West Lake, Hangzhou

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

Leifeng Pagoda, West Lake, Hangzhou

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.

West lake

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.

Lingyin temple

These photos were all taken in Lingyin temple, on the southern shore of West Lake:

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou

Lingyin, West Lake, Hangzhou


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.

Dongtai Road antiques market, Shanghai


Square by Andrew S Gibson


If you would like to learn more about the square format, then you need my ebook Square. Click on the link to learn more.

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2 Responses to “West Lake, Hangzhou”

  1. Thanks for this post, Andrew. I love the little details that you are drawn to, and that you can pull out of a place. I photograph cars a lot and always seek out the details that show the individual qualities of a certain car; similar, I think, to how you find details that portray the unique characteristics of whatever place you are visiting and exploring.

    I have been becoming more and more drawn to the square format. Your forthcoming book likely will explain, but I wonder how you aid your composition for the square format whilst shooting? I have been thinking about devising some kind of rugged mask that I could tape over the LCD screen of my camera.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Steven, I’ve been thinking about taping a cardboard mask onto my camera’s LCD screen, the only thing is I prefer to compose through the viewfinder so that won’t really work (although it may help when you playback the images). To be honest, I’m pretty good at visualising how much of the image will be used if I crop to a square when I look through the viewfinder, so it’s not really an issue for me.

    Also, with some of my images, I didn’t realise they would work as a square until afterwards. I think keeping the composition simple works as well as square images seem to work best with simple compositions. It also makes it easier to crop without cutting through an important part of the composition.

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