I usually don’t return directly after my annual winter Hokkaido Photo Tour has completed, but last year I did, and I brought along my Hokkaido Photo Tour participants to enjoy a rare birding opportunity to photograph Japan's earliest blooming cherry blossom, the Kawazu Sakura that annually blooms from Mid February to the first week of March and the Mejiro bird, they certainly are a stunningly beautiful combination. Participants were genuinely amazed, almost stunned; not only did they get to photograph the Steller’s Sea Eagle, the Red-crowned Cranes, the Shima Enaga, and other wildlife, they witnessed and photographed the Ainu minimalist winter scenes, enjoyed hot springs in Japan’s most northern wild frontier, that reminds me of the Canadian Yukon. In just three hours, my client's team and I had moved from - 20 °C weather to enjoying cherry blossoms just outside of Tokyo that most only dream of and most believe bloom only in early spring from late March-April with a possibility of a Mejiro bird or other birding compliment's.
I’ve been a professional photographer for 30 years, yet there’s one problem that I see among other professionals, too strong a focus on one small section of the field of photography. I find that just photographing the cherry blossoms is limiting. There are so many combinations that add to the sakura photographic experience. One such addition adds the field of birding photography to nature photography that is sakura photography. If you take my Cross-country Spring Cherry Blossom Photo Workshop, for example, I take my clients across most of Japan in search of the sakura in full bloom to make sure that the fickle blossom can be captured at just the right time. Truthfully, Zen, and the Buddhist beginner’s mindset helps me think of one art, photography, as one form of artistic expression and helps me link one form of art to another, improving both. I like to think of the cherry blossom in terms of either meditation or music. Sakura is one voice, something akin to an opera singer, and, of course, an opera singer’s voice is clear, beautiful. It can bring tears to the eye just as sakura can when at full blossom, but when that one voice is accompanied by the orchestra, it adds breadth to the voice, a quality that requires more than one type of music. The Mejiro represents this quality to the cherry blossom bringing a symphony of visual experience, a rhythm that I love to capture in video and film. The Japanese White-eye, or the Warbling white-eye as they are called in English, however, is just as hard to capture as the sakura, as they move at lightning speeds among the myriad blossoms on one tree or even among a grove of trees in one particular park or field. Capturing the Mejiro as they slurp up the heavenly nectar from the cherry blossoms is a picture I adore taking, but getting once in a lifetime photos takes know-how and knowing one's gear as I’m sure the orchestra and opera singer takes to prepare their instruments for performance. Each location on my Cross-country Cherry Blossom Photo Workshop means one more opportunity to capture the photographic symphony of Mejiro and Sakura.