Tips & Tutorials

Photographing Mount Fuji in Winter: Shooting Spots & Composition Tips

As one of Japan’s most iconic symbols, it is no surprise that Mount Fuji is one of the most popular photographic subjects in the country. In mid to late winter, especially in January to March, the sky is usually clearer, allowing you to take beautiful pictures of its snow-capped form, or even of its silhouette in the evening. Here are a couple of recommended shooting spots and photography tips. (Reported by: Shigeki Kawakita, hashimuki)

Mount Fuji shot from Mizugatsuka Park, Shizuoka

 

1. Chiba Port Tower (Chiba Prefecture)

Mt Fuji from Chiba Port Tower

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 130mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 15 sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 400/ WB: White fluorescent light
Photo by: Shigeki Kawakita
Best viewing time: mid-January/ Shooting time: 5:30pm

 

Mount Fuji silhouette in twilight, viewed across Tokyo Bay

The islands of Japan are situated such that in winter, atmospheric pressure is high in the west and low in the east, with strong northerly winds. This results in clear evenings especially in the Kanto region that includes Tokyo, providing a beautiful view of Mount Fuji. 

I shot the above image from the observation floor of Chiba Port Tower, which has a view that allows you to frame the image to include the factories on Tokyo Bay in the foreground. The indoor location ensures that you do not have to worry about strong wind causing camera shake. However, the bright interior will be reflected in the glass windows, so do take precautions against that by covering your camera with a black cloth, jacket or something similar. (For more tips on shooting from indoor observation decks, read: How to Reduce Reflections)

As I composed this shot, I was constantly thinking about the balance between two elements—Mount Fuji and the oil tanks. At the time of the shoot, the sky was a beautiful dark blue and red ombre. I was tempted to capture the whole of it, but eventually decided to stick with my original shooting intent and compose the image at a focal length of 130mm, including only the red part of the sky. I used a narrower aperture to obtain a larger depth-of-field, and set the white balance to “White fluorescent light” to add blue tones to the image.

 

Alternative example: Shooting from a standard angle-of-view

Mount Fuji from Chiba Port Tower (standard angle-of-view)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 67mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 20 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto
Photo by: Shigeki Kawakita

Using a standard focal length of 67mm allowed me to capture more of the sky including the beautiful colour transitions from dark blue to red, but the two subjects (Mount Fuji and the oil tanks) appear smaller and scattered, which makes the image look a little empty.

 

How to get there
Located in the corner of Chiba Port Park, the Chiba Port Tower is covered with mirrored glass, and has an observation floor that gives a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. It is a 12 minute walk from the Chiba-Minato Station on the Chiba Urban Monorail and JR Keiyo Line.
Opening hours: 9am – 7pm

 

2. Mizugatsuka Park (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Mount Fuji shot from Mizugatsuka Park, Shizuoka

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/500 sec)/ ISO 500/ WB: Auto
Photo by: hashimuki
Best viewing time: Early December / Shooting time: 11:30am

 

Mount Fuji flanked by Mount Hoei in a frame of frost-covered trees

This scene was shot at Mizugatsuka Park, located at an elevation of 1,500m, one morning after a bout of snow. The trees in the park were covered in frost, providing a stunning view of Mount Fuji rising amid a silver-coloured winter wonderland.

Photographing snow-capped Mount Fuji the conventional way, i.e., by isolating it with a telephoto lens, would give you a good photo. But to make your shot more interesting, how about using a wide angle to include the silver frost-covered trees in the frame? If it is a clear winter day with blue skies and you shoot in the morning where there is front lighting, the entire scene will appear to glow.

The frost on the trees will melt as it gets warmer later in the day, so go as early in the morning as you can. In fact, if you start your shoot at dawn, you could obtain a magnificent shot of a red Mount Fuji, tinged in the colours of sunrise.

Here’s a case study of how the same photographer shot Mount Fuji from another vantage point at sunrise:
How I Nailed the Shot (2): Photographing Sunrise Over Rice Terraces

 

Tip 1: Observe the lighting, and shoot when the sunlight falls on the frost-covered trees
On a clear day, Mount Fuji and the blue sky alone will give you a picturesque scene. Adding in the frost-covered trees, however, will enhance the seasonal feel of winter. To convey the idea of a land steeped in silver, shoot when the sun is positioned such that you have front lighting, and ensure that the light is shining on the frost-covered trees. If the sun is covered by clouds, wait until they clear.

Mount Fuji shot from Mizugatsuka Park, Shizuoka (wrong lighting)

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 500/ WB: Auto
Photo by: hashimuki

In this shot, the sun was covered by clouds so there was no light falling on the trees. The snow looks grey and gloomy, and the image looks flat and mundane.

 

Tip 2: Make sure that your shot properly captures the form of Mount Fuji
The weather on Mount Fuji is highly unpredictable—you might find clouds getting in the way of your shot. Having some clouds in your shot could also create a beautiful picture, but if they completely obscure the mountain, the only thing you can do is wait until they clear. In fact, to wait is one of basics of photographing Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji shot from Mizugatsuka Park, Shizuoka (obscured by clouds)

EOS 6D/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/500 sec)/ ISO 500/ WB: Auto
Photo by: hashimuki

If you find your view of Mount Fuji obscured by clouds, keep waiting until they clear.

 

How to get there
By car: From Susono IC on the Tomei Expressway, drive onto Shizuoka Prefectural Route 24. Continue all the way onto National Route 469. From there, Mizugatsuka Park is about 22km away via the Minami-Fuji Ever Green Line and the Mount Fuji Skyline. You will need non-studded snow tyres. The park is an extremely popular spot for photography, with many photography enthusiasts visiting in the morning and afternoon.

 

1. Chiba Port Tower (Chiba Prefecture)
2. Mizugatsuka Park (Shizuoka Prefecture)

 

You might also be interested in:
2 Mesmerising Winter Photography Spots in Hokkaido

Also check out our recommendations on shooting spots in Japan for spring, summer and autumn:
Stunning Summer Landscapes: Scenic Spots in Japan & Pro Photography Tips (1)
Stunning Summer Landscapes: Scenic Spots in Japan & Pro Photography Tips (2)
Stunning Summer Landscapes: Scenic Spots in Japan & Pro Photography Tips (3)
Photographing Sakura in Japan: Scenic Spots & Pro Photography Tips (1)
Photographing Sakura in Japan: Scenic Spots & Pro Photography Tips (2)
Photographing Sakura in Japan: Scenic Spots & Pro Photography Tips (3)
Where to Photograph Autumn Leaves in Japan: 2 Spots Off the Beaten Track

 


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EOS 5D Mark III (Body)



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EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM



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EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM



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Makoto Hashimuki

Born in 1977 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Hashimuki took up photography after purchasing a mirrorless camera in 2012. Fascinated by Mt. Fuji, he later purchased Canon’s EOS 6D and lenses to pursue more serious photography.

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Shigeki Kawakita

Born in Kyoto in 1967. Graduated from the Photography Department in the Osaka University of Arts. Nightscape photographer. Active in Japan and overseas as a photographer for books and stock photos. Currently, he takes mainly nightscape shots of new famous places in cities. A member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society (JPS).

http://www.geocities.jp/shigeki_kawakita/

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