Zhujiajiao is said to be the best “water town” in the Shanghai environs. The name means “Zhu family estate” and it is at least 1,000 years old. In the Yangtze River delta, canals are ubiquitous and every village is split by at least one, spanned by bridges and boats. Such old towns are now meccas for day trippers from the city, and are overrun with visitors and vendors. In Zhujiajiao, I wandered up the canal, getting away from town, and found a man on a skiff casting a wonderful fine mesh net on long poles, moving like some orchestra conductor stuck in adagio.
The grace of the image belies the difficulty of its capture. As he floated downstream, I had to follow on the opposite shore, climbing fences, jumping ditches and avoiding mayhem. At some point I may have stepped on a chicken. And of course I had to anticipate the right background. Eventually it all became perfect. (Price Schedule B)
At Shanghai’s riverfront, the Bund, magnetic forces seem to compel all cameras to point east to the giant, gleaming towers of Pudong across the Huangpu River. Reversing the direction – shooting west from Pudong towards the Bund – never seems to work. The Bund falls flat, and Shanghai’s old colonial buildings are lost in the glass and glitter and the dark waters of the Huangpu.
One evening, in a lucky glance out a window from the Peace Hotel, I found this perspective. The warm tones of the old stones present a richness and sentiment the monumental glass towers will never have, while the gentle curve of the river brings the eyes back down to Earth. Shanghai locals really responded to this view — it seemed to capture the genuine spirit of the waterfront. Old Shanghai clearly has few things left to teach the New Shanghai. (Price Schedule D)
China possesses hundreds of man-made wonders that stagger the Western observer…and a few wonders that fall a bit short. The Shanghai Tourism Tunnel is one of the latter. Connecting two popular visitor sights in Shanghai — the Bund and the Pearl Tower — with a tunnel under the Huangpo River, the light show along the mini-railway is a little underwhelming…until you see it through long exposures in a camera, that is. There, the lights and lines assault you in a psychedelic riot. It takes some experimenting to get the technique just right, and at 50 RMB a trip you want to catch on quickly. I gave it my best shot, and the results remind me of tie-dyed fabric. (Price Schedule E)
A slice of life at Yufo Chan Sih (玉佛禅寺), the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai. One of my favorite places to hang out because it is mostly a working temple and not so much for tourists — and it has a great vegetarian restaurant. Once a week, after prayers, a long line of monks snakes through the temple following an elder, blessing every room.
I made this shot impulsively and without thinking through my camera settings, so I was certain it was blurry and hopeless. Even when I took another look on camera playback, I saw nothing worth saving, and I could easily have deleted it at that time. Later, on the computer, I saw the single sharp image of one monk, and the photo went from the bottom of the heap to the top…faster than a prayer. (Price Schedule D)
Something about the randomness of this moment appeals to me. Perhaps it tells us that Buddhist monks are people too, and experience the boredom and bewilderment of life just as we do. One monk tinkers with his mobile phone and picks away at a pomegranate, with the other is just tired and bored. Been there, done that.
With sections of deep shadow, bright sunlight and overall vibrant color, This seemed an ideal scene for interpretation with High Dynamic Range techniques. That usually doesn’t work with subjects in motion, but for some reason it came off quite nicely this time. (Price Schedule G)