In Search of Heavenly Beauty

We went to Fujimi Kogen, in Nagano Ken, to see their colourful lilies. ‘We’ in this case is the Rio camera group who I go on various trips with, being great company and giving me the chance to join them for adventures into Japan’s incredible wildernesses (or near-wildernesses). Most of the people who go on these trips are retired, I just have the time and have saved up for the camera gear! In this case, there was a 2:15AM pick-up, early by anyone but a night nurse’s standards, but designed so as to arrive there at 5:30 for sunrise. Today was a first for me, involving a photo-course led by a pro photog into how best to capture the lilies. When we got there, the sun was still rising to it’s zenith over a nearby ridge of mountains, forming, I suppose, the Japanese Alps, with a huge pale of mist around their bases.

Morning mists

Our Camera Sensei

My fellow photographers all looked very serious and well prepared. I wondered why they all wore white trousers when it was obviously going to get very hot soon, once the sun rose. Soon, I was to find out… Then we made our way to see the flowers, walking at a brisk pace. They were already looking incredible in the fairly dull early morning light, a rainbow of planted colours amidst boulders and shirakaba (silver birch trees). We set our cameras up on tripods, in two groups. Then, a first for me, he arranged them to get optimal views and we were invited to go around and look through the viewfinders to see the results. I felt a little underpowered with my DX system alongside their D3s and D700s. There was even a Pentax MF Digital on display, a rare creature I thought only existed in photographer’s imaginations.

Even so, what he was able to compose was incredible in each case. He showed us how to have some of the dark shadow in the background to give contrast to the scene, which gives it more ‘pop’. Then he composed, always including and sometimes focusing on a white flower. Why?, you might ask, with those being the least interesting of the selection? It was to give a nuance of them, emphasizing the rainbow effect of all the others. You could sense his deep love and reverence for the nature around us. I felt very lucky to be there first thing in the morning. In fact, this special course, by reservation only, takes place before the park opens to thousands of visitors at 9:00. As the sun rose, beautiful, warm rays illumined the scene, giving it all a heavenly feeling.

Warm light

Mountain Mists

A great touch of nature’s artistic side was a cloud of mist, or low-lying cloud, that suddenly drifted into the scene, giving it more depth and mystery, almost as if it was following his command when he announced it. After taking some more views of the scene, including one I uploaded straight from my iPhone, I switched to my 90mm to take some macros of the flowers. Looking down at my legs, I found the reason for the long trousers. The seemingly beautiful insects hovering around the flowers had decided breakfast was served and I was to be it! Afterwards I took a nap and then went up the chair life to see the views from the top. Down again for lunch- fresh cold soba and tempura, including some deep-fried lily bulbs that taste nice than they sound. The lilies weren’t  all ready here, but I could zoom in on some and get a great effect, especially with the gorgeous surroundings.

Lily Macro

Chair Lift

Weighing Peaches

Next up was a peach farm, where we got a beautiful selection for around 80 yen each. It was cute to see two kids weighing them for their parents. Then, an onsen. It was refreshing, vivifying clear water, slightly sticky from the minerals in the area. We could supposedly see Mt. Fuji from the rotemburo (outside bath), but it was too cloudy, so I include this image for reference! Finally, more noodles for dinner in the form of an old favorite of mine- hot to, famous for the area. Simple and full of mountain vegetables, with the heaviest thing being pieces of pumpkin. Delicious and very filling. Luckily, Nagano was so cool that day that eating hot food didn’t feel too out of place.

Hot Bowl of Hotto

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