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

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]

Chillin' With The Watsons 332

[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]

Chillin' With The Watsons 354

[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]

Chillin' With The Watsons 303

[City Wall, Pinyao, China]

Chillin' With The Watsons 240

[Fenyang, China]

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[Macao Musuem, Macao, China]

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[Top of stadium bleachers, Fenyang, China]

Xian 158

[Xian, China]

Xian 358

[City wall, Xian, China]

呼和哈特 368

[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

Silhouettes Part 2: Buildings Down and Sky Up

Welcome to Photo Series 3: Photography in the Abstract! Last week we looked at Silhouettes Part 1: Humans and Non-Buildings. Today we’re going to look at how buildings and the sky interact in silhouette photography. It might seem strange to talk about the sky (the non-silhouette) in an article about silhouette photography. But, unlike with human silhouettes, building silhouettes are always composed against the sky. Up. The sky is half of the picture.

And the building is the other half. Therefore, I have a small conundrum. I need to examine two independent parts of a photo: the building and the sky. I could judge which part is more important/prototypical for a given photo and then choose that bucket (building or sky) for that photo. 1 photo, 1 bucket. It’s what I’ve done in the past in classifying my photography. Or I could show each photo twice, once by building and then by again sky. Neither option is great. The first ignores a crucial part of each picture and the second is too repetitive. Instead, I’ll classify pictures by building during your scroll down. At the bottom, I’ll tell you a couple defining features of sky. Then you can scroll back up, looking for those features, scavenger hunt style. Sound good? Cool. Again, the question I ask is:

What are the ways you can use silhouettes to take great building photography?

Full Building

Some buildings outlines are just cool.

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I like the bonus outline on the pagoda. [Fenyang, China]

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Front wall of an old Portuguese church. [Macao, China]

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Intense. Chinese Tower of London. [Taiyuan, China]


Towards a Vanishing Point

Classic perspective technique. Big to small. Nice angles.

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This old city wall surrounds the world’s first bank. We can see the vanishing point. [Pinyao, China]

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Between 1 and 2, lots of space. Between 2 and 3, top circle touches but space still holds. Space between 3 and 4 doesn’t exist. [Guilin, China]


Symmetrical

Buildings are built by humans and we love symmetry.

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An abandoned yurt in the grasslands. [Xilamuren Grasslands, Inner Mongolia, China]

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Again, the bonus outline is key here. [Chengdu, China]

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A flip of the classic building symmetry. The lighting on the building keeps it from true symmetry but I actually like the effect. Side note: Once you get in the groove, it’s amazing how quickly you can take pictures that hit the geometry you’re trying to achieve. See top corners. [Pinyao, China]


Geometric Shapes Combined

Besides skyscrapers, buildings are rarely just a box. Instead, they are the combination of multiple geometric shapes (like tangrams).

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Far right is tangram-y (triangle popping up is key). Stairs are stegosaurus-y. Low left is rocky. Many shapes here. [Macao, China]

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Two rectangles intersect in bottom left. Duct forms triangle and loop. [Chengdu, China]

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Teacher’s Day. Bottom left has top right corner of an octagon. Triangle flag. Humans break the exacting nature. (See last week for more of this.) [Fenyang, China]


Building Adornment Pop

Cool buildings have cool adornments on their corners. Think gargoyles.

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Abstract animal? [Pinyao, China]

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Ah, I love the bonus outline. [Pinyao, China]

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Stadium lights are technically not an adornment but it’s the same general idea. i.e. There’s an object that is interestingly shaped and is therefore the object of the viewer’s attention. Bird is the perfect balancer. [Fenyang, China]


Wireframe

Building silhouettes are usually solid swaths of black (see all categories above). This category contains buildings (or parts of buildings) where this is not the case, where there’s sky inside.

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Construction, abandoned. [Harbin, China]

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That chain mail fence is up. [Pinyao, China]


The Sky Is Up

Now that we’re done with classifying building silhouettes, it’s time to scroll back up, looking at the sky rather than the silhouette. But before we do that, I want to say that I especially enjoyed writing today’s article. Structuring the two-featured pictures was probably my most difficult problem thus far in my writing. I think my solution (scroll down, scroll up) is fine, but not great. Wish I had the time to code the webpage such that text appeared different on the way down than on the way up. Alas. Let me know if you liked this system! (Though you will need to scroll back down to do so.)

On your way up, look for varying degrees of sun in the sky. At the most extreme, you can see the full disc of the sun. In pictures with less intense sky, the sun is hidden by some object, making its glow the defining feature of the sky. In the least extreme case, the sun is off camera providing a light-to-dark gradient across the sky. In essence, look for: sun disc, sun glow, sun gradient. Enjoy!

The World’s Largest Mall is Abandoned

Welcome to the second post in Photo Series 2: Understanding China. Ghost malls are cool. Let’s check ’em out.

Why I Went To This Mall

The summer of 2013, I spent 6 weeks to walk the 500-mile Colorado Trail. I wanted to do something similar in China but instead of walking constant nature, I wanted to walk through constant city. My 100-mile trip looked like this: http://goo.gl/maps/igrrm. Guangdong to Dongguan to Shenzhen to Hong Kong; 4 of the world’s 30 most populous cities (according to this metric). Unfortunately, I got quite sick at the beginning of the route and was only able to walk about 40 miles. Nevertheless, this trip allowed me to see strange attractions that I wouldn’t have seen “on-the -beaten-path”. One of my favorites was the New South China Mall — the world’s largest mall, mostly abandoned.

Paradox

It seems weird, right? The whole point of this walk was to be surrounded by dense urbanity, by people. And here was a massive abandoned mall? Those two don’t quite compute. Another strange aspect of this mall is that it has never been occupied: it’s been 99% vacant since 2005. The ramen noodle billionaire who funded it should’ve kept to noodles.

I arrived at the mall, ate some Pizza Hut until sunset, then went inside. I shouldn’t have explored at dusk. Hot damn it was creepy.

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Essentially the first thing I saw when I walked in. Happiness graffitied out. Note beginning expanse of mall in the background.

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When the lights were still on, they made for this space-like yellow-blue combination. All the escalators had tarps over them, possibly to protect against dirt?

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It wasn’t working. I wonder who (if anyone) was in charge of maintenance.

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The dirt/dust combo was everywhere. These flowers were beautiful once, before they were covered with a centimeter of minuscule debris.

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Piles made. Piles forgotten.

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Organized chaos.

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I hadn’t seen a soul for the last 30 minutes. This car scared the living hell out of me when it drove up. It marks the transition of my time in the mall. A transition from dusk to night, from dusty to the terror of unintentionally uninhabited space.


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Paradise? Disagree.

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Aw hell naw.

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A small fraction of the never used food court tables.

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I don’t like not knowing when this trash was left here.

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New anomalies I’d encounter around every turn in the pseudo-darkness. 

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Always random. Always creepy.

Things Have Changed: This Mall is Indicative of China’s Growth

The situation that I have conveyed above is not entirely true, but rather what I had been told was true: Here exists the world’s largest mall, completely abandoned. My information primarily came from a New South China Mall Wikipedia article. Its most recent citation was from more than three years ago. In the last three years, there has been incredible residential growth in the area surrounding the mall, driving retail growth within the mall itself. When I arrived outside the mall, I saw thousands of people: families playing, security guards monitoring the parking lot, hostesses at the information desk. This wasn’t the post-apocalyptic wasteland I had wanted. Asking around, I learned that nearly 50% of the mall’s spaces were filled! I actually had to search to find the abandoned part. And when I took the elevator from a desolate ground floor up to the top floor, I found a karaoke bar! I asked the bartender why this high-class establishment was located on top of a creepy retail expanse. He responded, “Rent’s cheap.”

The transition of massive Chinese developments from “ghost” to occupied is a theme throughout China. 400 million Chinese have moved into cities in the last 30 years with another 400 million moving into urban areas the next 15. You can’t build houses, retail and public transport once they get there, you need to build it before. That’s why stupid projects like New South China Mall are only stupid on the surface. Before I went to China, I may have argued that the developer should’ve waited three years before beginning construction. But if he would have, who knows how much property and labor costs would’ve risen or whether another developer was eyeing the same opportunity. All that the developer knows is that people will come soon. In China, the classic Field of Dreams quote is reversed. It’s not: “If you build it, they will come.” Instead, “They will come regardless. Build it.

Until Next Time

As always, hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. What a surreal experience, exploring a massive abandoned mall with only my camera flash. Similar to that scene from Saw actually.

Finally, the argument presented here is but one of the reasons for “ghost buildings” in China. Economics are confusing, especially in China where their state-sponsored system is unfamiliar to Americans like myself. One of the most interesting driving factors for mass construction is that investing in property is a great way for the rising middle-class to invest their money. When other outlets like the stock market are too volatile, buying a bunch of apartments around China and letting their value rise (see above) is a good way to beat inflation.

See you next week when I tell my next personal Chinese story.

RL