Tag Archives: Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip

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.


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!


Created with flickr slideshow.

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Day 4 – Kamikawa, Sounkyo

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

Hot Air Balloon Ride at Tokachi

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

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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.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip – Introduction and Overview

Hokkaido has always been one of the many destinations that are on my travel bucket list for my years, having heard so much about the beautiful place and viewed landscape sceneries photographs taken by my friends and photographers who visited Hokkaido. When I was nominated and invited to a photographers invitation program to Central/Eastern Hokkaido, I was very thrilled and very happy (and some stress too!) to be nominated for this photographers invitation program. After going through the application process, I prepared the photography gears and got ready for Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip, one of the most fun and exciting travel photography trips.

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A brief history of The Hokkaido Invitation Tour, it was started in 2012 by Hokkaido Tourism Board to introduce the charms and beauty of Hokkaido to Singapore and to encourage more Singaporeans to visit Hokkaido. In the first year, local tour agencies were invited and in the second year, professors of the local schools were invited. In the third year, Hokkaido Tourism Board decided to invite photographers from Singapore. There were 5 photographers that travelled together for this Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip from 23rd November to 28th November 2014. They are a great band of photographers with different unique strengths, skills, fun and views in photography. You will know them soon!

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Hokkaido is such a gorgeous and beautiful place, especially for photographers. Hokkaido is a great destination for photography, all 4 seasons. That’s always something to photograph! During the period that we went to Central/Eastern Hokkaido, we were blessed with experiencing winter season and autumn season together, bringing out the colours of both winter and autumn season together. It’s not just about beautiful and gorgeous landscapes in Hokkaido; we spotted Hokkaido wildlife such as the deer, fox, cranes etc. Besides that, you can also discover some of the delicious Hokkaido food and the accommodation that we stayed in!

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I will be writing my travel adventure stories on a day-to-day basis, the destinations and regions that we covered. I hope that my travel photography adventure itinerary for the Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip and stories can help you in planning your own travel photography itinerary to the Central/Eastern Hokkaido regions.

I will also be sharing with you what is the photography equipment I brought to Hokkaido, that you could use it as a reference for your own travel photography planning to Hokkaido

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark II (for wildlife/general travel photography)
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III (for landscapes/general travel photography)
  • Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 (for wildlife photography)
  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM (for landscape, wildlife, portraits and action photography)
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM (for landscape, street and general travel)
  • Canon Professional Backpack RL PB-01 (great to put all the camera bodies, lenses and gears, here’s my review of the Canon Professional Backpack)
  • Tripod (I didn’t bring it for this trip, however, I am encouraging you all to bring a travel tripod!)

Over the next few days, I hope that I can bring you along to Central/Eastern Hokkaido through my travel photographs and stories from my heart, soul and photojournalistic eyes.

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This special Hokkaido Invitation Tour to Central/Eastern Hokkaido was made possible by the following organisations – Canon Singapore for my nomination to the Hokkaido Invitation Tour, Hokkaido Tourism Board, the organizer Hokkaido District Transport Bureau Nippon Travel Agency Co Ltd and Nippon Express (Singapore) Pte Ltd for the Singapore arrangement.

I would also like to give Mr Tsuyoshi Kato, a special mention and thanks! He’s a great photographer, an awesome and highly experienced photo guide and travel planner. He was with us throughout our Central/Eastern Hokkaido Familiarisation Trip. If you are planning a travel photography trip to Hokkaido, he’s the man to look for!

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I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful Hokkaido Invitation Tour to Central/Eastern Hokkaido.

** This will be a landmark article post for me! This is my number 1,000th post! A special milestone to launch one of my biggest photography and travel portfolio works to date! **