Japan's Winter Wildlife 2016 Trip Report

By Darrell Gulin on Apr 01, 2016

I have traveled a good part of the world over photographing wildlife, landscapes and culture. Back in the 1980s, when I first picked up a camera and began to discover some of the classic wildlife images, one shot stood out—a Japanese photographer had captured a wonderful image of whooping swans in the snow on Lake Kussharo on the island of Hokkaido. It was a part of the world I had wanted to photograph in winter for more than 25 years.

Joe Van Os’ Japan’s Winter Wildlife trip is a classic. Highly productive, it hits the wildlife highlights of Japan in winter—Hokkaido’s iconic birds and the always-photogenic macaques in the Japanese Alps. For trip leaders, it is understandably in demand but has only been led by Joe himself and by John Shaw. So I was thrilled to be asked by Joe to lead the 2016 trip. My long-anticipated immersion in Japan in Winter! Joe kindly shared his vast expertise on the logistics of the trip—we lit up the phone lines. Equipped with Joe’s knowledge, and knowing I would have the assistance of a long-time and excellent local guide, I was well prepared.

Well, I have just returned from Japan—and it was fantastic. It was all I had hoped for so many years, and more. But, as always, I will let the images in the slide show speak for themselves. Our group photographed the Big Four—Japanese red-crowned cranes, whooper swans, Steller’s sea eagles and the snow monkeys—with ample time to capture each species digitally. And there was so much more! Red foxes, sika deer, white winter landscapes, and quaint old fishing villages. Combined with our wonderful and often traditional lodging, delicious food, and our expert local guide—and, of course, the old and new friends who participated—it was a special photo adventure.

I can usually point to a moment or two when a particular image was taken that was the absolute highlight of a trip—but not this time. We found so very many! I am still converting thousands of images, as I am sure are all of the other members of my group. With each image, it has been such fun to relive getting the shot. So many photographic highlights—enjoy the slide show!

And, John Shaw, you are one lucky guy to get back to Japan in the winter of 2017!