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

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2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 564)

2017 Japan Winter Wildlife Photography Tour 2 Travelogue #1 (Podcast 564)

Having completed the second of my two Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido, Japan Winter Wildlife tours for 2017 recently, today we start a travelogue series to walk you through our adventures with a selection of photographs to illustrate.

As this tour is a repeat of the first tour, and we do this every year, I’m going to skip over some of the details, and we will work through these images as quickly as possible. I’ve selected 30 shots to share, so this will be a three part series. We start with our visit to Nagano, four hours north-west of Tokyo, to photograph the adorable Snow Monkeys.

Snow Monkeys

On our first afternoon the snow was getting a bit old, with lots of texture from footprints, and there wasn’t much action in the hot spring pool, so I concentrated on getting behavior shots, like this one (below). I enjoy photographing these little groups of huddling monkeys, especially when they have a relatively clear background like this.

Monkey Ball

Monkey Ball

The monkeys look relatively static in a single frame of course, but the truth is they are moving around quite a lot while in these huddles, so it’s always necessary to try and capture a moment when you can see lots of faces with good angles. I have about six shots of this group that I like, but I chose this to share because the smaller monkeys all look relatively relaxed, and the main adult looks to be tolerating the photographers around them. In most of the other frames, he looks a little bit tense.

I shot this with a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at f/14, ISO 1000 at 227mm. I stopped down to f/14 so that I could get most of the faces acceptably sharp. Even at f/14 the monkey on the far right’s face is starting to go a little soft, but it’s sharp enough. For all of these snow monkey images I was using my 100-400mm Mark II lens from Canon.

Tough Life for a Snow Monkey

Tough Life for a Snow Monkey

The following day, we were blessed with a ton of snow to change up our opportunities. We walked in to the park before they opened, and were kept waiting for a while as the park owners cleared some of the heavy snow on the paths, but once we got in, we had a ball for a while as the snow continued to fall.

As you can see, the Snow Monkeys were living up to their names, absolutely covered in snow. As you can perhaps see from the posture of this monkey, she was shivering from the cold. The snow was still driving across the frame, and although you might wonder why they just didn’t get into the pool to warm up, they actually don’t get in when it’s very cold, as it was on this day.

You might be able to see that the face isn’t quite sharp for this shot, but that’s intentional in this case. Here I wanted to highlight the snow on the monkey, and that driving across the frame and across the face, and I feel this works better in this case.

There wasn’t a lot of light because of the sky still heavy with snow, so I needed to increase my ISO to 2000 for a 1/250 of a second shutter speed at f/10, 241mm.

Snow Monkey Cuddle

Snow Monkey Cuddle

For this next photo (right) I went back to f/14, because there were two faces, and I wanted them both pretty sharp.

Here once again we can see and almost feel the harshness of the environment that these monkeys live in. It’s easy to think of this adult monkey cuddling the youngster to keep it warm, but there is as much an element of the adult using the youngster like a hot water bottle too. I’m sure there are mutual benefits.

I have a few frames with the adult monkey’s eyes closed as well, and in many ways, I like these more, but on this occasion, I do like the direct contact, the connection with those piercing eyes in both monkeys here.

Having stopped down to f/14 for this, I needed an ISO of 4000 for a shutter speed of 1/160 of a second, at 255mm. As I mentioned recently, it’s often better to increase your ISO and continue to expose to the right, than it is to shoot a darker image with a lower ISO and then amplify the grain in post.

As the snow stopped falling, I started to simply watch the monkeys going about their business, and just looking for an action or mannerism that adds a touch more interest to the photo. This monkey was just picking the grain that’s thrown out for them from the snow, when they shook the snow from their fur, by rotating the head around (below) as you’ll have seen dogs do when they shake off water.

Shaking Off Snow

Shaking Off Snow

There’s still plenty of snow stuck to the monkey here, which adds a little extra element of interest and of course the head isn’t totally sharp as it shakes around, but I had increased my shutter speed to 1/640 of a second, in preparation for some possible action, so it’s sharp enough and the blur that is left just helps to show the movement. My other settings were f/11, and the light had increased now to the point that I was able to reduce my ISO to 800, and my focal length was 248mm.

Furry Cocoon

Furry Cocoon

After lunch, I went down by the river in the valley, as there really wasn’t a lot happening around the pool, and there was a mother sitting with a baby, as we can see in this photo (right).

For this shot, I selected an image with the mother’s eyes closed, to help direct our eyes down to the youngster. The thing I like about this shot more than anything is that arch in the mother’s soft fur around the youngster’s head. That just looks so comfortable and warm.

Another decision I made is to leave my aperture at f/11, and allow the mother’s face to go a little soft, but again, that’s so that our eyes are guided more quickly to the youngsters face and that arch of fur.

It’s important to use the aperture to control the depth of field to help guide how the viewer sees the image. You probably won’t be able to appreciate this in the web version, but in the larger image this is a very subtle but an effective touch to help polish the photo, in my opinion.

My other settings were 1/500 of a second, ISO 500 with a focal length of 158mm.

Silver Lining

As I travel on my tours, we often run into other groups, and I generally know their leader, and enjoy catching up and hearing what other people are up to. One thing I’ve noticed though, is that most of them have something to complain about. A popular one right now is that the Akan Crane Center where we spend most of the first two days in Hokkaido, have stopped feeding live fish to the cranes at two o’clock, because they don’t want to attract the sea eagles that could bring avian flu to the cranes.

Sure, the sea eagles at the cranes has always been a highlight of the day. A lot of the locals buy season tickets, and only turn up for the eagles, then leave as soon as the feeding frenzy is over. It’s easy to see why other leaders would complain about this, but when I first heard of this decision this year, I punched the air and gave out a little woot! Why? Because the lack of feeding is not only stopping the eagles coming, but it’s reduced the number of cranes at the center too.

Calling Cranes

Calling Cranes

So, you probably wonder why that’s a good thing too, right? When I first started to photograph the cranes more than ten years ago now, there were not so many of them.

Of course, the birds increasing numbers is a great thing, but photographically, when there are so many of them, it can be very difficult to get a photo of the cranes doing something without a lot of other cranes in the foreground and/or background.

It’s been a number of years since I was able to get a shot like this one (right), with just two cranes calling together, without lots of other cranes in the frame.

It’s so easy to focus on what we lose, but whenever we lose something, we generally gain something else, so I was not disappointed to hear about the lack of feeding this year, as I generally pretty quickly find the silver lining in every situation.

I was really happy to capture this shot, the first for a number of years, especially as there was a fine snow falling, adding those tiny specks across the dark top half of the image.

My settings for this photo were 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/14, with an ISO of 1600, at 560mm with my 200-400mm lens with the built-in 1.4X Extender engaged.

Crane Preening

Crane Preening

Another thing that gets easier when the cranes are fewer in numbers, is this kind of photographic study (right).

I’ve been doing these for many years now, and find it a great way to kill time between the more dynamic action that we sometimes see. I enjoy just watching for cranes that are preening themselves, for example, and trying to capture a moment when we can see something that isn’t always visible, like the inside of the bird’s wings here.

I’m also attracted to the two black rims of the crane’s eyes that we can see on either side of its head. Most of all though I just love the detail in the underside of the wings, and the contrast between the black and white, and again, the fact that there are no other cranes messing up the shot.

I also like that it’s still snowing lightly, adding those little white specks across the dark wing feathers.

My settings for this were 1/1000 of a second shutter speed, at f/14, with the ISO set to 1600, and a focal length of 473mm.

After a steady first day at the cranes, I took the group to a location where I know there are cranes that fly out across some dark background trees as the light drops at the end of the day, so it’s a great place to do slow shutter speed panning shots, like this next image (below).

Into the Snow

Into the Snow

The crane’s heads move quite a lot as they fly, so they aren’t an easy bird to pan with, but if you shoot enough, some of the frames have heads sharp enough to make the photograph work. For this image I also like how the falling snow has once again left it’s mark on the image, with long streaks this time, thanks to my 1/40 of a second shutter speed.

With the light as low as it was by this time, we don’t need any neutral density filters. In fact, even to get a 1/40 of a second shutter speed, I had at ISO 3200 at f/11, with a focal length of 300mm.

Too Few Cranes

Although I was happy to get a few less cranes at the Akan Crane Center, I was disturbed to see so few at river from the Otowabashi (bridge) on our second day in Hokkaido. There are just 19 cranes in this photograph (below) although I actually counted 25 in total.

Snowy Morning at Setsuri River

Snowy Morning at Setsuri River

Although it was too warm to get the hoar frost on the trees, we’d been lucky to get some fine snow that had stuck to all of the trees, making them go white anyway, so the scene was not a total throwaway. The warm dawn light reflected on the river was nice too, but I’m sharing this photo more to raise a very concerning issue that has to be stopped.

Photographers Lacking Respect for Wildlife

The night before, the owner of the hotel that we stay in had told me about something despicable that happened on February 19th, five days before I shot this photograph. It turns out that a group of Korean photographers had dressed as workmen, and forged passes pretending to have permission to walk 200 meters down the river towards the cranes, with the intention of photographing them from a different location to where all others safely shoot from.

This of course startled the cranes, and most of them flew away unnaturally. In the photos that I shared with you in Episode 561, I can count approximately 120 cranes at this same location. These numbers were before any of them had flown from this location on both mornings.

The river where these birds roost is their safe haven. They sleep in the river, because unfrozen water is warmer than the cold air. Water also provides protection from predetors, both physically and by alerting the cranes to anything approaching through the sound of footsteps in the water. They have gradually moved further down the river, away from the bridge from which we photograph them, probably because of the sheer number of photographers at this location each morning now, many of whom lack the respect to even keep their voices down as we all work.

To forge passes and dress up like workmen just to get a photo that is “different” from everyone else, has caused these birds to change their behavior. There were almost one fifth the number of cranes when we visited five days after this incident. The following morning when we went back, I counted approximate 60 cranes, so they are gradually coming back, but still only around half of the group size compared to three weeks previous to this incident.

Height of Selfishness

These Korean photographers should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. They not only changed the dynamic of the scene itself for all other photographers, but much more importantly, they caused an endangered species to change their behavior, which can have a knock on effect to perhaps even result in fewer chicks born this year.

The Red-Crowned Crane is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. How can anyone believe that it’s OK to upset their natural habitat for a photograph!? I will be doing everything I can to increase exposure of this kind of act, and hopefully find ways to help educate photographers on the need to treat wildlife with respect.

Educating Photographers

Before we move on, I do want to point out that I know that this is not only about Korean and other Asian photographers, although there is a disproportionate number of Asian photographers that lack respect for wildlife. I have of course seen Western visitors lacking in due respect, so this isn’t necessarily about the origin of the photographer, but something has to be done to educate people, and I’m going to do what I can to help, starting with highlighting this issue here, and there will be more to come.

Crane in Flight

On a lighter note, let’s get back to us photographing the cranes, with one last image to finish with for today. After breakfast, we headed back over to the Akan Crane Center for our second day there, and I shot this image of a Red-Crowned Crane in flight (below).

Crane in Flight

Crane in Flight

I’m happy with this shot, because of the positioning of the bird in the top third intersection, also with the cloud nicely positioned below. I’m particularly happy with this though because of the incredible sharpness and great catchlight in the eye of the crane. Due to the angle of the light, it’s often not possible to get a good catchlight, so this is a great added bonus. This is not cropped at all, so at 50 megapixels, when you zoom in and check out the detail, it makes the hair on the back of my head stand up. I shot this at 1/1000 of a second at f/11, with the ISO set to 320, and a focal length of 442mm.

We’ll pick up the trail next week with two last crane shots before moving on to the whooper swans, eagles and foxes.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tours 2019

Because our 2018 tours have now filled, we’ve started to take bookings for 2019, so if you are interested, please check the details and book at https://mbp.ac/ww2019. If you’d like to be added to the wait list for 2018, please drop us a line.

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019

Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido Tour 2019


Show Notes

Check out details of the 2019 tours here: https://mbp.ac/ww2019

Contact us to be added to the 2018 wait list: https://mbp.ac/contact

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 543)

Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour 2016 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 543)

Today we start a series of travelogue style episodes to walk you through my recent Iceland Full Circle Photography Tour and Workshop.

Before we start, I want to just mention that I will interrupt this series, probably next week, to bring you a video showing how I’m processing my images now in Capture One Pro. I was hoping to do that this week, but have been too busy, so we’ll start this series, but jump in with the video then continue the series after that.

Now in it’s fourth year, this year’s Iceland tour was another wonderful, memorable experience, with a great group of participants. We changed the itinerary for this year, to take the group full circle, enabling us to pull in some of the beautiful waterfalls in the North, and we’ll look at some photos of these falls in a later episode.

Very Productive Trip

I shot a total of 1991 images during the 11 days of shooting in Iceland. During the few hours of downtime that we had here and there, I was able to go through and do a quick edit and initial selection of my images for all but the last day, which I completed after I returned to Japan. After my initial selection process I had some 538 photos that I wanted to look at again. That’s more than one in four images, and a higher ratio than I’m used to selecting. It’s not that the images were necessarily better than usual. It was just a very productive trip.

Also, many of the images were variations of ice on the beach with crashing waves or iceberg photos from a zodiac, which generally require a large number of frames to find something that works well. Still, I had to invest the time to go through and whittle my selection down to as few images as possible, and it was relatively time consuming this time, especially when we consider that this was a landscape trip.

Even though it’s been two weeks since I got home, and going through removing a few more images each day, I still have 146 images in my current selection, and I can’t see myself removing many more at this point. It’s a nice problem to have of course, but now I have the job of going through and promoting the better of the set to identify the images that I want to proactively share with people, and also find the portfolio class images.

Bonus Day in Reykjavik

As usual, we did a bonus photo walk on the first day, for people that were already in town, and visited the large church in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja. Unfortunately the outside view was a bit of a mess due to some construction work that they were having done, so I won’t share any images. We continued on along the main road in Reykjavik, and down to the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center on the water front.

I really enjoy shooting in the Harpa, with all of its colored windows and intertwined floors, but I rarely like my photos from the inside of the building enough to share them. Here is one of the outside of the Harpa building, from the other side of the small harbor out back (below).

Harpa Building and Harbor

Harpa Building and Harbor

As you can see, we had a great sky, although I have brought that out some in Capture One. The original image was a little bit flatter than this, although there are only a few slider tweaks between this and the original. The Harpa is an amazing building though. I really enjoy my yearly visit.

Öxarárfoss Waterfall

To make time to go up north, we dropped the days that we used to spend around Reykjavik, and the Reykjanes Peninsula, and headed out of Reyjkjavik the morning after this bonus day, once all of the group was in town. Our first stop was Thingvillir, and the Öxarárfoss waterfall.

Öxarárfoss

Öxarárfoss

Apparently it’s been a relatively dry summer in Iceland, so the water level wasn’t very high, and the rocks were mostly quite dry, which I don’t really like. This location is much better when the rock is all deep black and shiny, but we have to work with what we’re presented.

I also much prefer to photograph waterfalls when it’s overcast, as they are too contrasty in direct sunlight, but again, we do what we can. The result is an OK photo, but nothing to write home about. Although I would have done this black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro in the past, this one is straight out of Capture One Pro.

Geysir

After Öxarárfoss we headed on to Geysir, the geyser from which the west got our name for these natural phenomenon. I decided to first go for a shot of the water bulging, as the eruption starts, and although I had to crop it down considerably on the top to remove the people in the background, I’m pretty happy with the results (below).

Geysir Bulging

Geysir Bulging

With the bright sun directly behind the water, I was able to get a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second at f/10, ISO 100, so this pretty much froze the movement of the water as the bulge started to develop. I really like how you can see into the water to see the right ridge of the hole from which the water erupts, and see all of the bubbles under the surface.

Geysir Erupting

Geysir Erupting

A few minutes after this, I photographed the eruption itself, as we can see in this image (right).

From the same location as the previous image, the sun was right behind the water for this shot, so all of the water is beautifully backlit, showing all of the texture and various layers of the water.

Still at a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed at f/10, ISO 100, the droplets of water are all perfectly frozen in time.

The fast shutter speed also meant that the blue in the sky went really deep. I’m not a fan of blue skies, but here, I think it makes a nice contrast.

I haven’t bothered to clone out the few people in the image. I might do that later before I submit this to OFFSET for my stock photography collection, but for now, this is just a documentary shot to show you where we were and what we were photographing.

After Geysir, we continued on our somewhat touristy Golden Circle tour, and made our way to Gullfoss. When we first arrived, the falls were still in full sun, but luckily we had a great sky roll in just as we started to get into position to shoot the falls.

Gullfoss

I know this is kind of repetitive, but I couldn’t resist making my favorite photograph from this spot, looking down the gorge, as we can see in this image (below/right).

Gullfoss Falls and Gorge

Gullfoss Falls and Gorge

I’m happy to have been able to make this new version of this photograph, because of that great sky. It’s probably the best bit of sky I’ve had for this photograph, so a nice addition to my image library.

Again, this is a Capture One Pro black and white conversion. I’ll try to remember to show you what I did to this image in the upcoming processing video, but I’ll quickly summarize here.

I turned on the Enable Black and White checkbox in the Black and White tool panel, obviously, and reduced the yellow slider to -80. This deepens the greens, as I wanted the foreground grass to be really dark.

Then in the High Dynamic Range tool panel, I increased the Highlight slider to 45, and the Shadow slider to 20. Under Levels, I moved my mid-point to -0.10 and my white point to 250.

In the Luma Curve I also deepened the shadows a little and brightened the mid-tones, which is the water. I know I increased the Shadow slider in the High Dynamic Range tool as well, which may seem counterintuitive, but I like the finished look, so I’m not worrying about that too much.

Then I added 35 Clarity, set to Punch mode, and 23 Structure. These are all generic changes, that modify the look of the entire image. I went on to add an Adjustment layer to darken down the two triangular shaped sides of the foreground, and also cloned out some bits of grass and rocks in the foreground that stood out a little bit too much.

Time-wise, these modifications took perhaps a couple of minutes, which is about the same amount of time that I would have spent on this image in Silver Efex and Lightroom in the past. I haven’t been quite as heavy handed with the darkness of these dark areas as before. I am using the Exposure Warnings in Capture One to show me when I’m going to full black, and pulling that back again, to maintain a little bit of detail as I plug up that foreground, and this is working well for me.

The Highlands

That took us to the end of the shooting for day one, and we then drove to our next hotel in the highlands, for a nice early start the following day heading into one of my favorite locations on the planet, Landmannalaugar.

On the way, we stopped at the Blahylur crater lake, of which I got some nice shots, but wanted to share a view from that location in a different direction, as I’d photographed these beautiful ringed hills in the distance. I’ve photographed these each year so far, but never really liked the results, because the light wasn’t quite right. Today, it was working, so I’m happy with this photo (below).

Ringed Mountains

Ringed Mountains

I love how the layers of strata are visible in these hills, as they look almost like a topographical map of themselves. The moss and lose volcanic gravel add to the effect, and the colorful mountains in the distance doing a great job as supporting actors. To isolate this scene, I used my 100-400mm lens at 255mm, with a 1/30 of a second exposure at f/14, ISO 100.

Landmannalaugar

A little further along the road, we reached our destination, the carpark at Landmannalaugar, and walked up onto the lava shelf, and across to the valley that you can see in this photo (below). I tell myself each year, that this place is just a little bit closer to heaven than most parts of the planet, speaking metaphorically of course.

Landmannalaugar Winding River

Landmannalaugar Winding River

I did my usual valley shots, and my self-portrait with me looking out across the valley, but I thought I’d share this shot, as it’s a little bit different from my previous work. I used my 11-24mm lens at 21 mm, pointing down into the valley, to show the river winding through it. At 21 mm the rhyolite mountains are still large enough to add impact to the shot, as well as allowing us to see the valley basin with the various shades of grass and cotton grass, as well as a few strategically placed sheep.

After spending quite a while photographing the valley, we walked around the edge of the lava shelf, then back up over it, before heading into the mountains, where I shot this next image (below). I love this view too, with the lava shelf in the middle ground, way in the distance you can see the valley where we had parked our bus, and then this foreground with the moss and steam, almost makes it look like the mountain is alive and breathing. I guess in some ways, because of the geothermal activity, the mountain is alive.

Breathing Mountains

Breathing Mountains

We had a great sky on this day too. The light was similar to that which we’d had on my first visit to this place, four years ago. It was simply magical. I used to run my photos from this location through Color Efex Pro to bring the greens and other colors back to how I remembered and felt the location, but here too, I’m now just tweaking these images in Capture One Pro. I love being able to keep my images in their original raw format and get exactly the look I want.

Rhyolite Mountains

Rhyolite Mountains

After climbing a little further, we got to a point where you can see this incredible view, looking through the rhyolite mountains (right).

This spot is difficult to shoot and really do justice, because you can’t quite get a good angle without getting the base of the mountain that you are standing on in the bottom of the frame, but it works well enough.

Again, the colors are enhanced slightly in Capture One, but only by tweaking the Saturation and Clarity, and moving the white point a little bit in the Levels.

I had exposed for the clouds in this shot, at the top of the frame, so the foreground was relatively dark. To bring the detail out, I pumped up both the Highlight and Shadows sliders in the Hight Dynamic Range tool. This works really well, so I was able to continue to avoid doing any HDR images throughout this trip.

I also wanted to note that I can’t look at this image without seeing a koala bear’s face in that snow at the top of the frame. Can you see what I mean? There’s his left eye and nose, and the right eye is covered by that peak.

After this, we walked back across part of the lava shelf, then down beside the river, back to our bus, to drive to our hotel for the night.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

The following day, we made tracks along the southern coast of Iceland, until we got to one of my favorite waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, that we can see in this photograph (right).

There was a good breeze, so the tendrils of water are blowing around, seemingly quite frail, as they make their way to the basin at the base of the falls.

Again a Capture One black and white conversion here, I have continued with my tendency to make the rocks of the cliff walls really dark, accentuating just the form of the falling water.

I also stayed in Capture One to clone out the hordes of people behind the falls. And I cloned out the little island of grass that was in ton our he water, taking up most of the left side of the basin of the falls here.

It sometimes requires a little more work to do this in Capture One, but I learned of a shortcut from Phase One’s David Grover recently, that really speeds up the process, so I’ll share that in my upcoming processing video as well.

After this we drove 15 minutes around the corner to Skogafoss, absolutely my favorite waterfall in Iceland, but we’ll take a look at a shot from there at the start of part two of this series, as this takes to us our tenth image for today.

Iceland & Greenland 2017

With that, I’d usually just point you to my 2017 tour page if you might be thinking of joining us, but I’m actually considering totally changing next year’s tour. Last week I floated the possibility of doing another Greenland tour in 2017 and/or 2018, and I had a pretty good response, but not many people want to travel this far for just one week in Greenland, so I’m considering coupling it with a second week in Iceland.

Adding a week in Iceland will obviously add quite a lot of money, especially as the prices in Iceland are going through the roof right now, but I do think it will be an incredibly productive two weeks, so what I’m going to suggest right now, is if you think you might be interested, just drop me a line to let me know, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

 


Show Notes

Music by Martin Bailey


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Episode 327 : 2012 Snow Monkey & Hokkaido Tour/Workshop #2

Episode 327 : 2012 Snow Monkey & Hokkaido Tour/Workshop #2

From Feb 13 to 24, 2012, we took a group of photographers to Nagano to photograph the amazing Snow Monkeys for three days, and then on to Hokkaido for a further nine days for my Winter Wildlife Wonderland tour here in Japan. Last week we looked at some of my images from the first six days, including the adorable Snow Monkeys and majestic Red-Crowned Cranes, and we started to look at some Whooper Swan photos from the sixth day, at Kussharo Lake.

In previous years, I’ve gone through a blow by blow account of our entire trip, usually requiring a three or four episode series of Podcasts to get through it, but the content of our trip this year was pretty much exactly the same as 2011, so we’ll keep it relatively short this year, concluding a two part series today with another 12 images of the 60 that I whittled my selection down to. If you want to hear more detail on the locations we visited, do go back and listen to episodes 279281 and 282 from 2011 as well.

We pick up the trail on day six, with this photo of two Whooper Swans flying into the distance over the the Kussharo Lake. I have a number of images in the set with the swans flying towards me, but this is one of my favorite flight shots, with the swans flying away, probably leaving for the day to where they’ll spend the night.

Good Night

Good Night

The swans in this shot almost mirror each others wing position and the relatively shallow depth of field raises them or separates them from the background really well, especially when viewed large. I’ve started to post images at 1280 pixels wide, and if you open your browser window up as wide as it will go and click on the images you’ll be able to see a reasonable amount of detail.

The following morning, we got up for another dawn shoot, and made our way to the Bihoro Pass and climbed a short way up the snow covered mountain to a view point above the Kussharo Lake. We were welcomed by a beautiful new moon above the lake, so I shot this at 95mm with my 70-200mm lens, at 06:05. I love the colors in the sky as the sun nears the horizon on a clear day at this location.

New Moon

New Moon

The temperature on this morning was -17°C in the town at which we’d stopped a few hundred meters lower than this, so the temperature on the mountain was probably around -20°C, but there was a significant wind chill this morning, so it actually felt colder than a calm -26°C at the river when we got the beautiful mist and frosty trees that we looked at last week. Don’t let that put you off though, if you are thinking of joining us at some point. The cold is harsh, but with good planning and the proper gear, we always make it through OK, with some good stories to tell afterwards. As Sir Rannulph Fiennes said…

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

Later that day, a bit of luck and fast reflexes resulted in one of my favorite shots from the trip. I was laying down in the snow again, trying to get another low perspective shot of a swan spreading its wings, when a tiny dusky thrush appeared on the stones at the edge of the water. I had a second to zoom a little and recompose the shot, and hit the back focus button to focus on the thrush, just as he poised to take off. I fired off two frames, one with him poising, and this is the second, as he took off.

Fleeting Visit

Fleeting Visit

Again, there’s a swan in the mist to the left which I really like, and although the little thrush was too fast even for the 500th of a second shutter speed that would have been perfect for a swan flapping, the resulting image is enough to make me happy. On occasions like this, I’m happy to call the movement blur artistic.

The following morning, we headed out early again for a sunrise at Mashuu Lake. This year the Mashuu Lake was totally frozen, with wonderful patterns in the ice, and in the drifted snow that had settled on the ice. I shot this wide with my 16-35mm lens at 16mm, and pointed my camera upwards to what at the time looked like a relatively uneventful sky, but I trusted in Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 to bring out some beautiful detail in the wispy cloud cover, and also accentuate the difference in brightness in the sky from where the sun was on the horizon on the right side, compared to the still relatively dark left side of the frame.

Mashuu Lake at Dawn

Mashuu Lake at Dawn

The last shot was from the view point next to the car park, but just a little further along from there, I found a beautiful silver birch tree, which I included in this shot.

Birch Tree & Mashuu Lake

Birch Tree & Mashuu Lake

This is a slight change to my usual style, but the patterns of the tree against the lake appealed to me, so I lined it up with the tiny island in the middle of the lake between the two thickest branches on the tree, and stopped down to F22. If that makes you cringe because of the softness caused by diffraction, don’t worry. The new 70-200mm F2.8 L lens suffers very little from diffraction, besides this was the only way I could get the background details almost totally sharp at this focal length and focusing distance. This might be another reason to upgrade to this version two lens if you like to shoot with very deep depth-of-field, although I personally only do this very occasionally.

After breakfast, on the way out of town, to travel to Rausu, the fishing town where we’d photograph the Sea Eagles, we made a stop at Iouzan, which translates as Sulphur Mountain, when I got this whacky shot.

Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic

We shot here last year too, but this year it was clear, but cold, so the steam was insane. As I composed and shot a few frames, the sun almost broke through the steam, creating a much more contrasty and detailed shot than I’d seen to that point. I was shooting in manual mode though, as I usually do, but this was one of those times that it cost me the shot, and rather than adjusting to the new exposure, I went to Aperture Priority and knowing that the top of the screen would have the sun poking through, I added 2/3 of a stop of exposure compensation, to stop the bottom of the shot from going too dark.

The sun didn’t break through the steam again for a while, and I’d set this photo stop to just thirty minutes, as we needed to make some ground to Rausu, and I didn’t expect much of a shot here. It was more of a sight seeing stop. I was running out of time quickly, but I stood at the same spot waiting for the sun to break through again and it did, with about two minutes to spare, so I was able to get a few frames that I like. The result is that I blew out a little bit of the upper steam area, but it was enough to bring back all the detail in Lightroom, and then I ran it through Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4, to enhance the detail in the steam and the foreground rocks, for this resulting image.

The next photo is from the following morning at Rausu. The sea ice had been right in to the harbor for the previous three days, but on the day we went out, we had to travel quite a way out to get to the ice. This is how it works. The ice is there for a couple of months, but a strong wind in the wrong direction can totally clear the passage between the Shiretoko Peninsula and the Kunashiri Island overnight, so there is always a bit of risk at this location, so I was pleased that we were still able to get out to enough ice for the eagle to feed.

Surveillance

Surveillance

As we got to this spot, there was already around a hundred of these magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagles just sitting on the ice, but as the sun rose, and we started shooting, other eagles flew out to join the group. Again, this is one of those parts of the trip where standing space is scarse, so I always put the group first, and shoot from the back through any gaps that I can find, and I was pleased to have captured this eagle flying straight towards us, through a gap between some people at the front of the boat. This is probably my favorite Steller’s Sea Eagle shot from the trip.

I have a few others that I’ve uploaded, and a load of great shots from the second day that we went out too, but many were repeats of shots that I already have, or they were very similar, so I kept my Steller’s shots to a minimum.

After the second day shooting the eagles, we went out to the end of the Notsuke Peninsula, a tiny slither of land that juts out into the ocean at the base of the Shiretoko Peninsula, and had some fun shooting the large chunks of sea ice that had been stranded on the beach. The waves wash the dark colored sand up onto the ice and it gets mixed into the snow to give the ice a wonderful texture, that I enjoy shooting, as we can see in this shot.

Icy Waves

Icy Waves

This year, as last year, we spent a night at a location not far from where we shot this, on the mainland looking out towards the Notsuke Peninsula, in the hope of seeing a mishaped sun, as it rises over the frozen sea and peninsula, but this didn’t happen again this year. It’s a very slim chance, so I’ve decided to extend the time we spend with the eagles to three days next year, and cut out the middle day.

On the second to last day, we drive around to the Utoro side of the Shiretoko Peninsula, and spend some time stopping at scenic spots as we drive along the base of the peninsula in the Shiretoko National Park. In this next shot, I tried a technique that I’d seen Tony Sweet do in the past, and have always wanted to try.

Abstract Birch

Abstract Birch

Basically you set your camera to a relatively slow shutter speed, here I used 1/10 of a second, and release the shutter as you pan downwards, causing this wonderful abstract pattern. In this shot, I panned slowly enough for you to still be able to see the dark patches in the trunks of the birch trees.

In this next image, I went to portrait mode, and was panning slight faster, which almost totally removes the pattern on the tree trunks, but gives a beautiful ethereal, almost ghostly feel to the resulting images.

Abstract Birch

Abstract Birch

Once we got around to the other side of the peninsula, we shot the beautiful Oshin Koshin falls, but again, I’ve shot them so often that I didn’t include any shots in my final selection. Then, we headed up into the Shiretoko National Park for a walk through the woods and out to the Furepe Falls. I bring the group in here in search of Ezo Deer, but it’s also a wonderful place to get some stark landscape shots. Here we see one of the group members bearing the elements in the park, as snow is blown up from the ground by the bitter high winds.

Fighting the Elements

Fighting the Elements

As long as you have the right clothing, and frame of mind, this is not anywhere near as tough to bear as it looks. I always come away from this trip feeling excited and happy to have fought the elements, and won.

Here’s one last shot to finish with, from the same location. I love winter trees, as you may have noticed, and I spent a little time at this spot waiting for the wind to whip up a nice background behind the tree, giving me a little more separation between the tree and the background, as we see here.

Winter Winds

Winter Winds

This is actually two trees, with a small white tree that was just to the right of the main tree here, but I took a few steps further along to align the second tree behind the first, essentially joining them together, so that I didn’t have to clone out the second tree later. I’m far more likely to clone something out these days than I used to be, but I still don’t like doing so if I can help it, plus I don’t like spending any more time in Photoshop than I absolutely have to, so this is the sort of thing that I do to reduce that necessity.

Shortly after this, we went back to the bus, and started to head over the the Memanbetsu airport to make our way back to Tokyo to finish the tour. As usual though, I passed my digital recorder around the bus, to get a message from the less shy members of the group. Let’s take a listen to that now.

<<INSERT RECORDING>>

That was a lot of fun, as usual.

So, next year’s tour details are now available on our Tours & Workshops page, and as I mentioned last week, in 2013 we are doing two tours. On the first tour, I’ve invited co-host with Chris Marquardt, and Chris will be providing some of the workshop elements in German, but I’ll be there, and will be providing my usual English guidance and instruction as well, and of course Chris’ English is probably better than mine, so English speakers will get as much from the tour, and it’s a great chance if you are a fan of Chris’ to spend some quality time with both of us. This first tour will be from January 28 to February 8, 2013.

The second tour will be from February 18 through March 1, 2013, and as I eluded to last week, I’m incredibly excited to tell you that we will have a very special guest with us on the second tour as well. David duChemin, an amazing photographer and best selling author of Within the Frame, Vision Mongers and Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images, as well as author of a slew of eBooks from Craft & Vision, which is David’s company. This is an excellent chance to shoot along-side David in some amazing locations, and I’m sure we’ll hear some interesting stories during some of our workshop and critique sessions as well.

Whether you join Chris and I, or David and I next year, we’re going to have an amazing time. If you are interested in joining us, do take a look at the Tours & Workshops page, but hurry, as places are filling very quickly.

Thanks very much for listening today. Remember that you can find me on Google+ and Twitter etc. All links are on the top page at martinbaileyphotography.com, so do drop by and take a look. I’ll be back next week, with another episode, but in the meantime, you take care, and have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes

Future MBP Photo Adventure details: http://www.mbpworkshops.com/

Subscribe to Tour Information Newsletters: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/newsletter/

Music by UniqueTracks


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Podcast 326 : 2012 Snow Monkey & Hokkaido Tour/Workshop #1

Podcast 326 : 2012 Snow Monkey & Hokkaido Tour/Workshop #1

From Feb 13 to 24, 2012, we took a group of photographers to Nagano to photograph the amazing Snow Monkeys for three days, and then on to Hokkaido for a further nine days. This was the fifth iteration of my now very popular Winter Wildlife Wonderland tour here in Japan, and today and then again next week, I’m going to take you through some of the photographs that I came back with.

In previous years, I’ve gone through a blow by blow account of our entire trip, usually requiring a three or four episode series of Podcasts to get through it, but the content of our trip this year was pretty much exactly the same as 2011, so I’m going to make this a two part series, and we’re going to concentrate on just 12 of my images each week, and just touch on the location details as necessary. If you want to here more detail about the locations, do go back and listen to episodes 279, 281 and 282 from 2011 as well.

Before we jump in and start looking at the photos, here are a few statistics about my editing process. This photography adventure has us shooting wildlife or landscapes from dawn ’til dusk some days, and shooting for at least 5 hours a day, even on the short days, so we come back with a lot of photographs. I shot just over 7,000 images and I’ve been to these locations more times than I can remember. I don’t shoot any where near as much as some of the participants for who are on their first visit.

I won’t go into detail on the actual rating system that I use, as I’ve covered this in other episodes, but basically, I go through my images in Lightroom, and give 4 stars to anything that’s good enough to publish and hit the X key to reject anything that was either technically faulted, as in blurred, or not exposed how I’d intended it to be, and I also delete perfectly good images, if I was shooting in burst mode and ended up with many images of the same subject. With wildlife, as a bird is flapping its wings for example, you often use burst mode more than for other more controlled subject types, simply because you’re trying to capture the best or most pleasing wing position. The same goes with the Snow Monkeys for example, as they have incredibly expressive faces, and you want to be able to capture a few variations and pick the best later. So, by the time I’d finished deleting images on my first kull, I was down to 4,500 images and 417 that had 4 stars against them.

The 417 images that I’d initially chose were selected as much as possible down to just a few of each subject. For example, I might have 10 frames of a certain subject doing a certain activity, like Snow Monkeys in a huddle, but from that, I’ll only select the stronger compositions, and images that I also don’t have in my library from previous years. There’s not much point in reposting something almost identical to my previous work. Of course, if you are shooting with a higher resolution camera, there is merit in replacing images from previous trips, but I was back there with the same cameras that I’ve been shooting these locations with for the last three years or so, so that isn’t going to be the case.

Then, I spent the next week after getting back from the tour, going through my selection numerous times, weeding out the lesser images, until by March 4, I was down to 120 images. This was still way too many to show people though, so I continued to work through my images each day until I reached a tight edit of 60 images on March 9. This can be an agonizing process, and I kicked out a whole bunch of images that I really liked, but that just didn’t add anything to my image library, and I want to show the minimum number of images possible, so as to keep my audience engaged. Even sixty would be too many images for a portfolio of course, but that’s not what I’m creating here.

Anyway, once I had my 60 finalists, I uploaded them to my gallery, and to Flickr, and a smaller selection was added to Google+, so some of you will have already seen these, but let’s jump in and start to look at a very tight edit of my final selection. First, let’s look at a couple of Snow Monkey shots, the first of which is this huddle of five monkeys.

Five Monkeys

Five Monkeys

Here there was a group including the alpha male, three of the wives probably from his harem, and a youngster. They were huddled in this way on top of a box, which is one of the reasons why I cropped in tightly like this for this image, to exclude the box, and this is kind of an important lesson here. Some people will choose to include the box and that’s fine, but I usually try to exclude that sort of thing. But even if that had not been the case, you often find that a tight crop can enhance an image anyway, so it’s always worth bearing in mind.

I also chose to photograph the monkeys at this time because they were all looking this way, with the one on the left almost looking directly at the camera. These Japanese Macaques have such expressive almost human eyes, that really pull you into an image. I think the eyes add so much to this image, that I included it in my set, despite the large dark patch above the monkey’s heads. I would have much preferred it if I could have gotten a white background all across the top, but it wasn’t possible from any angle, unless I’d grown by a foot or so.

I found another huddle though, again on top of a wooden box, but this one did have a white background, so I really like this next shot too, especially as the two monkeys in the middle were huddling around a baby, who’s face we can just see poking out from between them. This again adds so much to an image in my opinion.

Five Monkeys

Five Monkeys

Note that I lightened the baby’s face by about half a stop of exposure in Lightroom, by brushing it on with the Local Adjustments tool. This just helps to bring out the face a little more, as it was quite dark there, in between the two adults. By the way, the main lenses I use at the Snow Monkeys are my 24-70 and 70-200mm lenses. You are very close to the monkeys. So close in fact that you have to be careful not to touch them when shooting by the pool, and these two shots were made at 200mm and 165mm respectively.

I only posted one monkey shot where they were actually in the water in the hot spring bath at this location, mainly because space is limited down by the pool, and I didn’t spend much time down there, preferring to allow as many of my group to go down there as possible. I’ve posted lots of these kind of photos from previous years, so the few that I did get, weren’t really going to add anything to my image library.

Japanese Serow

Japanese Serow

Most years while we’re at the Snow Monkeys location, we see a Japanese Serow, which is a type of antelope, high on the valley side, and I’ve photographed him many times, but until this year, I have never gotten any photographs that I really liked, because the background has been too messy, or his pose was just not very interesting. This year though, I was happy to get three shots that I really do like of the Japanese Serow, and this is the one with the best background, and the pose isn’t bad either.

These are curious looking animals, with their ten centimeter or so horns, that you can actually see better in the other two shots, but can just make out in this shot too. Their thick set and coat make them look quite bulky, which they need to be to get through these harsh winters, but they’re still quite a nice animal to shoot. This by the way was shot with my 300mm F2.8 lens, with the 1.4X Extender fitted.

After the first three days with the Snow Monkeys, we flew up to Hokkaido, and for the first few days, we were shooting most of the day at the Akan International Crane Center, but again, since I’ve shot there so many times already, I have to get something that beats my previous year’s images to make it worth showing, and one that I was happy with was not of the cranes, but the White-Tailed Eagles that come in at 2PM to steal the fish that are thrown out for the cranes. I got two frames of a pair of eagles either fighting, or courting, it’s sometimes hard to tell, and this is the second of the two images. I posted the first in my gallery too, showing the eagle flipped over and the other zooming in on him, and this second frame shows them just after they’ve past each other.

Near Miss

Near Miss

I shot this one with my 5D Mark II and the 300mm F2.8 lens with the 1.4X Extender fitted again, but as these guys were quite a way off, I’ve had to crop this one a little more than I usually like to, but I’ve still got enough resolution to do a 13×19″ print, which is about as much as I can stand to crop, but I had no control over how far away the eagles would be when they did this of course, so I have to live with it.

In this next shot, a single White-Tailed Eagle came much closer, and although I have lots of shots of these beautiful birds in flight, I chose to keep this one in because I really like the wing shape here.

White-Tailed Eagle

White-Tailed Eagle

This is also one of the only locations where I often find myself including a bright blue sky in my shots. I’m not partial to blue skies, but this place usually gives me some nice eagle and crane shots where I think the sky really adds to the images. This was shot with the 300mm without the extender, but on the 1D Mark IV and was only cropped very slightly this time.

If you’ve been following this Podcast for a while, you’ll probably remember my Distant Dance photo from February 2008, which was the first time I took a workshop group to Hokkaido, and we visited the Otowa Bridge, in the hope of it being cold enough, and the air still enough, for there to be frost on the trees, and mist over the river. Well, on that first visit, it happened, and was magical, but although we’ve had year’s when it was still quite pretty out there, it didn’t happen again quite the same for the following three years.

I’ve been praying for frost and mist before each trip ever since, and I think my prayers were answered a little too much, at least for the first few hours at the bridge this year. As the sun rose, and convection kicked it, the temperature dropped from -21°C to -26°C, and there was no wind at all, but with temperatures this low, although the trees were beautiful, there was actually too much mist to be able to see the cranes in the river.

In this shot, you can see just how beautiful the scene was, and luckily there were three swans in the foreground to add interest, but you’d never know looking at this shot that there were around 200 majestic red-crowned cranes sleeping in the river, shrouded by the mist.

Dawn on the River

Dawn on the River

This is a stitched panorama, shot at 300mm on the 1Ds Mark III, so a relatively wide shot. Of course, I really like this shot too. It’s a beautiful scene unto itself, and if you look really closely, you can actually see some of the cranes in the left side of the image in the mist. Note by the way, if you expand your browser window as wide as possible and click on the images, you can view them at 1280 pixels wide, which will hopefully enable you to appreciate the detail more.

Here’s another photo of the swans from the last image, but this time shot at 600mm, so that you can see more detail in the trees to the right of the scene, and the layers formed by that beautiful mist. I know that it’s difficult to make out three swans here, but basically it’s two swans with their heads under their wings sleeping, with one in the middle with his head up.

Misty Awakening

Misty Awakening

It’s important to note here too that I was shooting in manual mode, with the meter showing the image over-exposed by around two stops. If I left it to my camera, with the current metering system, it would have been rendered much darker, and no where near as beautiful and delicate as this. This may well change with the RGB aware metering in the 5D Mark III and 1D X that will be with us shortly, but for now, this is a big issue to keep in mind in these locations.

There was a couple of hours after sunrise where the mist was simply too thick to see the cranes in the distance, and also with it being so cold, the cranes took their time livening up and moving around. That was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it would have been totally frustrating if we could hear the cranes honking and dancing but not be able to see them. Fortunately though, the mist did start to clear at around 8:15, and we were able to get some very atmospheric shots, like this one, where you can perhaps make out two cranes honking in the middle of the frame, with a flock of pintail ducks flying over their heads.

Song For The Pintails

Song For The Pintails

This again is a stitch, to extend the image over to the right a little. I made a note to continue to shoot multiple images across the scene once I’d shot something that I thought might work, and I was pleased that I did. I ended up with some very wide panoramas, that I’m looking forward to printing, but for the Web let’s look at one more that’s wide, but not the widest.

Short Flight (Panorama)

Short Flight (Panorama)

Here I noticed a crane taking a short flight from one part of the river to another, and grabbed a couple of frames, then again, ran across the scene for a few more frames, to enable me to make a panorama. I actually posted just the single image with the crane in flight as well as this panorama, to give me more printing options, but I prefer these wide versions, especially with large prints in mind.

After an amazing few hours at the Otowa Bridge, which incidentally translates to “The Sound of Wings Bridge”, we went for breakfast, then back to the Crane Center. Here’s one of the images that I got of the cranes that I simply could not throw out. The orthodox photographer in me wanted to throw this out, because there was too little space left on the left side of the frame.

See Ya!

See Ya!

Basically this was one of those shots where I’d noticed the crane flying over-head, but by the time I’d rased my camera and focussed, the bird was too far past, and I didn’t have time to reframe. For some reason though, maybe the artist in me, as opposed to the technician, I really like this. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t throw it out.

The following morning, we went back to the bridge, but it wasn’t cold enough to get any frost on the trees, so we decided not to shoot there, and as we got ready to go back to the bus, my friend, photographer Jeremy Woodhouse, who we met most days in Nagano and Hokkaido, told me about two apple trees nearby that I didn’t know about. He actually drove around there to show us where they were, so rather than going home empty handed this morning, we spend 20 minutes photographing these lovely trees on the snow covered hills.

Apple Trees

Apple Trees

I’ve learned lots of little added bonus spots over the years, from friends like Jeremy, and Japanese photographer Yoshiaki Kobayashi, and as the tour leader it’s great to have a few options like this, so I’m very grateful to these guys for sharing as they do. Of course, I share my own information with others just as much, so that we all end up with better tours each year, and in turn, happier customers.

On the third day in Hokkaido, six days, or half way into the tour, we moved over to the Kussharo Lake, where we photograph the Whooper Swans that spend the winter in the little pools warmed by hot springs that flow into the lake, and prevent it from totally freezing over. Here is the last image for today, which I shot laying down in the snow, with my angle finder on my camera, so that I could look down into the finder, rather than straining my neck trying to look into the finder on the back of the camera.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

I had the camera rested on my hand, which was resting in the snow, and framed up the scene, waiting for a swan to spread its wings like this. On the first day with the swans, it was bitterly cold, so I didn’t want to lay in the snow for long, so I was pleased when after about 20 minutes this swan did as I wanted. There was also another swan positioned perfectly in the mist to the left, which adds to the overall atmosphere of the shot, so I’m very pleased with this one.

That’s it for this week, and we’ll pick up the trail later on in this same day, with more swans shots from the Kussharo Lake in episode 327 next week.

Note that I’m about to release details of two Snow Monkey and Hokkaido Photo Adventures in 2013. The first will be with Chris Marquardt, so we’ll be providing some of the workshop elements in German, although I’ll also be there, so even if you don’t speak German, Chris and I will be helping the group in English too. This first tour will be from January 28 to February 8, 2013.

The second tour is going to be from February 18 through March 1, 2013, and you can see details of both tours on my Workshops page. If you’d like to receive notice as soon as the details are released, you can also sign up for my Tour Newsletters (at mbp.ac/news, and I’ll put a link to those in the shownotes).

Note too that although I can’t say who it is this week, if you are catching up on this Podcast more than a few days after this episode is released on March 13, 2012, you’ll see that we will have a very special guest with us on the second too. I’ll be able to mention who that is next week too, but I have to tell you that I’m really excited about this, and I think you will be too.

One last bit of housekeeping before we finish, and that is that I was interviewed recently by my friend Ibarionex Perello, of The Candid Frame podcast. I’ve secretly wanted to be on that Podcast for many years, and it turns out that Ibarionex hadn’t asked because he thought he’d interviewed me a long while ago. When we were chatting last year and the subject came up, I reminded Ibarionex that I hadn’t been on his show, so he kindly changed that. If you don’t already subscribe to The Candid Frame, please do. It’s one of the few other Photography related Podcasts that I listen to regularly, and I know you’ll enjoy it. I’ll put a link to my interview in the show notes, or you can find it by going over to thecandidframe.com

Thanks very much for listening today. Remember that you can find me on Google+ and Twitter etc. All links are on the top page at martinbaileyphotography.com, so do drop by and take a look. I’ll be back next week, with another episode, but in the meantime, you take care, and have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye bye.


Show Notes

Subscribe to Tour Information Newsletters: https://mbp.ac/news

The Candid Frame Interview with Martin: http://thecandidframe.blogspot.com/2012/03/candid-frame-132-martin-bailey.html

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