It’s the light that makes the photograph.

A breathtaking view at the wrong time of day.

I am not a landscape photographer and that’s not surprising since I live in one of the largest cities in the world. Landscape photography takes time, patience and a love of solitude. So a family trip is not the best time to ‘grab a mountain shot’ even if you are visiting one of the most impressive peaks in the world, Yu Long Mountain, Li Jiang, China.

An OK snapshot of Yu Long. At the right time of day it would have been a much better photograph. 

An OK snapshot of Yu Long. At the right time of day it would have been a much better photograph. 

I had high hopes driving up the long road in the dark of pre dawn. But it quickly became obvious that our guide knew nothing about photographer’s needs and dropped us off to wait at the unopened cable car station with no proper view of the mountain. I should have been anywhere else to capture the orange glow of the rising sun reflect off the peaks for a few brief moments. Anywhere else but the resort car park!

If your three year old is having fun then you are having fun. We spent some time walking the labyrinth of lanes in the Old Town of Lijiang.

If your three year old is having fun then you are having fun. We spent some time walking the labyrinth of lanes in the Old Town of Lijiang.

It was a very frustrating experience. But I’m not sure why I thought that without planning I could achieve anything. I was in the wrong place at the right time. But this was a vacation after all and not a photography excursion. So I put my ill feelings towards our otherwise cheery guide aside and got on with the family holiday.


An ordinary place in the glow of a setting sun.

The magic of watching a little girl play with her own shadow in long evening light.

The magic of watching a little girl play with her own shadow in long evening light.

This shot is exposed correctly for her face. But it doesn’t capture any of the atmosphere of the above photo.

This shot is exposed correctly for her face. But it doesn’t capture any of the atmosphere of the above photo.

We had lots of fun on the mountain. I took a few snaps and used my phone to capture some ad hoc video of three people most definitely not acting like civilised adults. I blame it on the thin air.


When we got back to the old town it was a little underwhelming after having an adventure at 4km above sea level with forrest trials, wild animals and cable cars. Wandering around the cobbled stoned streets I turned my attention back to my family and do what I do best, taking picture of people. This was far more fun for me and much more successful.


Don’t get me wrong, the old town is beautiful, but we were tired and not doing much else than wandering around the streets looking for a restaurant. But the sun was at a low angle casting long shadows and warm highlights. You could shoot almost anything in that light and get a beautiful result.


A simple portrait of Pandora. It’s all about the how light falls on her face and reflects in her eyes. 

A simple portrait of Pandora. It’s all about the how light falls on her face and reflects in her eyes. 

Getting good photos is not just about having wiling models and beautiful backgrounds or even having the time but about shooting when the light is right. Nothing looks fantastic in bad lighting but even the most mundane can look beautiful in good light.

It’s thirsty work walking the streets in the sun.  I always have my camera out of the bag and turned on.

It’s thirsty work walking the streets in the sun.  I always have my camera out of the bag and turned on.

A wall and a grate! You can never tell what is going to occupy the mind of a three year old. So just take advantage of the breaks when they stop to entertain themselves. 

A wall and a grate! You can never tell what is going to occupy the mind of a three year old. So just take advantage of the breaks when they stop to entertain themselves.