The Western Highlands
The photography adventure begins in the Biei area, which in the summer months is flourishing with farming activity but during the winter it is transformed with snowfall and the landscape is punctuated with lone trees and farm outbuildings. A real minimalists dreamland. We also explore Shirogane with its famous Blue Pond and woodland.
There is so much to see in the Biei and Shirogane areas and the winter landscape consists of field edges surrounded by gently rolling hills and vast open white spaces. In the afternoon we drive towards the coast and to Shosanbetsu and the famous Torii Gate and the sea ice.
After Biei, Shirogane and Shosanbetsu areas, we then move on to explore the coastal areas of Oumu with its fishing harbours and fishing huts. We then head inland into the snowy white canvas to explore the Teshio area with its black river that cuts through open white farmland often dotted with greenhouse frames from the summers growing activity.
Leaving Teshio we head for Abashiri district. Our local guide will usher you to the first location to shoot the infamous Kurosawa trees dotting the rolling and hilly landscape providing a graphic contrast against the white snowy canvas. We head back to Cape Notoro, the location of the lighthouse and the fence that Michael Kenna frequently captures. We travel towards Futatsuiwa district to capture the picturesque landscape with Mt Shari in the background.
Continuing our adventure to Abashiri then on to Futatsu Iwa, to shoot the spiky twin outcrop rising above the waters called Futatsui Rocks. We proceed southward along the coastline to view drift ice with the ice-capped Mount Shari in the background. From the coastal road, we head to the nearby Oshinkoshin Falls, one of Japan’s best 100 waterfalls. Here we will photograph the frozen shafts of water amidst the stark trees with spindly branches. We head towards Utoro at sunset for dinner and a night’s stay.
After sunrise, we head back to the coast of Abashiri to experience the breathtaking drift ice breaking and floating across the Sea of Okhotsk. If you are lucky you can catch Steller’s sea eagles and spotted seals. We then travel east to Hamakoshimizu to capture the stark winter tree line contrasting against the white snow. We head south to the Lake Kussharo in Teshikaga District. We return to Kawayu Spa.
We rise early to catch the morning mist creating ghostly images around the wintry trees at the nearby Kawayu Forest. We continue our exploration at Lake Kussharo to find whooper swans that return to the Lake every winter. In addition, you may be able to catch a glimpse of other wildlife like the Sika deer, Siberian chipmunks and white-tailed eagles. Located nearby is Mount Io, famous for its hot springs and sulphur filled mountain. In winter, the white steam cuts the mountain to create a breathtaking photo opportunity. We head south to another of Michael Kenna’s iconic spot — the hillside fence that guards the snowy hills of Teshikaga.
We venture to Lake Mashu a caldera lake in Akan National Park. It has the reputation to be the clearest lake in the world and the most beautiful in Japan. You can enjoy unobstructed views from two observation decks. Photographers will have to look out for the volcanic peak on the western side of the lake and the infamous fog that blankets the lake. For more angles of the view you can enjoy the hiking trail that rims the lake. We travel west to Lake Akan resort for the night.
We spend a day at Lake Akan to absorb and capture the scenic hilltop trees around the lake. In winter, the lake freezes over and the mist adds a bit of mystery to the place. We visit two more locations made famous by Michael Kenna, the minimalistic ‘Inclined Posts’ and the ‘Windblown Flags’, both of which are in the vicinity of Lake Akan. Avid wildlife shooters can head southwards to Akan Tancho Crane National Park to catch the red-crested cranes that are the official birds of Hokkaido.
For many photographers, this experience will be like no other and working in a landscape with such beautiful simplicity will be a new. Paul Gallagher and Michael Pilkington will be encouraging you to enjoy your creative freedom and explore the many different ways in which you can express yourself as a photographer in these winter conditions. Feel free to break the rules and take photos that mean something to you as an individual. After breakfast, we will proceed to our departure airport. Please note that the departure airport is Kushiro and not Asahikawa Airport.
2 leaders with a maximum of 8 participants
Easy - snow and ice would require the use of grippers or ice spikes.
The price includes extensive one to one photography tuition during the workshop, local guide and driver, accommodation (including breakfast and dinner). No single occupancy supplement. Travel during the workshop.
Travel to and from the location and personal bills such as bar bills, meals not listed. Travel and camera Insurance.