Photographing the Land and Culture of China’s Southwest Frontier

As a travel photographer and photo tour leader, I’ve been photographing in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces for couple of years.  Yunnan is the most southwest province of China, bordering Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. Guizhou adjoins Yunnan to the east. They are demographically the most diverse provinces in China.

There are 55 ethnic minority groups in China, over 35 of them are living in these two provinces, including: Miao, Yi, Dong, Zhuang, Hani, Bai, Tibetan, Yao, Thai, Lisu, Qiang, etc. Almost every group has its distinctive cultural traditions, folk customs, architecture, festivities, colorful dresses and handcrafts, which provide endless photography subjects. In addition, some landscapes in these two provinces are breathtakingly beautiful and unique. Overall, the cultural and natural beauties of these two provinces added luster to China’s southwestern frontier, they constantly attract visitors, especially photographers around the globe.

Here are the some highlights of my photographic journey through these two wonderful provinces:

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How To Write and Photograph for Foreign Travel Markets

Photographers are visual storytellers similar to filmmakers and writers. While many photographers looking to expand their business are choosing to put their HD dSLR to work creating video, others are choosing writing to tell their stories. Photography and writing have always made sense for outdoor photographers.

When you think about it, somewhere online is a great photograph of just about every location of interest to travelers making stock photography a tough business. While it is often said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ in some cases a photograph without supporting text might not tell the complete story while a written article without photography may have less appeal to a reader. Photographs sell magazines and convince readers that a story is worth reading, making writing and photography a perfect marriage.

Since many photographers travel to photograph and then promote their images to the editorial markets, they can increase their sales in both domestic and foreign markets by offering photo/text packages. Editors have always been interested in working with qualified photographer/writers who could provide the total package. The ability to write is important and can be learned, but teaming up with an established writer is another option.

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OpenSea Diary: Mora and Moynihan Film the South Pacific

In a recent post we wrote about Mora and Moynihan and the preparations to embark on a sailing adventure across the South Pacific filming nature, the environment and the cultures. Here is the first of their many (to come) field reports.

Opensea Film and Photography duo, Nia and Jon Moynihan, have set sail again across the Pacific. This time we have crossed 1,100 nautical miles of deep blue water to reach the Melanesian shores  of Vanuatu – a nation known for the happiest people in the world. Along the way we have come to more realizations about the conviction it takes to
photograph the natural world. Though the long passage was filled mostly with beautiful weather, at times the extremities of the wind strength and the wave size was overwhelming.

Sometimes we ask ourselves “what makes people do it?” What makes a person head out into the middle of nowhere? Maybe for us its to be alone, away form the world, and then to arrive in new places filled with adventure and the unknown. Perhaps its also the peace and mental tranquility that comes with being the only person around for hundreds of miles, only accompanied by the repose of nature, birds, and sea creatures. Therese a sense of connectedness that comes over a person when confronted with the strength of raw nature.

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Moynihan and Mora Set Sail to Film OpenSea: Journey Across the Pacific…and Need Your Help

Editors note: Nia Mora and Jonathan Moynihan are U.S. based photographers and filmmakers and are about to set sail to film and photograph their sailing documentary: OpenSea; Journey Across the Pacific. They will sail across the South Pacific and film the adventure, the cultures and people, and sea life for their documentary film with an end goal of raising awareness to the South Pacific’s peole and natural treasures. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project. The following essay describes their first sailing adventure, the inspiration for the new OpenSeas project. Stay tuned as they promise to keep us updated with videos and photographs of this unique journey and film project.

“OpenSea: Journey Across the Pacific” began in the hopes of finding footage about sailing the South Pacific Ocean. We didn’t find much, so we decided to make our own film. We spent 28 days at sea, sailing from Hawaii to French Polynesia in our 35 foot sail boat. Along the way, the project developed into something we felt we had to share with others. We learned things about the way other people lived, which changed the way we ourselves live. We saw the majesty and diversity of the Pacific islands, which taught us about the raw and enduring strength of nature. We braved the ocean, endless blue water for weeks on end, which taught us about ourselves.

We have already sailed 6,500 nautical miles. We have documented places such as The Marquesas,The Tuamotus, The Society Islands,
Niue, and New Zealand’s North Island and Hauraki Gulf. Most people haven’t heard of these places, a lot will never see these places. Our goal is to make a visual montage and a narrative sharing the experience of traveling by sail boat across the ocean and the things a person learns along the way. We’d like to post this documentary for free, online by September, 2014. This project is non-profit, as we believe everyone should be able to share with us what we have seen and where we have been on our amazing journey across the Pacific.

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Photographing Plitvice Lakes NP, Croatia

It’s hard to believe that in such a beautiful lake-filled canyon, the first shots fired that marked the start of Croatia’s war with Yugoslavia occurred here.  In fact the first fatality of the war was the park’s police officer.  War never seems to make sense.

But that was then and now the park’s popularity is back stronger than ever, although we Americans are a little slower on traveling to here versus the Europeans.  I first learned of this area watching a Rick Steves travel segment on public television and was so impressed that when I had the chance to travel to the Adriatic, I made sure this park was on the itinerary.  It turned out that I was not disappointed.  The park was Croatia’s first national park (1949) and now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Rosa Frei’s Portrait of Morocco

Rosa Frei is a travel photographer based in Morocco who photographs the people and places and we asked her about living and shooting in Morocco.

I am a commercial and fine art photographer based in Morocco. In fine art, my passion is nature photography and portraits. I love black & white and monochrome, high key and low key, simple and minimalistic compositions. My aim is to see and express harmony and beauty in nature through my photography.

For me, photography is the art of perception. It is the art of expressing my personal relationship with what I see. Photography is a wonderful method of connecting with the outer world in a very intimate and intense way. My world has changed dramatically since I became a photographer. I now see light and shadow, hidden beauty in patterns, shapes and colors, and tiny details, I would never have previously noticed.

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‘We Have To Get Out Now’: Kyle Hammons Photo Safari Becomes Escape From The Congo

There was no time to ask questions; we took off at a sprint to our bungalow overlooking Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We packed our bags as quickly as possible and loaded into a large transport vehicle to begin our evacuation from the park.  Led by a truck loaded with six armed rangers, our convoy raced away from park headquarters down the bumpy dirt roads past villagers who just stared at the foreigners fleeing the scene.  Along the way, the park’s tourism director, Cai Willink, calmly explained that a rebel army of 1,500 men under the command of Bosco Ntaganda (known as “The Terminator) had entered the park during the night and crossed a detachment of Congolese soldiers, sparking a violent confrontation and forcing our immediate evacuation. 

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Globetrotting with International Travel Photographer Christian Heeb

You could easily say that Christian Heeb has ‘been there – shot that’.  This Swiss born photographer, living in the US for the last 20 years, has photographed in over 70 countries and has over 140 books credited to his name. His photography has also appeared in hundreds of publications across the globe including Outside, GEO, Conde Nast Traveller, Grands Reportages, and Rolling Stone.

Despite difficult times for professional photographers in business and the challenges with international travel, Christian and his wife and partner Regula, continue to hopscotch across the globe photographing new books, publishing a series of calendars, teaching international workshops, selling lots of stock, and simply thriving in this business.

Curious how he photographs and runs a successful business, Christian agreed to tell us how he does it.

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Why You are Better Off Being a Local Hero Than an International Nobody

The world of photography has gone through many changes over the past 15 years, and if you have been a photographer for long, you have witnessed many of those changes. The process of capturing an image has changed. The delivery of photography to markets has changed. The markets that license images have changed.

What has not changed for many outdoor photographers is the passion to explore new territory, find new subjects and satisfy an inner desire to travel and create. This urge drives many of us; I know it drives me. I need to explore and discover with my camera. It’s that photographic wanderlust that takes us to locations far from home to seek unfamiliar terrain and exotic species. New scenery is exciting, stimulating and inspiring, and that’s the underlying reason many photographers travel far and wide to photograph.

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