I love photography and videography, and that means always chasing the light. Chasing the light has taken me all over the world and mainly Japan in the last 20+ years, and I’ve been exploring and scouting new locations all over the country since I arrived. My Hokkaido photo tour represents some of my favorite adventures. However, I find that, at times, small changes or updates to my usual itinerary can yield spectacular results. Last year, on February 24, 2020, on my annual Hokkaido Photo Tour, I saw a phenomenon I had seen pictures of and heard about for years but have never seen with my own eyes, something akin to the green flash of light at sunset. A fabled and exceedingly rare phenomenon that has been documented, but it has the rarity of astral phenomenon like Haley’s comet, appearing once in decades to photographers who spend their entire lives searching for it.
For my 2020 winter wonderland adventure's safety’s sake, I made one small amendment to my usual lodgings on my annual Hokkaido photo tour; usually, we stay right on the pacific coastline for five nights for easy access to photographing raptors and other wildlife. Due to offshore seismic activity near my usual accommodations, I instead used a location away from the Pacific Ocean about 30 km inland. Where we were staying was still luxury, but just a shade different. The new location allowed easier photography for smaller Japan birding spotting such as the Shima Enaga, Pygmy woodpecker, and other smaller Hokkaido wildlife such as the Ezo squirrel and others; I often photograph in this region in spring, summer, and autumn, but in winter, my heart is set on the coastline with the magnificent Steller’s Sea Eagles and other raptors, plus the Ezo Red Fox and Ezo Sika Deer. Still, my instincts always tell me that safety is first. On our second to last morning, 30 km from the Pacific Ocean, some of my clients and I decided to make the ‘Sun’ of the Land of the Rising Sun our subject. While other clients and my team were still fast asleep, in pitch blackness, Veronica from South Africa, Martin from Germany, both friends, and clients and I set out. Martin had joined me twice in a year; the other was in the spring on my annual Cherry Blossom Tour, and I hope he comes to visit with us in 2021 or 2022; this February morning in Hokkaido was our last chance to capture the Pacific Ocean at sunrise; we drove to the coastline with clear, starry skies in our 4x4 to enjoy a golden hour sunrise where we would witness the rarest sunrise phenomenon I have shot so far. This heartful sunrise can only be found on a 3 km section of coastline, and we were right in the middle at my usual lodgings; the owner is good friends of my family, so I did not seek permission to use their oceanfront. The ‘Heartful Sunrise,’ or at least that’s what I decided to call it, lasted for just a few moments over that peninsula; as you can see in the series of Raw photos I’ve attached to this newsletter, I felt the warmth and a vision of hope and love expressed in the glowing red heart of the sun. The phenomenon washed over me, and in mere moments, it was gone, and in all my years photographing in Hokkaido, I had never seen it, but I hope to see it again as I continue to chase the light.
Below I have included a few other images of sunrise on this wondrous shoreline in Hokkaido.