Hiking Huangshan

Last weekend, my friends and I hiked the yellow mountains, as part of a long weekend travelling Hangzhou and the surrounding area. Mount Huangshan, a major tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site, did not disappoint.

Despite hour long queues for the cable car, the logistical impossibility of getting to the top for sunrise and being charged £1.50 for snickers, it was one of the most incredible days. We were so lucky with the warm weather and blue skies and the mountain range was absolutely dazzling.

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Photographing somewhere so beautiful was frustrating, since photos can never truly do the scenery justice. We also had limited time for our 15k hike up and down the range, because our bus back to Hangzhou left late that afternoon.

So, I pretty much had to put the camera in landscape mode, point and shoot. This setting proved useful as the camera automatically focussed on as much of the scene as possible by using a large depth of field.

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I had expected that visiting the mountains in late October would result in them looking somewhat barren and wintry, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The autumnal hues and sun dappled trees looked simply stunning, even in the harsh midday light.

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When the sun’s position in the sky meant that the mountains were at risk of looking a little washed out, I used the camera’s ‘creative auto’ setting on ‘vivid’ to give the colours a boost.

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The hike was tough, particularly as the uphill stretches consisted of staircases that left you sensing no end in sight.

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But, the views from the top made the pain so worthwhile. The scene below was so staggering I couldn’t stop repeating ‘pyaolia’ (one of the only mandarin words I know, meaning ‘beautiful’) to everyone around me.

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I tried to loosely stick to the rule of thirds, so placed the horizon in either the bottom or top third of the image, not the middle.

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The mountains range is enormous  – there are 154 sq km of scenic attractions, with 77 peaks exceeding an altitude of 1,000m. Trying to show this in a photo, however, is a different matter to relaying the stats.

I tried to overcome this by focussing on plants in the foreground. This somewhat conveyed the scale of the mountains, but to truly feel the vastness, nothing beats being there, breathing in the fresh mountain air and gazing at the breathtaking natural beauty.

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