The Great Wall, and Open Doors

Where did we leave off? Oh right, the dismal photographic failure on the Bowron Lake chain. It was not long after that I purchased a “Kathy Proof” camera, a Nikon AW120. I’m so glad I have this little camera. It goes in my backpack for skiing, hiking, can handle watersports (more so than I can, in honesty), and was purchased just in time for a tour around China!

The trip to China was a guided tour, so our in-country transportation and accommodation was looked after, but much of the tour was cycling, hiking, and otherwise active transportation. I was travelling with a backpack, and the little Nikon AW120 was ideal as it was small, rugged, and takes great pictures. And oh boy, there were pictures. If you have never been to China, I highly recommend it! We travelled with G Adventures and I was so impressed with the number of major landmarks they packed into the 15 day tour! It was action packed, with amazing sites every day, no shortage of photo opportunities.

What a rare treat to have the Great Wall almost to ourselves! We spent 2 fabulous days on the wall, the first day on restored sections, as seen here, the second day on an unrestored, beautifully rugged section. I wasn't sure how to edit this, as the smog was quite heavy, though fortunately not right down to the ground that day. I feel the black and white gives the best sense of the texture of the wall in the foreground. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
What a rare treat to have the Great Wall almost to ourselves! We spent 2 fabulous days on the wall, the first day on restored sections, as seen here, the second day on an unrestored, beautifully rugged section. I wasn’t sure how to edit this, as the smog was quite heavy, though fortunately not right down to the ground that day. I feel the black and white gives the best sense of the texture of the wall in the foreground. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The one challenge I faced and didn’t know how to overcome, either in the moment, or later in editing shots, was the heavy smog. At first I thought it might pass in photos as “mystical mist”, but it became apparent it doesn’t behave the same as mist or fog. It has grey/brown color that shows up in photos, and it often comes right down to the ground, making even close up photos a bit hazy. It’s really as gross as it sounds. Apparently it’s not always as bad as it was when I visited, but that’s the luck of the draw, I suppose. I resorted to black and white edits quite a bit to downplay the smog, which was a bit of a shame as there were so many vivid colors, vibrant landscapes, and beautiful buildings that are integral to the culture and the history of China. The Ping’an rice Terraces were one of those  vibrant sites, such an amazing place to hike through, especially right as the rice was ready for harvest. I feel like this photo is a bit over-edited, compensating for the smog that washes out the amazing landscape a bit in the unedited photo.

The beauty of the Ping'an Rice Terraces was a highlight of the trip. The rice was ready for harvest, and had a beautiful golden glow. The terraces were first built by the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), and have been worked by hand ever since.
The beauty of the Ping’an Rice Terraces was a highlight of the trip. The rice was ready for harvest, and had a beautiful golden glow. The terraces were first built by the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), and have been worked by hand ever since.

One of my favourite cities was Xian, and I was so happy that we stayed there for a few day. There was so much to see, and the evenings were absolutely alive in the city, particularly in the Muslim Quarter, where there was a huge market and loads of delicious street food. On our way to the Muslim Quarter, we walked past the city’s Drum Tower, all lit up against the backdrop.

The Drum Tower of Xi'an, along with a Bell Tower, are the symbols of the city, and mark the beginning and end of each day. The bell rings at dawn to welcome the new day, and the drums sound at dusk.
The Drum Tower of Xi’an, along with a Bell Tower, are the symbols of the city, and mark the beginning and end of each day. The bell rings at dawn to welcome the new day, and the drums sound at dusk.

Once we arrived in the Muslim Quarter, the streets and adjacent market were alive with people. It was crowded, but there was such a light atmosphere it didn’t feel close, like large crowds sometimes can. We sampled some traditional foods, some delicious, some less so!

Sampling the glutinous rice cake (as delicious as it sounds...) in the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an. A moment captured in the bustling noisy crowd.
Sampling the glutinous rice cake (as delicious as it sounds…) in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an. A moment captured in the bustling noisy crowd.

Considering I was often rushed trying to take photos as I didn’t want to delay the rest of the group too much, and I couldn’t upload photos to see what I had until I got home, overall I was pleased with the moments and places I captured.

Reflecting back on the trip a few things stand out. Of course it reaffirmed that I love to travel, and although that was my first travel with a tour I’d recommend it, particularly in areas with a significant language barrier. There is no way I could have seen as many tremendous sites if I was trying to arrange all my own transport and accommodation.

Secondly, I realized I wanted to be more intentional about photography. I didn’t want to just be taking a quick shot of something as I whizzed by. I wanted to go places with the purpose of taking photos (maybe not work, my employer would frown on that, but other places!). I also realized I wanted to learn more about photography to improve the quality of my photos. Fortunately for me, all of those wants are possible to attain, as long as I make room for them in my life and habits!

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