Wuzhen Water Village

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You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.

Thanks for reading! Andrew.



Wuzhen water town, China

One of my goals while we are in Shanghai is to get out from the city and explore some of the other interesting parts of China. The countryside around Shanghai is quite flat, there are no nearby hills or mountains. These are lowlands, and one of the local features are ‘water villages’ – ancient settlements built around water, like canals, natural rivers or streams.

Wuzhen is one of the better known water villages. It’s been here for hundreds of years, and has a rich history thanks to its location on the Grand Canal which connects Beijing and Hangzhou. The Grand Canal has been (and still is) an important factor in the history and development of eastern China, as it facilitates the mass transport of food and other commodities by water to the massively populated cities in the region. It’s also the longest canal in the world. (Liam James D’Arcy-Brown wrote a good book about his journey along the Grand Canal, I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Chinese history and culture. It’s called Emperor’s River and you can find out more about it here).

Wuzhen water town, China

The original village of Wuzhen has been restored and has become a tourist attraction. I’m tempted to call Wuzhen the Venice of China thanks to its waterways, narrow paths and lack of cars, although it’s much smaller than Venice so that’s not really accurate. Wuzhen is a curious mixture of restored originality, historical charm and kitsch tourism. However, after the chaos and noise of Shanghai, there’s no doubt that it’s a peaceful haven and a great place to spend a few days.

It rained nearly non-stop for the two days we stayed in Wuzhen. This made it very atmospheric; we were immersed in the water, water below and water falling from grey skies above, but it makes photography (and walking around without getting wet) bit of a challenge. My response in this type of situation is to work with the lighting and weather conditions and to try and use them to create some evocative images. Black and white is good for this as it allows me to concentrate on tones, shapes and textures. The lighting was flat but contrast can be boosted easily in post-processing if necessary. An advantage of the flat lighting is that it helps create images with very subtle tones.

I was shooting in Raw and I have these images in colour as well, but I prefer the black and white photos. Most of the images on this page were taken with the intention of converting them to black and white as I could see that the shapes and textures would make interesting photos.

Wuzhen water town, China

My biggest challenge was the low light levels. Light is relatively low on a rainy day anyway, and the streets in Wuzhen are quite dark and narrow, compounding the problem. The light started to fade around 4pm and I found myself using ISO settings of 3200, 6400 and 12,800 to take the photos. This is far from ideal (although I get excellent quality at ISO 3200 from my EOS 5D Mark II and ISO 6400 is not bad), although I was limited by the maximum aperture of my EF 17-40mm f4 lens – this is definitely a situation where something like a 35mm f1.4 prime lens would have come in very handy.

There are more tips on creating moody photos in my ebook The Evocative Image – more information here.

You also might like to read my latest article on the Peachpit website: Take Control of Colour in Your Digital Photographs

Wuzhen water village gallery

 

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

Wuzhen water town, China

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