With clear water framed by conical limestone peaks, green groves, and rice paddies, the Li River of Guilin presents the true beauty of oriental landscapes. For photography lovers, it's a paradise. In this article, I would like to give some detailed information about the locations, seasons, and tips in relation to taking photos of the Li River. And I hope it will help you get stunning shots on your trip to Guilin.
1. Best photography locations
(1) Photographing along the Li River
Taking pictures along the Li River is quite convenient and thus is the most popular way for shutterbugs. In the following, I list 5 well-known locations between Yangdi and Xingping, the most photogenic part of Li River. These locations can be accessed by taking a Li River cruise or bamboo rafting.
For casual travelers, taking pictures on a Li River cruise will work although you lose the advantage of making stops as you wish. If you are more serious about photography and want to bring back stellar images of the Li River, bamboo rafting is a good choice as you can stop anywhere possible to take photos.
Yangdi is the first famous attraction along the Li River. Here the elegant mountains, winding water, dense green bamboos, and dotted villages form a beautiful landscape painting. The whole area is very photogenic. Those who you'd like to take a panoramic view of Yangdi scenery can climb to a nearby hill where there is a TV tower.
Langshi Village/Wave Stone Village
Here a group of stones is mixed with reflections of hills on the Li River water and look like undulating waves from afar. People call them "Wave Stones" and the village on the bank "Wave Stone Village". The scenery here is distinctive. The Li River is lined with an array of oddly-shaped peaks, such as the Baitu (White Rabbit) Hill, and Bijia Hill (Pen Holder) Hill. Good photos can be taken from any angle.
Xialong is an excellent location along the Li River. From there, you could see various limestone peaks rising one after another. On rainy days the mountain peaks are surrounded by mist. On sunny days the blue sky and white clouds are clear in the river. The former American president Nixon once came here and compared a hill on the right bank to a pyramid. The best shooting spot is on the shoal. Most people take sunrise shots from there.
Reflection of Yellow Cloth / The View on RMB 20 Yuan Banknote
The Reflection of Yellow Cloth is the most famous attraction along the Li River because the scenery here is printed on the Chinese RMB 20 yuan bill. And it's easy to see why.
Here the river becomes wider and flows gently. The smooth water exquisitely mirrors a yellow cliff, which looks like a yellow cloth reflected on the riverbed, hence the name. It is a perfect location to take photos of reflections especially in the morning on a calm day, as the mountain reflection will be clear during a good sunrise time. Photographs taken later will not have a clear view of reflections as the sunlight will be directly from above and many tourist ships will come.
The secret to taking good shots here is to use backlighting and shoot from a low angle.
Nine Horses Fresco Hill
The Nine Horses Fresco Hill is also a famous and distinctive attraction along the Li River. It is located 4 kilometers northwest of Xingping Town. The hill itself looks like a Chinese ink painting made by nature. Various hues on the cliff suggest nine horses in different shapes and sizes. But these horses are hard to distinguish - one needs to use imagination. Legend has it that the more horses a person can see, the smarter he/she must be. The above image was taken when the fog was floating around the hill and surrounding peaks.
Fishing Lights on the Li River
The classic shot of the Li River is the one called "fishing lights on the Li River". In the past, local fishermen paddled their bamboo rafts and went fishing on the Li River as night falls. A magical scene appears when the river is dotted with fishing lights. It's a scene that shows an intimate relationship between humans and nature.
Nowadays there are fewer fishermen on the Li River, so if you wish to take such photos of fishermen dressed in straw rain capes you need to arrange for it in advance. We can organize cormorant fishermen on bamboo rafts to be staged in your shot.
The best place to take shots of the fishing lights is at Xingping or on the Yangshuo Bridge. Arrive there in the early morning or evening.
Cormorant fisherman on the Li River
(2) Take shots from mountains
Taking Li River photos from the mountains will give you an interesting bird's eye view of the whole Li River and surrounding scenery. And that often means rising up early and climbing to the mountaintop but it's definitely worthwhile. For foreigners, hiring a local tour guide will make it easy.
Here are two mountains along the Li River that are popular among local photographers.
Xianggong Hill is the best mountain to get a wide perspective view of the most beautiful part of the Li River. From the mountain top, you will see the first big bend of Li River cradled in the arms of hills. Most people also take sunrise and cloud pictures here. Check out the weather forecast and sunrise/sunset time on the internet if you want to catch the view.
Xianggong Hill is located on the west shore of the Li River, between Reflection of Yellow Cloth and Nine Horses Fresco Hill. There is a well-maintained road leading to the top. The following image was taken there.
Another excellent hill to take pictures of Li River and surrounding scenery. Located on the Li river side of Xingping Town, Laozhai Hill is the best place to take pictures of the whole Xingping Town, as well as an ideal place to take sunset pictures.
2. Best season and time to take Li River photographs
Best seasons: from April to October
In general, the period from April to October is preferable for capturing great images of the Li River because during these months, the water level in Li River is relatively high, and there is less foggy weather. November to February is the low-water season. In March, mists and drizzles are often floating over the river and surrounding mountains which is truly an amazing scene, though you may not be able to capture through the lens what you feel in person.
Best time of the day: early morning or late afternoon
The Li River is a busy river - there are many cruise ships and boats on the Li River. So, if you want photos of quiet scenery with fantastic reflections in the water, the best time is early morning or late afternoon. At these times, you can take sunrise/sunset photos of the Li River. Dramatic sunrise or sunset usually occurs on the third/fourth sunny day after rain.
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