Photography in the Abstract: Parallel Lines

= and || and # and ” and B and E and F and H and N and U and Z. Parallel lines. (Strange that there are no numbers here, yes?)

Lines are one of the main photographic lenses. When viewing any photograph, we can ask, “How do the lines interact in this picture? Lines come in three main forms: curvy, perpendicular and parallel. We looked at strange, curvy lines in a previous post on silhouette photography. We’ll look at perpendicular lines next time. That leaves…parallel lines! Like all Photography in the Abstract posts, we’ll ask the question:

What ways can you use parallel lines to compose a great picture?


Lines + Out-of-Focus

Strategy to take this kind of picture is: 1) Find close object with a straight side. 2) Align close object’s line with a line in the background. 3) Click.

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It’s nice when in- and out-of-focus object have similar/related structures (5 rectangular blocks). It’s also nice when those blocks are not simply blocks of color but have their own little details (tile has semi-perpendicular lines for example). [Hong Kong, China]

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I like it when the out-of-focus (oof) lines have different levels of depth. [Kaiping, China]


Variation on a Theme

The above photos emphasize big differences between lines using blur level. The pictures below emphasize small differences using parallel lines to keep shape constant (and thus emphasize the other small differences).

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Middle section is variation on railroad track theme. Top and bottom sections are variation on beige theme (w.r.t. middle section). [Suzhou Railroad Station, Suzhou, China]

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Variations on texture and depth. I think this is playground equipment. [Fenyang, China]


Parallelism Gone Awry

The lines in the photographs above are darn close to perfectly parallel. The lines in the pictures below are ones that “aren’t parallel, but should be”. This is different than “aren’t parallel and shouldn’t be”. i.e. There are lots of lines in pictures that aren’t parallel but the viewer doesn’t care. In the following pictures we do care (about non-parallelism).

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Like a firecracker exploded and stopped the parallel lines. [Dongguan, China]

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Same pile. Again, parallel lines are a tad off. Angled stick hurts. Sticks ending before leaving the frame also hurts. [Dongguan, China]

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Far left lines start parallel. In the middle, bait/gravity combo and reflection turns fishing lines from = into x (parallel to chaos). [Dongguan, China]


Shorter and More Dense Parallel Lines Create Perspective

Photographers will often use converging lines to create perspective. Less often we’ll use shorter and shorter parallel lines to achieve the same effect. Railroad tracks show both, so let’s look at that first then check out my pics.

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EXAMPLE PHOTO: Converging lines are the vertical rails. Shorter and more dense horizontal lines are the perpendicular wooden slats. Both imply a vanishing point. [Internet, USA]

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Top left: short, dense lines. Bottom right: long, infrequent lines. [Fenyang, China]

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Same concept here with two differences. One, lines get longer and then shorter (longest line is Line #5, not Line #6). Two, lines aren’t perfectly parallel. I’m also capturing another convergence point somewhere in the distance away from bottom right. [Kaiping, China]

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Imperfect parallelism creates tilty world vibe. [Fenyang, China]

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Variation on railroad track picture. This picture emphasizes converging lines instead of parallel ones. The parallel lines are actually the red steps. Not a constant line, but dots. Note how dots get denser in both directions. [Fenyang High School Stadium bleachers, Fenyang, China]


Nontraditional Lines Are Cool Too

‘Nuff said. Look for lines everywhere.

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[Chengdu, China]

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[Swingset, Fenyang, China]


Until Next Time

It’s 2015! I published 17 posts in 2014 after returning from China. Not bad. I definitely enjoy this. Posts that I’m most excited for in 2015:

  • Ducks
  • Texture
  • Reviewing photographer’s reviews (of my blog)
  • Using post-production (which I’ve never done)
  • B&W

Thanks to all of you who have been reading my posts! 20 followers is a non-zero number! K bye.

– Rhys

Are Chinese Kids REALLY More Cute?

I’m sorry this text is not a picture of a cute Chinese baby.

That’ll come later. For now, I want to ask why an American like myself saw and took a bunch of pictures of cute Chinese children. Are Chinese kids really more cute than their Caucasian counterparts (that I see more often)? (By the way, please don’t try to take this post as creepy. That’s not why I’m here.)


The reasons why I have so many pictures of cute Chinese children can be broken into three categories: my bias (reasons 1, 5 and 2-ish), physical characteristics of Chinese children (reasons 2 and 3), and Chinese cultural attitudes w.r.t. children (reason 4).

1. Self-fulfilling Prophecy!

I had heard the cute Chinese child stereotype, so I definitely had my camera ready whenever I saw someone under 4′ 2″. If I went around America looking for cute kids, I bet I’d find a bunch here too.

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This picture shows my constant state of readiness. Camera in hand. On the lookout for cute shit. Ah! Kid jumping! *Snap* [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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I love how the yellows and greens match from plant to kid. [Pinyao, China] 


2. Bigger Pupils and Eyes

Bigger Pupils: This academic article (oooohhhhh) states that cuter kids have “large eyes and pupils”. This could make sense for Chinese babies given that their rate of dark eyes is greater than in white populations [source] (not to mention the white skin dark eye contrast). This means that the line between pupil and iris is harder to define, leading to more “large pupiled” babies.

Bigger Eyes: This may seem counterintuitive to people like myself who have schooled with the “Asian squinty eyes” stereotype. In fact, this stereotype actually enhances the “big-eyed Chinese child” phenomenon. Like most stereotypes, the “slanted eye” tag is based on truth — an upper eye fold (called the epicanthic fold) is more prevalent in Asia. We are used to seeing this in Chinese adults, labeling their eyes as “small”. Children’s eyes are 75% of their full size [source], but their face is still pretty small (babies have a face-to-cranium ratio of 1:8 while adults have a ratio of 1:2.5 [source]). Therefore children’s eyes are relatively larger w.r.t. their face than they are as adults. This relative eye bigness in Chinese children might affect how often we see their eyes as “big” (as compared to “small” in Chinese adults). A compounding (and somewhat counter-logical to the last point) factor is that the epicanthic fold is harder to see (it’s 75% of its size), so we don’t judge the eyes in the “Chinese adult small” category.

Puss in Boots is a prototypical example of big pupils, BIG cute.

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Those eyes are pure black. Pupil is black. Iris is black. Pupil gets confused with iris. Pupil is perceived as bigger than it actually is. Cuteness up. Viewers win. [Suzhou Gardens, Suzhou, China]

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Again, pupil-iris conflation ftw. Phone and hand position don’t hurt. [Fenyang, China]

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Bigger eyes w.r.t. face means we don’t see them as “Asian small”, means cuter. Epicanthal folds smaller means we don’t see eyes as “Asian small”, means cuter. [Suzhou, China]


Smaller Noses

The other genetic factor at play here is smaller noses. That same academic article (above) claims that cuter kids are those with “short and narrow features” (using a small nose as indicative of small babyness). Chinese people thought I (and other westerners) were much more attractive because of our 大鼻子 (da bi zi), big noses [Data4Fun]. They said, “Ahhhhh, us Chinese don’t have big noses! We love your big nose!” It’s the classic “want what you don’t have” syndrome (light-skinned people getting fake tans, darker-skinned people wanting fairer skin). For the Chinese, this creates big nose jealousy later in life, but increases cuteness as a baby.

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The pain! Oh, the pain! [Pinyao, China]


Cuter Clothes

Moving away from genetics to culture. Did you see that panda coat two pictures above? So damn cute. The Chinese style of cute works so well on kids.

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Puffball of color. [Fenyang, China]

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Animal leash. Beach hat. Some fly J’s. [Pinyao, China]

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Face isn’t even needed. [Dongguan, China]


Pure Exoticism

The final reason is that Chinese kids are different than American kids. Just like the pull of Imperial Adventures in a movie like Indiana Jones, so too are my eyes pulled by the “other” inherent in Chinese kids (and unavailable to my nephew).

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I don’t know why they are arranging their shoes in a line, but they’re doing it together and I like that. [Pinyao, China]


Until Next Time

Well, I hope I’ve both: 1)  Argued for why Americans take lots of pictures of cute Chinese kids AND 2) Not been racist. Hope you enjoyed this more “source-driven” post (and if nothing else, the cute kids). The part of this post that most excites me personally is the whole “dressing up your kids” thing. Ima have kids. And ima make ’em look funny. And ima post it on the internet. See you then!

– Rhys

Understanding China: Pure People Part 2

People no story = people all story.

Part 1 is here.


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[Place where many Chinese films are shot, Kaiping, China]

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[Shenzhen River Delta, Shenzhen, China]

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[Fenyang, China]

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[Strawberry picker, Yangshuo, China]

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[Batman, Shanghai, China]

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[World’s first bank, Pingyao, China]

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[Harbin, China]

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[Teacher’s Day celebration, Fenyang, China]

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[Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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[Pingyao, China]


Until Next Time

6 of these pictures don’t have faces. Backs/posture can be cool too. Hope you enjoyed this post!

– Rhys

Traditionally and Untraditionally Cute Things

The following pictures contain:

1 Puppy

1 Cat

1 Stuffed Animal

1 Blow-up Penguin

3 Dogs

1 Wet Spot of Concrete and 3 Leaves

THEY ARE ALL CUTE.


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The owner had him trained to do this. [Harbin, China]

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Kitty “in the wild”. [Fenyang, China]

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Stuffed animal squished against a car windshield. Love this pic. [Taiyuan, China]

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The Facebook of China, QQ, has a penguin mascot. (This one is 50 feet tall.) [Shenzhen, China]

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Love this pic as well. The top two dogs are so shaggy. There are spots for 9 doggies here. I’m happy the middle dog is not one up (though it would be symmetrical). [Tilamuren Grasslands, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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I only take pictures like these when I’m really “in the mode” (i.e. taking pictures of everything). It is cute thought, right? (Right?) [Walking from Dongguan to Shenzhen, China]

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I feel like I just played a sick Rick Roll on y’all. Sorry? [Behind my school’s cafeteria, Fenyang, China]


 Until Next Time

Next time I go on a trip, I’d like to take more untraditionally cute pictures. I like personifying things. Hope you enjoyed this batch!

– Rhys

Understanding China: Pure People Part 1

People are the most powerful tool a photographer has.

Faces, more specifically. It’s a huge contributor to the power of DLSR’s and oof (out of focus). Blur the background + pop the face => great picture.

The pictures today are of people. And they’re of people in a vacuum. Save a small location caption, I haven’t written any text about them. In a way, there’s nothing to write. These pictures don’t fit into Photo Series 1: My Stories From China nor Photo Series 3: Photography in the Abstract. They are categorized in Photo Series 2: Understanding China simply because people combined are culture. They’re here, by themselves, together.


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[Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Suzhou, China]

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[Shanghai Museum of Ancient Chinese Art, Shanghai, China]

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[City Wall, Pinyao, China]

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[Fenyang, China]

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[Macao Musuem, Macao, China]

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[Top of stadium bleachers, Fenyang, China]

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[Xian, China]

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[City wall, Xian, China]

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[Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]

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[Gravestone painter, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China]


Until Next Time

It’s nice to write posts like these when I don’t want to think too much. No story construction. No societal arguments. No photographic analyzations. Just pictures. Hope you enjoyed the post!

– Rhys

Photography in the Abstract: Smallness Helps Composition

The internet loves compact things: tweets, gifs, vines, tl;dr.

But photography hasn’t been squeezed yet. Small photos are not a thing because photos say 1000 words, no matter their size. If anything, the trend has been in the other direction, towards HD and some-large-double-digit-amount-of-megapixel cameras. However, I think there’ll be a pushback towards the small, not simply for the sake of small itself (the internet is not artsy enough for that), but towards an interconnectedness of ideas, each represented by a picture. Pinterest boards are a good initial example of this.

I, unlike the internet, am artsy (inefficient?) enough to explore small for small’s sake. Last week I looked at “View As Small” photography from the “creation medium, consumption medium” perspective. For my examples, I used small photography where the smallness helps emphasize the subject. This week we’ll look at small photography where the smallness helps emphasize the composition (the connected parts). Again, the pictures will be shown at the same size as my camera’s LCD screen — 400×225. And again, these are photos that are better small than large (simply being good small is not enough). Finally, as we always do in Photography in the Abstract posts, let’s ask the “how do I create” question:

How can you use small photography to create pictures with a great composition?


Smallness Helps Me See The Whole Puzzle

These pictures are ones where there are a couple component parts that look good when they’re close together. I don’t need to move my eyes or neck to see how it all relates.

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Love this picture. It looks strangely 2D. I like the light’s scarf. Smallness emphasizes the 3 columns (wall, glass, glass). [Xi’an History Museum, Xi’an, China]

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Prototypical example of this small puzzle idea. Smallness makes each of the component parts stand out. I’d claim there are 6 parts. [World’s biggest panda zoo, Chengdu, China]

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Top blackness is a 180 degree flip of the top of the buildings. Easier to make that connection when small. The top blackness is the inside of a car btw. [Taiyuan, China]

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In the top 5% of my strangest pictures from China. It’s columns and their reflections on a marble floor. Smallness allows us to more easily extract parts of the composition puzzle. Two shafts of reflected blue light from right to left. Each of the column reflections from top to bottom. The three non-reflective elements (columns). [Terracota Warriors, Xi’an, China]

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Looks flat but hole seems to be pointed to the right. This is on the roof of a building located in China’s primary movie filming location. [Kaiping, China]

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Wheel as a smaller radius cutout of the semicircle to its left. Far left pole is a tiny bit crooked, which I love to hate. [Chengdu, China]

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Smallness Helps People Live Near the Edges

It can sometimes be pro to put humans near the edges, but it creates some tension in the picture. (Examples from my Nepal/India pictures: one, two.) Feel how you want to look at the person but also want to look at the remaining 90% space of the picture? Sometimes it’s nice to put someone in the corner without creating that eye tension. Smallness allows us to do this — get the corner person + big space without the tension.

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Love the reflections here by the way. [Dongguan, China]

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Love the top left green corner and the hair grab. [Teacher’s Day, Fenyang, China]

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Smallness Emphasizes Contraction

Contraction, by it’s very nature, is easier to spot when small. When it’s large, you end up following a line to its conclusion. The viewing becomes more about the following of lines than of the shape of the line as a whole. Viewed As Small, you can concentrate on the line in full.

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Try viewing this picture big. (Click on it.) When it’s big, the textures and wood patterns are emphasized. When it’s small, we really get to see the vanishing from bottom right to top left. [Bamboo at the world’s biggest panda zoo, Chengdu, China]

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This one is subtle. The red line and the shadow above it are not quite parallel. There’s an assumed convergence point approximately 7,273 pixels away to the top left. When this photo is small, this convergence point is visualizable (because it’s less far away). When big, we lose this long view. [Tourist old street, Chengdu, China]

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Another take on the same idea. When small, we get this feeling of endlessly smaller horses. When big, the horses turn into their own distinct objects. We want the aggregate not the individual. These are the horses that were made alongside the terracota army. [Xi’an, China]

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Smallness Emphasizes Smallness

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When small, we get to feel like we’re a zoom level further out. The humans are smaller. Kind of circular but still worth saying. Small photography can make things look smaller. [Fenyang, China]

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Smallness Emphasizes Two-Leveled Out-of-Focus

In these pictures, we want to emphasize that there are two distinct focus levels. The smallness allows this two-leveled-ness to pop rather than other elements of the picture.

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Hollow circles are perfect for two-leveled focus like this. [Xilamuren, Inner Mongolia, China]

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Cutie. [Fenyang, China]

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Smallness Keeps the Pixelization Away

These pictures embody the simplest reason for View As Small photography. Sometimes your pictures are pixelated. Sad news bears. Luckily, making them smaller takes away the pixelation pain. Just do it.

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These are name binders of Chinese people who died in the Nanjing Massacre. (400,000 of them.) [Nanjing, China]

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It’s a 25-foot snow sculpture of Michael Jackson. Creepy. [Harbin, China]

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Until Next Time

I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into View As Small photography. I think it’s not naturally as striking as large photography, but is still worthwhile because it’s different and can emphasize other parts of the composition or subject. In other words, it’s another tool that us picture-takers can use to create meaning in photography.

Let me know if you know any photographers who specialize in View As Small photography! Or of any other ways that small photography can be used to create great pictures.

Thanks for reading!

Rhys