Kawaguchiko

This picture is available on my prints site here!

Continuing my trend of writing up my trips well after they’ve happened…

Back in August, I decided despite the pandemic, I wanted to try to go take a picture of the Milky Way. It’s starting to become somewhat of a yearly tradition for me. (Here’s some shots from 2018 and 2019.) After consulting with another photographer here in Tokyo and doing a ton more research online, I decided to go to Kawaguchiko because I wanted to try to get the Milky Way and Mt. Fuji together in one shot.

For this trip, I decided to rent the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens as the widest angle lens I own is the Sony 24-70 GM and I wanted to try to get as much of the sky in the shot as possible with the foreground. For the most part, I tried to use it as my main lens for everything else, too.

I spent most of my nights sitting at the lake’s edge somewhere trying to take pictures. I was hoping to also do some time-lapses and maybe get the Perseids meteor shower. However, the weather didn’t want to cooperate and blocked most of the sky a lot of the time. If I didn’t get that first shot the first night I was there, it would’ve been really disappointing…

Aside from spending my evenings clicking a shutter button, I also went to Mt. Fuji Panorama Ropeway, the Fugaku Wind Cave, the Narusawa Ice Cave, and Yurari.

The caves were nice. I wouldn’t recommend seeing the ice cave in summer, though. Especially the ice cave. While they’re a nice retreat from the heat, I was the hoping the ice cave would have more stalagmite/stalactite-like ice formations, but they’re all melted away by summer. Side note, thanks to the pandemic, the tourism buses in the town ran a lot less frequently and had slightly reduced hours. So I walked my way from the Ice Cave to Yurari. And even though it was sunny, it suddenly started raining twice on my way there for quite a while… Thankfully they had a free shuttle back to the major station.

Yurari is an onsen and hotel. You don’t need a room to use the onsen, though. After paying the entrance fee, you can pay extra to use private onsen rooms where you can relax with a view of Mt. Fuji (although it was blocked by clouds while I was there). The public onsen may have a view, too, but I didn’t try it out. They also have some restaurants and stuff where you can get things like curry that looks like Mt. Fuji.

The Mt. Fuji Panorama Ropeway is also a nice spot to visit when there’s a clear of Mt. Fuji. (It was cloudy all day that day, too, so I just got to see the mountain enveloped in a bunch of clouds.) There’s also a fire rabbit shrine at the top with the observatory. There’s an old tale that the shrine is based on and the English version is on their website.

Some notes on the Tamron lens for myself and anyone else who might be interested:

  • It’s really small and light which is nice. Compared to my main lens (the Sony 24-70 GM), it was a breath of fresh air. It almost felt a little strange not having the lens shift the center of balance while I was walking around with it from place-to-place in my hand.
  • But with the reduced size comes reduced real estate. I kept wanting to grab the lens when trying to readjust my composition and stuff. But in doing so, I would accidentally hit the focus ring and would have to refocus. I think this is a habit that could be unlearned, but it was kind of annoying.
  • The focus ring and aperture ring are swapped compared to Sony lenses, but I didn’t actually have any trouble adjusting to that.
  • The image quality is good and maybe my eyes aren’t good enough to see a discernible difference between it and any of the Sony lenses I’ve used in the past.
  • That said, when I needed to push some raw files to their limits, some things were a little off. I think it’s partly due to the lens itself, but I don’t know enough about testing lenses to know what the actual problems were. For example, to draw out the milky way in the picture above, I had to push the exposure super high. This exposed some weird discoloration in the corners at 17mm and the sky itself had this weird uneven tone to it around the edges that I tried my best to smooth out.
  • For my own style, I think trying to use this lens as my main lens made me realize I’m not a huge fan of wide-angle lenses. I’ve been wanting the Sony 16-35 GM for a while now and I’ve rented it before for astrophotography. However, I think I wouldn’t use it much outside of that application. These days I’ve been wanting to zoom in more than zoom out. Maybe I’ll try Tamron’s 70-180 2.8 lens later. The Sony 70-200 2.8 GM is also appealing, but having borrowed my friend’s 100-400 GM before, I know it’d be a pain to lug around.

A lot of the shots I took aren’t worth sharing here (because they don’t really work that well haha), but here’s a few…

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