The Beauty of Road Trips

I finally made it back from two different road trips over the extended Golden Week holiday. Thursday April 29th was a day off (Showa Day), I took the following Friday (30th) off, and Monday-Wednesday of the next week (3rd – 5th) were all also national holidays, which means I had 7 days in a row without work. Nice.

Anyway, it allowed for two pretty sweet road trips, the first of which I’ll be posting about here.

There are two reasons why I road trip it rather than travel by rail. First and foremost, it’s the most time effective and least restrictive way to find and get to all the greatest photo sites.  Navigation systems are key to getting around areas you don’t know, and you gain flexibility in terms of changing plans on the fly to suit the weather or your own fancies. For many of the plaecs I like to go, no car = no go.

The flip side is that you then have to actually drive everywhere. But I like that. I’ve come to enjoy countryside drives and exploring new areas. I also like to sleep in the car to cut down on costs (or put that money into eating great food, whether it be local cuisine or just a night of drinking after a hard days worth of photo taking) – not reccomended if you like your beauty sleep, but I’m up at dawn to catch the sunrise anyway, so it’s not like I’m sleeping all that much!

Most of the time I go it alone but this time Dave came out with me, and the two of us really had a great time. The trip this time was mighty short – a quick 36 hour blitz down to the southern coast of Wakayama prefecture. I’d been last year around the same time and ran into some of the most foul weather I’ve ever been in. This time, though, I managed to catch the sunrises and sunsets I’d been longing for for the last year.

Without further ado, here they are:


Hashigui Sunrise Friday 1
Sunrise. Dave and I had driven 4 hours, starting at about Midnight of the same day. Our first stop was a place called Hashigui-iwa (橋杭岩). I found out about this place when I broswed through a book of the “50 Most Beautiful Spots In Japan” last year. We slept for an hour before the sun started coming up.

Hashigui Sunrise Friday 2
You can never get tired of ocean sunrises, and the magical way the sun manages to look yellow, orange and red at the same time.

Hashigui Sunrise Friday 5
A wide shot. All the shots on the first day were taken by my s90, which once again proved to be more than up to the task. I never cease to be amazed. With this I can take one film camera and the small s90 and be ready for just about anything.

Nachi Waterfall and Pagoda
Next stop was Nachi Waterfall and Shrine (那智の滝). One of the most famous and recognized waterfalls in Japan.

White sands of Shirahama
After Nachi we drove another 90 minutes to Shirahama (白浜). I’d heard about the beautiful beaches from Steve last year, but they really are very white and very beachy 😀 This was taken at Shira-ra-hama (白良浜).

Engetsu-to 2
Engetsu-to (円月島), literally meaning circular moon island, a tribute to it’s unique shape. Apparently a few days a year you can see the setting sun INSIDE the small hole in the middle of the island. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those days! There were still about 30-40 people gathered on small concrete pier waiting for the decisive moment…

Engetsu-to 3
Sinking To the Horizon
…But alas, it never came. You can see the clouds obscuring the last bit of the horizon. Maybe one day I’ll get that magical shot!

Night Colors of Shirahama
Resort reflection, Shirahama at night. Caught this shot from on top of a concrete wall bordering the shore. Dave and I had just come out of an onsen and were about to grab dinner.

Omu-sobaDaikon NimonoRenkon HasamiKimchee Katsu
Dinner! Clockwise from left: Omu-soba, Daikon nimono, Kimchee katsu, and Renkon hasami.

Moonlight At Low Tide
After dinner we drove back all the way to the Hasigui rocks for one more sunrise before heading home. This was a 1 and a half minute exposure of the rocks under moon light taken on my 7D.


Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 1Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 2Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 3Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 4
A sequence during sunrise of the second morning. There was a boat directly in front of the rising sun, making for an interesting picture.

Lone Hawk At Sunrise
Hands down the picture of the trip. I call it, “Lone Hawk at Sunrise”. I was starting to take down my gear as the sun continued to rise, when this one hawk swooped in low towards the rocks. I had my 7D and 20-35 on hand (thankfully!) and I grabbed two shots. 8fps is a blessing; I was able to grab one frame with the birds wings extended and in the flapping motion! I chose this one as my winner because I think this universal symbol of a bird (wings extended v-shape) makes the picture easier to understand.

Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 6Hashigui Sunrise Saturday 7
Final shots of sunrise. Hiding the sun behind the tall rock allowed me to avoid the flaring of direct sunlight.

1000 Fields on a Mountain
Morning light at Maruyama Senmaida (丸山千枚田) – literally “1000 fields of Maruyama”. Apparently there are 1000 rice fields on this terraced mountain, but I doubt anyone counts them. It’s a beautiful sight, especially in spring when they flood the fields for planting. We were a bit early as most fields had yet to be filled with the young rice shoots.

Maruyama Senmaida 2
A close up, taken with my 70-200.

Sprouts in the ground
One of the few fields that had been planted.

Senmaida reflectionMountain reflection
No rice, though, meant beautiful, glassy reflections.

Our ride
Finally, I had to throw in our ride. Rented Toyota Corolla. Easy ride with great milage, one tank got us almost 800 km, and it can probably do more.

All in all a great trip. 36 hours turned into one hell of a post – if you made it this far thanks for reading! Look forward to my post about my 2nd road trip to Mt Fuji! (No, I didn’t climb it but I plan to in July!)



2 thoughts on “The Beauty of Road Trips

  1. Lots of great photos! You definitely put in the work to be at the right places in the right times and it paid off.

    Do you have any more info on that “50 Places” book. It seems it could really come in handy for photography in Japan.

    Also, “With this I can take one film camera and the small s90 and be ready for just about anything.” Why thank you, Mr. Rockwell. 🙂

    • Yeah they have it at the Taki libe; in fact I just returned it! I’ll see if I can go grab it again today – I talked to Ai about practicing for the concert at my house on Friday so maybe I can show it to you then.

      Yes, I do sound just like “that guy” don’t I 😀 I suppose we enjoy the same things now, or maybe I emulated my style to his and found that I liked it. Either way, if it makes for good pictures, sign me up!

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