Return to Xitang
A street vendor prepares food in Xitang, Zhejiang, China

Apr 20th

2013

CategoryPosted in China
Comments Comments 4

Return to Xitang

A few weeks back, I posted a shot of a boatman sheltering under a bridge in the rain in the ancient Chinese water town of Xitang, in Jiashan County, Zhejiang Province.  Today, I thought I’d share a few more images I shot on that trip.

I only had limited time available to visit Xitang: I arrived in the afternoon, and left late morning the following day. The old town is quite small, and it is possible to explore most of it it on foot in a single afternoon. There are plenty of guest houses there, and on a weekday you could probably simply turn up, walk around and find somewhere to stay. I booked in advance, as I wasn’t sure how busy the place would be, and spent a humid, sultry night in the Langqiomeng (“Lang Chao Mong”) Guesthouse on Chaoxil, with a tiny balcony overlooking one of the waterways. No-one I met was able to speak any English, and none of the signs had an English translation; I don’t speak Mandarin Chinese, so finding the guesthouse was my first challenge.

Even on weekdays, Xitang can get pretty crowded – if you’re hoping to avoid the masses. don’t even think about going at the weekend or on a public holiday. The best time to see the place is early morning before the tourist buses arrive, when it’s tranquil, which is a good argument for an overnight stay. From 03:30 to 05:00 in the morning, I had the place to myself.  Even in the evening the town is crowded until late.

Xitang is very popular with Chinese tourists, although there are hardly any Westerners. In fact, you may discover that you are a tourist curiosity yourself, and find yourself the subject of several photographs, either in splendid isolation or as part of a family group.

Despite the tourism and crowds, the town is largely unspoilt, and is a beautiful place, with buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

A street vendor prepares food in a wok, Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

A street vendor prepares food in a wok, Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

A tranquil waterway in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Boat in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Boatman - Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

A waterway in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

A market vendor counts his money in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

A Lantern in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Boatman - Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Dusk in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Finally, the image I posted a while back of a boatman sheltering under a bridge in heavy rain was monochromatic – here’s a colour version of the same image.  I think I marginally prefer the monochrome image, although I do like the soft, muted colours in this version:

A boatman takes shelter from the torrential rain in Xitang, Zhejiang, China (Ian Mylam/© Ian Mylam (www.ianmylam.com))

Xitang, Zhejiang, China (© Ian Mylam)

Comments (4)
  1. 20 April 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Ian,

    Thanks for a glimpse into this dreamy place. How did you ever communicate anything!? The 6th image down from the top is my favorite. How do you produce such sharp images?

    I haven’t seen the monochromatic-rainy-bridge-shelter version of the last image, but I agree, the muted scenes and the moment are excellent.

    Thanks again… Bravo!

    C.

    • Ian

      20 April 2013 at 2:54 PM

      Carlos, communication was a real problem as I had no-one with me who could translate, all the signs were in Chinese, and I found absolutely no-one who spoke even rudimentary English. Eating in Xitang was an interesting experience, as I had no idea what I was ordering, and did not recognise the food when it arrived – all I can tell you is that it was brown and purple, and went down fine with a couple of beers!

      I used a tripod for many of these shots, which combined with good quality lenses really helps with sharpness. There are of course a number of factors which affect sharpness, so it’s hard to be specific without talking about a particular image, but camera movement, subject movement, accurate focus, suitable choice of lens aperture (depth-of-field may be too little at the wider apertures, and softness may be introduced by lens diffraction at the smaller apertures), quality lenses, the quality of the camera and sensor, and how you sharpen the image in post-processing are all factors which will affect sharpness of the image. I tend not to like over-sharpening in post-processing, but I will always apply some input sharpening (when the image is imported from the memory card) to counter the softness introduced by the anti-aliasing filter of most dSLRs. I also typically apply a modest amount of output sharpening, the amount of which is dependent on whether the image is output for print or the web.

      Here’s a link to the monochromatic ‘boatman’ image if you’re interested: http://ianmylam.photoshelter.com/image/I0000zBjowbjAV7M

      Thanks for your comment and for stopping by!

  2. 26 February 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Ian,

    Great shots of Xitang. Wow. I particularly liked the moored boat with lanterns. Your images have a quite and peaceful feeling about them. Very satisfying.

    As for equipment, I see you shoot an X-E2. A great choice of camera. That will be my next camera. At first I was looking at the X-Pro1, but if you compare specs, the X-E2 is the same camera without the optical viewfinder. Also the X-Series lenses are very nice: lots of affordable, fast primes. I will probably start with the 23mm and the 56mm.

    The only drawback I can see is full-frame vs crop sensor. Since most of us aren’t going to do billboard-size prints, I don’t think it is an issue, although lots of people still consider full-frame as the cutoff for a “pro” camera.

    Finally, I wonder if you have thought of contacting FujiFilm directly to see if they are interested in your photos. I think they have a page of X photographers which might be a fit for your work.

    Finally, my work is on flickr (link above), if you have time please take a look.

    All the best, I will subscribe to your blog.

    tokyodave66

    • Ian

      26 February 2014 at 12:47 PM

      Dave, thanks very much for stopping by the blog – glad to heat that you enjoyed the shots of Xitang.

      I shoot both with the Fuji X-E2 and also with the Nikon D800. Which I shoot with depends on a number of factors. For example, how much weight I am prepared to carry on a given trip; whether I need the weather-sealing, toughness and superior AF of the Nikon dSLR; whether I want the camera to be as small and discreet as possible e.g. for street photography; whether I need the full-frame sensor which gives me a true 35mm-film-equivalent angle of view at the wide end of my lenses; whether I want to control off-camera flash using iTTL functionality (I have Nikon Speedlights, and can only trigger these manually with the Fuji X-E2); and so on.

      For me, the sensor size is not really relevant as far as the size of the final print is concerned. The 16MP Fuji sensor is more than capable of providing images which can be printed at a huge size, particularly in conjunction with the smart fractal image scaling provided by software such as OnOne’s Perfect Resize. The previous wave of pro dSLRs frequently only had 12MP, and billboard-sized prints were made with those cameras.

      The sensor size is more relevant for me in terms of two things: getting a true 35mm-film-equivalnet angle of view which I mentioned earlier, which means e.g. that a 16mm focal-length lens really does give the angle of view of a 16mm lens. Secondly, the depth of field of the full-frame sensor is intrinsically shallower, all all things being equal. If either of those factors will be relevant for the kind of photography I plan on doing, I will probably take the Nikon.

      I am aware of the FujiFilm X photographers page – if they send me an invitation, I’ll be glad to share my work there!

      All the best,

      Ian

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be shared or published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-SPAM verification question: *