Hokkaido - Winter Landscapes of Japan
For some reason, winter makes me feel safe. I like the bite of the cold and wind whipping across my face, followed by the retreat to the warmth of the indoors as the day comes to a close with the failing light.
Japan, in particular Hokkaido, had been a place I had coveted for many years and the urge to visit became a reality in 2017. As soon as the plane began to descend into Asahikawa Airport the broken cloud gave way to a white landscape of pristine snow and rolling hills. Hokkaido, the most northerly island in Japan, is nothing like this is the summer months. It is a vibrant landscape of flower fields, and the fishing ports that surround the island teeming with activity.
As the winter arrives, the landscape changes dramatically and the landowners close the farms and head into their homes, the fishermen haul their boats out of the sea to prevent them being crushed by encroaching sea ice, and the temperatures plummet to below freezing.
My first impressions of Hokkaido were that it is an elemental landscape, wonderfully minimal, and everywhere seemed silent. Because of the constant falling of fresh snow, sound is dampened and photographing in silence is what I first remember of Hokkaido. As much as this photograph invokes a sense of peace in me, it was a moment in which working quickly did not pay dividends. I was returning back to the vehicle and another band of dark, snow-laden cloud began to approach. Soon after, heavy snowfall began.
Just before the arrival of the snow, I worked as quickly as I could to photograph the trees. The colours and tones were beautiful. The silver tree bark gave way the dark greys of the densely packed woodland, at the foot of which, were small yellow bamboos adding an essence of warmth to the cold scene. Arrive the snow did, and before too long it gradually placed a shroud between me and the trees. I had been satisfied to have harnessed the opportunity to make some images and felt content to just stand and stare.
I find snow transfixes me. It’s hypnotic. I watched as it thickened and continued to fall, occasionally changing direction by the whim of the winds. The structure and shapes of the trees slowly faded away and became more distant, then gradually, and before my very eyes, began to reappear. As the snow gently came to rest on the finer branches they became white and gradually emerged from the grey veil of the snow and I knew instinctively that this would be the picture of that moment. Even to this day, I still stare at those trees.