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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Joel Santos

Nov29

Shanghai — The Future in the Present

By Joel Santos, Friday November 29, 2013
Taken from the Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC), a skyscraper over 494.3m tall located in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China. The observation deck, the world's highest, offers an overwhelming view of Shanghai from 474m above ground level. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 13secs at f/8, ISO 200.

Taken from the Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC), a skyscraper over 494.3m tall located in the Pudong district of Shanghai, China. The observation deck, the world's highest, offers an overwhelming view of Shanghai from 474m above ground level. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 13secs at f/8, ISO 200. © Joel Santos - www.joelsantos.net

I've recently returned from China, where I went to lead a photo workshop in the Beijing and Guilin areas over the course of 12 exciting and fruitful days. As in previous years, I try to use extra days for other assignments, which in the past have taken me to remote mountain areas, like Huangshan ("Yellow Mountain", which I've previously blogged about) or Jiuzhaigou ("Valley of Nine Villages"). Nevertheless, this year was bound to be completely different, because this time I needed to photograph urban spaces for my next book (more on that in 2014). This made Shanghai the obvious destination.

I must say that, sometimes, cities fail to impress me or, perhaps better to say, inspire me. There is nothing wrong with them, but I tend to prefer nature and people as my main subjects. But Shanghai took me by surprise. I knew I was going to see huge skyscrappers and busy streets. But it's one thing knowing, other experiencing! And there's so much more to Shanghai than buildings. There's something in the air, something special and unique, that made me think: "I could live here!"

The mix between oriental and western cultures seems to have found a unique balance in Shanghai. On one side of the Huangpu river lies the yet to come 22nd century, with an impressive collection buildings and urban features that are a portal to the future, while on the other side lies the 19th century, with the British and French influences well carved in the facades. Between the two river banks, there are dozens of people practicing Tai Chi Chuan, flying LED-lit kites, running and, of course, photographing – again mixing ancient traditions with current ones on the same physical space.

Shanghai is, as I like to describe it, the "Future in the Present", having both the past and the future as its beacons. Crossing the river is like using a time machine, making the present a way to time travel to the past or the future.

More about China at www.joelsantos.net and www.facebook.com/Joel.Santos.Photography

This photograph was made from inside the 421m Jin Mao Tower, where the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel is located between floors 53 and 87. It totals 28 circular corridors with a diameter of 27m and a vertical drop of 115m. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/40sec at f/6.3, ISO 3200 (handheld, no tripod).

This photograph was made from inside the 421m Jin Mao Tower, where the Shanghai Grand Hyatt hotel is located between floors 53 and 87. It totals 28 circular corridors with a diameter of 27m and a vertical drop of 115m. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/40sec at f/6.3, ISO 3200 (handheld, no tripod).
© Joel Santos - www.joelsantos.net

The secular martial art of Tai Chi Chuan, here practiced at sunrise, contrasts with the futuristic setting of the Pudong District, home of the world's tallest skyscraper. It’s also possible to get a glimpse of a man flying a kite, a Chinese invention dating back to the 5th century BC. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/13, ISO 400.

The secular martial art of Tai Chi Chuan, here practiced at sunrise, contrasts with the futuristic setting of the Pudong District, home of the world's tallest skyscraper. It’s also possible to get a glimpse of a man flying a kite, a Chinese invention dating back to the 5th century BC. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 1/320sec at f/13, ISO 400. © Joel Santos - www.joelsantos.net