Tag Archives: Hokkaido

Canon EOS 5DS R Review

The Canon EOS 5DS R was launched in February 2015, together with the Canon EOS 5DS. Both were pretty similar in technical specifications, with the EOS 5DS R having the optical low pass filter (LPF) cancellation feature inside them, a feature that makes it stand out from the rest of the other Canon EOS DSLR family.

I reviewed the Canon EOS 5DS camera previously in the month of November 2015. My overall experience was good, the EOS 5DS was an excellent camera with the capabilities of their 50.6 megapixels sensor along with their dual Digic 6 processors. Ever since I completed my EOS 5DS review, I wanted to review her sister camera that was launched together, the Canon EOS 5DS R. While there was a bit of time lag between these 2 reviews, I was thankful and grateful that I was able to obtain a review unit for my travel photography trip to Hokkaido in October 2016.

Before I proceed on further, let me recap on the techinical specifications of the Canon EOS 5DS R –

Dimensions: Approx. 152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm

Weight: Approx. 845g (body only)

Image sensor: 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor

Imaging processor: Dual DIGIC 6

ISO speed: 100-6400 (expandable to 50 and 12 800)

Continuous shooting speed: 5 fps

Maximum video format: Full HD 30p

AF: 61-points Phase Difference AF with iTR AF

LCD: Wide 3.2-inch (1.04 million dots) 

Prior to this review, I did had a hands on experience with the Canon EOS 5DS R during a heritage outing with Canon Singapore and National Heritage Board in July 2015, visiting places of worship in Singapore. I requested to try out the EOS 5DS R for this outing and I got the chance! Check out the url links for the photographs that I took with the EOS 5DS R and my heritage tour article!

Therefore, in that short half day heritage tour, I had seen first hand for myself the capabilities of the EOS 5DS R. The photographs had great vivid colours, that would be ideal for landscape photography whereby this would stand out during spring and autumn seasons. In the later part of my article, I would be writing about my Hokkaido autumn travel photography and you would be able to view for yourself, not just the vivid colours, also the sharpness and details.

During my trip to Hokkaido in October 2016, I brought the Canon EOS 5DS R with two lenses, EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM and EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM. I have uploaded my Hokkaido autumn 2016 photographs into a collection on my Flickr account, do visit and take a look at the photographs that I took in Hokkaido!

Sharpness and details

When I was traveling in Hokkaido with the Canon EOS 5DS R, I was amazed by the quality of the photographs, the sharpness and details can be seen a lot more in the photographs that I shot with.

The big image sensor size and quality of the EOS 5DS R, requires high quality lenses to be paired with it, such as the Canon L family of lenses. During my trip to Hokkaido, I had the opportunity to test out one of the latest L lens, the EF 16-35mm f/4 L USM and an older EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens.

Using the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens, I was able to achieve consistent, sharp and detailed photographs for my landscapes and walkabout travel photography. While for the slightly older L lens, there were times whereby I was able to capture excellent, sharp and detailed photographs, there were also a number of times whereby the photographs were not sharp and detailed, especially in the longer focal length of the lens.

This is not to state that the EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM lens is not a good lens, I have been faithfully using this lens for years (and still using it), another of my workhorse lens and I love it for its lightweight, capabilities and optics.

After I came back from Hokkaido, I met with a few photographer friends and had a chat with them on my observation. Having such a big image sensor size does have its own challenges, not all the lenses can bring out the best of the quality and capabilities of the EOS 5DS R. The Canon EF L lenses have the capabilities and abilities to bring the best out of the EOS 5DS R, and in my personal humble opinion, I would recommend that the latest L lenses would be more suitable and capable to do so.

Flexibility of dual card slots – SD + CF

The dual card slots is really ideal for photographers, for example, landscape photographers can choose to shoot both in RAW and JPEG format, separately into each designated storage card.

This would allow the photographer to have both types of files to work on, depending on their workflow or requirements. Some photographers may choose to work on the JPEG files and store the RAW files aside for future usage, as and when it is required.

File size

The 50.6 megapixel EOS 5DS R produces a huge file size for JPEG and even much bigger file size for RAW files. The huge file sizes on both JPEG and RAW would take up a lot of resources on your computer as well as your storage space.

For future owners of the EOS 5DS R or the EOS 5DS, a more powerful computer would really be ideal (highly recommended) and you would also need more disk storage space (external, internal or cloud)

EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM review

Canon has an excellent line up of constant aperture wide angle zoom lens such as the EF 17-40mm f/4 L and EF 16-35 f/2.8 L lenses. I personally own the EF 17-40mm f/4 L lens and I am not just a huge fan of this lens, this was also my workhorse lens. I can’t bear to let go of the EF 17-40mm f/4 L for another Canon wide angle lens. However, if I ever going to upgrade, I would choose the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM lens, over the f/2.8 counterparts.

I reviewed the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM lens a number of times and I started to love this lens. This is an excellent lens, lightweight with image stabilisation (IS), you can also use it for recording videos. Optics is really excellent, coupled with a big image sensor such as the EOS 5DS R 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor, you have an excellent camera and lens combination. This combination of EOS 5DS R and EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM is highly suitable for landscape photographers, event photographers and travel photographers.

Final thoughts on Canon EOS 5DS R

This would be an excellent camera for landscape photographers, who like/are comfortable with the 35mm format. Match it with Canon’s latest wide angle lenses or their latest L lenses and you have an ideal and powerful camera and lens combination. With the 50.6 megapixels sensor, photographers would be able to have high quality images with a lot more details and sharpness.

While I am still predominantly a sports/events photographer with my Canon EOS 1DX, I do have a portfolio on travel photography. Photographers do (always) face the dilemma of wanting a few camera bodies yet it takes up space and they can be a hefty investment cost. For my future travel photography assignments, whether it is commissioned or personal travel, I would look into renting the EOS 5DS R to fulfil the job.

The EOS 5DS R is not just confined to landscape/travel photographers, other photography fields can also consider them too, probably just as good for product shoot photography! Portraiture photography would be a lot more sharp and having more details, this might be very good or too sharp with too many details for your liking, depending on your job requirements!

This is a “monster” DSLR camera, it can be a very powerful camera and it is able to give medium format a run for its money (although it would not be a very fair comparison between 35mm and medium format). In order to bring out the best of the EOS 5DS R, pair it with the latest Canon L lenses such as the EF 11-24mm f/4 L USM, EF 16-35 f/2.8L III USM and EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

I would like to thank Canon Singapore and Ogilvy Public Relations for the Canon EOS 5DS R review opportunity.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 7

27th October 2016 – Day 7 Lake Toya -> Usu -> Noboribetsu -> Shiraoi -> New Chitose Airport

Today is the last day of my Hokkaido travel photography adventure, my whole trip till date had been awesome, enjoying the autumn and winter seasons in this trip along with wet, cold and bright sunny autumn weather.

Lake Toya

Sunrise shoot (near to carpark beside The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa)

I wasn’t able to get a nice sunset (I did manage to get a nice sunrise at Biei) during this Hokkaido trip and on Day 6 evening, Kato san suggested to get a sunrise shoot on my last day of my trip. Why not? I set the alarm clock to wake up early and go for a sunrise shoot, keeping my fingers crossed for good weather and not too cloudy sky!

Even though it was autumn, I felt really cold on the 27th October 2016 morning, my autumn wear wasn’t warm and thick enough. Luckily, Kato san loaned me an outdoor overall suit with a pair of rubber boots. That kept me warm for this morning sunrise shoot.

Kato san drove to this hill top, where a luxury hotel is located, the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa. There was a carpark beside the hotel and it was the spot where we waited for the Hokkaido sunrise above Lake Toya. As the day started to break, we saw a thick cloud cover across Lake Toya. Initially, I was worried that there would be no sunrise with such thick cloud cover. Yet, Hokkaido again decided to bless me with a gorgeous sunset, rising above the mountain range, her rays punching through the clouds as she rose up to warm us up from a cold October autumn morning.

The next thing was to return back to our hotel, warm ourselves up in the onsen. This would be my last onsen and I wanted to enjoy it before returning back to Singapore. The onsen is the most suitable method to warm ourselves up from a cold autumn morning!

Scenic lake drive around Lake Toya

While the early morning sunrise was cloudy, the morning weather at Lake Toya was really good! I saw clear blue sky with thick fluffy white clouds. Kato san drove me around the other loop of Lake Toya. This was a very pretty scenic drive, I found a spot great for car photography shoot (driving on the road with Lake Toya and mountains in the background), we also spotted a pair of swans that swam to us on the shoreline, thinking that both Kato san and myself have some food to feed them!

Ice cream at Lake Hill Farm

When you visit Lake Toya, Hokkaido, this is one of the place that you MUST visit! I heard about this ice cream, it’s really famous, the ice cream is smooth, fresh and very delicious!! There were a lot of flavours and I couldn’t possibly try all of them, I wish I could though!

Lake Hill Farm has a very beautiful garden, with a bird’s eye view of the nearby mountain range! The green garden open space is ideal for the children to play and have fun while enjoying the ice cream!

Check out their website here – Lake Hill Farm!

Usu

Zenko-ji Temple (有珠善光寺)

Japan has many Shinto and Buddhist temples across the whole country. I always love to visit them whenever I get to visit Japan. When I visited Tokyo in 2004, I still remembered my visits to Meiji-Jingu shrine and Sensoji temple, I was in awe by their history, tradition and beauty of the holy places.

On Day 6 evening, when we on the way back from Muroran to Lake Toya, we drove past the coastal area and we spotted a Buddhist temple in the Usu area. Since it was already dark, we decided to drive there and take a look in the late morning.

Upon parking the car, we walked into the temple grounds. Nothing prepared me for this visit, I have entered into a very old Buddhist temple in Japan that is still relatively unknown to the world. This temple is listed on the local tourism body website and there are signages showing the location of the Zenko-ji Temple. However, beyond that, I am not too sure if this temple is even known to the rest of Japan and the world.

Kato san had a chat with the locals outside the Zenko-ji Temple, I couldn’t speak Japanese therefore Kato san did the translation for me, explaining the history behind this temple. We were also given permission to enter and visit the temple, along with permission to take photographs of the main prayer hall. Some temples can be strict on photography, therefore I am honoured and happy that permission was granted. They had a gorgeous Japanese garden inside the temple grounds, very rich history and heritage items inside the temple. This had been a real eye opener for me to photograph and share some of photographs of Zenko-ji Temple.

We went exploring behind the temple up onto the small hill, the walk was like entering into an enchanted forest full of mystery. The autumn foliage was in full bloom, making this temple ground even more magical with its bright autumn colours.

Through my photographs and few paragraphs of sharing, I hope this would give this Buddhist temple more publicity and awareness. If you are visiting Hokkaido, the regions of Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, do consider visiitng the Zenko-ji Temple in Usu.

Address from Google Maps: 124 Usuchō, Date-shi, Hokkaidō 059-0151, Japan

Website: http://www13.plala.or.jp/zenkouji/

Facebook Page : https://www.facebook.com/datekanko

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/f.akatsuka

Noboribetsu

Lake Kuttara

Leaving Usu, Kato san started driving towards Noboribetsu region, a very popular tourist destination, very famous for its onsen and they have some nice locations for autumn colours foliage too. First stop was Lake Kuttara, along the route u to the next few destinations that I am sharing in the later paragraphs.

Hiyoriyama Observation Deck日和山展望台

Driving uphill from Lake Kuttara, a short drive away, we arrived at the top of the hill, Kato san parked his car and we walked towards the Hiyoriyama Observation Deck. The smell was strong and pungent with sulphur fumes in the air, it was unbearable at times for me since I am not used to sulphur smell in the air. I was also able to spot the hot steam vents from the observation deck. I enjoyed the sceneries around it; this was indeed a good place for autumn colours foliage photography. However, I was struggling with the pungent fumes, just not used to it!

At the foot of the hill lies, Oyunuma Pond, where we headed to next after a short time spent at this observation deck.

Oyunuma Pond

At the foot of the hill, we arrived at Oyunuma Pond, it’s surrounded by forest and trees. The strong pungent sulphur smell was very distinctive and powerful, visitors would be learn more about the physical geography of Noboribetsu, that makes this region very famous for their minerals and volcanic grounds.

I reckon this area makes a good spot for autumn colours foliage photography especially when it reaches the peak season.

Jigokudani (Hell Valley)

Just round the corner from Oyunuma Pond, we arrived at a very famous tourist destination in Hokkaido. Welcome to Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, this is a very popular tourist destination with both local and international visitors. A short walking distance away is the town of Noboribetsu Onsen and the onsen in this region is very popular due to the proximity of the sulphur and minerals from the Hell Valley region. Kato san shared that the onsen in Noboribetsu Onsen town has different types of onsen baths for the visitors, I might try it one day in the future if I ever get the opportunity to visit Noboribetsu region again.

When I walked into the valley of hell, I wasn’t afraid of the place, Jigokudani is beautiful during the autumn foliage season! I am just not used to the strong pungent smell of sulphur fumes coming out from the grounds of Hell Valley!

Shiraoi

My Last (and very delicious) Lunch in Hokkaido

Kato san asked me what I would like for lunch before he drove me to New Chitose Airport for my evening flight home back to Singapore. I wasn’t sure of the food options and I listened attentively to his suggestion. He showed me some photos of this beefsteak at this nice little wooden hut restaurant, I saw the price and it was really reasonable for its excellent quality and standards (when I returned back to Singapore, eating a similar beef steak here would cost 3-4 times more)

Soon, we left Noboribetsu onsen town and head towards Shiraoi along the expressway. A short car ride of approximately 45 minutes, I entered into a farm, stopping in front of a nice little wooden hut restaurant. I am thankful and grateful to Kato san for helping me with the ordering and translation.

Two hot and sizzling pan soon arrived at our table, I was so excited! Once I took my first bite, I was like in food heaven! The beef tasted really delicious, soft, tender and juicy beef.

After finishing my super delicious beef steak, I was so happy with my last lunch! I reckon that they are one of the best beef producers around in Hokkaido (if not the best).

Website: http://wagyu-oukoku.com

New Chitose Airport

This was the final leg of my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, the road trip journey from Shiraoi to New Chitose Airport. I made the decision to go there early, have a rest and coffee with my friend, Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san.

Reflecting back on my Hokkaido autumn travel photography adventure 2016, I had so much fun traveling solo and with my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san. If you are a photographer and would love a customised travel photography plan, I highly recommend my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, drop him an email on his website or Facebook page!

Goodbye Hokkaido, I am sure I will be back again! Maybe I might lead a group of photographers next time, or maybe I might come back to continue exploring the other regions of Hokkaido that I haven’t visited yet!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 7


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 6

26th October 2016 – Day 6 Lake Toya -> Sobetsu / Date -> Muroran

A beautiful and gorgeous morning greeted me at Lake Toya when I woke up. The weather was really good, clear blue sky accompanied by fluffy white clouds. A quick takeaway breakfast from the nearby convenience store did the job and I was off for my travel photography adventures in the Lake Toya region.

Lake Toya

Lake Toya View Point – Sobetsu Park

A short drive away from the hotel, Kato san drove up towards a hill top. This was the Lake Toya View Point – Sobetsu Park, the road up towards this location is pretty small and narrow, suitable for cars, not for big vehicles. The bird’s eye view from there is simply amazing, you can pretty see the entire Lake Toya region and surroundings. I am really thankful for the good weather that morning!

Kato san and myself chanced upon a local Japanese who lives nearby, he mentioned to Kato san that he conducts astrophotography tours at this spot and this is an ideal location to photograph the night skyline of Lake Toya.

Camping ground at Lake Toya

After spending approximately 30mins at Lake Toya View Point, Kato san drove down the hill, back to the coastal lake drive route. A short driving journey brought me to a camping ground in Lake Toya. From what I understood chatting with Kato san, Lake Toya is a very popular tourist destination, for both locals and international visitors.

The camping ground is close to the water body of Lake Toya, I went on to do some hopping along the banks and rocks of Lake Toya. A very nice and quiet place for your camping holiday, I can imagine this camping ground packed during the summer holidays! The autumn colours foliage were bright and colourful, red, orange, yellow and green! Lake Toya region autumn foliage season is a bit later in the month of October, the 3rd week is probably their peak period while the central and northern parts of Hokkaido autumn foliage peak earlier in end September and early October.

A location along the banks of Lake Toya

Whenever I travel to different countries overseas, I would love to explore places that are not too touristy and crowded, places that the locals know. That is why if it is possible, I would hire a local guide. Kato san, is a very experienced and knowledgable Hokkaido Photo Guide, I have absolute trust in him and his planning.

At this location along the banks of Lake Toya, a big thanks to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, I was able to capture sa few very memorable photographs of Lake Toya, a mirror reflection of the small islands of Lake Toya and the white clouds on the surface of Lake Toya whereby the water was almost “standing still”.

From some of the amazing destinations that I shared over the past few articles, you can see why I chose and highly recommend Kato san, an excellent and very knowledgable Hokkaido Photo Guide.

Sobetsu / Date

Sobetsu Taki waterfall 壮瞥滝

Continuing on after the location along the banks of Lake Toya, it was another short drive nearby, into a residential area. We parked the car along the road outside and took a short walk into the forest inside. Along the forest path, there was a small stream of water flowing down pretty fast too. Trekking further inside, the sounds of the water splashing and flow got even louder.

This short trek was very quiet, peaceful and tranquil, accompanied by the colourful autumn foliage. There were signs of fallen and broken trees along the stream, they were damaged during an earlier typhoon that struck Hokkaido a few months earlier.

Upon reaching the end of the forest path, I was greeted with an amazing view of a small waterfall! As the clear water flowed down gracefully, the sounds of the waterfall can be very therapeutic and soothing at times. I stood there, enjoying the water droplets falling on me, taking photographs of the Sobetsu Taki waterfall before turning around and walking back to the car.

Otaki Niagara Falls 大滝ナイアガラ滝

The next destination that Kato san brought me to, from Sobetsu Taki waterfall, was approximately 20mins drive away, going inland, away from Lake Toya. Crossing a small bridge, the car was parked on an open grass patch outside the entrance of a hiking trail. I quickly took a few photographs of the river before trekking down the forest trail.

I spotted wooden signboards with diagrams and codes, I was curious and asked Kato san about them. Kato san explained that this hiking trail is popular in all seasons, during winter, the locals come to this area and do cross country skiing.

Along the hiking trail, it was really quiet, peaceful and tranquil. However, the sounds of the water flowing got even louder as we were approaching our destination. The view of a few waterfalls together on the river greeted me, I was awed by her presence. The locals named as Otaki Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls name fitted these waterfalls perfectly!

We spent a bit of time here, trying to find different spots and angles to capture this magnificent waterfall. Getting closer to the waterfall, we need to climb down onto the river banks, it was a bit wet and slippery. The extra efforts and work put in were totally worth it, I got a few nice photography memories from the river banks facing the Otaki Niagara Falls.

Sangai-taki Falls 三階滝公園

Just a short drive away from Otaki Niagara Falls, we reached Sangai-taki Park, where another waterfall awaits me, the Sangai-taki Falls. There are 3 levels of waterfall, surrounded by trees and a hill beside it. This would make an excellent location during spring and autumn season. Some of the autumn foliage had fallen, the trees looked very bare, there were still some autumn foliage likely in their final stage before falling off the branches.

Showa-Shinzan (Mt Usu and Showa Shinzan)

Located at the foot of two mountains, one is very old (Mt Usu) and the other is quite young relative to her neighbour (Showa Shinzan), there is a busy small town that attracts many locals and international visitors. For visitors who want to go up to Mt Usu, this is the location where you board the ropeway to Mt Usu. This location is a nice place to sit down, relax and enjoy the sceneries. I decided not to go up to Mt Usu, therefore, we didn’t stay too long there before driving towards Date City for lunch.

Lunch (Ramen) at Date City

From the photographs of my Japanese food that I had over the past few days, you can spot a trend of Ramen. I am a big fan of Ramen and I would love to try as many different Ramen from different parts of Japan. I had a friend on social media commenting that I am on a Ramen mission in Hokkaido, I think so too!

I am not going to write a food review here, I just want to sayおいしい Oishī !!

Muroran

Road trip from Date to Muroran

For the afternoon segment, after a short discussion with Kato san during our Ramen lunch, we drove down along the coast line towards Muroran, not too far away from Date. The short drive was really scenic and I can imagine how the other parts of Hokkaido coastal route looks like!

I saw the railway tracks along the coast line, the local trains and limited express trains in action! Luck was on my side when I managed to capture a photo of the Limited Express Super Hokuto Model Series 261 at a railway crossing.

Recently, while I was doing some reading and research in my library, I found a book that showcased Japan Railway photographs, sceneries and locations on where to to photograph them. I remembered the scenes along the Hokkaido coast line where the JR trains traveled, the view of the JR train tracks from the mountain pass at Biei, a new adventure is brewing inside me, wanting and planning to return back again, photographing JR trains and their sceneries.

When we were about to reach Muroran, a suspension bridge across the bay, along with its harbour and shipyards, greeted us, this is the Hakucho Bridge. I didn’t manage to take any photographs of the Hakucho Bridge, it mades a pretty awesome view of the bridge, bay, harbour and shipyards.

Takkarisho and Cape Tikiu Lighthouse

Along this scenic coastal drive route of Muroran, there were great views of the Uchiura Bay, tall cliffs standing out facing the sea along with beautiful rock formations. At this location Takkarisho, I was able to see all these views and it would be really nice if the weather was nice and sunny. When I was there, rain was falling down on me, blessed by the cold autumn sea breeze blowing at me. Rain + cold autumn winds (or cold winter winds) are a very powerful combination, I didn’t manage to take many photographs, just took a few of the Takkarisho and Cape Tikiu Lighthouse, and I quickly rushed back to Kato san car to keep myself warm and dry from the rain + cold autumn sea breeze.

After the last 2 locations at Muroran, we drove back to our hotel at Lake Toya for an early rest (to get ready for a sunrise photo shoot at Lake Toya) and to keep ourselves warm at the onsen. This was also my last night in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 6


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

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 3

23rd October 2016 – Day 3

It’s Sunday in Hokkaido, another cold and chilly autumn morning with the cold wind blowing. My plan for the morning was to make a pilgrimage to a whiskey that I really like a lot, Nikka whiskey. The birth place of Nikka whiskey is in this place called Yoichi, just three JR stations away from Otaru. I checked the local JR train timetable heading towards Yoichi the night before, planned the time to wake up, head towards onsen, buy my breakfast from the JR Otaru station convenience store before boarding the local JR train to Yoichi.

The local JR train ride was fun and I always love my traveling experiences there. Although it was only three stations away, the distance between them were quite far apart. I loved the views from my short JR train ride, I saw the colourful trees, the sea, coast line, hills and houses. My train ride was quite busy, not too packed, there were a number of people on the same train ride too. I spotted some elderly Japanese folks drinking beer in the morning while traveling on the train!

Nikka Distillery

Upon arriving at JR Yoichi station, there were a lot of people that were riding together on the train also alighted along with me. It dawned upon me pretty quickly that we were all heading towards a common destination, the Nikka distillery! A short walk away from JR Yoichi station, I arrived at the entrance to Nikka distillery, I am awed and excited because I made a pilgrimage to my favourite whiskey!

Visiting and walking inside Nikka distillery wasn’t too difficult, you can choose to join a guided tour (in Japanese though) or you can choose to walk around and explore on your own. I chose to walk around and explore myself. There were many information at various locations on the history, significance and things related to Nikka whiskey. The most interesting segments for me were the whiskey museum and Nikka Kaikan (guest hall, tasting room). My most eagerly anticipated segment of visiting Nikka distillery was the free whiskey tastings! There were 3 types of whiskey available for tasting inside the Nikka Kaikan, there were some rules to follow for visitors, no drinking for those visitors driving and each visitor is only allowed to taste 1 glass of whiskey from each type of whiskey available for tasting.

Whiskey is supposed to be enjoyed slowly, shaking and stirring the aroma up from the whiskey, slowly sipping, enjoying the after taste before continuing to slowly sip up the rest of the whiskey. In the midst of my excitement and over enthusiasm, I drank two of the three whiskey in kind of double quick time. Although I really loved the taste and feeling, my head started to spin because I drank too fast and furious! I had to quickly grab some ice water to drink and settle myself down!

There was a place known as Distillery Shop “Northland”, a gift shop to buy gifts and Nikka whiskey. Initially, I thought of buying Nikka whiskey back home to Singapore, however, they were not able to do the duty free procedure therefore I decided not to buy it back. Instead, I bought an ice ball maker and a box of Nikka Distillery chocolates.

I checked the return trip JR train time table when I first entered into the JR Yoichi station, therefore, I had a bit of time to walk around Yoichi and have a quick look before making my way to JR Yoichi station. Japanese trains were very efficient, reliable and punctual. The station masters opened up the doors for the passengers to walk out to the platform about 10 mins before the scheduled arrival time of the JR train. The visitors queued up in rows, waiting in line for the train to arrive. The JR train arrived exactly at the scheduled time as printed on the boards inside the train station.

Reaching JR Otaru station, there was a short time transition for passengers to switch and hop on to the another JR train heading towards Sapporo. This was how great, detailed and thoughtful the Japanese placed in service delivery standards.

When I reached Sapporo, I wanted to look for the Travelers notebook by the Traveler’s Company. However, I wasn’t able to find my way around the shopping centre and I didn’t manage to buy it during my trip to Hokkaido. I went back to the same lunch place yesterday, ordered a curry beef rice, enjoyed my lunch and took the next available train back to Otaru, for my late afternoon to night view of Otaru from Mt Tenguyama.

Mt Tenguyama, Otaru

Mt. Tenguyama, is a famous and well known tourism destination in Otaru, as well as in Hokkaido. On top of Mt Tenguyama, it has one of the best views of Hokkaido, highly rated and recommended by both locals and international visitors. I took a bus from Otaru bus terminal in front of JR Otaru station towards the foot of Mt Tenguyama where the ropeway station was located. I took the ropeway up and it was a great view of Otaru, the port and the sea!

Mt Tenguyama indeed had some gorgeous views up at the top, there were a few observation points that allowed visitors to take photographs of Otaru and her surroundings from different observation points. The weather was a bit overcast and pretty cloudy when I was up on top of Mt Tenguyama. I explored around the top of Mt Tenguyama, it’s really peaceful and beautiful. There were gusty chilly winds blowing on that evening, making it very challenging for me to stay long outside in the open to take photographs (I was kind of freezing up there on Mt Tenguyama).

Waiting for the sun to set and night to arrive, I finally caught a good glimpse of the night landscape scenery of Otaru. I didn’t bring my tripod up to Mt Tenguyama therefore I made the best out of everything in a very cold autumn night with gusty winds blowing at the top of Mt Tenguyama.

Taking the ropeway ride down, enjoying the nights sceneries of Otaru. I took the bus back to Otaru city centre, went to JR Otaru station and bought a half deep fried chicken for dinner back to my hotel room whereby I was able to keep myself warm from another cold chilly autumn night.

On my last night in Otaru at Dormy Inn Premium, I went down for my night singing noodles, the hot and heartwarming Yonaki Soba, my last time to enjoy this wonderful noodles, I am not too sure when I would have the chance again. Upon finishing the delicious Yonaki Soba, I went back to my room, packed my luggage while resting before coming down to relax and enjoy at the onsen before my sleep time.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 3


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 2

22nd October 2016 – Day 2

It’s the weekend in Hokkaido, my plan today was to travel inside Sapporo using their subway lines. The weather was still cold, wet and chilly with the winds blowing, the sky was overcast and it did posed some challenges when I was taking photographs in Sapporo. I boarded the morning local train from JR Otaru to Sapporo and began my Day 2 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.

In Sapporo, taking the subway is an excellent form of public transport to explore different parts of Sapporo. There is a one day unlimited rides subway pass known as Donichika ticket (520 yen is the discounted price for Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays) can be purchased from the subway station ticketing machine. I was initially worried that I might faced some challenges buying the Donichika ticket from the ticketing machine, however, it wasn’t too difficult once I found the English language segment on the ticketing machine!

The subway system in Sapporo is not too complicated as compared to Tokyo! It’s very easy to navigate and ride, with only two stations to do your transfer between Subway Tozai Line, Subway Namboku Line and Subway Toho Line at Sapporo and Odori subway stations. I took the Subway Namboku Line and my first stop on my Day 2 adventure is Nakajima Park!

Nakajima Park

Once I came out of the Nakajima Koen Subway Station, the sceneries immediately dawned upon me on why Nakajima Park is a popular tourist destination for visitors and locals in Sapporo. The autumn colours were bright and colourful in the midst of an overcast sky, highlighted by the reflections on the pond. While there were more places to explore at Nakajima Park, I strolled along the Shobu Pond, making a loop to the point where I first started.

I came to view the autumn colours and the bright autumn colours of Nakajima Park blew me away. There were many different colours canopies of different trees around the Shobu Pond. Both the locals and tourists were enjoying themselves, reading books, drawing/painting, strolling, viewing and taking photographs. Nakajima Park is so beautiful in autumn, I would love to view it during spring, summer and winter seasons too if I have the opportunity again!

While the weather was chilly and cold winds blowing, I enjoyed myself thoroughly at Nakajima Park. I made the best out of the overcast weather, spotting and taking photographs of the different types of colourful leaves, tree canopies and fallen leaves on the ground, like a golden field.

Lunch time in Sapporo

I took the subway back to Sapporo for a lunch. Lucky for me, I was able to find a shop inside one of the underground shopping mall nearby JR Sapporo that has an easy to use and order machine with English language to buy my Japanese meal! Upon choosing my meal, payment was made and I was issued a small ticket (just like the train ticket). I entered into the shop, found myself a seat, sat down and a friendly staff soon came over to take my ticket, instructed the kitchen on my food order. They were pretty fast with their cooking and in a few minutes, I had a hot and delicious pork katsudon!

Hokkaido Shrine

With a nice and delicious lunch inside me, it’s time to continue my photography adventure, next destination was Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine. I took the Subway Namboku Line, from Sapporo Subway Station to Odori Subway Station, making a transfer to Subway Tozai Line to Maruyama Koen Station. Looking for the signboard to the correct exit to Maruyama Park, I started walking towards Maruyama Park.

The weather in the early afternoon changed, started raining with chilly winds blowing. My initial plan was to climb Mt Maruyama, visit Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine. Observing the weather and time availability during that afternoon, I made a decision not to climb Mt Maruyama and chose to visit Hokkaido Shrine and Maruyama Park.

Trekking my way into Hokkaido Shrine, it’s like a journey into a mystery forest with an aura of peace and tranquility covered with magical powers. The tall trees that towered into the sky, the lush greenery and colourful autumn canopies.

Soon after, I found myself arriving at the grand Hokkaido Shrine. This was mesmerising, I haven’t visited a shrine/temple in Japan for quite some time (last visit was to Senso-ji Temple and Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo during 2004). Prior to entering the Hokkaido Shrine compound, I went to the Temizuya, cleanse and purify myself before entering.

At the main entrance, I was awed by the Hokkaido Shrine presence and stature. I bowed in respect and took a step inside. This was a big shrine with an open compound, surrounded by tall trees. I walked towards the main hall, offered my prayer in silence with my heart and soul speaking to the deities of Hokkaido Shrine, seeking peace and blessings for the things that happened to me in the earlier part of 2016 and to seek blessings for my future endeavours.

Before departing from Hokkaido Shrine, I went to look for an amulet, a particular amulet – Prosperity in Business. However, I wasn’t fated to find that particular amulet (probably sold out) and I searched for another amulet. There was a unique amulet that caught my eye, without much hesitation, I bought it. That amulet is “Victory” amulet. This is an omen, a blessing from Hokkaido Shrine, Victory in my future endeavours/challenges/obstacles that I will be facing.

Maruyama Park

Upon leaving Hokkaido Shrine, I trekked down and back into Maruyama Park. While the weather conditions were not getting any better and sky turning dark soon, I still managed to discover gorgeous and quiet spots in Maruyama Park, the benches inside the park underneath the canopies of the tall trees.

How I wished the weather that day wasn’t that cold, wet and chilly winds blowing that afternoon, I would love to sit on a bench, view the autumn colours above me and immerse into the colourful autumn season.

The weather wasn’t getting any better and I made my way back to Maruyama Koen Subway Station for my subway train ride back to Sapporo Subway Station, thereafter, getting on the rapid express JR train from Hokkaido back to Otaru.

Arriving back at JR Otaru station, it was raining and the winds were chilly. I decided that I would go back to my hotel and rest for the night, no more night photography exploration for Saturday 22nd October. I was looking forward to the heartwarming and hot bowl of Yonaki Soba again, the night singing noodles always cheer me up on a chilly autumn night. This was then followed by a visit to the onsen, it’s a must for me, very relaxing and soothing for me after that.

A gloomy Saturday, wet, cold and chilly day overall. Nevertheless, filled with fun, inner fulfilment and enjoyment.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 1

21st October 2016 – Day 1

A good night of sleep and rest, I woke up to a cold, wet and overcast Otaru weather. That didn’t deter my plans to explore Sapporo and Otaru today on my Day 1 in Hokkaido. First and foremost, I went down for my morning onsen, refresh myself before heading out for my photography adventure. The weather in Otaru was pretty cold for the autumn season and the winds were a little bit gusty when I stepped out of the hotel as I walked towards the JR Otaru train station.

I had to exchange for my JR Hokkaido pass at JR Sapporo station and I hopped onto the local JR Hokkaido train towards Sapporo. It’s been quite some time back since I last sat on the JR local train and I happened to choose the train that made a stop at every JR station along the route from Otaru to Sapporo (I had forgotten about the semi-rapid JR train service!). The journey was beautiful, part of it was along the coastline.

JR Sapporo station is a pretty huge place, not just the central train station, it’s also a huge hub for the offices and shopping malls, all linked and connected together. My first stop was to visit the JR office and exchanged my JR Hokkaido pass, the procedure wasn’t too difficult. I gave them the exchange voucher, filled in a form, showed my passport and the friendly staff there processed my JR Hokkaido pass on the spot and I am ready to go riding on the trains.

Now to start on my Hokkaido 2016 photography adventure! First stop was Hokkaido University / Gingko Avenue.

Hokkaido University / Gingko Avenue

A short walk away from JR Sapporo station, about 15-20mins walk (slow walk due to ice/snow on the ground). I entered into Hokkaido University campus ground, it’s a nice and quiet campus, they reminded me of my St Lucia campus of The University of Queensland. Once I stepped inside the campus ground, I spotted the colourful autumn colours on the trees with snow on the ground, a gorgeous mix of both autumn and winter together.

The sceneries were really beautiful, even though the sky was overcast and gloomy, I didn’t let the weather affected me in my photography. I slowly walked, taking photos along with both local and international tourists visiting Hokkaido University.

Gingko Avenue is a very well known road inside Hokkaido University, very popular with both local and international tourists. Once I reached there, I was able to fully understand why they loved it so much. Two rows of trees, lining up Gingko Avenue, in the midst of the vehicles, cyclists and people along Gingko Avenue, this road gave a sense of aura of nature, peace and tranquility. I really had a good time along Gingko Avenue, taking photographs from different perspectives and angles.

Former Hokkaido Government Office

The city area of Sapporo is pretty well planned out, it’s not too difficult to walk around. I walked back to JR Sapporo station before walking down towards Odori Park, making a stop at the former Hokkaido Government Office first.

This is a historical building of importance and significance to Hokkaido. You can’t miss it, it’s a distinct red brick colour building and are you able to spot the red star? Due to time constraint, I didn’t visit the interior and exhibits inside the former Hokkaido Government Office.

I strolled around the compound, enjoying the peace and tranquility at the pond with beautiful trees. This place would look great during the spring and summer season with the flowers and greenery.

Before reaching Odori Park, I stopped by a convenience store at a junction facing a segment of Odori Park. Visiting a convenience store in Japan is always very interesting for me, there are so many different types of food, drinks, tidbits, magazines, daily neccessities that you can find inside a Japanese convenience store! Lunch was a simple sushi set with a bottle of green tea, at the corner of the convenience store where they have bar stools and bar table.

Odori Park

Odori Park is a pretty long stretch of green open space lined up with trees in the middle of tall concrete buildings in Sapporo. This beautiful green space gives people living/working there a nice area to take walks, relax, have their lunch etc. It’s a great place to visit major events held in Sapporo every season e.g. Sapporo Snow Festival.

I walked from one end of Odori Park to the other end where the iconic Sapporo TV tower stood. There wasn’t too many people at Odori Park during my time there, I saw some young children playing with snow and trying to build a snowman! I hope that maybe in the future, I can return to Sapporo again during a time whereby a major event/festival is held there and I am able to enjoy Odori Park.

The bright, colourful and beautiful autumn colours lined up the sides of Odori Park. I felt the aura of the autumn colours even though it was a bit cold with the winds blowing. It was a quiet and tranquil time for me when I was walking down Odori Park, I can’t explain how soothing it was for me, for my mind.

Sapporo Clock Tower

I began to head back up to JR Sapporo station, planning to take the JR train back to Otaru and explore the area in the night. While walking back, I stopped at the Sapporo Clock Tower, another iconic and cultural landmark of Hokkaido, it was built in 1878. The bell rings every hour to announce the time to the city of Hokkaido.

I would love to visit and know more about Sapporo Clock Tower history and culture inside the building. However, I had a number of places that I wanted to cover, therefore I didn’t manage to go in and visit.

Walking back to JR Sapporo station, I checked the timetable and caught the rapid express train to Otaru for a evening/night walk. The weather was overcast and there wasn’t much of a sunset scene as I reached the port area of Otaru. I felt the cold wind blowing coupled with the cold autumn season. I decided to head back to my hotel and rest for a few hours before coming out later in the night for night walkabout of Otaru.

Otaru former Temiya railway line / The Bank of Japan Otaru Museum (Ministry of Finance)

I like to explore railway lines especially those that were no longer in operation and remained behind as tourist/historical landmarks/monuments. I saw photos of the former Temiya railway line and wanted to check them out. Using the Otaru city tourist map, I found my way to a junction along Nichigindori Street. The former Temiya railway tracks and landmarks are still around, the platform and train waiting area.

I would love to return back to Otaru again and explore the former Temiya railway line again, in the daytime instead of going there in the night. There are still a number of places in Otaru that I wanted to go but wasn’t able to complete it due to time constraints and trying to cover as many locations as possible.

Not too far away from the former Temiya railway line junction, I saw The Bank of Japan Otaru Museum building. It looked pretty grand at night with the lights shining on the building façade.

Otaru Canal

The Otaru Canal is an iconic and cultural area of Otaru. A beautiful area in the night to walk along the canal, enjoying the night lights of the nearby buildings and former warehouses along Otaru Canal. Walking down from Nichigindori Street, I reached Asakusa Bridge of Otaru Canal, a good spot for taking photos of Otaru Canal.

A quiet stroll along the canal, towards Chuo Bridge, another good spot for taking photos of Otaru Canal and surroundings. This is really nice for a romantic couple walk along the Otaru Canal in the night where it is quiet, peaceful and tranquil. It’s always great to view history being preserved, the warehouses along Otaru Canal played a central role as part of the city’s busy port in the early 20th century.

I would love to explore Otaru Canal again if possible during different seasons such as winter and summer.

Night Singing Noodles of Dormy Inn Premium Otaru

The Dormy Inn Premium Otaru was highly recommended by my friend/Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san. Not only was the location awesome, they have onsen, room rates are reasonable for a comfortable hotel room. There was also something special, they provided delicious, hot and heart warming singing noodles to the guests of the hotel during the chilly season.

The night singing noodles is known as Yonaki Soba, it might look like a small simple bowl of soba noodles. However, it was cooked with so much passion and care for their hotel guests to keep warm with a hot bowl of Yonaki Soba in the night from 2130 hrs to 2300 hrs.

After a heart warming, delicious and hot bowl of Yonaki Soba, I went for my daily onsen, to relax my aching muscles from a whole day of walking around Sapporo and Otaru. While it was a cold and overcast Day 1 in Sapporo and Otaru, I am very happy to be out there exploring, enjoying myself away from Singapore and taking photographs.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 1


Created with flickr slideshow.



Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 0

20th October 2016 – Day 0

My Hokkaido 2016 photography adventure began in the early morning of Thursday 20th October. I was taking Scoot TZ 216 to Sapporo (Hokkaido) New Chitose via Taipei, departure at 0615hrs. Scoot currently fly to Sapporo (Hokkaido) three times a week with their Dreamliner 787. This is an travel route worth considering for those who wish to fly to Hokkaido on a budget.

The Scoot flight schedule was as follows

TZ 216

0615hrs – 1045hrs Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport)

1155hrs – 1700hrs Sapporo, Hokkaido (New Chitose Airport)

During my flight from Singapore to Taipei, the flight encountered some gusty cross winds and a bit of heavy air traffic at Taoyuan, causing the plane to be slightly delayed in their arrival timing. The transit procedure wasn’t too difficult, just like any other transit procedure at international airports. After another round of hand carry baggage security check, I was back at the departure gate to board my next leg of flight from Taipei to Sapporo.

Overall, the flight from Singapore to Sapporo via Taipei was pretty smooth with the usual turbulence along the flight route. I did manage to capture the sunset at Hokkaido from my seat prior to the plane landing at New Chitose Airport.

Upon landing at New Chitose Airport, night time has arrived in Hokkaido. After clearing immigration, my friend, Kato san, who is also my Hokkaido Photo Guide for Days 4 to 7, picked me from the airport and gave me a lift to Otaru where I based myself for the next 4 nights

While driving along the highway from New Chitose Airport to Otaru, snow rain fell on the highway, winter season kind of arrived early for Hokkaido and my friend Kato san said, “The snow welcomes you back to Hokkaido!” This is really awesome but I am not prepared for early Hokkaido winter! The snow rain was pretty heavy at some stage and Kato san had to drive more slowly and carefully!

Upon reaching Otaru, we went for dinner together and I chose ramen for a cold chilly autumn night. My first Hokkaido meal, was simply amazing, authentic ramen in Japan! I had a good chat and catch up with Kato san, he also passed me some brochures and tourism information for the areas that I wanted to explore on my own during my first 3 days in Hokkaido.

My hotel was Dormy Inn Premium Otaru, right in front of JR Otaru station, very ideal location, they have onsen too! After checking in and settling down, I immediately head towards the onsen! I missed the onsen experience in Hokkaido, it was really amazing, soothing and relaxing, allowing me to have a good sleep on my first night in Hokkaido!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 0


Created with flickr slideshow.



Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Reflection – Photography 2016

First and foremost, before I started writing down my thoughts on Reflection – Photography 2016, I searched through my archives, found my reflection articles for the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I wonder what happened to my years 2014 and 2015? That is a mystery for me to solve.

The year 2016 had a significant impact on my photography due to unforeseen circumstances outside of photography, in my professional and personal life. If you would like to know more about what really happened, I wrote and posted on what happened to me over the past three quarters of 2016 on my personal site, it’s inside the archives or you can also read Reflecting 2016 – Part 1 and 2.

Fellow photographer friends mentioned to me that they haven’t seen me post and share as many photographs, compared to previous years. They were spot on, great with details and observations. A quick look at my Flickr collection on the 2016 memories, I got 34 albums inside this collection, partly due to the fact that my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs (7 sets) and 3 sets of portfolio works have not been uploaded yet. Therefore, I might have 44 albums of photographs for year 2016 memories collection in my final count for this album.

That’s my Hokkaido Photo GuideTsuyoshi Kato san, during my Hokkaido October 2016 trip.

With the exception of my Hokkaido 2016 autumn photographs, the year 2016 would probably be a year of not too much excitement nor mind blowing for my photography. It’s probably due to the other circumstances that had severely affected my photography, most crucially, my personal projects were all put aside.

This cute penguin from Jurong Bird Park basically sums up my Photography 2016 Reflection –

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017.

Time to resurrect my personal photography projects and rejuvenate my photography in year 2017!

A dream, an inspiration to produce/print my own travel story book

I am a travel wanderlust deep inside, even though I didn’t travel as much and to as many countries that I would love to. One of the countries that I love, that most of my family, relatives, friends and readers would be able to see it from my sharing, is Japan.

A few weeks back, while reading and searching for photography books in the library, I would also look at travel section books. Most recently I found this book titled “日本鐵道美景”, published in Taiwan, showcasing gorgeous Japan Railways (JR) landscape sceneries and JR trains in action. I was in awe and totally mesmerised by those photographs showcased inside the book, the locations on where you can go and photograph them. Deep inside my heart, I am thinking of photographing JR railway sceneries in my next Japan trip.

Most recently, I found this book in the library, on Hokkaido personal travel stories by Milly, titled “一個人的幸福旅程-北海道“, that is also published in Taiwan. Similarly, I am also very inspired by this book and thinking of combining my 2014 and 2016 Hokkaido travel stories together into a mini e-book / PDF book as well as printing them out as a physical book. I am wondering how it would turn out?

To be honest with everybody, I don’t know how to produce and print a proper book with ISBN standard and registration. This is my dream, my inspiration to produce and print my own travel story book, on Hokkaido, using my travel stories of 2014 and 2016. I only have my stories and photographs, I don’t know how to do a proper and professional book layout, I don’t know the process of editing and getting the final stories edited.

This new journey that I just discovered, it’s daunting yet I can feel the excitement and adrenaline, an experience something similar to my Hokkaido photo book that I printed in 2015. I am going to discover this new journey of producing and printing my own travel story book.

It’s going to be another difficult journey with an unbelievable goal and outcome at the end. This is not so much about earning money, these are my own photography artworks and travel stories, my pride and joy. I am definitely going to face a lot of obstacles in many aspects. I am going to think, plan and work it out step by step, no rush, no pressure.

A dream, an inspiration, a new personal project discovered for year 2017 and unearthed deep inside my heart and soul, it’s like my calling.