Very few cormorant fishermen still fish on the Lijiang (Li River) in China, using a light on a simple bamboo raft to attract fish while it is still dark. We rose at 4:30am, to be sure we arrived at the river whilst it was still dark.
Uncertain how to light the shot, I decided to keep my options open until I saw the fisherman. It did not take long to banish all thoughts of using a flash, which would have been completely unnatural. Instead I decided to use the hurricane lamp on the boat to light the fishermen’s face, just as the sky began to turn an inky blue. The naked lamp was far too bright, so I persuaded the fishermen to place one of his cormorants in front of it to blot out the direct light beaming towards the camera lens. Then all it needed was for him to crouch so his face became illuminated.
The ISO was pushed to 3,200 for an exposure of 1/50 second, with an 80-400mm lens at 5:25am. Not long afterwards, the dramatic cameo illustrating the traditional life of a cormorant fisherman on the Lijiang changed as he became silhouetted when the sky brightened.