Four views of Lake Kussharo

I visited lake Kussharo in Hokkaido, Japan one day last December, on what was a murky grey day. I love overcast days and days when the to most non-photographers the weather would be considered 'bad'.

On the horizon I could see the snow-covered hills that surround Kussharo veiled in mist and low-pressure clouds. The lake itself had taken on a milky greyness to it (light reflected from the grey sky) which I felt complimented the black volcanic beach.

I saw many similarities with this location, weather wise and also subject wise, with Patagonia's Torres del Paine national park. Both possess a stark beauty which only becomes apparent to us photographers once we embrace muted colours and tones. I see a beauty in landscapes when they appear to most as bleak - I hope you do too.

But Kussharo had much to offer with overhanging trees leaning towards the water, and I spent much time roaming up and down its edge looking for suitable trees that had separation from their neighbours like the image below.

I spent quite a bit of time on this tree, positioning the far-off hill between the branches, and ensuring that the branches themselves didn't protrude out of the confines of my frame. I think I have two or three rolls of images (30) shot at this very spot where I experimented with my tripod height until I felt I'd fully explored the compositional possibilities here.

And sometimes removing lake edge trees seemed to be the way to go. I like to try to get as many different interpretations of a place that I can. I think it's easy to get lost in searching for great foreground subjects all the time, when there may be an image there that doesn't require one. 

And just before we left, I noticed some coastal decorations in the water. Hokkaido and indeed Japan, seems to have many coastal defences around its periphery - I'm not sure if they intended for Tsunami defence, or just coastal erosion, but it was interesting to note that a small 'coastal defence' had been put here at the edge of Lake Kussharo.

The weather was rather murky and wet, and my guide had a lot of work with the last image helping me shield the lens of my camera because it was pointing straight into the wind (and rain). But I feel I made a collection of images that have a certain character and feel to them on a day I feel that many people would prefer to stay in-doors.

I often feel that the difference between the impression we get from a photograph and how it felt to be at a location are often quite different. So many times I could be overwhelmed by the bad weather and choose not to go out, only to miss great potential. If I get soft light and a good composition, I don't sit at home going 'yuck - really horrible weather'. Instead I'm often pulled in by the tonal shifts that happen through a picture where soft light played around.

I'm not a fair-weather photographer, because that would be extremely limiting to what I photograph. I made (in my view) four really nice images on a day that many wouldn't consider ideal and I did it not just because of the soft tones present, but because I felt there was atmosphere and mood present, and also, because experience has taught me that these kinds of days are beautiful in their own way.