The Li River

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Daily Photo – The Morning Fisherman

Now, getting to this place was not easy!

I arrived about 1 AM at a tiny family-run inn by the river. I was meeting a local guide (see Jack’s website) at 5 AM, so I didn’t get a lot of what I would call “quality sleep”. Anyway, I got up very early and went downstairs in pitch black. There seemed to be a big white cloth box I had to go around to find the front door. My guide was outside. The door was locked and we could not figure out how to get it open. Everyone at the little inn was sound asleep and I was totally confused. Then, from inside the big white box, a body flew out of it! There was a 60-year-old Chinese guy inside that was sleeping until I woke him up with all my lock-manipulations. His naked limbs in the white sheets scared the bejeezus out of me and woke me right up!

And then we were on the river about 5:15. It was still completely dark outside. And I mean COMPLETELY DARK. It was a thin bamboo raft with an outboard motor.

I turned around to ask my guide, “How the heck does the boat driver know where he is going?!?”

He calmly said, “Oh, no worry. The river is very wide.”

I not-calmly said, “Well, that’s great and everything, but I can’t even see the edge to the river!”

He calmly said, “But it is so wide.”

This line of questioning was not getting me anywhere, so I just decided to sit back and enjoy my possible last moments on Earth. Then the sun started to rise, and we moved the boat over to the best bank for the angle.

Want to hear something amazing about these fishermen? You won’t believe it… but maybe others can confirm this! The fishermen use these two trained cormorant birds that have their throats tied. The birds dive into the water, eat a fish, but then can’t swallow it because of the rope. The fisherman rudely pulls the fish from the bird’s throat and drops it into that basket behind him. The bird then goes over to a tiny keyboard and sends out the tweet, “WTF”.

The Morning Fisherman

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/2.8
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length20mm (20mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

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  • KC

    Trey, you must be around Quilin, famous for its Li River and the limestone hills. Yes its true that these birds are used for fishing but nowadays its mainly a tourist attraction.

  • casusan

    Awesome shot Trey – has to be one of my all time favs – so calm and peaceful looking -and the colors are fantastic – funny story too – especially about the chinese man in the box! Lol :)!

  • John

    Great Photo.

    There is an episode of the Amazing Race from a couple of seasons ago that shows the use of the fishing birds. It really is interesting to see.

  • http://www.kelleybard.com Kelley Bard

    beautiful shot Trey. really great colors. What an amazing spot, truly one of the great places to shoot in the world.

  • John

    You are truly privileged to not only have the opportunity to visit these amazing places, have these incredible experiences and retell such wonderful stories, but be blessed with an eye that can capture what you see for the rest of us.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewsphotography Matthew

    I like the comp on this but just not digging the overall color of this. Doesn’t look natural and doesn’t look good. Hey, you need some constuctive criticism too right? Keep up the great work.

  • Sue

    In china, we call this bird “??”.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrandybird/4957750638/ Andy Bird

    I’ve seen that fishing technique before – it’s very clever allbeit a bit unfair on the bird.

    This is an amazing photo – i’m inspired to go and watch an Indiana Jones movie now as this image has ‘adventure’ written all over it. Great work :)

    Did you ever find out why that old Chinese man was sleeping in the box right next to the exit of the inn?

  • http://momoc.sumasu.com Daily Malaysia HDR Photo

    you always find the best spot and best moment for your HDR photo…damn nice

  • http://www.deliriousjellybean.blogspot.com yileen

    Amazing shot! The glow from the lamp adds a warm yet eerie feeling to the photo :)

  • http://www.josephspiteri.com Joseph

    A really great capture. I had to comment just to say “Awesome!”. The mood is nice and the scene of the whole thing is just beautiful. Also, great story about the Chinese man :D

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com Stuck In Customs

    Thanks all :)

    Sue – We are working to get that language thing fixed right now… !!!

    Andy – Well, I think that is just where he sleeps. Nude.

    And thanks everyone else!

  • http://www.tlinn.com t.linn

    I about spit Coke all over my computer screen when I got to the last paragraph, Trey. LOL. Great shot too!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chapperingo/ Matt

    Wow really nice shot, love the natural feel to it and the superb orange light.

  • http://www.thecreativegap.com Cliff Baise

    Wow, a totally amazing photo. So timeless and unique. A favorite for sure!

  • Ryan

    One of your best Trey!

  • http://www.mdsimages.com Michael S. / MDSimages

    Tiny keyboard….LOL, …..Dude, your a trip! Sounds like your enjoying China (well, in an extended way that is). I got a really small taste of it when I went to Shanghai…enough to want alot more! Stay safe and keep those great stories and images coming!

  • CindyY in SA

    Wow, that is one beautiful photo. I wish I was there taking a pic along side of you, but I want nothing to do with a nude Chinese fellow sleeping in a white box!! Thanks for my Saturday morning laugh!

  • CindyY in SA

    OK, bad English……”I wish I were there….” but either way I would really like to be there!!

  • Gail in Montana

    Cute Saturday morning story, Trey. Made us all smile. I feel sorry to the cormorants, too. Not fair to go to all that work catching a fish and not being able to eat it. I’d like to see the bird typing on the keyboard, lol. Great photo, nice textures, have a great day and thanks for sharing!! :-)

  • http://sillymonkeyphoto.com/ Dmitrii

    Excellent shot, one of my favorites.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/servalpepbase Servalpe

    Wow. The mood of this picture is awesome. I love the perspective and the composition. The warm tones converts this image in almost a duotone with a great sensation of peace and calm. Congratulations Trey

  • JJ cale

    Go grab a 20 Chinese Yuan bill, turn it around and try to find that spot somewhere alone Li river :D Ask your guide for help if you need some.

  • http://wfrostphoto.wordpress.com Wayne Frost

    The image is very evocative of another time and place. Great story behind it all, too.

  • Lee Brown

    Absolutely true about the bird fishing. The fishermen are a dying breed because others are resorting to nets. This reduces the number of fish in the river and the birds move on, leaving the traditional fishermen without a way to provide for themselves. The technique is passed down from one generation to another and there are fewer and fewer maintaining the tradition. There is a symbiotic relationship between the fisherman and the birds and I am confident from what I have learned that they are well cared for despite the fishing method.

  • Josh B

    So… we take it you’re still… “stuck in customs?”

  • Dad’s Dad

    Hey Boom-One of your best-Love, Dad

  • Patrick

    Wonderful shot!

    I LOL’ed about the bird tweeting… :P

  • https://twitter.com/iWantnext iWantnext

    This is definitely one of your best photos of all time! It was hard to believe that what I just saw is indeed a photo and not a screenshot from a movie scene that was professionally lit and edited like 100 hours in the studio.

    I will call anybody saying you’re not one of the world’s top 10 photographers a total fool!

  • Linda Castellani

    Breathtaking, Trey.

  • http://www.wayte27.wordpress.com Adrian Wayte

    Hey Trey,certainly a true custom dying out. Lee Brown covered it well. Awesome images from china. Do you think you could post your china itinerary of where and how your team got you to these remarkable and seemingly isolated destinations.
    cheers Adrian

  • marc in calgary

    that’s hilarious…

  • http://www.stuckincustoms.com Stuck In Customs

    Thank you so much ! hehe.. glad everyone likes this one as much as me. I have a lot more from the Li River too I will sprinkle in over time.

  • Shaun

    Suddenly being ‘stuck in china’ doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. I’ve always wanted to see guilin. Nice to see you turn stuck into fortuitous :)

  • http://www.maracsko.hu/blog/ Sandor

    Trey, You really got this shot there! I saw the fishing at night in Guilin, I was cruising on the Li River during the day in mythical mist separately. But to see the two in one shot in such a glorious light! Congarts!

  • msJLoh

    I’ve been here, but this perspective is incomparable to mine. Awesome shot.

  • http://griffinstewart.com/main Griffin Stewart

    Great shot Trey! I missed getting a good shot of these fishermen. Glad you enjoyed Jack and his excellent guide service. He met and exceeded our expectations and I’m glad you had the same experience. Looking foreword to seeing more shots from this area. Talk to you soon.

  • http://lightningpaul.shutterchance.com LightningPaul

    SUPER! Beautiful shot, beautiful color.

  • http://from2withlove.blogspot.com/ Beta

    The atmosphere is awesome!

  • http://www.kelleybard.com Kelley Bard

    Trey, I love the shot but when I used it as a desktop pic (large, big Imac) I noticed the sharpening done- it left some marks around everything you sharpened. Not a huge issue but also not something I usually see in your work. Anyone out there have a good way to see/know stuff like that before publishing your photo (I’ve resorted to blowing all my pics up in photoshop and checking details before finishing- I had way, way too many pics that looked good in photoshop or lightroom but had problems in a larger size or printed). lol, it’s probably in your workflow book- the only one I haven’t bought so far.

  • http://365hustle.com Meji

    Saw this bird on the HSBC commercial and wondered how its done.

  • http://www.michelleyam.com my.

    Cool shot and great story to go along with it. Your tweety bird comment gave me a much needed laugh.

    I’ve been to Guilin before and here’s a suggestion for those who happen to read this comment. Avoid the cruise boats that take you on the river in the early morning. We weren’t planning on going, but changed our mind after all the cruises had left a few hours before. We managed to find a local guy to take us on a small speedboat (if you could even call it speedy, which is fine for enjoying the peace and calm of the scenery). Anyway, we were literally the only boat on the river until finally, we met up with the cruise boats that were on their way back as we were going the opposite direction. We felt lucky that we got to enjoy most of the ride without the 30 something cruise boats congesting the scenery.

  • http://cargocollective.com/yapp YAPP

    That’s a bad ass picture right there my friend.

  • http://JefferyChavez Jeffery

    Tweet “WTF”, Too funny.

  • Liz

    I can’t believe that’s not a watercolour. Or butter. Super striking shot.

  • http://twitter.com/namibes Namibes Sebiman

    Very nice shot. I was there last week. The picture was made in the little village Xingping. There is a tiny island on the Li River just in front the village  where they bring you to take this picture.Although you have to pay the fishermen to take this picture it is quite a nice spot and easy to reach. Are you sure it was made in the morning?  Looks like the common sunset pic to me

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