February 5 - 17, 2018 Snow Monkeys & Hokkaido - Japan Photography Tour

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Japan is a special place to visit. Since 1998 Blain has been leading photography adventures throughout Japan. Hokkaido photo tour segment of this vacation is the birding adventure of a lifetime! 


Tour Highlights: There is no better place to start our journey than the iconic symbol of Japan snow-capped Mt. Fuji. Then we journey into snow monkeys territory and enjoy all that is offered by the region. Matsumoto Castle national treasure of Japan, where we will enter the world of the samurai. Wow, Look Up! The Steller's Sea Eagle Hokkaido Photography Tour Time! We will board a chartered boat taking us to the eagles feeding grounds on pack ice. Kushiro-shitsugen National Park, the elegant Red Crowned Crane with their legendary courting rituals of song and dance. The White Tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Black Kite, whooper swan and other sub-arctic birds along with the red-tailed fox, sika deer, and beautiful winter landscapes are on our itinerary while exploring northeast and southeast Hokkaido. In the winter of, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Blain photographed a herd of over 500 sika deer. This is a rare event, timing and weather are everything to capture this shot; we wish for you also to be honored to view such a spectacular site.

Day 1, 2Arrival and pick up Tokyo, Haneda Airport, (HND)  After meeting, we depart for Lake Shoji at Mt. Fuji.  Our tour leader has been photographing and exploring this beautiful symbol of Japan for over 20 years; he knows the best locations for us to shoot during the golden hours. The fuji five lakes are at the base of Mount Fuji and are comprised of Yamanaka, Kawaguchi, Saiko, Shōji and Motosu lakes. Over 95% of Japanese have never visited all the five lakes; you will be among the few that have photographed and visited all fuji five lakes.  Overnight Shoji Mount Hotel 

Day 3, After Shooting sunrise on Mount Fuji and breakfast, we depart Matsumoto a 2hr drive. Where we will enter the world the Samurai at Matsumoto Castle, also known as crow castle or Kurasu-Jo, due to its grandeur poised black exterior. Built in 1504 its unique architectural design does not exist elsewhere in Japan, having both a secondary donjon and turret adjoined to its central keep. When viewing the exterior of the castle, it unquestionably has 5 floors. However, the builders managed to perfectly hide the fact that on the inside there are six floors. The wood interior of crow castle provides an authentic experience unlike that felt at many other castles. After years of studying and photographing Kurasu-jo, our photo leader is familiar with its most striking aesthetically photogenic angles. While photographing the interior of the castle, we will practice low-lighting techniques that Blain will explain to you. After several hours exploring and photographing this original Samurai castle built in the 16th Century, we depart for Shibu Onsen Village - Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Snow Monkey Park.  Overnight Shibu Onsen Ichinoyu Katei

Day 4, 5, Shibu Onsen village - Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Snow Monkey Park is where we will have close and personal encounters with the wild snow monkeys as they enjoy the hot springs. We have two full days here providing ample time for the best shots of the Japanese Macaques. Our team spends several weeks per year photographing and video-recording the snow monkeys, and are familiar with individual monkeys in the park, including their rank and behaviors. During last winters workshop, our clients were well prepared that they had all their shots of the monkeys in the hot springs on the first day. The second day we concentrated on action shots of the monkeys playfully dashing through the snow jumping the local creek and climbing trees. “It's all in their body language and facial expressions. As visual artists, we seek to capture that moment. We want something that's unique, real-and unstaged. The snow monkeys will offer us that look. Overnight Shibu Onsen Ichinoyu Katei

Day 6, 7, 8After breakfast and check out at Shibu Onsen we transfer to Tokyo, Haneda Airport and fly to Hokkaido Japans most northern island.
Shitsugen National Park and area is where we will photograph the breathtaking dancing Red-Crowned Crane, designated as a special national treasure and protected species of Japan. This is the ultimate birding adventure, the cranes are often described as snow ballerinas, as they perform their graceful courtship dance, they bow to one another, then raise their heads towards the sky and call in unison as they begin their dance. The pair or the entire flock will leap into the air at the same time commencing in the courtship dance. Before dawn, we will arrive at Otowabashi bride over the Setsurigawa river, where the cranes roost. Fingers crossed for cold weather and thick fog where we will take fantastical photos of the cranes dancing in the river of mystical fog.  3 nights at Kushiro La Vista Hotel 

Day 9, 10, 11, The next phase of our birding wildlife Safari is in the finest Grandeur of nature in the North-East of Hokkaido. We have chosen our lodgings for three nights between Lake Furenko and Rausu; this is the perfect location for birding, wildlife and landscape photo ops. The area is home to the largest herd of Sika deer in NE Hokkaido; we will also photograph the red tailed fox, white tailed eagle, black kite, golden eagle and other species. The Steller’s Sea Eagle - photo tour time, ranked the largest and most powerful bird of prey designated a national treasure of Japan. At Rausu we will board a chartered boat tour, that will take us to the Steller’s Sea Eagle feeding ground on pack ice. You will have hundreds of great shots of them clutching fish in their talons, feasting on fish, and in flight; the white-tailed eagle much smaller but just as fierce, swoop in from time to time joining in the festive feasting. We won't be spending much time in our hotel as they do in Rausu, and other groups due to us being mobile using SUV’s and our experienced staff drivers. From the golden hours and between we will be out journeying as adventure photographers shall be!  3 nights Shibetsu Kawabata Hotel

 

Day 12, 
We transfer to Kushiro and prepare our gear for the flight to Tokyo. You will have a few hours shopping time. During the farewell dinner with a toast we will take a moment to reflect upon our adventure together.  Overnight Kushiro La Vista Hotel 


Day 13,
Drop off and departure from Tokyo, Haneda Airport, (HND). 
Thank you, and we look forward to the next adventure together

Why Choose this Photography Tour/Workshop?
•Photographers of all levels are welcome.
•All Camera formats are welcome, digital, handy camera, scoping with iPhone large format, film, etc.
•Rare birding and wildlife photography adventure.  
•Activity level leisurely - moderate.
•Transportation Private Sports Utility Vehicles with Business Class Seating.
•Small group size equals quality time with participants questions are always welcome and encouraged.
•Each evening and morning we discuss our best shooting options with our weather conditions so that you will be well prepared.
•2018 will be the tour leaders 21st year leading photo adventures in Japan.

Tour cost: $9550 Includes all lodging based on double room occupancy 3-5 star with western style toiletries, all breakfast and dinners, all group transportation sports utility vehicles with business class seating, domestic flights from Tokyo to Kushiro Hokkaido and return to Tokyo, all entrance fees, all donations at temples and shrines, professional photography guide instruction, detailed itinerary with clothing and gear recommendations.

Single supplement: $1200 USD

Not included: Flight to JPN and from JPN, alcohol beverages, travel health insurance, lunches, items of a personal nature

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