On The Road; Monte’s Journey To China—Part I
Although I've been somewhat pigeonholed as a portrait photographer, I
am a traveling man...and love taking pictures along the way, of course.
Recently I made a trip to Shanghai and loved every second of it--what great
opportunities for pictures! I started out my trip by carrying my camera case
with three bodies and four lenses. My basic camera bodies are a Canon EOS 5D,
an EOS 20D for backup, and an EOS D60 that has been converted to make infrared
images. The lens that I use most often is a 28-135mm IS. For wide angle shots
I have a 16-35mm lens. I also have a 24-70mm lens that I use mostly for portraiture
and a soft focus lens that I sometimes use for special portraits.
For the most part I do custom white balance all the time with an ExpoDisc, but when I'm traveling and shooting fast I usually go with the white balance presets on the EOS 5D. I've started shooting raw and JPEG simultaneously, because I run into such diverse shooting conditions all the time I like to have the opportunity to adjust the exposure and white balance afterward.
The Old And The New
I was the guest of a friend who I had previously met at the United Nations. I stayed in a brand-new high-rise overlooking the skyline of Shanghai. Immediately outside the gates to the building, however, was a large area just waiting to be torn down. I could see how the locals had been living for years on end.
It was at once depressing, yet picturesque. People were putting their laundry out to dry every day, right in the shadows of new buildings going up all around them. I felt as if I were going back in time. Scenes that to some might have been depressing seemed to me as picture opportunities that cried to be recorded before all the locals would be displaced by "progress." Shanghai is truly a city of extremes. Poverty is right next to incredible wealth. The old and the new mingle together in a blend that is probably not uncommon all over the world. Still, I was amazed by this situation and wanted to photograph both.
A Visit To Old Towne
A short and cheap cab ride from my home away from home brought me to the entrance of Old Towne Shanghai. The entrance staggered my eyes. I photographed it with a wide angle lens, so as to show the scale of the people against the massive structure surrounding the numerous shops. In this picture and many of the others I straightened the verticals in Photoshop. I also darkened the corners of most of my images in Photoshop, as I've described in previous columns here.
Inside was a photographer's paradise. Bright color was everywhere. Souvenir stalls were an invitation to photographers with an eye for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes I isolated the displays and sometimes I included the narrow walkways that separated the sides of each passageway.
Food was sometimes displayed as artistically as it was prepared, such as an arrangement of skewered food that was incased in glass. The color and the arrangement caught my eye. The incredible ease of changing ISOs on today's digital cameras make it so easy to adjust to various light levels in seconds.
Even when ideal lighting conditions don't exist, it's usually easy to go to the shadowed side of what you're photographing and at least start with good lighting. Then, by toning-down in Photoshop it's possible to create a center of interest as well as an interesting composition. The concept is to keep one's eyes open to subject matter that may be unique to where you are. Subject matters like these make great eye-candy when you don't have any extra room in your luggage for more souvenirs. (I had to buy an extra suitcase to take home my purchases.)