Friday, April 17, 2009

Pinwheels and photography tips: capturing motion

Pinwheels at Jinli Gujie, Chengdu 090414 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I have posted about Chinese pinwheels before but only in Swedish. At the moment Jinli Street beside Wuhou Temple has a number of very colourful pinwheels set up so I couldn't resist posting again and also using them to illustrate how you can use motion in an image to greater effect.

As you can see in the two pictures above both are colourful fun images, both perfectly acceptable. I have slowed down the shutter speed in the image to the right and created a blurred effect that I find more attractive than the static image on the left. It is also a must that you crop the image tightly when taking the picture to maximize effect and concentration on the pinwheel and colours. This was shot with a pocket digital camera so anyone who has the ability to manipulate the settings on their camera can do this. If you don't have manual settings you can fool around with the "pre-set" modes and see if one gives a slower shutter speed. Try "landscape mode" which will slow down shutter speed because it wants to utilize the smallest  aperture possible. If you shoot in low light you will compound the effect and get a slower speed. The speed I choose manually was 1/20 of a second. Have fun and experiment.

Pinwheels (fēng chē 风车) in Chinese traditional culture symbolize "zhuàn yùn ", the ability to "turn/shift your luck around". Most often they appear at temple fairs and markets around Chinese New Year in the hope that your "luck will turn around" in the new year. It also symbolizes the ability to turn an obstruction into a possibility. They are of course also colourful traditional toys for children.

Jinli Street recently undergone a major extension with several new alleys and streets added in the back, branching out and around Wuhou Temple. It is more picturesque and cosy now with numerous teahouses, restaurants and shops. No matter that Jinli is a complete fake facade, it is still a most welcome break from pavement and concrete. And a great place to photograph iconic colourful images of traditional symbols.

Flower delivery and Chengdu of the past

1980s Chengdu, mobile  bicycle florist  ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn 

Flower delivery by motorcycle and on foot. April 14, 2009 Wuhou Dajie ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

When I first visited Chengdu in 1985 I was impressed by the amount of flowers being sold in the city. At that time Qingshiqiao Flower market was a wonderful, crazy mix of old wattle and daub houses, lively street life and vibrant flowers. More unique though was that in Chengdu flowers were sold from the backs of bicycles, the flowers gathered in bouquets and stuck into bamboo "vases". Intrepid salespeople bicycled all over the city on their "Flying Pigeons" and "Forever" brand bikes in search of customers, calling out their products just loud enough as a free-market economy like this was still in its nascent years in China and people were a bit leery of anything so unorganized and freewheeling as this. The colour that these flowers brought into everyday life had a great impact on my psyche, as China at this time was one of the drabbest, greyest, most visually depressing countries I had ever been in. I hadn't yet made it down to Yunnan Province (or other minority dense areas) where colour was a given everyday of the year. 

Red mums and purple flowers (eterneller in Swedish, "everlasting") that you could later dry were one of the most common flowers sold at this time and I always regretted that my dormitory bed and room at the infamous Black Coffee Hotel on Binjiang Lu (dungeon is a more appropriate word as it was actually a converted bomb shelter, it was located just about where the five star Sofitel is now) didn't lend itself to floral decoration. Anyway, plastic flowers were more the Black Coffee's style. No matter that I never for one day ever experienced a clear blue sky in Chengdu I immediately fell in love with the city and returned over and over again in the following years. There was just something unique about Chengdu and the Sichuanese.

During my 1980s seven month backpack around the country I only found flowers commonly being sold in Yunnan province and in Guangzhou near Hong Kong. China was still too conservative about bourgeois self-indulgent things like colourful flowers for the rest of the nation to dare have them in their homes, potted or cut. It was of course also a question of money, the country was still extremely poor and few could afford extravagant luxuries - ration coupons for food staples were actively in use and 1,2 and 5 fen notes were still considered important (they were phased out eventually in 2006 the first year we moved permanently to China). 

Little by little, China, the Chinese economy and the Chinese consciousness opened wider and wider and today few foreigners (or for that matter young Chinese) anywhere in China can imagine a day without a riot of flowers and colour. Florists in Chengdu are now chockablock and wonderful flower markets like Sanshenghuaxiang can be found all over the country, selling the most incredible flowers for - in our foreign minds - ridiculously low prices. Qinshiqiao, like almost all other street markets that undergo renovation/reconstruction (I call it "market economy reschooling") by the government has unfortunately lost most of its former charm. Almost everyday I remind myself that China in a thousand ways has become a much more pleasant country to live and work in - especially for the Chinese themselves, who had to live through every depressing, constricting blue-grey second of the past and who today surely find it a better place to be. 

Thankfully, bicycle sellers still exist in Chengdu, cycling around town with their lovely flowers fresh in from the countryside. Soon enough though I will have to let go of this colourful feature of everyday life and let it fade into the past, as today it is only the poorest of the poor who do these jobs and I would prefer that they too could take a step into the bright, colourful world of a better economy and everyday life. 

QSI Yearbook 2009

2008-2009 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

I don't like including too many images of  my children on this blog but since most of my followers are close friends and relatives I'm making a small exception.  Images of the two monkeys in this montage were put together for their school yearbook 2009. If you click on the image, it will come up full-screen size so you will be able to enjoy it better. Please forgive my maternal self-indulgence.

Panda Card

Today we went and got five "Panda Cards" for each member of our family and my mother who is visiting from Sweden. They only cost 1 yuan a piece. We had to show our passports, but didn't need to do anything else. We got Gold Cards (there are silver cards too) that supposedly allow us free entry to eleven tourist spots in and around Chengdu. The cards are good until the end of the year. As yet I don't know if we can use them for multiple entry or for one entry only to each site. But even one entry is a considerable saving for a family of five. We got our cards at a local Hongqi store but they are available all over the city, at the airport, at tourist sites etc . In addition to this card many tourist sights in Chengdu will be open to all for free on the anniversary of the May 12th Earthquake. During the month of May tourists sights will also be heavily discounted. 

Information from the Sichuan Government website:

Chengdu Issues 20 Million “Panda Cards” of Tourist Consumption

  Chengdu, for the first time, issued tourist consumption cards——“panda cards” to domestic visitors on Mar 24. From Mar. 24 to Dec. 31 this year, 11 key state-owned scenic spots in Chengdu will provide free or discounted entrance to card holders. “Panda cards” have two kinds: “gold panda cards” and “silver panda cards”. “Gold panda card” holders enjoy free entrance to the 11 scenic spots in Chengdu while “silver panda card” holders enjoy 50% discount. These 11 scenic spots are: Dujiang Dam, Mount Qingcheng, Xiling Snow Mountain, ski resort on Xiling Snow Mountain, Wuhou Temple, Du Fu’s Thatched Cottage, Jinsha Site Museum, Yongling Mausoleum Museum, Giant Panda Breeding Base, Liu’s Manor and Mount Tiantai. 

  As planned, Chengdu will issue 15 million “gold panda cards” to tourists from other provinces as well as 5 million “silver panda cards” to tourists from within the province. It is preliminarily calculated that the sum of the entrance charge for the 11 scenic spots amounts to 708 yuan, and it is estimated that the discounted and exempted sum of the entrance fee will reach over 12 billion yuan in total for the whole year. Yesterday Chengdu issued “panda cards” to more than 10 representatives at the National Sugar and Wine Trade Fair, and 500,000 “panda cards” to the club members of Southwest Airline of Air China. 

  For the convenience of tourists to apply for “panda cards”, Chengdu identified 10 ways for issuance, including cooperation with tourist departments of other cities in China in issuing cards; distribution by the Airlines to their members; issuing at the commercial bank branches and offices; downloading from the website or printing temporary electronic cards and converting them to real cards in Chengdu; and issuing cards at the airport, train stations, expressway entrances in Chengdu as well as gates of scenic spots.

  ◆ Linkage

  Apart from the reduction or exemption of entrance fees, “panda card” also has the following functions:

  “Preferential discount”: card holders will enjoy the discount in the member units of “Best Travel Alliances”, which has currently attracted more than 300 tourism-related enterprises within Sichuan as their members. 

  “Recharge”: card holders can recharge cards for use in the member units of “Best Travel Alliances”; and 
“Point collection”: card holders can be rewarded with points according to the sum of money spent with the cards, and the collection of points will bring prizes or gifts.