Tag Archives: Hokkaido Landscape Photography Tips

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.


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Hokkaido B&W Landscapes Photo Book (Draft)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thoughts/Views of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

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

EOS 7D Mark II Product Specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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 Day 1 – Utoro

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

Moe Anan – our beautiful and kawaii tour coordinator, translator

Dennis Seow of Superadrianme.com

Jensen Chua of Jensen Chua Photography

Yip Weng Seng of YipWengSeng Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yunohana Waterfall (湯の華の滝)

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

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Oshinkoshin Waterfall (オシンコシンの滝)

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder what did the Hokkaido Fox say?

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Shiretoko Daiichi Hotel (知床第一ホテル)

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

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


Created with flickr slideshow.