Category Archives: Photography

When in China

Last Christmas, I gave my parents a trip to China (and back!) as a Christmas gift. We couldn’t afford going abroad when I was a child (except for that one time in 1991 when we had saved up enough to go to Spain for a week, by bus) so I wanted to take them now instead along with my lovely wife.

About a month ago it was time for the actual trip. We mostly stayed in Xi’an, the first capital of China, but took day trips to other places.

Here, it’s easier if I just show you…

Cable management in China
Muslim Quarter in Xi’an
Candy crush live!
Candy crush live!
Xi’an Drum Tower
Moon over Xi’an Drum Tower
Birds, now on cable
Nice hooters!
On our way to Xi’an Terracotta museum
Terracotta Army, Hall 1
Me at the Terracotta Army puzzle ward
Terracotta warriors in a different perspective
Terracotta warrior details, face
Terracotta warrior details, body
Terracotta warrior details, horse
Horses, wagon and driver all made in bronze
Huge Emperor Qin statue on the Terracotta Army museum parking lot
At the Shaolin temple
This tree has been used for hundreds of years by Shaolin monks to train finger punching
Details on a Shaolin temple roof. That guy sure has a lot of pets!
Main Shaolin temple training hall. Thousands of monks has for hundreds of years trained kicks, jumps and stomps, making pits in the floor.
Tower at the Shaolin Temple
Martial arts performance at the Shaolin Temple
Every Shaolin abbot has since the year 791 had their ashes buried in a pagoda on the holy Song mountain. The area is now called the Pagoda Forest, containing 228 pagodas, one for each master. This pagoda was raised for the previous abbot when he passed away 2010. Note that aside from martial arts, the inscriptions also depict a video camera and a laptop.
Mom & Dad at the Pagoda Forest
Me and my wife Marianne at the river Yi
Xiangshan Monastery
The 17 meter tall Lu She Na Buddha
Buddha’s buddies
The river Yi
Lóngmén shíkū – The Dragon Gate Caves, a.k.a Longmen grottoes. 2345 man-made caves on both sides of the river Yi, housing around 100’000 stone statues – all carved directly from the mountain.
In the streets of Xi’an
Almost all scooters in Xi’an are electric. This was an exception.
Me sniffing flowers and stuff. Neat.
Small Wild Goose Pagoda, completed year 709. After a violent earthquake in the 1500’s, the top two floors collapsed and only 13 stories remain. It has otherwise survived more than 70 earthquakes.
Playing Peek-a-boo behind a 1300 year old tree
Scenic area outside the Small Wild Goose Pagoda
We found Barad-dûr in China!
We also found the Chinese Princess Leia
Guangren Lama Temple, a Tibetan buddhist monastery, seen from the Xi’an city wall
Shopping sunglasses with my dad

All in all, it was a very interesting trip. There is a radical difference in cleanliness, culture and people’s behavior compared to e.g. Japan.

For one thing, we were constantly photographed by strangers. Some additional facts may have contributed to this though. This will take some explaining, so please bear with me;

We went to several places where we didn’t see any other westerners, or only very few – the ones we did see were pretty much all in their 20-30’s, carrying backpacks and cameras. We stood out from the crowd even in the cities for several reasons:

  1. We didn’t see any older westerners (40+).
  2. We hardly saw any people with white, or even gray hair.
  3. We hardly saw anybody with facial hair other than a thin mustache, and nobody with a full beard.
  4. We didn’t see anyone with visible tattoos – 75% of our group had very visible tattoos on our arms.

We also went to China during the Qingming Festival, a holiday for honoring the dead, but also a time where many are traveling. A lot of people from the countryside go to visit their friends and relatives in other cities, this can be the only time of year where they leave the immediate surroundings of their villages. It appeared as if many of them had never seen westerners before, at least not like us. Some days perhaps 20 people came up and wanted to take selfies with us, but mostly people just took pictures or started filming us without asking for permission. It even happened that while we were sitting on a bench, parents came up and put their children in our laps to take pictures of us together as if we were a tourist attraction. I don’t mind people taking the occasional picture of me, but that was a bit much. This behavior was much more visible when going outside the cities to more distant areas such as on Song Mountain, Shaolin and Lóngmén shíkū. Though it did become more amusing when I started playing a game – when I saw someone take a picture of me or anyone in my company, I pulled out my camera an took a picture of them as well. Often I only had a second or so to take the photo before the people started reacting and sometimes hiding their faces. People who wanted to take selfies with me using their phones  & cameras seemed absolutely puzzled when I instead took a picture with mine (though I always did let them take one as well). But it gave us all a few laughs.

Photographing the photographers

Rome – The good, the bad and the ugly

The last week I’ve been in Rome, Italy. Monday to Friday I’ve lived in Frascati and worked in Morena, and during the weekend I’ve stayed near Termini in central Rome together with M.

Frascati was okay, I guess. Small, worn down but not completely without charm. We found one good restaurant there with both good food and nice staff.

Work went well and the clients appeared very happy with my part, so no worries there.

The bad and the ugly
Going into central Rome, I realized that the worn down thing was not specific to the suburbs but the city core as well. The streets were very dirty and we often came by areas that smelled very bad. The traffic was horrible, and the subway stations felt like nobody has bothered to renovate or otherwise improve them since 1986.
Everywhere on the streets people were trying to sell us cheap imitation bags and various crap with a very intrusive attitude. This was worst when eating at outdoor seatings, we often had to tell the peddlers at  least 3-4 times that we were not interested before they gave up. And came back again 30 minutes later.

Speaking of eating; I don’t know if we just had bad luck, or if the italian restaurants really are very bad. About 3/4 of all meals we had were a major disappointment. Service was most of the time terrible, and even though we always tried to be friendly and start the conversations in Italian, we were often treated with arrogance and not the smallest of smiles.

The good
The ice cream/gelato was good and the wine was cheap.

Sure, Colosseum was impressive and there were a lot of ruins, fountains and statues that would probably be reason enough for some people to go there, but after a while things start to look the same everywhere.

For us, Rome was all together quite a bad experience.

I hope I don’t have to go here again very soon. It will be really good to go home tomorrow.

Hat Party!

Last weekend me and M went to our friend Yosabeth’s 25th birthday party. The theme was “Hat”, where accompanying clothes were encouraged.

Jolly good fun!

Thunder and Lightning

Yesterday there was a real thunderstorm here. The biggest one I’ve ever seen, I think. Sometimes you could see something like 10 flashes within 5 seconds, and hear some really loud cracks just a kilometer away or so.

Anyway, me and M went out to the balcony to watch, and after a while I got out my tripod and camera and started shooting in hope to get some good photos. Most of the time the clouds were so thick that you couldn’t see the actual flashes, but rather that all the clouds got immensely lit up.

What surprised me was that most of the actual lightnings that we could see went sideways instead of up and down. Is that normal?

No image manipulation at all was involved in these pictures, I just had the shutter open for a few seconds at a time.

Top right corner shows some of the lightning. The sky is lit up almost as in the daytime, even though it is around midnight.
Top right corner shows some of the lightning. The sky is lit up almost as in the daytime, even though it is around midnight.

The clouds were nicely lit up, and sometimes they even looked like Aurora Borealis.
The clouds were nicely lit up, and sometimes they even looked like Aurora Borealis.

Lucky shot of a lightning that goes almost completely sideways.
Lucky shot of a lightning that goes almost completely sideways.