November 22nd 2011 by Andrew S Gibson
Last weekend we went to Hangzhou, a city around 180km south-west of Shanghai, by high speed train. It’s quite an experience; Hongqiao railway station in Shanghai is brand new (and enormous) and boarding the train felt more like entering a space ship. It was the smoothest train ride that I’ve ever been on – even at 300 km/h it seemed to be barely moving. We completed the journey in less than an hour.
Hangzhou is famous for it’s West Lake. The lake is the city’s main attraction (and the reason that we went there). It’s surrounded on three sides by forested hills and Buddhist temples; a welcome sight after the flatness of Shanghai.
Since I’ve been in China I’ve been drawn more and more to the square format and black and white photography. It seems suited to what I’m trying to say. But what am I trying to express exactly? I’m still feeling my way on that one, but at the moment I seem to be searching for beauty – and traces of old China rather than the modern buildings and skyscrapers in the cities.
The photos in this post, all taken around the West Lake in Hangzhou are, I hope, beautiful. But they are not truthful. It didn’t help that we were there at the weekend, but West Lake was busy. It certainly wasn’t tranquil, or peaceful, despite what the photo at the top of the post suggests. West Lake is a lovely place, but it would be much more beautiful without the crowds. It would also help if the city of Hangzhou wasn’t squatting on it’s eastern side – the ugly mass of modern buildings does nothing for the lake’s beauty. Even Leifeng Pagoda, silhoutted in the first photo, isn’t as real as it could be. The building is a replica of the original, which no longer exists, and was completed in 2000.
These photos were all taken in Lingyin temple, on the southern shore of West Lake:
Topaz black & white effects
I processed these images in Lightroom 3, but I’ve also been playing around with the Topaz black & white effects plug-in. I processed the photo below with it, and if you’re interested in finding out more about the plug-in (and how I processed this photo) you can read the article I wrote about it for Peachpit here.
If you would like to learn more about the square format, then you need my ebook Square. Click on the link to learn more.