Tag Archives: Japan

An Infinity Rainbow World of Artworks with Yayoi Kusama

I entered the National Gallery Singapore and I was greeted by big yellow balls with black dots hanging from the courtyard ceiling of the City Hall. These unique and special artworks welcome us visitors into a very special, different, unique and abstract world, of one of the world’s most influential artists, Yayoi Kusama.

This marked the start of a rainbow journey, from a very colourful start with the brightest and most colourful artworks into the other end of the rainbow, into a black and white world. Located in three galleries (Gallery A, B and C) and the City Hall Chamber, visitors have over 120 works across media to view, explore, interact and connect with Yayoi Kusama, starting with her paintings from the 1950s to her modern artworks of today.

Entering into the world of artist Yayoi Kusama at the National Gallery Singapore, it’s more than just having the best Instagram worthy locations, it’s more than taking selfies and wefies with her mirrors artworks. Yayoi Kusama iconic and abstract artworks are more than just for photography opportunities, her artworks engage us in many ways of our life, space and fashion.

Upon entering into the world of Yayoi Kusama, I spotted and discovered, trends, patterns, colours, from polka dots and nets, pumpkins, infinity mirrors. I also started exploring space, colour and form from her amazing artworks across different media, from paintings to sculptures, collages and videos.

Yayoi Kusama works are bold, captivating, abstract, intriguing, mind blowing. With over 120 of her works on display, I just want to share these few key works below, that you have to visit:

The Spirits of the Pumpkins descended into the Heavens @ Gallery A

Infinity Mirrored Room – Gleaming Lights of the Souls @ Gallery B 

With all my Love for the Tulips, I pray forever @ Gallery C 

Life is the Heart of a Rainbow @ Gallery C

 Are we able to view and connect with her artworks in our daily life today? That’s the rainbow question for you, seeking the golden pot at the end of the rainbow, by visiting and discovering YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition at the National Gallery Singapore.

When you enter into the world of Yayoi Kusama, do not rush, engage yourself and be involved with her artworks, the interaction and connection, feel them and capture them down in your memories, through your eyes, heart, soul and cameras. Remember to hashtag #SGLovesKusama, share your photos along with your inner most thoughts and feelings about/with Yayoi Kusama.

Personally, as a commercial/events/travel photographer, while I seldom enter into the foray of artistic/abstract photography, there is something very magical that feeds our creative soul, to learn from the creative artists of another discipline, through their eyes, heart, soul, ideas and ultimately their artworks. Through my Instagram, I shared some photos that I took at the exhibition with my thoughts and feelings. More photographs of YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Exhibition can be viewed in my Flickr collection.

I may not know where this will bring me or help me in my current photography adventures. There is one thing that comes up into my mind, that is to explore cross disciplinary artwork creations with artists from other fields with my photography. Maybe one day in the near future.

Flying into an infinity rainbow world of artworks with Yayoi Kusama and beyond, what goes beyond there? Now, it’s up to me to explore and discover what is waiting for me at the end of this infinity rainbow world.

I think I need to make another visit to YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Exhibition, maybe a few more visits.

YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow Exhibition details

Dates: 9th June – 3rd September 2017

Venue: City Hall Wing, Level 3, Singtel Special Exhibition Gallery

Ticket details

Singaporeans / PR

All-Access Pass

  • Adult $15
  • Concession $10

Includes complimentary general admission + YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

Non-Singaporeans

All-Access Pass

  • Adult $30
  • Concession $25

Includes general admission + YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow

Special Exhibition

  • Adult $25
  • Concession $20

YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is Heart of a Rainbow

Book Tickets

The YAYOI KUSAMA: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow exhibition is by timed-entry, stipulated on your ticket. Visitors can book their tickets online here: https://www.nationalgallery.sg/visit/admissions

For more information, check out the links below


Created with flickr slideshow.

Canon EOS 5DS R Review

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

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

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

Dimensions: Approx. 152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm

Weight: Approx. 845g (body only)

Image sensor: 50.6 megapixel CMOS sensor

Imaging processor: Dual DIGIC 6

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

Continuous shooting speed: 5 fps

Maximum video format: Full HD 30p

AF: 61-points Phase Difference AF with iTR AF

LCD: Wide 3.2-inch (1.04 million dots) 

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

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

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

Sharpness and details

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

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

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

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

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

Flexibility of dual card slots – SD + CF

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

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

File size

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts on Canon EOS 5DS R

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

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

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

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

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


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 6

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

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

Lake Toya

Lake Toya View Point – Sobetsu Park

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

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

Camping ground at Lake Toya

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

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

A location along the banks of Lake Toya

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

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

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

Sobetsu / Date

Sobetsu Taki waterfall 壮瞥滝

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

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

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

Otaki Niagara Falls 大滝ナイアガラ滝

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

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

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

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

Sangai-taki Falls 三階滝公園

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

Showa-Shinzan (Mt Usu and Showa Shinzan)

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

Lunch (Ramen) at Date City

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

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

Muroran

Road trip from Date to Muroran

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

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

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

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

Takkarisho and Cape Tikiu Lighthouse

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

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

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 6


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 5

25th October 2016 – Day 5 Furano and Biei -> Lake Toya

On day 5, we decided to start a bit early and head towards Torinuma Park, hoping to catch the morning mist across the lake. The weather was really cold for the autumn season, we departed from the hotel at 6am and Kato san drove down towards Torinuma Park.

Nakafurano

Along the way at Nakafurano, we caught the sunrise shining through from the mountain range. Even though it was pretty cloudy, we can spot the gorgeous morning sun rays punching through the horizon and skyline. Kato san stopped his car at the side of the road, ensuring that his car was not obstructing any traffic. We quickly took our camera gears out and started shooting away!

We didn’t spend too much taking photographs of the sunrise on that particular morning, once the sunrise moved up further into the sky, it was immediately engulfed by the thick clouds over the horizon during that morning. Nevertheless, we did enjoy and managed to a few photographs of the sunrise, she was spectacular at certain time!

Furano

Torinuma Park

From the spot where we took the sunrise photographs at Nakafurano, it was about 10 – 15 mins drive to reach Torinuma Park. When we alighted from the car and walked towards the lake, there wasn’t any morning mist across the lake that we had hoped for. We were not disappointed because we knew that such scenes were never guaranteed, a bit of luck is needed too! Therefore we stayed back for a short time, taking photographs of Torinuma Park again.

We drove and returned back to our hotel at Nakafurano, went into the onsen to warm ourselves up from the cold early morning drive out, packed our bags and continued with Day 5 of my Hokkaido photography adventure.

Kamifurano

Miyama Toge (near to Woodylife)

After checking out from the hotel, Kato san drove up north towards Kamifurano and Biei. In just a short drive away, the autumn season turned into winter season. This is one of the amazing natural beauty of Hokkaido, getting autumn and winter seasons together in just a short distance away.

At this particular location in Kamifurano, it’s pretty well known as a lookout point since this is a toge, a mountain pass and overlooking the farms, the Furano railway tracks and the mountain range of Daisetsuzan National Park. The weather was covered with thick clouds close to the mountain range area, the farms were visible and not were not covered by the clouds or mist.

There was a golden moment when the sun light rays punched through the clouds onto the fields of Kamifurano and Biei. During my two trips to Hokkaido, I am always on the lookout for all these golden moment, when the sun light rays shined through the clouds. By describing the golden moment sun light rays shining scenes as awesome, breathe taking, unbelievable, I just simply ran out of adjectives to describe them. I would just snap as many photographs as possible before the sun light rays disappeared.

Biei

The next phase of my photography adventure is an early Christmas present from Hokkaido, experiencing winter season in the autumn season of Hokkaido! Biei was covered with beautiful white snow and the weather turned out perfect after a cloudy start in the morning.

The list of destinations that I would be sharing on my trip around the Biei region were some of the most popular landmarks and icons of Biei and also Hokkaido, they are very pooular with photographers and tourists visiting Biei. Having visited them, I was very excited and very happy, to photograph the various landmarks and icons in such a great weather.

A Gentle Reminder to ALL photographers, travelers and tourists

Before I start writing away on all those gorgeous landscapes, trees and landscape sceneries, I would like to give all photographers, travelers and tourists a very gentle reminder that we MUST/HAVE TO respect the local farmers in Biei, their farmland areas whereby their hard work are displayed on their farms, the different types of crops and vegetables. That farms surround all those locations that you see in my write up below, let’s protect the farmers hard work, we are also protecting all those beautiful landscapes that would allow other photographers, travelers and tourists to visit, enjoy and take many photographs for beautiful memories.

Please take your photographs from the viewing spot behind the rope/line! Do NOT cross the rope/line!

Christmas Tree

A lone tree, another of those one tree hill scenes added to my collection, this was also my Christmas gift from Hokkaido because this was the Christmas Tree of Biei, covered with snow!

Mild Seven Hill

Does the word Mild Seven strikes a bell in you? The name Mild Seven is tobacco brand and this beautiful hill that you see here was used in a famous advertisement for Mild Seven tobacco.

From my viewing point, I finally understand why this location was chosen for the advertisement. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and soaked in this pretty landscape scenery of snow powder on the farm land, the Japanese larch trees accompanied by the clear blue sky behind.

My Hokkaido 2016 autumn trip had been nothing short of phenomenal, spectacular and unique. Although the first few days were cold, wet and windy weather, there were a number of omens that made my trip very special and unique. While we were taking photographs of the Mild Seven Hill, Kato san and myself heard a distinct call from our backs, above in the sky. We quickly turned our backs and started observing, to our absolute delight, there was a flight of swans flying towards us and across the Mild Seven Hill! I finally managed to capture birds in flight while in Hokkaido!

This flight of swans was very unique, to put in a shameless plug for myself, the swans flew above Biei, welcoming me to Hokkaido! However, according to my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san, it’s rare for swans to fly above Biei at this time and this was the first time he had seen them flying above Biei! Those pretty white swans gave me another priceless moment to remember from my Hokkaido 2016 autumn adventure!

Hill top observation point

This location is very special, it gives you the top of the world feeling, a bird’s eye view that show how vast, wide and far the Hokkaido landscape can be. There is no landmark to indicate this hill top observation point and during the winter season, it is not accessible by car.

This is a very amazing location, it’s an ideal location to experience and view how special it would be during the four different seasons. Kato san also mentioned that this spot is great for taking sunset scenes and I would love to come back again to this spot because I love taking sunset sceneries!

I am able to visit and take photographs from this hill top observation point because of my very experienced Hokkaido Photo Guide, Kato san. He knows the area, the locations, that we photographers would like to go and take photographs.

Parent and Child Trees

The parents will always love and look after their own children, just like the small oak tree that is standing in between two larger oak trees. From where I stood, watching them across the vast farmland filled with snow, this was filled with warmth, love and sunshine in a cold Hokkaido autumn season.

Farm House with row of trees

Continuing our journey in the area, Kato san stopped along the side of the road and showed me another scenic spot that photographers like to visit and take photographs, a farm house with a row of trees. While there wasn’t an official tourism marker build for this beautiful sight, visitors and photographers can observe it from the side of the road without stepping into the farmers land.

Blue Pond

The Blue Pond is probably one of the icons of Biei and Hokkaido, it’s a destination packed with tourists, travelers and photographers. I heard about this destination previously and wanted to visit this place since I am in the area. Therefore, I requested Kato san to plan in this location during my photography schedule for Biei.

A beautiful destination, no doubt about that, it’s just packed with tourist buses and cars though. Kato san highlighted that it gets even more packed and busy during the summer season! It might be a bit difficult to capture the photographs that you wanted when you are visiting the Blue Pond in Biei.

I enjoyed my short visit to the Blue Pond, captured down on my photographs before we left for our next destination. 

Shirahige Waterfall

Kato san drove into this area occupied by a few stylish hotels, some commanding a pretty awesome view, fitted with stylish furnishings and designs, with their own private onsen in some of the hotels. The room rate is therefore pretty expensive too! If I have the budget, I would love to stay in one of those stylish Shirogane Onsen Resorts near the Shirahige Waterfall.

My initial thoughts were, another waterfall, ok, let’s see what it’s going to be like! When I crossed the bridge and looked up and down the ravine, the Blue River, Shirahige Waterfall and the range of mountain peaks covered with snow, I just stood there, blown away and mesmerised by the natural beauty and surroundings.

Photographers will love this destination, imagine all the different types of sceneries, colours and landscapes during the four different seasons of Hokkaido, I would love to return again to this spot in my future trips to Hokkaido. Bring your lover/partner along when you visit Shirogane Waterfall, it’s a romantic destination and walk for both of you to enjoy the time, moment and gorgeous sceneries.

Mt Tokachi Observation Deck

I had a few key highlights from my Hokkaido autumn trip in October 2016 that I remembered deeply inside my heart and soul. The next location after Shirogane Waterfall was one of them and this might be the best of my best travel highlights during my Hokkaido autumn trip.

A drive up to the mountains, luckily for me, the road had not been closed yet. Kato san mentioned that this road up to the mountain would not be open during the winter season. From the drive up, I can totally understand why, Hokkaido winter is going to fill up this mountain road, making it very difficult to clear the snow filled road, moreover, driving in icy winter road conditions can be very dangerous too.

Upon reaching Mt. Tokachi Observation Deck, I stood there, outside Kato san’s car, did a 360 degrees observation of this destination. This was why I wanted to return back to Hokkaido after my first trip in November 2014.

It was a trip to the top of the world feeling, surrounded by a clear blue sky without too much clouds covering the mountain range peaks, powder snow fields and I was welcomed by a natural phenomena known as 22 degrees halo and possibly a rare 46 degrees halo too! The halo was like a gateway to a whole new world out there, it’s a Stargate!

You will know the feelings and emotions when you just have no words to describe and to even say it out. I stood there, completely blown away after taking a number of photographs of Mt Tokachi Observation Deck.

Before we made our descend to the observation hut and back to the car, I sincerely thank my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato san, for bringing me to this destination. When I was at the Mt Tokachi Observation Deck, this was the magical moment whereby all my troubles, stress and pressure seem so far far away from me.

KamiFurano

Hinode Park

On the way down towards our lunch location suggested by Kato san, I had the opportunity to witness 2 seasons (winter and autumn) together, a beauty of Hokkaido that I enjoyed a lot from my 2 trips to Hokkaido (2014 and 2016). At Hinode Park, we made a short pit stop, the evergreen on the fields in the foreground, with the white snow covered mountain range in the background. An amazing and unforgettable view of 2 distinctive seasons coming together in 1 scene, a view that I will never forget.

Lunch – Kamifurano

When you have a very experienced local photo / travel guide like Kato san, he knows where are the best and most delicious local Japanese food. Kato san brought me to this charcoal grilled food house, a small family run food business. This would be one of my best authentic local Japanese food experiences that I had! There wasn’t any english menu and I really had to thank Kato san for selecting and ordering all the delicious food on my behalf!

Charcoal grilled pork, dipped with their own family secret sauce, it’s really unforgettable, very delicious. The charcoal fumes and cooked pork meat aroma would stay on your clothes, a smell that I would gladly accept!

Lookout point

After our delicious charcoal grilled lunch, we started a long road trip from Kamifurano towards Lake Toya. Kato san made a quick pit stop at one of the lookout points on the route down and I snapped a few photographs before the long road trip down.

Long car ride to Lake Toya

The distance between Kamifurano and Lake Toya was approximately 300km (based on the route that Kato san drove). It was quite a long drive and we reached Lake Toya at night, had a quick rest and onsen to relax from a whole exciting day of exploring, walking and driving.

End of my Day 5 travel photography adventure in Hokkaido, now to get ready for Day 6!

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 5


Created with flickr slideshow.

 

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 4

24th October 2016 – Day 4 Otaru -> Mikasa -> Ashibetsu -> Furano -> Biei

Day 4 marks the start of another new photography adventure in Hokkaido! I am on a photography tour planned for the next 4 days by my friend, Tsuyoshi Kato, who is also a Hokkaido Photo Guide. I first knew Kato san in November 2014 during my first visit to Hokkaido as part of the Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip. Kato san is very knowledgable and experienced in planning for photographers who want to visit locations around Hokkaido for an unforgettable photography experience. I decided to engage Kato-san’s professional photography tour services for the next four days as I would love to explore different locations around Hokkaido whereby photographers love to visit.

Departing from my hotel Dormy Premium Inn Otaru, Kato-san’s plan for today was to visit the Furano and Biei region and we started the drive from Otaru towards Furano and Biei, making stops along Mikasa and Ashibetsu for some pretty interesting sceneries and landscapes!

Mikasa

On the car journey from Otaru to Biei, we passed by Mikasa City, this used to be a thriving and prosperous area with the coal mining industry pushing the local economy. Today, the coal mining industry is no longer in operation and this area had been quiet since then.

The Old Pombetsu Coal Mine

Kato-san made a quick stop to show me the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine. The former coal mining buildings and structures are still standing there and it is now closed to the public. There is a informative signboard that had maps, old photos and a short write up of the history on the Old Pombetsu Coal Mine.

Lake Katsurazawa

We continued our journey towards Furano, driving through roads that showcased distinct weather and climate of Hokkaido. In some areas, that would be snow falling on the forest/trees and they really made a very beautiful scenery with the autumn leaves on the branches that had not fallen yet. Another 20-30 minutes drive down the road, the sceneries and landscape might change into autumn only, no snow at all. This is a beauty of Hokkaido that I will always remember, the season can change in just some distance away.

Kato-san stopped at Lake Katsurazawa, it’s a beautiful location surrounded by forests, quiet and tranquil. The colourful autumn leaves can be seen in full foliage around the lake, making it a good spot for photographing the autumn season in Hokkaido. However, the water is brownish and unlike some of the other beautiful clear blue lakes in Hokkaido. The water is not free flowing because it is a large artificial lake created by the Katsurazawa Dam. Even though the water may not look as beautiful like some of her other counterparts in other areas of Hokkaido, the beautiful forests surrounding it would make it a place to visit during the other seasons.

Ashibetsu

Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝(Google Map location: https://goo.gl/maps/CByHFsf3Jnz)

Leaving Mikasa, entered into Ashibetsu first before reaching Furano. That was a location in Ashibetsu that Kato-san brought me to. It’s a waterfall with 3 sections thus the name Sandandaki Waterfall /三段滝.

A gorgeous location, while the weather was a bit overcast, we were able to spot the colourful trees surrounding both sides of the river, the 3 sections of the waterfall and the downstream after that. The path to the lookout point/hut that can get you close to the waterfall and the downward stream was a bit wet and slippery due to the wet weather.

When we finished photographing and about to leave, snow fell from the sky with a bit of gusty cold wind blowing. The weather in Hokkaido can change pretty quickly in the blink of an eye sometimes.

Furano

Continuing our journey, we drove into Furano. My first impression was a flat and wide valley ground, surrounded by 2 mountain ranges on the sides, Mt Yubari, Mt Ashibetsu and Mt Furano-Nishi on one side and Mt Furano, Mt Tokachi, Mt Tomuraushi, Mt Chubetsu, Mt Hiragatake (Daisetuzan National Park side).

Living at the bottom of a valley can get really really cold during winter, from my experiences when I went skiiing in New South Wales, Australia, many years ago. Mt Kosciuszko (Perisher Blue) wasn’t too cold at the top when I was skiing yet when I reached Canberra, I was kind of freezing (in the night).

Furano had many farms growing different kind of crops. This area is a very popular destination during spring and summer, I can understand why. The entire area in summer season would be packed with crops ready for harvesting. For those growing flowers, the colourful and beautiful flowers would brighten up the whole place. I would love to visit Furano during the summer season and hope to do it some day in the future!

Torinuma Park  

Our first destination in Furano is Torinuma Park. Upon arrival, I was greeted by good weather, I saw clear blue sky, sunshine with cloud cover! This good weather made me very excited, I had overcast sky, snow, rain and chilly winds for my first four days in Hokkaido. The beautiful sunlight cast the colourful autumn leaves on the leaves into something magical, green, yellow, red and orange colour leaves against the beautiful clear blue sky. I was ecstatic and blown away, this was the autumn that I had been seeking when I arrived in Hokkaido.

We explored the forest surrounding the lake at Torinuma Park. There were some great places to take photographs from different spots with different perspectives, when the strong winds blew across, the leaves dropped and fell onto the lake, providing the lake with a pretty layer of colourful leaves on its water.

Lunch – Shinasoba ramen by Shinatora

One of my favourite Japanese food is Ramen and during that afternoon, I was brought to this local ramen shop in Furano, the name of the ramen shop is Shinatora, their shop speciality is a soup base mix of pork and fish! When I had my first taste of the Shinasoba ramen, I was in heaven!! This special and unique ramen is really oishii!! Ramen is an absolute delight during the cold autumn/winter seasons, hot and heartwarming.

Rokugo Viewing Platform / Kyohsai Farm (Furano Jam Garden)

With such a delicious and hot ramen lunch inside us, Kato-san brought me to the area near the foot of the Mt Tokachi / Mt Furano mountain range where the famous Kyohsai Farm / Furano Jam Garden was located, they had some many different types of jam for sale, along with a nice café to have coffee while resting at the same time. Although I didn’t buy any jam, I would love to come back during summer and visit this place again! Kato-san said this place is very popular during summer season!

Behind Furano Jam Garden, there was a small dirt road leading up towards a small hill, suitable for cars to drive up the small dirt road. On the road upwards, there was a famous lone tree that stood out from the row of forests beside the road. From the ground up perspective, the lone tree looked like it’s “floating”!

On top of the hill, there were farm lands, we visitors must be careful and considerate, not to trespass and trample onto the farm lands because we might destroy the crops and hurt the farmers livelihood and hard work.

There was an open area with a nice hut on the top of the hill, known as Rokugo Viewing Platform. The view up there was breathtaking, a great panoramic view of Furano. The cold autumn winds were blowing hard at us and I was freezing again when the cold winds hitted me! However, I was greeted by another iconic scene of Hokkaido, the light rays shining through the clouds onto the land.

There was another monologue tree nearby the Rokugo Viewing Platform, used by television company for some of their drama productions! It’s a very famous and iconic tree!

Mizusawa, Biei

The sky was turning dark as Kato-san drove up towards in the direction of Biei. A tale of two seasons in Hokkaido, separated by maybe 30km, from autumn into winter season. It was close to sunset timing when we arrived at this spot in Biei, snow was falling and it was cold around -1° (it’s not the coldest yet for Biei, Hokkaido).

There was a small farm house up on the hill, standing alone in the midst of the snow covered fields. While the small house stands alone in the open, it’s not alone at all, the role and significance cannot be underestimated. Somehow, I am always able to relate to lone/single objects e.g. lone tree, lone house etc etc … We might be monologue / single at times, however we are not alone because we attract the things around us to come to us.

Driving down a short distance from the small farm house, Kato san made a stop beside an open field between two forests. There were two trees that stood out in between the two forests. I stood there, enjoying the sceneries, peace, quiet and tranquility. It was really cold for me because I wasn’t really suited for winter season. After taking a few photographs, I stood there and enjoyed the moment while I am freezing myself out there (due to the chilly wind and rain).

The sun had set for the day, we also made our way to our hotel in Nakafurano, had our dinner, enjoyed the onsen and had a good night sleep.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 4 


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Hokkaido 2016 Photography Adventure Day 0

20th October 2016 – Day 0

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

The Scoot flight schedule was as follows

TZ 216

0615hrs – 1045hrs Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hokkaido Autumn 2016 Day 0


Created with flickr slideshow.



Hokkaido Autumn 2016


Created with flickr slideshow.

Reflection – Photography 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas everybody!!

Today is Christmas 2016, it’s also a long weekend holiday since it falls on a Sunday!! I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for all the support and encouragement you folks had gave me especially during this difficult and turbulent year 2016. We are reaching the end of year 2016 and let’s all get ready for a fresh new year 2017!

Let this iconic Christmas Tree in Biei, Hokkaido (that I took earlier in October 2016) wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Travelers Notebook for the Travel Wanderlust

A travel wanderlust I am, even though I haven’t travel to as many countries around the world as I would love to. Technology, information technology gadgets, internet and social media has helped travelers in many ways to research, plan, connect and communicate with travelers and destinations. There are times whereby a traveler sometimes just want to be less connected to technology and social media, we travelers just want to immerse and enjoy the joys and wonders of traveling.

A few months back, through a Facebook post by my senior from Dragon Scout Group family, he showed a photo of this nice looking leather notebook with all their beautifully designed travel writing accessories at Narita Airport. I was amazed by all of them and started researching on them. That was the time when I got to know about Travelers Factory from Japan.

When I visited Hokkaido in October 2016, I was planning to buy the Travelers Notebook in Sapporo. However, I didn’t master the Japanese language and I wasn’t able to navigate my way around Tokyu Hands Sapporo to find it. Moreover, I was in a bit of rush during my Hokkaido travel trip, thus I didn’t manage to buy it when I was in Japan.

I came back home to Singapore and went around searching for the Travelers Notebook at various bookstores and stationery shops on Travelers Factory list. Finally, I got hold of my Travelers Notebook from Tokyu Hands Singapore! I was impressed with Tokyu Hands Singapore customer service, they took a few more days than usual to reply my enquiry email (I was asking them if they have the Travelers Factory stamps that I really like), they went all the way out to check with the supplier in Japan before replying to my email that they were not able to bring it in here to Singapore. Nevertheless, I am appreciative and thankful for what they did.

The Travelers Notebook is of good quality leather cover, workmanship and good quality paper. I really love it and this is like an encouragement to me, to fulfil my travel wanderlust. This Travelers Notebook is still raw and waiting for her maiden entry. Somehow or another, the omens were strong that I have to visit Japan again. I placed my amulets (from Tokyo and Sapporo) inside the notebook to see if they would make a good bookmark when I travel, there was a little box there and they fit it very nicely! Recently, I went to the library and found a book on Japan Railways travel photographs and locations whereby travelers can go to and photograph those gorgeous Japan Railway scenic locations with the JR trains running!

Now, is it time to plan for my next Japan trip in 2017? I think it just might be!

The Travelers Notebook is truly indeed a notebook for the Travel Wanderlust.