A note on the China photos

These China pictures were all taken on a 1-week bike ride around Beijing Province (an area rather smaller than the UK, but it is big enough that much of the province is still rural and not dominated by the city) rasing money for Mencap, in October 2001. They're the only photos I have from China, because although I went back for a much longer trip through more of the country in November 2002, I lost all the photos I had from then when my camera was stolen, and I didn't get a new camera until Hong Kong. It's a shame, partly because it's an absolutely fascinating country, but mainly because of some technical issues with the photos I do have.

The camera I had back in 2001 was not very good. Prior to getting interested in photography in 2000 or so, I hadn't even owned a camera (unless you count the Polaroid SX-70 that I had stored away years earlier and forgotten about) since I was a teenager. So when digital cameras were still something of a novelty, I bought one without knowing anything about the optics, on a purely technical specification. It wasn't such a terrible camera, but each one I've owned since has been progressively better. Add this to my lack of experience with photography (hopefully as I gradually put my old pictures online you'll be able to see some kind of progression, though I still have much to learn), and the raw photos were not as good as they could have been. Then, to make things worse, I compressed these quite a lot in order to store several hundred on a small memory card, and then when I procesed them on my home computer (something else I'm getting better at with experience) I didn't have the sense to keep the originals, so I'm stuck with any decisions I made in processing these 4 years ago.

The upshot of this is that these pictures are in no order whatsoever, some of them are not very sharp, and the colours are sometimes quite badly off. To me, a lot of them look like stills from early colour movies—the colour is slightly too brash, and the definition not quite there—and while it's not such a terrible look it is noticeably different from the newer pictures I've been posting. It's a shame, because when I see strange-looking pictures of somewhere unfamiliar, I like to have a reference point so I can understand what the place really looks like.

To that end, the reason I've written this spiel is that not all of the strangeness is an artefact. When the colours are too bold, blame the tools. When the colours look washed out, or there's a yellow or pink haze in the sky, or everything looks dirty, that was probably the raw material, especially if it's in an urban setting. I have never seen anywhere else as obviously, disgustingly polluted as Beijing. Gary, Indiana doesn't even come close. That yellow haze is just the visible smog.


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