Two photographs that I've taken in China illustrate my different sides and have taught me two lessons about capturing great photos while traveling. First, work really hard, do your homework and be persistent. Secondly, don't worry about outside forces and be flexible.
Shanghai is an amazing city to say the least, a perfect example of China's new "Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics", and nothing exemplifies that better than along The Bund, the promenade above the western bank of the Huangpu River facing the towering skyscrapers of the Pudong District.
The Bund is within the former Shanghai International Settlement and is fronted with colonial era buildings that before 1948 housed Western Banks, trading offices and foreign consulates, embracing centuries of Chinese history. Today, thousands every morning keep Chinese traditions alive by performing tai chi, exercising and strolling. The skyscrapers, some the tallest in the world, across the river represent the booming economy of China.
Planning before my trip dictated the obvious photo opportunity, and I returned to The Bund early every morning for four days running. I noticed older men flying elaborate kites each day, their dancing toys way to high to make a picture. Finally, on the last day, just as the sun was rising, I made the image I felt captured both the traditional and booming China.
On the same trip, my friend Nancy Brown and I were invited by the Huaguang Photography Art College in Fujian Province to share our photography and be liaisons with the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.
The college is located in the city of Quanzhou, a city of over seven million, and is not exactly a hot tourism destination. The one place we found in a guide book with picture potential was a puppet making industry, so we asked our hosts to set up a visit. They promised for four days that it would be no problem.
On our last day, we were told we were finally off to the puppets, but first a few stops that the city fathers and school officials, who were financing our trip within China, wanted to show off. First, the electrical cord factory. Second, a rusty ship yard. Third, a mosque that consisted of mounds of rubble. Then, a decorative paper cutting workshop. Don't worry, the reassured us, the puppets are awaiting.
Then, off to see a monument. At that point Nancy and I protested and complained, as politely as we could that we were tired of the dog and pony show. No, the monument we must see !
When we approach the monument, reportedly the largest in China, of Zheng Chenggong, a 17th century Chinese national hero, we were amazed by the scene. And this complainer caught the perfect moment of a woman flying a tiny kite under the giant horseman.
As for the puppets, the factory was closed when we finally arrived, but by then it didn't matter as I had already let go of my agenda and captured the unplanned.
Here's a link to see more editorial photography from China.