The gorge photo's attached to this newsletter is one of my favorite autumn images; I took this image from our base camp last year while scouting the region in Niigata for a new Japan photo tour route. Yes, on that scouting trip, I decided to camp out and give my four seasons Mountian Hardwear and Northface tents there first taste of cooler temperatures and possible snow. I love camping and open space and storytelling by the campfire. Even knowing 40 minutes away is a 4-star luxury Japanese style hotel with hot springs. This region has a history. Arrowheads are often found, and precious metals and stones are found daily. This region is truly the wild frontier of the Kanto region Japan. To give you an example, just after the battle of Sekigarhara, where Tokugawa Ieyasu was victorious, hundreds of Samurai, along with their families, ran to this region to live out their days; it's that remote with steep sheer cliffs, and there is plenty of fishing, wildlife, and there are snow monkeys in the area, but not as many as in Nagano. In these hills, they mostly only pass through from spring to Autumn, winters can be harsh, and are in the top 10 snowiest places on our planet. But there are many hot springs in the region, so there is a Japanese Macaque troop or two who winter out in the region. Autumn is a particularly special time of the year here; the colors are truly amazing with natural forests, and you know you are in the high alpines when autumn colors in bright red, yellow, and oranges are in full bloom, and just above is fresh snow covering the hills that just fell overnight, it's truly a magical place to spend autumn.
One of the elements of being a professional explorer and photography workshop leader is scouting locations. And when I hear of other companies or would be photo explorers on social media stating that they just returned from a week or two of scouting a region and are ready to bring clients in the following year, I am absolutely shocked and have a pit kind of feeling it in my stomach, and I put them in a little booklet of pro photographers never to work with. Personally, I need at least three to five years to scout a region before I am comfortable bringing clients fellow explorers in to photograph in a new region. I have returned to many of the same locations for years so that my team and I know the roads, backroads, and trails that barely resemble roads, so any Japan Photo Tour you take with me will be one in a million. It is a matter of personal pride and safety that no matter what the occasion, my team and I have a back up for our back up. Also, I always carry with me Zen and the beginner’s mindset, which allows me to return to locations over and over so I can approach a similar landscape with new eyes, and of course, there will be different weather patterns and skies on each visit; I love finding a new experience to share with my camera and test long and wide-angle lenses finding the hidden scene with my clients and friends. Niigata is home all year long to hundreds of varieties of migratory birds, and, in my opinion, its autumn colors are some of the most breathtaking. Only a short trip from my Niigata office are some of the most amazing golds, reds, and oranges that anyone can find during fall. This year after four years of scouting a new route, I was supposed to be with six clients on my business class First Essence of Autumn Cross Country Journey, indeed the Authentic Japan that I love, but I’m optimistic that next year that this photo workshop will have a green light to go with the beautiful colors all over the countryside.