Most people who visit the Huangshan Mountains do a day trip from the city of Huangshan by taking the cable car up one side, walking around at the top, and then taking a different cable car back down so they only have to walk one way. There are 60,000 steps after all! You don’t have to do all the steps, but there are still more steps than you’ve probably ever seen before.
I stayed at a hotel on the top of the mountain for a couple of days so I would have opportunities for sunrise and sunset shots, and I was rewarded!
In the morning, I made my way to my sunrise spot in the dark with my headlamp illuminating the way. Not only was it dark, but it was quiet. A stark contrast from the day before when thousands of Chinese tourists made a thunderous roar intermingled with the tour guides screeching on their microphones. But at 5am, there were only a dozen or so people nearby.
We all looked down on the sea of clouds as they floated in and out. There was a hush as the clouds obscured the mountains and a soft “aaaahhhh” as the the mountains were revealed.
And when the sun rose above the clouds, there was a louder “oooohhhh” followed by a bit of laughter as we looked at each other realizing that no lanuage was required to communicate our collective awe.
The fog became thick after the sun rose and I was delighted to see before my eyes the composition I was hoping for. I adore the layers of mountains and trees with the fog in between. This, to me, captures the mysterious nature of Huangshan that I had always appreciated in Chinese paintings. It’s one of my favourite photos from the trip.
Once I got that shot, I felt a peaceful calm envelop me. I got it!
There’s something unique in the experience of seeing a blanket of cloud, but knowing a remarkable composition is waiting to be revealed. It reminded me of the old film days when I would make prints, putting the paper in the tray, and wait for the image to magically appear. So I waited for the clouds to part revealing the shapes of mountains and trees behind them.
For most of that day, after sunrise, the clouds completely hid everything from view. I was so glad I went up the day before! At sunset, while the fog was still thick, I managed to get one final shot.
On my last morning on the Huangshan Mountains, there was not a cloud to be seen and the mountains were not the same. Still beautiful yes, but the mystery was gone.