JAPAN — It is the symbol of the Olympic host country: an active volcano. The tallest mountain in Japan. For photographer Takashi Nakazawa, Mt. Fuji is his favorite subject.
"Taking photos of Mt. Fuji has become my life work," Takashi said.
His passion began with his first photo of Fuji during the early summer of 2011.
"There was a sea of clouds. When the clouds left, a shiny Mt. Fuji came out in the morning sunshine. A beautiful swan was swimming in the water. Ever since that moment, I've fallen in love with Mt. Fuji," Takashi said.
It is a two-hour drive from his home. A route Takashi knows well.
"I go to Mt. Fuji almost ever weekend, 30-40 times a year. I take about 20,000 photographs every year of Mt. Fuji," Takashi said. "Every time I go, I read the weather forecast before we go, so I can focus on the day and time that gives you interesting weather. In order for me to be prepared for any situation, I try to bring as many lenses and filters as possible."
Takashi has photographed Mt. Fuji through every season and from every possible angle.
"Not only is Mt. Fuji the symbol of the country, but it has a beautiful shape," Takashi said. "The purpose of me taking pictures of Mt. Fuji is for the rest of the world to be aware of the beauty of Mt. Fuji."
His best picture landed on the cover of "National Geographic Traveler."
"The photo shows the Mt. Fuji, with the bloom of the cherry blossom with the pagoda," Takashi said. "They put it on the cover. I'm very honored and happy."
Getting that perfect picture requires a steep climb...398 steps in all. So even when Mt. Fuji is obscured by clouds, Takashi and others continue to take pictures.
"Every time I go to Mt. Fuji, I say a message to Mt. Fuji. Show me a good impression, a good face to me today," Takashi said.
Mt. Fuji has deep meaning to the Japanese people.
"Mt. Fuji has been recognized by the World Heritage," he said. "Not only is it beautiful, but Mt. Fuji has also been a holy place in Japan. There's no other mountain like it in Japan. I personally don't have any religious feeling about the mountain. But, I have respect of the mountain."
There are other places in this area to see Japan's most famous mountain. Boat rides are a popular option. You can take a photo from the edge of a nearby lake.
But Takashi tries different styles and comes back with stunning images.
"At first, I was doing mono chro, but I wasn't satisfied. So I found Blue Ink series. That's traditional in Japan and it gives a nostalgic feel," said Takashi. "Another of my techniques is using a long exposure 2 to 3 minutes. That shows another side of Mt. Fuji."
Takashi has spent several nights taking photos of the mountain.
"Ever since the digital camera has come out, it has been available for me to catch the Milky Way with a high resolution camera," Takashi said. "I will see a sea of clouds. It's beautiful to see with your own eyes. But at sunrise, there are different clouds and lights."
There are so many places across Japan that serve as stunning backdrops for photographers. But for Takashi, there is only one place that brings him back time and time again.
"Mt. Fuji has so many different faces throughout four seasons," Takashi said. "There's a moment when I think I've got the perfect photo. But then I want it more perfect."