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]

Xian 158

[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

Photography in the Abstract: Small Photography

Welcome to the 5th post in Photo Series 3: Photography in the AbstractToday’s topic is pretty damn cool. It’s about “small” photography, i.e. the kind of photography that looks better when viewed as small. Up until this point, all of the pictures on this blog have been presented in “large” form: as large as can be while still being able to see the entire picture on a single computer screen. Today there will be no large photos, only small. First, we’ll ask our classic Photography in the Abstract question: what are the different ways that you can compose small photography? Then we’ll find out the optimal technique to take small pictures. Then we’ll expand that optimal small system to optimal systems for any given mode of photographic presentation. It’s a long post (but worth it, I swear). Let’s go!


How do you compose a great small photograph?

There are many ways to take a great small photo. Today we’ll just talk about photos in which the smallness helps the subject (rather than the composition [the whole]). And remember, these are photos in which the smallness actually helps the picture — merely looking good while small is not enough. It must be the case that [small photo] > [big photo]. To truly be convinced, I recommend clicking on the photos to see them in their ugly, large state.


Smallness Turns Small Dots into Smaller Dots

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Instead of seeing a bunch of individual Christmas lights, we see a sky of stars. [Victoria Peak, Hong Kong, China]

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Like the picture above, the density is emphasized by small spaces becoming smaller, by the lights at the far end nearly vanishing. [Chengdu, China]


Smallness Creates Correct Zoom Level For Texture

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When this picture is full size, you can distinguish individual fish a bit too well. When small, this picture instead shows a wall of fish. See Finding Nemo’s school of fish: http://goo.gl/yZl3Or. [Panda Zoo, Chengdu, China]

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The reflective texture on the lightbulb wants this level of detail. Too large and you can start to pick apart its imperfections. [My House, Fenyang, China]


Smallness Emphasizes Correct Part of Shape

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The key visual idea here is how the triangles are stacked on the straight line. This level of abstraction is exactly what we want. Triangles. Lines. Black. Detail would be counterproductive. [Bridge Across Frozen River, Harbin, China]

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These are strange objects. The left seems to desire the right. Perpetual motion spurred by want. When zoomed in, we start to see the texture and need to move our eyes in order to see the two objects. Both of these hurt the emphasis on pure form. Thus, small > large. [Chongqing, China]


Smallness Emphasizes Shape of Human, Rather Than Face

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Much like the category above, the subjects in these pictures are doing something defined by a zoom level OUT. The kid here is interesting because of the excitement conveyed by his body position, not his face. [Public Fishing Pond, Chengdu, China]

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Many empty seats. Guard. Straight back. Hands behind back. Dark clothes. Chinese Red. Hat. None of those words are face. QED. [Shanghai Basketball Game, Shanghai, China]


Smallness Emphasizes Groups of Color

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The idea here is that there’s a blob of color. Blobs are amorphous and are therefore helped by the ambiguity as a result of smallness. The particular pic is pretty ridiculous. Person biking with 100+ balloons. Can’t even see him/her. [Dongguan, China]

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The idea of color, rather than specific colors themselves. This picture has 3 sections of color: umbrella and two reflections. [Shanghai, China]


Smallness Allows Blurry Mist

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Mist/pollution/smoke is difficult to take pictures of, especially in the dark. It’s possible, but you need to increase the camera’s ISO level, creating gross pixelization. Viewing the picture as small keeps the best parts of the air — the aura of gradient light, while reducing the worst — blurriness. [Shanghai, China]

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See that non-blurry reflective fog! [The Bund, Shanghai, China]

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Love the lighting here. Dust clouds illuminated in the night. [Chongqing, China]

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Same foggy night as pictures 1 and 2. [Shanghai, China]


Finding a Small Creation Medium For a Small Consumption Medium

Now that the types of small pictures have been outlined (above, dummy), let’s look at how to take small photographs. To understand how to create this work, we need to look at how it will be consumed. And that’s in small form. You (the viewer) look at it here, on this blog, as a 400×225 pixel image. I want it to look good in this medium. To look good here, I should try to take 400×225 pictures. Creation medium = consumption medium. Take small pictures for a “View As Small” medium.

I didn’t do consciously do this. I just took pictures “through” my LCD screen on my camera. I use the LCD screen as my viewfinder for other reasons. Creating “View As Small” pictures was an unintended consequence. It happened as I was going through my 10,000+ China photos. My sorting process was dictated by the goal — “Find Patterns” (those patterns have turned into the posts that you’ve read on this blog). I started to notice a strange pattern where my positive expectations for a given picture were shattered when I looked at the picture full screen. I’d get pumped by the thumbnail, only to be disappointed by the fullscreen photograph. It only happened with horizontal photos (see all the photos above) where the difference between thumbnail size and fullscreen size was greater (width is 6x greater * height is 5x greater = 30x more area for horizontal pictures vs. 1.5*2 = 3x more area for vertical pictures). Pictures were no longer “trash” if they looked bad big, they were just “View As Small”-ers. Like the runt of the litter. Just different.

And there were a lot of runts (nearly 50 high-quality photographs). Why did I take so many “View As Small” photos? It’s because every picture that I took was a “View As Small”. Here’s an example. I’m trying to get a sweet picture of a sea of white Christmas lights in Hong Kong.  I move a bit. I stretch my arm to the left. I look at it my LCD viewfinder. And…..yeah! That looks pretty damn sweet! Click. But it only looks sweet on a 400×225 pixel screen. Who the hell knows if it’ll look good at 1600×900? Boom. View As Small picture taken.


Creation Medium = Consumption Medium

I was on a backpacking trip with my brother a month or two ago and was telling him about my View As Small blog post (this). He was hatin’ on me for using the LCD instead of the stick-your-eye-to-it viewfinder. I was trying to convince him that the LCD viewfinder must be optimal for, at the very least, View As Small pictures. He wasn’t quite convinced until I gave him the larger implication: the consumption medium should always dictate the creation medium.

This idea affects the simple size of the photo. Small dictates small. Large dictates large. But we should definitely go further. If I know that my pictures are going to be viewed on a computer screen at 400×225, then I should create that environment when I take the picture. My camera should look like this:

medium-medium-blog-example

If I wanted to shoot optimal [View As Small + Be Viewed On This Blog] photography, I should take pictures using the camera interface above. (You can imagine a WordPress iPad app that has this functionality.)

As another example, let’s pretend we are Tim Cook (Apple’s new CEO) and are planning for this year’s Apple Event. We are going to showcase the new photo roll screen. This:

camera roll screenshot

If we assume that we will only see the photos in thumbnail form, then we should take the pictures with an LCD screen that looks like this:

camera roll screenshot

To go one step further, we shouldn’t take the pictures on a normal iPhone. Instead, take the pictures on an LCD that looks like this but is huge and projected onto a screen (like at the Apple Event).

This may seem a bit extreme. But I think the original concept (medium = medium) still holds and should be applied more often. To push even more to an extreme, we’d start to address the environment outside the screen. e.g. Most people read this blog listening to music through headphones while sitting on a couch, petting their cat. I need to recreate that situation to take the optimal picture (some kind of weird wheelchair contraption with a very well-trained [or well-A.I.-ed] kitty).

Another implication of this medium = medium idea comes by solving the equality from the other direction. Until now we have let the consumption medium dictate the creation medium. Instead, let’s construct the consumption medium from the creation medium. For my point-and-shoot, the blog would look like this:

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And the blog would be much much lamer.


Until Next Time

I usually try to keep my blog posts to about half of this length, so I’m especially interested in your feedback on a long-form article like this one. Let me know what you think! Also, stay tuned for the second View As Small post. It’ll be more pictures and less theory.

Thanks for reading!

– Rhys

American Culture, Chinese Style

Yo! Welcome to the 3rd post in Photo Series 2: Understanding ChinaToday, we’re going to look at how different parts of American (and I do mean specifically American, not Western) culture have been translated in China. And we’re going to keep it light, i.e. we’re not going to talk about how capitalism/progress has affected China. That’s later. Translation happens in five ways: exaggeration, idolization, “Yeah, that was a couple decades ago.”, poor execution, and “This could only be China.”

Cool? Cool.


Exaggeration

America is ridiculous (caricature of itself?). China emulates. But sometimes China overshoots the “American-ness”. It’s more understandable when China does so (“you don’t know me!”), but it’s also more funny (for reasons I don’t quite understand).

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The caption says “Don’t be a vegetarian.” 2 brats, 2 patties, 2 buns. 0 lettuce, 0 tomatoes, 0 pickles. Reminds me of KFC’s Double Down. [Suzhou, China]

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“To punish and enslave.” Word. Transformers 4 made $320 million in China and only $240 in America. Multiply that by a PPP of 2.5 and you have a movie that made 3.33x as much in China. That (and this car) is (are) devotion. [Taiyuan, China]


Idolization

Chinese people are all kinds of respectful to their guests. Foreigners are guests. When China is constantly “looking up” to America, an idolization complex begins to occur. Strange example below:

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In a small-large town-city (a good combo to describe Chinese urbanity btw), a jewelry store manager was offering a single US dollar in a lottery giveaway. THE CROWD WAS MASSIVE. I tried to get a good picture that captured the dollar and the crowd but crowds are big and dollars are small and after 15 pictures it was awkward. [Kaiping, China]


“Yeah, That Was A Couple Decades Ago.”

This phenomenon is a pretty well known developed-developing country interaction. For various reasons (geographical distance, decreased cost/desire of old items, blah), American pop culture 25 years ago is found in greater numbers than modern American pop culture. Or maybe China is just retro.

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Kenny Rogers, Backstreet Boys, Usher. All the jams. All in one place. [Hong Kong, China]


Poor Execution

Sometimes though, the love is there. And it’s modern. And it’s not an exaggeration. But ya know, the execution just doesn’t quite get there. Exaggeration is one step too far. This is one step to the side.

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This was in the Chinese version of Disneyland. The “M”, “m” and “i” are still correct I guess… [Shenzhen, China]

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Same theme park as above. High Spongebob is hiiiiggghhhh. The kids love it! [Shenzhen, China]

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A student’s shirt at my school. uu, ee, ee. Jew-stin, buy-ee-beer. I feel like if I was making a shirt, I’d make sure I was spelling everything correctly. [Fenyang, China]

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Basketball! Lakers! Red Bull! Games! It’s got all the right pieces but all the wrong vibes. [Chengdu, China]


This Could Only Be China

These conversions are China-specific. i.e. I never saw this type of conversion in Nepal/India and would be surprised to see it outside of China.

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Green Tea DQ. Unrelated: my foot looks tiny. [Xian, China]

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Pizza Hut pizza. Crust has shrimp and scallops. Delicious? Of course. [Xian, China]

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Creepy Mickey characters populate the family-filled old streets in China. China is particularly comfortable with pushing the non-historical into the historical. Skyscrapers surround temples in Beijing because the people need space to live. Animated characters tromp the cobbled pathways of ancient districts in Xian because the kids need to enjoy the vacation too. [Chengdu, China]


Until Next Time

You know what’s crazy? All of the Chinese in my town thought that Americans all used MSN. M. S. N. I don’t know a single American who uses (or even used) MSN. This is the cross-cultural transmission phenomenon. I don’t know how they came to believe this social media fact, nor do I know how they came to believe that the Spongebob character above should look like he just took a bong rip. But somehow in these ideas were produced in China. It’s worth noting that China is more likely to have these mutations as a result of state-sponsored internet censorship that lessens their connection with America/West/Rest. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Wikipedia, no Youtube. Hell, they don’t even have Bing! In any case, I wish I knew/investigated more about which ideas are more likely to be disfigured/exaggerated/idolized.

Finally, I’d also love to see a Chinese-written “Chinese Culture, American-Style”. The biggest surprise for me was how little rice the Chinese ate. I thought, China –> rice. In fact, only southern China eats rice. Northern China eats primarily noodles. I probably ate rice less than 10 times (out of 6 x 30 x 3 = 540 meals) in northern China.

Hope you enjoyed my first article about the intersection between Chinese and American cultures. There’s a funny translation post coming soon, in addition to one about capitalistic progress. See ya then!

– Rhys!

Rafts and Rock Climbing in Guilin

I have visited more than 80 countries and over 100 cities. I have found that no city can surpass the beauty of Guilin. Guilin is really a bright pearl in China.” — Richard Nixon

Word up bro. Guilin is, as they say, “the shizzle”. If you like water/mountain combos or rock climbing read on! For reference, this post is the 2nd in Photo Series 1: My Stories From China. So get outta here abstract photo composition theory! Let’s just talk. For double reference, Guilin is located in South Central China so it feels much like the Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, etc.). The geographical closeness to SE Asia + nature combo makes it a tourist hot spot. Let’s check out why:


Relax, You’re On A Raft

After a night in Guilin, I took a couple-hour raft ride down to a nearby town of Yangshuo. One of the top 10 most relaxing chunks in my life.

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My feet, relaxed. 2-person raft made out of PVC pipe. Other person (and shoe on the right) is a 35-year-old MBA’ed Dutchman. [Li River, China]

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Others chillin’. Perfect temperature. Perfect sun. Perfect sounds from flowing water. [Li River, China]

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Chinese tourists tour too! (And for some reason buy the kitschy flower headband.) I like it when people hold their legs like this. [Li River, China]

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Wedding photos are a BIG DEAL in China. High-class folks (土豪呢?) get the best photos. [Li River, China]


Water-Mountain Reflections

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The water was damn clear. Reflection looks like shark teeth. Or stalagmites/stalactites with the y positions flipped. [Li River, China]

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Love this picture. Bubbles in top dark water look like stars in space. [Li River, China]


Whaddup Local Old Folk?

Old people often retire and don’t go back to work. But in Tourist China, it doesn’t make enough financial sense for old folks to stay in retirement. These guys told me they work a couple hours a day, make mad bank and can still get their chill on. The life.

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My raft ores-man had a ridiculous stutter. And it was awesome for me. Most Chinese would speak too fast, but this guy spoke at perfect speed! e.g. “Where are you-oo-oo-oo-oo from?” [Li River, China]

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The local fisherman train cormorants to pull fish out of the water and bring them back to the fisherman. Cray. Now it’s just a tourist show, but still damn cool. [Li River, China]

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Pulling a fish from the bird’s mouth. Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Surround that man with tourists and he’ll also pay for his children’s college tuition. [Li River, China]


Karst Rock Climbing

With the raft ride over, I got into Yangshuo for a 3-night stay. This place has a bunch o’ karst rock formations. It’s real good for climbing. Best in China good:

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The Rocks

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Moon hill. Some climb (I hiked) to the top. [Yangshuo, China]

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I like when plant life scales the rocks. [Yangshuo, China]


I Climb, Hard

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I’m on the wall. My belayer was pro. Climbed 5.13a with flip-flops. Disgusting. Love the colors in the foreground. Pic taken by Jose Luis (friend I met from Luxembourg). [Yangshuo, China]

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Ugh. So much more rock to climb. Pic attribution to Jose Luis again. [Yangshuo, China]

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Proud resting on my 5.small. Props to Jose Luis again. [Yangshuo, China]


Real Climbers Climb Real Climbs

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Maneuver on Moon Hill. [Yangshuo, China]

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Pants blend in. [Yangshuo, China]

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3 blues. He’s paying attention to the guy above (in real life and on this blog post). [Yangshuo, China]

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The photographer from above (Jose Luis) leads a 5.10.

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I like her angle, especially with respect to the rope above.


Until Next Time

Some people spend weeks in Yangshuo. Others arrive and never leave. In many ways, it’s the perfect getaway. Touristy enough for partying/English. Nature-y enough to retract into the countryside. Highly recommended. When you go to China, go off the beaten path. But also, go to Yangshuo.