Tag Archives: Central Hokkaido

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 5

25th October 2016 – Day 5 Furano and Biei -> Lake Toya

On day 5, we decided to start a bit early and head towards Torinuma Park, hoping to catch the morning mist across the lake. The weather was really cold for the autumn season, we departed from the hotel at 6am and Kato san drove down towards Torinuma Park.

Nakafurano

Along the way at Nakafurano, we caught the sunrise shining through from the mountain range. Even though it was pretty cloudy, we can spot the gorgeous morning sun rays punching through the horizon and skyline. Kato san stopped his car at the side of the road, ensuring that his car was not obstructing any traffic. We quickly took our camera gears out and started shooting away!

We didn’t spend too much taking photographs of the sunrise on that particular morning, once the sunrise moved up further into the sky, it was immediately engulfed by the thick clouds over the horizon during that morning. Nevertheless, we did enjoy and managed to a few photographs of the sunrise, she was spectacular at certain time!

Furano

Torinuma Park

From the spot where we took the sunrise photographs at Nakafurano, it was about 10 – 15 mins drive to reach Torinuma Park. When we alighted from the car and walked towards the lake, there wasn’t any morning mist across the lake that we had hoped for. We were not disappointed because we knew that such scenes were never guaranteed, a bit of luck is needed too! Therefore we stayed back for a short time, taking photographs of Torinuma Park again.

We drove and returned back to our hotel at Nakafurano, went into the onsen to warm ourselves up from the cold early morning drive out, packed our bags and continued with Day 5 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.

Kamifurano

Miyama Toge (near to Woodylife)

After checking out from the hotel, Kato san drove up north towards Kamifurano and Biei. In just a short drive away, the autumn season turned into winter season. This is one of the amazing natural beauty of Hokkaido, getting autumn and winter seasons together in just a short distance away.

At this particular location in Kamifurano, it’s pretty well known as a lookout point since this is a toge, a mountain pass and overlooking the farms, the Furano railway tracks and the mountain range of Daisetsuzan National Park. The weather was covered with thick clouds close to the mountain range area, the farms were visible and not were not covered by the clouds or mist.

There was a golden moment when the sun light rays punched through the clouds onto the fields of Kamifurano and Biei. During my two trips to Hokkaido, I am always on the lookout for all these golden moment, when the sun light rays shined through the clouds. By describing the golden moment sun light rays shining scenes as awesome, breathe taking, unbelievable, I just simply ran out of adjectives to describe them. I would just snap as many photographs as possible before the sun light rays disappeared.

Biei

The next phase of my photography adventure is an early Christmas present from Hokkaido, experiencing winter season in the autumn season of Hokkaido! Biei was covered with beautiful white snow and the weather turned out perfect after a cloudy start in the morning.

The list of destinations that I would be sharing on my trip around the Biei region were some of the most popular landmarks and icons of Biei and also Hokkaido, they are very pooular with photographers and tourists visiting Biei. Having visited them, I was very excited and very happy, to photograph the various landmarks and icons in such a great weather.

A Gentle Reminder to ALL photographers, travelers and tourists

Before I start writing away on all those gorgeous landscapes, trees and landscape sceneries, I would like to give all photographers, travelers and tourists a very gentle reminder that we MUST/HAVE TO respect the local farmers in Biei, their farmland areas whereby their hard work are displayed on their farms, the different types of crops and vegetables. That farms surround all those locations that you see in my write up below, let’s protect the farmers hard work, we are also protecting all those beautiful landscapes that would allow other photographers, travelers and tourists to visit, enjoy and take many photographs for beautiful memories.

Please take your photographs from the viewing spot behind the rope/line! Do NOT cross the rope/line!

Christmas Tree

A lone tree, another of those one tree hill scenes added to my collection, this was also my Christmas gift from Hokkaido because this was the Christmas Tree of Biei, covered with snow!

Mild Seven Hill

Does the word Mild Seven strikes a bell in you? The name Mild Seven is tobacco brand and this beautiful hill that you see here was used in a famous advertisement for Mild Seven tobacco.

From my viewing point, I finally understand why this location was chosen for the advertisement. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and soaked in this pretty landscape scenery of snow powder on the farm land, the Japanese larch trees accompanied by the clear blue sky behind.

My Hokkaido 2016 autumn trip had been nothing short of phenomenal, spectacular and unique. Although the first few days were cold, wet and windy weather, there were a number of omens that made my trip very special and unique. While we were taking photographs of the Mild Seven Hill, Kato san and myself heard a distinct call from our backs, above in the sky. We quickly turned our backs and started observing, to our absolute delight, there was a flight of swans flying towards us and across the Mild Seven Hill! I finally managed to capture birds in flight while in Hokkaido!

This flight of swans was very unique, to put in a shameless plug for myself, the swans flew above Biei, welcoming me to Hokkaido! However, according to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, it’s rare for swans to fly above Biei at this time and this was the first time he had seen them flying above Biei! Those pretty white swans gave me another priceless moment to remember from my Hokkaido 2016 autumn adventure!

Hill top observation point

This location is very special, it gives you the top of the world feeling, a bird’s eye view that show how vast, wide and far the Hokkaido landscape can be. There is no landmark to indicate this hill top observation point and during the winter season, it is not accessible by car.

This is a very amazing location, it’s an ideal location to experience and view how special it would be during the four different seasons. Kato san also mentioned that this spot is great for taking sunset scenes and I would love to come back again to this spot because I love taking sunset sceneries!

I am able to visit and take photographs from this hill top observation point because of my very experienced Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san. He knows the area, the locations, that we photographers would like to go and take photographs.

Parent and Child Trees

The parents will always love and look after their own children, just like the small oak tree that is standing in between two larger oak trees. From where I stood, watching them across the vast farmland filled with snow, this was filled with warmth, love and sunshine in a cold Hokkaido autumn season.

Farm House with row of trees

Continuing our journey in the area, Kato san stopped along the side of the road and showed me another scenic spot that photographers like to visit and take photographs, a farm house with a row of trees. While there wasn’t an official tourism marker build for this beautiful sight, visitors and photographers can observe it from the side of the road without stepping into the farmers land.

Blue Pond

The Blue Pond is probably one of the icons of Biei and Hokkaido, it’s a destination packed with tourists, travelers and photographers. I heard about this destination previously and wanted to visit this place since I am in the area. Therefore, I requested Kato san to plan in this location during my photography schedule for Biei.

A beautiful destination, no doubt about that, it’s just packed with tourist buses and cars though. Kato san highlighted that it gets even more packed and busy during the summer season! It might be a bit difficult to capture the photographs that you wanted when you are visiting the Blue Pond in Biei.

I enjoyed my short visit to the Blue Pond, captured down on my photographs before we left for our next destination. 

Shirahige Waterfall

Kato san drove into this area occupied by a few stylish hotels, some commanding a pretty awesome view, fitted with stylish furnishings and designs, with their own private onsen in some of the hotels. The room rate is therefore pretty expensive too! If I have the budget, I would love to stay in one of those stylish Shirogane Onsen Resorts near the Shirahige Waterfall.

My initial thoughts were, another waterfall, ok, let’s see what it’s going to be like! When I crossed the bridge and looked up and down the ravine, the Blue River, Shirahige Waterfall and the range of mountain peaks covered with snow, I just stood there, blown away and mesmerised by the natural beauty and surroundings.

Photographers will love this destination, imagine all the different types of sceneries, colours and landscapes during the four different seasons of Hokkaido, I would love to return again to this spot in my future trips to Hokkaido. Bring your lover/partner along when you visit Shirogane Waterfall, it’s a romantic destination and walk for both of you to enjoy the time, moment and gorgeous sceneries.

Mt Tokachi Observation Deck

I had a few key highlights from my Hokkaido autumn trip in October 2016 that I remembered deeply inside my heart and soul. The next location after Shirogane Waterfall was one of them and this might be the best of my best travel highlights during my Hokkaido autumn trip.

A drive up to the mountains, luckily for me, the road had not been closed yet. Kato san mentioned that this road up to the mountain would not be open during the winter season. From the drive up, I can totally understand why, Hokkaido winter is going to fill up this mountain road, making it very difficult to clear the snow filled road, moreover, driving in icy winter road conditions can be very dangerous too.

Upon reaching Mt. Tokachi Observation Deck, I stood there, outside Kato san’s car, did a 360 degrees observation of this destination. This was why I wanted to return back to Hokkaido after my first trip in November 2014.

It was a trip to the top of the world feeling, surrounded by a clear blue sky without too much clouds covering the mountain range peaks, powder snow fields and I was welcomed by a natural phenomena known as 22 degrees halo and possibly a rare 46 degrees halo too! The halo was like a gateway to a whole new world out there, it’s a Stargate!

You will know the feelings and emotions when you just have no words to describe and to even say it out. I stood there, completely blown away after taking a number of photographs of Mt Tokachi Observation Deck.

Before we made our descend to the observation hut and back to the car, I sincerely thank my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san, for bringing me to this destination. When I was at the Mt Tokachi Observation Deck, this was the magical moment whereby all my troubles, stress and pressure seem so far far away from me.

KamiFurano

Hinode Park

On the way down towards our lunch location suggested by Kato san, I had the opportunity to witness 2 seasons (winter and autumn) together, a beauty of Hokkaido that I enjoyed a lot from my 2 trips to Hokkaido (2014 and 2016). At Hinode Park, we made a short pit stop, the evergreen on the fields in the foreground, with the white snow covered mountain range in the background. An amazing and unforgettable view of 2 distinctive seasons coming together in 1 scene, a view that I will never forget.

Lunch – Kamifurano

When you have a very experienced local photo / travel guide like Kato san, he knows where are the best and most delicious local Japanese food. Kato san brought me to this charcoal grilled food house, a small family run food business. This would be one of my best authentic local Japanese food experiences that I had! There wasn’t any english menu and I really had to thank Kato san for selecting and ordering all the delicious food on my behalf!

Charcoal grilled pork, dipped with their own family secret sauce, it’s really unforgettable, very delicious. The charcoal fumes and cooked pork meat aroma would stay on your clothes, a smell that I would gladly accept!

Lookout point

After our delicious charcoal grilled lunch, we started a long road trip from Kamifurano towards Lake Toya. Kato san made a quick pit stop at one of the lookout points on the route down and I snapped a few photographs before the long road trip down.

Long car ride to Lake Toya

The distance between Kamifurano and Lake Toya was approximately 300km (based on the route that Kato san drove). It was quite a long drive and we reached Lake Toya at night, had a quick rest and onsen to relax from a whole exciting day of exploring, walking and driving.

End of my Day 5 travel photography adventure in Hokkaido, now to get ready for Day 6!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 5


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 4

24th October 2016 – Day 4 Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei

Day 4 marks the start of another new photography adventure in Hokkaido! I am on a photography tour planned for the next 4 days by my friend, Tsuyoshi Kato, who is also a Hokkaido Photo Guide. I first knew Kato san in November 2014 during my first visit to Hokkaido as part of the Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip. Kato san is very knowledgable and experienced in planning for photographers who want to visit locations around Hokkaido for an unforgettable photography experience. I decided to engage Kato-san’s professional photography tour services for the next four days as I would love to explore different locations around Hokkaido whereby photographers love to visit.

Departing from my hotel Dormy Premium Inn Otaru, Kato-san’s plan for today was to visit the Furano and Biei region and we started the drive from Otaru towards Furano and Biei, making stops along Mikasa and Ashibetsu for some pretty interesting sceneries and landscapes!

Mikasa

On the car journey from Otaru to Biei, we passed by Mikasa City, this used to be a thriving and prosperous area with the coal mining industry pushing the local economy. Today, the coal mining industry is no longer in operation and this area had been quiet since then.

The Old Pombetsu Coal Mine

Kato-san made a quick stop to show me the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine. The former coal mining buildings and structures are still standing there and it is now closed to the public. There is a informative signboard that had maps, old photos and a short write up of the history on the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine.

Lake Katsurazawa

We continued our journey towards Furano, driving through roads that showcased distinct weather and climate of Hokkaido. In some areas, that would be snow falling on the forest/trees and they really made a very beautiful scenery with the autumn leaves on the branches that had not fallen yet. Another 20-30 minutes drive down the road, the sceneries and landscape might change into autumn only, no snow at all. This is a beauty of Hokkaido that I will always remember, the season can change in just some distance away.

Kato-san stopped at Lake Katsurazawa, it’s a beautiful location surrounded by forests, quiet and tranquil. The colourful autumn leaves can be seen in full foliage around the lake, making it a good spot for photographing the autumn season in Hokkaido. However, the water is brownish and unlike some of the other beautiful clear blue lakes in Hokkaido. The water is not free flowing because it is a large artificial lake created by the Katsurazawa Dam. Even though the water may not look as beautiful like some of her other counterparts in other areas of Hokkaido, the beautiful forests surrounding it would make it a place to visit during the other seasons.

Ashibetsu

Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝(Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/CByHFsf3Jnz)

Leaving Mikasa, entered into Ashibetsu first before reaching Furano. That was a location in Ashibetsu that Kato-san brought me to. It’s a waterfall with 3 sections thus the name Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝.

A gorgeous location, while the weather was a bit overcast, we were able to spot the colourful trees surrounding both sides of the river, the 3 sections of the waterfall and the downstream after that. The path to the lookout point/hut that can get you close to the waterfall and the downward stream was a bit wet and slippery due to the wet weather.

When we finished photographing and about to leave, snow fell from the sky with a bit of gusty cold wind blowing. The weather in Hokkaido can change pretty quickly in the blink of an eye sometimes.

Furano

Continuing our journey, we drove into Furano. My first impression was a flat and wide valley ground, surrounded by 2 mountain ranges on the sides, Mt Yubari, Mt Ashibetsu and Mt Furano-Nishi on one side and Mt Furano, Mt Tokachi, Mt Tomuraushi, Mt Chubetsu, Mt Hiragatake (Daisetuzan National Park side).

Living at the bottom of a valley can get really really cold during winter, from my experiences when I went skiiing in New South Wales, Australia, many years ago. Mt Kosciuszko (Perisher Blue) wasn’t too cold at the top when I was skiing yet when I reached Canberra, I was kind of freezing (in the night).

Furano had many farms growing different kind of crops. This area is a very popular destination during spring and summer, I can understand why. The entire area in summer season would be packed with crops ready for harvesting. For those growing flowers, the colourful and beautiful flowers would brighten up the whole place. I would love to visit Furano during the summer season and hope to do it some day in the future!

Torinuma Park  

Our first destination in Furano is Torinuma Park. Upon arrival, I was greeted by good weather, I saw clear blue sky, sunshine with cloud cover! This good weather made me very excited, I had overcast sky, snow, rain and chilly winds for my first four days in Hokkaido. The beautiful sunlight cast the colourful autumn leaves on the leaves into something magical, green, yellow, red and orange colour leaves against the beautiful clear blue sky. I was ecstatic and blown away, this was the autumn that I had been seeking when I arrived in Hokkaido.

We explored the forest surrounding the lake at Torinuma Park. There were some great places to take photographs from different spots with different perspectives, when the strong winds blew across, the leaves dropped and fell onto the lake, providing the lake with a pretty layer of colourful leaves on its water.

Lunch – Shinasoba ramen by Shinatora

One of my favourite Japanese food is Ramen and during that afternoon, I was brought to this local ramen shop in Furano, the name of the ramen shop is Shinatora, their shop speciality is a soup base mix of pork and fish! When I had my first taste of the Shinasoba ramen, I was in heaven!! This special and unique ramen is really oishii!! Ramen is an absolute delight during the cold autumn/winter seasons, hot and heartwarming.

Rokugo Viewing Platform / Kyohsai Farm (Furano Jam Garden)

With such a delicious and hot ramen lunch inside us, Kato-san brought me to the area near the foot of the Mt Tokachi / Mt Furano mountain range where the famous Kyohsai Farm / Furano Jam Garden was located, they had some many different types of jam for sale, along with a nice café to have coffee while resting at the same time. Although I didn’t buy any jam, I would love to come back during summer and visit this place again! Kato-san said this place is very popular during summer season!

Behind Furano Jam Garden, there was a small dirt road leading up towards a small hill, suitable for cars to drive up the small dirt road. On the road upwards, there was a famous lone tree that stood out from the row of forests beside the road. From the ground up perspective, the lone tree looked like it’s “floating”!

On top of the hill, there were farm lands, we visitors must be careful and considerate, not to trespass and trample onto the farm lands because we might destroy the crops and hurt the farmers livelihood and hard work.

There was an open area with a nice hut on the top of the hill, known as Rokugo Viewing Platform. The view up there was breathtaking, a great panoramic view of Furano. The cold autumn winds were blowing hard at us and I was freezing again when the cold winds hitted me! However, I was greeted by another iconic scene of Hokkaido, the light rays shining through the clouds onto the land.

There was another monologue tree nearby the Rokugo Viewing Platform, used by television company for some of their drama productions! It’s a very famous and iconic tree!

Mizusawa, Biei

The sky was turning dark as Kato-san drove up towards in the direction of Biei. A tale of two seasons in Hokkaido, separated by maybe 30km, from autumn into winter season. It was close to sunset timing when we arrived at this spot in Biei, snow was falling and it was cold around -1° (it’s not the coldest yet for Biei, Hokkaido).

There was a small farm house up on the hill, standing alone in the midst of the snow covered fields. While the small house stands alone in the open, it’s not alone at all, the role and significance cannot be underestimated. Somehow, I am always able to relate to lone/single objects e.g. lone tree, lone house etc etc … We might be monologue / single at times, however we are not alone because we attract the things around us to come to us.

Driving down a short distance from the small farm house, Kato san made a stop beside an open field between two forests. There were two trees that stood out in between the two forests. I stood there, enjoying the sceneries, peace, quiet and tranquility. It was really cold for me because I wasn’t really suited for winter season. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and enjoyed the moment while I am freezing myself out there (due to the chilly wind and rain).

The sun had set for the day, we also made our way to our hotel in Nakafurano, had our dinner, enjoyed the onsen and had a good night sleep.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 4 


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

My 1st Photo Book – Hokkaido B&W Landscapes

At the start of the year 2015, I wrote and shared my photography resolutions for the year. Point number 4 was “Produce My Own Photography Book”, something that I never done it before in my years of photography journey. When I decided to embark on this very personal and special photography adventure, I didn’t look back and trekked towards my goal and objective.

In the months of January and February 2015, the progress was pretty alright from the two articles that I wrote down and shared with my supporters and readers. My work in progress and producing my draft photo book, they were key milestones, timeline and crucial learning experiences in producing my own photo book. The journey was a bit of ups and downs, frustrations, dilemma, which photos to curate, what’s the flow and placement like etc etc. Meeting and chatting with photographer friends helped me to reach my mid way point of producing and printing my draft photo book that defines my own personal and unique photojournalist style.

IMG_8109

IMG_8123

IMG_2580

A very talented fellow photographer, Zinkie Aw, she introduced to me this particular printer, that a group of photographers in Singapore worked closely with. That printer is Grenadier Press Pte Ltd and after the email introduction by Zinkie, I went down and had a chat with them on printing my personal Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book. They are very friendly, professional and very knowledgable in the printing line. There is one X-factor that stands out, that is they understand photographers and knows what photographers want. During my first appointment with them, I had a chance to view some of the photo books printed by Grenadier Press for some of the established and well known photographers in Singapore. From that day, I know my photo book printing is in good and experienced hands!

They are willing to share and guide me, this newbie in printing photo books. I confessed that I made some stupid newbie mistakes and the folks from Grenadier Press helped me a lot to get it right for my photo book print when I met them for my second appointment to submit my draft photo book layout/write up/photos in for printing. That is something that I am very grateful and thankful for, their guidance and priceless assistance in getting my first photo book printed!

Photographers in Singapore, if you are planning to print your own photo book, I highly and strongly recommend Grenadier Press, here is their website and go contact them!

After I submitted draft photo book layout/write up/photos in for printing, Grenadier Press took over the process. Since I wasn’t rushing for the photo books to be printed, we had a good time frame that both parties can work on. Once they got the final final draft up, I made an appointment to go down for the final confirmation of my photo book prints, inspected each photo book page proof, signed and acknowledged. That was the moment, the final lap of my photo book printing adventure.

Finally, a message arrived from Grenadier Press, my photo books are ready! Yes, I have produced my FIRST Photo Book! My personal Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book. As much as I wanted to rush down and collect my photo books, my work commitments did not allow me to and I waited for about a week plus before collecting them.

IMG_8601

The moments, feelings and emotions when I collected my photo books from Grenadier Press, it’s a mixed bag comprising all of the above. I was proud yet humbled, happy beyond words when I collected 50 of my photo books, they are my very own photography style and artwork. It’s not perfect, there is definitely room for improvement in terms of producing my next photo book. The support and encouragement from friends were great, I am very grateful and thankful for their continuous support!

I would like to say a big Thank You to the following photographer friends for their inputs/opinions/help in the curation of photos, flow and lay out of my photo book.

David Tay

Wong Renhao

– Marcus Lim

– Jude Yue

Zinkie Aw

– Dave Koh

My write up and photojournalism story telling were edited by Ms. Chrissy Priya and Mr Michael Tay, both were very strong in their English language proficiency.

Thank you very much, Grenadier Press for producing and printing my FIRST personal photo book! My goal and objective is 3 photo books for 2015, I have to work a lot a lot harder to achieve producing and printing my 2 other photo book!

Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book (Draft)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my Work in Progress – Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book. It was a very interesting journey that I shared about my thoughts and feelings in the earlier post. During this period of time, I finished writing up my stories for my personal photo book, did a final check and made adjustments for my draft Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book. When the final check was done, I was excited yet anxious at the same time, pressing the “Buy Book” button on the iPhoto app on my MacBook Pro.

IMG_2580

I did not know what would be the outcome and quality of the print out of my Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book would be like because this was my first time printing a photo book using the iPhoto app. Today, I received my Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book by Apple Print Products, printed and shipped over from Japan. When I opened up the box and saw my photo book front cover page, I was blown away. I felt really good, happy and proud of my first photo book print (even though it’s a draft book). As I flipped through the pages inside my Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book, this was what I visualised and wanted it to be, as seen from my 4R photos pasted on A4 paper mock up.

IMG_2581

While I have not crossed the finishing line of producing my personal photo book journey, it’s now in the final home stretch to the finishing line. Next few steps for me would be to find my photographer friends who printed their own photo books for their opinions on the costing versus the photo book print quality. I would also be speaking to my friends on their usual printers that they go to. I would then weigh a balance, the pros and cons, costing and budgeting before I make a final decision on my printer. Meanwhile, I would get my friends who had a higher language proficiency than me to look through my write ups again, if need to, I would make the necessary changes to my write ups!

IMG_2582

If all goes well, I should be starting to print in March 2015 at my chosen printer outlet choice and I would share my progress and update again on another date and time. What would be the next photography thing/project on my mind after the completion of my Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book? In my mind currently, I am thinking of holding a photography exhibition (related to Hokkaido) and to do another photo book of Hokkaido (in colours).

This draft photo book is very personal, it’s my first photo book. No words can describe this feeling at the moment, the happiness, joy and delight. I wonder how I would feel when my Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book is finalised and send for the official print?


Created with flickr slideshow.

Work in Progress – Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book

The Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014 had been one of my highlights in the year 2014, it was also my biggest photography portfolio till date. Being part of this wonderful program, it was a great honour to be invited and participate in the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program. Hokkaido was so beautiful, allowing me and giving me the opportunity to produce a number of beautiful and gorgeous landscape photographs.

IMG_0039 - Version 3

After returning back to Singapore, I wrote and uploaded my Hokkaido travel articles along with the travel photographs that I took during the trip. Hokkaido pulled many heart strings inside me that I was inspired and motivated to produce a travel photo book of my Hokkaido trip. The photo book was part of my Photography Resolutions for 2015, however, something phenomenal happened, I started to post process selected Hokkaido landscape photographs into Black and White. It was mind blowing, an eye opener and I was hooked. My attention diverted from producing my Hokkaido travel photo book to Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book.

IMG_0249 - Version 2

This journey was addictive, challenging, self searching and self learning. It was my maiden journey in producing my own personal photo book, I was discovering something more about my photography, how my eye, heart, mind, soul and perspective of photography makes my photographs stand out. The process of curation from approximately 1811 photographs to approximately 63 Black and White photographs to 26 photographs before another round to 19 photographs. Printing out the Black and White photographs on 4R photo paper was key and essential to producing my mock up Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book. I learned the method of printing 4R photos to have a better visualisation of my photo book flow and placement from photographer friends Callan and Jingwen who produced and printed awesome photo books before.

IMG_8109

IMG_8121

IMG_8123

With the help of my photographer friends, I was able to reach the placement and flow of this photo book. I would like to say a big Thank You from the bottom of my heart to the following photographers and friends for their continuous support, advice, suggestions, views and opinions during the initial curation, placement and flow of my personal Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book –

David Tay of WK Photography & Services (for teaching me the 2 by 1 crop for landscape photography)

Wong Renhao 

Marcus Lim

– Dave Koh

Zinkie Aw of I Shoot Habits – Zinkie Aw Photographer 

– Belinda Tan

– Jude Yue

Ellen Chia for her energy and continuous support of my photography works!

Tsuyoshi Kato, our Hokkaido Photo Guide for this program!

– Fellow Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program photographers ~ Jensen Chua, Weng Seng and Manami-chan!

I am going to do a test print of my Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book using iPhoto app. It will be just one draft photo book and I will go around to my photographer friends and seek their opinions and views on the pricing and quality of the photo book, and whether I can continue with them or I should go to local printers to get my Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book printed.

Curating and producing this personal Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book had been very exciting, at times anxious and frustrating. I will remember every step of this journey and I am looking forward to the day when I collect my Hokkaido Black and White Landscapes Photo Book prints. For a glimpse into what could be the Black and White photographs that would appear in the photo book, this Black and White Photos set on my 500px portfolio would be able to give you some answers!

This is my first photo book, there is no price to it because it’s very personal and it’s priceless.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II & EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM Review

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II was officially launched on the 15th September 2014. I was at the official media event for the announcement and launch of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and got a short hands on experience with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II during the event. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is the successor to the award winning Canon EOS 7D.

IMG_20140915_204656

Before I proceed further, let me recap what I shared earlier in my post on the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, my initial thoughts and views and the key technical specifications of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II –

Thoughts/Views of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

  • 10fps – High Speed performance inherited from the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, check out my YouTube clip and listen to the 10fps!
  • 200,000 maximum shutter count (A workhorse camera)
  • 65 points All Cross-Type AF System (great for Sports and Events)
  • Dual Digic 6 image processors (that’s powerful)
  • Dual memory card slots (CF and SD, best of both memory storage world)
  • Inheriting the best of the worlds from the Canon DSLR family to deliver a powerful workhorse DSLR camera
  • Ideal for Sports, Wildlife and Events Photographers

EOS 7D Mark II Product Specifications

  • Dimensions: Approx. 148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm
  • Weight: Approx. 820g (body only)
  • Image sensor: 20.2 mega-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Imaging processor: Dual DIGIC 6
  • ISO speed: 100-16,000 (expandable to 51,200)
  • Continuous shooting speed: 10 fps
  • Maximum video quality: Full HD 60p
  • AF: 65-point all cross-type
  • LCD: 3” LCD / 1,040,000 dots
  • Shutter release cycle: 200 000

The golden opportunity to review the Canon EOS 7D Mark II came when I was able to loan the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014! It was really awesome to have the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for an overseas trip, testing and pushing it cold Hokkaido weather conditions. For the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014, I brought 2 DSLRs, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 7D Mark II, more information on my travel photography equipment can be found here! My combination was the Canon EOS 5D Mark III fitted with the Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM (courtesy of Canon Singapore that loaned me for this trip) and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II fitted with the EF 70-200mm f4L USM.

This combination of a full frame with a wide-angle lens (Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM) is ideal for wide landscape scenes and travel walkabout scenes. The other combination of the APS-C with a telephoto lens (Canon EOS 7D Mark II with EF 70-200mm f4L USM) is ideal for wildlife, action, travel and landscape (isolating a part of a wide landscape area) photography.

142A0597

142A0600

142A0679

During my Hokkaido trip, the combination of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with the EF 70-200mm f4L USM was especially good for photographing wildlife such as the deer and the fox in Shiretoko National Park, Utoro. The 65 points All Cross-Type AF System was really good for photographing wildlife in action along with its 10fps action! On Day 2, at the Tsurui Village, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II was fitted with the EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens to photograph Japan’s national icon, the red crown crane known as tancho zuru. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II fast focusing with its 65 points All Cross-Type AF with 10fps and dual Digic 6 image processors made it highly suitable for wildlife photography action. On Day 3, at the Tokachi River, I was photographing the White Tailed Eagle, seagulls and swans along the Tokachi River bank with the EF 400mm f5.6L USM prime lens. Photographing the White Tailed Eagles proved to be very challenging given the open riverbank terrain and when I was walking towards them when the eagles were perched on tree branches or fallen tree trunks. The White Tailed Eagles were very sensitive to human movements and they flew away once they sensed us walking towards them.

142A1001

142A1160

I was taught about using a telephoto lens to shoot landscapes, at that point in time, I really couldn’t visualize how it can be done and how the photographs would turn out since I didn’t travel out to countries with such vast and wide landscapes. When I was in Hokkaido and I started shooting landscapes with the telephoto lens (the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with the EF 70-200mm f4L USM lens), I finally realized why and how the photographs would turn out with such a combination. This technique is very useful in vast landscape area and we can “isolate” a certain portion of the entire landscape such as the snow capped mountain peaks and sunset scenes. When we were traveling on the roads, there were a number of times whereby the road and mountain peaks had a “nice leading line” and zooming it in at 200mm, the photo outcome was really beautiful! You just have to try it out, shooting landscape scenes with a telephoto lens (such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II with EF 70-200mm f4L USM combination). I am sure you will have a very enriching photography experience with this technique!

142A0585

142A1116

During the period when I was visiting Hokkaido, the weather was cold, autumn transiting into winter season, with the lowest around -13 degrees Celsius. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II proved its worth to be a tough and resilient DSLR and the battery life was good, it didn’t drain off too much and too quickly given the cold weather conditions!

142A1279

The Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014 was an awesome travel photography experience and adventure for me. Let me share with my readers and followers my Hokkaido travel photography adventure! Here are the links to my photographs and travel stories of my Hokkaido travel photography adventure –

The Hokkaido Travel Photographs were uploaded into Flickr and 500px, do visit and check out the amazing and stunning landscapes in Hokkaido!

142A0649

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II doesn’t just raise the bar with their new cutting-edge features. It can be the new generation workhorse and powerful DSLR for serious enthusiasts and professional photographers. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II might be a suitable partner for the Canon EOS 1DX especially for photographers doing a lot more sports and fast action photography.

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II can also be combined with another full frame DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, where you have the best of both worlds, the combination of DSLR camera bodies and lens setup that I brought over to Hokkaido, ideal for both travel, events, action and wildlife photography.

142A1407

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is overall a very strong DSLR camera, packed with strong and powerful technical specifications. One negative point for the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is that there is no in build Wi-Fi and some photographers were expecting it to be build in the new Canon EOS 7D Mark II. This could be due to expectations and requirements in today’s fast paced society that sometimes demands instant updates and gratifications, thus putting a lot of pressure and stress on photographers. The challenge of not having Wi-Fi built in can be assisted with the usage of Wi-Fi SD card if there is a need to use Wi-Fi for the delivery of the photography job.

We, the photographers, must remember, First Thing First! We need to focus on what we need to produce and deliver for our photography assignments, jobs or projects. While in the modern society context, the demands and expectations of “instant news/photos updates” can be pretty demanding, it can be solved with the help of photography and IT accessories.

Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM Review

Canon has a rich and strong history in producing wide-angle lens. I owned the EF 17-40mm f4L USM lens and it’s a legendary wide-angle lens, whether is it on a full frame or APS-C DSLR, it was my work horse lens from wide-angle, landscape to travel photography. The Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens will be a great and worthy successor to the EF 17-40mm f4L USM lens (it’s still going strong!) when the time comes. When the time comes to upgrade my EF 17-40mm f4L USM lens, I will choose the EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens.

I wrote and shared about the Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens earlier in the year and there were more information on the design/quality aspects of this great lens. If you are considering owning a wide-angle lens, look no further than the EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens (and also the EF 17-40mm f4L USM lens too).

IMG_0714

IMG_0812

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is available at the following retail recommended prices

Canon EOS 7D Mark II (Body Only) – $2,499 .00

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Kit (w/EF S18-135 IS STM) – $3,049.00

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Kit II (w/EF S15-85 IS USM) – $3,499.00

The Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM is available at the following retail recommended prices

Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM – $1,579.00

If you are looking for a sports/fast action DSLR camera body, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is definitely a worthy consideration for photographers who wants/needs fast action DSLR body that is affordable and value for money. The Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens is a definitely worth owning it, whether you are using a full frame DSLR or APS-C DSLR.

* I would like to thank Canon Singapore for the opportunity to loan the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM lens, allowing me to bring it overseas for the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014 and doing a review on them during the trip! *


Created with flickr slideshow.



Created with flickr slideshow.

One Tree Hill – Somewhere in Eastern Hokkaido

There is no name for this area, it’s somewhere in the Eastern part of Hokkaido. When we were traveling down from the mountainous region to lower ground, we saw the change from winter season to autumn season. This area had not started snowing yet and we were able to see the green and brown colours of autumn. This is a unique natural beauty and weather of Hokkaido.

IMG_0311

We were driving and spotted an open land, hilly and gorgeous. After pulling over to the side, we went up to check it out and the landscape is a testimonial to the natural beauty of Hokkaido. You are able to discover many more such beautiful landscapes beyond those travel destinations that you read up on tourism guides/brochures.

There was a One Tree Hill that stood out on the other side; it was something very magical and special to me, to us, the band of photographers. The wonderful memories at this One Tree Hill will always be with us forever. This special One Tree Hill calls out to us to make the photography pilgrimage up there and we, the band of photographers were blessed with lots of friendship memories.

142A0897

As the song “One Tree Hill” by U2 from the Joshua Tree album singing inside me, there is a line in their song. A photography poet I try to be, listening to the song “One Tree Hill”

“ … I’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky

And the moon has turned red over One Tree Hill … “

I will be back again, I promise. 

IMG_0312

This is dedicated to the very special band of photographer friends and my awesome Japanese hosts/friends!

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 5 – Going Home

Day 5, the end of our Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program. We packed up and after our breakfast, we boarded our limousine mini-bus for our journey to New Chitose Airport for our afternoon domestic flight to Narita Domestic Airport before transiting for our flight in the evening from Narita International Airport back home to hot and sunny Singapore. Our hotel hosts, Mdm. Chida Tamami was there to say goodbye to us and Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was also there too! We were touched by their warmth hospitality and friendship that they showered on us yesterday and on the morning of Day 5 as we were preparing to leave Hokkaido for home.

I took this opportunity to take a photograph with Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei, a master landscape photographer that I was very honoured to know and meet him in person while we were on the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program, I have so much more to learn from the Grand Master Photographer! Soon we waved our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts and friends, starting our journey down to New Chitose Airport for our domestic flight. The journey down from Sounkyo Kankou Hotel took a while, approximately around 2-3 hours. This was a time for us, reflecting back on our great photography travel adventure in Hokkaido for the past 4 days.

Personally, I looked back at how I got into this wonderful Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program, my story behind it

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip – Introduction and Overview

With the help of my photographs uploaded into my iPad, I also looked back at each day of my Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program

Day 1 – Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 1 – Utoro and Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 1 Photos on Flickr

Day 2 – Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 2 – Shari, Teshikaga, Tsurui, Akan and Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 2 Photos on Flickr

Day 3 – Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 3 – Akan, Ashoro, Tokachi and Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 3 Photos on Flickr 

Day 4 – Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 4 – Kamikawa, Sounkyo and Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 4 Photos on Flickr

There was also a dedicated photography collection for the delicious Hokkaido cuisines!

Many many many beautiful and wonderful memories captured during the entire Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014!

Once we arrived at New Chitose Airport, we said goodbye to Mr. Tsuyoshi Kato, our Hokkaido PhotoGuide and Travel Planner. Mr. Kato さん took great care of us during our Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program. If you are planning to visit Hokkaido for a dedicated photography travel trip, I highly recommend Mr. Tsuyoshi Kato of Hokkaido PhotoGuide!

Once we got our luggage checked in and boarding passes collected, we said goodbye to Mr. Kazuma Higasa, General Manager of Nippon Travel Agency Hokkaido Co. Ltd. We were all very grateful and thankful to Mr. Higasa さん for the entire trip, from the planning to the entire program that made it so interesting, exciting and fun for everyone of us! We were all very honoured by Mr. Higasa さん, the General Manager personally taking very good care of us during the entire program.

10648234_10205034749526417_3730156897329111245_o

L to R: Myself, Weng Seng, Mr. Higasa さん, Manami, Dennis and Jensen

Photo Courtesy of Jensen Chua Photography (Thanks to Moe さん for taking the photo!)

While we were on our way back home to Singapore, all of us were already starting to miss Hokkaido. This special band of photographer friends, Dennis, Jensen, Manami, Weng Seng and our very kawaii tour coordinator Moe さん, we created great chemistry, friendship, bonding and fun times during Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program 2014, creating an impact across the photography, travel and social media arenas beyond our imagination with our photographs and travel stories sharing!

Hokkaido, I will be back again! I promise!


Created with flickr slideshow.

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 4 – Kamikawa, Sounkyo

Day 4 of our program started off with a very early start, continuing from where we left on at the end of Day 3. We went to the nearby Tokachigaoka Park from Kangetsuen, for our hot air balloon adventure, operated by Tokachi Nature Centre! The hot air balloon ride is dependent on the weather conditions and for that morning, it was clear for our hot air balloon adventure! It was very interesting to see how they do the setup for the hot air balloon and we were busy clicking away on our cameras!

Hot Air Balloon Ride at Tokachi

Another first time for me, taking a hot air balloon ride! Once the hot air balloon ride was ready for boarding, we split into two groups to go up the hot air balloon ride. While one group was in the air, we took photographs of them from the ground up and vice versa, we helped each other to take photographs when we either up in the air or on the ground! When we were up in the air on the hot air balloon, the weather wasn’t that clear due to the misty autumn/winter weather conditions. Up in the air, while we had a bird’s eye view of the Tokachi area, the cold autumn/winter wind was upon our face and it was quite difficult to face the direction where the cold chilly winds was blowing from!

IMG_0585

142A1246

If you are keen to go on the hot air balloon ride or other outdoor activities in the Tokachi region, here are the contact details of the company running the outdoor activities

Tokachi Nature Center

Minami 12-1-12, Tokachigawa onsen

Otofuke, Hokkaido 〒080-0263 Japan

Tel: 0155-32-6116

Fax: 0155-32-6117

Email: infotnc@nature-tokachi.co.jp

After our hot air balloon ride, we returned back to our hotel Kangetsuen for breakfast and checked out from the hotel. Our travel schedule on the fourth day was to go up the mountain range in Central Hokkaido. It was a bit of a long traveling journey on the road, however, we were blessed with many awesome and gorgeous clear deep blue skies and landscapes!

The Sounkyo area is a real gem in Hokkaido’s tourism and I love this place! If there are hidden gems in landscape photography around the world, they have to visit Sounkyo!

Mikuni Touge Pass (三国峠)

While traveling uphill from one area to another area, we were entering from autumn season into winter season! Such is the natural and wonderful beauty of Hokkaido four seasons! I was amazed and went into landscape photography heaven, so beautiful and words can’t do enough justice to the natural landscape beauty of Hokkaido.

IMG_0642

IMG_0647

I really hope that my landscape photographs that I am sharing will tell the whole world about the hidden natural landscape beauty and gems of Hokkaido!

Stopping by Mikuni Touge Pass, there was a rest point and lookout point. We had a pit stop and we were blown away, our eyes and camera glued to the clear deep blue skyline and the mountain range. It’s so beautiful!

We continued our road trip, surrounded by snow and the mountain range, arriving at our hotel, Sounkyo Kankou Hotel (Sounkyo Onsen). Firstly, we dropped off our luggage and had lunch at Sounkyo Kankou Hotel. During our lunch, Mr. Nakajima-san of Sounkyo Tourist Association was there to visit us and host us for the afternoon! We were also very honoured and happy that a Master Landscape Photographer, Mr. Koetsu Ichinetsu Sensei will be hosting us and showing us around various locations in the Sounkyo area! Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei showed us his collection of landscape photography works and they were so amazing, so beautiful, a highly experienced Master Landscape Photographer, the Best of the Best Landscape Photographers.

Mt. Kuro-dake (黒岳)

The expectations were building up towards our next destination, Mt Kuro-dake, towering 1,984m in height, in the Sounkyo region. We were so amazed and blown away by the beauty of our surroundings and landscapes. After our wonderful lunch at Sounkyo Kankou Hotel, we eagerly traveled to the base of Mt. Kuro-dake, for our ropeway ride up to the middle of Mt. Kuro-dake, part of Daisetsuzan National Park. While waiting for turn to board, Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei brought us to a rest area at the base station and we were treated to some of his awesome and breathe-taking Hokkaido landscapes photographs printed and on display! Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei is truly a Master of Master Landscape Photographers!

IMG_0710

Soon, it was time to board for the ropeway journey up the mountain! The photographers soon glued themselves to the glass panel, eagerly waiting to see what the landscapes would be like and getting our cameras ready for action! As the journey up Mt. Kuro-dake began, I was blown away again by the charm, aura and beauty of the landscapes of Mt. Kuro-dake and her surroundings. It is so grand, beautiful and magnificent and I am running out of words to describe them!

I started to visualize how it would be like during Autumn season while taking the ropeway up to Mt. Kuro-dake and I make a promise that I MUST return to Hokkaido during the Autumn season to photograph the bright colours and beauty of Sounkyo.

IMG_0711

Upon reaching the mid way point station of Mt. Kuro-dake, we disembarked from the cabin and walked up to the rooftop of the station. We had a bird’s eye view from Mt. Kuro-dake of the landscapes and mountain range of Sounkyo. Our cameras went into crazy action mode, capturing as many different frames, angles and perspectives. It’s a dream come true for landscape/travel photographers to record and share the beauty and charm of Sounkyo.

IMG_0727

After taking many photographs at the rooftop, we went down and started trekking a short distance to watch people skiing and snowboarding at Mt. Kuro-dake. We had fun too, taking photographs and playing with snow! Due to time and schedule constraints, we could not explore uphill further.

Waterfall of Meteor (流星の滝)/ Waterfall of Ginga (銀河の滝)

We began our descent down Mt. Kuro-dake, enjoying our last few minutes’ view of the landscapes and surroundings. Next, we were heading to two famous waterfalls in the Kamikawa region, they are the Waterfall of Meteor (流星の滝)/ Waterfall of Ginga (銀河の滝). The Waterfall of Meteor is the female waterfall at 120m in height while the Waterfall of Ginga is the male waterfall at 80m in height. Both the waterfalls were close to fully frozen and it was a very interesting landscape sight. I am sure both waterfalls will be really beautiful during summer season!

IMG_0757

IMG_0772

Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was very kind and helpful, sharing his vast local knowledge experience, photography experience and expertise with us, the band of photographers. He was showing us where to stand and how to compose/capture various views and perspectives of the two waterfalls! It was a very humbling experience (especially for me) when Mr. Ichinetsu used our cameras to shoot in order for us to learn and have a better perspective on how to compose landscape photography in Hokkaido!

Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei style of mentoring/sharing his hands-on photography experience strikes a deep chord with me on how I should and can adopt to mentor/share my photography experiences with my photographer friends and my student/disciple under my care!

Daisetsu-Asahigaoka (大雪高原旭が丘

After our photography adventure at the two waterfalls, we returned to our limousine mini bus and traveled towards our last official photography destination of the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program. This magnificent destination, the Daisetsu-Asahigaoka, is where I got some of my most memorable (and probably my best) landscape photographs of the whole travel adventure. The vast land, covered with snow on the fields, the white clouds moving in the background and the sunset rays shining through the horizon. It was like in heaven and indeed it was due to the altitude of the area.

IMG_0780

I am now in a winter dreamland, a paradise on Earth. I always have a soft spot for traveling to Japan and Hokkaido really took my heart, mind and soul and planted it there. I really wanted to continue photographing many of the beautiful and magnificent landscapes in the Kamikawa and Sounkyo regions.

IMG_0805

While we were immersing ourselves into the Daisetsu-Asahigaoka gorgeous and magnificent landscape, Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was just as enthusiastic and energetic as us! Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was leading us to various spots around there and sharing with us tips, angles, perspectives, composing and framing the landscape photography shots! The Landscape Photography Master was walking pretty fast on the snow covered ground, leading us to various spots and we had a fun time chasing after him, rather awkwardly because we were not used to running on snow covered grounds! We ran and we left our footprints, our hearts, mind and soul at the Daisetsu-Asahigaoka(大雪高原旭が丘).

IMG_0791

As the Hokkaido sun sets over the Daisetsu-Asahigaoka horizon, we packed our gears and waved goodbye. This was the last official photography destination on the Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program and we left with heavy hearts for she stole our photography hearts! It was an omen that Daisetsu-Asahigaoka was sending out to us, the band of photographers that we had to return one day, we must return one day!

Ice Pavilion(アイスパビリオン)

On our way back to our hotel, we had a stop at the Ice Pavilion and had some fun inside there! We were treated to a temperature of -41 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Hokkaido! We also had a chance to play on the ice/snow playground that they created! There was so much fun sliding down the ice slope/slide!

Do check out their website for more information and details!

Sounkyo Kankou Hotel (Sounkyo Onsen)

Returning back to our hotel, we rested and changed to the yukata, getting ready for our dinner. The hotel owner, Mr. Morita Shigenori, General Manager, Mdm. Chida Tamami and Chief of Reserved Seat Mr. Yasuhito Toda, hosted us to a grand and sumptuous Japanese Kaiseki Dinner. We were touched by the warm Japanese hospitality and we learned so much more about Japanese traditions and cuisines!

One of Hokkaido’s most iconic dishes is their snow crab. This was my maiden experience eating a Hokkaido snow crab in my lifetime till date and I confessed that I don’t know how to cut open and eat it properly. I was struggling and a bit lost, Dennis helped me out by telling me how to cut it and dip in the sauce. I must be a slow learner in eating crabs and Mdm. Chida Tamami saw that I was lost in the world of Hokkaido crabs. Mdm. Chida Tamami decided to take good care of me and showed me how to cut open the snow crab and how to eat it properly, with translation help from Moe-san, sat beside me. Mdm. Chida Tamami was such a great host with heartwarming Japanese hospitality!

IMG_0845

It was a lively and fun dinner, accompanied by the sumptuous Japanese cuisines. Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was sharing with us his photography equipment and experiences; we were amazed by his vintage Linhoff film camera. Being a photography buff and film SLR user many years ago, I could not resist asking Mr. Ichinetsu for permission to touch and feel his Linhoff film camera! It was a priceless nostalgic photography experience! Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei was also sharing with us about his thoughts when he was the group during the afternoon; we were very humbled and honoured by his warmth, hospitality, and enthusiasm. That was something about Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei that got me even more in awe of this Master Landscape Photographer; he is 75 years old and still going strong!

IMG_0854

During the dinner, Mr. Morita Shigenori shared with us that Sounkyo Kankou Hotel is expanding their outdoor onsen and it is scheduled to open in Fall 2015, around end of August 2015! I am excited and hope to be able to enjoy at their outdoor onsen when it opens in Fall 2015!

It kind of fits nicely to my plan (hopefully it can come true!) to visit Hokkaido during autumn in mid October 2015 and Sounkyo/Kamikawa (and visit the new outdoor Sounkyo Onsen) are inside my travel schedule agenda!

IMG_0869

All good things must come to an end; Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei had to leave early from the dinner because he had to prepare for another visit the following morning. Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei shook hands and hug with each of us before making his leave. A true master photographer that commands so much respect among the community and his humility, priceless and a great example to learn and follow. I had a light-hearted moment with Mr. Ichinetsu Sensei when he touched my belly in a friendly way (yes, I had too much good food in Hokkaido). I promised myself to slim down my tummy before I return to Hokkaido in the near future!

Our Last Photo Shoot Outing

After our dinner ended, we the band of photographers decided to head out and check out Sounkyo night sky and go for night photography/star trail photography. We walked to the ropeway base station of Mt. Kuro-dake and spent some time there photographing the night landscapes and star trails. While our works couldn’t match up to the ones we managed to capture at Lake Akan on our second night in Hokkaido, all of us had a fun time to bond and take photographs together for one final night together in Hokkaido.

Upon returning back to Sounkyo Kankou Hotel, we sat together and rested with hot beverages from the drinks vending machine in the hotel lobby. The hot beverages warmed us up from the cold chilly Hokkaido winter night. We, this particular band of photographers, were able to bond very well, having pretty good chemistry and teamwork during the whole Hokkaido Photographers Invitation Program. I am very happy to be traveling and photographing with them for this whole program.

After a while, we went back to our rooms and headed to the onsen, to enjoy and relax from an exciting Day 4 of the Hokkaido Photographer Invitation Program. As I sat and relax inside the onsen, reflecting back on my Hokkaido trip, it was very amazing and it wasn’t a dream, I am in Hokkaido and I managed to photograph and share some of Hokkaido’s finest beauty in the Central and Eastern regions. Personally, I felt that I got my best landscape shot of my Hokkaido Photographer Invitation Program on Day 4 here in Kamikawa/Sounkyo region.

An amazing day and a great finale to mark the end of Day 4 in Hokkaido! Now I will let my photographs do the talking instead.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 3 – Akan, Ashoro, Tokachi

Day 3 of our Hokkaido Photographer Invitation Program began with us checking out from our hotel in Akankousou. We had an awesome and really fun Day 2! Our breakfast at Akankousou was very interesting and it’s also my first time having such a huge Japanese breakfast!

Lake Akan (阿寒湖)

Before leaving the Akan region, we stopped by at Lake Akan and enjoyed the beauty of Lake Akan. It was tranquil, quiet and gorgeous, while walking around the edge of the lake, the morning sunshine slowly enters and gives warmth to the Lake Akan and surroundings. It was interesting to hear how Lake Akan can transform into a winter playground during winter even when the lake is frozen! Hokkaido indeed is a place for all four seasons, there’s something to see and do every season! Along the edge of Lake Akan, I discovered beautiful ice sculptures on the plants and leaves of Lake Akan. This is the power and beauty of Mother Nature in Hokkaido, the autumn and winter season coming together.

142A1025

Lake Onneto (オンネトー)

Leaving the Akan region and driving to the Ashoro region, we arrived at a very beautiful lake, known as Lake Onneto. “Onneto” means Old Lake in Ainu language and while she is an Old Lake, she is still very beautiful and charming, attracting everybody there to be mesmerized by her aura.

With the grand mountain range behind her and the Hokkaido sun shining upon her clear turquoise waters on the lake, while half her of water on the lake was frozen, we can still see the other half of the lake. We spent some there, admiring her stunning beauty, photographing and collecting memories of Lake Onneto. I am sure Lake Oneeto will attract landscape and travel photographers.

IMG_0484

Abbey Road Crossing in Hokkaido

While on the way to our lunch at Tonta, Mr. Kato-san stopped by a country road off the main road and it was lined up by a row of tall trees on each side of the road. This wasn’t an official destination on our travel schedule; it was the vast experience and local knowledge by Mr. Kato-san that he showed us this location.

15395823033_e7f08e23bc_k

Photo Courtesy of Jensen Chua Photography

Lunch at Tonta

We were informed that our lunch on Day3 would be very special because Tonta is a very famous Butadon Restaurant and you have to queue for quite a long time before getting a seat in the restaurant! Mr. Higasa-san managed to make special arrangements just for our group! We didn’t have to wait too long to have our lunch at Tonta!

IMG_0515

Here are the details for Tonta – Butadon Restaurant

〒080-0806 16-3 Higashi-6-jo, Obihiro-shi Hokkaido, JAPAN / Tel: (+81)(0)155-24-4358 / 11:00-18:00(Mon-Sat)

During our lunch at Tonta, we had a visitor from Obihiro City Tourism Board, Mr. Furui Kentaro who dropped by and we formally exchanged name cards and greetings! Thereafter, we were served one of the best Japanese cuisines that I ever tasted! Our lunch at Tonta was like going into Food Heaven!! It was so awesome and delicious, beyond my words of adjectives and descriptions!! Simply superb and our priceless expressions and emotions upon eating at Tonta were the best testimonial we can give to our Butadon lunch at Tonta!

Tokachigaoka Observatory (十勝が丘展望台)/ Tokachigaoka Park (Clock Flower) (十勝が丘公園)

After our lunch, we dropped our luggage at Kangetsuen, the hotel that we were staying for night and drove up to Tokachigaoka Observatory for a bird’s eye view of the Tokachi area. At Kangetsuen, we met with Japanese Photographer, Mr. Takamitsu Akiguchi, who showed us around the Tokachi area.

142A1112

We were able to view the ocean from the observatory deck and it was a good location to capture landscape scenes of Tokachi area and the ocean! How clear the landscape view can be would be dependent on the weather conditions, when we were up there at the Tokachigaoka Observatory Deck, it was a bit misty!

We then drove down to the Tokachigaoka Park for a short walk around, looking at the area that we would be coming on Day 4 early morning for our hot air balloon ride!

IMG_0526

Tokachi River (十勝川)

For the Tokachi region, this was one of the highlights that I am looking forward to for this Hokkaido Photographer Invitation Program. This was where we would be visiting the Tokachi River and discovers the different species of birds that can be found staying along Tokachi River.

We walked down along the Tokachi River bed, spotted quite a number of different bird species. The EF 400mm f5.6 lens came out into action again on my Canon EOS 7D Mark II. It was a great test/shootout for the high speed AF action of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II! The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a really good fast action DSLR and when paired with a Canon L lens, it would help in your bird photography adventure!

142A1139

Walking along the Tokachi River bed, we spotted the White Tailed Eagle, swans, seagulls and salmon that swam up to the gravel shore bed to spawn and after spawning, they salmon die. This was just like a wildlife/nature lesson happening right in front of our eyes while we were walking along the Tokachi River bed. The White Tailed Eagle was very challenging to photograph, when we started walking close to them, they sensed our intentions and flew off to another location further away.

Watching the sunset along the Tokachi River bed, it was a beautiful sight, with the river in the foreground. This was also the signal for us to return back to our hotel, Kangetsuen that is very nearby the segment of the Tokachi River bed that we visited.

142A1160

IMG_0550

Rokkakutei (六花亭)

While we had some spare time on our travel schedule, we visited Hokkaido’s most famous sweets shop, Rokkakutei in Tokachi. There were many different type of sweets and it was shopping time for us, to buy gifts and sweets back home for family, relatives, friends and colleagues.

Here is the address for Rokkakutei

9-6 Nishi-2-jou Minami, Obihiro-shi, Hokkaido, JAPAN

Tel: (+81)(0)155-24-6666

Kangetsuen (観月苑)

A traditional and beautiful hotel, my room had a nice view of the Tokachi River! This was also where I had my maiden experience sleeping on a futon mattress! The staff of Kangetsuen was there to help me set it up during the evening, if not, I might be setting it up wrongly!

IMG_0566

Here are the details for Kangetsuen

〒080-0263 14-2 Tokachigawa-Onsen Minami Otofuke-cho, Kato-Gun, Hokkaido, JAPAN / Tel: (+81) (0)155-462001

IMG_0560

We enjoyed our food, drinks and company together over the past three days before going to enjoy the onsen in Kangetsuen! We went for an early night rest because we would be going for a hot air balloon ride early in the morning the next day!


Created with flickr slideshow.