Micro Blog: 13th April 2012 (Travel)
China, the land of the Great Wall and the controversial Foxconn started my lengthy travels for 2012. As always, clearing up as much work as possible was top priority and the long nights and early mornings a fortnight before were motivated by the 11 days trip to Yunnan.
The terraced fields of Yuan Yang was the highlight of the trip and the sight of the layered terraces was jaw dropping. Most of the terraces were filled with a good amount of water which meant excellent reflections. The clouds were reflected in the foot deep pools and any colours bouncing from the skies to the water will be captured and a keeper will be in the bag. But no, that did not happen and our wishes for good weather was granted to a higher level than we wanted. Blue cloudless skies greeted us for the 4 days and there was simply no impact in the images. Sunrises looked like sunsets and the heavens seemed to be making a bigger fool of us when thick fog came out in full force on the fifth morning. Visibility was down to less than 50metres and all of a sudden, we yearned for the clear blue skies.
The rice terraces proved really worth shooting on a truly foggy afternoon where the fog just desaturated the scene and it was monochrome RAW files we had that day. But no complaints from anyone as all were occupied with attempting to catch up with the fog that was revealing and concealing features within the landscape. There were times when I saw the terraced fields being revealed so slowly that it reminded me of the Opacity slider in Photoshop dropping by the single digit when all of a sudden, it gets covered again. So the plan was to be on standby at all times with the locking knob of the ballhead ready to be loosened. The revealing of parts of the landscape triggered the frenzy of shutter clicks.
Perseverance is a trait all photographers should possess and I was glad to have them alongside with much of the group. In the less-than-optimal conditions, we parked our tripods and waited. Waiting and waiting and more waiting. It may be tempting to many to move on if things are not looking good. Afterall, what is the point of wasting time? On the other hand, my thinking has always been since I am already at the location, what's the point of heading back early? If there is another location that could prove to be better then sure, pack fast and move. But if that location is the bed in the hotel room then thumbs down for that.
The fields of Rapeseed flowers greeted us a few days and 400km later. To our disappointment, we were 2 weeks earlier and only half the blooms were out. The weather for some days were also putting the spririts further down the scale as overcast skies with grey detailess clouds came in. With credit to our observant guide who is a top notch local photographer, he noted the low within the group and strived to bring us to as varied a list of locations as possible. The huffing and puffing was soon becoming a daily ritual and the group was getting used to it. Yes, there were stops now and then to catch our breath but it was encouraging to have everyone pushing each other on and the excitement of being able to get an aerial view of the fields kept the group going at a healthy pace.
It is amusing and at times frustrating to be jostling for space with the local photographers. One early morning rise saw us ascend a hill in hope of getting the best spots for sunrise. We were not the earliest but there was still many options left so everyone took their spot in the dark. It was 0530 and slowly but surely, we heard the crowds coming up the hill. Within an hour, there were at least a hundred photographers and I was squeezed in between 3 other locals who decided that setting up their tripods on a cliff edge was a good idea. The burst of light along the horizon sent the first pinkish hues into the skies and the sounds of shutters opening and closing and mirror slaps took over the constant chitchat.
The last sunset of the trip proved to be the one we nearly lost hope for. With the clock ticking and the sun dropping fast, we were still on the bus looking out for a location when it came to a halt. In seconds, everyone scrambled from their seats and out onto the fields. The bemused locals were obviously finding us an equal of a mobile circus as they wondered what in the world was fascinating about a scene they witness everyday. The sunset was perhaps the best of the entire trip with a great foreground of dense yellow blooms.
Trips like these where landscape and travel photography come together is starting to stake a stiff position in my priorities and the gear can get a little too much. With some thought, I had however left quite a bit of kit at home. Fixed low light lenses such as the 24/1.4 stayed back, so were the tilt shift lenses that could have been useful for some quick panoramas but their extra weight was just not justifiable. I had at all times, 2 cameras, one with a wide angle (16-35) and the other a long telephoto zoom of 70-300. This sufficed for 80% of the shooting. In the Thinktank modular pouches that hung around my waist was a 24-105 and a Tokina 10-17 fisheye that I am starting to really like. There were of course the assortment of filters, filter rings and holders, extra remotes and batteries. It is prudent to have the extra bits and pieces of remotes and wires. The failure of a single unit will render any long exposures impossible and with bulb mode frequently used, I see an extra remote or two being a necessity.
The post-processing has just been completed and it's weird to be doing that far from home....in the shadow of Cerro Fitzroy, Argentina. That's right, I am on my second trip in the Patagonia Mountain Range. Will be talking about it real soon!