Vacation

Vicious Attack Ends Photoshoot!

Vicious Attack Ends Photoshoot!

But for about an hour we had a great time in one of the most luscious botanic gardens I’ve ever visited. It’s a large park with a river, foot bridges and exotic plant enclosures peppered throughout. It’s also home to the most relaxed and friendly squirrels.

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In the Shadow of a God - Lijiang, China.

In the Shadow of a God - Lijiang, China.

Lijiang is not too unlike Dali, charming cobbled stones lining the streets of old towns full of ethnic charm, delicious local food, craftwork and souvenirs. It doesn’t have the stunning range of street food that Dali has but it has great ethnic restaurants with unique and tasty dishes. And an unusual dual open waterway system, one canal for household water for washing and one to supply toilets. I do hope that kid I just saw peeing into the waterway was using the correct one. Just a little reminder you’re still in China.

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The Inland Sea - Dali, China

The Inland Sea - Dali, China

Dali is most famous for its street food (covered in a previous blog here) but Er Hai is its main attraction. It presents a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the old towns. Although still quite busy the calming effect of the waterfront is instantaneous and welcome. As the sea is so large there are plenty of locations to seek out along the shore. Circumnavigating the circumference is a popular two day drive but we picked only two spots to linger. 

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How to shoot on vacation in Bad Weather

How to shoot on vacation in Bad Weather

It was 24ºc so we booked the tickets and when the time came we threw our summer clothes into the suitcase and... Holy Crap! A quick check of the wether before we departed and the temperature had dropped to 12ºc! We were booked to go during a rare and short lived winter spell in Hanoi. I mean that literally, a week after we got back the temperature had returned to 24ºc. So we threw the swimming costumes out of the suitcase and packed sweaters instead. It was a bit depressing but we were going to have a good time anyway. 

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Dali, the street food capital of the world.

Dali, the street food capital of the world.

There is a strong theme of flowers as flavours amongst plenty of familliar offerings like pancakes, tofu and chuar (Chinese kebabs) but it can all be eaten without having to stop the holiday and sit down for too long. I was definitely a bit iffy about the idea of eating flower petals but I was stunned by how delicions they taste. Our sense of taste is heavily influenced by our sense of taste and if you’ve never tired it they taste exactly like they smell. So keep an open mind and it’s definitely worth the visit for the food alone. And come in the winter, it rains all summer long and is warm and sunny in winter. 

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Improve your Phone Photography

Improve your Phone Photography

Professional photographers love our phones as it means we are never without a camera. And in certain circumstances the phone may be the better choice. But of course we take the same precautions as we do with our ‘real’ camera when shooting. Here are a few guides (and they are guides not rules, there are no rules) that we follow that will help improve your phone photography. 

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Egg Coffee

I’m just back from a tip to Hanoi, Vietnam and I drank more egg coffee than is good for me, or even several mes. The traditional coffee of Hanoi is a delicious blend of a strong sweetened coffee with whisked egg yolk and condensed milk on top. 

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If you dont want to fly to Hanoi just to try egg coffee then you can look for a nearby Vietnamese restaurant or make it your self at home. Just click here for the simple recipe. 

En Vogue

En Vogue

One of the advantages of living in Shanghai is the great number of exhibitions, fine art and otherwise, that tour here. Amongst my favourites of the ‘otherwise’ variety so far have been the Tim Burton and Pixar shows. Louis Vuitton might not be an obvious choice when you think of exhibitions but they have an excellent array of historic travel paraphernalia on display at the moment.

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Get Close to Your Family This Golden Week

The October Golden Week is here again and if you’ve planned ahead and already booked air fares and hotels then Bon Voyage. Enjoy the fun time ahead of you. Unfortunately if you are like me most years you’ve let it sneak up on you like a surprise birthday party when it’s not your birthday. So if you’re stuck in Shanghai with no plan and possibly a child or two that need to be entertained 24/7 you can still go almost anywhere and get memorable photographs.

To achieve this you don’t need expensive or heavy camera equipment. Your phone will do just fine or a small light camera with one lens will be far better suited to small children than a cumbersome pro sports camera and white lens. You need to be more like a sprinter than a heavy weight lifter.

So here’s a few suggestions on the kinds of places to go and how to get the best out of them for photography. And if you are lucky enough to be jetting off to somewhere exotic the following advice is also for you to return with great holiday photos.


The local park.

It’s an obvious one and you’ve probably already decided to go there but perhaps it’s time to think about it a little differently. Get close, then get even closer.

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Don’t try to capture the whole park, remember your subject, you’re trying to capture your family. When I took this shot the sky was overcast and shots of the park were not looking great. My daughter took a break an lay on the bench with her dolly as a pillow and I got a beautiful shot of my daughter that I love. The neutral colour of the bench and the soft lighting of the overcast sky worked perfectly together. You don’t need a sunny day to get great shots in fact for portraits dull is better.

 Cafe

Your local coffee shop may not seem like a fabulous backdrop for a photo shoot but it is full of possibilities.

Kids do tend to run around where ever you take them so rather than trying to reel them in let them loose and play and just wait for the right moment and click the shutter. Again, don’t try to shoot the coffee shop, shoot the subject. It can just be a photo of your spouse enjoying a drip coffee for the first time or your precious little one pressing her face against the window and looking ridiculous. Keep it light, keep it fast and have a good time yourself too.


The Beach

I had actually been told several times that there was a beach in Shanghai. However my mind refused to hold onto the proposition. You may have well as told me that the tap water was now drinkable - my subconscious immediately dismissed the notion as pure fantasy. But it turns out that Jing Shan City Beach exists and is not a bad place to go for a day trip at all. You can pick up the high speed train from South Shanghai Train Station and use your regular metro card. It’s only 10 RMB.

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Alway be on the lookout for nice lighting. You can be anywhere, no matter how unglamorous, but if the lighting is right you can catch a beaiutiful moment. Here the light streaming in the window on the way to the beach  caught my daughter reading her story book beautifully but because it was a tight shot we don’t need to see the surrounding train environment which would have added nothing to the shot.

If the weather is not great and the sky is dull then it’s great lighting for photographing people and tilting the camera down can cut out the boring sky and make the photo more interesting.

 

The South Bund

The South Bund walkway is a fun place to go for a walk and reaches the Long Art Gallery which is popular with young people as photo location. But you don’t have to be young free and single to use it as backdrop. It’s open to the public and free from security guards telling you put your camera away. It’s a fun place to walk alongside the river and when you’re tired there’s a shopping mall a few minutes walk away.

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You might think a rusty metal shipping container would not make for a suitable prop but our daughter asked us what was inside so I told her for no reason there was a dinosaur inside and if she listened carefully she could hear it. The nice warm tones of the rust reflected well on their faces.

So you don’t need to be flying to Thailand or Paris to get good family photos this Golden Week, but if you are it helps. All you need to do is remember what you’re photographing - the people not the scene: it’s just a background - and get close to your family to get a memorable beautiful shot almost anywhere.

Disneyland Shanghai

Disneyland Shanghai

If I said I had visited three Disneyland’s you might think I was a huge Disney fan but that’s not actually the case. I once went to Disneyland Tokyo when I lived in Japan a lifetime ago and enjoyed it though not sure I would have gone again as an adult. I then visited Disneyland Hong Kong as a birthday present to my eldest daughter when she was six years old. And of course I now live in Shanghai so at the request of both my daughters have been to Disneyland Shanghai three times - well it is only a subway ride away. And I’ve been to Disney Town twice, the free area outside Disneyland, which has the largest Disney store in the world and my favourite restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory. If you ever go watch out for the portion size. I had trouble finishing my main course even though I actually ordered from the appetiser menu.

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​Disney’s Fabulous Art Nouveau Hotel

​Disney’s Fabulous Art Nouveau Hotel

The Disney hotel is a fin-de-siecle fantasy come to life from the moment you enter the lobby. I think Walt chose well finding a balance between Disney character rich elements and spacious artistic decor. It’s just enough to prevent adults doing a swift U-turn. Although throughout the hotel there is a post modern approach the overwhelming influence is Art Nouveau. And it just so happens I am a huge fan of that period when it comes to art and architecture.

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How to Help your Family Love your Photography

How to Help your Family Love your Photography

Every family has one enthusiastic photographer (I’m assuming it’s you if you are reading this) which as you know can result in eyes to heaven and heavy sighing on day trips, holidays or even just play time with your kids. So here’s a few tips on how to reverse that situation and make having their photos taken more enjoyable for them and allow you to shoot better photographs at the same time.

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