Visiting Japan in the winter time is a natural experience that lacks comparison. Japan provides us with a snow-covered mountain landscape that not only gives us amazing opportunities for landscape photography, but also a beautiful background when we photograph animals and birds. We will have unique encounters with Japanese Macaques, Steller’s Sea Eagle, Blakiston’s Fish-Owl, as well as the national bird of Japan, the Red-Crowned Crane. We will often get very close to the animals and be able to get spectacular pictures.

Japan also offers a fantastic cultural experience. Abundant Shinto temples show that religion is practiced all over the area. We will also visit traditional Japanese guesthouses, so-called ryokans. Our accommodation will often have traditional onsen baths, filled with water from hot springs. Japanese food is of very high standard, and we will be served traditional food during the tour.

The photo tour is planned in order to give us the best opportunities to photograph the iconic wildlife of Japan. Our tour starts on the northernmost island in Japan, Hokkaido, where we will amongst other things see the national bird of Japan, the Red-Crowned Crane. In Akan National Park we will have close encounters with not only the Red-Crowned Crane but also numerous Whooper Swans and hopefully our first meeting with Steller’s Sea Eagle. On the Sea of Ochotsk we head out on to the pack ice, encountering hundreds of Steller’s Sea Eagles and White-Tailed Sea Eagles. The landscape is often spectacular, providing excellent opportunities for landscape photography.

The harbor town of Rausu will be our base for three days. Our main objective is to get out into the pack ice to meet the Steller’s Sea Eagle. During winter, a large part of the population that nests on the Kamchatka Peninsular can be found on the pack ice of the Sea of Ochotsk. In February, the pack ice is mostly north of Rausu, and provides great opportunity to experience hundreds of eagles, both Steller’s Sea Eagle and the ”ordinary” White-Tailed Sea Eagle. We will spend three mornings exploring the pack ice by boat to photograph the eagles. As the birds are fed with fish, we will often be within a few meters from them, and they are quite unafraid.

Our afternoons will be spent doing landscape photography in and around Shiretoko National Park. We will head out on to the Notsuke Peninsular where the landscape is covered with masses of pack ice and snow, here we normally find Sika deers and Red foxes.

During our stay in Rausu we will also visit a place where we hope to photograph the Worlds largest Owl, Blakiston’s Fish Owl. A ”pool” is kept open in a stream, and the owl is fed with fish every evening. Seeing the Owl approach the pool and dive for fish is a magical experience.

Our first target species here in the north is the Red-Crowned Crane, or Tancho, as it is called in Japanese.Today there are only 2500 of these birds left in the World. The area around Kushiro is the best place in the World to see and photograph these beautiful birds, with half the World population residing here. During winter the birds are fed at a number of sites, providing excellent opportunities to photograph them. Depending on weather and light conditions we will select different spots for photography. At Akan International Crane Center there is also opportunity to photograph Whooper Swans, Black Kites, White-Tailed Sea Eagles and hopefully our first encounter with Steller’s Sea Eagle. Mammals also visit the area, mainly Sika Deer, but foxes are also regular visitors.

From Kushiro we head for Japan’s largest crater lake, Lake Kussharo. During winter-time the lake freezes over except for some spots kept open by warm water from hot springs. Here, hundreds of Whooper Swans spend the winter. The birds are unafraid and can be photographed with a wide-angle lens to include the landscape in the background. Weather-permitting, we will head up the Bihoro Pass to photograph Lake Kussharo from above. With a bit of luck we will see flocks of Whooper Swans flying in towards the lake. We will also visit the volcanic area of louzan (sulpher mountain).

This tour is not only for the most dedicated nature photographer, but also for those who wish to experience some of the finest National Parks in the World, with wildlife at close range, in spectacular surroundings.

During the tour we will have time for photographic workshops, e.g. covering techniques for the following days photography. We will also cover composition and look at each others images, all in order to improve your photography.

Vita tranor, ugglor och jättehavsörnar, Japan. Fotoresa med Wild Nature fotoresor. Foto: Henrik Karlsson
Vita tranor, ugglor och jättehavsörnar, Japan. Fotoresa med Wild Nature fotoresor. Foto: Henrik Karlsson


Day 1 (16/2) (Dinner)
Arrival at Kushiro Airport. Transfer to hotel.

Day 2 (17/2) (Breakfast – Dinner)
We spend the whole day photographing Red-Crowned Cranes. For the morning session we choose the best sites according to weather. We will spend some of the day at the different feeding stations for cranes. There, you can photograph Whooper Swans, White-Tailed Sea Eagles, Sika Deer and Fox.

Day 3 (18/2) (Breakfast – Dinner)
Just like the previous day we photograph Cranes in the morning. After an early lunch we head for Lake Kussharo, stopping on the way to photograph landscapes when there is an opportunity. Depending on when we arrive at Lake Kussharo there will be a chance to photograph Whooper Swans.

Day 4 (19/2) (Breakfast – Dinner)
We spend the day by and around Lake Kussharo, photographing Whoopr Swans at different sites. If weather and road conditions permit we will go to the Bihoro Pass in the morning for some landscape photography.

Day 5 (20/2) (Breakfast – Dinner)
Depending on weather and the results of the previous day’s photography we might head for the Bihoro Pass in the morning. The rest of the morning is spent at Lake Kussharo photographing Whooper Swans. After lunch we head for Rausu. On the way, we stop at louzan, Sulphur Mountain. The area is volcanically active and there is a chance to photograph sulphur springs and other volcanically active things.

Day 6-8 (21-23/2) (Breakfast – Dinner)

The days begin with boat trips out into the drift ice in the Sea of Ochotsk to photograph Steller’s Sea Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagles. Here, there are incredibly good conditions for photographing these birds of prey. In the afternoons we will look for photogenic birds in the surrounding ports and go to the Notsuke Penisula to look for Sika deer and foxes. On the evenings of 21st and 22nd February, we visit a place where we hope to photograph the world’s largest owl, Blakiston’s fish owl. On February 23, we leave Rausu during the day and slowly make our way to our hotel in Nakashibetsu. Here we will have good chances to photograph Japanese sabel.

Day 9 (24/2)  (Breakfast)
In the morning we can photograph around the accommodation or just take it easy. Around lunchtime we go to Kushiro and in the afternoon, early evening we fly back home.

More information

    On all our tours we have different theoretical photography workshops. These workshops are always related to the specific tour and can be anything from teaching different photography techniques or tips and tricks for image editing to talking about image composition or preparing for special photo opportunities on the trip.

    Throughout the trip, our photography leader provides active photography advice when we are out in the field. Everything for you to develop as a photographer and take fantastic pictures home with you.

    As we will have opportunities for many different types of motifs, everything from landscapes to mammals and birds, it is a good thing to bring everything from wide-angle lenses to telephoto lenses. For several of the species we want to photograph during the trip, we will be able to get very close, especially to the Whooper swans and the Red-crowned cranes but also the Steller’s Sea Eagle and ”ordinary” Sea Eagles if the conditions are favorable. This means that a wide-angle zoom lens with e.g. focal length 24-70 mm is excellent not only for landscape photography but also for animal photography.
    Telezoom lens, e.g. 70-200 mm or 80-400mm, provides very good conditions for taking varying pictures of birds and mammals.
    Telephoto lenses with fixed focal lengths, e.g. 300 mm or 500 mm, are very useful for bird and mammal photography. To increase the focal length if you have a shorter telephoto or a zoom, you can use a teleconverter.
    As there may be heavy snowfall, it is important to have good protection for the camera equipment. The best is a rainproof camera cover. Also remember to have a cover for the camera bag or backpack.
    If you have access to two camera housings, it is good to have these. Tripods will be useful on many occasions, especially in fixed situations e.g. when at the feeding stations for cranes. The alternative is a stable one-legged tripod. A tripod of one form or another is a must.
    The temperature in northern Japan in February can vary between a few plus degrees to about – 20 degrees. On the coast of Hokkaido, the wind can also intensify the cold. Proper winter clothes and winter boots are a must!

    We will stay in traditional Japanese guesthouses, so-called Ryokans, of simple – medium standard and in hotels of medium standard. Hotels in the Japanese countryside are often older. Elevators are not available in all hotels. At Rykoans, not all rooms have their own toilet. There is usually no shower in the rooms, but all accommodation has a so-called Onsen bath.

    The accommodation has restrictions regarding accessibility as there is no lift in most of the accommodation. The boats used for photographing eagles are not wheelchair accessible.

    Share in double room, meals according to the itinerary, all entrances, all boat trips, photo lessons, local transport (four-wheel drive cars), transfer to and from Kushiro airport.

    Return flights to Kushiro (NOTE! Please contact us for information on airline tickets before you book your flights), travel insurance, cancellation protection, drinks, eventual gratuities and items of a personal nature.

    Kushiro Airport. The journey begins and ends here.
    The tour guide meets and leaves the group at the airports.

    The registration fee shall be paid after an invoice from us, right after your booking. The remaining amount shall be paid no later than 30 days before the trip. Payment will be in Swedish crowns (SEK). Amount in Euro and US dollars mentioned above are just reference amounts.

    Swedish citizens do not need a visa to Japan if the stay is less than 90 days. Your passport must be valid for the entire period of time you are in Japan. Passports are required at check-in for flights.

    If you are a citizen of any other country than Sweden please check with your nearest Japaness Embassy.

    Contact your insurance company to see that you are properly covered for travel insurance and cancellation protection.

    Contact your doctor for advice on vaccinations. Also check any requirements for medical tests for entry into the country.
    Our tours are open to all nationalities, which means that the group is often international.
    Our tour guides speak both Swedish and English, and sometimes also more languages.

    Terms and conditions

Photographic leader

Henrik Karlsson, born in 1968, is a photographer, writer and conservation biologist.

Henrik is a trained biologist and used to work with water and conservation issues.
He is an ambassador for OM SYSTEM and has been appointed as a National Geographic Explorer and is a member of the Swedish Nature Photographers Association (Naturfotograferna/N) as well as PhotoNatura. In 2003 he was awarded Naturfotografernas/N and Kodak’s scholarship. Henrik has also won awards in several European photo competitions.

Henrik has a wide selection when it comes to subjects to take images of and tell stories about. He will be more than happy to photograph everything from insects to the orchids in the forest or the great wild animals around the world. He has the whole world as his photographic field but is more and more drawn to Africas beauty and wildness.

Previously, Henrik worked as a guide in several Swedish Nature Reserves and National Parks. He is a frequent lecturer and an appreciated guide on photo courses and workshops. He also leads photo tours all over the world.

In 2011 Henrik self-published the book ”Mångfaldens ö – bilder och tankar från Ölands natur”, and the book ”Vilda Norden” was published in 2017. 2020 he published the book Ölands orkidéer and in 2021 Orkidéer på Gotland.


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    White cranes, owls and Steller´s seaeagles, Japan 16th-24th February 2025

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