Yiming Hu : Unveiling the Grandeur of Nature
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by Editor Marius Cinteză
Dr. Yiming Hu is an acclaimed landscape photographer, a best-selling landscape photography textbook author, and an educator. He is one of the best-known photographers in China. His photos, articles, and interviews have been frequently featured on covers and insides of countless magazines, books, posters, and other. His work has been collected by organizations and many private collectors in US, Canada, Europe,and Asia. His images have been licensed by clients include Apple Inc. and other companies, publishers, or non-profit organizations. His website, www.majestic-nature.com, attracts millions of visitors from around the world.
He is always drawn into capturing the magic landscapes inspired by the pure love of nature and the call of the wilderness, mostly using digital medium format photography. For him, landscape photography is more than just an objective recording of the scenery itself: it is a creative process where he does not just capture what he sees, but he shares with viewers how he sees the world!
I invite you to discover more about Yiming and his remarkable landscape works in the interview below!
Almost all modern masters go to another extreme: they use 35mm DSLR or mirror-less systems. The compactness and flexibility of such cameras have completely revolutionized the creating process and allow us to create images which were not possible to capture before. However, the image quality of such cameras is a compromise – good enough for online display or small to medium sized prints (such as 20x30 inch), but never adequate to produce truly large, exhibition-quality images.
Recently, for the first time in history, medium-format digital backs and technical cameras start to offer image quality as good as large format films while avoiding most of the limitations. Such systems are mostly used by fashion or commercial photographers and some amateur landscape photographers. I am among the very first and few to use such systems to create modern landscape photography professionally. They are much heavier, much more complicated, and more difficult to use compared to 35mm systems, but the results are well worth the efforts.
I am trying to make my image styles contemporary. Many of them were taken at unique angles, often in remote wilderness. The compositions are highly dynamic and flexible, similar to those taken with a small DSLR. At the same time, my work is faithful to nature and preserves all the incredible details and grandeurs, same as those taken with a large format camera.
The size of the final image affects the way an image is created as well as the way it is viewed. If you try to fit too much information into a small screen, it will be a total disaster. As a result, for most landscape photographers using small cameras, the creating processing involves great simplification – we basically reduce everything into some very basic visual forms, and the photographer controls the viewer’s experience by presenting just enough information. We are essentially telling the viewer: “Please just look at these forms, these leading lines, and these light/dark transitions, etc., and I don’t want you to find other things I am hiding in the image.”
Very large prints are completely different. They are not just bigger. They contain so much more information for the viewers to explore by themselves. I like to quote Stephen Shore’s explanation of why he chose to use 8x10 cameras: “I realized that with the 8x10, I could rely on its descriptive power.” “No longer was it pointing at something in the world saying look at this. I was creating a little world that a viewer can move their attention through without directing it.” Sure, the photographers still need to control the basic photography forms such as leading lines to give the viewers some visual clues and guide them, but the overall viewing experience is completely different.
Still, it is a very special image. This night-scape image consists of 600 Megapixels. The final result, when exhibited in a huge gallery, was a 2-story high, 9x6 meter installation. It was one of the largest, perhaps the largest, high resolution landscape photos ever produced in history. It was a very complex and expensive project to plan, to shoot, and to manufacture and to install the image. During the exhibitions, it was an incredible experience to stand merely a meter away from this huge print and able to see all the countless stars and the minute details of the canyon, as if the real canyon were in front of you.
Long story short: when I found the water level of this amazing canyon, it was at the lowest point in many years. As a result, the light-colored ridges would emerge above the water to form the beautiful S-curves. The arc of the full Milky Way would be right in the centre of the composition during that period of year. Me and three other friends rented a speedy boat. I drove that thing for hours, across the vast lake, and parked the boat in a remote spot of the shore. We then climbed to the top of the cliff to make this image. Even with a 100MP Phase One digital back, I still had to do a multi-row stitch of many low-ISO-long-exposure frames to achieve the required pixel counts and image cleanness, a super complicated process. It was one thing to spend 30 seconds at the edge of the cliff using high ISO to snap a Milky Way image and walk back to safety. It was a completely different story to spend an hour or so in the darkness at the edge of the cliff, going around the tripod (so I was merely inches away from falling down) to align the equatorial tracker, and to shoot many long exposure frames. It was actually very dangerous, maybe even a little bit reckless may I admit, but I am satisfied with the result.
For landscape photography, if you just want to show you work to audiences via Facebook, Instagram, or even high-resolution websites such as 1x, the type of gear you are using does not matter at all. Viewers will not see differences between an entry-level camera and a high-end one. It is the artistic and technical skills that make or break an image.
However, I have a unique need. As I’ve just mentioned, I do not just show my images on social media or make small prints. I want to show my work, in huge formats and with the highest possible quality, in galleries and other venues.
Gear is very important in my case. I had some early work that I really like, but I could not print them big, since they were shot using 35mm DSLRs. At this moment, most of the time I use digital medium format technical cameras. I am using a Phase One 150-megapixel digital back, some Alpa technical cameras (12 MAX, 12 PLUS, and 12 STC), as well as many Rodenstock high-resolution lenses (HR 23, HR 32, HR 50, HR 90, HR 180). This is the very best camera system that money can buy now. The system is very expensive and heavy, and hard to use, but the image quality as well as the level of controls are absolute mind-blowing. I do occasionally use some 35mm cameras, especially when I need a very long tele lens, when I shoot in inclement conditions such as in front of huge incoming ocean waves, or when I need to go ultralight. I own Canon/Sony/Nikon systems, but it really does not matter which one to pick, as they are all very similar.
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