Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM
The Japanese serows are rare animals. It is quite rare to see them even for a person like me who often lurks in mountains. They went nearly extinct in the 50′s. The Japanese government designated them as a “Special National Monument” and prohibited the hunting of the serow. Since then, the number of the serows increased. If you’re lucky, you might meet them in the country like I did.
Actually, it was the second time for me to meet them. The first time was the day before the day I took this shot. I climbed Mount Akaishidake (3,120m/10,240ft). It’s already November.Lodges in the mountain are already closed. So you need to carry your own sleeping bag and tent (or something similar) to get to the top of Mt. Akaishidake in this season. It wasn’t easy mountaineering for me as the summit was frozen and rather slippery but the snow wasn’t thick enough for crampons.
Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA ART 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM
The South Alps (of Japan) is sort of a sacred area for landscape photographers specialized in Mount Fuji. Fuji does look really awesome when seen from other high mountains. Needless to say that the most important sacred place is Mt. Fuji itself for us. But we can’t shoot Fuji when we are on the top of Fuji, you know?
According to my brief research on the South Alps, the Mount Houou is the best destination for me, because it isn’t too hard to get to the top even if you aren’t very experienced in climbing but the view of Fuji from this mountain is really superb. I concluded this mountain should be my first target in the South Alps area. There are some course options. The easiest route runs from Yashajin-Touge but I chose the Dondokozawa (ドンドコ沢) route, which features a couple of waterfalls, for ascending, and the Chudou (中道) route for descending. As I forgot to record a GPS log, the line showing the route in the map is not very accurate.
Nikon D800E w/ SIGMA 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM
For landscape photographers, Saiko (Lake Sai) is the least popular lake among the Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes). The number of photos of Mt. Fuji taken from this lake is much less than the other four Fujigoko lakes. The main reason why this place isn’t very popular is that Mt. Ashiwada lies between the lake and Mt. Fuji and thus we can only see the top of Fuji from Saiko. By the way, “-ko” indicates lake so Lake Saiko is a bit redundant translation but I think it is more understandable for those who are not familiar with Japanese. There is one great location for shooting mount Fuji on the lakeshore of Saiko, which is located at the western bay of Lake Sai.
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-140mm f3.5-5.6G ED VR
According to the weather report, it is going to be fine and Fuji will probably be visible. I hate shooting in a crowded place in weekends. It is a Tuesday. I’ll probably enjoy shooting Fuji without being bothered by anyone.
I somehow wanted to go to Taikanzan, a popular vantage point to admire Fuji in Hakone. This place was haunted by legendary Japanese painter Taikan Yokoyama as he loved drawing Mt. Fuji from here. This mountain was originally called Daikanzan but was changed into Taikanzan in memory of the great painter after he died. That’s the story written in guidebooks. I’ve never found any authentic sources to prove the story though.
Nikon D800E w/ AF-S Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED
“Evening primroses look very well in the landscape of Fuji,” said Osamu Dazai in his popular novel Fugaku Hyakkei (100 views of Mt. Fuji). As I told in my previous post about the novel, Dazai didn’t actually see Fuji and evening primroses together in the same landscape. Some thoughtful people interpret this sentence as meaning that Dazai likened Fuji to the Japanese society and himself to evening primroses. When Dazai wrote this novel, Japan was governed by the military juggernaut. He was not conscripted into the army as he was physically as well as mentally fragile. I can imagine how he felt towards the society. It was a dark age in the history of Japan. There was no freedom. The military dictatorship severely controlled individuals. I think every creators and artists would hate such a government. Evening primroses don’t look spectacular at all. I thought they were just blooming weeds till recently. Honestly, speaking there are other flowers that look much better in the landscapes of Mt. Fuji. To name a few, cherry blossoms and cosmos flowers come to my mind.
Sony α7 (ILCE-7) w/ FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS (SEL2870)
I’ve always wanted to shoot Fuji from the top of Mt. Kokushigatake. I tried to climb the mountain last November, but the gate of the forest road leading to the mountain was closed earlier than usual due to heavy snow. I was very busy with my exhibition in summer. I waited for ten months, and eventually I got an opportunity to try again.
I left home at midnight heading to Oodarumi Touge (大弛峠), which is located on the northern border of Yamanashi prefecture. My house is located in the southern part of Yamanashi prefecture. According to Google Map, it takes three hours, much longer than going to Gotenba or Hakone. Two deers and one fox jumped in front of my car on my way there. Since I expected some animals would do it so I could safely avoid them. Yamanashi prefecture is one of the least populated prefectures in Japan. If you see a sign board making alert of animals, drive slowly so that you can safely avoid them.
Nikon D800E w/SIGMA ART 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM
When you gain some experience in photography, you realise the importance of lighting. When it comes to still life and portrait photography, you can control lighting using gear such a strobe light. As far as landscape photography is concerned, you cannot basically lighten the subject. I said ‘basically’ because you can use light painting technique, for example, to lighten subjects in the foreground when shooting night photography. You can also use an electric flash to lighten plants (such as maple trees and sakura trees) in the foreground when taking backlit shots . But you can’t light up huge subjects such as Mount Fuji. For that reason, it is vitally important for landscapes to be at the right place at the right time, that is, visit a place where you can make a beautiful composition when nature gives best light. Even when we try to do so, we are at the wrong place at the wrong time at times as nature is always beyond our expectation.
Photo taken with SIGMA DP2 QUATTRO
Japanese literary giant in the Taisho/Showa era, Osamu Dazai wrote in his popular novel “Fugaku Hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji)”, “Tsukimisou (evening primroses/oenothera tetraptera) really look very well in the landscape of Mt Fuji.” Honestly speaking, I’ve never read any English translation of the novel, so I’m not sure if the exact same sentence actually appear in your book. Anyway, he said something like that. But, in fact, he didn’t see Fuji and evening primroses together with his eyes. When he was returning from Fujiyoshida to Misaka Touge, he witnessed people on the bus were very delighted to see magnificent Fujiyama through the windows. Then he found an old woman sitting on the other side of the bus gazing at the other side from Fujisan. Dazai sympathised with the old woman. He did the same and saw evening primroses blooming on the other side from Fuji, and then, said “Evening primroses really look very well in the landscape of Mt Fuji.” Meaning that, he never saw evening primroses together with Fuji in the same landscape.