Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Posts Tagged ‘panorama

Red noodle cups

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red noodle cups 2
The road connecting Yushu to Xining (Qinghai) 

All over Tibet stuff gets thrown out of cars, busses, restaurants, garbage is often even emptied in the rivers.

I hate it, and as littering is so rare in Europe, it always takes me by surprise when someone just throws garbage out of a window. I will make however an exception for the red cups in which the instant noodles are sold. They look so happy in the landscape (if you do not look to closely).

red noodle cups 1

West Tibet (TAR)

Tibet Travel log 12: The great train ride (Lhasa-Golmud)

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train 2
In 2001 I took the bus from Lhasa to Golmud (Geermu) and then the train to Xining. At that time on some parts of the route there was some early activity plotting the train track from Golmud to Lhasa.

The train went in service in 2006 and finally last April I managed to get on and see for myself. It is not always easy to get train tickets, there are now so many Chinese tourists visiting Lhasa that tickets are sold out long in advance and the fees from the ticket touts and travel agencies went up accordingly. Luckily I was there in April, not really the tourist season yet, so I managed to obtain my ticket.

The train was good, clean, comfortable, on time and the people in my part of the train (hard sleeper) were well-behaved. This might seem a silly remark, but during that bus ride 10 years ago I did not even dare to put my bag on the floor of the bus as it was completely covered with greenish spit, the smell of vomit and the noises that were made were horrible and the sleeper bus was in such a bad condition that the hot water in my flask froze overnight. This train ride was a breeze in comparison.

In the first years the train was operational I saw many nomad families using the train to come to Lhasa. Which was a nice surprise after all the international criticism that the train would only bring more Han Chinese to Lhasa changing Lhasa in just another big Chinese metropolis. Which, to some extend, has also happened.
So when I took the train I had hoped to see some of the Tibetans from Kham and Amdo (the Tibetan area’s in Sichuan and Qinghai) who use the train to visit Lhasa during the winter to fulfill their religious duties by visiting the monasteries and temples in and around Lhasa.

But this time there were hardly any Tibetans on the train, it were mainly Han-Chinese, some tourists from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and a handful of other people including one other western foreigner who used the train.
I knew that Tibetans from Kham and Amdo were restricted in their travel to Lhasa. With those areas facing ongoing protests, the authorities were keeping them away to stop the unrest and self-immolations from spreading to Lhasa. I had noticed the lack of pilgrims in front of the main temple in the Tibetan quarter in Lhasa, but I had put that down to the heavy police presence in that area. I just had not realised the extend of the travel restrictions until I saw who went on that train.

The train ride through the snow-covered landscape with the mountains and lakes, the yak herds and groups of the little antelopes was wonderful. The Han Chinese family and Hong Kong Chinese girl in my compartment were lovely and very interested in Tibet it the Tibetan culture. Still I hope that next time I can enjoy it with some Tibetan fellow travelers as well.

train 1
train 3
(All photos in and from the train between Lhasa and Golmud)

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

December 11, 2012 at 15:38

Tibet Travel log 4, The entrance gate

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April 2012, Tagong

These ladies ask the (mainly Chinese) tourists quite aggressively 10Y for passing the gate onto their land that has a nice view on the golden temple. This is a commercial attitude I have not often seen in Tibetans, certainly not Tibetan woman. And although I do not like to pay for standing in a field, I think it is rather funny and it fuels the hope that the Tibetans are catching up with the Chinese in commercial business sense. The few Chinese tourists that come to Tagong in April at least seem to have no issue with this approach whilst the one other ‘foreigner’ that is there at the same time with me prefers to walk to the next hill to avoid paying. The westerner is annoyed as this spoils his preconception of the peaceful laid back Tibetan.

It is early in the tourist season, at this time of the year it is mostly young Chinese that are walking, cycling, hitch hiking to Lhasa some 2000 km and a few days (by car) away coming to Tagong. They are travelling by themselves or in small groups as they say ‘to get to know their country’. They all see Tibet is an integral part of China. Some have met foreigners that told them differently and they clearly think that is a laughable misconception of some misinformed foreigners that do not know about China.

Most of these Chinese backpackers show a true interest in and respect for Tibetans, the culture and the religion. It is good to see that they are genuinely interested and try to understand the place, not just treating Tibet as a giant open air museum like most of the tour groups do. Some are even mildly critical about the enormous amounts of army trucks passing through Tagong on a daily basis heading further into Tibet.
These kids are well educated, relatively wealthy and I hope that once this generation comes to power there will be more understanding that will result in changes in the attitude and policies with regards to Tibet.

Tibet Travel log 3, Kangding airport

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April 2012

After February and March when no foreigner would get access to any of the Tibetan area’s, I am back in China in April. I have tried to gage from the international news what the situation is like, but as all journalists and foreigners are banned from the Tibetan area’s it is hard to get a feeling for the situation.

The first signs are not good, the bus station still does not sell tickets into the Tibetan area’s and the drivers with shared cars are reluctant to take foreigners. But it seems to be possible to buy plane tickets. So that is then what I decide to do: fly to Kangding (in the Tibetan area in Sichuan). After all the issues in February I am nervous, but I can buy the plane ticket without any problems, I get through the security at the airport after unpacking my camera bag, and then it is fine. During the short flight the view on the snowy mountains is clear with just enough tiny clouds to make the scene perfectly beautiful. At the Kanding airport (at 4280 m the second highest airport in the world) all is very relaxed.

It is forbidden to take pictures of airports but when all the Chinese officials get their cameras out, I feel I can join in. They even offer to take pictures with my camera of me in front of the airport.

When they all start to leave in their luxurious four wheel drives with Chinese drivers, a very old, rusty small car arrives.  The Chinese man in suits laugh and point at me, and indeed that is my car with a helpful and smiling Tibetan driver.

Finally, I’ve made it!

First Blurb book

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This is a first attempt to a first Blurb book. I am now waiting for the paper version to arrive to decide what needs to be changed. But as I could not wait with finding out how to get a preview posted here, you are now also privy to my first steps in the Blurb world.

the Republic of (the/South) Sudan by Marieke ten Wolde

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

March 27, 2012 at 13:37

The panoramic format in documentary photography (2)

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With the purchase of a Hasselblad XPAN now quite a few years ago, my interest in photography using the panoramic format was raised. Since then I have tried different subjects, compositions and looked at many images using this format. One of the things I find most difficult is to get a good portrait using this format. The only example I have found so far that I really like are the images from Mikhael Subotski in his series ‘Die vier hoeke’. And maybe this is because the people are all lying down, which makes it easier to ‘fill’ the photograph.

If anybody can help me with some other good examples, please let me know!



Written by Marieke ten Wolde

November 22, 2011 at 15:10

Bed time story 2, King Gesar

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Not so very long ago, actually part of this story might still be unfolding, King Gesar was sitting on his huge horse and looked out over the main square in a very remote and high place. He was wearing his full ceremonial dress and that morning he saw how the people were waking up and started to leave their houses to take care of their daily business. The traffic was still slow, but soon all the streets would be filled with cars, motorcycles and people.

All of a sudden the ground began to tremble and to shake and the people started to run. The first cracks appeared in the mud brick houses, the windows broke and even the concrete buildings started to move heavily. Then the first buildings collapsed, not much more than some wooden beams and a pile of mud and sand remained, then the floors of concrete buildings came down, some chortens at the monasteries fell, a prayer hall collapsed. When it stopped there was just silence.

King Gesar was still standing and looked at the ruins of the city.

The people started to move again, started digging, finding man, women, children, some alive but sadly most were dead. The monks and all the lay people were helping, while it was very cold and heavy snowstorms blocked the road into the city.

Close to the city was a mani wall, a wall built of stones with holy inscriptions. It used to be the largest mani wall in the world, but even this sacred place was severely damaged, still impressive but more a large pile of mani rubble then a wall now.

Later on many of the people who had lived in the destroyed houses moved away and other people arrived. For a couple of years everybody lived in tents. In the summer the city was very dusty and when it rained the mud stood knee-high in the streets, the winters were very, very cold. A large road was built to connect this very remote place with the outside world. The road brought building materials, large machines and more people to the city.

King Gesar oversaw all the work that happened.

The new people removed the rubble, the street plan was changed and new buildings were erected. The city was build once more, but it looked quite different, and there were different people living now. They say the city even changed its name.

And King Gesar, the indestructible, still stands in the center of the square, one of the few survivors of the old city.

The main square in Yushu (Tibet)

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

October 19, 2011 at 17:36

The panoramic format in documentary photography

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Last week I was asked (again), why do you use the panoramic format for so many of your photographs? Well, why do I do that? I sometimes wonder myself. It is not very handy; it is difficult to get published in magazines, it does not easily fit into books, there are no standard sized frames available, sometimes my film is messed up when the lab tries to cut my film, scanning is not straight forward etc etc. Normally I am quite a practical person, so why this rather ‘difficult’ format’?

Of course the very simple answer is, I like it. But why do I like it?

The panoramic format is not just a very long photo. Some photographers use it like that, just using the format to show a row of (often similar) things. This can be interesting, but to me also becomes boring very quickly. The same holds for images depicting something long and broad, like a row of houses, a train platform, etc.

The format becomes more interesting if the length is used to aid the composition or to show more information about the environment than would otherwise be possible, or to hold the clue of the image in one of the corners, so it is not revealed immediately. This does not mean that the picture could not contain ‘empty’ area’s, these could be used to add some quietness or to contrast with other parts in the image.

The worst composition for a panoramic format, in my eyes, is the picture where the main subject is placed somewhere in the middle and the image gives the impression that too much is included. The type of pictures that would be better off if cropped into the more common 2:3 or even square format.

Another way to compose a panoramic format image is to comprise more pictures into one picture. The picture could be cut into 2 or sometimes even 3 parts and each part of the picture could stand alone as well. A good panoramic image would then be the image where the sum of the parts is stronger than the individual parts. Jens Olof Lasthein in a master in these types of compositions, see some of his photo’s below.

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October 14, 2011 at 21:30

Bed time story, nine hills

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Once upon a time, long, long ago, Guru Rinpoche, the Lotus born master, miraculously travelled to the dark valley of the demons. At that time there was a lake in the valley where nine demon brothers lived. When Guru Rinpoche arrived he tried to chase them away but they fled into the water of the lake. Guru Rinpoche then opened up the bottom of the lake and let the water flow away. When the demons couldn’t hide in the water anymore, they tried to escape again and ran to the entrance of the valley. To stop them, Guru Rinpoche brought down a rain of big boulders and trapped them underneath.

That is why there are still nine small hills of large boulders at the entrance of the valley. Now nine stupas are built on top of the nine hills to ensure the trapped demons can never escape.

Sleep tight…

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

October 6, 2011 at 22:22

First attempt to some content…

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A first picture from the last trip to Tibet in May/June 2011.

Written by Marieke ten Wolde

August 19, 2011 at 17:18