This has been a great trip. My first time in Japan was maybe in 1976. This time I was surprised and happy to see how much Japan remains as it was. There are still traditional areas (Ueno) in the agglomeration of Tokyo with the small streets, the busy life in the traditional shops, the shrines. Clean, safe is this country and polite the people: what a great pleasure to visit this country.
On the country side, however, the architecture is very functional and not that much appealing.
The tour, demanding by the relative low winter temperatures, the early wake -ups and the huge number of shots to download and handle, was very well organized by Ade: www.adephotography.com.
Briefly, my review.
Snow Monkeys in Nagano. Well: It has become quite a tourist attraction, it is a place to go once or twice to shoot the pictures. The monkeys are funny, but there are many photographers around the small pool. I was not that much satisfied with my pictures, but still: some of these guys are looking really funny. There are not that many monkeys in the pool. So you have to take advantage of what you get. They are anywhere in the area.
The Red crowned cranes are difficult to photograph at the Akan center, not because of the number of people there, but mainly as the birds are quite unpredictable and when they jump in the air they jump out of the viewer. So it really needs some training. There are many photographers from around the world there, but all are very respectful and the cold is a general unifier. It was great to meet Martin Bailey, Art Morris and Robert O'Tool.
The other day we were at the Otowabashi bridge before sunrise. We had to wait in the cold to shoot a couple of photos from this unique place. The cranes are far away, it is all about landscape with the birds in the raising sun. However, there was no mist on the river. Personally, I love to wait and hope to get the chance for a good picture: So, despite the cold, it was the right place for me. And: there were not that many people on the bridge (which is part of an ordinary road) and all were respectful.
Lake Kussahro: by far my favorite. Hot springs keep a quite small part of th lake open, where the wooper swans come together as the rest of the lake is frozen. Due to the gusting winds the snow was blown over the landscape and over the pond and gave drama and mystery to the landscape and the wooper swans. For me this was great scenery to capture on the sensors and many keepers. For my taste this was really rewarding. But: My camera Canon DX-1 Mk 2 failed in the cold, also it was not that cold at all!! Ade gave me his Canon Dx 1 MK camera.I used my Canon 5 DSR as well, the later worked perfectly well. But, the snow blown on the lenses, the cameras that fell in the snow etc: it is very different than Africa, safari and driving on the Jeeps....
Red foxes: well, not so exciting, the guys are used to be feeded.
Stellar eagle and white tailed eagle photography in Rausu. Well, this is big business there and many boats take photographers out where ice has partially closed the bay. The b-moll for me as nature photographer is the fact that the eagles are feeded by the boatmen who through fishes out on the ice and the eagles go to catch them. So, I tried to practice my kind of photography capturing the bird in his harsh environment. The ice on the sea is a great sighting. It is impressive! On the other hand: this type of photography is not much about composition, but mainly demands fast reaction, good autofocus and to shoot with a high number of frames per second. A feast for the professional cameras (if they work..)
But the cold and the North makes the sunrises very special. The warm color of the sun and the sky gives a unique contrast to the cold sea, the ice and the dark water. I think this is really a unique place on our planet and deserves much more attention by the photographers
Last but not least: The tour leader and photographer is the key person to make you happy in these special conditions of cold and long days. Ade has the gift to do so.