Hello from hot, humid Southern China. Our day started at 3 AM. Woke up at 2:30 and dragged myself out of bed. Andy has been keeping an activity log on his iphone, and he says that we have walked over 100 miles on this workshop. He also said that in his eleven years of doing these workshops all over the world, this workshop is the most strenuous and covers the most ground of all his workshops. Don’t forget, we have already been on three separate flights within China. We drove for around forty five minutes and then took a dirt road until the vans could not go anymore. Of course, I slept all the way there. I brought all of my camera gear, including my tripod, all packed into my large backpack. I did not know the situation or what I would face. We then gathered our gear and walked in a straight line through a village and over creaky old platforms over small streams. Some dogs started to bark as we walked through the village. I could not make out anything. It was totally dark and our flash lights guided us to the bank of the Li River. A Chinese man navigating a small ferry like reed raft with some seats, worked his way to us. We were standing on rocks watching this weird looking contraption come towards us. The hand made ferry could only take six people at a time. I was in the second group. We waited about ten minutes for the raft to return and the rest of us boarded this weird looking vessel. We arrived at an outcropping of jagged rocks. It was still totally dark so that footing was at the best an adventure. I eventually tripped over some rocks, but did not get hurt. As the morning light started too appear, we saw them. There were two Cormorant fishermen in their traditional boats and clothing. There each had a lantern and each had two Cormorant’s on their boats. One Cormorant was in the front and one in the back. One of the fishermen walked up to us and I was able to get a great portrait of him in almost total darkness. He then went back into his boat and the fishermen started to create different scenes and do activities. We all clicked away at this amazing site. I was watching the fishermen interact with the Cormorants and it seemed like they had a special relationship with these birds and the birds understood them just by their actions. One fisherman was eight six and the other was seventy six. They do not fish anymore like this, but earn their living by doing special photo shoots for people who they know and trust. Thank Michael for having this sort of contact. A foreigner could never pull this off. The lights were changing and the sun rising. In the background of the river there were mountain peaks layer after layer. It is difficult to take pictures in this situation. You have to constantly adjust the camera for the additional and changing light. ISO, shutter speed, compensation and aperture are just some of the adjustments you are constantly making. One of the fishermen fell into the river as he pulled out his cell phone. I have seen many Buddhist monks talk on their cell phones, so seeing a Cormorant fisherman protect his cell phone was not unique to me. As i clicked away, I wondered what my pictures would look like on the computer. On my small camera screen, it appeared that I was taking some amazing images.
At 7 AM it was time to leave these unique people. Michael felt so sorry for me that he carried my heavy backpack all the way back for me. A real gentleman. He and I have had some great conversations. Two people from different parts of the world. We hiked back to the vans. I can tell you that the first half of the hike back was all uphill over old and decrepit stone steps. There were times when I walked up on my hands as the steps were so steep and broken. We finally reached our vans. My clothing was drenched in my sweat, but I knew I had just seen something that will last a lifetime.
When we arrived at the hotel, at around 8 AM, we all went up to our rooms and dropped our gear off and then immediately went down for breakfast. Breakfast was all Chinese. What do you expect when you go to places that do not cater to foreigners? Suck it up and eat it. I could not even though I was famished. They even served coffee with milk already in it.
I then crawled up to my room for a long cold shower and rest. It was about 9 AM and I needed some sleep. Fell into bed, turned the A/C way up and fell asleep. The next thing I know its 1 PM and I had missed the group meeting for lunch. While I was sleeping I was downloading my pictures from this morning and did a quick look over. I nailed many of them. Great images with very little editing necessary. I have been shooting in hand held continuous mode. I find that many times the third, fourth even fifth images of the same thing are the sharpest and best of the sequence. I went down to look for some coffee and a snack. What did I find? Two of my favorites. Durian and Starbucks. Bought a whole durian and had a venti cold brew. Was really in heaven now. We were all meeting at 3 PM for our afternoon shoot. I went back up to my room and was tempted to lie down, but realized that would just make it worse. Andy always says “You can sleep when you die”. How true. Life is about living and enjoying every day as you wander through the journey of life.
At around 3 PM, we all took off. One group was going up a thirty minute uphill hike over broken stone steps. Andy and Kevin would not let me do this. They saw how much more difficult it is becoming for me as this trip starts to wind down. Four of us did not go on the hike and Kevin stayed with us. Our driver took us to some great scenic views of the Karst Mountains. On the last view point, who shows up but Andy and the rest of the group. They did not go on the hike since the cloud cover was too much further up. There was a continual haze over the mountains that created quite a scene.
We arrived back at the hotel at around 7:15 and all met for dinner at 8 PM. The same restaurant as last night. Western cuisine, but not at its best. I had the same dish. New Zealand tenderloin and was still disappointed.
What’s on the schedule for tomorrow? We all meet at 3:20 AM for another trip to the Cormorant fishermen. I now know what gear I need and will be greatly lessening my load. This time there will be one fisherman there. We will probably get back to the hotel at around 8:30 and then go to breakfast. Guess what? Breakfast for me will be Starbucks. We then leave the hotel at 2:30 PM and visit an ancient town named “Xingping”. There is an image here that is on the twenty dollar note of Chinese currency. The currency is called “RMB”. We then go back to the village of the Cormorant fishermen and visit them in their homes and meet their families. Sounds like an amazing afternoon.
The trip is winding down and I am thankful. Have been away since the evening of May 6 and am homesick and I yearn for my wife and family.
Talk to everyone tomorrow.