2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan | Short Video With Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II

Mar 23 | Evan | No Comments |

I’ve been a Nikon guy since my first photography class in 1998.  First was film but quickly switched over to digital and never looked back but now it’s time to look forward.  Mirrorless cameras have been around for a while but the technology is now reaching a point that I believe is similar to when digital was starting to seriously challenge film.  In December Olympus released their flagship mirrorless micro 4/3 camera, the OM-D E1 Mark II and I was eager to get my hands on one.  The main attractions to me were the smaller size (less weight makes a huge different for my physical condition while traveling), amazing image stabilization (I can hand hold what is essentially a 840mm lens and get great results with photo or video), and other features like live composition and pro capture.  I might do a review OM-D E1 Mark II after my next tour of Japan in cherry blossom season but the short answer is that so far so good!  Partly because of the image stabilization I wanted to do a little test video.  It’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of video really, but I was quite happy with the results in the limited testing I did with it.  Of course I probably only had about 5 minutes of raw footage to make this 2 minute clip out of, which really isn’t anywhere close to having enough for amazing footage, but as a short test, I’m pleased!  Though it could have been user error, I do wish that autofocus during video was a little snappier!

In collaboration with Magic Is Photo Safaris, I escorted a small group of wildlife photographers for a Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan in search of Japanese Snow Monkeys, Red Crowned Crane, Swan, Steller’s Sea Eagles and whatever else we could find!  To see more photos from our photo safari in Japan, view the 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan Trip Report.

2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan | Steller’s Sea Eagles Watching Steller’s Sea Eagles

Mar 20 | Evan | No Comments |

The last stop for our Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan was the northeast of Japan’s most northern island, Hokkaido.  Just outside of Shiretoko National Park is the small port town of Rausu where many Steller’s Sea Eagles can be found.  Similar to the red-crowned cranes of Kushiro, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from these large birds.  Also, we had to use a boat to take photos of the eagles.  I don’t get sea sick though riding a boat in sub freezing weather, before sunrise, usually isn’t something I look forward to doing, but taking photos of the Steller’s Sea Eagles was really a rare opportunity! 

 

There are a few different boats that will take you out into the Sea of Okhotsk looking for the drift ice and eagles though instead of crowding into a boat with many photographers, the decision was made to charter a boat for only our group to use.  After seeing how crowded some of the other boats were, we knew we made the right decision to make the most of photographing the Steller’s Sea Eagles.

As I’m not normally a wildlife photographer, this tour of Japan was certainly a learning and exploring experience for me.  With the snow monkeys in Nagano, I was surprised how like them humans are, with the red-crowned cranes in Kurshiro, I wasn’t expecting them to be so playful and graceful, with the swans in Kussharo, it was nice to see such pleasant swans and with these eagles in Rausu, it was a lot of fun to see the eagles interact with each other.  

For whatever reason, I envisioned the Steller’s Sea Eagles acting much more aggressive with each other but almost seemed like they were really okay to take turns getting the food getting thrown out to them, perhaps because there was enough to go around!  I’m not sure why I found it so interesting but I really enjoyed watching the eagles watching other eagles.  Not sure if it was just because there were so many eagles and they had to look somewhere, but it always seemed each eagle was watching every other eagle it could see.  Also not sure why I found it so enjoyable to watch the eagles watching eagles, but it was!   

In collaboration with Magic Is Photo Safaris, I escorted a small group of wildlife photographers for a Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan in search of Japanese Snow Monkeys, Red Crowned Crane, Swan, Steller’s Sea Eagles and whatever else we could find!  To see more photos from our photo safari in Japan, view the 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan Trip Report.

2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan | Whooper Swans of Lake Kussharo

Mar 18 | Evan | No Comments |

The 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan was going great even with every day being well below freezing!  After spending a few days photographing Japanese Snow Monkeys and then the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane, the group travelled to Lake Kussharo to photograph the Whooper Swans.

The few swans I’ve encountered in my past haven’t always come across as friendly, though I guess like the red-crowned cranes bowing, the whooper swans in Japan were quite tame and didn’t seem to care about humans at all.  Compared to the snow monkeys, red-crowned cranes and stella eagles (coming soon), we spent less time with the swans but as it happened to be the coldest days of our tour in Japan, these days with the swans seemed like the longest!  Everyone said that they still got better photos of the swans than they were expected, so well below freezing cold and all, a great stop for our group photo tour of Japan!

In collaboration with Magic Is Photo Safaris, I escorted a small group of wildlife photographers for a Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan in search of Japanese Snow Monkeys, Red Crowned Crane, Swan, Steller’s Sea Eagles and whatever else we could find!  To see more photos from our photo safari in Japan, view the 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan Trip Report.

2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan | Artistic Red-Crowned Cranes

Mar 17 | Evan | No Comments |

The 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan stayed in Kushiro for a few days to photograph the Japanese red-crowned crane.  Kushiro is located on Japan’s northern most island, Hokkaido and as it was peak Winter season, after 2 days of photographing these beautiful cranes in the cold, windy weather, I needed to change something up.  My training in photography was as a photojournalist so I don’t always consider myself artistic, I tried to get out of my documentary photography style for this tour of Japan.

My first thought was to photograph the surroundings, so I got a few overall shots and nature shots.  Then I thought I wanted to show the movement, so I slowed the shutter down.  Once again, the 5.5 stop image stabilization of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II plus the extra stop when using the M.Zuiko ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO, was fun to explore these slow shutter speeds with.

After that I thought why not get really close and try some portraits of the cranes.  Of course I had to wait for the cranes to come to me as the photographers are (thankfully) fenced in! Luckily a few cranes would venture close enough to me, though not as close as the snow monkeys did during our tour in Nagano, to get some nice head shots of the red-crowned cranes.  It felt like this crane below was looking into my soul when he looked at me!

Finally, as you can see in the first photo and below this paragraph, I tried something with the editing the photos after inspiration and examples from professional wildlife photographer Chris Weston. Please go to his site to see how he came up with the idea and his beautiful art! Chris is working an entire series of this sumi-e inspired portraits of the red-crowned cranes, can’t wait to see more of his photos from our photo safari of Japan!

In collaboration with Magic Is Photo Safaris, I escorted a small group of wildlife photographers for a Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan in search of Japanese Snow Monkeys, Red Crowned Crane, Swan, Steller’s Sea Eagles and whatever else we could find!  To see more photos from our photo safari in Japan, view the 2017 Winter Wildlife Tour of Japan Trip Report.

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