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Photographer's Note

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This is Laohuzui (Tiger's Mouth) terraced fields area in Yuanyang during my practice on digital. The following title and its entire essay are copyright of Maciej Tomczak.


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The Art of Rice •••


(Cont'd)

Equally alarming are the reports on China contemplating mass-scale introduction of commercialized varieties of genetically modified (GM) rice as early as in 2005. Even if the globally controversial consumption-safety and economic issues of GM rice are ignored, such decision may disfranchise Hani farmers (all GM rice is hybrid, so Hani will have to buy new GM seeds every year) and will threaten the present mind-boggling biodiversity of rice in China — estimated at some 75,000 of distinct rice species, many of them grown in Yunnan.

Recording these spectacular vistas is not difficult. The best light for photography is, not surprisingly, at dawn and at sunset. But the best locations for either of the two vary: asking the locals and scouting locations during the day will help. If the water reflections are what you are after, find the valleys looking towards the sun. If you feel that the low sun will ignite the far slopes with a worthwhile illumination, go to the other side. Both are easy to find, but since distances are considerable, time-coordinated planning makes sense if you hike or hitchhike. It is worth remembering that the valleys are quite deep and are often curtailed by dark shadows when the sun is low. The morning fog coverage changes quickly. It moves in and out the valleys, rendering them from visually amazing to photographically mediocre by the minute.

There are two typical exposure situations that I encountered, which may prove challenging. The first is a contrasty scene with highlights made up by specular reflections of strong sun or bright sky off the water surfaces and deep shadows elsewhere. My technique is to spot-meter the brightest area, and compensate the reading by +2 to +2.5 stops. Since most slide films and digital sensors have a dynamic range of some 5 stops, such exposure will make the very bright areas look indeed very bright when recorded, but without the dreaded ‘burning’ of the highlights. For this technique to work, the rest of the scene details must fall within the 5 stops from the highlights brightness; anything lower than that will record as pure, featureless black.


(To be cont'd)




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