Saturday, November 14, 2009

May 30, Taklamakan Desert

Finally, time to wake up, carried the cameras, and we set off to the Taklamakan Desert 塔克拉瑪幹沙漠, no, we were in the desert already, but we move on to a spot everyone agree to stop to do some photographs, and we soon found it. Quickly, we all jump off the car, and start our work. Pook, she is the one in this trip ever to step on desert, in fact, she did many things first in this trip!

There are many dried Populus tress still stand on the desert, refuse to accept their fate even after thousand years, beautiful as it is, I don't find the combination of desert and Populus tree here a particular nice composition, so I made some images, mostly without it. Here, I took one picture for Pook (with her G10), before walking into desert to find my view.And some of the shots made in the desert, Nikon D3X with AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED. One note to Nikon here: Please! Even the dusk removing mechanism is not perfect on every other camera system, with something is still better than nothing. I got a big problem after coming back to hotel to find some images were good but useless because of dusts. Yes, Photoshop is a solution, but not a solution to the problem I found. I kept walking, although try to be careful of my bearing, really there is nothing to register in desert, but, with camera on my hand, I continue to move on, while sun is setting, this one, also with Nikon D3X with AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED. And some shots from my pocket camera, Sigma DP-1.This one, shot with Nikon D3X, reminds me it was late in the night, now I have to find my way out.I thought it is easy, but it isn't. I tried to calm down myself, try to find the direction, not panic, and I heard some faint voice calling my name, so I follow the voice, back to join the team, and most importantly, my wife. And it was 10pm already.
And this becomes sort of the routine, get up early, long drive, taking pictures, late dinner. It is almost 10:30pm when we order our dinner, but compare to the days at Bayanbulak, this is not late at all.
Retire to the hotel room, it was late, and while backing up the day's pictures, pleasantly surprised that Pook's Canon G10 captures some nice images of myself, and of course the scenery.My steps? Captured by Pook with her G10.To me, Pook's shot of the day with her Canon G10.

Friday, November 13, 2009

May 30, Tarim & Tarim River

We drove a little while, here we arrive the Tarim, where the famous Tarim River 塔里木河 runs by.

It is the longest in-land river in China, total length 2,030km, but nothing to photograph now, there is just the river bed, totally dried, only in the summer when the melted snow from the Tienshan Mountain, then the river is alive again, and of course bring lives to people who depend on it. Nothing to share here, and in fact we only stop by the river bed for just a few minutes, Neo suggest that may be we should find a hotel, rest awhile, and late in the afternoon to go to the Taklamakan Desert for some shoot. It is a good idea, the weather is getting hard, a nap is a good idea. After a few check ups, we eventually settle in this hotel, here my wife Pook pose in front of the hotel, and Neo's Landscruiser.
Not wanting to nap that early, Pook and myself went out, buy ourselves ice-cream at a small shop nearby the hotel, and went on checking out the street. And while we walk on to the main street, I ask Pook to sit on herself in front of this wall, with some Chinese writing, which no or less says "This is not toilet!"A nice Muslim restaurant nearby the hotel, shot with Nikon D3X. The kids inside the restaurant. Regardless how diversified the people on earth, of varies of cultures, kids all look the same! Shouldn't we all? Capture with Nikon D3X.Continue to walk on the street. This is indeed a very small town, with 2 roles of houses along the highway, probably 500-600 meters each side, beyond theses houses again the endless sand. Economic on this small town is asleep, at it seemed to be, dirty, deserted, you will really see how China was 20 years ago. Not today, but here, still has a long way to go. A series shots all by Nikon D3X with AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED.Pook standing by the door, with the typical Chinese greeting banner, this must be a house for Han Chinese, what the banner says? In short - peach and money. Nikon D3X + AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED.And OK, may be its time to take a nap, and prepare for the late afternoon shoot in Taklamakan Desert 塔克拉瑪幹沙漠 . I snap this picture for Pook, while she cross the highway, background the look of this small town.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

May 30, Yanqi - Korla - Tarim River

We have to witness Neo separate from his son, I am sorry for them, it is a job that Neo has to move forward, a story of millions happen in many countries, particular China, with such population, fast growing economic.....we all look forward.
Soon, after leaving the downtown area of Yanqi 焉耆 the Landcruiser enter the highway leading us to endless sand, trees becomes very rare, Neo told us, we are entering into the desert area. We are driving towards Korla 庫爾勒 The boarder area of desert is not that pretty, far away from those beautiful image published, but we are getting there.
Fast moving on the highway, with both side endless sands, we have to admit that this is kind of boring, so we have to find topics to chat around, talk talk talk, and naps in between, eventually the target focus on we have to find something to eat, this idea gets everyone's attention - except my Pook who does not understand Chinese, so she is the last one to cheer. This is the first time Pook on a trip in Muslim world (sort of, in large part), even though there is really not much choice besides the Muslim meal, she actually quite enjoy the local food. Then began the hunt, so we stop a few times, checking out the kitchen - don't fancy the kitchen in this area, it is in the middle of nowhere, kitchen means a brick stove on open air, with beat up wok which you can't tell the color from the coal they use to fire the stove. But, Muslim people is very clean, I trust them with the food, and everyone seemed so. To give an idea what it is, shot by compact Canon G10.And like most of the Chinese family, a too-familiar scene, Mom cooking, and kids running around. The 2 cute boys of the cooking mom. In China, one baby system is still practiced, among Han people, but for minors in Xinjiang, they can have more. Canon G10.The house they live in.We don't have problem with her cooking, but we are looking for other choice, I made the proposal; "....let's find some noodle..", so noodle it is. We continue to drive ahead, looking for noodle.
And we found it. A nicely set up restaurant, and a busy - although dark, working kitchen. I grab a compact Sigma DP-1 for snap shot, and a Canon G10 - this time just for video clip, sneak into the kitchen, make a series of images and a full record of our meal making. This is an image took while I walk by the hall way (OK, to be frankly, to the restroom), with DP-1. I confess that I am a huge fan of Canon G10, but I will not lie that for pure image quality, DP-1 is by a mile a better photography camera. Get use to it, and it produce astonishing quality image, something I don't understand why others don't follow suit. At the time of this writing, Leica has its offering in name of X1. something to look forward to.The waiter, and helper in the kitchen, unlike many Han Chinese, is not camera shy. He pose for me with 2 bowls on his head!The cook and his wife, working on our Xinjiang noodle. And the secret of such delicious noodle, it really took efforts to work on the flour to get the taste that let us remember forever!One proof that the food is so good is that I simply could not stop to take time to make shots on what we ate, each of us took 2 big bowls, including my Pook.
Time to move on, now we are goting to Tarim 塔里木, and to see the Tarim River 塔里木河.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

May 30, Hejing - Yangi

It is a more relaxed day. With much warmer last night, a good hotel, we met each other at the breakfast hall, given such a small city Hejing 和靜 is, it is a large selection, something you can always expect in when travel in China, even in Xinjiang. I must although overall there is a large difference between the quality of living in cities in more developed area and small cities in Xinjiang, the public infrastructure is well built, except the sanitation area still left much to be desired. Hejing is Neo home town, for the first night of the trip so far, he is not with us, and we started to miss him. But Neo did not let us wait, he came by the breakfast hall. We are ready to move.
It is going to be a long ride, with not much landscape diversity, because we are moving toward the desert area. We will be stopping by a small city, Yanqi 焉耆, where his son is there, and we are all going to see him!
We stop by a gas station, a truck also parked along our car, I saw the sheep packed in the cargo bay, jump onto the truck, took the picture! "Sheep for trade!" It is a mixed of emotion, these people live on these sheep, depend on them, little choice of not to, we called ourselves human being, atop on the food chain and somehow claim right to do so. These sheep are not depend on human, they depend on nature! May be in more ways than we do, because we took advantage of other species, or so-call command of food-chain, so we are less direct rely on nature. I am not so sure if these sheep felt their and saw their fate. May be, may be not.
Continue on our journey, moving slowly! In Xinjiang, the traffic rule is very strict, it allow often only 30-40km/hr when cruising on the city road, Neo told us, "....because Xinjiang is so big, they cannot allow the driver to drive faster than what seemingly a slow limit, to avoid serious tragic...", there is a logic there, but the logic makes people asleep as well, and so we stop to take some pictures. This one, shot on the road side, with a Canon G10, fill with the built-in flash. After extended use, one has to give Canon a credit to develop a compact yet powerful camera like G10. It delivers almost the same quality of those compact film camera could, such as those gems like Contax T2 and T3, there were my favorite, and should I still use that much film, for sure to still keep them. Anyway, entering into digital, Contax in fact also introduce a digital compact, the TV-S which without doubt I also have it and did great image with it, a pity such a beautiful camera discontinued by a discontinued camera brand. What a shame on Kyocera. But of course Kyocera will say "this is business", and it proved that Kyocera is not wrong, should they continue on the Contax line, they may be in greater trouble, so this is more sad than shame. May be it is just bad fortune. In the history of camera making and optical developing, Contax as a whole did more right than wrong, praise by those not even use them, envied by those who did not own them, but this is not enough to keep a good brand name today. Enough camera talk!
Back on to highway, we finally arrive Yanqi, Neo met his son, we all met his son, and we all share the joy!
This is Neo and his son!We are sorry for Neo! His duty made his time with his son so short, and we are the reason this time. For what may be just 5 minutes, Neo took us on road again, moving toward our destination today, Tarim 塔里木, and the famous river runs by - Tarim River 塔里木河.

Monday, November 9, 2009

May 29 Leaving Bayanbulak to Baluntai to Hejing

Finally got what we want, and it is time to move on. Bayanbulak is a beautiful place, actually a little sad when we finally have to move on. But surely, the expectation to look for new scenery ahead of us soon overcame the sadness, besides, we got up early this morning, it is time to eat! Taken this image just in front of the small restaurant we stopped to eat our breakfast, weather is getting better and warmer. Using my compact Sigma DP-1, processed the raw file using Adobe Lightroom 2.1, one of my favorite editing software, and the platform I use whenever Capture One Pro did not support, for example the Sigma DP-1 and the DP-2.
And this image, also with the Sigma DP-1, took seconds before we move on the long and straight Xinjiang highway, toward Baluntai 巴侖台.This one, Neo on the driving seat, as always, moving toward to what seemed to be an endless highway. I could not resist, took a nap.And then this is the most important tip I will give to all - "Before you delete and format your compact flash or SD card, check and check again, and before you hit the enter key, check again." I can now advise anyone how important it is to double check and triple check, because I did not. And I lost some great image here, not only the beautiful landscapes, but also the feast Neo prepare for us, a whole roast sheep! For what it worth, Neo is treating us a meal of a lifetime. As fast as Chinese development is, not everyone benefit the same. Neo makes his living giving travel guide, often on the driving seat of his Landcrusier, hours and hours drive, stop whenever we want to take a picture, on or off-road. And this meal, cost him a good portion of the money he could make from this trip, too good to take, but Neo insist. I felt particular sorry because I lost the image of this wonderful meal, the video of the roasting process. We all eat, drink, and eat more, drink more.
Finally, we will have a good hotel to stay tonight, and after the wonderful meal, we are moving to Hejing 和靜, Neo's home town. We stay at a nice hotel, and before entering into the hotel, we saw a small desert storm, we quickly ran into the hotel, and needless to say, I lost the image of the desert storm, it was gone along with the "empty trash" command on my mac, stupid me. Good news is the hotel does have cable for high speed internet, bad news is even though I am able to download the image rescue software to try to retrieve the lost images, some came back, many did not.
No more image to entertain for this day and I will be careful for next, this is the location map of Hejing and its relation with other Xinjiang cities. Map Here.