Tag Archives: Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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!


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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Here are the details for Kangetsuen

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

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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!


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Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 2 – Shari, Teshikaga, Tsurui, Akan

Waking up to a cold and chilly Hokkaido morning, looking through the windows from my hotel room, I can spot the rain clouds over the horizon and rain falling down over a part of the sea and coastal area. After a hearty breakfast, having a good mix of local and international cuisines. We checked out and were getting ready to start our Day 2 Photographer Invitation Program schedule. Just as we were loading the luggage and getting into the mini bus, it started snowing!

Yes, it was getting colder with the snowing and strong winds!! We all got pretty excited with the snow falling down on us; it’s lovely and magical!! While it was not my first time experiencing snow, I loved playing with the snow!! We started our Day 2 journey by making a quick pit stop at Utoro harbour. It was snowing and with sea winds blowing, it was cold!

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Mr. Tsuyoshi Kato was our Professional Japanese Photographer guide (he’s also our photo guide, translator and driver for our entire adventure) for our Day 2 schedule and he was very awesome, he knew when and where to stop for photographers to take photographs because he is a photographer himself!

Road to Heaven(天に続く道)

In this area, Shari, Hokkaido, there is a road named “Road to Heaven”. Why is this road so special? Road to Heaven is distinctively Hokkaido, it is the Route 334/244, Shari-cho, Shari Hokkaido, Japan / 17km straight route. The Road to Heaven is straight, with leading lines that ends at the sea. My photographer friend David, who visited Hokkaido before, shared with me about the Road to Heaven, how uniquely it is to Hokkaido and the best time to photograph Road to Heaven is during Autumn (the time that I visited) when the leaves had fallen down and the whole Road to Heaven is very distinct! While we were up there enjoying the top of Road to Heaven, we, the band of photographers had a fun time doing and taking jump shots!

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As we continued driving along the road to our next stop, Lake Kussharo, we were mesmerized by the snow conditions. Along the road, Mr. Kato-san found a nice spot and stopped his mini-bus, we came down, took photographs of the snow filled landscape on the fields and trees. Mr. Kato-san also built a snowman and we took turns to hold the cute snowman for a photo! I had a fun time playing with the snow!

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Lake Kussharo (屈斜路湖)

Driving on from Shari to Teshikaga, our next stop was at Lake Kussharo. The road trip was special and unique, on one side of the Hokkaido roads, it was filled with snowfall, while on the other side of the road, and it was autumn colours. The unique natural beauty of Hokkaido, two seasons, autumn and winter side by side.

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Lake Kussharo is the caldera lake in Akan National Park, upon reaching Lake Kussharo; we can feel the cold autumn/winter weather with strong winds blowing ast us. I wasn’t wearing gloves when taking photographs and it can really be tough on my hands! I recommend photographers to get gloves when visiting countries during winter season! The beautiful and cute swans at Lake Kussharo were pretty friendly and not afraid of human beings! We were pretty close to them and took some close up shots of the swans!

Mt. Iou(硫黄山)

Continuing on with our travel schedule, we departed from Lake Kussharo and drove towards our next stop Mt Iou. It is an active volcano, one of the mountains in Akan National Park. With the smell of sulphur in the air and on the rocks, we spent some time there taking photos at the sulphur rocks with steam coming out from the ground and rocks.

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Teshikaga-Ramen(弟子屈ラーメン)

I was told this was the best Ramen in Hokkaido (if not one of the best) and I was very eagerly looking forward to eating Ramen in Hokkaido. Nothing beats eating Ramen in Japan! Here are the details for Teshikaga-Ramen –

1-1-18 Mashu, Teshikaga-cho, Hokkaido, JAPAN

Tel: (+81)(0)15-482-5511

Opening Hours: 11:00-20:00 (Everyday)

I love Ramen and Teshikaga-Ramen was delicious and tasty! You have to try it if you have the chance!

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Lake Mashu (摩周湖)

After our tasty and delicious Ramen lunch at Teshikaga-Ramen, we continued with our schedule, traveling up to Lake Mashu. This is similar to Lake Kussharo, Lake Mashu is the caldera lake in Akan National Park and Lake Mashu has the reputation of the cleanest lake in the world. It was snowing at the top of Lake Mashu, snow was covering the tracks, lookout point and visitor centre. It was rather misty due to the weather; nevertheless, we were able to view the beautiful Lake Mashu from the top.

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Tsurui Village (Aza Nakasetsuri Minami, Tsurui-mura, Akan-gun, Hokkaido, JAPAN)

Arriving at Tsurui Village, we visited and stopped by a private park, where the owners reserved it for Japan’s national icon, the red-crown crane, known as the tancho zuru. The birds were given space to rest and feed at the park, away from the human beings. We were able to watch and observe the red-crown cranes from behind a wooden fence.

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I took out my EF 400mm f5.6 prime lens (Thanks to David for lending me for this trip!) and attached it to the Canon EOS 7D Mark II for bird photography action. It was a pretty good combination; lightweight and portable, ideal for bringing it for travel overseas.

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With my interest in avian photography, my experiences came in handy and I took a number of shots of the red-crown cranes in action. I was hoping for the cranes in flight, however, luck wasn’t on my side! However, I did manage to get a red-crown crane landing though!

We then drove to an open field near the river and was waiting patiently for the red-crown cranes to fly over here during the evening where they will be resting after feeding at other locations. We were not able to spot any of the red-crown cranes in flight and due to sunset and lighting conditions, we had to leave and drive to our next destination, Akankosou, our hotel for the second night.

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Akankosou (阿寒湖荘)

Our hotel for the second night of our travel itinerary, my maiden experience experiencing a traditional Japanese accommodation!

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This was also my maiden experience with Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese dinner! If you have the opportunity to experience Kaiseki in Japan, go for it!

Here are the details for Akankosou

〒085-0467 1-5-10 Akanko-Onsen, Akan-cho, Kushiro Hokkaido, JAPAN

Tel: (+81)(0)154-67-2231

The Japanese food dishes that we had during the Kaiseki, it was really awesome, beyond any more words to describe them. Our food photographs and priceless expressions after tasting the food would be the best testimonial to the amazing quality and standards of Japanese cuisine. We were in Food Heaven!

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Mt Hakuto(白湯山)

Before heading into onsen, we, this band of photographers decided to go out for a night Star Trail/Milky Way shoot (after official itinerary photography outing). Akankosou was kind enough to provide us with a guide and car to bring us out! With their local knowledge experience, the guide brought us to this location known as Mt. Hakuto; 5mins drive from Akankosou, at a height of 950m.

When we stepped out of the car and looked up into the Lake Akan night sky, we were immediately blown away by the amount of beautiful shining stars right above us. The stars brightened the dark Lake Akan skyline up and it was such a memorable experience for all of us! At times, we just wanted to lie down and do star gazing instead of photographing the Star Trails/Milky Way. We played with light painting and long night exposure photography too!

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Returning back to our hotel, Akankosou, we went to enjoy the onsen and relax for the night. Day 2 of our travel program had been very fun and it was one of the most memorable travel days out of the 4 days.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 1 – Utoro

This marked the start of my awesome travel photography experience of a lifetime with newfound photography friends for Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip (Photographers Invitation Program). Meeting at Changi Airport Terminal 1, I got to meet this special band of photographers that were going together on this big adventure.

Moe Anan – our beautiful and kawaii tour coordinator, translator

Dennis Seow of Superadrianme.com

Jensen Chua of Jensen Chua Photography

Yip Weng Seng of YipWengSeng Photography

Manami Iwatani, the pretty and bubbly Ran-san of Ninja Girls

Departing on Japan Airlines JL36 to Haneda Airport, Tokyo at 2200hrs Singapore time, we arrived at Haneda Airport at around 0530hrs Japan time. It was a pretty smooth flight to Tokyo and we cleared immigration and customs, proceed to domestic flights section for a bus ride to the domestic terminal at Haneda Airport for Japan Airlines JL1183 to Memambetsu Airport in Hokkaido at 0700hrs Japan time. The domestic flight from Tokyo to Hokkaido was smooth, arriving at around 0830hrs Japan time. During our descent to Memambetsu Airport, we had our first glimpse of the beautiful Hokkaido from the air! Walking out of the plane onto the aerobridge, we can feel the chilly cold autumn transiting into winter weather. The warmth inside Memambetsu Airport was most welcome for us!

At the arrival hall, our local Japanese hosts met us for our Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip –

Mr. Higasa Kazuma – General Manager, International Travel Division of Nippon Travel Agency Hokkaido Co Ltd.

Mr. Tsuyoshi Kato – Hokkaido Photo Guide, Travel Planner, Photographer, Translator and Driver.

We went to the washroom and change to warm winter attire first before we formally exchanged greetings, formalities and name cards with Mr Higasa Kazuma and Mr Tsuyoshi Kato. After the introduction and briefing, we loaded our luggage into the mini bus for our start to Central/Eastern Hokkaido photography exploration! Our first destination was the Utoro area in the Northeastern part of Hokkaido, the journey from Memambetsu Aiport was around two hours and this was our first taste of long travel between destinations that we were visiting in Hokkaido. During our drive to Utoro, we were introduced to Mt. Shari-dake, with the peak at 1,545m!

Lunch was a quick pit stop at a local 7-11 convenience store in a small town along the route to Utoro. We had to rush over to Utoro since we had a professional Japanese Photographer, Mr Junichi Yamamoto, waiting for us at Utoro to bring us around Shiretoko National Park!

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Furepe Waterfall (フレペの滝)/ Mt Rausu-dake (羅臼岳)

Our first stop was Furepe Waterfall; it was a short trek inside to the edge of the cliff/plateau, through the forest. During this short trek, we were able to view the beautiful and grand Mt Rausu-dake, standing at a height of 1,661m, with the peaks and ridgelines covered with snow! The landscape was amazing and very beautiful, snow white peaks, blue sky, amazing cloud formations and the foreground of trees, and grassland in autumn weather conditions.

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When we reached to the edge of the cliff, there was a lookout point/hut that visitors can go up to catch a better view of the Furepe Waterfall. Initially, I couldn’t see any river flowing down the cliff forming the waterfall. Where is Furepe Waterfall, I ask myself? Soon, it dawned upon me with words from photographer friend of Yamamoto Sensei, who explained to us that the waterfall was from the underneath the rocks formation! Zooming in close with my telephoto lens (Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM), I saw for myself Furepe Waterfall!

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Mr Yamamoto Sensei brought us to the next destination, not too far away from Furepe Waterfall. While trekking through the forested area, we managed to spot wildlife, the deer! Being in the wild, the animals were very sensitive to human beings and once they sensed us moving close towards them, they would start to move away to somewhere else. It was a very fun experience to be that close to the deer grazing and my Canon EOS 7D Mark II with 70-200mm f/4 L USM is perfect for photographing wildlife while on the move!

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Yunohana Waterfall (湯の華の滝)

We continued with our photography and travel exploration to Yunohana Waterfall, not too far down the road from Furepe Waterfall. Trekking to Yunohana Waterfall was very interesting whereby we spotted more wildlife in the forested area. Yunohana Waterfall is very similar to Furepe Waterfall, the waterfall is from the underneath the rocks formation! Mr Yamamoto Sensei was really very nice and showed us good photography spots to take photographs of the Yunohana Waterfall, besides that, Mr Yamamoto Sensei was sharing with us his local knowledge of the wildlife and vegetation, it was very useful learning and very interesting!

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Oshinkoshin Waterfall (オシンコシンの滝)

This is a very beautiful waterfall, along the costal road of Utoro. When we reached there, it was getting close to sunset and the sunrays that shined brightly on the slopes of the waterfall, giving it a golden brown landscape and waterfall. At Oshinkoshin Waterfall, we started to experience the cold winter weather coming in and we can feel the coldness! From the steps leading up to Oshinkoshin Waterfall, we were able to have a nice view of the sea and the upcoming Hokkaido sunset. Oshinkoshin Waterfall is really beautiful and we spent a bit more time there!

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Hokkaido Sunset (Route 334 between ‘Oronko Rock’ and ‘Base of the Setting Sun’)

I am a photographer that loves taking photographs of sunsets especially when visiting different countries. When I saw the incoming Hokkaido Sunset at Oshinkoshin Waterfall, we knew we were going to get a beautiful Hokkaido Sunset and we were all looking forward to it! There was a bit of rush to this location along Route 334 between ‘Oronko Rock’ and ‘Base of the Setting Sun’. Once we disembarked, the band of photographers started firing away with their cameras. I was very happy to capture a beautiful Hokkaido Sunset and the Hokkaido Sunset memories still stays inside me today!

Landscape photography tips: I shot the Hokkaido Sunset at Utoro using 2 Canon DSLR bodies setup, namely Canon EOS 5D Mark III with EF 16-35mm f4 L IS USM and Canon EOS 7D Mark II with EF 70-200mm f4 L USM. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III combination caters for a really wide angle landscape view while the Canon EOS 7D Mark II caters for a tighter crop landscape photograph especially when the landscape scene is very big!

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We said Sayonara to Mr Yamamoto Sensei for spending precious time with us that evening, each of us got nice Hokkaido photography postcards from Mr Yamamoto Sensei for memories! We took a group photograph with Mr Yamamoto Sensei before going to our hotel Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel.

Before we could setup our group photo shot, a Hokkaido wildlife animal came pretty close to us, watching and observing the whole group of us in action, the fox was curious at us human beings and observed us for a while with cute mesmerizing eyes. With the fox that near to us and we all photographers could not resist concentrating our cameras on the fox!

I wonder what did the Hokkaido Fox say?

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Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel (知床第一ホテル)

The Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel is a beautiful hotel, nice and comfortable! Love the view from my hotel room! The Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel was also where I experienced Onsen for the first time in my life and wearing a Yukata to dinner and Onsen! The buffet dinner was delicious and there was a widespread of local and international cuisines! I am grateful to Mr Kato-san for sharing with me how to wear a Yukata properly for the very first time!

My first ever Onsen, at Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel, was simply magical, the experience was unforgettable, therapeutic and relaxing! With the conclusion of my first ever Onsen experience, it also marked the end of Day 1 of our Hokkaido Photographer Invitation Program.


Created with flickr slideshow.