Archive for the 'Travel' Category

16
Jan
17

Snowboarding and Skiing In Japan – Jetstar Asia Magazine October 2016

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After my two trips to Japan in early 2016 I was briefed by Jetstar Asia Magazine to produce a travel article about  snowboarding and skiing in Japan. My words and photos ran as a four-page feature article in the October 2016 issue of the inflight magazine for the Singapore-based airline, which is seen by 350,000 passengers each month. As a bonus, I was pleased to be able to sneak in a photo of myself and Mary G, and also of my brother into print. Please take a read of the text from the article, and I hope it inspires you to travel to Japan too…

POWDER PERFECT

Whether you have just one day or more on your itinerary, hit up Japan’s ski fields to get your winter fix.

The Land of the Rising Sun is every snow-lover’s dream: think consistent dumps of light, dry powder, terrain that ranges from the easy to the epic, as well as world-class backcountry riding and ski runs through the trees. And with easy bullet-train access from Tokyo or Osaka to some of the best skiing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, the only decision you’ll make is: how long is your snow holiday going to be?

SUPER-EXPRESS DAY TRIP: GALA Yuzawa

El Rad enjoying the view.

El Rad enjoying the view.

If you’ve only got a weekend in Tokyo, you can still fit in a quick day trip. GALA Yuzawa is located roughly 200km north of Tokyo and is famous for having its own bullet train station at the base of the mountain. In fact, Japan Rail can transport you in high-speed style from Tokyo station to the resort in just 75 minutes. Step off the train to rent some gear next to the platform, collect your packagedeal lift pass and then walk straight onto the gondola without leaving the building. How’s that for instant gratification?

Once you’re set up, you’re sure to love what’s on offer: Yuzawa has beginner, intermediate and advanced ski runs across its 17 pistes that can all be accessed by 11 lifts. You can also buy a combined lift pass to access two connected resorts – Ishiuchi Maruyama and Yuzawa Kogen – for even more variety. The top of the resort is 823m higher than the base, giving you a plethora of vertical metres to ride. Plus, Yuzawa receives almost 12m of snow on average each winter.

So next time you’ve got a spare day in Tokyo, grab a bento box breakfast on the early shinkansen (bullet train), hit the slopes at GALA Yuzawa by 8am, then celebrate back in Tokyo with yakitori and Asahi beer in the alleys next to Shinjuku station (after changing trains at Tokyo station). And for ski novices, GALA Yuzawa has a snow sports school with English-speaking instructors.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan's most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

Nozawa Onsen is arguably Japan’s most picturesque ski town, particularly when it dumps.

SHORT SNOW TRIP: Nozawa Onsen

If a day isn’t enough to satisfy your snow craving, Nozawa Onsen provides the ultimate Japanese snow experience over a few days. It’s about two hours from Tokyo by bullet train and bus and is the quintessential Japanese ski town. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the country – an all-in one resort where the runs funnel back to a quaint, historic village. A maze of laneways hides more than 100 traditional restaurants, as well as bars and Western eateries. It was the famed 13 historic soto-yu public hot-spring bathhouses that attracted visitors to Nozawa before Austrians introduced skiing to the locals in 1912. Now, it’s the snowboarding and skiing that keep the town buzzing in winter.

Beyond the historic temples and shrines, tucked among the towering cypress trees on the edge of town lie almost 300ha of skiable terrain and 50km of runs with a huge kilometre of vertical drop.

For authorised tree riding (skiing through wooded areas), head to the top of the resort where a large section of forest is accessed by two lifts. Being that high means the powder stays light and dry and the trees are powder-coated a shimmering white.

If fresh, groomed runs are more your thing, Nozawa has wide leg-burners, steeper high-speed runs and winding forest trails for all abilities. You’ll find one of the better terrain parks in Japan, with small to large jumps, rollers, some rails and a fun half pipe. If you don’t ski, explore the labyrinth of shops and eateries in town and the picturesque shrines and temples nestled in the forests nearby. Then, don a yukata (traditional dressing gown) and geta or zori (clogs or sandals) and stroll through town to take a steaming dip in one of the famous Nozawa onsen.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

Radman and Mary G getting lost in translation at Cortina.

A WINTRY WEEK: Hakuba Valley

A world-class ski destination, the Hakuba Valley, three hours from Tokyo, has been attracting serious snow lovers from all over the globe for at least 70 years. With more than 200 runs, including some of Japan’s steepest, and 140km of pistes accessed by 135 lifts across 11 separate resorts, it’s easy to see why some consider it the jewel of the Japan Alps – and then there’s the huge 14m of annual snowfall.

Happo-One Ski Resort is the main resort in Hakuba, and it provides all levels of skiing and snowboarding, as well as abovethe- tree-line alpine terrain and The Happo Banks Snow Park. Head to the top of Happo: a 30-minute hike up the ridgeline gives you backcountry options for kilometres down to the valley.

The view atop the Alps is mesmerising, and the endless powder turns on offer are hypnotic. Book yourself a mountain guide with all the backcountry avalanche gear and you’ll be in for a day you will never forget. Afterwards you can kanpai those powder grins and goggle tans with an icy cold beer from one of the traditional pubs, or izakaya, in Happo Village.

For some of Japan’s best tree riding, trek to the Hakuba Valley’s northernmost resort, Cortina. It’s a bit more out of the way, but that generally means fewer crowds – except for when fresh flakes have fallen. Cortina has a full-access tree-riding policy.

If you’re not a skier, you can still imagine you’re Eddie ‘The Eagle’ by taking in the dizzying view from the top of the 90m and 120m ski jumps at the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium. Take the easy option of a chairlift up to the museum at the giant structure that was built for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Or, take the hundreds of stairs up and down, and afterwards a steaming bowl of ramen cooked in the natural hot spring water at Happo Bijin will taste even better.

CULTURAL EXCURSION: Matsumoto

If your legs need a break, take the local train from Hakuba station one hour south to the 16th-century castle town of Matsumoto.

From the station, cross the bridge to Nawate-dori, a picturesque laneway of traditional wooden stalls along the riverbank, and try some of the local delicacies and treats. Soon, you’ll spy the towering black-and-white wooden tiers of Matsumoto-jo in the distance.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

A slice of Japanese history awaits with a visit to Matumoto Castle.

Construction of the Matsumoto Castle began in 1592, and it was saved from destruction during the late-19th-century Meiji period when Japan went through modernisation. There are only 12 Japanese castles that survive today, and as well as being the oldest, Matsumoto is also one of only two with five visible floors from the outside with a secret sixth level hidden inside.

Look for colourful koi fish as you cross the shimmering defensive moat to enter through the wooden Black Gate and into the fortified bailey. Don’t be too startled if a costumed samurai greets you with a flick of his gunsen war fan and presentation of his jumonji yari spear. Even if you want to give your legs a rest, be prepared to scale the steep and narrow wooden stairways to climb through each lowceilinged floor inside the tower. You’ll glimpse the surrounding snow-capped mountains from one of the 115 archer’s and marksman’s slits – but to feel like a real lord, climb to the highest level and imagine life as a conquering clan. Reality will likely set in as you head back to ground level but by then you’ll be ready to conquer the pistes again.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

El Rad trying (and failing?) to blend in with the locals on the train.

GETTING THERE: Bullet trains (shinkansen) and express trains depart from Tokyo Station in the centre of the city, as well as the nearby Ueno Station, to all destinations in Honshu. Express trains run from Tokyo Narita Airport to both Tokyo and Ueno, and you can purchase all train tickets at the station counters as well as at the airport station counter.

To find train timetables and plan the quickest trip, visit hyperdia.com

The fastest way to get to the Hakuba Valley is a 90-minute bullet train to Nagano, then a one-hour bus to Happo Village. You can also take express and local trains to Hakuba train station.

Hot tip: Consider purchasing a Japan Rail Pass from japanrailpass.net to save money if you’re going to be catching lots of trains.

 

And below is how the printed article looked. Click on the images to see them larger…

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To see more of Japan, see my blog posts here.

06
Jan
17

Japan Backcountry Snowboarding Photos – Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen

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In early 2016 I was fortunate enough to tag along on a media snowboard trip with Olliepop films to Japan. I had been to Japan on holiday just a few weeks previously, and we experienced mostly low-tide and marginal conditions at the start of what was to be the worst snow season in Japan for many, many years. But luckily when I returned with Jeremy and the guys on the Olliepop Snorkel Squad trip, we well and truly scored some epic days: typical blower Japan pow and epic tree riding.

Yes, there were also some marginal days in there too – even with some rain – but from the photos I managed to take, it goes to show that with some luck, and making the most of conditions on offer, you can get some really nice shots.

Jeremy Richardson did a great job of hooking up the trip with the assistance of Liquid Snow Tours, and the “action-models/good mates” in Jeremy Burns, Tim Nelson and Liam Peter Ryan worked super hard to get the shots. Thanks, guys.

Below are the action photos I tookin the Hakuba valley, from the high-alpine above Happo-One and over the back at Cortina, and off piste at Nozawa Onsen. Enjoy … and I hope it inspires you to get some turns this summer/winter.

Click the photos to enlarge them in all their pixelly goodness!

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Above: I’d never shot with fellow Falls Creek alumnus James “Singo” Singleton before, but he certainly knows how to shred! 

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Above: Mat Galina always knows where to find the goods and works harder than anyone else I know to get the shots … including the epic photo at the top of this post from the back bowl above Happo-One.

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Above: Jeremy Burns surfing the white waves of Happo-One on our way down to the carpark (and bus stop) at Hakuba 47.

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Above: Liam Peter Ryan (“LPR”) finding some launching pads as we descended from Happo-One to Hakuba 47.

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Above: Tim Nelson stylin’…

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Above: Jeremy Burns and LPR found a side hit out the front of our hotel, and with a van tow-in, the boys gave me an opportunity to use my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra and Skyport flash set-up for the first time. To see more about the flash system, click here.

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Above: We scored the first epic couple of days of the year at Cortina. Tim Nelson (red jacket) and Jeremy Burns (maroon jacket) got the goods.

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Above: Nozawa Onsen is a pretty magical place, especially when fresh snow turns the trees all-white, and Tim Nelson made a mere 10-15 of fresh dust-on-crust look pretty epic.

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Above: Another opportunity to use the Elincrhom Quadra and Skyport at a Bhuddist temple on the edge of Nozawa Onsen. Jeremy Richardson shifty.

And make sure you check out Olliepop Films feature from the trip here.

06
Jan
17

Japan Backcountry with Olliepop Films – Hakuba and Nozawa Onsen

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OlliePop Films’ Jeremy Richardson capturing Mat Galina’s rooster tail in the high alpine above Happo-One.

An epic adventure with a great crew. To see the action photos click the link, and for some lifestyle photos, go here.

Take a look at the feature film below.

And to see some extras and behind-the-scenes check out Olliepop Films webpage.

With thanks to Liquid Snow Tours.

08
Mar
16

iPhoneography: A Traveller in Tokyo

I’ve said it a few times before that my iPhone has become my favourite camera, and that had become even more so when I upgraded to to 6S and started using an app called VSCO. Visual Supply Co.’s app aims to replicate the distinctive (and undeniably hipster) looks of old film. The app is free for a dozen or so filters, and had become my go-to photo editing app in the go.

I was fortunate to travel twice to Japan in the last couple of months … and so I put my iPhone 6S and VSCO to the test, and now I’ve posted this using the WordPress app.

If you like what you see, follow me on Instagram too: @sean_radich

Jet engine

Ready for takeoff!

 

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo streetscape, Shin-okubo.

Tokyo apartments

Typical Tokyo room with a view…

Tokyo apartment

Some unexpected colour in a city of muted tones.

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Shibuya sunset, Tokyu Plaza.

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Entrance hall of mirrors, Tokyu Plaza.

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Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

Senso-ji, Asakusa.

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Golden Gai, Shinjuku.

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Yakitori alley, Shinjuku, A.K.A Piss Alley.

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Ueno Station.

Ueno Station.

21
Dec
15

Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS and Quadra Hybrid Test Photo Shoot

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Earlier this month I made the big financial leap to invest in another portable flash system from the Swiss masters at Elinchrom. I sourced two Elinchrom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX powerpacks with Standard (S) flash heads from a US retailer, and the brand new Elinchrom EL-Skyport Plus HS transmitter from an Aussie store. I will be shooting primarily snowboarding with this killer kit, but wanted to give the high-speed flash-sync capabilities a test drive before I head off overseas.

Radich Elinchrom Quadra and EL-Skyport Plus HSThe big advantages of this system are:

  • Lightweight lithium-ion batteries and flash heads: each unit weights just 2kg, much less than the high-powered, lead-battery Elinchrom Ranger RX pack and head I already own – ie super portable in a backpack;
  • Built in wireless receivers in the Quadra Hybrid, which pair with Elinchrom’s transmitters – so no more fliddling with Pocketwizards, their batteries and all sorts of cords;
  • 400ws of power, which should be enough for most applications; but most importantly,
  • The EL-Skyport Plus HS has a new “Hi-Sync” feature that works with either Canon or Nikon cameras (you buy a specific transmitter) to allow flash synchronisation up to 1/8000th of a second! Previously I was flash-syncing at just 1/250th of a second with Pocketwizards. And with this Hi-Sync feature, it now means that I can easily increase the shutter speed to freeze the action, as well as underexpose (and therefore, darken) the background to make the subject “pop” off the screen. This means that you can get much more usable light out of the 400ws of flash power.

So to test, I dragged my brother to the local primary school basketball court in the afternoon. It was a pretty rushed shoot, but really I wanted to get a quick idea of how well this Elinchrom system can capture the action, darken the background, and what the range of the wireless transmitter was. And the result of the test? I love it! Easy to use, great range, quick flash refresh times. It’s going to make all my future photo shoots so much easier to set up.

So for those that are interested, I’ve included the settings by which the photos were taken. All shots were under bright, but cloudy daylight settings, with post-production editing in Lightroom. Click on the photos to see them larger.

For more information about the Elinchom EL-Skyport Plus HS click here and Hi-Sync.

For more information about the Elinchom Ranger Quadra Hybrid AS RX click here.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Yep, the flash works. First photo, making it look more like dark twilight than the bright, cloudy afternoon that it was.  1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/4000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 800.

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Moody. Testing the range of the transmitter. This was taken about 100m away, through a cyclone-wire fence, and around a brick wall and wooden fence. A few more metres away and the flash didn’t fire. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Turning the tables, handing the camera to my brother and becoming the subject. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Trying to make it rain. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

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Like Mike? Doing my best to emulate Jordan’s Playground. 1/2000 sec at f2.8, ISO 400.

08
Sep
15

Australian Winter: iPhone Photography

Guthega panorama. Photo: Sean Radich

Making the most of iPhone’s panorama function and Photoshop Express editing app for this snowy Guthega view.

I’ve said it previously … and I’ll say it again: I love using my iPhone for photography! It’s not just having a conveniently-sized digital camera in your pocket, but it’s the apps to edit the photos, and the wifi & 4G internet connection to upload shots and share them with the world wherever you are … even with frozen fingers atop some of the highest mountains in Oz.

I’ve wondered for a while why the pocket digicam makers haven’t incorporated Android (or Apple) operating systems and touch screens with their wifi? Then you could carry a better camera around to snap photos on the fly, edit in Photoshop Express or VSCO directly on the camera, then upload to Instagram when you get to a wifi hotspot. I wonder if the Canons, Nikons and Sonys would have kept selling lots of point-and-shoot digital cameras, rather than lose ground to iPhones, Samsungs and iPod Touches, if they had features like that?

While you’re pondering these things, take a look at some photos that I’ve shot, edited and now posted on WordPress all via my iPhone. Technology is marvelous.

Click on the photos to open up a gallery…

01
Sep
15

The Mile High 2015: Snowboard Photography

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All eyes, and lenses, on 15 year-old Aussie up-and-coming ripper, Josh Vagne during the foggy Mile High 2015.

The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry has become a highlight of the Australian winter, and it draws the best snowboarders in the world to Perisher’s terrain park. It’s not just the World Snowboard Tour International points rating of the contest that brings the best shred boys and girls to Jindabyne, but Perisher’s epic and inventive park built by master shaper, and good mate, Charles Beckinsale.

So many of the international pros I spoke to said how much they enjoyed the freestyle set-up at Perisher – easy access to the mountain, fast laps of the park on the T-bar or 8-seater chair, a fun halfpipe also in front valley and a fun park around the corner on the Leichardt T-bar. They all said that they enjoy their summers in Oz much more than New Zealand, and that Perisher has become “the new Snowpark”. High praise, indeed!

This year I was fortunate to spend two and a half weeks in Jindabyne, to compete in the Transfers Banked Slalom at Thredbo, have a bunch of days riding the resorts, and then working for The Mile High writing the press releases, running the website and taking photos. Unfortunately the weather rolled in for the four days that the contest was scheduled, literally putting a real dampener on proceedings. The competition finally ran on the Wednesday, but due to the misty fog, the last two jumps were excluded. It was a shame, as in the clear days earlier on in my stay, the riders were displaying some seriously mind-blowing riding and uber-inventive lines. But, a result was obtained, photos were sent out and video edits posted … and the all-important WST points were awarded to help set up a bunch of riders for the forthcoming northern comp season. Congrats to Jess Rich, who I shot with back in Tahoe a few years ago, for winning the women’s.

Click the link to read the write up from The Mile High presented by Carlton Dry 2015.

Click the images to open a gallery of some of my photos from my time in Perisher.

And scroll down for a wrap-up video edit of the event. 

ESPN put together a great little edit about the whole competition. Take a look here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:13525680

And here is the official video:

I can’t wait for next year…