Planet Earth Daily Photo

•August 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

This photo is being featured today on the Plant Earth Daily Photo website. As the name suggests, the site features one photo each day from different spots around the globe.

This is a shot from a photowalk I took last spring with Jeremy Breningstall. We cut through Jian Bin Gong Yuan (Riverside Park) and at one point found ourselves surrounded by a large group of curious men. I remember thinking at the time that this guy might have had a little bit of The Forrest Gump in him. He was laughing for no apparent reason.  As I look again today though, I see all these guys were kind of smirking, so who knows what somebody may have said.  Chances are they are laughing at me…

20 Minutes In Monotone I

20 Minutes In Monotone I

Canon 5D Mark II
EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM @ 70mm

Aperture – f/2.8
Shutter Speed – 1/320
ISO – 200

Back to the grind… Peace!

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Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant…

•July 31, 2010 • 3 Comments

I’ve been helping a group of young engineers prepare for a 2 week trip to America. The are on there way to Detroit and Houston to learn the latest about air flow cooling systems and radiator design for heavy equipment. Yeah, that is some exciting stuff. Translating symbols and equations? I mean what’s not to like? Our time together came to an end last night and, as you do, we celebrated with a banquet. They were told they could go anywhere in town and chose this place. I knew it was going to be interesting when we had to walk through the kitchen to get to our table. Of course I pulled the camera out, figuring you don’t get too many chance like this to pull back the curtain.

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - X

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - V

The place was packed and, as is the norm, there were just about as many employees milling about as customers. China is labor intensive and it often looks like nobody is actually working. Over the years I’ve come to realize that’s because for every one person I may see sitting there are probably three others working!

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - I

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - VIII

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - XII

By some estimates, almost 70% of the Chinese adult male population are smokers. That number may be off a bit. At times there were as many as 4 men smoking at our table during the meal. The employee break area was conveniently located stage left. Convenient for them. There were three laowai (foreigners) at our table and we were in the fishbowl. This guy was really giving me the stink eye but warmed up after I showed him this shot.

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant  - III

It wasn’t the best meal I’ve had in China but it wasn’t terrible either. The cuisine was local and I prefer dishes from the north of China. Still, on a hot and humid night, the beer was cold and the company was good.

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - VIII

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - IV

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant  - II

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - VI

Scenes From A Chinese Restaurant - XI

The last shot is of Matata, making a wish before blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. She’s 25.

So, it’s raining here again. Today at mid-day I was wondering if I had somehow missed an eclipse warning it got so dark. Weird, in that it is still in the 90’s but raining. It’s like soup out there. I have to go out again tonight though, as speaking of birthdays, today is Lily’s. I am not allowed to tell you how old she is.

I might not update much for the new few days as I try (again) to get the website finished and moved. Maybe I’ll at least post some photos…

Until then, Peace!

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Night Walking – Photos From Liuzhou

•July 28, 2010 • 8 Comments

I’ve actually been out two nights in a row with the camera. Well, more accurately I went our last night and then had the camera with me on the way home tonight. It’s been good to get back into the saddle. I’m not totally happy with what I’m getting just yet but I’m hoping that feel for the shot comes back soon enough.

Last night I took a walk down to the Liuzhou Government Headquarters Building. There is a huge public square in front of the building and on these hot, humid summer nights a lot of folks go out for a walk near the large fountain there to cool down. As I walked around, I discovered that in one corner of the square there were literally hundreds of people dancing. These old gals had arrived just ahead of me and were sizing up the potential dance partners.  Tough luck for the ladies, as they outnumberd the men about 10 to 1.

Dancing With The Stars - South China Style

Dancing With The Stars – South China Style

I decided to stick with the old birds for a while and followed them around the edge of the main “dance floor” until they found a little clear spot on the far side of the action. There weren’t any men over there either, so, undeterred, they began to dance with each other. Fact is, most of the couples were women anyway. Ms. Ping had to wait patiently for her turn, “Because”, as she told Lily, “I can’t lead.”

Wallfower

Wallflower

Ms. Ping got her turn with the lovely Ms. Wei. They tore it up to some Latin number before the rain came and put a damper on everything. I may go back another night and see if i can talk to some of the folks and find out a little more about the dancers.

Samba

Samba Baby

The City Government building isn’t exactly new anymore. It’s been here a couple of years now and has been a beacon for new construction in an area of town that was pretty much Nothingsville when I first came here four years ago. You can see yet another group of hi-rise apartments going up behind the building on the right.

Liuzhou City Government Building

Liuzhou Government Headquarters Building

On the way home, the rain stopped and I took a few shots of this hi-rise going up near the place where I live now. What with the mass migration to China’s cities and the newfound middle class’ desire to own their own home, the demand for housing is steep. Even at prices that are untouchable for most, new complexes are usually sold out even before they break ground. On some projects, crews work three shifts, 24 hours a day to keep up. The noise can be pretty obnoxious but I have been assimilated, I seem to barely notice it anymore.

Meeting Demand

Meeting Demand

I pretty much have a camera with me everywhere I go these days. I had quit doing that for a while but decided I was missing way too many shots. I’m glad I had one with me tonight. On the way back to the house I heard a ruckus and saw some lights so I stopped to take a look. I thought it may have been an argument or fight but I found these guys razzing two of their friends who were (poorly) playing 8 ball. They pretty much clammed up when I showed up but did warm up to me later.

Pool III

Pool III

I’m thinking this must be fairly common across China because I’ve seen so many weathered, outdoor pool tables. The felt and balls on this table were a mess but the cues, were straight and the tips, were surprisingly pristine. The sign on the bottom of the table says something like “No Children Allowed – Break The Rules And Face The Consequences!” That’s certainly a loose translation and it sounds pretty harsh but really, it just means “No Kids!”

Pool II

Pool II

By the time this game was over the guys were back to boisterously razzing their buddies.There were some small wagers, lots of cigarettes and some large bottles of cold beer. I got asked to play but couldn’t figure out what to do with my camera and backpack (laptop). I mean they were friendly and all, but I wasn’t about to just put the bag down on the ground. Easy pickins and way too tempting for one of these guys to grab and bolt. I am not as fast as I used to be, I’m built for distance. A short distance. I got out of there only having to drink one beer. It’s hot and humid here, so, they offered and it would have been rude not to have at least one. That’s my story.

Pool I

Pool I

So, that’s my last couple of evenings. What’s going on in your world? Until next time… Peace!

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So there was this motorcycle….

•July 25, 2010 • 41 Comments

Yeah… so for those that hadn’t heard or otherwise might have been wondering where I’ve been, a while back I had an encounter with a motorcycle. I was walking home after a trip to the grocery and as I crossed the street near the complex where I live, a guy ran me over going about 50 KPH. He was trying to outrun an oncoming rain storm and later admitted he never saw me. I had a concussion, a bruised kidney, three broken ribs and some screws were torn loose from a previous knee surgery. Feel free to insert your “screws loose” jokes in the comments section.

Writing about the accident has, for some reason, been a challenge for me. I wanted to write about it, hoping that it might somehow be cathartic. You see, as I was lying there on the pavement in the rain, I was afraid. I seriously thought I might be in real trouble. Then, and for a long time afterward, I questioned everything. I wanted to be with my children and I wanted to be anywhere else other than Liuzhou, China. I think maybe for the first time in my life I felt my mortality and I realized I wasn’t ready. Nope, not at all prepared. After waking up somewhere around 5:30 on the afternoon of April 16th, I lost myself for a while. For months afterward I wasn’t me. I couldn’t find pleasure in the everyday miracle of life. I didn’t want to talk to anybody and I certainly didn’t want to teach. I didn’t pick up my camera for months, got no exercise, ate whatever and whenever I wanted and overall was pretty much impossible to be around. I’d had a tough year physically. There was the heart attack, bouts with kidney stones and some other age related health issues had begun popping up. I’d battled on through it all, following doctor’s orders with a fair amount of success and then… the accident. It’s true what they say, it sucks getting old and let me tell you I was really giving it the “why me?” routine. I mean, I seriously could’ve given Job a run for his money.

Life is strange. We evolve. We change. We adapt. We repair. I struggle some days but a wholly full recovery looks likely. I still have some occasional vertigo and I’ll have to have the knee surgically repaired again but it certainly could have so much worse. So yeah, physically, emotionally and spiritually, I feel like I’m back on-course. That’s due in no short measure to my family and friends, who were patient and encouraging, generous with their prayers and at times, even harsh when they needed to be. If you offered up a prayer or sent me a note or sent positive vibes or made a phone call or spent even the briefest moment listening to me whine, I am grateful to you. While I am doing better, I’ll add that I would really, really, like to have a non-eventful summer health-wise.

So, now I’m in the midst of the summer break. I have a trip planned to photograph Inner Mongolia and a trip to Shenzhen and Hong Kong are in the works as well. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting some people face to face for the first time. Hopefully, I’ll get back on track and loose some weight and lower my blood pressure and improve my health in general. I should have some new photos up here soon as well. I also hope to finally have the website re-developed and moved to my own domain within the next month or so. I’ll try and get back into a routine and touch base as often as I can.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with what is admittedly a rather eclectic mix of images from February. Yeah. That’s how far behind I am with my processing.

Steamed

Steamed

Shortcut

Shortcut

Fie E' Lu

Fie ‘ E Lu

Paper Lanterns

Paper Lanterns

Girl In The Rain I

Girl In The Rain I

Until next time… this is a grateful me… saying thanks.

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Drama Queen – CNN Travel Photo of the Day

•March 25, 2010 • 12 Comments

I just got home to discover that CNN has selected one of my photos as their travel photo of the day. “Drama Queen” is part of a photo-documentary from last year about retired folks who perform opera in a riverside park here in Liuzhou. You can see the shot on CNN here and you can see the entire set of 40 photos here.

Drama Queen

Drama Queen

I’ve been getting behind again, my real job at school keeps getting in the way of my photography! I have four different projects I’m working on so I won’t even say I’ll be back soon on any regular basis, only that I hope to be! Inside of 12 hours before the Cats take on Cornell! Hopefully it will be one of those rare times when China Mobile’s hi-speed internet service will actually be hi-speed!

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Coffee Break – Star*ucks

•March 17, 2010 • 6 Comments

Three migrant workers walk through a construction site near my home in East Liuzhou. The signs you can se here in the background are fake, mocked-up advertisements of retail businesses that supposedly could come to the complex under construction. There are signs for Haagen Daz, a Pizza Ranch, a Disney store and a 7-11, as well as a couple for a rather unique coffee shop. Look closely at the row of signs in the background.

Coffee Break?

Coffee Break?

Beyond Chinglish, I imagine this is some young designers idea of a practical joke. Another photo featuring the other coffee sign has been making the internet rounds, with all kinds of speculation about the intent. Some suggest it is nothing more than a publicity stunt which of course isn’t the case, since 99% of the population can’t read English and have no idea what the sign says! One Chinese netizen proudly declared the sign to be fake. Yes Einstein, it is fake.

I went in to talk to the property management company about the sign and after telling them what it meant and suggesting that perhaps it was inappropriate I got a “I don’t think so…” from the big boss. I shrugged my shoulders and walked out.

You can see the other sign here, originally posted last week.

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Photo of the Day – Non-Comformist

•March 13, 2010 • 9 Comments

I’ve been spending a lot of time with young Chinese people lately. Of course that’s not unusual, I teach English to college students after all. No, I mean aside from my students, I’ve been hanging out with and getting to know a fairly broad cross-section of young Chinese between the ages of 20 – 30. It’s an interesting time in China and this generation is witnessing change at a pace never before seen anywhere else at any other time in history. As it is everywhere, their interests and dreams and goals and beliefs run the gamut, with some twists unique to China. I’m producing a photo documentary on the subject that I hope to have completed in the next few months. Yes China is changing. It’s growing, and I’m not just talking about the population. I’m not sure exactly where it all ends but I’m certain that it will continue to evolve, and not because of any amount of external pressure. China will change at a pace and in a direction chosen by the people. For some, it can’t happen fast enough, while others are getting left in the dust, both economically and ideologically.

One of the groups I’ve been spending time with includes some young aspiring rock stars and their small but dedicated fan base. Desperately trying to find some individualtiy in a society that willingly adheres to the collective. It’s an absolute contradiction, on more than one level.

Non-Conformist

Non-Conformist

The weather here stinks again, cold and damp and gray. A recipe for depression and disinterest. I’m supposed to go out with a group of journalist tomorrow but I’m already balking at the idea of fumbling with the camera, a camera bag and tripod, all while trying to manage an umbrella with frozen hands. Had a nice talk with my daughter Natalie today, she had to call back three times and never complained. She’s rippin’ it up at DU, on pace to get her BA in French, a BS in Accounting and a Masters in Accounting, all in five years. I also leaned today that Adam and Melissa are expecting a girl in August… my first grandchild will be Layla Valerie! Until next time, peace!

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