We did not get to see Yangshuo in lovely sunlight with beautiful golden hour light but we still loved the experience that we had. As long as the clouds kept high enough to reveal the landscape around the city, it was still a magical sight and gloomy weather added its own special atmosphere. We had half a day free after the walk through the rice fields and we used it to explore around the town. From our hotel window we spotted a small shrine atop one of the smaller peaks in the city. It took us a bit of time but finally we figured out the path to climb to have a look at Yangshuo from above. We walked around the hill from each side possible before we realised that the entrance point was where we originally started from.
As we were climbing to the top, the city kept opening up around us and every next vantage point looked better and better. The next thing we noticed was the endless range of mountains reaching way out into the distance as far as the eye could see. The view was out of this world. It gave us a true perspective on how amazing this area really was. Seeing the formations from the ground is one thing but seeing them from an elevated perspective was something entirely different. It felt like the city was just so isolated by surrounding peaks, which were hiding in the clouds and mist. You could not find this stuff in a fairytale.
Once we made it to the top, I instantly had an idea for what I wanted to photograph. I wanted a perspective over the city with the mountains lining up in the background and fading gently over the horizon. I also wanted to photograph the tonal contrast between the warm lights of the city and the cooler blue gloomy air in the background. I would have loved to stay up there a bit longer and let the darkness take over the city, however, we were a little pressed to make it back down to the hotel in time for dinner. I considered staying and skipping dinner, which would have been fine by me. In the end, because I did not have a flash light with me, we decided to make out way back before dark. It was rather wet and slippery on the worn out steps, so the risk was not one I was willing to take at the time.
I think that we managed to stay there just long enough for me to photograph the contrast in tones that I mentioned before. The lights had enough of an impact and the darker atmosphere around the peaks was just what I was looking for. I tried to accentuate it just a touch more in post processing. It was one of my favourite photos so far in terms of processing work. I mostly worked with dodging and burning to bring the city out a little bit more and to get the most of magical misty mood in the surrounding landscape. I remember standing at the top to take this photo and thinking how I would go about processing it at home. When working on it later, these thoughts came straight back to me and it was a very intuitive and natural flow that guided me. It is customary for me these days to get a few different exposures of the same scene and I used a darker exposure to control the brighter lights in the city to ensure that they were not too blown out.
It was our favourite view of the entire trip to China. Well worth the effort to find it and I am very happy with how the final photo turned out.
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