If you’ve known me for a while, you might remember that I took a trip to Japan in January 2015, to take part in one of Martin Bailey’s Hokkaido Winter Landscape tours. And I loved every minute of it.
Firstly, for the opportunity to meet photographers I’ve known, or known of, for a long time on line, including Martin and David DuChemin. But also it was fantastic to meet new people from all over the world, and develop friendships with a bunch of people who share a passion for photography and travel. Among others on the trip I took, we had a Scottish guy who lived in Sweden, a Romanian who lives in Dubai, an American who lives in Shanghai, and a Brit who lives in Hong Kong. It’s fair to say it was an eclectic bunch!
Add to that, the opportunity to visit locations that I never would have otherwise, and to shoot amazing minimalist winter landscapes that I’ve never experienced before, and you can see why it’s one of my favourite experiences of recent years.
So, I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to chat with Martin this week and be invited to accompany him and help lead his 2017 Namibia Tour and Workshop. Taking place in June 2017, the tour is a 17-day adventure through Namibia in open-top Land Rovers, visiting National Parks and shooting wildlife, landscapes and people in some wonderful looking locations.
My participation depends on numbers – I’ll be the co-host in the second vehicle if enough people sign up for the tour before July 15 – and it looks like places are filling up pretty quickly. So, if you’ve ever thought of taking a photographic safari through Africa, or you’d like to have an experience meeting new, like-minded people from all around the world in a great location, head on over to Martin’s page and sign up now.
One of the things that I love about Tokyo, is that you can stray only a block or two from some of the busiest streets and shopping precincts in the world, and find yourself lost in narrow, quiet, residential streets with barely another soul in site.
Each time I’ve visited, I’ve made sure I make some time to wander these quiet streets, whether on the way to or from an “attraction” or just as a way to wind down and relax after battling the Yamanote Line in peak hour on a Friday night, with luggage.
These first two are from the area around Shirakawa, and they illustrate another of my favourite things about Tokyo – bicycles, left out front with, at most, just a small rear-wheel lock for security.
The next three are from the Koenji area, where I spent several hours just wandering up and down the grid of streets…
and found this wonderful glass house, by architect Sou Fujimoto.
And finally, Harajuku and Shibuya.
The tour of Hokkaido has come to an end, and I’m now back in Tokyo. Battling the Yamanote line during Friday night peak hour with luggage. And doing laundry. I’m a one man party machine.
We drove around on Thursday looking for somewhere to shoot, and as we came over a hill and saw this valley, lit by the low winter sun, with mountains in the distance, we could almost hear the chorus of angels singing for us.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without one more visit to the boats, where I discovered this flotilla sailing on a sea of snow.
And on our last day, we finished much as we started – with trees on snowy hillsides.
Today we photographed boats.
Here are some boats.
And here’s a Northern Pintail.
More exploring along the coast south of Wakkanai today.
The coastal roads here remind me of any other, except where they would usually be surrounded by yellow sand, the dunes here are a crisp white, with at times deceptively deep snow. The following photograph was taken on a beach, which was accessed by crossing dunes covered in snow ranging from ankle to waist deep. And you don’t know until you step. My thighs and calves are getting quite the workout.
The snow extends right out to the beach, with just a strip of dark, coffee coloured sand between the snow of the dunes and the whitewater of the breaking waves.
Tomorrow we head off again, around the northern tip of Hokkaido before we hit the east coast bound for the town of Ohmu. I’ve been told the east coast should be ‘much more bleak’ than the west. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.
We’re now in Japan’s most northern city of Wakkanai, where we will spend the next couple of days exploring the coast before making our way across the north of the island and down the east coast.
On the drive today, we stopped suddenly on the highway when someone noticed a fox and a couple of Stellar’s Sea Eagles feeding on a deer carcass in the snow. I was reminded of this post by David duChemin, who is travelling with us, when my attempt at a photograph of the fox failed because I still had the shutter on a 2-second timer from a previous landscape location. I hit the button and the beeps started. By the time the shutter released the shot was missed. But, I recovered in time to get this shot of one of the eagles coming in to take advantage of the newly vacated buffet.
And now, for a few more in what is in danger of becoming my “Twigs of Hokkaido” series.
We’ve made it to the coast, where we will spend much of the rest of the trip.
Man, I love the coast.
Another day in and around the area of Biei, in central Hokkaido, which ended with a heavy snowfall.
We’ll be here for one more day before heading to the west coast and making our way north.
I walked though Shibuya several times today and each time there were a few lowrider American classic cars either doing laps or parked on the side of the street.
I’m spending far too much time wondering where they find the space to park them when they’re not out cruising. They’re about twice the size of most cars here.