How is the other side of the world? What did we do today in the Yellow Mountains of China? My iphone alarm went off at 3:15 AM. Needed to get ready and be down at the lobby by 4 AM. Michael is so nice when we meet this early. He makes us all coffee. Our sherpas met us. Lets talk a little bit about these sherpas. They are mostly men in ranging in age from thirty to about fifty. They all work for a company. They are housed here on the Mountain by the Company and go down to visit their families a few times a month. The cost is $90 US for the day paid to the company and you give the sherpa $15 US per day as a tip. They carry everything you normally carry. My heavy backpack plus another small camera bag. I have been assigned the same sherpa for our entire stay. Everyone has their own sherpa and you really need them here. Think of it like having your own camera caddy similar to a golf caddy except the camera caddy does not speak English and cannot advise you on your photography. I told Andy he should get this for all the workshops. Getting this kind of labor in America would be hard.
Nothing to wake you up like a brisk hike up and down old stone steps. We finally reached our destination at about 4:45. Sunrise was set at around 5:15. Kevin, myself, and a few others set up at an outcropping looking over the peaks. The Chinese all want to see the sunrise at the Yellow Mountains. It is some sort of religious pilgrimage for them. Within fifteen minutes we were mobbed by a large group of Chinese. Many of them pushed their way towards the front where we were set up. Hard to take pictures using a tripod when there are lots of people around you who all have to see the sunrise. I managed to hold my ground for some time as I took shot after shot of the morning colors and lights over the Yellow Mountains. After the sun rose and the crowd dispersed, I decided to go further up the trail to see a scene named “Stone Monkey Watching Over The Sea”. My sherpa always follows me. Wherever I go he follows. I had to literally walk over large boulders to get to an outcropping where I could see the view. There is a small rock structure on top of one of the granite peaks looking into the distance. The figure is the Stone Monkey and he or she is watching over the sea. There is no sea here. It may mean the clouds that look like the sea as they come, roll and wind over the granite peaks. I was helped over some large boulders and rocks to set see what the view looked like. My jaw dropped and I was amazed by what I was seeing. Such a unique and new view. I started to take pictures and then navigated myself through and over boulders to the other side of the outcropping. There were some moments when I had to get down on all fours to make sure that I did not trip or hurt myself. There were two large granite peaks and one of them had the Stone Monkey on top of it. I decided to wait until the light hit the peaks and then take lots of pictures of the peaks and the clouds swarming over and rolling in. Another amazing view and site. Got some great pictures. I could not set up my tripod here since the ground was so uneven and full of large rocks and boulders. When you shoot with a tripod, you use time lapse photography and some of your settings are different from hand held.
It was then time for me to work my way back over the boulders and sharp rocks. As I descended, I thought of where I was and how fortunate I have been to see what I have seen here. My hunger kept me moving thinking about some eggs and an American breakfast. Got back to the hotel and my sherpa took my equipment up to my room. Bless him and his tireless energy. I then went down for a well deserved breakfast. Where were the eggs, breads and all the other good things we normally eat for breakfast? Only Chinese food. Fried rice, white rice, chicken, sweet and sour pork, dumplings and some other strange looking dishes. I passed on it all. Could not eat Chinese food for breakfast. What do you get for going to a place that caters to the Chinese? After having coffee and a pear, I crawled up to my room to take a nice hot shower and curl up in my bed for a well deserved nap.
Woke up at 11 AM and lunch was at noon. We all met in the dining room for another round of Chinese food. After this, I may never eat Chinese food again. They finally made something that I could eat. They brought out a flat fried pancake baked with some bamboo leaves. That was my lunch.
After lunch, we had a three hour critique session led by Andy. We all had to pick out five images each and copy them onto an SD card. Andy would then download them into his computer and critique them in front of us all. This is a good way to see how everyone shoots, what is their style and how advanced they are. Andy has a large screen set up so we could all see what is on his computer. When we take pictures we shoot in a format called “raw”. Most of the world shoots in jpeg. Raw files are much larger work files and give you the flexibility to edit your images any way you want. Jpeg images are created by the camera guessing how the image should look. I always shoot in raw. You must convert raw files to jpeg after they are edited in order to be published to any website. Software such as Lightroom or Photoshop does the conversion for you. All of the photographers presented their chosen images in jpeg after they had edited them except for me. I presented my images in raw or as seen when i had taken them without any editing. I try to do as little editing as possible after I download my images into my computer. The group was impressed with my eye and the images I found and created. Many people have asked me how to take great pictures. I always tell them that the equipment does not make the photographer. What makes the photographer is the composition and the ability to find the images. Many of my images I have seen before I take them. That is a skill that if you have it, can only be developed by repetition. Andy said that the image I presented of “Stone Monkey Watching Over the Sea” should be printed as a large print.
We finished our classroom work at about four and all met down in the lobby. Our sherpas, of course were there. We took a long hike to some view points that we had never seen. We passed by a statue that looked like a “linga”. I saw a few people giving some sort of prayer in front of it. We encountered one problem. A dense fog was all over the Yellow Mountains and we could not see anything. We took this long and strenuous hike for nothing. The weather changes rapidly in the Yellow Mountains and you never know when the sun will pop up and the fog cover will disappear. No luck this afternoon. I must say that my hike back seemed much easier than the previous night over the same trails and even further now. My body is adjusting to this kind of exercise.
Dinner was the same. The same food all the time. Boring. Would love to have a big steak and salad.
We are all meeting in the lobby at 4 AM for another chance at a sunrise. Going too another part far away from the Chinese Tourists to try to be more with ourselves. Hope the weather changes. I feel like I need to see more of this amazing and spiritual place.