After a short 3 hour flight from Bali to Malaysia, it would take another 5 hour flight to reach China. Photographing Guilin China has been on my list since the day I first saw Michael Anderson’s amazing images from the area. The topography of the area is marked by endless karst formations running along the Li river.
The whole area is very photogenic, and everywhere you go, you are surrounded by stunning landscapes and ancient culture. We did end up going during the hottest time of the year (August), and I don’t advise that for anyone else who plans on visiting the area. It was EXTREMELY hot and humid.We were greeted with a taste of the karst peaks as soon as we left the airport for the short 30 minute drive into Guilin City.
After getting settled in, and relaxing a bit, we were off to visit the very popular Reed Flute cave. There are caves all over this area, and some of the bigger ones are quite touristy. This one was no exception, and while it was nice, it’s not my ideal spot to be. They put a bunch of lights inside of the caves, and have light shows and such. While I was trying to make the photo below, some guy kept dipping his foot in the water causing ripples in the reflection.
I suppose the photos can be nice if you are into that kind of photography. I do have to admit, I enjoyed the nice cool environment inside of the cave, even if it was just for a short time 🙂
After the cave visit, we went to another very popular location along the river that was shrouded with tourists and a bunch of power lines cutting through the scene. The next morning we would photograph from a hill above the city, and then get out of the touristy Guilin City and off to Yangshuo to photograph in some remote villages and such. I really liked it in Yangshuo, but my favorite place would be our next stop in a small village called Xingping.
Photographing Guilin China Cormorant Fisherman
Xingping was incredible for photography, and although it is seeing more and more tourists these days, it seemed like they would mostly just arrive around midday in the big buses and be gone by evening. We stayed here for a few days, and were able to capture some great portraits in and around the small village. This is also where we photographed the famous Cormorant fisherman along the Li river.
Wikipedia: “Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China from around 960 AD. and recorded from other places throughout the world.
To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird’s throat. This prevents the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat, but the birds can swallow smaller fish. When a cormorant has caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish up. Though cormorant fishing once was a successful industry, its primary use today is to serve the tourism industry.” It’s quite the tourist attraction in the area, but most of the fishing is done with nets nowadays.
It was nice to get a chance to photograph the fishermen, but we were not in the best spot along the river to work; there was a lot of boat traffic that basically killed any chance for a nice reflection, and the riverbank did not have a lot of room to work with. We were still able to make a few nice images there though….
After a few days in Xingping, we headed off to the Longji Rice fields. The terraced fields are built along the slope winding from the riverside up to the mountain top. The coiling line that starts from the mountain foot up to the mountain top divides the mountain into layers of water glittering in the sun in spring, layers of green rice shoots in summer, layers of golden rice in fall, and layers of silvery frost in winter. The terraced fields were mostly built during the Ming Dynasty, about 500 years ago.
We arrived when it was very green with rice… After a few more days in China, Helminadia and I would head to Malaysia for a bit and then back to Bali. I have several more images from China that I need to edit, and I will probably write another blog about it at some point, but this is a small taste of what it was like there…
Fantastic account of the area… You seem to have done very well with the conditions also, and I like very much your cultural images too.
I lived in Yangshuo for a year (until January 2011) – a 5 minute walk from the bridge where your top image was taken…
Certainly an iconic place… best wishes. Alister
These are some of the best images I’ve seen from Guilin. I think my favorite would have to be from Reed Flute Cave. Never heard of it and even though it’s not your ideal spot to be, that is one spectacular image. The ‘Cormorant Fisherman’ also came out very well with that spectacular silhouette of the landscape and light in the background. Thanks for sharing, Jesse!
Great write up. But OMG your pics in the blog are amazing! Such a different feel to these pics, perhaps it’s because of the story, but dang they rock! Fantastic job.
Pictures are amazing Jesse, its why you are my favorite photographer on Flicker. You always make me try harder! Thank You. Gary
Thanks for stopping by John, and I appreciate the kind words!
Brad – Thanks for stopping in. You have some great work also…
Alister – That’s awesome that you lived in Yangshuo! I would love to spend even a few months in the area. I was so overwhelmed with the short time I had to visit…
Cant wait to get there one day. Some great take aways! I want to ask about photographing people…do you have them sign releases? Offer them money? What’s the norm? Keep on the great work and look forward to more!
great shots…Really inspiring.
Wow, what a fantastic set! I’m doing a mini tour of Asia in a couple of months, and can only hope to get some shots like these..
Thanks for stopping by Simon! I hope you make some nice images too!
Aaron – It’s best if you have someone with you that can speak the language and loosen them up a bit, then they will usually let you photograph them without paying. Every once in awhile you have to give them some small money….
Good to know. However with the possibility of using these images commercially they dont need a model release?
Aaron – Ahh yes, you still need a model release for stuff like that. I have a nice little app on my iphone called easy release.
Woah! Just checked it out and dl’ing now. So much better than carrying awkward sheets of paper. Thanks for the heads up 🙂
exceptional, Jesse. so when does NG sign you up?
Always enjoy your trip blogs, but this one has some of the most beautiful and unique shots yet. Reed Flute Cave and the close up of the fisherman might be my favorites! Stunning work!
James – Thanks, but I still think I have some work to do before NG 🙂
Jean – Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate the kind words…
So glad you finally made the trip to Guilin, you pics are stunning…as usual, sounds you had fun time too!!!
Love your work Jess,your pictures are amazing !
thank you for spend your time teaching me as well…it was fun trip for sure,especially the 1160 stairs lol:)
These images are stunning! I am hoping to go to Guillin next year if I can. Can I be cheeky and ask if you had any contact details for local guides etc? You seem to have been to the sort of places I would love to go 🙂 Well done on the images keep them coming!
Hi Jacob – There are several guides available in the area. Feel free to e-mail me if you have trouble and I can give you some more details when I have more time…
Helminadia – haha, you teach me silly… It was a fun trip but yeah, those stairs sucked LOL…
wow your photos are really incredible, a true journey to amazing places and a kind of imagination and dream at the same time. All I have to say is outstanding! You must feel really proud of your work. Love it!
MissLilly – Thanks for stopping in!
What a beautiful collection, your control of color and light is amazing, and inspiring!
Thanks for stopping by Terrence!
Jesse, stellar images. The composition is beautiful, love the colors and you really capture the essence of the place. A wonderful series! I am a huge fan
Hi Nagesh – Thanks for the kind words! I’m sure we are probably already contacts in flickr, but I will double check…
Hi Jesse, it was a pure joy pursuing your amazing travel images. Thanks for sharing your journey.
Thanks Matt! You have some great work yourself…
Outstanding work, You are ideal personality, Best wishes for you.
Thanks for stopping by Abid! You also have some great work…
Awesome photos as usual Jesse!
Thanks for sharing your adventures. I’m still enjoying your old D300.
Thanks for checking in Glynn! I hope you are enjoying the camera…
I have a chance to go to China this summer and will visit the Guilin area specifically for the opportunity to take photographs. Do you have any advice for taking advantage of the best opportunities to take pictures? How to avoid tourists? Are there any guides that can get you to good locations at the best times of day? Any helpful hints you have would be appreciated. Thanks, EM
Hi Elizabeth – Thanks for stopping by. The tourists are hard to avoid in Guilin, but I do recommend you get some sort of photo guide that will be able to take you to some of the more remote locations. If you search for “Guilin Photo guides” you should be able to find several. You probably want to start with one of their packages and then customize it to only include the locations you are interested in, and negotiate the price with them. The language barrier is the toughest that I have encountered in any of my travels, so you will want someone that can help you in that department. If you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me.
Hi there Jesse,
Great photos! A group of us will be going there during mid October 2012. Would it be a perfect date for visiting Guilin? We plan to have a 4 days trekking by a guide. Hope to snap inspiring photos as yours!
Hi Hemy – Thanks for stopping by. I’m not sure how the weather is in October, I just know it was ridiculously hot when I was there 🙂 You should be able to look up the weather for October pretty easy though. Good luck and send me an e-mail with a link to your photos when you get back!
One more question….I have found a guide that may work. Would you please look at the 3 and 4 day photo tours to suggest which would be best? I am NOT a professional photographer, have never been to China, and am not familiar with the locations. I thought you might be familiar with some of them. If you click the photo tours, you could click the 3 or 4 day. That is all the time I have. Your advice is appreciated.
Elizabeth Mitchell, Assistant Principal
Root Elementary School
1529 Mission Blvd.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
[…] of stunning photos of this sort of scene, particularly from Trey Ratcliff (scroll down a tad), Jesse Estes, Dan Ballard and Helminadia Ranford (do take a look, they’re all wonderful photos), so in my […]
I love all your shots especially ‘Guilin Fishermen’ …those are amazing with very amazing story.
So the thing is i am going to visit China (Guilin) soon. I am an amateur photographer (only hobby). Can you give me some pointers. Like do i have to ask those fisherman’s to pose for me , do i have to pay money to them .. if yes how much. I would appreciate any help.
I must say this is a very nice photograph, thank you for sharing the beautiful photographs with us. I hope you will share more post in the future like this.