The Way I See It

Archive for October 2010

The Faces of Litang

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Litang is a rugged high-country town located in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. Historically, it was part of the ancient Tibetan province of Kham. At 4,100 metres (13,450 feet) above sea level, it is >400 metres higher than Lhasa and one of the highest towns in the world.

These images are of the nomad family that my companions stayed with. We were all scheduled to stay in their tents but I got sick on the drive to Litang and ended up staying at a local guest house (I had it rough, I know).

Tibetan boy, Litang, Sichuan, China.

Tibetan girl, Litang, Sichuan, China.

 Tibetan father and child, Litang, Sichuan, China.


I made these images at the Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery on the northern end of town. The monastery was founded in 1520 and was home to the 7th and 10th Dalai Lamas, both of whom were born in Litang. One of the temples is being rebuilt and the morning that we visited, the town youth were moving planks and scaffolding into the great hall.

Tibetan youth at Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery, Litang, Sichuan, China.

Tibetan youth at Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery, Litang, Sichuan, China.


Written by xinapray

October 31, 2010 at 12:20 am

The Road to Litang

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In the high country, prayer flags regularly adorn the landscape. Amidst the beauty and solitude, it is not hard to imagine the whistling winds carrying devotees’ unspoken hopes, desires and aspirations to the heavens.
Tibetan Prayer Flags, Litang, Sichuan Province, China.


Heading North on the Tibetan Plateau, the landscape quickly changed from the lush greenery of Yunnan to the arid, rocky terrain of the Sichuanese high country. I shot this late in the day. With the sunlight filtered by the billowing clouds, the landscape was painted in a harsh, dramatic light.
Landscape on the Tibetan Plateau, Sichuan, China.


Written by xinapray

October 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm


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Chatreng (Xiangcheng 乡城 in Chinese) is a picturesque community that occupies a lush, fertile valley surrounded by dreamscape-like mountains. On a hillside overlooking the town is the Sampheling Monastery of the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat Sect.
Semphaling Monastery, Chatreng/Xiangcheng, Sichuan, China.


To respect the sacredness of this place of worship, photography is only allowed in one dimly-lit hall on the second level. I dialled up the ISO and made this image. It is a representation of the “present” Dalai Lama (not the man who currently occupies the position, but the idea that at any point in eternity, there is a Dalai Lama who has passed, one who is in the present, and future one who is yet to be born).
Dalai Lama statue, Semphaling Monastry, Chatreng/Xiangcheng, Sichuan, China.


This is Sonam our most capable guide, and a really interesting guy. He is a native of Chatreng so our visit to the town was a homecoming of sorts. He and his family generously invited us to visit with them. I shot this in the main living area on the second floor. To Sonam’s right is his dad, the patriarch of the family and a most gracious host.
Sonam and Dad, Chatreng/Xiangcheng, Sichuan, China.


Written by xinapray

October 28, 2010 at 1:28 am

What Lens(es) Should I Buy?

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Shanghai Freeway at 60 mph

Shanghai Freeway at 60 mph

Quite regularly, friends who are moving into the DSLR/EVIL world ask this question. Here are some thoughts that I hacked out this morning…

“Regarding lenses, I think the important thing to consider is what your requirements are. If you are looking for a versatile all-in-one lens, the 18-200 might be a better choice. I use the older VR (not VR II) version and for travel and convenience, I like it a lot (it was on my camera most of the time that I was in China). The tradeoff is that it is not as sharp at the larger apertures (i.e., small f-stops) as the more specialized (more $$) lenses. But as I recall, it is just as sharp (if not more) than any of the Nikon 18-something zooms.

Alternatively, instead of an 18-something zoom, you might consider getting the 18-55 VR and 55-200 VR kit lenses. These are also plenty sharp and great value for the money.

If sharpness is the most important (within budgetary considerations), I’d go with the 16-85 + the 70-300 VR. These are the best of the consumer/prosumer lenses. I love my 70-300 and have almost bought the 16-85 a couple of times (I’m still trying to decide whether to go full frame). Plus, the extra 2 mm at the wide angle end is incredibly useful for interiors and landscapes.

As far as fast lenses go, (apart from the 50 mm f1.8), you are looking at a pretty significant investment….so it’s important to first figure out what kind of focal length you will use most often. I think that first playing with that 18-something or 16-something lens will probably help you decide. But overall, I think that you are on the right track.”

Written by xinapray

October 26, 2010 at 10:54 am

Yunnan to Sichuan

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I shot this at Daxue Shan (Great Snow Mountain, 大雪山) on our drive from Shangri-la (香格里拉) aka Zhongdian (中甸) to Chatreng/Xiangcheng (乡城).
Daxue Shan, Yunnan.

Much of the drive was on rugged, unpaved roads along gorgeous mountain ridges and over breathtaking mountain passes. By this point in the trip, we were routinely above 4000 metres. With the neighboring peaks and billowing weather all at eye level, it felt like we were traveling on top of the world. Truly amazing landscape. Probably the most beautiful of our trip. I shall return with more time on my hands.
Xiao Xue Shan Pass, Yunnan

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October 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

That Time of Year

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And so it begins.
The shortening of the days, the brisk chill in the air, the falling of the leaves.
I bank the memories of sunny days like today to help me make it through the coming weeks, when the days are cold and rainy and dusk descends at 4:30.
That Time of Year

Written by xinapray

October 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Images of Shangrila

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We were out in the late afternoon, driving around on the high-country grassland when our lead vehicle pulled to a quick stop. The plain before us was bathed in beautiful muted glow and in the distance, a storm front was coming This is down from the hills.We were out in the late afternoon, driving around on the high-country grassland when our lead vehicle pulled to a quick stop. The plain before us was bathed in beautiful muted glow and in the distance, a storm front was coming down from the hills.
Storm Front and Shangrila Grasslands

The square in old town Shangri-la. We were there right between the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day/Golden Week. It was thus pretty quiet.
The Square in Old Shangrila

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October 17, 2010 at 12:51 am

On the Road to Shangri-La

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Yi Boy in Traditional Tibetan Coat

While on the road to Shangri-la (formerly called Zhongdian), we came across this young Yi boy, dressed in a traditional embroidered Tibetan coat with fur trim.

Magical Shangrila Landscape

Mist-shrouded peaks, deep, fertile valleys and rich, earthy hillsides. Could this be the place that James Hilton found his Shangri-La?

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October 15, 2010 at 1:48 am


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Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the first stop on our road trip through the eastern Tibetan Plateau.

It was sprinkling as we pulled into town but as we finished getting settled in at the inn, things eased up enough so that we could hoof it down to the town square to start exploring. And behold, this is what greeted us.
Lijiang Old Town Square with Rainbow


Narrow cobblestone streets (open to foot traffic only) traverse all of Old Town. Running alongside these footpaths is an amazing network of babbling brooks and waterways. As we wandered around in the cool Fall evening, I was captivated by the fresh alpine air, the rustic architecture, the impeccably clear water and the charming paving-stone walkways.
Old Lijiang Cobblestone Street


Devastated by a 7.0 earthquake in 1996, the town was rebuilt in the original Naxi style, with these amazing classic gray tile roofs that stretch almost as far as the eye can see. I shot this on a crisp morning as the mountain mists rolled through; it was an experience that I will not easily forget.
Old Lijiang Rooftops in the Morning Mist


In the evenings, Old Town springs to life with the gorgeous light cast by these red lanterns (that adorn most of the buildings). I think back on Lijiang most fondly. The word “magical” springs to mind but knowing what I know about myself and my giddiness during those days, I shall leave it as “amazing” for now.
Old Lijiang at Night



Written by xinapray

October 14, 2010 at 1:01 am

Shanghai Night

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Self-indulgent Shanghai Nightscape

I did quite a bit of running around in Shanghai and didn’t really do much shooting. We did, however, have drinks/dinner at the top of Three on the Bund so here it is: my self-indulgent PuxiPudong nightscape.

Eric – thanks again for taking us around. I owe you (or is it that you owe me?) a return trip to catch the dancers at dusk.

Written by xinapray

October 10, 2010 at 2:10 am

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