Tag Archives: Outdoor Recreation

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 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 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.

Light Up Your Passion with Jaybird Freedom

Jaybird Freedom, the smallest wireless ear buds in the earphones market, is packed with many features and incredible sound system inside this pair of wireless earphones. Is it only for the sporting folks? No, this pair of small yet powerful Jaybird Freedom wireless earphones are a great fit for everybody in their daily life, from leisure, day to day traveling, outdoors and sports.

How does the Jaybird Freedom wireless light up the passion and lifestyle of two good friends, one is a sporting person and the other is a café lover?

Sam – a sporty and outdoors girl

A sporty and outdoors girl, she plays rugby union and is now currently playing touch rugby and she’s also a fan of traveling and the outdoors. Running for Sam, is another form of her sporting regime to keep fit in between training sessions for her touch rugby training sessions and work.

Plugging in the Jaybird Wireless Earphones, turning the direction of the earphones upwards, with the cable hanging above the ear, fitting and snugging nicely above and behind. Sam switched on her Jaybird Freedom Wireless Earphones, opened the MySound app, searched for her favourite workout music setting. Adjusting the volume on the side control panel, she entered into her sporting world with music accompanying her, isolated from the noise of the outside world. This is one of the great features of the Jaybird Freedom, the awesome and powerful noise isolation.

This pair of Jaybird Freedom Wireless Earphones is a great fit for Sam and her sporty lifestyle, she can use it for her running exercise regime and for her daily travel to and fro from home to work.

Fiona – a café lover and avid reader

A great fan of visiting different café, trying out their different meals and coffee with friends and sometimes alone with her book to read and relax, while listening to music. Sometimes, visiting a café on her own is for her own personal time with reading books and listening to music, giving the mind and soul a boost through reading and music.

While Fiona was enjoying her coffee after her hearty meal, she switched on her Jaybird Freedom wireless earphones, plugged it in and started playing her favourite songs. Now inside the world of her own with the power and capability of the noise isolation from the Jaybird Freedom, reading her book and listening to her sound of music, sometimes she got hyped up and happy that she hummed and sang along with the tune of her music. The other folks at the café didn’t mind too, for they enjoyed Fiona’s voice and singing too.

The Jaybird Freedom is not only suitable for the sporty folks, it’s also just as suitable for music lovers in our daily life, at work or during leisure time. The wonders of the MySound app by Jaybird allows Sam and Fiona to switch around the style and tone of music for their songs selection to suit their activities and lifestyle.

This pair of Jaybird Freedom wireless earphones suits both a sporty and leisure group of music lovers. No matter what you do or where you go, the Jaybird Freedom wireless can be a part for most of your daily life, work, travel and sports. Let the Jaybird Wireless Freedom light up your passion and power your passion to greater heights.

For the tech and music geeks who would like to know more about the Jaybird Freedowm wireless earphones, head over to my personal blog for the tech review article that I did for the Jaybird Freedom Wireless Earphones.

I would like to sincerely thank these two gorgeous ladies, Sam and Fiona for taking their personal and precious time off from their busy schedule to assist (model for) me in my special lifestyle theme photoshoot!

Happy New Year 2017!

Hello 2017, goodbye 2016!

The first day of the new year 2017, I just want to start everything new and fresh, a brand new start, A New Hope! I also want to put 2016 behind me, strive forward, ahead and climb higher mountains!

For year 2017, I created A New Hope for myself, more details coming soon! I also want to restart and relaunch my personal photography projects in the year 2017!

I also have a number of travel dreams and destinations, I have an inspiration, a dream to create, produce and print my own travel story books.

Happy New Year 2017! Good luck and all the best to everybody in the new year 2017 for your travels and photography!

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.

Smarty (prescription) Sunglasses for my photography and outdoors

Sunglasses, how does come into the picture for my photography website? This accessory is not directly linked to photography and mainstream photography accessories. The sunglasses is more of an apparel, essential and important especially for those who spent time outdoors in their work and leisure. A pair of sunglasses in my personal humble opinion is very useful and important for photographers like me who are taking photographs in the outdoors (events, wildlife, travel) and also for those who love the great outdoors!

Nowadays, there are many more sunglasses brands, models and designs available in the market. I owned other sunglasses previously and still have them today but they were not prescribed to my short sighted eyes. I have been searching for prescription sunglasses and couldn’t really find suitable ones over the years. When I read about Smarty Sunglasses by The Lens Men, I decided to read up and research more about Smarty Sunglasses and they were able to do a prescription sunglasses!

There are other alternatives too e.g. wearing contact lenses or going for lasik surgery. After weighing the options available and based on my personal preferences, I chose the prescription sunglasses method. Therefore, I decided to visit my friendly and trusted optometrist The Lens Men (my last two pair of spectacles were with them). Prior to going down, I had a chat with The Lens Men via Facebook and they were responsive to my queries.

I was lucky that The Lens Men happened to run a promotion program – Sporty September on their Facebook page in the month of September 2016 with custom Rx packages featuring Essilor’s Crizal Xperio are 30% off, I managed to make an appointment the final week of September and get my Smarty prescription sunglasses, at The Eye Site, sister company of The Lens Men! Some might feel that it’s a bit pricey for a prescription sunglasses, I view it as an investment for my photography and outdoors. I managed to raise some funds for my Smarty prescription sunglasses from selling off old smartphones during my de-cluttering process.

Smarty Sunglasses S14516
Smarty Sunglasses S14516

When I was at The Eye Site getting my Smarty sunglasses done up, I initially wanted the model S14509 because I really liked this design. However, the friendly folks at The Eye Site advised me that based on my the degrees for both my eyes, it is highly not recommended because the prescription lens will look really thick and not suitable for that particular frame. After listening to their professional and detailed explanation, I looked at other alternative models and I chose S14516 instead. I waited for about 1 week+, I was finally able to collect my Smarty Sunglasses and I realised why the folks at The Eye Site / The Lens Men advised me not to go for the initial model S14509 because my lens would be quite thick!

With photography master Yip (centre) and photography master Jensen Chua (right) at Singapore Zoo

Finally, after searching for some time, I finally have a prescription sunglasses for my photography and great outdoors. I brought it to Hokkaido recently in October and it came in very handy when I was on Mount Tokachi, with snow on their slopes (while it is still autumn season), facing the sun and snow, my Smarty sunglasses really helped me a lot, protecting my eyes too! Although I have to lift up my Smarty sunglasses to view the photos on my LCD screen on my camera, it’s just a minor action to do and I can live with this action, as long as my eyes are protected from the glaring sun.

As a person who love the great outdoors, a photographer who shoots quite a lot outdoors too (wildlife, events, sports), a pair of sunglasses to me is a must have. Add in a prescription based sunglasses, it’s really ideal for me! I found this prescription sunglasses with the Smarty Sunglasses via The Lens Men and The Eye Site, friendly, professional and knowledgable folks, this is my third pair of glasses with them!

Time to explore more outdoors and taking photos with my prescription Smarty Sunglasses!

Hokkaido 2016 photography adventure introduction and overview

I visited Hokkaido in November 2014 for a Central/Eastern Hokkaido familiarisation trip and I fell in love with Hokkaido. This gorgeous destination is a photographers haven with the great outdoors and the natural environment. As a fan of the great outdoors, landscapes and love of photography, Hokkaido has a very special place in my heart.

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I made a promise that I wanted to return and visit Hokkaido again, I fulfilled my own promise when I visited Hokkaido from 20th to 27th October 2016 on my own personal photography trip. A personal photography trip that rejuvenated me from the difficult period in 2016. My airfares were booked in April for October, flying Scoot airlines, on their new 787 Dreamliner to New Chitose via Taipei.

For the first 3 days of my photography adventure, I was on my own, based in Otaru and traveling out using the JR Hokkaido train service. From the 4th to the 7th day, my Hokkaido Photo Guide, Tsuyoshi Kato, a friend that I got to know during our November 2014 trip to Hokkaido when he was our photo guide.

I engaged the professional services of my Hokkaido Photo Guide Kato-san. He planned my photography adventures exploring different parts of Hokkaido, not only is he very experienced, he’s also very knowledgable, also a fellow photographer that understands what photographers want and where to take photographs. Kato-san is highly recommended if you are thinking of a photography theme trip to Hokkaido.

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This Hokkaido trip was very special, I was very lucky to enjoy both autumn and winter seasons together in Hokkaido during the period that I am there. Such is the beauty and charm of Hokkaido, simply amazing! Not just did I enjoyed two seasons in one week, there were a few simply mind blowing memories that I managed to capture down not just with my camera, also with my eyes, heart and soul.

What was my schedule like? Here’s a quick introduction

Day 0/20th October – Singapore -> Taipei -> Hokkaido (New Chitose) -> Otaru

Day 1 /21st October – Otaru and Sapporo

Day 2 /22nd October – Otaru and Sapporo

Day 3/23rd October – Otaru, Yoichi and Sapporo

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

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

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

Day 7/27th October – Lake Toya -> Date -> Noboribetsu -> Shiraoi -> New Chitose Airport

I am currently preparing my photographs and stories for each day from Day 1 to Day 7. Do stay tuned for my travel photography stories coming soon!