Jigokudani Snow Monkeys

All the pictures in this post were taken with the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 lens mounted on a Fujifilm X-T1.

Winter is coming?

Easily accessible from Nagano, the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is famous for its group of Japanese macaques who warm themselves by bathing in a onsen (hot spring) during the cold days of winter.

If you are on holidays in Tokyo, you can visit the Snow Monkey Park as a day-trip (if you are ready to wake-up early and come back late you can even take a detour to Matsumoto to see the castle on the way back), but there are only a limited number of buses that run between the Yudanaka train station (which you will be likely coming from) and the start of the trail that leads to the onsen (from the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop), so if you decide to do that make sure to plan your trip carefully. You can find some very useful the timetables of the main trains and buses here.

Having said that, rather than doing a day trip I would recommend to treat yourself with a night in a ryokan of the hot spring resort of Shibu Onsen in the same area. This will give you more flexibility to go to the Snow Monkey Park at your convenience, and potentially before the many buses of tourists that will keep on coming through the day.

Before you go to the Snow Monkey Park, you can find all sorts of informations about the Japanese macaques here, including their daily life and their system of dominance hierarchy. There is even a live webcam if you want to check the current activity and the weather conditions.

The walking trail that goes from the Kanbayashi Onsen bus stop to the Snow Monkey Park  is a very easy stroll through the forest, and takes 30min when taking your time.

If you spent the night at Shibu Onsen, you will arrive by a shorter trail from the other side of the valley.

The Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park is a must-do when you visit Japan in January or February in my opinion, but it is becoming victim of its own success. As you can see below, once the days start to warm up going into Spring, you might end up with only few monkeys facing an army of tourists, which explains the lack of variety of pictures I took on this specific occasion and left me disappointed compared to my previous visit. I will probably go back for a week-end in January next year to get better pictures.

The highlight of my day was actually (cruelly) when one of the visitors dropped his point-and-shoot camera into the bath. As he leaned forward to try to fish it back, his iPhone fell off his pocket and sunk into the water and his wife had then to retain him by his bag otherwise he would have just jumped into the water himself! I was hoping one of the monkeys would get the phone first, so that I could get a shot similar to this famous one, but someone from the park just came to fish everything back with a net, looking as if it is quite a common problem these days.

Talk to you soon, but for the moment I go back to my bath 😉

Why the XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR is in my bag

When someone or something really gets on my nerves, I have found myself on a few occasions irrationally buying a lens that I did not need or found too expensive for what it was. A compulsory purchase that cleanses me of my inner fury – for a while at least… The middle-age crisis for photographers I guess, rather than driving a Porsche like Duchovny in Californication.

The XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR (no-OIS…) is one of those lenses. Absolutely did not need it. Did not lust for it. Had more important things to spend my money on. Yet, it is now in my bag while my bank account is now feeling lighter. Hashtag #firstworldproblem I guess.

To be precise, it’s actually not inside my bag, it is still mounted on my X-T1. I got it on the day it came out (it’s almost my birthday was the official justification…), and ironically I have only been shooting with it ever since. Mind you, I don’t count the pictures I have been taking with it these past few weeks as my finest body of work: if I think portfolio, when I shoot wide I want to shoot really wide… and when I shoot tight, I want to shoot really tight!

However, I certainly have been enjoying my time with it. i found it to be a perfect travel companion, or  to take with me while walking through the city or meeting friends. As expected (and as priced…) it is optically perfect and produces beautiful images. More importantly for me, it just never gets in the way. I can just shoot with it through the day and never have to think about it or worry thanks to the weather resistance.

So does that mean I now think i was stupid not to want this lens in the first place? Not really. I am certainly glad I bought it, and i do enjoy it. But i still believe that such a lens produced in 2015 should come with OIS. While I hear the arguments of Fujifilm’s engineers regarding the better optical quality of the lens without OIS, I am still thinking that i’d rather have a not optically perfect but sharp picture than an optically perfect picture but blurry if the shutter speed was to slow, or noisy if had to crank up my ISO too high. Also, I know that video sucks on the X-cameras, but nonetheless OIS is mandatory if you want to be able to film handheld without making all your viewers seasick. Who knows, Fujiflm’s video capabilities might get better somedays

Interview with Mr Soga – the man responsible for the XF lens roadmap

The Fujifilm Blog

Mr Soga Mr Soga holding an X-Pro1 with XF16-55mmF2.8

The best thing about the CP+ show last month was getting access to people I wouldn’t normally have access to. One individual I was particularly excited about meeting and interviewing was Mr Soga – the man behind arguably the best part of the Fujifilm X system – the lenses.

We spoke about the new XF16-55mmF2.8 lens, as well as the roadmap update that was announced on the 10th February 2015. Here’s how the interview went:

Could you tell us what your job covers generally?

I am in charge of the lens product brand.

Ok, so are you responsible for the lens roadmap in general and final signoff to which lenses are added?

Yes, I am.

Starting with the newest lens to hit the streets, what was the overall goal when creating the XF16-55mm lens?

Our goal was simply to achieve the best image…

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