From an extremely fun trip to Hokkaido for some skiing at Niseko and a little exploring in Sapporo, this being on top of Grand Hirafu resort after a small hike from their highest chairlift, classy little single seater.
It was a cold March night in Sapporo and the foggy storm told me it would be interesting to get out and take some shots despite it being late in the middle of the night, so I rolled out of bed with my camera and ended up with a few shots like this.
I was a little tipsy one night after eating out and ended up with a bunch of crooked, off kilter shots, but this decent one was found in that series.
Yesterday was quite a blizzard here in Alliance. I think it is the most snow I have had at any place I have lived since I left Utah. I definitely enjoy the hell out of it too, I wish I had a snow mobile, a snow cat, or skis and a mountain, but it was fun enough driving around the last two days busting on through drifts in my truck. I headed out east for about 35 miles to explore a little bit and look for some shots. It was really, really, really cold with the wind chill! It was actually painful on exposed skin within seconds in the area I took the shot of the do not pass sign. Also got a better shot of the trains. They were parked up and down the tracks today with no one in them. I think they picked up everyone and sent them back home in a van for New Years.
Anyways, in the next day or two I have a haphazard tutorial on my HDR/DRI process that I should be able to post. I was going to post a write up on these shots as well, but my HDR and DRI versions sucked pretty bad. These are just regular shots. *Edit, figured out why my bracketed shots sucked.. Was shooting at 800 ISO all day.. Nikon needs to make an option that resets the ISO to 200 after cycling the camera on and off for tards like myself!
This iconic mountain looks like a mini Fuji. I had always seen Yōtei-san in the background of ski movies and in ski magazine pictures. I thought there were actual ski resorts on the mountain itself, but it is actually free from any of that. I cannot imagine how nice it must be at the top admiring the surrounding mountains before dropping in to the valley below!
I don’t know what this guy was making, but he was pretty determined to roll this piece of plastic around on a rock as if he was trying to flatten it out and make something with it. As intelligent as this species is, you never know what in the world they could be up to!
Why I did not lie down in the monkey scat speckled ground to capture an eye level view of a baby monkey wrestling match is beyond me, but this will have to do. I was thinking about making something I could print out and hang on the wall and wanted to try my hand at a tryptych variation, the quadtych. The only problem is that the wifey and I are both obsessed with these monkeys and will probably end up with an overabundance of monkey pictures on our wall once we get moved into our next place.
View in SUPER ULTRA MAXIMUM Size
I usually do not mess around with using filters in my post processing, it seems to take a long time for me to get them right. I attempted it in this shot since the sky was ugly as can be reflecting all of the city light in the frozen moisture particles. I think it is an improvement, but it is hard to make the look subtle. I am also thinking about purchasing a Cokin Z-Filter system in the future and switching the 14-24 for the new 24/1.4, mostly so I can use filters in my landscape shots. I’ll test it out on the 70-200 before making the switch; I have never used filters before and 14mm is a lot to lose!
And last, but not least.. I leave you with more snow monkeys. I just cannot get enough these little guys!
We spent one of our ski days over at the larger of the Niseko area ski resorts, Grand Hirafu. It was by far my favorite as it was relatively uncrowded during the weekday we were there and had some epic back country easily accessible by a 10 minute hike from an old single seater lift that was just to the side of me when I was taking this shot.
Now, why did I not compose this shot to include the view of the amazing stratovolcano Mt. Yōtei? I did in another shot, but I inadvertently cut off part of the bull wheel and it didn’t take on the center role of this view since Yōtei is so damned cool looking and I was really interested in this really old lift for some reason and besides, I took tons of shots of Yōtei by then! How could you not?
Been very busy with school packing to go back to Japan in about a week, and trying to get my Internet back up and running. Will stay in Japan until May then we sadly have to move back to the States for a little while. Hopefully not too long though! The first place we are heading when we get back…
Jigokudani Yaenkoen to see my buddies of course!
Mt. Erciyes is a bit of a weird resort compared to what I am use to in the States. Each group of chairlifts and rope tows are owned by different people, so even though you can see 5 or 6 lifts nearby, you have to choose which one or two that you would like to ride and pay for a pass that is only good for a specific lift or two. Doppelmayr! How I have missed you!
I was having a lot of fun skiing for the 2nd time in 7 years. Last year I felt like a disaster, but this year was different for some reason. I think it might be the kebabs and sahlep? Anyways, I didn’t care to get my camera equipment until near the end of the day, so it was getting pretty dark by the time I started to shoot. You can also kind of see the runs that were pretty much 50/50 rock snow, not the pure snow like found on the K-12, but.. If something gets in your way, turn.
For the last run I locked my 50mm on and loaded my SB-600 and tried to get some shots of my friends as they were trying to breakout of beaterdom. It would have been nice to have my 70-200 to get in a bit closer, but I was a little weary of breaking my leg on a rock, smashing my head into the dirt, and having 50 pounds of camera reconstruct my face. Here is Dean showing me the dangers I speak of.
I can’t even see his upper body in this shot!
Took a little New Years break ski trip up north to Mt. Erciyes, a big 3,916 metre stratovolcano that can be seen from Cappadocia. When we arrived at night, it was extremely bright out due to the full moon, which I hear was a blue moon. Me and one of my friends eschewed the New Years festivities at the deluxe hotel that we had booked and decided to enjoy the blisteringly cold night air with our cameras.
I pulled out my handy LED key chain light to graffiti the mountain with a New Years declaration about some girl I know named Amber who should have been there to partake in the lovely wind chill with her husband!
These long exposures were really fun to play around with my flash as well. Me and my friend would hold my SB-600 flash and fire off the test flash a couple of times at each other while strategically hiding the flash unit from view of the camera to create some neat effects. Too bad my retarded ass kept moving around between flashes so that I look like a fragmented apparition!
Combined, neither me or my friend had enough common sense to at least dress up warm enough to stay out in the cold for very long, a damn shame because the views were simply amazing. After about an hour and a half, our tennis shoes became the weakest link and we had to quick pack everything up and head back to a warm car to try and regain feeling in our feet. While packing up we noticed our gear was extremely frosted over.
Modern gear is pretty damn awesome though; it all kept working so well, we had no idea it was all coated with frost until I happened to shine my LED on it. I think we were too preoccupied running in place and hopping around in circles like Indians for warmth! We headed out again the following night since this night was so amazing, but the 2nd time was so windy that we could not steady our tripods enough to take any sharp shots with such long exposures. I guess I’ll just have to go back again!
Before I joined the Air Force my life evolved around 2 things: skiing and skiing. I grew up for 10 years at a ski resort and after graduating high school I proceeded to work at resorts as a bit of a ski bum for 5 more years. Skiing literally was my life, the reason I hated summer time and the only thing I thought about.
I ended up joining the AF mostly because I needed to find a way to break the cycle and start working on school so I could start the grind towards retirement so I could finally ski again, except not being in my prime.. It didn’t make sense, but I did it anyways and ended up meeting my amazing wife and finding my love for traveling. Anyways, after 6 years of cold turkey, I finally went skiing this week at Nozawa Onsen; possibly the most humbling day I have ever had.
I still thought a lot about skiing in my mind because I am weird like that and still go through powder withdrawals, so I thought I would not have lost too much of my brain cells dedicated to balance, technique, and the “feeling”. Basically, I thought I would step into my skis and take a run or two before I get back to my old self being able to have my way with whatever resort I was at or mountain I had climbed so long as I paid my respects to spatial awareness, inanimate objects, and avalanches. After 15 years of dedication, I thought I had earned as much.
I clicked into my skis after getting my, uhhh, square microchip device that was going to be my lift ticket and took my first kick in 6 years towards the ski lift. I knew after that first kick, a mere couple of feet that I suddenly had become what is known in the inner sanctum of ski bums as.. a beater! I suck at skiing, bad!
I thought this was like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I even severely underestimated the atrophy of my inner core muscles used for balance; I found myself driving from the backseat many times that day; I even felt out of control pointing my skis straight down the fall line of a groomer which used to be my comfort position after a long burner down a mogul run.
At first I despised skiing, tried to blame my ill fitting boots or the tail edges that the ski techs had not beveled off like a good ski tech should do. In the end, I knew I have become the mountains bitch.. the scum of the ski resort.. a beater. Luckily, I retained my knowledge of technique so I was able to help teach my wife since she has been a beater for life as well as reteach myself. I did start to feel much better as I took more runs, but I still think I would be counting in seasons, the amount of time it would take to get back to were I left off if I went back to skiing about 4-5 times a week. Good thing I found traveling and photography I guess! Maybe when we move to Germany we will be close enough to a resort to get back into it. I have about 2 years for the knowledge that I am a beater to set in before that time. /end rant.
When I upgraded my camera body I ended up having an extra D40 laying around. I kept trying to get Amber into photography because I figured you could force addictions on people as if this was heroin and you knew that if they had just a slight taste, they would be helplessly overtaken by it. I told her to give the D40 a try during our monkey outing before I sold it.
I set the D40 to shoot jpeg and affixed a lens between her and the monkeys. Well, the snow monkeys proved to be the figurative narcotic I was looking for. She forced me to buy a wide angle lens (against my will) and book a longer trip to Jigokudani Yeankoen for another photo session. She even learned how to use Lightroom! Overall she captured a ton of great shots, especially considering I hogged the telephoto lens most of the time. I promised to share on our next trip…
Here are some of her shots:
I think next month when we head back up to the monkey park I am mostly going to follow the little baby monkeys around. How could you not when they are absolutely destroying the cute meter on my camera like in the shot below??? I think the one on the left might possibly fit in a coat pocket. I would just have to keep the tub at home filled up with warm water and keep some snowballs for him to play with nearby.
This guy was my little rock star. He kept holding his hand up like he was throwing high fives out to everyone. I think I might have to custom tailor a bigger pocket for him, but there is always room in my bathtub for a rock star monkey.