Friday, June 1, 2012

China trip: Last but not least - Zhouzhuang, "The Venice of the East"

Before leaving China and heading back to the United States, I had time to make a trip out to one of the most famous water towns in China, a place called Zhouzhuang. This is a small residential town with lots of water ways intersecting the buildings. I have not been to Venice in Italy, but I assume that this is similar in some ways, but definitely not the same for food or culture!

We arrived in Zhouzhuang during the afternoon, and as expected, we encountered grey skies and warm temperatures. I was immediately impressed with the rustic buildings and the history of this location. I shot many images as we walked around, but the grey skies made it difficult to capture great images in this town. But, I had researched this town before my trip to China and figured that evening shots would be better than daytime photos. I got that one right! For this reason, I arrived to the town later than most of the crowds and saw more people leaving as I was entering. This meant that I would have less crowds in my photos and that I would have night skies to shoot in the hours to come. This also allowed me time to scout locations for the best evening photos.

This particular spot is very famous in Zhouzhuang, since one of China's famous painters, Chen Yifei, painted his "Twin Bridges" painting from this location. I like this spot because I could include the bridges, the water, the buildings, and the flowers.

I really loved this spot (taken from atop one of the many bridges) since it was so tranquil. I made a mental note to come back to this spot later in the evening, just after sunset. You will see that image when you scroll down. (Photographer's note: If you are visiting a location for what might be the one and only time, and you have a some time, scout out good shooting locations and return when the light is optimum. This is not always possible, but with good planning, you might be rewarded with some amazing photos!)

In the back of Zhouzhuang, we came across the Chengxu Temple.

The Chengxu Temple was built between 1086 and 1093, during the Song Dynasty, and has some beautiful architectural details.

It is hard not to be impressed with the amazing colors inside the Temple.

Our tour guide explained that these locks were tokens of love. People can purchase these special locks and fix them along the railings in the Temple, as a token of their love for those special people in their lives.

All the boats in Zhouzhuang are driven by hand, without any motors. This really helps maintain the serenity of the town and add to the romantic ambiance. 

It was getting late, and we only had time for a 30 minute boat ride, but it was nice to sit down for a little bit and enjoy the town from this vantage point.

And then, after some dinner, the sun set, the lanterns were lit, and it was the perfect time to capture my much anticipated night shots!

I was surprised to the see some of the boats arriving and they were decorated with lanterns. A really nice, and unexpected, element to add to the photos.

Back to that "scouted location" on the bridge to get the night shot.

One of the advantages of shooting images like this after sunset, is that the sky turns a deep blue and hides the daytime grey colors. Not to mention the fact that the red/orange lights on the bridge and buildings add a perfect accent to the blue.

I moved quickly from one spot to another, to capture as many different images as I could in the 15 minute window of time, in which I had the perfect light.

I finished shooting images at 7:15pm, which was perfect timing, because we had tickets to a 7:30pm show, which was located only a 5 minute walk away from where I ended.

The "Zhouzhuang In All Seasons" show was very good. It was a much larger production than I expected, with a large cast which included many of the town's residents. I was also happy to find out that they allowed photography without any restrictions.

We had seats that were dead center, two rows from the front, which was a perfect vantage point for all of the action.
There were times when the show seemed like a Chinese version of Cirque De Soleil.

As the title "Zhouzhuang In All Seasons" might have given away, the show portrays this area of China in all four seasons.

Spring time farmers dancing. (Photographer's note: Most of these performance photos were taken at ISO 6400 or higher with the new Canon 5D Mark III. This allowed me to shoot with shutter speeds of 1/500 at f5.6 and capture the action. This would be very difficult to shoot with an older camera.)

Winter time with the falling snow.

Summer time is the last season depicted in the show. And speaking of the "end of the show", this is the final post from my trip to China. It was another great trip to the Far East and one that I will never forget. Thanks for joining me along the ride.


Susie Wagner said...

Beautiful work, but hard to believe you have NOT been to Venice. For me, it is the most wonderful place to photograph in the world!!

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