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I know - the birds are small, you can't see their heads, eyes or beaks, there's no spectacular feather detail, no action, and no thermonuclear colors in the sky. Yet that is exactly why I like this. :-)

Every year on the Japan trip we have on average one or two days with hoar frost, in my opinion one of the prettiest winter conditions you can get.

On this particular morning we had left our ryokan long before sunrise to see the whooper swans wake up, and watch their fascinating morning rituals. When we got closer to the lake I noticed the hoar frost and decided to take the group to one of my favorite and very quiet spots.

We had to walk through a strip of trees and dense vegetation, which would normally create a lot of noise that could wake up the swans. The snow was about three feet high though, and the perfect natural sound proofing. When I reached the shore, a few swans looked up and then went back to sleep again.

I set up my tripod, took this shot, and then just sat there for a while - amazed.

©2011 Marsel van Oosten, All Rights Reserved. This image is not available for use on websites, blogs or other media without the explicit written permission of the photographer.

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