Clearing Mist, Huangshan, China
It was a pretty wild and windy day in Melbourne today. A good day for a bit of a Spring clean, which is exactly what I did. During all the sorting, with the wind blowing hard on my apartment window, my mind began to wander a bit and I remembered my time on Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in Eastern China.
From Dreams to Reality
I first heard about the sublime beauty of Huangshan back in the 90's when an old friend, Moses Tan, showed be a coffee table book on the mountain. It was full of atmospheric views of pine trees emerging from mist shrouded mountain sides. While I've traveled to China numerous times, since my first visit in 1988, it wasn't until January 2011 that I finally made it to Huangshan.
January is the middle of winter in China and, on Huangshan, the conditions can be tough, for tourists and workers alike, with minimum temperatures getting down to -20C at that time of year. But that was the least of my problems. Chinese tourists have been coming to Huangshan for thousands of years and, these days, the mountain receives several million visitors per year.
Winter Was The Solution
Not exactly an ideal situation for landscape photography. Winter was the solution. As well as seeing probably less than 100 people, most of them in the hotel restaurants, during my stay I spent three wonderful days trekking and photographing across the top of Yellow Mountain.
Company and Solitude
I love the company of people and, while traveling along, have never had any trouble making friends along the road. In fact my birthday turned into a very merry night on the mountain. But my time alone on the mountain, communing with nature, was amongst the three best days of my life, thus far.
Now that's not to say it wasn't hard. Trekking up and down steep mountain trails, in the middle of winter, isn't for the feint hearted. And heading out of the hotel in the pre dawn light, at that time of year, does require a certain degree of determination. But life's what you make of it, and you don't get to experience too much of the world asleep in bed. And I do love my sleep.
The Making of Clearing Mist, Huangshan, China
I remember making the photo at the top of this post. I climbed up through the mist to a lookout in search of a grand vista. As I reached the top the mist cleared enough for me to behold this amazing scene. An expansive composition, which I achieved through the use of a 24mm focal length lens on my full-frame Canon 5D Mark II camera, and a large depth of field was utilized to help realize the scale of this classic view.
What's more the high degree of texture and expansive tonality within the scene called out for a black and white rendering. Careful composition enabled me to design a journey, through the image, from front left to back right. It was then a matter of a little extra patience while I waited for the wind to stop long enough for the tree branches to remain still during the 1/25 second exposure.
With no roads up or on the mountain Huangshan is neither an easy place to reach nor to traverse. But it is a wonder to experience and a joy to photograph. Traveling there in the middle of winter wasn't without risk. But it proved to be the right decision. And my photos have helped record that experience and my memories of that most beautiful place. Maybe I'II see you there, one day.