We're back from Japan now and just about to head to Alaska next week. It was an epic trip thanks to the awesome participants and the great weather. Our tour was just about perfect thanks to falling snow at almost all of the locations, falling snow is a must-have for a successful winter trip here.
We had an especially amazing day at the crane sanctuary with light snowfall turning into heavy snowfall with a very light crowd. Lucky for us most of the other photographers packed up and left once the snow started! The cranes were doing some amazing behavior in front of us, once right before feeding time at the sanctuary the entire group of 100+ birds walked up a small incline to the top of a hill and started to display, jump and dance, all together. Then all at once they all walked back down the hill and stared to feed. That group behavior was something to see in person.
It was great to see the steller's sea eagles back on beautiful pack ice this year after an iceless 2016. There was tons of action on the ice and completely different weather on each of our three mornings, sun, clouds, overcast and snow, we had it all over 3 days.
Our trip to the snow monkey park was completely different this year. As were first people to arrive we were greeted by piles of fresh powder. The trail to reach the park was completely hidden by snow drifts. Once we reached the park it was really interesting to see how the monkeys coped with fresh snow drifts that were piled over their heads. They moved around in single file lines that compacted the snow created their own trails with the young monkeys forced to ride on older monkeys to get around. It was impressive to see a monkey covered in snow running and jumping over streams and up and over boulders with an infant monkey riding under its belly, hanging on for its life and at the same time they almost seemed to be enjoying it. The snow fall started out light but by 9 AM the snow and wind increased visibility dropped to almost zero but once when it lightened up the shooting was epic.
Each year we spend an afternoon or two shooting the northern fox, which is a sub species of the normal red fox found in the rest of Japan, but this year the opportunities were so good we ended up spending four sessions with them. The Hokkaido fox have to be some of the most calm, relaxed, and photogenic wild animals on the planet. One afternoon we had the opportunity to shoot a fox pair hunting, which was already an experience to remember, when all of a sudden a single, third fox shows up and then things got really interesting. It was a special opportunity to shoot them hunting, playing, courting, fighting, even napping. Just amazing.
Hokkaido northern fox getting a closer look at the stranger (with Russia in the background). Hokkaido, Japan.
What makes the fox so unusual in Hokkaido is that they have been habituated to people that when you pull up in our car the fox will actually walk up, sometimes within a couple of feet as in the image above, and just stand there and stare at you. This is due to the fact the people have been feeding them since at least the 70s. Researchers have found that human handouts make up to 10% of their diet in winter, becoming an important food source for the younger inexperienced individuals. The same researchers were surprised to find that even the wild fox located deep in the national park somehow picked up the strategy.
This years trip was one that I will never forget and I have to say thanks to all of our tour participants for making the tour so fun!
There are lots of companies running photo tours to Japan, one has copied my itinerary down to the exact day, but few have experience that we do and none offer the same exclusive group size of only 5 that we do!
If you're interested in taking the trip of a lifetime to Japan please take a look at the Japan tour page on this site for more information. Hope you can join us.