Arif's Journeys » Travel and Photography Blog of Arif Iqball

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The Dance!

If three months ago, someone had told me that I would wake up every day at 4:30 AM, don five layers of warm clothing and go and stand next to a frozen lake with temperatures close to -20C just to photograph some swans and cranes, I would have sent them to see a psychiatrist. And yet, from February 11 through February 18, I did just that.  Not only did it make me question my sanity, but also it tested what extremes I was willing to go through as a photographer.

Whooper Swans - Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

Of course what made it seem very normal was that I was in the company of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Marsel van Oosten, and four other die hard nature photographers, and with a driver who only wanted the best experience for us.  Marsel’s wife and partner, Daniella was great enough to make jam and bread sandwiches for breakfast for all of us (which itself was a challenge to eat with two gloves and a balaclava) and there we were at twilight witnessing pure natural beauty as the roosting swans and cranes woke up.

Hokkaido, Japan’s Winter Wonderland, is blessed with an amazing natural beauty with wide snow vistas sparsely decorated with solitary trees. It is here that one can see a wide variety of rare birds including Whooper Swans, Steller’s Sea Eagles, and the famous red crested Japanese cranes.

Whooper Swans Fight - Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

Steller's Sea Eagle - Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

Tanchou (Red Crested Crane) - Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

White Tailed Eagle - Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

I was not new to the cold and had lived in Chicago and Michigan for an extended period in my life, but yet I had never felt an openness and calm which I experienced visiting the remote corners of Hokkaido. I was reminded of Kawabata’s Snow Country which although was written in Honshu has this wonderful opening of the train coming out from a long tunnel into the snow country where the earth lay white under the night sky. The unadulterated whiteness of the snow is a baptism for the soul and I felt refreshed and able to appreciate the nature and beauty around me. Standing at the edges of the frozen Lake Kussharo and watching the Whooper Swans waking up and flying in to be fed is a memorable sight, and this experience only got better when I witnessed the grace and beauty of the dance of the red crested cranes.

Roosting Cranes at Dawn - Hokkaido, Japan © 2010 Arif Iqball Photography

I want to take this opportunity to thank Marsel and Daniella for allowing me to work with them on this tour and also a big thanks to Liesbeth, Sam, Jan, Tony and Shin for a wonderful time and your patience and curiosity that allowed me to share my insights on Japan and Japanese culture. I hope that we will meet again sometime, somewhere and hopefully in one of Marsel and Daniella’s many adventures around the world.

Please click here to see a slideshow of my pictures of the birds of Hokkaido

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September 7, 2010 - 3:19 am

Wendy - Hello Arif, I love these new nature pictures. As always, you just have a gift for capturing the beauty in the world around you. I hope all is well. Wendy

April 13, 2010 - 10:13 pm

Arif - コメントをありがとうございました。
Thank you again for taking the time to visit and comment. Arif

April 6, 2010 - 10:40 am

Susie - 沢山の写真の中でも、私はオオハクチョウの、特に二羽がからまっている一枚が、とても気に入りました。 こんなショットは、プロの写真家でもなかなか撮れるものではありませんよね(もっともアリフさんはプロ級ですが)! 他のどれもが、アリフさんの心意気、又は情熱、、etc. を感じさせていて、日曜の午後には、ずっと眺めていたい写真ばかりです。

March 11, 2010 - 9:51 am

Arif - Thank you Daniella and good to hear that all is going very well with you and Marsel. Congrats on being selected for the GE commercial 😉 Looking forward to reading about your Algeria and Libya trip.

March 11, 2010 - 3:03 am

Daniella - Great pictures and nice story telling! It was wonderful having you along with us.

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