The Thousand Words: Andy Yee

A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series A Thousand Words where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images. 

Snow Monkey in an Onsen

Jigokudani Monkey Park in the Nagano prefecture of Japan, by Andy Yee.

Snow Monkey in an onsen
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andy Yee • Sony A7R • 70-200mm ƒ/4 • 200MM • ƒ/5.6 • 1/125 • ISO 100

Jigokudani is the natural habitat of the Japanese Macaques, otherwise known as Snow Monkeys. During the winter the monkeys will keep warm by spending their time sitting in the Onsen (Japanese: natural hot springs). It is a unique experience not only in Japan but the world, and to be able to photograph these primates up close in this winter environment is something unique.

I didn't expect to create this image. There was so much going on in the scene; snow was coming down, other monkeys were playing, other photographers were around, even in the background, so I surprised myself when I was able to isolate one Snow Monkey from the noise. It is a serene, isolated moment of a snow monkey in its element. It would be hard to try and recreate the shot; it was just the right mixture of all the elements; the hot water, steam and snow falling with a reflection of the snow monkey. The image has a simple complexity to it that I cherish.

This photo was taken during winter while the snow was falling. I was shooting with a Sony A7R with 70-200mm ƒ/4. Camera settings were 200mm, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 sec at ISO 100. I was shooting with this particular lens as it was the only one I had with a lens hood that would keep the falling snow out the front of my lens. I was using a mixture of the Sony A7R and a6000, as the a6000 was faster with focusing, but this shot with the A7R nailed the focus perfectly.

I did not edit this image straight away. I left it several months before looking at it. It is different to the bulk of photos that I took that day as they are mostly busier images. Editing was done in Lightroom to correct the white balance (necessary whenever shooting in snow and the whites come out grey)

I think the photo was well received from my website and social media. The main thing is that I am personally happy with the image and what it represents to me. I do not really compare my images to other photographers, but I do compare it to my own body of work to try and improve what I do.

Photographer's Profile

NAME: Andy Yee
BORN: Sydney, Australia
CURRENT LOCATION: Sydney, Australia or living out of a suitcase somewhere in the world.
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Travel, landscape, people, festival, architecture
INFLUENCES: Photographers: Ansel Adams, Colby Brown, Zack Arias. Filmmakers: Wes Anderson, Sam Esmail
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Japan. Tokyo. Sunset, evening. From the skyscrapers during golden hour to the streets at night bathed in neon. The city is frenetic and never ending opportunities to photograph something unique.
HIGH POINT: Shooting from the top of the sand dunes in the Sahara desert with the Giving Lens workshop last year. A great bunch of people that became amazing friends from sharing such an amazing experience. I took a photo that eventually won the Sony Alpha landscape award. It is hard to pick that image as a favourite from the trip as I have more of an emotional connection to other images, but this image at the moment is my pinnacle achievement in the eye of other photographers.
LOW POINT: I do not really have any low points. I tend not to complain about doing something I love. I have had very long transit days (72 hours from Sydney to Santiago de Cuba, door to door), but I have never had anything truly bad happen to me ;)
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Give me something specific in the image to look at. Make sure that the thing in focus is meant to be in focus. Make me look for that one thing if you can.

INSTAGRAM: @andyyeephoto
FACEBOOK: AndyYeePhotograph


Andy Yee is is a photographer with Aperture Tours in Sydney. He is hosting an eleven day Japan Winter Workshop in February 2020. Find out more information and see more of his images of Snow Monkeys on our Japan Winter Workshop page.