Published on: 18th Nov 2015
Hongcun is one of the most well knownvillages in the Yixian county in the Anhui province of China. Its fame comes mainly from the fact that certain scenes of the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed here - including the opening scene where a lonely horsemen (Master Li) enter the village over the bridge. This bridge is then also the most visited and photographed bridge of all the villages in China. I remember, on my first visit, I could not believe the number of people who pose on top of the bridge for a selfie or a photograph taken by a friend. That day, after several attempts, I realised that the only way to get a decent photo of this famous bridge will be to use a long exposure to blur the people enough to become a non-issue.
On my second visit, I concentrated on photographing the people. But to keep things interesting I used all sorts of techniques, such as following two monks for about 20 minutes until I could photograph them in a "clean scene". I also used my fish eye lens to distort some scenes into something surreal.
This time, I had a plan: I took my tripod with me and decided to photograph all the photos with a neutral density filter in order to get exposure times that will blur the movement. In my mind I planned for really long exposures, such as 1 to 10 minute exposures, but I found that this actually looked very boring; At a 3 minute exposure, you will see no people or movement - only empty streets! I then changed to a 3 stop ND filter and this brought down the exposure times to between 2 and 12 seconds. The results are photographs that show blurred movement without any visually recognisable people (accept for the 27 second exposure at the MoonPond  where all the inanimate people really enjoyed the perfect sunset!).
I ended the session with a 6 minute exposure using two stacked ND filters (a 10 stop plus a 4 stop). The movement in the clouds were perfect (with regards their speed of movement and their direction), but unfortunately the stacking of two filters created quite a prominent vignette. I think I prefer the 27 second exposure. In any case, the two "landscape" photos was just an afterthought, my goal was to photograph the movement of the people, and I think I succeeded in that goal.
For me this was one of my most creative and enjoyable photography afternoons of this visit to China.
(If you have read up to here and did not click on a photo yet, do so to see them in larger format and also to browse through the rest of this gallery)