If there’s one minor quibble I have with the Fuji x100s it’s that the in-built ND filter stays on after you shut the camera off. So when you finish a shoot with the ND on and forget to switch if off then, you start the next shoot with the ND filter on. And since the auto-ISO pumps up the ISO when you have insufficient light, you end up shooting at 3200 ISO in daylight. But the power of the x100s engine is such that even then you get a workable photo, as demonstrated here. There’s many countries in the world now where you could shoot people speaking on mobile phones all day long. It’s certainly the case here, and this one is tame compared to some of the guys driving scooters with cumbersome lateral cargo and still talking on their mobile phone. That’ll be for next time.
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/60s, ISO 640
While in Yangshuo we went to a food market. I love open air (or, in this case, covered) markets, they teem with life and tell us more about how people live than many other sights in a city. This was a massive hall with lots of fruit and vegetable sellers (there were meat sellers in a different section, I’ll cover that later). We saw all kinds of odd vegetables, some of which we didn’t even have names for. We also noticed that you could buy garlic either as nature intended or pre-peeled. This guy was passing the time peeling his garlic…
Cycling the Streets
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/450s, ISO 200
Many people have a fantasy view of Shanghai (or China in general for that matter) with bicycles everywhere. Sadly, while this may have been a real sight at the time The Blue Lotus was drawn, and still true when I first came to China in 1995, it no longer is. Electric scooters have replaced bicycles. Still, occasionally you see old people going down the streets on bikes, so it’s not all lost to modernity.
The Men’s Card Game
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/8, 1/60s, ISO 1250
The weather in Yangshuo was quite abominable, but the bamboo raft cruise on the river Li was booked, so we had to do it. Thankfully, our guide took us to a little village out of the beaten path which according to my notes was called Liu Gong. The guide said it meant something like « the husband cannot leave », so a shorter English name might be « Man Trap » ? Anyway, it was an eye opener, coming from Shanghai and having seem mostly touristy places in China so far to see how peasants truly live. It was dirty and run-down, but it was full of life as well, although an unusual life since this was the heart of the Golden Week and people weren’t working. They weren’t all playing cards… but not far off!
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 200
The second ethnic minority in the Longsheng area, after the Zhuang, is the Yao minority. The Yao women have a complex and intricate relationship to their hair. They only cut their hair three times in their lives: when they turn 18, when they are wedded and when they are 36. The keep the braids they cut and integrate then into their daily bun. How much hair is apparent also says something about marital status and the number of children. When we met this Yao grandmother, she agreed to show us how she does her hair, and it was quite fascinating.
The Chinese Sweets
x100s, 35mm, f/87, 1/60s, ISO 2000
On the long walk down from Ping An we stumbled upon these craftsmen. The woman is baking chili oil, but the men are slamming down on sweets with their mallets to mix them with nuts. Quite an amazing sight for our sadly too industrialized eyes. We bought some sweets, it was a kind of nougat, flavoured with osmanthus and it was quite good although it stayed stuck in your teeth for a long time. Just like French nougat.
Bamboo Rice Seller
Fuji x100s, 35mm, f/4, 1/60s, ISO 1600
The speciality of Ping An and the neighbouring areas is Bamboo Rice. Sticky rice, mushrooms, herbs and sometimes meat are stuffed inside the end of a bamboo branch. A corn cob blocks the open end, and the bamboo has been cut so that there a bit of wood remaining at the end to grab the piece of branch with. It’s then cooked over an open fire. Of course, the bamboo starts to burn after a while, so every 10 minutes or so the piece of bamboo needs to be dipped in a water bucket nearby. My kids loved it, I thought it was a little bland, but it certainly was distinctive and fun to watch. As usual, I’m attracted in street photography to the clashes between traditional and modern, here the traditionally dressed woman cooking an ancestral dish in the traditional way and talking on her mobile phone at the same time.