One of the things I enjoy most, besides taking photographs, is taking people along with me to some of my favorite locations. Sharing the experiences I love with others is very fulfilling. I’ve been taking small groups of people to some of the locations where favorite episodes of Travels to the Edge took place. As seen in one of those episodes, Japan in winter is simply magical. Much of the wildlife has been habituated to people, and therefore translates into amazing photographic experiences.
First we’ll visit the snow macaques that live in the mountains about two hours west of Tokyo. Here in an isolated steep cut valley with an amazing mountain lodge are three extended families of macaques, numbering around 50. Because they are the most northern primate on earth, they have the longest, luxuriant fur of any primates, particularly in the winter months. They come down from the pine and oak forests and for a couple of hours a day they hang around a natural hot spring. They have been habituated to people visiting them there, so you can photograph from within inches without interrupting their behavior, which is very animated and fun. It is a photographic bonanza.
After visiting the macaques, we will travel to the northern island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido reminds me a bit of Alaska, full of forests of birch, pine and fir with a back drop of beautiful volcanic mountains. There are also large lakes and wild running rivers, and hosts three species of bird wildlife that are extraordinary to photograph. The Japanese Crane has been symbolized in Japanese culture for thousands of years due to its grace and beauty. Giant whooper swans come in the winter months from nesting in Siberia. They have been fed by locals for years, helping them sustain thru the winter, as well as creating an easy and wonderful photographic opportunity for us! And often Steller’s sea eagles will swoop around the same area. They are massive black and white raptors that winter over on the icy shores of Hokkaido.
The days are short in February on Hokkaido, but the beautiful hues of sunrise and sunset are protracted allowing us hours to capture quite stunning images. After sunset we will have time for a hot bath at the lodge before eating a traditional Japanese meal. After dinner we will have time for lectures and critiques before calling it a day. With the abridged daylight, it really allows for a nice schedule to fit everything in and still have enough hours for a good night’s sleep! Since we travel in and out of Tokyo, you will get to experience the surreal and wonderful contrast that Japan has to offer, not only the very modern and bustling city, but the natural and beautiful countryside.
I invite you to explore this unique and rich habitat with us.