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Japan is one of the worst-kept secret for skiers and snowboarders seeking powder, but it the cultural and travel aspect that keeps people coming back. Not many people get to spend a month travelling 2000km aorund Japan snowboarding like f-stop customer Juan Aizpuru from Spain. Here's his travel and powder project in his own words...
Words and images by Juan Aizpuru
My name is Juan Aizpuru. I am a Spanish photographer who travels and lives in any snow-covered part of the world. I’m from the Basque Country, a little ¨country¨ in the north of Spain. I am currently living in Zermatt, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. I have previously lived in the Pyrenees, the French Alps, Chile, Argentina and Japan.
Actually, I am fascinated by action sports photography because I got involved in the action myself and that really keeps me going. Lately I have mostly worked around winter sports action photography and I am starting to see the results of my work in the main Spanish magazines and some international web magazines. I also write some stories, as it is necessary to add some words to go along the images.
As a visual creative, I’m a person that doesn’t stop until I see the things I like in my camera. Sometimes nature gives us the perfect spots, but normally when you have a good plan before the photo, everything goes better. In that moment, I am trying different pictures, searching for different ways to tell you why I’m doing what I'm doing.
Normally the shots I like most are action sports and for the moment I’m focused quite a lot in winter action sports, but I’m also shooting paragliding, running, and all the sports that I like. Of course, in the past I did all kinds of photography.
I love split boarding, since these snowboards that can transform into skis for ascending came onto the market, I haven't been able to take them off my feet! I like to explore and go out as much as I can. I have accomplished several first descents on a snowboard in Europe, South America, Japan... as well as several 4.000m peaks. I have ventured into unexplored terrain in South America, namely around the area of El Chaltén, several big mountain faces that have rarely been ridden, I have ascended and descended the most iconic Chilean volcanoes, as well as many other big mountains in the area.
My aim is to look for new challenges and to produce images and stories for national and international magazines. And now for the last two years I have been starting to fly paragliders - and that is my new drug, I just can’t stop! In the future I hope that I can create amazing pictures from the sky!
We are shooting a new mini documentary about Japan, with very low budget and a lot of effort. Also, we are doing a small crowdfounding, where we try to get some money at least to pay all the professionals that are behind: graphic designer, soundtrack, narrator, postproduction and sound design. We are giving good rewards for keeping everyone happy.
With Miquel Soler boss of Abstract films, Jose Villalba from Laggon films and the riders Jaume Pons, Jordi Brusca, Carles Aznar, Pablo Sanchez, Yujiro Kondo, Laura Donet and Gabriel Mojon. (Life in White)
Japan is not only manga, sushi and technology... Despite of being a set of islands, it is one of the best dry snow and powder pillows paradise on the planet. Japan has this thing it makes it hard for you to forget once you have visited it.
After our first time there (when we did the project Mata Ne), we felt that there was a whole lot more to discover. So we decided to embark on a new adventure and explain what it really means to surf the Nippon powder. This is how Shiro project was born.
In this project we traveled through Hokkaido Island looking for the best snow conditions. We want to share this hard to explain feeling of hiking mount Asahidake (the higest peak on Hokkaido) or the wonderful landscape of seaside from the hills. We have gone in search of the most remote places to get into a natural paradise of volcanic lands bathed by an abundant white layer...
As a part of the work for team "Shiro", we have traveled to Japan several times to work as mountain guides and snowboard coaches. Through that we have been discovering more and more spots on this island that, if you follow us on our project, you will also discover and who knows, maybe the next one to travel there will be you.
And now, if nobody told you that before, you already know that Japan is one of the best destinations for snow, and this was the first reason why we decide to discover it, But when someone travels through that country, they fall in love with the culture, the landscapes, the people, and mmmm! the food!
This is how this project was made, we traveled for one month, for more than 2000km in a van around the island to tell this story to you.
When you have the best gear on your back, it’s easy. I used my Tilopa backpack all around the world, from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Rishiri (Japanese island close to Russia). In the hardest conditions and at all moments, it was working perfectly. Also, the size… it’s amazing, for expend days in the mountain with all gear, sleeping bag, tent, fire...and for daily routine, easy access, and strong like iron.
When you carry 3 flashes, 2 tripods, body, lenses, transceivers in 2 meters of new powder going up, the backpack is one of the most important things.
For the time being, I will be based in Zermatt, Switzerland. We want to come back in January to Japan to try to do the trilogy.
In March to Canada together with Split Board Magazine and some of the best split boarders out there, take a closer look at the Canadian mountains.
April maybe a trip to Norway to discover new areas close to the sea and come back to Switzerland for the best moment (in spring) to try to attack the big mountains around. But the winter is too long, and always changing the plans very quickly.
Part of my work You can see on my Instagram and on my website. This winter, I will offer photo workshops about winter action sports, and the next summer landscape work shops, and actions sports where we will practice quite a few things. I'm doing a new gallery of fine art, where I am working on my own frames in wood during the summer, and I hope every one will like them.