Oirase Gorge, Aomori Prefecture, Japan by Alyce Bender

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Aomori Prefecture is found in the most northern region of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Surrounded by ocean on three sides, this prefecture is filled with beautiful deciduous forests that cover the mountain ranges that divide it in half. With miles and miles of undisturbed forests, the rivers that run through it can be hard to access. However, Oirase Gorge is considered one of the best spots in the country to see autumn colors. Both domestic and international leaf peepers come to this generally quiet area of Japan as the colors set in. Oirase stream is the outlet stream from Lake Towada, the largest volcanic caldron lake on the island of Honshu. Summer rains often have this stream flowing rapidly come autumn.

Leading up to this day in 2017 when I took the image, we had several days of light rain, enough for the stream to be running quickly, building the rapids, while leaving the leaves on the tress. Overcast skies continued to stay with the area on the day of my shoot, giving the scene a soft glow through the leaves which I loved. Bright overcast days are my favorite shooting conditions for both fall colors and waterfalls, so it was ideal for this image. The hard part comes when trying to balance the shutter speed to capture the stream flow with a longer shutter while still maintaining the detail in the leaves, as there always seems to be a breeze coming through this gorge at all times of the year. Using a circular polarizing filter to cut glare on the water and wet surfaces while also saturating the colors in the environment was also important to the final image. The CPL filter combined with the overcast skies allowed me to hone my shutter speed for how I wanted the water to look and then it was just a matter of having patience to wait to hit the shutter during a lull in the breeze.

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