I spent two weeks in Japan from Feb 7th through Feb 20th of 2016. This was my first Japan trip dedicated to photo shooting. Main subjects to capture were: Red Crown Cranes, Fish Owls, Eagles, and Snow Monkeys. For the purpose of this trip the weather must be very cold and majority of locations were very northern part of Japan (Hokkaido and Nagano).
This photo note (Part 1, 2 and 3) summarizes the trip and results for those of you who are interested in visiting Japan in winter time for photography. I left Seattle on the 6th arriving at Narita on the 7th. I moved to Haneda airport by Limousine bus and stayed at Haneda Tokyo Excel Hotel within the airport. I flew from Haneda to Kushiro next day and rent a car (all wheel drive with studies snow tires) for the rest of stay in Hokkaido Is.
Red Crown Cranes in Kushiro:
With the following link (Photography pages), you will be able to see many other images of Red Crown Cranes. http://www.seattledigitalphoto.com/p183393646
On the way to the Hotel Taito in Tsurui-mura (Tsurui Village), I stopped by a possible sunset scene location with crane flying. It was not very dramatic sunset but it showed up with beautiful and gentle color in the west side of sky. Many of cranes flew across the sky for their sleeping spots and I was able to capture some good sunset scenes.
Next 3 mornings, I went to [world famous] Otowa-bashi bridge where the cranes are sleeping over near the bridge. If the temperature is cold enough (-15degrees C or lower), the moisture of the river will create fantastic view with sun rising, but the temperature was around -5 degrees on the days I went. The cranes tend to fly earlier when he temperature is high. Lots of cranes flew towards me on the bridge unexpectedly. It was wonderful experience to be able to follow their flying figures especially towards my shooting spot.
Below is the 360VR image of Otowa-bash bridge (taken with Ricoh Theta-S). You can see larger view by clicking [Theta] symbol in left bottom corner (leads to Ricoh Theta360 site).
Following 3 images were taken from Otowa-bashi with D4S, 400mm/f2.8 with x1.4 Tele-converter. EXIF data can be seen in the Photography page of this site.
Ito Tancho Sanctuary is an excellent shooting location especially for the cranes with snow falling. I was fortunate enough to be able to capture the snow scenes on the 2nd day in Tsurui-mura. It is the best if the camera can be set on the slope where the dark background becomes lower yet the ground can be observed. In this position, the cranes will become more visible comparing to other spot where the cranes are mostly in white snow.
Below gives you a sense of shooting spot at Ito Tancho Sanctuary in 360VR. You can see larger view by clicking [Theta] symbol in left bottom corner (leads to Ricoh Theta360 site).
Tsurui-mura Ito Sanctuary, Kushiro 20160209 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
I went to the sunset shooting place on the 3rd day with high expectation of dramatic sunset. Sunset of that day was gorgeous and very impressive. Fortunate again that cranes flew near the horizon for my photographs.
Below image captured swans at sunset.
Fish Owls in Rausu: After spending 3 nights in Tsurui-mura in Kushiro, I drove (3 and a half hours) up to Rause where I can expect Fish owls at night and eagles in the morning. The fish owls are specified as dangered species and rare to be seen in nature. However, there is a local lodge where they facilitate a special observation cottage with a government permission. They have a special LED lighting system which allows photographers to capture the owls by setting given exposure conditions. Challenges are very cold and waiting time. The owls came down for 3-5 minutes while I've been waiting for more than 6 hours. But, it is worth challenging. The bird is magnificent and gorgeous. Some other owl images can be seen in the following link. http://www.seattledigitalphoto.com/p365409073
Following link explains how the LED light system works and desired camera exposure setting. I've used 400mm/f2.8 on D4S. http://www.fishowl-observatory.org/facilities3.html
Eagles and Snow Monkeys will be covered by next PhotoNote. (To be continued in Part-2)