out. It was more fun in that area than the rest of the park put together! Strangely, it’s now completely open with pathways etc. and I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s different, other than the pathways.

I made a short video while I was at these falls which I’ve edited slightly to share with you, so I’ll drop that in here too.

Tatsusawafudo Falls Video

We stayed at a hotel just down the road from these falls, and went back again after an early breakfast the following morning. I’d got my falls shots, and although I was hoping to get some high resolution video, there was a young man there when we arrived, and I didn’t want to get in his way, so I just shot some close-ups of the water hitting the rocks in front of the falls, as you can see in this next image.

Quiet Roar
Quiet Roar
Dawn Falls
Dawn Falls

I called this image Quiet Roar, as the sound of the water falling forms a definite roar, but there is still something incredibly serene about these falls. I’d spent most of the previous evening telling my wife how beautiful I thought these falls were, and apologized in advance for probably saying that another hundred times over the following three days. I’m still saying it now 12 days later, come to think of it.

Here too is a vertical shot of the falling water and rocks. I had to cut the foreground water short a little to avoid getting a larger rock in the bottom of the frame, but I think this still relays the serenity of the falls. I converted both of these last two images to black and white, as they were also black and white anyway, but I felt it helped to show the texture of the wet rocks and it also makes the water darker in the foreground, which I like to see.

A Fish That Found Water

I didn’t know at the time, but it turns out later that my wife had shot a few images of me down at the falls with her iPhone. Below is one of her images to show you an even larger view of the scene, but she almost had me in tears with her turn of phrase later that evening. Knowing how hard this last 18 months has been for me, she watched quietly as I did my work, and then later said that I looked like a fish that had found water. There is a Japanese proverb almost the same as what she said, but I just found this so beautiful, and so fitting.

Here I was, in front of a pool of water flowing down from one of my favorite waterfalls in Japan. I could have easily jumped into that pool and swam around, but it would not have been a shallow splish-splash. I’m talking the sort of swimming that you shoot video of from another 40 feet down, with what’s left of the late evening light streaming down into the depths. That’s how my heart felt as I stood there making a handful of exposures.

A Fish That Found Water
A Fish That Found Water

I posted years ago about my thoughts on what my friend Richard Annable had said, when he talked about the silence that he felt while he was photographing, sort of in the zone. I often feel the same way. Everything that concerns me fades into the distance when I’ve got a camera in my hand, and the world goes quiet, almost like I’m in a big bubble, and it is a strong, all protecting bubble. Boy did it feel good to be back in the field.

As I mentioned earlier, we went back to the falls the following morning, and I started by shooting the details of the falls, then we gradually made our way back down the mountain path to our car. It’s literally not even ten minutes to the car park in the summer. I’ve trekked in knee-deep snow, from much further away, as the snow kept me from driving closer, and that was a tough walk. In the summer, it’s a pleasant ten minutes taking your time. Here is a view of the river along which you walk to get to the falls.

A River Runs Through
A River Runs Through

Nothing special, more documentary, but it does show how the tree overgrowth keeps the light down. It was a few minutes before 12 noon when I shot this, and it’s still pretty dark. This required a shutter speed of and 1/8 of a second at ƒ/16, and that was exposing for the highlights on the water.

After this we drove around to the Goshikinuma or Five Colored Lakes, and walked for a while more. The lakes were beautiful but nothing hugely special with the fall color still a few weeks out. I did shoot one last image that I quit like, of some Koi carp. Fish that had also found some beautifully clear water.

4.5 Koi Carp
4.5 Koi Carp

I had lots of fun, and my soul was enriched by the time we spent up there in Fukushima. We both got the wind knocked out of our sales a little by the traffic jams getting back to Tokyo. It takes about four hours to get to the area we visited, and took us almost nine hours to get home, due to an accident which delayed us enough to catch the Friday evening traffic, which is never fun in Tokyo. Luckily we had enough fun that it spilled over into the coming days and I still feel very happy that we were able to get out, even for just a short time.

The Patreon Program

I had one other thing that I wanted to touch on quickly today, and I’ll follow up with a more detailed post soon, but if you’ve visited the Martin Bailey Photography website over the last week you’ll have already noticed that I’ve started a Patreon program. I’ve decided to lock the text of all posts that I release along with the podcasts and open it up only to people that make a small monthly pledge via the Patreon system. $3 gets you access to more than 750 posts from the last 16 years, but what’s more, that also gives you access to our new MBP Community that I’ve just finished setting up. There are six Patreon tiers, going up through $5 and $10 dollars for increasing benefits, including a new Patron only monthly Question Time, a streamed event that I will be recorded live, and I’ll be answering questions submitted in text form from $5 patrons or optionally in person from $10 and higher. There are lots of other benefits too, and the two top tiers are full blown Mentorships, including monthly one-to-one sessions and completely tailor-made assignments and tuition. The Mentorship tiers are limited due to the time commitment, so if you are interested, check out the details at https://mbp.ac/patreon.

MBP Community
MBP Community

The Podcast itself will remain complete free, as I’ve always promised. Now, if you visit a post as a non-Patron, you will see the audio player and a gallery of images so that you can still follow along with the images. There will also be a button to become a Patron, and help to support the Podcast and blog. If you find what I’ve been doing over the last 16 years valuable, your contribution and support will be very much appreciated, and I’m looking forward to getting a real MBP Community going again too.

The old forums were killed by scummy spammers that we couldn’t keep out. With a dollar amount as a gatekeeper, and a more robust forum system, I don’t think we’re going to have that problem this time around. I’d also quickly like to thank Karl, Peter and Mary, our first three patrons, for already jumping on board.


Show Notes

Check out the Patreon program here: https://mbp.ac/patreon

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2020 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 695)

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2020 Travelogue 3 (Podcast 695)

This week we conclude our three-part series to walk you through our antics as I traveled with a wonderful group of photographers on my 2020 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Tour.

As with previous days, we were lucky to get a flurry of snow to cover the ground sufficiently to provide the beautiful scenes that we were hoping for, and that I’d been concerned that we might not get, with us having the warmest winter for 60 years this year. Having just gotten back from the first of my Japan Wildlife trips in Hokkaido, I’m happy to say that we had a cold front come in for most of the time we were up there, and there’s another forecast for next week when I set out for my third and final Japan trip of the year.

We pick up the trail on day eight of my Landscape Tour today though, as we left Wakkanai and headed first for the fishing ports near Cape Souya, and the northern-most tip of Japan, so let’s look at a shot from there to start with. As you can see, the snow wasn’t deep, but it was enough, and quite clean at this spot too, without much grass showing through.

Souya Harbor Boats 2020
Souya Harbor Boats 2020

I’ve processed most of my images from this trip in black and white, as I feel that it suits the subject matter most of the time. I also like to see a little conformity in the sets of images that I come back from these trips with, although as we’ll see later, there were a few shots towards the end of the trip that, in my opinion, worked better in color.

The next photograph, on the other hand, was shot on medium format black and white film, so I don’t really have a choice, but I think these images suit the Hokkaido Landscape work really well. For this I used an ND400 which gives me 8.6 stops of darkness for a 60-second exposure at f/16, to enable me to smooth over the sea like this. I had an ND8 and ND400 filter custom made here in Japan, to fit on the bayonet filter holder on my Rolleiflex to make this possible.

Sawaki Port Tetrapods
Sawaki Port Tetrapods

There’s a little more grain in the sky than I’d like, but I was just about getting to grips with the Rodinal developer chemicals by this point, and the SilverFast scanning software that I have also been using on recommendation is producing grainier scans than I’d like, but I guess this is more natural grain in the film, and my Canon scanning software is cleaning that up more, rather than SilverFast introducing it. Still, the six rolls of film that I developed and scanned during my week at home between the two trips was probably the biggest learning experience since I started shooting and developing my own film again a few months ago.

Shortly after the previous shot, at the end of day eight, I shot this image on the same beach, this time with my EOS R and, if I recall correctly, by this time, it was dark enough to give me a 2-second exposure without any filters on. I used a Bluetooth remote for my camera to time my shots perfectly for the drawing out of the waves, as this gives better texture and patterns in the water than the waves coming in.

Sawaki Port Rocks and Sea
Sawaki Port Rocks and Sea

These shots don’t all work, but if you shoot a number of them, you can start to see how the waves and timing affect the shots, and then select the most pleasing one later. That’s certainly something that I want to be doing more with digital than with my film camera, although I will probably experiment more when I’m back out by myself, rather than with my wonderful group on a workshop.

The following morning, back in the port on day nine, the tide was further out, and there was a coating of frost on all of the rocks, so I got down low for this next shot, shortly after the sun had risen. With the sun’s disk in the frame, I allowed it to overexpose slightly, as did a little of the water with the sun reflecting on it, but at that exposure, the dynamic range of my camera was plenty to still capture lots of shadow detail, without any part of the scene completely plugging up and going full black.

Sawaki Port at Sunrise
Sawaki Port at Sunrise

I spend a lot of time on my tours talking about exposure, and this is one of the best landscape locations to illustrate the benefits of Exposing to the Right, both for image quality, but also to protect the shadows in a wide tonal range scene like this. I covered this in detail in Episode 503, in which I covered using the Zone System for digital photography.

As we drew closer to the time that we were planning to leave the beach, we noticed some pancake ice forming on the surface of the sea, so I grabbed a number of shots with the three tetrapod pyramid tops sticking out the water, as you can see here.

Pancake Ice and Tetrapods
Pancake Ice and Tetrapods

It’s a cool phenomenon, as the sea starts to freeze and form the little circles of ice. It didn’t feel cold enough for this to form, but I guess that’s because we are all wrapped up to protect ourselves from the elements. Plus, I warm up a great deal when I’m photographing things, as opposed to just standing around in the cold. Later in the day, we went for a drive around the area but the warm winter was not helping with the landscape, so we went back to the hotel and did a few hours of workshops, before heading back down into the port for another quick shoot before the sun went down.

The following morning though, the snow came to our rescue, so we initially photographed the port one last time for this trip, as it was presenting us with a slightly different opportunity with the snow-covered tetrapods that you see here. Ideally, I’d have moved to my right a little more here to get better separation between the two tetrapods near the middle of the frame, but one of my guests was in that spot, and the guests always take preference. It’s fine though, and I still really like this shot.

Snow, Rocks and Tetrapods
Snow, Rocks and Tetrapods

The snow running right down to the water’s edge shows how calm the sea was on this final visit, and that also allowed the snow to settle on the tetrapods and rocks rather than being washed away, which is what usually happens.

We were planning to move on to our final location for the last two days of the tour, but there was no way we’d have gotten out of town without spending more time shooting the beautiful scenes that the previous day had not delivered, and you can see what I mean in this next image. This is not hoar frost, although it looks like it. I’ve seen this happen before at this location a few years ago, so I’d had my fingers crossed.

Okoppe Winter Wonderland
Okoppe Winter Wonderland

It’s very fine snow that has stuck to the trees and coated the land and other foliage. The bamboo grasses in the foreground give you an idea of what I mean too. On the previous day the soil had been showing through on the fields, and the trees were black and pretty bleak. This Winter Wonderland-style scene, on the other hand, is the sort of thing that I love to encounter on this trip, and we were fortunate to get this on this visit, with it being so warm compared to most other years.

The snow started to melt off the trees relatively quickly, so this is one of the last shots I got from this morning, of a silo in a farmer’s field, albeit a little bit of a Christmas Card type of a scene, and I mean that in a somewhat negative sense. Still, it’s a pleasing shot and helps to illustrate the conditions, so I thought I’d include this before we move on.

Okoppe Silo
Okoppe Silo

Note that these two images are some of the few that I left in color, as I mentioned earlier because I really felt that their color added something to the images. I used to remove the color in images when it got in the way, but for a number of years now, especially with this trip, my default is to convert to black and white, and I only leave images in color when I feel that the color is adding something to the scene.

It was back to fishing boats for much of the last two days of the trip, as we visited a fishing port on the Saroma Lake. We had a smattering of snow again, helping to clean things up, and I loved the sky that we had on our first visit, as you can see here.

Toetoko Fishing Boats
Fishing Boats brought up on land for the winter at Toetoko Port

This once again shows how useful it is to Expose to the Right, to control the highlights and protect the shadows. Without using this technique, which you can read about more in Episode 381, the shadows fall too dark to give much definition. By using this technique, the boats come out of the shadows easily with the Shadows slider in Capture One Pro and Lightroom etc.

Participants’ Comments

As has become tradition, at the end of each tour, I record a comment from each of the participants, which I will play you now, in the audio for this post. If you want to hear what people said about the tour, please listen with the audio player above. The comments start at 10:23.

We are going to conclude this travelogue series with what I believe is a fitting film shot, of the boats at the same fishing port. Again, I’m really happy that the film I’m using, which for this trip turned out to be exclusively Rollei RPX 100, is giving me such similar results to how I process my digital work in black and white. Apart from the square format and more apparent grain, these images feel very similar to me, and shooting film on this trip was a lot of fun.

Boats on Film
Toetoko Fishing Boats shot with the Rolleiflex 3.5F

I actually thought that I’d need to mollycoddle my now 55-year-old Rolleiflex, to protect it from the elements, but having gotten it wet on a number of occasions, although I did wipe it down, I’m happy to report that it did not rust, and is still as shiny as ever. a True tribute to German craftsmanship. Note that I have used my new script for assigning and updating the EXIF data on my scanned film, so if you click on these images you’ll see the shooting information, just like my digitally shot images. I have a few more tweaks to make, but I hope to be able to share that in March when the dust settles after my winter tours.

I’ve also spent the last few days working on an update to my Photographer’s Friend app for iOS. I was contacted with a request to add a couple of medium format sensor sizes between 35mm and the 645 format, which I’ve done. In the process though, I updated the app to the latest version of Swift, the programing language used to create it, and then decided to add a Light and Dark theme throughout the app, and a few other tweaks.

If I can overcome a few remaining issues that I’m working on, I hope to submit the update to Apple before leaving for my third trip of the season next weekend, so stay tuned for that if you have version three of the Photographer’s Friend, as it will be a free update. I will not be updating version two, and you can see which you have by tapping on the About Photographer’s Friend link at the bottom of the Help menu.

One other thing to keep your eyes out for is that although the night view has been replaced by the more comprehensive dark theme, you can still switch themes easily by simply shaking your device, and that’s useful if you are using the app at night and want to protect your night vision. I also think that the dark theme looks great anyway. By default, Photographer’s Friend will now simply follow your system preferences unless you shake it.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure Tour

We’ll wrap it up there for this week though. If you are interested in joining the Landscape tour in 2021 or future years, check out the tour page at https://mbp.ac/hlpa.

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2021
Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure 2021

Show Notes

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

Check out our Photographer’s Friend App for iOS here: https://mbp.ac/app

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 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

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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 2 (Podcast 648)

Hokkaido Landscape Tour 2019 Travelogue 2 (Podcast 648)

We rejoin my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tour again this week, picking up the trail as we reach the West coast of the island, for some beautiful seascapes, as we journey on to the northern-most point of Japan.

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In stark contrast to our three days in the Biei area, with her beautiful rolling snow-covered hills, when we hit the coast we are generally greeted by weather that fits the mood of the Japan Sea.

Shinto “Torii” Gate

After a sushi lunch during our drive over to the coast, we settled for the last hour of daylight on the beach facing the Shinto “Torii” Gate, that you see in this first image for today.

Torii Gate with Snow Clouds
Torii Gate with Snow Clouds

I was so pleased to get this heavy sky behind the Torii, and using the Luma Range mask tool in Capture One Pro, I was able to select just the darker parts of the sky and darken them down a little further, leaving the brighter areas alone, introducing some dramatic contrast to the photograph.

I also took the White Balance picker and from the white water got a custom white balance of just under 12,000 Kelvin, which brings out a little bit of warm sunlight on the horizon. I decided to keep these shots in color so as to not lose the vermillion color in the gate, or the warm color in the sky.

By the time I shot this, the light was so low that even at f/11 with an ISO of 250 I was still able to leave the shutter open for 4 seconds, which is why the sea is smoothed over in places, but this is also short enough to leave us some texture in the water and we can still see the waves forming a somewhat daunting looking line behind the gate.

Frozen “Torii” Gate

The following morning, after an early breakfast, we went back to the gate, and I was happy to see a covering of snow and icicles on the gate itself, so I shot it from the side to highlight that, and also to included the line of tetrapods to the left of the gate.

Frozen Torii Gate
Frozen Torii Gate

For this shot, I used a 10 stop Neutral Density filter to give me a 1-minute 30-second exposure at f/11, ISO 100. This long exposure is responsible for making the waves all disappear leaving a kind of mist over the rocks in the sea and the tetrapods.

I also really like the layers of fallen snow on the beach, which was another element that added to my decision to photograph the gate from this angle. The long exposure also caused the numerous waves that came in and out, while the shutter was open, to leave varying tones of white on the beach, accentuated by the dark sand.

Fisherman’s Workshop

After photographing the gate for a while, we made our way back to the bus, and on the way, I stopped to photograph the window of one of the Fisherman’s Workshops in the harbor.

Fisherman's Workshop
Fisherman’s Workshop

I like the bleached look of the wood, from the summer months, as much as the harsh winter weather I imagine, and the ball of twine used to fix the fishing nets, as well as the hand-pump for pumping diesel into the boats, all add to the story. As, of course, do the fishing net and floats on the wall next to the window.

I increased my ISO to 250 for this, because I was hand-holding the EOS R, and I also wanted to freeze the snow to a degree, and the resulting 1/80 of a second shutter speed at f/8 helped me to acheive that.

Icing Sugar Beach and Tetrapods

The next stop gave us a few hours on a beach an hour south of the previous location, where the tetrapods half-buried in the sand, the waves and a stream that flows into the sea all collaborate to form some beautiful patterns, especially with a slightly long shutter speed, and another sprinkling of snow on the black sand.

Icing Sugar Beach and Tetrapods
Icing Sugar Beach and Tetrapods

The timing of this kind of shot can be critical, so although I usually just use the 2 second timer for landscape work, for this kind of photograph I use a cable-release. With the EOS R I actually bought the new Canon Bluetooth Remote Release BR-E1, which I used to release the shutter exactly as the time was right for the maximum effect of these waves rolling in and washing up the beach.

I was actually really impressed that when you connect the Bluetooth Remote, it automatically switches from a 2 second timer to instant release, which was just what I wanted. For this shot I was using an aperture of f/16 for a 0.6 second exposure at ISO 100, and a focal length of 39mm.

Stream and Tetrapods

Next to where I shot the previous image, there is a stream that flows down the beach into the sea, as you can see in this next image. I repositioned myself to include the mouth of the stream cutting through the snow, which formed a shape that was really nice this year.

Stream and Tetrapods
Stream and Tetrapods

I spent quite a long time for this shot, waiting for the various elements to come together. The large wave rolling in and crashing over the distant tetrapods, and the foreground wave behind the tetrapods, but also the wave that has just broke, high enough to wash up the beach forming those beautiful patterns.

And then the stream runs down into the waves on the beach, forming a whirlpool. I love it when a plan comes together! My settings for this image were the same as the previous one, but slightly longer focal length, at 58mm.

After lunch, we went back to the Torii gate that we’d visited a couple of times already, but the weather was improving, and the high pressure that comes with that forced the sea level down, so the rocks and sea bed were surrounding the gate, with just a few rock pools, and it really wasn’t worth shooting a third time in my opinion.

Tetrapods Galore

The following morning we continued our journey towards Wakkanai, the norther-most city of Japan, where we’d spend the next two nights. A little way up the coast, we made our first stop at a spot that I’ve found with various types of tetrapods along the beach, including the round ones that look like practice golf balls made of plastic. Only here, they’re made of concrete and covered in snow.

Tetrapods Galore
Tetrapods Galore

This was shot from the other side of a water duct that was running down to the sea, and I had to crop in tight along the bottom of the frame to avoid the duct’s wall, and that meant cropping into the two balls at the bottom of the frame, with the dusting of snow.

In my photographs I always try to focus on what most interests me, and for these shot, it’s those two darker balls, but I had to crop into them, which is of course not great, but when I look at the photo I still find myself diving in to the detail in those balls at the bottom of the frame. Luckily, the rest of the shot still appeals to me, with the layers of tetrapods and golf balls, and the 30-second exposure that I used with my 10 stop ND in the relatively bright sunlight still gave me a nice smooth sea, but with some texture.

Boat Graveyard 2019

A little later, we made our first visit to the Boat Graveyard, that I absolutely love to photograph each year. There wasn’t quite as much snow as usual in some areas, but the drifts behind these boats were still there in full form, and the grasses that are showing through almost add to the texture and grittiness of the shot, so I’m still very happy with this.

Boat Graveyard 2019
Boat Graveyard 2019

As with the Torii Gate shot earlier, I once again applied a Luma Range mask to the sky in this shot, to easily increase the contrast between the dark and light areas of the clouds, for added drama. I also cloned out a few stalks of grass that were poking into the frame along the bottom edge.

My settings were an aperture of f/14, for a 1/50 of a second at ISO 100, and a focal length of 16mm. I was using my EF 11-24mm lens with the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter. This allows me to use my EF lenses with the EOS R, and have the Control Ring, so that I can change my ISO according to my custom settings, by turning the Control Ring.

Snowdrift Wood

Having less snow than usual presented us with other bonuses, such as this large piece of driftwood, that was visible on the bank near the boats, and again, more grasses than usual added a nice touch for this photograph. I was drawn to the light coming through the snow clouds, and there is a single stalk of grass poking up through the snow in the center of the top third, that crooks over to the right, then kicks back up towards the sky.

Snowdrift Wood
Snowdrift Wood

I was actually drawn to this grass and the light more than the log, but I think the grass was happy enough to step back and play a supporting role in this photograph. I did very little to this, really just converting it to black and white, and giving it a small tweak on the levels and Luma tone curve to bring out the texture of the snow a little.

My settings were f/14, for a 1/50 of a second shutter speed at ISO 100, and a focal length of 92mm, now back working with my RF 24-105mm lens. I’ve been incredibly happy with the image quality of this new lens along with the EOS R, which I used almost exclusively throughout this tour.

Fish Drying Frames

After lunch in Wakkanai, we headed over to the fish drying frames that you see in this photograph. I did a long exposure for this, for 60 seconds, to introduce a little bit of movement in the sky, more visible to the right of the frame, and also to smooth over the sea that you can perhaps just make out poking through the gap at the end of the frames.

Fish Drying Frames
Fish Drying Frames

I shot this from the side as well, but I do like the symmetrical nature of this shot, with the structures balanced equally in the frame. It’s kind of a one-point perspective, like the compositions that we see a lot in Stanley Kubrik’s movies. My other settings for this were f/14 at ISO 100, and a 61mm focal length.

Boat Graveyard in Snow

The following morning we went back to the Boat Graveyard for some different light, and were treated to a little falling snow, as we can see in this image. My guests often ask about shutter speeds and falling snow, and here I increased my ISO to 400 at f/14 to get a 1/125 of a second shutter speed, which is sufficient to mostly freeze the snow in the air. Some of the snow closer to the camera is streaking slightly, but the further away snow is all suspended in mid-air. I find that to be just the right balance for this shot.

Boat Graveyard in Snow
Boat Graveyard in Snow

I zoomed in quite a lot to 87 mm for this shot, again, mostly to accentuate the snow in the air against the boats that are obviously larger in the frame at this focal length. And I also processed this slightly darker to add drama and context for the snow.

MBP Pro Membership

Of course, you might not be able to see all of the detail that I’m talking about in the Web-sized version, so note that I am also now releasing a high-resolution eBook article of all of my posts, which are available as part of my new MBP Pro subscription, which is currently available at the Bronze level, until I ramp it up further in March, after I finish my winter tours. There will be prorated upgrade prices available too, so if you are interested, jump on board now, and then consider the upgrade later at no extra cost.

Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure 2021

Many people have also been inquiring about spaces on my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour, which is sold out for 2020, but I have now updated our website with a 2021 page, so you can now book for that if you are interested. Details and the reservation payment buttons are now available at https://mbp.ac/hlpa.

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 Landscape Tour 2019 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 647)

Hokkaido Landscape Tour 2019 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 647)

Just back from my 2019 Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour & Workshop, today we start a three-part travelogue series with a total of 30 images over the next three weeks to illustrate our adventure.

[download id=”55600″]

As usual, we kicked off this year’s tour in the picturesque Biei area, with its beautifully situated trees that decorate the rolling snow-covered hills. It’s often hard to understand without seeing the difference, but the grey sky that you see in this first image from Biei is what really makes these images possible.

Lone Tree with Grasses
Lone Tree with Grasses

In the sun, the contrast is too great, and we get harsh shadows under the trees and from the grasses, and it is, in my opinion, much less pretty then. I love the almost complete lack of shadows from the grasses, and the very subtle, soft shadow that we get under the trees.

Most years, we actually have so much snow that the grasses don’t show through like this, but with relatively little snow this year, many were poking through, and they made for nice additional elements to punctuate the scenes that we shot.

I shot this image at f/14 for a 1/25 of a second at ISO 100, and a focal length of 67mm with the new Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 lens.

Canon EOS R

Apart from a few test shots, I shot this entire trip with the new Canon EOS R mirrorless camera, and I have to tell you, that at this point, I’m very happy with it. I’m going to do a full review later after I’ve seen how well it handles fast-paced wildlife shooting, but for Landscape, it was an absolute pleasure to work with.

There were a few problems, like not being able to see the border around the histogram on the LCD in bright conditions, but nothing that I would consider really major, and the image quality is absolutely stunning.

Hut and Tree

We travel in a large bus so that everyone has a double seat to themselves, and at this location, shortly after photographing the tree in the previous image, I had our driver drop us off along a road in the hills, from where we just walked in short bursts while photographing the various things that we can see from the road, such as this hut with a small tree.

Hut and Tree
Hut and Tree

I love the mound of snow that the hut is perched on, and again the grasses that are poking through the snow. I also find the footprints that run diagonally through the snow from right to left appealing, and again, the subtle difference between the snow and the grey sky is something that I love to shoot.

I’m doing all of my processing in Capture One Pro, including flicking on the Black and White checkbox to completely remove the color, but there really isn’t a lot of difference. The original scene had hardly any color in it anyway. My settings for this were f/11 for a 1/30 of a second at ISO 100, at 255mm with my EF 100-400mm Mark II lens.

Copse and Hills

The minimalism of this next shot really appeals to me as well, with the copse of trees on the left, and the incredibly faint line between the hill that extends up from the copse, against the taller hill in the background. And again, that beautiful grey sky.

Copse with Rolling Hills
Copse with Rolling Hills

I actually adjusted the mid-tones with the Levels sliders in Capture One Pro to darken the sky down a shade or two to accentuate the curve of that middle distant hill, as it extends left behind the trees. My settings for this image were f/14 for a 1/50 of a second at ISO 100, at 74mm, again with the new RF 24-105mm lens.

Patchwork Snow

Having less snow than usual presented us with an unexpected gift as the snow started to fall and we headed behind the Takushinkan Gallery to photograph the line of trees there. Apparently they grow lavender there in the summer, and run a mechanical cultivator between the lavender forming these squares, then the snow fell, and created a beautiful patchwork of snow.

Trees and Patchwork Snow
Trees and Patchwork Snow

You might also be able to make out the flakes of snow more visible in the sky than the foreground, but it was falling quite heavily when I shot this, so I was doing my trick of blowing the snow from the front of the lens in the cover of a cloth, then holding the cloth over the lens while starting my two second timer, then whipping it away at the last moment to make my exposure. Without doing this the snow driving straight at us just sticks straight onto the lens and ruins the shot.

My settings here were f/11 for a 1/20 of a second at ISO 100, and a focal length of 22mm with my 11-24mm f/4 lens. I like to use a long shutter speed for this kind of shot to cause the snow to streak a little bit as it crosses the front of the trees.

Snow Pillows

On our third day in Biei, we drive around to the ski slopes at Mount Asahi, where I used to enjoy photographing the pillows of snow that form on the rocks in the river before we start to drive up the mountain. For the last few years, they’ve been building a new bridge and the conditions haven’t been great, but this year, the bridge is finished, and we had some lovely snow pillows again, as you can see in this next image.

Snow Pillows
Snow Pillows
Snow Pillows Luma Tone Curve
Snow Pillows Luma Tone Curve

I’ve chosen a landscape oriented image as it works better for the blog, and I like how we can see the pillows of snow extended up the banks where the snow has completely covered the river.

Because I always expose to the right, which is especially important when photographing snow scenes, the snow requires a Luma tone curve with a small dip in the slightly darker snow to bring out the very subtle tonal differences. The selected node in this tone curve screen capture is the one responsible for this adjustment.

My settings for this image were f/14 for a 1/4 of a second at ISO 125, at 105mm. The ISO of 125 was accidental. The new RF lenses from Canon have a control ring on them that I have programmed so that I can turn it to change my ISO, but I must have caught it as I adjusted the lens, and didn’t notice until after I’d shot these images.

Mount Asahi Big and Small Trees

After photographing the Snow Pillows, we headed up the mountain and parked in the cable car station car park, then walked a little way up the ski slope to photograph the trees in the snow there. This is another one of my favorite spots from this trip, although it can be tricky to compose as it’s difficult to decide where to start and where to end your frame.

Mount Asahi Big and Small Trees
Mount Asahi Big and Small Trees

One of my favorite trees is this one with the dark bark, which provides a beautiful contrast against the snow piled up on its branches, and there is a smaller tree now growing next to it. I positioned myself so as to get the Christmas trees in the background nicely framing the foreground dark tree, and left just a little more space either side of these. I shot this at f/14 for a 1/30 of a second at ISO 100, and a focal length of 47mm.

I have another composition that I like to shoot here, but I’ve shared that many times, and on this trip, I actually shot that composition with both the EOS R and my 5Ds R so that I could do a print comparison later.

Sneak Preview

In fact, as a bit of a sneak preview, here is a screenshot of both the 5Ds R and the EOS R versions of the same photograph, both zoomed in to 100% so that you can see the difference between the two camera’s image quality. The 5Ds R shot is on the top and the EOS R shot is on the bottom.

Canon EOS 5Ds R (Top) Compared with EOS R (Bottom)
Canon EOS 5Ds R (Top) Compared with EOS R (Bottom)

The 5Ds R is obviously zoomed in more because it’s a 50-megapixel file compared to the 30 megapixels of the EOS R, but I think you’ll still agree that the EOS R with the new RF 24-105mm lens has the edge. It’s slightly sharper with more defined edges. You might need to click on the image and open it up in the lightbox to view the details.

Enchanted Forest

This next photograph seems like a scene from Narnia to me, almost like an Enchanted Forest. There is a stream that runs through the trees here, but it’s almost completely covered in snow, forming this zigzag of huge snow pillows.

Mount Asahi Enchanted Forest
Mount Asahi Enchanted Forest

Again, I’m attracted to the darker trees and how they contrast with the snow, but also here the lighter birch trees add a subtle extra element of contrast. My settings for this were f/14 for a 1/30 of a second with ISO 100 and a focal length of 70mm.

New Opportunities

As I mentioned, there was less snow in the lower hills around the Biei area, and although this can be trickier to work with, as usual, it presented us with some new opportunities, as in this photograph, where the lines of grasses and smaller trees that are usually buried, are forming lines, working their way through the snow.

Gunpowder Trail
Gunpowder Trail

For some reason, in this shot, they remind me of a trail of gunpowder, as though someone is plotting to blow up the foreground tree and has run a trail of gunpowder into the distance. There are also plow lines in the foreground snow, again, something that we would not usually be able to see.

I was shooting with an aperture of f/14, a 1/15 of a second exposure at ISO 100, and a focal length of 50mm. With such a slow shutter speed, you can probably appreciate how little the light was letting through the snow clouds, despite it still only being mid-afternoon.

Copse in Hills

This next image is a take on a subject that I haven’t photographed for a while. When the snow comes in, it completely obscures the distant mountains that are usually visible behind this copse in the hills of Biei, completely minimalizing the scene.

Biei Copse in Hills
Biei Copse in Hills

I’ve used the Levels sliders to bring out the tones a little and darken down the trees adding contrast to the image, and I really like how we can again see the plow lines under the snow. My settings for this image were f/14 for a 1/4 of a second at ISO 100, with the lens zoomed all the way in to 105mm.

Embarrassing Moment

I actually had a slight embarrassing moment with the EOS R as I shot this scene. The EOS R doesn’t autofocus great in heavy snow, so I’d switched it to Manual focus, to do a short video of this copse in the falling snow. When I went back to shooting stills I left the lens in Manual focus mode, and tweaked the focus manually, and when I did, looking through the electronic viewfinder, I thought that the warm light of a sunset was somehow shining through the trees.

I had to laugh at myself though when I realized that I’d just found out that the EOS R has focus peaking, where things in focus are outlined in red, but this only kicks in when using Manual focus, so I’d not seen it before. It’s a very useful feature, but it’s somewhat embarrassing to have thought I was seeing the warm glow of a sunset in the middle of a snowstorm.

Shirahige Falls

Behind the hotel that we stay in during our three days in Biei, there’s a waterfall called the Shirahige Falls. The water that flows through the falls and river below has a slight blue tint due, I believe, to the mineral content, so it adds a nice splash of color to this magical winter scene. I’ve enhanced the blue slightly here to increase the color contrast.

Shirahige Falls
Shirahige Falls

This is actually the first time in many years that I’ve shot these falls in their entirety. I usually zoom in much tighter, but the huge icicles to the right of the falls were appealing, and I also liked the trees framing the falls here, so I opened up the lens to 24mm for this image. My other settings were f/14, for 0.4 seconds at ISO 160.

This time I’d moved my ISO on purpose, to avoid having too long a shutter speed, which records more movement in the mist from the water, and that reduces the clarity of the falls.

OK, so that’s our ten photos for this first travelogue episode, and I slipped in a few bonus screenshots, so we’ll wrap it up there for this week. I’ll be back next week with the second part of this series, as we leave Biei and head over to the west coast of Hokkaido.


Show Notes

Buying with our B&H Photo Affiliate links helps to support the podcast at no additional expense to you. Thank you!

Canon EOS R: https://mbp.ac/eosr

Canon RF 24-105mm Lens: https://mbp.ac/rf24-105

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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