A finalist at LensCulture Earth Awards 2015, Thierry Bornier‘s photography series called “Beauty Paddy of China” not only showcases the magnificent rice terraces spread across China, but also serves as a platform for environmental awareness and the history of the area, stemming from its many centuries of existence. “Living in the Chinese province of Yunnan, I have spent the last 3 years to shooting these images. Each image is unique, influenced by the weather and lighting. These man-made paddies convey incredible beauty. The Hani Rice Terraces, covering 16,603-hectares in Southern Yunnan, are marked by spectacular terraces that cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River. Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces,” Thierry explains.
A self taught photographer while carving a productive career in the finance industry, his series of photographs depicting the scenic landscape of the countryside of China happened accidentally when an image he took of the sweeping rice paddies in the province of Yunnan was chosen and published online by National Geography for its “picture of the day” feature. Inspired by what transpired, he bought himself a brand new camera and started shooting while learning the finer techniques of photography on-the-fly.
Since then, Thierry has spent considerable amount of time spanning three years photographing the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Yuanyang rice terraces. Situated 6,500 feet above sea level, the hillside paddies stretches out as far as the eyes can see – all forming the wonderful creations of the Hani people when they started carving their farms and mountains by hand more than 1,300 years ago. The complex series of canals, ditches and an effective system of irrigation that distributes collected rainfall and spring water to the many layers of the rice terraces continues to amaze archaeologists and engineers to this day. Many people considers this as the primary evidence of human intelligence and ingenuity already present during those olden times. “The fusion of man and nature creates awe-inspiring beauty,” Thierry says. “I love the patterns and the diversity of each site,” he adds “When I started shooting the rice field terraces of course I fell in love with this area and is pretty big with so many different sites but I have discovered beyond this rice fields the ethnic group living there for centuries and made this places exciting today and is a fabulous experience by their language , clothing , food and many other things make them different from other Chinese Han and its why China have 56 different ethnic group located all over china with 26 living in Yunnan Province.”
Thierry describes the tedious process he had to go through in order to shoot each images from the series: “Each landscape I choose to capture required the highest point if possible, so I always climb hills or any mountains to get my aerial point of view. Some places you need wake up very early to start the climb and most of the time the weather is not right so you can’t shoot, so you come back disappointed until next. Never forget the weather is king and it will give when you less expect its magic, you must be there in the right time, is luck”
“Many people told me how my pictures appear like paintings, but I never did any HDR in my photography because I wanted to capture the real mood of the nature and I believe if you are patient you can get what you want, so I basically break down my styles as follows;”
“All places I choose to capture must have a story to tell”
“I love fog , cloudy weather for some of my pictures because he give you this painting mood based of the places , I go to the right season and sometimes need to wait until I got the mood I want , I don’t like take landscapes with pure blue sky is not my style at all”
“The most important for my photography is lighting because the beautiful landscape is there front to you , the nature did for you and you have nothing to do so the next step is how I will capture this beautiful landscape so you must in your mind read all scenarios possible about lighting and imagine what will be the best scenario to create an art fine picture it’s our mental image.”
Nature Setting; Sky, Mountains, Sun, Clouds
“(A) photographer should never be satisfied if the complete image is not perfect to be capture , let say your image included sky and clouds I will not just look my foreground and background because it won’t change it but the sky will always change day to day and I call the quality of the sky as important as the rest of my image so I will wait the perfect sky in term of lighting and clouds , the quality of clouds is very important for me to give the real 3D dimension in my image and give this surreal landscapes.”
“I believe each photographer should use not only what he see but always use his heart and spirit to create something different , I rather will say the picture is made with your heart not with your camera , I will advise people to understand their camera quickly and focus more about how to read well with their eyes the beauty face to them and using their heart to capture it”
“I used for my photography Landscapes Phase one IQ280 with many fixed lens. I love using my 240mm and 80mm to make long panoramic because I don’t have Distortion as my 28mm or 55 mm but sometimes my 28 mm is very useful to capture the full frame of my landscapes. I use a tripod from USA Really Right Stuff and a head D4 from Arca-Swiss I use when needed and polarizer from German Heliopan and some ND filters from Lee filters hard and soft ( 0.6 and 0.9)”
Thierry concludes “I guess the combination of all of these make my own style and my photos look very beautiful, almost surreal, or like Chinese paintings. But trust me, if you came to one of my workshops, you would see these amazing landscapes in real life because they actually exist and look so beautiful. China is a huge country and has many diverse landscapes. I always feel amazed by this beautiful country.”
To see more of Thierry Bornier‘s other works, check out his website and his page at 500px. To be considered for Photographer of the Day, follow us on Instagram @resourcemag and e-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “POTD Submission.”