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Capturing Moments in the PRC: Your Guide to Photography in Guangzhou

By Jefferson Mendoza , eChinacities.com Add your comment Newsletter

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Even before the first photographs were produced, the idea of capturing an image dates back as far as 4th and 5th centuries. It is no wonder that the power of an image has fascinated people throughout generations – all in the hopes of capturing life’s simple moments with a simple click.

Photography in Guangzhou
Photo: flickr.com

But others have gone further by purchasing a camera with a level of sophistication that led them to become professionals. They have provided their skills and expertise to help others wanting to become photographers themselves. Amateurs and professionals alike have one thing in common though: life’s moments can be immortalized at varying levels through the help of their camera lens. This article takes you through some of the basics of photography and also suggests a number of scenic spots in Guangzhou to kick start your passion for photography.

Research first

In Guangzhou and in its surrounding areas, there are places where one can pursue their passion for photography. It begins with observation, which begins with books as they can become beacons of inspiration for the reader to better understand the essence of their role as a photographer. According to Sip Wong, photographer and owner of Cloud Image Studio, his apprenticeship with one renowned photographer in Guangzhou taught him the importance of setting the bar high. According to Wong, “By spending time working with my mentor, observing what he did and how he did it, talking to him about arts, and trying to understand his mentality, I have learned the ways to become a good photographer in terms of art, work ethics and management.”

With this mindset in check, purchasing the right camera is your next step. When deciding to take photography as a hobby, remember that the most sophisticated technology will not always provide the best picture. “The camera doesn’t make the shot. It’s the one behind it that actually takes the picture,” said Javier Miqueleiz, photographer and cofounder of ITR space. Miqueleiz has taught photography both in workshops and on an individual basis in Guangzhou. He said a common mistake beginner photographers do is to not read their camera’s manual and therefore not fully benefit from what it can do. Another common mistake is investing too much money on a high-end camera when a second-camera may also do the trick for first-time buyers.

Knowing the basics

Everyone starts at the same point. Lighting, lines, composition, texture are some lingua franca of the photography world. Passion for photography stared early for Grandee Dorji, a local in Guangzhou. At 17, he has already showcased his second photo exhibition, with his recent exhibition featured on the walls of a café. After printing out a few thousand photos already, knowing his environment has taught him well. “When I first started taking photos, I only focused on people’s faces. I found the magic of light and shadows – they are all based on the environment. But you can control them,” he said. Dorji then bought an LED lighter online for 140 RMB. The result? It became more convenient when processing his work.

Inside Wong’s photo studio, placements of different lighting at varying intensity are key when capturing people’s portraits. He said guiding your subjects to be relaxed, waking up their tired eyes and to transfer energy so they can ‘smile’ are all ingredients to make their pictures stronger.

Knowing your learning style

Whether you are working in a team or working alone, no photographer will produce the same ‘feel’ even if it’s the same subject that they are striving to capture. What works with others might not work for you.

For Wong, his recent studio is his third one after flying solo in the market for two years. “What I’ve always wanted to do is to better myself. This is my goal and that I can do it for a long time because I love life. It just is.”

Conveying the essence of the captured image – ’10 seconds rule’

Lots of images lurk at every corner whether you’re browsing the Internet, skimming a magazine or walking past an advertisement board, if it stops you short and your eyes wander from one corner to the other, then it has hit a nerve.

According to Miqueleiz, elements come together when they are harmonious in a picture. However, achieving the technicalities can be reached little by little when out in the field, focusing on one element at a time whether it is lighting one day and color the other.

Still, what is beautiful to the naked eye might not transcend onto the picture. “When working on a project, you must have an exciting approach to life,” said Wong. “When I work on personal projects, I want to see emotions from people in their photos. When you can push my heart, then that’s a good photo.”

Knowing what you’re focusing on is the basis of why you are striving to capture an image that you have in mind. Many beginner photographers can be aimless when they have a camera. Don’t know where to begin? Street photography is one way to capture a city’s lifestyle. Miqueleiz suggested that the time of day is crucial. The best time is when the sun sets or rises because lighting at that time will add strength to the picture rather than overpowering the key elements in your picture. ‘The strong light can cast shadows everywhere,” he said. “And to control that, you are required to have a level of expertise.”

Get ready to start shooting – scenic spots in Guangzhou for photo-lovers

1) Shamian IslandView In Map
Shamian Island is a small island that is divided into two parts: one part belonged to the French while the other to Britain. Here you will be able to see the city’s colonial past with its old mansions that have now become government buildings or apartment offices. If you’re focusing on people, then you might be able to snap at newly married couples as they stroll around.

Add: north bank of Zhuajiang Bai’etan, Liwan District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市荔湾区珠江白鹅潭北岸
Admission: Free
Website: www.oldshameen.com
Getting there: Take Line 1 to Huangsha Station, Exit D. Walk towards the island (about 300 meters) via an overpass crossing the busy Liu’ersan Road. Or you could take a ferry from Huanghsa Pier to Fancun Pier. The ferry comes every 10 minutes. Fares are 0.5 RMB for foot passenger and 1 RMB for passengers with a bike. No public buses are available on the island.

2) Dongshankou
At Dongshankou (东山口) area, you can find historical buildings and significant people who have lived in this area.  You will find villas with courtyard and different architectural layouts. Houses are painted in bright red, yellow with columned porches. Many of these villas were owned by descendants of overseas Chinese celebrities, military officers and government officials who built them in the 1920s and 1930s.

Getting there: Take metro line 1 to Dongshankou Station, Exit A. 

3) Chigang Pagoda View In Map
Built more than 400 years ago, Chigang Pagoda was created to mirror the Pazhou Pagoda and to serve as reinforcements. The word ‘Pagoda’ has had three main purposes in the past: as a landmark, for storage, and for Feng Shui enhancements.

Add: Chigang, Haizhu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市海珠区赤岗
Getting there: Take Line 3 to Chigang Pagoda station or metro line 8 to Chigang station or bus lines 14, 37, 51, 53, 88, 125, 129, 178, 189, 204 or 206

4) Guangzhou Panyu Lotus Mountain Scenic Area View In Map
It may be a little bit far, but if you are striving to achieve nature’s beauty, then Lotus Mountain might provide you the necessary scenery. It has surrounding cliffs and quarries that line at the foot. You can also find rare relics that date back to the Ming Dynasty.

Add: Lianhuashan Town, Panyu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市番禺区莲花镇
Tel: 020 8486 1298
Price: 40 RMB (2 RMB for Lotus Pagoda; 1 RMB Eagle Tunnel and Cliff)
Opening hours: All day
Getting there: Take metro line 3 to Shiqiao station, Exit C; then walk straight for ten minutes towards the Panyu Shiqiao Bus Station (番禺汽车总站). Then take bus 92 or 93. The bus ride is 50-60 minutes until you reach Lotus Hill Town (番禺莲花山镇). Walk for 15 minutes to the gate of Lotus Mountain

5) Baiyun Mountain Scenic Area  View In Map
Baiyun Mountain is 15 km north of the city center. Upon reaching it, you will be able to see the Luhu Park, the Yuntai Garden, the Mingchungpu scenic area and many others since they are all part of the Baiyungshan Resort.

Address: Guangyuan Zhonglu, Baiyun District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市白云区广园中路
Tel: 020 3722 2222/ 020 3722 9871-2138
Price: 5 RMB (Baiyun entrance; price varies depending on other areas or activities)
Opening hours: 06:00-18:00
Website: www.baiyunshan.com.cn
Getting there: take metro line 2 to Baiyun Park station

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Keywords: scenic spots in Guangzhou photography in Guangzhou

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