Saturday, June 21, 2008

Xi'an: Bell Tower and Drum Tower

Xi'an, one of the ancient capitals of China. Resplendent with the Bell Tower (foreground) and Drum Tower (background). When we arrived it was hot, desert like, much much cleaner than Shanghai. While Shaghai had been deafeningly loud with motorists laying on their horns at every possible opprotunity, Xi'an's drivers seemed to exercise restraint.

Now, what kind of music would you imagine to be playing the background?
(p.s. do you notice the construction equipment in the far background? While the city and the tourist attractions are quite old, circa 1300s, a lot of new construction is "relocating" peasants to highrises to sell the land to universities who want to capitalize on the "culture")

So, what music is playing in the background?

Did you guess club style techno? Well, I wouldn't have guessed either. Across the street (where a mall is) there were huge loud speakers blaring techno music. It was actually quite fun, though a bit like S. California.
The drums are big and as people walk by they tap on them (and then get yelled at) but do it again anyways. Like I said in the Water Village, there's a different sense of "cultural preservation"

I wanted this to be a super cute picture... but it isn't. shucks.

I quite enjoyed how much more casual the Chinese were in terms of sitting where ever seemed convenient. Perhaps that isn't so weird really... but it is in Japan where high schoolers sitting on the floor on the train has led adult student to the conclusion that they are capable of murder (e.g. if you break one societal rule where will you stop....)

OK... But here's the big question.
So, I'm going to enter some photos in a photo contest because I think it will help me learn how to use my camera better. (I'm absolutely not shooting to win. I'm using it as an exercise to get better. The following are all ones I'm considering for the "dusk to dawn" low light category.

What's your favorite? why? (and I did straighten the last one so that the tower was horizontal, but it threw off the light posts. hmmm?)
What do you think would make any of these pictures better?

F4.0, 1/180, ISO 1600
F 4.0, 1/180, 1600
F 4.5, 1/60, ISO 1600

F5.6, 1/20, ISO 1600


SonicLlama said...

I'd go for the third Bell Tower dusk shot if you want to enter a contest. It's striking- really striking- and that's what you'll need if you want to win the contest. That, and the picture is completely badass. The whole thing is dominated by the darkened tower which is selectively and perfectly lit up with awesome golden bands across it. It's memorable, cool to look at, and decidedly unboring.

I really like the fourth picture as well, the one with the glass pyramid off to the side. I like the activity and the people, and the way people are silhouetted in front of the pyramid is kind of neat. However, the sky is sort of bland. In the contest, there will probably be lots of night pictures where the sky is a striking, strong inky black, or where it's covered in starlight or whatnot. The sky in this picture doesn't pop, and won't be able to compete with the others. Because it takes up so much of the frame, it's a liability for you here.

So, I'd go for the darkened/lit-up tower in the third picture. It plays to your strengths the best, and "pops" in a way that few photos do.

I'd also suggest your Funabashi bike pic for a night entry. I still really like that one.

Kori the tomorrow lady said...

First of all, I'm not shooting to win. Not at all. no no no...... I don't have hours to devote to photoshop and touching things up for one. and five million other reasons too.

Entering is soley an exercise to help me become better.

Second, that one's the drum tower and personally, while it may be more striking, I don't think it has enough detail. no?

I won't say which one is my favorite...yet

As for the bike one (taken with my old camera)
I don't think it's high enough resolution, actually. shucks, huh?

michaelpanda said...

nice shots! i love taking photos in the evening/at night and it looks like you found some great places to shoot :) ii na!!

you asked if there were any suggestions... the main thing I could think of (and this is in no way a criticism!) would be to use a much longer exposure time and a much much smaller ISO. particularly for the third shot (the one without any people in it), I would shoot that at ISO 100 or 200, and a shutter time of several seconds - as much as 15 seconds or more, depending on how much light was in the scene (the camera will decide the exposure time if you if you set it to Av mode and focus on the scene).

The problem with shooting high ISOs is that often the results are super grainy, especially in dark areas (which in evening/night photography are plentiful ;) ). Using a lower ISO and a longer exposure time will give better resolution of details and a lot less "graininess", as well as bring out weird and wonderful colours in any lights present in the picture.

the downsides of course is that moving objects will blur or not even show up in the picture (an advantage if you're trying out some painting with light) - so this technique might result in the people being blurred in fourth and fifth images. and of course, it's impossible to hand hold the camera for such long exposure times, even with a VR (vibration reduction) lens - you have to either use a tripod or else set the camera down somewhere, trigger it, and then not touch it until the shutter closes (using a remote control or the timer function is best to remove any possibility of hand held shake blurring the picture).

the last thing, if you're shooting with the kit lens, might be to kick up the aperture a little bit - normally you'd want to use as wide of an aperture as possible in low light situations to get lots of light into the sensor, but kit lenses often tend to get a little soft and fuzzy at the extremes of their aperture range, especially wide open (like f/4.0). if you're shooting with a separate, higher end/prime lens you can of course safely ignore this advice since those lenses will often perform much better than the kit lens at extreme apertures.

if you're using a tripod you shouldn't need to use a super wide aperture anyway as you can just leave the camera on the tripod for the extra few seconds using a higher f/stop will cost you in terms of exposure time.

nice pics as always though! how did your entry into the contest go?

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