Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tibetan schoolgirl

After lunch we are able to spend a little time on the small street, small but somewhat busy, like most of the Chinese cities I have visited, almost everyone is busying is doing something, and I was busy looking for a Coke Zero among those few little shops.   With my camera on hand, I saw this Tibetan schoolgirl coming, forget the Coke for a moment, made this snapshot.

Lunch at Litang

Entering into Litang, a rather small township with population only nearing 50,000, in Chinese scale anyway.  I was here last year and have a very bad memory of lunch and prayed this trip would be different, and it was!
The lunch was rather simple, but quite good.  We were in a Chinese run restaurant, enjoying the Chinese hotpot with local vegetables and of course some Yak meat.  It has everything I hope for, easy, simple, lots of green, hot soup, and a friendly cook! 
The lady in picture is emigrated from Chengdu, run the restaurant with her husband, like many in this region.


4 days after leaving Chengdu, our route to Shangri-La has is approaching to its high point.   Climbing layers and layers of mountains we are finally arriving Litang, an important military post and itself of historical significance, see the link.
Situated 4,014 meters above sea level, and yet surrounded by cascades of high mountain ranges, tells the traveler, the great Tibetan Plateau is in sight.
We have an early wake up call, the first clear and beautiful morning to finally get some nice shots along the way, everyone found himself hungry, time to lunch!

Sunrise Jianzewan, a very short video clip

Sunrise Jianzewan from Kaisern Chen on Vimeo.

Captured at the beautiful Jianzewan, using the Canon 5DII with EF 70-300L IS. The rising sun bath the frozen land release the steam.  In the high altitude area, this is a regular cycle.  It is always rather clear sky early in the day, then the warm sun promote the sublimation, becomes the clouds.  It is just a part of nature cycle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A page in a book

If a landscape is like a book, the scanning through a large landscape is like reading a book.  Modern digital technology allows the image to be taken in many creative ways, being able to stitch large number of individual captures into a large image is one of them, an important one. 
This image, cropped from the one posted earlier, shot at Jianzewan, Sichuan, China, is a good example.  The rising sun heated the frozen ground of high altitude grassland, some still snow capped, the frozen water begin its sublimation, the scenery turn its face from moment to moment, and one can’t get tired looking at it, as if one can’t tired going back to pages of a book, sometimes repeatedly.

Book and Landscape

Ernest Dimnet once said that, “A book, like a landscape, is a state of consciousness varying with readers.” Each human is a unique individual and sees the landscape in his own way, and may be different from time to time, it is such, there are photographers travel to the end of world to look for inspirations and there are photographer seldom left his home town or visit same place time after another.
When travel with a group, time is limited, and I would often tend to make large stitched panoramic images – not that it is absolutely necessary but because it allow me to do different crops later, if needed, and often it is, so I continue to make large stitched panorama images.
Still in Jianzewan area, took this image of a small grass-field between the slops of mountains.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Light, shadow and clouds

Since it was the first day with nice weather and lighting, Jianzewan, although beautiful, was not really a scenic point highlighted in our travel agenda, it is just a point where we will pass by.  Thanks to early morning rise, even with a relative short time I am able to get some shots I expected to get.
The high mountain gives an excellent playground for light, shadow and clouds to play their roll; each corner of the landscape suddenly became alive, and invites you to shoot, and to shoot more.
This image of a small valley is also shot at Jianzewan, with Canon 5DII and EF 70-300L IS, which is quickly became my primary landscape lens for this trip.

Om Mani Padme Hum

Climb over Jianzewan, not only the weather condition improved, also the first in the trip we are able to appreciate the grandness of the mountains, and we are entering the Tibetan region, we don’t just see high mountains, we see endless mountains after mountains.
This image, also shot at Jianzewan, the mountain face is decorated with Tibetan mantra – Om Mani Padme Hum.


One of the largest problems to blog about China in English is to get the name right, in particular, the name of a place.  On the 4th day of the trip, an early rise at Yajiang, the destination of the day is Shangri-La County (also known as Riwa) in Daocheng, Sichuan.  And you get more headache trying to get Google translate.  But however, the sceneries are beautiful.
The early rise in Yajiang gave us the good opportunity to shoot breath-taking landscape at Jianzewan, here our car rose to 4,659meters, although I still feel at home, many of my fellow travelers are starting to get sickening from high altitude.
Since the beginning of the trip and nearing the Tibetan plateau, this is the first day of good weather, and before the clouds form in the sky quickly, I made this panoramic shot over the mountain range of Sichuan at Jianzewan.

Farewell Xinduqiao

I have not expected to shoot more portraits in this Great Shangri-La trip mostly because of my previous experiences traveling in China.  Chinese people is typically camera-shy, and in or around Tibet, even more difficult, and I was surprisingly happy to get many portraits in a relatively short walk on the street of Xinduqiao.  
Anyway, it is time to go, we are leaving Xinduquai and moving toward Yajiang County.  Before getting on the car, I walked pass by a small grocery shop and took this image of the shopkeeper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Poetry in motion

Into the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture the landscape has changed and so the means of transportation. Before the modern motorized vehicle becomes available horse has been what the lifeline of locals depended upon.  The horses might have seen their best day during the height of ancient Tea-Horse Trade, even today, horse is still highly demanded for transportation and load-carrying in many routes that modern highway is not available. Horse is still common to see in the great west of China.
Arabian says best that “The horse is God’s gift to mankind.”, true, but I would rather see the horse as poetry in motion.
Shot in Xinduqiao, Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China.

The small corner of Xinduqiao

A small, quiet corner of Xinduqiao. Shot with Canon 5DII with EF 70-300L IS.
The new EF 70-300L is one of the new lens introduced by Canon and a great one for travel when one needs extra reach.  I have many shots made with this new lens during the trip, will revisit this many more times later.

Working on portraits

Yes, today’s photo editing software is powerful, are they are so many of them, but it is still 24 hours a day.  And so the best way, is still the old way, making it right to begin with.  It sounds easier than doing it, in fact, it is really easy and all one has to do is a few seconds of observation. 
I made a series of portraits inside the Tibetan boutique, yes, it is at the border of Tibet, not 5th Avenue or Ginza, so the little shop itself is chaos, but that does not mean you can’t take a neat image – of course, unless indeed chaotic image is what you are after.
So I found a little spot where all the fabric are displayed, position my model I front of it, in fact a little away from it so I will get a nice blur to pop the subject.  And the light, to position the subject closer to light you get higher contrast and a little away you have lower contrast, all you need to do is a few more seconds, and a little nicer to your subject, and result a nicer image. Save some time for coffee or tea.

Little Tibetan Girl

Still in the small boutique shop, and while the shopkeeper is busying changing her lovely costume, accessories, I was busy entertaining her little customer, a lovely Tibetan girl, and this is one.  Xinduqiao, Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China.


Chinese philosophy is: If you don’t know something is China then it is your knowledge issue, because with 1/5 the population of the world Chinese believes they represent the standard. In many ways, you cannot say they are wrong. We are currently in a world dominated by English – which is a rather new power and language considered human civilization developments.  The popularity of English did not begin until the colonization era.  Even the parliament in England spoke French (or called Anglo-Norman, before it was called French) – because that was whole ruling class spoke. It was not until 1420 when King Henry V delivered a speech in parliament in English to make such change.  This is the background, it only says there is no standard, there is only strength.
Anyway, this post is not about the language, it is the social network, and in China, if one does not now QQ it is considered someone in the US does not know Facebook.  OK, perhaps not adapting to use Facebook has other national security concern, but it is a typical Chinese philosophy to build their own. I heard about QQ and never have any interests, still don’t. But here in Xinduqiao, once I took the image then I was asked to give them the picture so I politely said I will email to the nice lady but she did not have email, except QQ.  And by the way, her QQ1755358048.

The boutique shop

Walking on the street of Xinduqiao will not give you a sense of shopping. It is not. The city is rather small by Chinese standard, the street is nicely laid out, all the shops open in the day time, but they sell just rather primitive articles, life necessities, old-fashion apparels; so when I discovered the small Tibetan boutique I was pleasantly surprised.
The owner of the boutique is a young lady, rather nice looking for a Tibetan – at least she is to me. I walked in the shop with a camera and appeared having no business with her boutique, but I was greeted with nice smiles anyway – from her, and two other men in the shop, perhaps one of them is her husband, so I told myself to be careful.   And before I was ready, the smiles changed to warm invitation, so with a camera on hand, I became her photographer of the day.
This shot is among the first few of her, with the colorful Tibetan costume behind her.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ice Cream

Ice Cream has existed for a long time, legend says King Tang of Shang, China who had a method of creating ice and milk concoctions, and believed to be a potential origin. Ice cream was likely brought from China back to Europe later, and like many things, reached a new height.
To me, Ice Cream is a sign of peace and friendly much more than stretching index-middle fingers,  it is suggested that the ice cream to be served when we have the close encounter with aliens – don’t be silly, whoever possessed the technology to travel from space to earth alive, is of higher being.
The picture was taken at Xinduqiao, Sichuan, China.  I was walking on the street looking for interesting subjects; this Tibetan man appeared to be a shopkeeper, sitting on a chair on the porch enjoying an ice cream with another Tibetan man, gave me a nice smile.

The build of a nation

I have traveled many countries, rich and poor and in between, high education and poor education and country seemed to have good education but actually not.  But speaking of practical and application, China top my chart, regardless which gauge to use.
Xinduqiao,  a small town located 437km west to Chengdu, 83km west of Kangding (the home of famous Chinese folk song – Kangding Love Song – its English translate), in Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to be a good example. 
On the street, it is not easy to miss the makeshift solar cooker, picture taken on the main street of Xinduqiao, and a rather common scene of the Tibetan region.  Not that there is no electricity, in fact, considered the level of infrastructure available here (on all counts), it can easily rival cities much larger than its size in other country, it is just the nature of people to make any available from nature.

Blue eyes

The origin of Tibetan people is a subject of hard study.  Some suggest that the majority of Tibetan gene pool may have diverged from the Han around 3,000 years ago. However, there are evidences of much earlier human inhabitation of Tibet. The distribution of Haplogroup D-M174 is found among all the populations of Central Asia and Northeast Asia south of Russian border, although generally at a low frequency of 2% or less. A dramatic spike in the frequency of D-M174 occurs as one approach the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of western China. D-M174 is also found at high frequencies in Japanese people but it fades into low frequencies in the Han populated Mainland China between Japan and Tibet.
This picture of a Tibetan boy is a one of twin brothers; strangely, his twin brother has dark brown eyes, in stead blue eyes.
A recent Danish science study suggest blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor, perhaps this Tibetan boy and the Geisha in Japan are relatives?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Little princess

A very cute little Tibetan girl in Xinduqiao, Sichuan, China, a part of Tibetan autonomous prefecture.  It was mid day, I just finished my lunch and have an hour or so lingering on the street. 
The little girl was not obsessed about camera nor afraid of it, just perfectly normal, with her mom who is picking up new shoes for her in a shop.  Her quietness, stillness, is just like a well-behaved princess.

Chinese landscape then and now

I was recently in Taipei, Taiwan and took a day off to visit the Palace Museum where the famous painting by Huang Gongwang 黃公望Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” (painted between 1347-1350)– burnt into 2 halves in 1,650 and since then collected/preserved by and through separated routes are reunited again and the current themed exhibition in museum.  (more read….- sorry, in Chinese) But anyway, this is not the subject of this post.
Landscape usually referred as “Mountain-Water” 山水 [shān shuǐ] in China, for thousand of years, the beautiful Chinese landscape is the popular theme for painting, mostly in ink, more on state of mind than realistic painting so therefore the perfect landscape is born – beautiful mountains, fog, a few birds, the fisherman or boatman, ripples of water, perhaps the farmers, buffalo, pine or plum tress, often some cooking smokes……
And now the perfect landscape also captured by modern camera but follow the same route, it always needs the perfect light, and it has to be the side light, better to have some clouds as a contrast to the deep blue sky, and farm houses – best if there are cooking smokes, and don’t forget the birds, and buffalo (of course it can be Yak, horse, deer…..), and of course the river and big mountains.  Déjà vu, right?
Chinese is a special language, and it is an art by itself, and of course the language affects its culture, and history.  For thousands of years, the masters have set the standard, and generations after the master, follow the master, there is no shame to copy, in fact, it is encouraged to get as close (similar) as possible, for Chinese – it is learning, and that was then.  Now, most of the Chinese photographers travel to the great locations to try to duplicate the image on the postcards, or on the books, is not to be mistaken as “copy”, it is “tradition”!
Picture shot in Xinduqiao, Sichuan, China, stitched from 5 captures with Canon 5DII + EF 70-300L IS. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

The believe

The great Tibetan region – where the Tibetan habitats are the majority, is land of believe.   I did not study their religion, did not live there long enough to learn to understand, but everything they do, and how they think, lead to their believe.  Whether it is a believe of yesterday? today or forever, only time will tell. But I wonder.  What I wondered is not the value of the religion, rather, is how it will progress further.
Without doubt, travelers come to this part of the world will be fascinated by Tibetan’s devotion to their religion, just that unfortunately, their sincere devotion to what they believe, in 2011, to those who travel by modern means of transportation, became a tourist attraction.
Shot at Mugecuo, Sichuan, China.

Mountain Azalea

While the travelers might hate the rain, lots of other creatures actually love it, not just love it, they needed it, the Mountain Azalea among them.
May is the growing season for the mountain Azalea in this region of China, sometimes whole mountain of them. 
This shot is made on a small foothill above the riverbank of a small stream came down from the Wildman Lake (main lake of Mugecuo), Sichuan, China.

The big and the small

On a photography trip to the Great Shgangri-La region one would expect to see and to photograph high mountains, deep blue high altitude lakes, and wild rivers, which are true.
But when the weather is poor and all the great geographical features hidden behind dense cloud and mist one might as well just look around, at least to make the day worthy.  Walking on the mountain trail in light rain, I took this image of small droplets of rainwater dangling and sparkling.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Running water

My second day of Great Shangri-La travel is not traditionally a photogenic day, bad weather; rain often, hardly any good sunlight.  But just like all the bad lucks – they made you think otherwise.  And bad weather also allows one to see picture opportunities differently.
For example this one, shot of the river came down from Muge Cuo, the heavy clouded day prevent huge contrast between spots in the image and allow me to picture the running water with more subtlety.

Son of horseman Gang

To find the name for horseman gang has troubled me a lot specifically because I cannot find a proper translation in proper documents. Many called them caravan but I still prefer my own version.
In Chinese “馬幫” is referred to in this great western region for people who lives on horses – themselves and to provide service of transportation to commodity traders, mostly tea.  They are the indispensible part of the tea-horse trade, and where they worked mostly, known as Tea Horse Roadancient tea route.
It all began in the Upper Cretaceous when the Indo-Australian Plate and Eurasia Plate collided, formed the high region known the Himalayan and the Tibetan Plateau known as roof of the world today. The rise of land made ancient and even today’s transportation difficult, so the need of a type of transport to be able to traverse along the mountain and valley, dense forest, medium high altitude became a necessity – made happen the horseman gang, and that must be among the most ancient professions existed and in effective today, although less significant, but the way the worked, live is still very much the same.
I shot this image during the hike on the hill overlooking Muge Cuo, a Tibetan boy of the horseman gang family.  I have no idea how many generations his family has served in this part of the world, and no idea how he can receive education and so on, and so on.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


One of the world’s oldest living organisms, pine, is a common scene along the Great Shangri-La route.  Chinese geographical feature can be summarized into 3 steps, like ladders, from west started with Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang being the highest with some of the highest mountains in the world; to the rest of western China provinces in the middle, and to the rest of China being the lowest. The Great Shangri-La route is on the boarder of highest and 2nd highest ladder of China between Tibet Autonomous region and Sichuan and Yunnan, and it is in this region pine the most often seen.      
This is on my 2nd day of the trip, coming to Muge Cuo area but was greeted with light rain, fog and lots of clouds.   But that does not mean you can’t take pictures!
Walking on the hill, hoping weather to improve to allow a glance of Mt. Gongga (Minya Konka), in the light rain, a camera on hand, I took this image of mountain pine.

Friday, June 3, 2011


The essence of Chinese medical practice is base on harmonizing the Sky-Man-Earth, in some way; it is rather similar to the Western Philosophy, the Existentialism.  The universe is meaningful to human because of the existence of human, through the human consciousness.  Universe in Chinese philosophy is like primordial soup condensed into a singularity, in Chinese more or less known as 混沌, or Chaos, proposed by Fu Xi approximately 7,000 years ago, from Chaos it began the Taiji. Tai-ji, in Chinese “” is combined of two words, Tai – means grand, boundless, immeasurable.  And “Ji – “ means endless, extreme, opposite.
And according to Confucius, the word “Tai - ” is from “” (large, grand, huge) added with a small dot that signifies that it is immeasurably large yet immeasurably small – much like the Western believes that universe is composed of tiny atoms that is so small to be seen and yet it is the building block of the universe – except – Western philosophy always try to materialize everything so they found atom, and Chinese always spiritualize everything so they found “Tai -
Anyway, this is a post about harmony – and it came from the Chinese understanding on the universe, and to Chinese people, the human body is a universe.  Therefore if one gets sick, it is regarded as the universe became unbalanced, and they use herb (from nature – a part of universe) to try to balance it, to reach harmony.
The image is also taken at Shangli, a small clinic behind a Chinese herb shop. The doctor is writing scrip for the patient – usually a combination of varies herbs. (For those who interests on Chinese Medicine)

Sky, Man, Earth

The fundamental Chinese philosophy is base on the belief of Sky-Man-Earth, or more specifically, the balance of it.   And such belief influences Chinese people on how they live, and certainly, the Chinese medicine.
This shot was made recently at a small ancient town – Shangli, also called an “ink and wash landscape”, situated in the western Sichuan Basin; the town was once an important trade post on the Silk Road (south route) and the ancient Tea-Horse Trail in history.  Just over an hour drive from Chengdu, Shangli was the first stop of my recent Great Shangri-La travel embarked from Chengdu to end in Lijiang Ancient Town.
I walked slowly in the ancient town, slowly digest what was here, how could have it been thousands years ago, and certainly, what have been changed and rebuilt – after all, this is China.
This shot was made on an old man who looked after a Chinese herb shop, and on the back of it, believe it or not, is a real clinic with real Chinese doctor who actually looked after patient.  Late morning sun flooded the stone street on the outside and the old man sit himself close to the door to get some warmth, and gave me an opportunity to made a shot with side light.