Behind the Picture: Find Out Why This Photo Looks Like a Drawing
Discover the story behind this 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year entry.
Photographers from around the world are participating in the 2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year contest. Each week we’ll feature one contest photo entry and share how the photographer captured an amazing travel moment.
This week Tugo Cheng tells us how he photographed this photo that looks like a drawing and gives us insight into his passion for photography.
Nat Geo Travel: Tell us about the photo you entered into the contest and how you made it. How did you come upon this scene?
Tugo Cheng: This area is known for its special landscapes of aquaculture and fishing villages. The locals erected the bamboo rods in the sea for multiple purposes in seafood farming, from drying seaweed to growing oysters and other shellfish. The rods are arranged in different patterns, which give an ideal setting for shooting. A fisherman happened to work between the bamboo rods, sorting out the harvest, and I took the photo from a mountaintop using a telephoto lens. I was trying to capture the human activities in this unique context.
N.G.T.: The composition and scene pictured look almost like a drawing. What did the scene look like when you arrived?
T.C.: The first day of shooting was a sunny day with a colorful sunset—beautiful sunlight and reflections, which are the signature scenes of coastal Fujian. The second day, however, was a cloudy day with rain showers. The [photo] outcomes turned out to be unexpectedly interesting when the elements appeared flattened without shadows and the image was distilled to purely lines and shapes, like a black-and-white drawing.
N.G.T.: How did you feel when you made this picture? Did you know immediately that you had captured the picture you wanted?
T.C.: Life is like a box of chocolates, and so is photography. The outcome of this photo was rather unexpected due to the weather and lighting. I was anticipating something else before the trip. I was intrigued by the unexpected simplicity and the graphic quality of the image. The fisherman in the picture just adds a human scale to the context and brings the photo alive. It is an artistic and poetic approach to landscape photography, which is always my favorite.
N.G.T.: You've shared more photography in the Nat Geo Your Shot community. The photo you entered has similarities to your wider portfolio of images. Are you drawn to scenes that are composed by graphic elements?
T.C.: I love to capture order and patterns in the environment, whether the patterns are totally natural or the result of human intervention. I appreciate what causes these patterns to form. For example, the landscapes of seafood aquaculture, tea farms, and rice terraces are all unintended natural wonders created by people in different regions in China who reshaped our nature for food, whereas the beautiful traces on a frozen river’s surface celebrate the interactions between human and nature. These are all fascinating landscapes with local characters.
N.G.T.: What locations do you typically photograph?
- Nat Geo Expeditions
T.C.: I have been focusing on rural China the past decade and experimenting with different kinds of equipment, including a full-frame camera and drone.
N.G.T.: What is the most surprising moment you've ever photographed?
T.C.: I witnessed a special funeral tradition in the Tibetan area in China known as the sky burial, in which the bodies of the deceased are left [to be] eaten by vultures. Tibetan Buddhists believe the vultures are dakinis (angels) who will bring the souls of the deceased to heaven for reincarnation. The process was not the most pleasant one, but the moment after the ceremony was a big contrast when the vultures flew away peacefully to the mountains and vanished into thin air. That was a surprising moment when I started to understand the spirit behind the rituals.