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Friends Behind the Lens

Winter is a special time to explore Japan’s wilderness. Light and shadow can create stunning compositions on the frozen landscape and it pays to have a good camera with you or, better yet, a friend with one to take some shots of you carving lines or riding powder. Neil Hartmann introduces photos by long-time friend and fellow photographer and winter-lover Jimmie Okayama.

While I am usually the one pushing the shutter button, I’m pleased to introduce my friend Jimmie Okayama. His passion for the winter season in northern Japan shines through his photos. Good friends take photos of you while riding powder, and luckily Jimmie got this shot of me.

Jimmie truly loves nature, mountains and snowboarding. He does an average of 100 days a year on the mountain and is always up for a hike or tour in the backcountry. He’ll be there regardless of weather or snow conditions, but when it’s good you know he’s out there with his camera, getting some shots like this one. No paying client, no obligations to fill—just a guy out living in the moment and ready to capture the beauty of winter. 

Our local hill is called Sapporo Kokusai and it features great snow conditions and amazing views of the Sapporo area. Jimmie captured this northeastern view with Teine Mountain in the center, the Ishikari Bay and, in the distance, the mountain range between Yubari and Mikasa to the north. Lining up a shot like this takes local knowledge, patience and the good fortune to be there when another party of snow lovers walks through the frame. 

Nature-based photographers are always on the lookout—anytime anywhere—especially while driving around. I am sure Jimmie’s wife tells him to keep his eye on the road, just like mine does. I hope he stopped the car, jumped out and ran to the center of the road to capture this image. The peak in the background is Konbudake as seen on the way to Niseko. The mountain was named by the Ainu people as they would pass by it on the way to the southern coast of Hokkaido to gather konbu (kelp) used for cooking. 

The winter playground at higher elevations is a texture lover’s dream. The winds, snow and varying temperatures are always creating an endless display of snowscapes. My hard drives are also filled with images like this, light and shadow, snow and ice, so I understand where Jimmie is coming from with an abstract photo like this. 

One more great shot of Niseko powder. Jimmie and I are always on the lookout for dark backgrounds. Here he has found one as the skier slides perfectly along the edge of the shadow. The spray stands out from the background and creates a great sense of depth in the photo. Keep that in mind next time you are out and about with a camera in hand! 

Years ago Jimmie and I lived a different kind of life. He was a bartender at a popular club and I was a DJ. We both graduated from the night scene and now spend our days working together to capture photos for a variety of clients. One of our regular projects is Niseko Moiwa Resort. We run the social media for the resort and the first priority is capturing images like this one. Moiwa is home to Gate #6, which allows access to some amazing side country in Niseko. Skiers with the proper safety gear can exit the gates when open. Here we can see one lucky rider enjoying some powder while the rest of the group watches from above. There is still a lot of open space; come leave your mark on the mountain and we might just capture a photo of you! 

Follow Neil, Jimmie and Mt. Moiwa on Instagram:

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