China. A vast and diverse country with a rich history and a cornucopia of photographic opportunities. What comes to mind when you think of this mysterious and beautiful nation?
Maybe it’s the Great Wall, zig-zagging across the landscape like a dragon through deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus. Or perhaps the expansive Forbidden City, occupied by emperors for centuries, lodged in the middle of the capital with its palaces, temples, rivers, parks, and lakes.
Possibly the 6000 strong Terracotta Army guarding Emperor Qin’s tomb, each with their own distinct facial features. Or maybe Beijing’s bustling streets, awash with activity in every direction.
While all those are wonderful choices, aren’t they a bit…done? Wouldn’t you like to get off the beaten path and experience something a little different?
What if there was another, less traveled expanse of China, with a completely different set of photographic and cultural richness? A unique place set apart from the similarities of the large cities, a road less traveled.
As it happens, there is such a place. Yunnan photography provides a unique opportunity unlike any other in China.
The province has been known as “heaven south of the clouds,” and you should definitely grab your camera and explore this Yunnan photography paradise!
Yunnan: A Photographer’s Heaven
Yunnan translates to “south of the clouds,” and you’ll find it in central south China.
It borders Sichuan Province to the north, Laos to the south, Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the east, Myanmar to the west, Vietnam to the southeast, and Tibet to the northwest.
Yunnan is the most diverse province of them all. Not only in its incredible mix of peoples but also in the splendour of its many varied vistas.
Yunnan photography supplies a peek at China’s sweeping diversity, with over half of its minority ethnic groups living there. Yunnan photography also offers an impressive array of contrasting landscapes.
Marvels abound, ranging from the life-affirming reflections of the sun over the rice terraces of YuanYang, to the iconic Stone Forest of Shilin County rising into the sky. Or the brilliant colors in the countryside of the Dongchuan Red Lands.
The combination of remarkable topography and wide assortment of ethnic groups has turned Yunnan into one of the hottest destinations for China’s burgeoning domestic tourist industry.
It also makes it one of the best regions for photography, of both the scenery and the culture.
Some might say it’s “Yunnan Photography Heaven.”
Zoom In On Yunnan Photography
You’ve seen this type of headline on social media…
10 Stunning Photographs of Places You’ve Never Heard Of!
Yunnan photography will undoubtedly produce something worthy of that flowery title. Let’s take a look at a few of the amazing areas in Yunnan, that will take your breath away. Your camera lens will thank you.
Dongchuan Red Land
Sticking with the heaven theme, the Dongchuan Red Land would be the result if God was a painter and spilled his palette on earth.
Ruby red soil, lavish green wheat fields, golden canola glowing so vividly they will hurt your eyes, there is nothing subtle to the colors you’ll find in this area.
The land is a patchwork of magnificent colors. A living, countryside sized technicolor Dreamcoat.
Capture the kaleidoscopic landscapes from a distance, or get in close for an intimate look. Whatever you point your camera at, it will not disappoint you.
Depending on the time of year you visit, different combinations of these elements will be in bloom. So, check your timeline and see what’s in season before you go!
The Stone Forests of Kunming
Covering an area of 400 square kilometers, the stone forests of Kunming were known since the Ming Dynasty as the ‘First Wonder of the World.’
The intricate formations will entrance and fascinate you, walking among the labyrinthine vistas of these stone masterworks.
Your eyes may even seem to play tricks on you, as these natural formations transform into shapes of all kinds. You’ll see columns, cones, pagodas, and mushrooms as well as plants, animals and even human figures.
Some are rough and abstract, some are elegant. Each with a lifelike uniqueness and its own distinguishing characteristics, providing many hours of happy snapping!
Rice Terraces of YuanYang
Sometimes the struggle for survival can produce some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.
When the ancestors of the local Hani people came to the steep hills of YuanYang 2500 years ago, they had to find a way to live on the land.
The Hani people’s ingenuity created terraced fields to grow rice, turning the land into a sea of artistic beauty. The Ming Dynasty emperor, in recognition of this work, dubbed the Hani people ‘Skillful Sculptors.’
Known as “land sculpture”, UNESCO has acknowledged these marvels of human design as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site.
Rising from valleys up into the mists of the mountains, when filled with water, these terraces become “mirrors of heaven,” reflecting the beautiful sunrises and sunsets in a breathtaking ethereal display.
Not surprisingly, these have become on of the most popular attraction for photographers from around the world visiting China.
Aside from these remarkable stairways to heaven, don’t forget to visit any of the numerous villages dotting this countryside. The Hani and Yi minorities are as colorful as the land, and you can often find them wearing traditional ethnic clothing offering another gem to your Yunnan photography.
The daily markets are a perfect place to snap some stunning street photos, and truly get a sense of the cultural heritage of the region.
Yunnan Photography: A Unique Adventure
It is difficult to cover all that Yunnan photography has to offer. And this is just a tiny sample of what you can explore.
Do your own research, plan carefully, and you are sure to get some extraordinary photos in your Yunnan photography portfolio you will be proud to call your own.