Tag Archives: Hokkaido Sunset

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.

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

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

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

Thoughts/Views of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

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

EOS 7D Mark II Product Specifications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon EF 16-35mm f4L IS USM Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Created with flickr slideshow.



Created with flickr slideshow.

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.


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