Hidaka, Hokkaido’s Hidden Gem (2015)

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Hidaka, Hokkaido’s Hidden Gem (2015)

When travelling, sometimes it’s the unplanned  itineraries that reward us with the best memories. Such is my experience with Hidaka, a coastal town in Southern Hokkaido, just about 130km or a 2.5 hours drive from the Chitose New Airport . Hidaka is Japan’s largest horse breeding hub accounting for nearly 80% of all horses bred in Japan. In 2011, out of about 7,000 thoroughbred horses bred in Japan, 5,600 came from Hidaka. So it’s no surprise the town revolves around horses. But beyond horses,  over just 2 very short days stay (the sun starts setting about 430pm during autumn), I discovered many beautiful sights that warrant a revisit to this beautiful town.

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Pan Paka Pan – A romantic cosy family-run bakery/cafe serving delicious freshly-baked pastries by the Pacific Ocean. Canon 70D, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/250, F10 , ISO100.

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Beautiful setting to enjoy your freshly basked pastries by the sea at Pan Paka Pan. To achieve the sunstar effect , I shot at F22 for best result. Strong distinct light source is necessary . If the sun is covered by mist or cloud, the effect will not be pronounced. If you lens has even number of aperture blades, it will show as even number of  light streaks. But if it odd number, the light rays will be multiplied by 2. This pic was shot with the EF11-24mm F4L, which as 9 blades. So there is 18 ray of light. Ideal aperture used is between F11-F22.  Canon 70D,  1/80, F22, ISO100.

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Nori (seaweed) is widely cultivated. Here, the harvested nori are set out to dry in the Pacific Ocean breeze. For such low angle shot, I always flip out my Canon 70D  swivel screen, turn on the live-view and shoot upwards for more dramatic angle. EF11-24mm F4L, 1/30, F22, ISO100.

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Fish or squid dried overnight (ichiya boshi) is a popular delicacy in Japanese cuisine. It’s grilled over light charcoal fire at meal time. In this pic , I used the linear converging quality of the ultra-wide angled lens to draw the lines towards the fisherman, which I positioned using the rules of thirds to achieve a more balanced composition. Of course it would be better if the lower rack is filled with fishes as well but in rushed unplanned shots, we take what we have. I smiled and used body language to indicate to the fisherman so that he cooperated in the posturing. A smile goes along way.  Canon 70D, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/200, F7.0, ISO200.

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Shishamo being dried in the cool autumn breeze. Shishamo literally means “willow leaf fish” as its shape resembles a willow leaf. To achieve the bokeh effect even with ultra wide lens , I focused close and open up the aperture for shallow depth of field. You must know your lens characteristics so that you can better achieve optimal performance.     Canon 70D, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/250, F4.5, ISO200.

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The colours of autumn at Mt. Apoi , before the onset of winter.  This is the best season to visit Hokkaido, as in deep winter, it may be a hassle moving around, everything covered by snow, possible flight delay, etc. Canon 70D, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/125, F4.5, ISO100.

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The Mt. Apoi Geopark was declared a UNESCO Global Geoapark in 2015. The hiking trail up the 801m mountain is beautiful.  Canon 70D, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/125mm, F8, ISO100.

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At the final 5th rest stop at Mt. Apoi, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Great location for a picnic and rest. The naturally formed formation served as our tables and chairs. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/40, F18, ISO100.

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The day retires early during autumn. Shot at 5.52pm, Oyakoiwa Fureai Beach. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/15, F18, ISO100.

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Golden hour at Hidaka. The cool crisp air by the Pacific Ocean is like Evian for the lungs. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/13, F22, ISO100

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Lovely trees silhouettes at Kannonyama Park, Samani. The park entrance is flanked a 400 years old tree.  Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/25, F22, ISO100.

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A picturesque venue crafted by man and nature. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L , 1/10, F22, ISO100.

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The Observation Deck at Kannonyama Park is itself an interesting subject. The view of the harbour and ‘parent-child rock’ is beautiful. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 1/30, F13, ISO100.

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With nightfall so early, I need not wait till late night to do light painting or stars photography . Was able to shoot this at 7.00pm. For light-painting  or star photography, a stable tripod is necessary. Switch off your lens IS, turn on the mirror lock (if any), attach cable release (or trigger shuttle release via the 2sec self timer), disable camera long exposure noise reduction and switch from AWB  to tungsten.  In this pic of a lone tree, which I was not prepared to shoot as I did not bring a high powered touch. I adapted by using my handphone torchlight app and evenly light up the tree during the entire duration the shuttle was opened.    Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 30s, F4.5, ISO1600.

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The Milky Way was quite visible with the naked eyes. Did not need to use my Google Sky Map App to look for it. Canon 5DSR, EF11-24mm F4L, 30s, F4, ISO1600.

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A beautiful sculpture at my hotel ground. Shot during an early stroll in the cool autumn morning . Canon 70D, EF11-24mm, 1/160, F18, ISO400.

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The thoroughbred race horses at Tsuji Horse Farm were a delight to watch and shoot. Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/640, F4, ISO250.

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A pair of horses sharing an intimate moment. Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/3200, F4, ISO250.

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The horses were docile and even enjoyed human attention. Very intelligent and social mammal indeed. Canon 5DSR , EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/2000, F4, ISO250

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A stallion cantering in the chilly autumn morning. A sight to behold.  Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS , 1/3200, F4, ISO250.

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Horses are one of the most intelligent mammals around. Here, my Japanese friend  Kato-san shares a happy moment. I desaturated the coloured version for a black and white picture as it gives an ‘eternal and mood’ feel to the picture.  Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/800, F4, ISO250.

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A group shot with my Japanese host and friends. In the center is Tsuji-san the owner of the ranch. An influential figure in the premium thoroughbred horse industry.  To ensure it’s the composition I want, I mount my camera on tripod and engaged the self-timer. I also used the longest end of my zoom lens and biggest aperture setting to separate the background from subject for more depth.  Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/1250, F4, ISO250.

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On the way back to Sapporo, we could not resist stopping the car and check out these colonies of sea birds roosting by the beach at Mitsuishi along coastal route 235. As the birds are quite far away and I only had my EF70-200mm lens, the picture (and also below) was cropped 70% . The clarity and detail showed the amazing capability of the 5DSR sensor.  1/1600, F4, ISO400.

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I was told these seagulls are washing themselves in the brackish water to dislodge bugs within their feathers. It was amazing sight and sound. Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/640, F4.5, ISO250.

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Feel the freedom of these seagulls. Perchance, i will be back again to visit them. Canon 5DSR, EF70-200mm F4L IS, 1/2000, F4.5, ISO200

This trip is made possible by Tsuyoshi Kato and Canon 5DSR and EF11-24mm loan by Canon Imaging Academy (Singapore)