3 November 2009

The first breath of winter

We just got back from a 4 day trip to east/central Hokkaido. On the way back winter kicked in with quite a lot of snow and freezing temperatures. Thank god we'd changed to our winter tyres the day before we left........

We spent the first night in Kushiro, my wife wanted to see an exhibition there by Michael Kenna

Lots of moody black and white photos, not really my scene but fairly interesting. We stayed in a dirt cheap ultra impersonal business hotel that was the smallest room I've ever slept in. We didn't stop much on the way (it's a long long drive from Hakodate) but from a distance I did see my first Stellers Sea Eagles of the winter just east of Urakawa.

Not very good shots I know but a bit odd to see autumn colours in the background instead of snow on lifeless trees.............

The day we had set aside for birding saw awful rainy weather. We went to the famous Akan Crane centre. We'd been here earlier in the year and seen hundreds and hundreds of Cranes up close against brilliant white snow and blue skies. This time there were a few bored looking Cranes poking around in a muddy field too far away for a decent photo. We paid ¥400 each to enter but the only Crane photos I got were roadside pics as we drove around in the rain.................

Not much else birdwise. Lots of Whooper Swan everywhere, a few Goshawks here and there, lots of Jay and Dusky Thrush in the forests, the first Scaup and Black Scoter of the winter.............

We stayed a night in Akan-ko. I made a pig out of myself at the hotel buffet yet again. I have no control or self-discipline when it comes to such matters. I sink a few beers in the hotel room beforehand, go down to dinner and I think to myself oh my god I'd better eat as much as I can in case the food runs out soon.

We headed back home via our fave hotel in Minami-Furano. It is in the mountains and here the snow began to fall. And it was cold at the top of one of the passes...............

My wife got that new Canon 100 F2.8L IS Macro lens last week. It seems like a great lens except the focus shifts. You get up close, focus, get the AF confirmation and then the frame drifts out of focus. This happened on all 3 of our EOS cameras and it occurred regardless of AF/MF, if IS was on or not and handheld or on a tripod. I'm not sure why this was happening but my wife was fuming as she was trying to take snowflake pics up close. A macro lens that has the focus drifting up close is not so useful especially one that cost over $1000. Back to Canon for to be checked I think...........

At normal distances it is fine though........except for some strange reason when my wife took this it made my face look fat. I wonder if Canon can check out that obvious flaw in their new lens?

Let's not talk about Liverpool shall we?

Discovery of the week #1: the theme from 'Enter the Dragon' is the perfect music to accompany drives on mountain roads with lots of tunnels.

Discovery of the week #2: Bacon/Okaka onigiri from Seicomart Hot Chef is currently the best riceball on sale in Japan.

Discovery of the week #3. The word 'super' in the Super Hotel chain is not an adjective.



  1. Great post, lovely images. Those crane are just incredible. I like the fist image very much :)

  2. It's already snowed in Beppu also!
    Couldn't believe how fast the weather has changed...even in Kyushu.
    Wish it won't be toooo cold this year, I'm heading to Kushiro soon.

  3. Heheheh must be cold there now mate :)

    Have you try the Canon 7D ?

  4. Hi Jason/Azahari all the bird shots this month have been with the 7D, shame October usually isn't the best month for bird photos........

  5. Hi,
    You know it is splendid to discover your world and the so many different species you do have around you... This is a magnificent post with splendid shots... I love the crane and the stellers sea eagle, but is is alos nice to see some of your landscape!!!

  6. Am reading your blog from the Leopard hotspot, Yala.
    "dirt cheap ultra impersonal business hotel": Love that!

    Wonderful to see the SSE.

    I was secretly planning to get that new lens (while not finding a buyer for the older version!), and now, you have given me reasons to ponder.

    p.s. Word verification is a trait that I have long dispensed with in my blog evolution. It is simply, annoying....I have had no trouble since getting rid of it 1 1/2 years ago with spammers.

  7. I know, I could have rephrased the last bits a little bit better, but this is what you get ater consuming 1,250ml of Lion Bear....

    Off to Bundala in a short while for shorebirds.

  8. Only 1.25 Liters? That's only warming up!!!!

  9. Exciting to see the Steller's and Cranes. I've never seen the Red-crowned Cranes. I'll have to go back up your way some day. Niigata just has buckets of Whoopers and rain. Not much else apart from the odd goshawk. Again, some excellent photography.

  10. Hi Stuart!
    It's been a while. I've been busy with my thesis, but I'm almost done with it, so, I'm trying to go back to birding and blogging, one weekend at a time!
    We are getting more birds down here, summer is comming!
    Take care,

  11. ....that was at midday and warming up happens faster as we are closer the to equator.

  12. hi Stuart,
    Another amazing set of images.

    Any news on the 100mm? It's a bit disappointing when the lenses start playing up soon after you uy them. I was thinking of getting one myself but i'm not sure after reading about your experience.

  13. Hi Dev, it does seem to have a slight problem with maintaining focus close up. I'll do a test on a tripod when I have some free time but I've been a little busy the last few days. the manual recommends using AI Servo when using handheld close up, that seemed to work quite well but the problems my wife had were also with MF..............

    I checked the net and most folk seem very happy with it, maybe we just got a dodgy one. We'll take it back this weekend to be fixed if we're still unhappy with it......

  14. Thanks for the reply Stuart. For your sake, I hope Canon can fix up the issue or replace the lens for you. Please do keep us posted on how you go and on what you think of the lens once you have tested it.
    Thanks for the comment on my blog.


  15. Hi Dev again, I tested it on the tripod and it seemed fine even extremely close up, I think the problems are just when you try and handhold it. The IS maybe doesn't help that much at all with extreme close ups and slow shutter speeds..........wish we'd known that before we bought it............still, it seems like a great lens otherwise.

  16. sounds like the issue is caused by the new IS system. I hope Canon fixes this up. Maybe they should replace it with the old IS which doesn't "correct lens shift movement "?


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