A Landscape Interactive Blog Post

The first half of my Japan trip has largely centered around wildlife.  Snow monkeys, Red-crowned cranes, whooper cranes, Stellar sea eagles and white-tailed eagles. We even had a arctic red fox and, although I haven’t included them, a couple of Axo deer.

As David and I made our way to different locations we’ve also been looking for interesting landscapes.  Today I’d like to offer a variety of images that I’ve made and ask for you opinion.  Many of these images could be either color images or black and white ones.  I’m going to show you some of them and ask you to tell me whether you prefer the color version or the black and white one.  You can simply say “#1 color or #1 b&w’.  If you’d like to give your reasoning, that would be great, as well.  I would love to hear them.  So let’s get started.

#1 black and white                                           and color.

#2 black and white                                           or color

#3 black and white                                           or color

#5 black and white                                           or color

#6 black and white                                           or color

#7 black and white                                           or color

#8 black and white                                           or color.

#9 black and white                                            or color

That’s the end of the test.

Lastly, here are a couple of other images I made.  One is done in black and white of the ship tied to the bollard and the second is in color of a scene shot from the car of the snow covered trees.  The color is needed here to draw attention to the down pointing arrows.  Those arrows mark the edge of the road for snowplows and vehicles where a painted stripe on the pavement wouldn’t show or a roadside stick might get knocked over by the plows.

Thanks, in advance, for your participation.  In my next blog, we’ll move on to our last stop in Wakkanai.  The northern most city in Japan.

 

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Stellar Sea Eagles and White Tail Eagles

After spending a couple of days around Lake Kussharo, we worked our way east to Rausu, a port city on the Notsuke Peninsula.  We had scheduled two early morning boat trips (5am departure) to photograph Stellar sea eagles and White-tailed eagles.  It was still dark when we boarded our boat.  The trip the day before had been cancelled because there was no sea ice and no sea eagles according to some other photographers from Norway that were staying at our hotel.

As we headed out, it was clear we’d have plenty of sea ice on this day.  We were on a small boat similar to the one in this image.

There was probably 20-25 photographers aboard on two decks.  I spent a little time on both decks.  It was easier getting flying birds on the top deck but on the lower deck you were more at eye level for those sitting on ice or feeding.

White tailed eagle                                              Stellar sea eagle

Here are some images of the two different eagles taking off, landing and grabbing the flatfish that are thrown from the boat to both feed the eagles and attract them.  To really see these regal birds it’s best to click on the images to take them to full screen.

After getting back to the dock about 8am, we decided we had seen and photographed what we wanted and would cancel our second morning trip.  Instead, we would drive the long way around to the north coast of the peninsula to Utoro.  So, we went back to our hotel for breakfast.  Later, we went exploring. along the south coast until we hit the road closed barrier.  Specifically, we were looking for Arctic red fox and we had one run across the road ahead of us and then double back to a snow bank on our left.  He stopped on the side and checked us out.

In my next blog, we’ll look at some landscape images we made as we moved north and west to Asahikawa.  It would be a full days drive.

Thanks for following the blog.

 

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Red-crowned cranes and the hoar frost!

On day 5, we headed to the Haneda Airport for our flight to Kushiro in Hokkaido.  Japan is made up of five islands and Hokkaido is the largest and most northern one. The northern tip of Hokkaido is six miles across a channel from Russia.  We picked up our rental car, a four-wheel-drive SUV, at the airport.  All vehicles are right hand drive on the left side of the road.  Most vehicles are quite small.  There are very few full size automobiles in Japan.  The larger vehicles are SUV’s.

Our hotel was a large one but somewhat outdated.  It was also a Japanese style room with futon pads.  All of the hotels we stayed in had very small rooms.  Often there was barely enough room to put our suitcases and camera cases on the floor and frequently, there were no chairs.  A couple of the more modern hotels had desk areas and western style chairs.

We were up at 4am the next morning to drive to Tsurui to photograph red-crowned cranes on the Otowa Bridge.  We got to the location by 6am (sunrise was a half hour away) and there were already a crowd of photographers lined up on the bridge.  It was cold….-11 C or 12 Fahrenheit.

The cranes are a long way off on the river.  A few like the one pictured above were wading much nearer the bridge the first day.  Even though it was cold, it wasn’t cold enough to  create the hoar frost that freezes onto the trees.

 

We shot for about an hour and half and left as the birds were beginning to move to the nearby field and the nearby Tranto Ito Crane Center to feed on left over grain.

The cranes jump up and down looking for attention from their mates and other cranes.

After spending a couple of hours photographing the red-crowned cranes, we drove around the countryside looking for interesting landscapes to photograph.

Day two at the Otowa bridge was much better.  We got there about 5:40 in the morning but, again, there were already a lot of photographers lined up on the bridge.  I worked my way to the center of the bridge and shot over the shoulders of two others who were on the rail.  It was also much colder….-19 C or -3 Fahrenheit.  Due to the extreme cold, the mist rising from the river was creating the hoar frost that we were looking for.

It was really beautiful.  The cranes are about 200 yards or more from the bridge and this morning there aren’t any walking around nearby.  As the sun came up the trees took on a golden light.  You can see the mist that for the hoar frost rising from the river .

We also shot some of these red-crown cranes and whooper swans at the Akan International Crane Center.

I thought mine was pretty big

until I saw hers!

We had checked out of our Kushiro hotel as we left that morning so now we headed north to the Lake Kussaro area for two nights.  Lake Kussaro is a little more centrally located in Hokkaido.  After checking in at our hotel, we drove north to Bihoro Pass to photograph Lake Kucharro from above.

Again, we spent a lot of time roaming through the area, checking out various locations and roads, looking for interesting landscapes.

There was lots of snow in Hokkaido and it snowed frequently.  We had a major snowstorm one day and that brought out the big guys!

It also closed a few roads.

Tomorrow we had west toward Biei for a couple of days looking for great landscapes.

 

 

 

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Snow Monkeys, Red-crowned Cranes and Stellar Sea Eagles

Today I’ll begin a new blog post on my three week trip to Japan this month.  I went to photograph wildlife and landscapes.  Tokyo was just a stopover enroute to my real destinations.

I arrived in Tokyo late Friday afternoon Feb. 9.  I had departed Kansas City at 6am on Thursday morning with a change of planes in Atlanta.  From there I flew directly to Tokyo’s Narita airport.  Our track took us over Kentucky, Illinois, Minnesota, Canada, through Alaska and then turned south and ran parallel th the Russian coast before arriving in Tokyo from the north.  This arched route is actually shorter than what would appear to be a straight line from Atlanta west to Japan.

There are two airports in Tokyo, Haneda and Narita.  I arrived in Narita which was quite a distance from my hotel.  An Uber trip was $250 to the hotel and another private service was $200.  I figured there was a train that would make the trip for less.   As it turned out it was approximately $13.00 and went directly to a subway station right beneath my hotel.

View from my hotel with Tokyo Tower on the right.

Sunrise out our hotel room window.  Two bullet trains in foreground.

David, my traveling partner from New Zealand, arrived early Saturday morning.  David had been one of my roommates on my trip to South Georgia Island a year ago.  He’s 15 years younger than me (I know you can’t tell that by looking at this photo) and is also an avid photographer.   I had contacted him more than a year ago about joining me for this trip.

One of my initial concerns about this trip was the language issue.  Not a lot of people speak English and the graphic nature of the alphabet makes it impossible for westerners to read.  Despite this handicap, everyone we encountered was extremely helpful and friendly.

Subway map in English.

People often came up to us in the subway as we stared at the maps on the wall and ask if we needed help.  A couple of guys even helped me carry my heavy bag up or down stairs in the subway stations unsolicited.

Our first day in Japan was spent acclimating to the 9 hour time difference for me.  We went walking around a commercial section of Tokyo looking for a camera shop we had heard about.

Since all the signs are in Japanese, it took us about an hour of walking first one way and then another before we were able to locate it even with an address and a simple map.

Our hotel had a dining room so there was a breakfast and lunch buffet and dinner was available from a menu.

Breakfast one morning. Bacon, scrambled eggs, cold piece of egg, pieces of mackerel and salmon, mizo soup, sweet beans and seaweed.

If a hotel didn’t have a dining room, we were unable to find what we would refer to as a coffee shop.  We had more than a few “breakfasts” at local convenience stores.

The next day we left early for our trip to see the Japanese macaques or snow monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park.  It was two local trains, one bullet train, another local train and finally a bus to reach our hotel in Tawanuchi.  We spent a good deal of time looking for the right trains.  There are multiple levels of subways going all which ways under Tokyo.  It took us longer than we anticipated.

The high speed trains or bullet trains run up to about 165 mph.  They provide a fast, smooth ride. The cost from Tokyo’s main station to Nagano was 8200 yen or about $81.  The trip would have taken about four hours by bus but it was only ninety minutes on the bullet train.

When we arrived at our destination, we had no idea where the hostel was located.  We walked to a nearby apartment building and two gentlemen called the hostel and helped us make the connection.

Everyone was great.  The hostel was Japanese style which meant that we slept on a futon pad on the floor.  It was very comfortable.  They had a small dining room and provided a good menu to choose from.  As was the case in many restaurants, the Japanese menus often had pictures for you to use to make your meal choices.

A couple coming back to hotel from public onsen (public nude baths–separate facilities for men and women).   Some hotels had their own onsens.  Others were separate facilities in the neighborhood. Each hotel had a “uniform or yagoda” for their guests.  There were also outdoors thermal pools like the one this couple are soaking their feet in.

The next morning, the hostel provided a ride to the beginning of the trail to the monkey park.  From there it was about a mile walk uphill to the park entrance.  By the time we got there, there were already a hundred or more photographers massed around the thermal pools photographing the monkeys.

You just had to wait your turn and work your way into a spot at the pools edge.  The monkeys hang out in the thermal pool and run around just about anywhere they please.  There’s also a stream down below the thermal pool that attracts them.  We had intended to spend the day but had exhausted our photography shortly after lunch and headed back to the base of the mountain to catch a local bus back to the hostel.

The meals at the hostel were very good.  The room was comfortable and the staff was very easy to work with.  After two nights we headed back to Tokyo for one night before heading north to Hokkaido.

In my next post, we see Red-crowned cranes.

 

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They’re NOT bigger in Texas!

This is one of the grasshopper’s that hangs out near the dining room.

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It’s hard to tell from the picture but this one is 6-7″ (INCHES) long.  It’s a BIG one!

Yesterday we drove to Quiones…a surf town about 45 minutes south of were we’re staying.  We had to ford two small rivers.  This is the shallowest one about 12-18″ deep.

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There is a group Christian Surfers of Costa Rica camped out across from the beach this weekend.  We went out in the morning about 6am for about 2 1/2 hours until the beach started getting crowded then we headed south to Quiones and then back to our hotel.  Last night we drove to a nearby cove to shoot some sunset images.  The first couple are from a cliff overlooking these volcanic rocks with the surf hitting them.

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The last one is from on the volcanic rocks in the cove.

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Watched this guy walk down the beach this morning balancing his surfboard.  Thought it was interesting.

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Two of our party of nine left yesterday.  Four more headed back to the Outer Banks today.  The last of us….three…leave tomorrow, first for Houston and then back to Dallas about midnight.

Until next time.

Ron

 

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Our Turtle Eggs Come to Life!

This morning part of our group was out surfing.  Derek had his alarm set for 5:00 am and we were on the beach before 6.  There was Derek, his friend, Pat, from Corolla, North Carolina on the Outer Banks and Pat’s girl friend, Chelsea, were in the water.  Another friend, Jeremy, the photographer from Austin and I were on the shore shooting.  About 8am, Jeremy hollers to come over to him.  What he’d seen was a tiny hatchling turtle about the diameter of an orange crawling toward the water.  Just as a reminder, you can click on any of these images to see them full screen.

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Further back from the water we found a spot were they were coming up from under the sand where they’d been layed as eggs about two months earlier.

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We watched as eight hatchlings made their way to the water.  We know that 71 eggs had been layed by the female last Thursday night so we would assume a similar quantity would have been in this nest.  We don’t know if others had preceded these or if more were to follow.

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While we weren’t permitted to photograph a Mom laying eggs about an hour up the coast we were able to see these heading for their new home.

The purpose of the trip was surfing…not turtle hunting…so here’s some images first of Derek.

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Most every trip along a wave has to come to an end eventually and sometimes the ending is more interesting a photo than the surf ride.

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Here are some of the others in our group.  There were seven of us at the beginning.  Two more joined us this morning.

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Hope you enjoy!

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It’s a Surfin’ Safari Costa Rica style!

My son and I left Dallas Wednesday morning February 8, with a stop in Houston where we met one of his friends, Jeremy, who is a wedding photographer in Austin.  The three of us flew to Liberia, Costa Rica where we met up with two other couples…their friends from the Outer Banks.

We are staying at the Marbella Surf Inn, a six-room hotel about a mile from the beach.  There is not much else around.

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It has a nice pool, gazebo, and bar/dining room.

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The food is good…expensive…but good.  Cokes and water are about $1.75, a beer is 2000 colones or $3.75US.  There are seven of us. Four surfers, two photographers and two spouses, one of whom is a surfer.

On Thursday, I had made reservations to go to a national park about an hour-and-a half north of here to see and photograph Leatherback turtles.  They come ashore to lay eggs in a hole they dig in the sand at high tide after sunset.  On Thursday, high tide was 2am.  We had to be a the park ranger station at 10:30pm and if a turtle came ashore, we’d pay our $27US and they would guide us to the location on the beach.  First, we had to watch a video about all things Costa Rican…including the turtles.  At that point they informed us that you could not take cameras to the location.  Everything I’d read said “no flash” but nothing said no cameras.  I discussed it with the head ranger but he said it was the law and he couldn’t do anything about it.  So no pictures.  I had specifically selected this night because it was a full moon and it would photos possible.  Visibility was good for the walk.

There was about 30 of us that departed the ranger station about 1 am.  We hiked about 1.5 miles to find one turtle.  It was about 5ft long.  There was a group of researchers there measuring the turtle, taking samples of parasites off the shell and counting the eggs that were deposited into the hole.  There were 71 eggs.  It takes about 60-65 days for the hatchlings to come out and make a run for the sea.  Very few make it to adulthood.  The ones that do leave for at least 20 years before they are able to have their own eggs.  They then return to the same beach that they were born at to deposit their eggs.  Often travelling up to 4000 miles.

It was an interesting trip but I was disappointed that no one had informed me or mentioned it on their website that cameras weren’t permitted.  We got back to the hotel about 3 am.

We are usually up about 5:30 am to check the surf.  I haven’t made it every morning and the surfers haven’t gone out every morning either.  We usually have at least one other surfing excursion about mid-day.  It’s hot.  Temperatures are in the low  to mid-90’s. Surfing is best, I’m told, just before high tide and the guys all have apps that tell them what tide conditions are and when surfing should be good at our location.   I take some images from near the water then back up to a row of trees for a little shade.

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Our folks surfing.  Chelsey, Pat, Derek’s former boss and Derek with mohawk.  His special haircut for this trip.

This weekend there’s a surfing contest at the beach we go to.  Here’s an assortment of shots from this morning.  Most of these surfers are 12-13 years old.  It was fun watching them

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I’m here until February 20th.  More to follow.

Ron

 

 

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