Snow Monkeys and the Sigma 150-600mm Sports Lens
Winter is my favorite time of the year to visit Japan and it’s unique wildlife surrounded by unreal snow-covered landscapes. During my annual Japan wildlife tour we always spend a couple of days with the world famous snow monkeys at the volcanic hot springs in the Nagano area.
Amazingly the snow monkeys spend most of their time, close to 30% of the day, grooming others and its a really interesting to behavior to photograph. The monkeys will contort and twist into the most comical shapes eventually falling asleep most of the time acting like putty in the hands of the groomer. They seem to especially enjoy group grooming while being bathed in the warming rays of the sun.
They do like to bath in the hot springs when the temperatures are really low but most of the their time is spent outside the springs playing, grooming, huddling to stay warm, leaping, jumping, even rolling snowballs for fun or playing tag, sometimes on photographer’s bags.
This year photographic opportunities were just great with huge piles of snow from recent storms and 75 brand new baby monkeys running around, bringing the total monkeys at the springs to over 200.
On previous trips over the years the Sigma’s 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 EX DG HSM was one of my favorite lenses, it just seemed to work great at all the locations in Japan all the time. This year I replaced that lens with the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports lens. Even though the newer lens has a reduced close focus ability the higher optical correction, increased sharpness, and slightly longer reach more than makes up for it. The results this lens can deliver are breathtaking and on par or better than a prime tele lens.
Top 5 tips for visiting the monkey park
- Always avoid weekends unless you like crowds
- Bring the proper gear including proper boots with ice cleats
- Avoid looking the monkeys straight in the eyes and avoid quick movements
- Remember for best results always use ETTR (expose to the right) at the monkey park
- Never bring food or drinks outdoors at the monkey park, the monkeys will pounce in seconds
Hopefully I have interested you enough to visit the snow monkeys in winter time in Japan on a tour like mine or on your own one day.
If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ’em in the comments section below.
Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com