Posts Tagged ‘photography’
On our third full day in Yangshuo we decided to ditch the mountain bike idea and hire an electric scooter. You don’t need a license for them and I had owned one back in Xiaoshan so felt comfortable driving one despite the large numbers of cars, bicycles and people on the roads. At just 80 Yuan for the day and our passports as deposit we collected our scooter from a hotel near the river. First up was breakfast.
We went back to one of our favourite restaurant Lucy’s where for 30 Yuan you got a set breakfast of eggs(any way you want), toast, fresh Yunnan Coffee, fresh squeezed juice and a banana pancake with real maple syrup – almost too much to finish. After that we headed out-of-town on our scooter to the Moon Water Cave some 10 kms outside the town.
NB: If you go, buy your tickets from your hostel or a travel agent for 80-90Yuan otherwise at the ticket office by the cave they try to sell the same tickets for 320 Yuan.
The cave itself was quite rustic, not very well-lit ( a rather nice change from the tawdry lighting of other caves) but the mud bath was a unique experience. Cold at first you soon got used to it and if you laid down in the pool you actually floated which was weird feeling. After that it was down a passage to a clean river flowing through the cave to wash the mud off. This was also cold but invigorating at the same time. Then on the way out of the cave there is a series of natural hot springs that were great to just lie down in and enjoy. and then it was a short boat ride back out of the cave to the pool at the entrance where you were free to swim and dive into from a platform which I did and got this cool photos to match what you see on the cave brochure.
The cave is nothing spectacular but well worth it for the experience of the mud bath and hot spring. It took longer than expected so we headed back into town for a late lunch but stopped along the way to get a picture of these rice paddies.
We wanted to try find a nice spot for sunset across the river looking back at all the peaks that surround Yangshuo itself and after some off-roading on the scooter, which thankfully held up we ended up next to the river where we went horse riding and after buying some cold drinks from a nearby restaurant nestled amongst the bamboo we sat back to enjoy the sunset.
After sunset it was back into town for dinner and to return the scooter. Along the was we walked along West Street which is the big tourist attraction of Yangshuo. It’s actually just a pedestrian street with little souvenir and curio shops all along it and at night every other entrance is a nightclub. Interesting to walk along but crowded and unless you are looking for curios or a bargain not much fun. Parallel to it though was a street we refered to as the eating street as it had a lot of our favourite restaurants/cafes with extensive Chinese and Western menus.
Having handed back the scooter we walked off our dinner on the way back to the hostel but stopped at a Cafe called Nature’s Cup along the river for a night-cap. The owner was there and after hearing him speak I had a suspicion that he was from South Africa and indeed he was. We talked some more only discover that he came from the neighbourhood next to mine in Cape Town. And as if the world isn’t small enough his name was Rory. He had some interesting insights on living and particularly running a business in China but he also makes a delicious Malibu Dom Pedro, probably the only Don Pedro you will find in China. They were so good we would end up going again the following night.
These photos are all the end result of combining several photos together. I am not going to show you the before photos and if you want to know more about process you can look at my earlier post on HDRI. Still new to this type of photography I made some mistakes but here are a few of the ones that I thought came out pretty well and I hade fun creating. Enjoy!
NB Click on the images to enlarge
OK, the last one is a bit over-processed. I discovered that taking HDR images with people is difficult but I’m having lots of fun experimenting with this process. Most of these were taken hand-held without a tripod and I’m still learning how to tweak the various settings. However these photos make the normal photos look so boring it makes me want to take HDR all the time and I hopefully my photos will improve even more as my technique improves.
After a decent breakfast in the hostel our tour guide arrived and spoke no English which didn’t bode well for the rest of the day, oh well. After stopping to collect a few other groups from different hotels we headed out first to an old village with some temple or other (they really don’t interest me), a street of curio sellers where I bought a painting of Guilin mostly because it was so cheap and some that was about it when we were herded back onto the bus.
As we were walking to the bus the tour guide came up and was asking us for money and we tried to explain we had already paid at the hostel. However it appeared she wanted 65 yuan more for the next part of the tour and she made out like it wasn’t optional and the others had already paid this. A little annoyed at we just shrugged our shoulders and said no to whatever the extra was for. She seemed frustrated but we just couldn’t communicate. We then stopped and everyone got off the bus the lady again came to us to try an explain, with no English, why we should pay the money. It would appear that the whole group couldn’t continue unless we paid and could all stay together. Then a Chinese girl nearby who spoke English helped translate for us and we established that the money was for an extra part of the tour and it would take 2.5 hours so it wouldn’t really work if we just wanted to wait for the group. Frustrated we paid the extra and hoped it was worthwhile and it was as you will see.
Despite the mold, tawdry lighting and endless curio sellers throughout the Crown Cave it was a worthwhile visit with lots interesting things between two boat rides, a train ride and a barge trip back to our bus. Next was lunch (not included in the tour price) at a farmers restaurant (really just meaning fresh produce) on the edge of a rice paddy and thankfully for us our Chinese was good enough to order some well-known dishes together with just pointing at some other tables dishes saying we wanted what they had. After lunch it was back onto the bus to travel to the Gudong Scenic Area, a National Park of China. Here there were a few more surprises like 5 Yuan for some bamboo sandals and a helmet to climb through a waterfall and optional zip-line and rollercoaster activities which was actually pretty fun.
Although there were some extra costs that it would have been nice to know about before hand it was a fun afternoon and we were quite tired by the time we got back to the hostel, just in time to catch sunset on the roof before going down for the buffet dinner special the hostel was putting on.
We met an Australian couple at the buffet function who gave us some great advice on what was worthwhile to see and what to skip. So the next day we decided we would do our own thing and avoid Chinese lead tours. Itinerary was Fubo Hill in the morning, Reed Flute Cave in the heat of the day and Tunnel Hill Park in the afternoon.
We don’t seem to have much luck with trains and despite leaving the apartment early we waited for more than 20 minutes for a bus to the station and so were cutting it fine. When we arrived at the station we went to the normal entrance only to discover the we had to go to waiting room 2 which was one building down and predictably had a massive queue outside. With 15 minutes to our scheduled departure we became Chinese and ignored the line pushing, and I mean pushing, to the front of the line and into the building. We found our boarding gate with a mass of people all standing and waiting but as the time ticked by they didn’t open they gate. Not being able to read Chinese characters we could only guess our train was delayed and while we stood waiting for some 30 minutes we had a chance to breath and take in just how many people were in the station whose air conditioning wasn’t coping at all in the 35°C heat. All you could see was people’s heads from wall to wall.
The train itself wasn’t so bad, not quite as spacious as I remembered the Soft Sleeper to Beijing being but it was decent and we seemed to get quite lucky as the father and son we shared our compartment were nice and most importantly didn’t snore or eat stinky food.
Eighteen hours later [including an hour of accumulated delays] we pulled into Guilin after the scenery had noticeably changed with limestone peaks in the distance and clean rivers, which you just don’t see in the big cities of China anymore.
We followed the directions and caught a bus easily enough to our Ming Palace Youth Hostel. It was a fairly new hostel having only been open for 5 months but it was adequate and in a fairly nice situation, away from the city centre but close to some major attractions. As the name would suggest, turning left they are 100m from the Ming Palace (which we didn’t visit) and turning right 100m from the Li River. After checking in and dumping our bags we set off to see the river and explore the city while we tried to plan our next few days.
Today I collected my passport from the Hangzhou Police Bureau after my application for a tourist visa as my Residency Permit has expired. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days from the date of application but they take a week to process so despite applying for it on the 24th June, it was only issued today, the 1st July and expires on the 23rd July. Add to that the fact that whenever you stay in a hotel in China you must have your passport it makes life a little difficult.
With that out of the way it is time to be a tourist and see some of the sites of China. The only place in China that I really want to see and still haven’t is Guilin and especially Yangshuo just to the south of it. For those of you who don’t know anything about it here’s a little teaser. It is said to be one of the most beautiful areas of China because of its characteristic karst peaks that rise up on either side of the Li River. You may well have seen some of these images in picture books about China and it is so beautiful it is also the illustration found on the back of the 20 Yuan bank-note.
So tomorrow, Margaurita and I catch an overnight train for the 20+ hour journey to Guilin where we will spend 3 days and hopefully get to view some of the must see sites including the Elephant Trunk Hill.
After that we will head a little further south, probably on a river cruise, to Yangshuo for 4-5 days which is a smaller village and backpacker haven with lots of activities like biking, bamboo rafting, fishing with cormorants, rice terrace tours and more amazing views of the karst peaks rising up all around.
Hopefully it lives up to these pictures and expectations. I probably won’t be posting much while travelling, I’ll be too busy trying to take as many pictures as possible of the landscape but rest assured there will be full reports on the trip with lots of pictures when I get back. Maybe even some more HDR images so stay logged on.
As you have seen in recent posts I’m really enjoying my new camera and lens. Just when I thought photography couldn’t get any better I was browsing the web and discovered HDRI which stands for High Dynamic Range Imaging. This is what Wikipedia has on the subject:high dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than current standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wide dynamic range allows HDR images to more accurately represent the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.
Some of the images examples I’ve seen are amazing so I did some more research and thought I would try it for myself. In short, our eyes can adjust to different intensity levels while a camera takes a still image at a single exposure setting. With HDR images you take several images at different exposure value (EV) settings and then merge them together. With my Canon 550D it as an auto exposure bracketing (AEB) setting which means it automatically takes 3 exposures when I press the shutter release. It takes a normal optimal exposure (EV 0), then a dark exposure (EV -2) and then a bright exposure (EV +2).
Next you merge the 3 images together, I used Photoshop, and then you can adjust various settings like exposure, gamma, radius, shadows, detail, strength, vibrancy and saturation. I wasn’t sure about this as some images look over-processed and no longer realistic but I think the concept of using this technique to achieve an image with detail closer to what the human eye can detect is exciting. So without playing with the settings too much and just working on increasing the detail in the shadow and highlight areas I got the following final image.
I know this isn’t the best use or example of HDR but for a first attempt I’m fairly pleases and really excited to experiment more with this technique so look out for more HDR images in the future.
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged activity, China, Dragon Boat Festival, Fuxing Park, holiday, long exposure, museum, panorama, park, photography, Shanghai, Tai Chi, travel, Yan'an Road on June 10, 2011 | 133 Comments »
The 6th of June in China this year was Dragon Boat Festival and we went to Shanghai for the holiday. I say Dragon Boat Festival but before you get your hopes up I must tell you we didn’t see any boats, never-mind Dragon Boats nor did we partake in any cultural festivities of any kind. Like most public holidays around the world, in my opinion, most people don’t care why or what they are about just that they don’t have to go to work. That was the case for us anyway so with a 3 day weekend we headed to Shanghai to stay with a friend that I had worked with at EF but who has now moved on to an editorial position with the Shanghai Daily Newspaper. Their apartment is in a nice area just a 15 minute walk from West Nanjing Road metro station and on Friday night we were greeted with this view from their balcony.
It might not be environmentally friendly but I must admit that the neon lighting along the elevated roads and overpasses makes for a pretty scene. Just after arriving we took a walk to see the centre of this 4 level highway overpass which is a pillar clad in a metal fresco. There is also a circular elevated pedestrian walkway over the intersection where I took this panoramic image from.
We woke on Saturday morning to drizzly rain so after a quick coffee and pastry down the road we headed for the Shanghai museum, something neither of us had done yet and given the inclement weather why not? The museum is located in People’s Square and on our way there we chanced across (more…)
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Beigan, bridge, buildings, climb, East, hike, hill, life, mountain, North, panorama, photography, Shan, South, vandalism, view, West, Xiaoshan on June 1, 2011 | 3 Comments »
Beigan Shan(Mountain) is more of a hill that divides Xiaoshan into North and South. I used to drive through it via tunnel to go shopping and now I can see it and the monument on top of it from my apartment but in all the time that I have lived in Xiaoshan I haven’t gotten round to climbing it.
I could say that I was waiting for a clear day and there is some truth in that but you can count the number of days with high visibility in China on one hand so this last weekend the weather forecast looked descent and so we woke up early and set out to climb the mountain and see pagodas and monument up close.
With a backpack carrying water and snacks, and cameras in hand climbed the first set of stairs to this plaque of Chinese characters with the view slightly spoiled by the workers hut to the left and especially his underwear hanging out to dry. So we didn’t linger and headed straight up the stairs to the (more…)
Taking advantage of the mild weather we were out taking photos yesterday afternoon in People’s Square, a large park just down the road from our apartments. Apart from a few youngsters having rollerblading lessons there weren’t many people and not much going on in the park but we did find a whole lot of white doves flying around in one corner of the park and so I took the opportunity to put my Canon 550D camera to the test and try to catch some action shots of the doves in flight.
They were flying back and forth between this pedestal and a fountain where they were drinking water so there was lots of opportunity to capture them but it wasn’t that easy. They move faster than you think. Increasing my shutter speed to 1/4000th of a second made capturing them in focus easy and produced some great (more…)
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged activities, Beer, Fosbury Flop, games, high jump, jump rope, life, long jump, photography, relay, running, school, sport, sports day, students, surprise, teachers, teaching, work on May 25, 2011 | 3 Comments »
We were told only a week before that the school was having its sports day (or days) last week Thursday and Friday. Not only that but we were on the teachers team number 5 and were to report to the canteen after classes that day to practice jump rope. Needless to say I was hopeless with my timing as was always the one ruining the rhythm with the group jump rope so it was decided I would be running. How far was still unknown.
It wasn’t until our 2nd and last practice the day before that we found out the running option was in fact a 6 x 150m relay. Each runner having to run half way around the slightly smaller than regulation track. It isn’t too far but the nerves then started to kick in. I can handle losing in a 100m dash, but dropping the baton and disappointing 5 other team mates wouldn’t go down well. So we did a few practice hand off runs at jogging speed and that was it. See you tomorrow. Friday came and it was 41 degrees in the shade; the hottest day we’ve had this year. (more…)
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged 55-250mm IS, Carrera Cup Asia, China, F1, Formula 1, Grand Prix, Line 10, Metro, motorsport, panning photography, photography, Porshe, Shanghai, sport, telephoto lens, ticket, travel, video on May 10, 2011 | 6 Comments »
and my first ever attendance of a Grand Prix after following it on TV for more than 10 years.
The Shanghai F1 Circuit was inspired by the Chinese character “上” (shang), the first character in the name Shanghai.
Last year I thought about going but didn’t get around to arranging leave early enough as then I had to work on weekends and had already put in leave for my attempt of the Great Wall Marathon. This year however, working a regular Monday to Friday week it was on; although getting tickets wasn’t all that easy.
I even went to the track 2 weeks before the race and was just given a phone number to call. I couldn’t buy tickets there but could reserve them over the phone and they would send them to me if I was in Shanghai, which I wouldn’t be 24 hours later. Eventually managed to get them via a local tourism website and not wanting to fight for a good spot on the grass went for next grade up in Grandstands B5-8 but you couldn’t choose your seat, it was just luck of the draw.
Thankfully the Metro Line 10 was open for both days (which it wasn’t in 2010) so getting to and from the circuit was easy enough. The plan was to get out to the circuit for qualifying which we did and as we walked from the Metro station towards the circuit we could hear the whine of a F1 engine being revved and I started to get really excited. The queues weren’t to bad as we made our way into the track area and up to our seats which turned out to have a great view. We looked straight down the start/finish straight, could see the pit lane and the team garages, we were also high up enough to see most of the track and so could track cars as they sped around the rest of the circuit. Check it out…
As I sat there, looking down on the track I couldn’t believe I was actually about to see a F1 car in person, witness a qualifying session live and hear the sounds so many commentators have referred to for myself. It was (more…)
Apologies to my subscribers. It would appear even after 100 blog posts one can still make mistakes and I realised, too late, that several of the links in this new post email notification didn’t work or opened up a new page asking you to enter a username and password. I’m sorry for this error on my part but I have fixed it now so you can read any of the Top 5 List posts that I mention below with a simple click. Enjoy.
Many thanks, Rory
This is my 100th blog post and I suddenly felt under pressure to make it memorable and special to celebrate the milestone. Or is the milestone of 100 enough and should I just continue on as I have been? This last weekend we went to Shanghai for the Chinese F1 Grand Prix and while I’m working on a post with a full account of that experience I thought I’d share what I believe is the magic of Shanghai; the lights at night.
We emerged from the Metro station on a clear night to catch the full moon rising into the night sky behind the Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC), the tallest building in Shanghai, beautifully lit with a blue trim and shadowing the Jin Mao Tower in front to produce this amazing scene.
After a sushi dinner and a coffee at Starbucks, luxuries we don’t have in Xiaoshan, we went for a walk on along the river where you can look across to The Bund. The buildings are all lit up at night making for a beautiful skyline with traditional buildings in amongst modern skyscrapers not to mention the endless stream of boats on the river with neon lights from aft to stern. It’s breathtaking and here is a panorama to give you a fuller sense of just what it’s like.
NB: Click the image to enlarge
While I work on my next post all about the F1 Grand Prix I thought you might like to check out some of my other blog posts that you may have missed over the last 18 months.
The top 5 posts based on number of views:
The numbers above can be skewed by google searches with people wanting to find out info on my camera of choice so here is a list of the posts which prompted the most comments.
The top 5 posts based on number of comments:
The above were also skewed somewhat by being featured on the WordPress homepage as a result of their Freshly Pressed program that features blogs that they think others will be interested in so there was some overlap. So my final list is some of my favourite posts that I enjoyed writing.
The top 5 posts based on my own personal opinion (in no particular order):
So, thank you and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog over the last year and a half. Don’t forget to comment if you have something to say or share a post with your friends.
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged 18-55mm, 55-250mm IS lens, Canon, Canon 550D, Canon Powershot, comparison, DSLR, equipment, Formula 1, Grand Prix, lens, photography, review, Shanghai, Shanghai F1 Circuit, test shot on April 13, 2011 | 9 Comments »
Three months ago I bought a Canon 550D with the 18-55mm kit lens, as you may have read about here, and haven’t regretted it since. However it wasn’t long before I wanted more. I wanted more options, more versatility and more zoom So the search for a second lens began. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an amateur and newbie to photography, especially SLR photography but forums and reviews across the internet help out a lot these days and I embarked on an extensive research exercise. After months of looking at the options, reviews, test shots and user opinions I settled on this.
I still don’t understand half of the technical jargon, so I’ll spare you those details, but here are the reasons I chose this as my next lens as well as some test shots to show you the difference it makes. (more…)