I was backpacking through China and had always wanted to see the amazing mountain karsts around the Li River. On the way into town, I spotted many fishermen dotting the river. After a day or two of hiking the region and getting the lay of the land, I found a fisherman on the river bank who was headed out for a night fishing session, and though there was a bit of a language barrier, through sign language and a flash of cash he agreed to take me with him and let me photograph him at work for a few hours. He had a pair of cormorant birds with him, which were his fishing partners. With a loose noose around their neck, they would swim in the river and catch a fish, which they couldn’t swallow due to the string. He’d then pull the fish from the birds’ mouth.
We got started just after sundown as fog and smoke filtered through the mountain karsts and filled the river valley with a wonderful haze. After wandering down the river with him, shooting from what limited angles I could achieve on the narrow bamboo raft, I spotted a small island and signed for him to let me off. I set up a speed light off-camera, which I was using as fill for close-ups as the blue-hour sky made it impossible to properly expose figures in the foreground. I motioned for him to head back up the river a bit so I could get some long shots and show the surrounding landscape, as well. I played around with the strobe here, but after experimenting with that I settled on letting him fall into darkness. I love his silhouette and his birds against the dreamy mountainous backdrop and the glow of his lantern light subtly illuminating him and its warmth bouncing off the blue waters.
I currently am part of the Month of Photography Los Angeles (MOPLA) 2014 exhibition ‘Photography of the Spectacular’ at the bG Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, California. – Garret Suhrie
This image is available as a print by contacting Suhrie. To see more of his work, visit his website at www.GarretSuhrie.com or his blog at www.InTheLoupe.com. Follow him on Facebook.
Equipment and settings: Nikon D800, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoom lens, Gitzo tripod – 70mm – 1/15th @ f/11 – ISO 125