I remember the first time I ever went to Qingdao. 2009. My first time in China.
As predicted, Beijing – my first city in China – had left me needing a break from the busyness. Qingdao sounded ideal. A small town not far from the capital with beaches and a beer street, I thought.
I was right with the beaches and the beer street. Small town, not so much. Not by my Englishman standards. Not when the population is roughly the same as London’s.
But those standards have changed. My perception of a place’s size is now relative to Shanghai.
So when I needed a break from the busyness there, Qingdao felt once again like the small town that would give me that. It was time to revisit the beach and the beer street – and to make this Qingdao film photography essay as I did.
The beach and the beer. We’ll start with the latter.
Qingdao Beer Street
If you’ve never been to Qingdao, or even to China, you might still have drunk the local beer.
Still bearing the name Tsingtao, it might not be obvious to some that it’s the same stuff / place / name. The disparity comes as the city is spelt in modern-day pinyin while the beer keeps its old postal romanization style.
The pronunciation, which is good to know if you’re ordering beer in a restaurant wherever you live, remains the same. Say ching dow and you’ll be close enough.
Qingdao’s Beer Street is home to the brewery. Founded in 1903 by German settlers, it now exports across the country and the world.
However, the best stuff is found closest to home; on Beer Street. Countless restaurants line the road but you don’t even need to go in one to get a preservative-free, fresh brew.
Not when a barrel and a pump is never far away either.
In truth, Qingdao Beer Street can be a little empty in the daytime.
Don’t look at the name and be expecting a scene from Pattaya or Magaluf. Not unless you’re there when the beer festival is on, perhaps.
If you are in the area during the day, the brewery tour and museum are well worth checking out. The ticket includes a couple of glasses of fresh beer, which were the best I tasted anywhere in Qingdao.
Beer Street gets busier after dark as the tourists head out for dinner with their drinks, so that’ll likely be a livelier time for you to go there too.
If you do save your Beer Street visit until the evening, you’ll need somewhere else to go in the daytime.
The obvious place for me, especially when the weather is good and you’re doing a Qingdao film photography essay, is the beach.
Qingdao’s beaches are never going to rival those in, say, Thailand. I don’t think any in mainland China will.
But beaches don’t need to be picture perfect to feature in a film photography essay. In some ways it’s better if they’re not. It gives you something else to work with in your images.
As a port city, Qingdao allowed me to work some cranes and cargo ships in, to tell a different story. And as a Chinese city – a.k.a. a place where the construction never ends – the cranes aren’t confined to the industrial areas.
Whether you keep things like this out of your own beach photography is up to you. I prefer to use them whenever possible.
Non-beach and non-beer photographs
There’s more to Qingdao than its beer and beaches.
I just decided to focus on those for my Qingdao film photography essay.
As I only took one roll of Ilford Pan 400 with me, I couldn’t really expand the scope too much. That’s good, though. Keeping the subject matter tight helps focus the essay.
That said, there are a few more photographs I can include here. Photographs that are neither beach nor beer.
Qingdao hosted the sailing events at the 2008 Olympic Games, and reminders of this can be found at the Sailing Centre. As, predictably, can more construction.
Further along the seafront, the May Wind sculpture sits in the May 4th Square, named after the May 4th Movement of 1919.
Elsewhere, some of the older locals were making the most of the ocean.
One man repeatedly climbed a wall on the Zhan Qiao pier to dive into the cold water below. Another chose instead to sleep half-naked on the promenade in the afternoon sun.
The younger generations were in the main less adventurous and more clothed.
The Qingdao film photography essay
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how this turned out.
Taking an old point-and-shoot Canon Sure Shot AF-7 and just one roll of Ilford Pan 400 meant working with certain restrictions.
With no manual controls on the camera, there’s no playing around with depth of field or shutter speed. You’re just working with light and all-in-focus composition.
Having 36 exposures for the whole trip kept me honest too, with no room for taking multiple shots of the same scene. That said, there are a couple of things that could have been better.
I’m not one to complain about my gear and I know that my photographs would be better if I had a better camera is usually a fallacy.
But still, it might be time to invest in a better film camera. Nothing ridiculous, though.
I’ll end this by saying the beer photographs could have been better too. I certainly think the beach ones are stronger. But then again, why separate them?
This isn’t the beach or the beer. It’s the beach and the beer.
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