While there are plenty of things to do in Chongqing city itself, from riding the cable car to visiting Luohan temple, checking out one of its more popular sights – Ciqikou ancient town – means heading to the outskirts.
It’s worth the trip, though. I went there and did some street photography with my F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8, which was my first ever vintage lens.
It’s a fantastic little piece of metal and glass. Fast (more on that later), small, and with great image quality.
But if you’re not so much into street photography, or photography at all, Ciqikou still has enough to keep you exploring and entertained.
What and where is Ciqikou?
Ciqikou is an ancient town to the west of Chongqing city, sitting on the banks of the Jialing river.
While originally called Longyinzhen when first built around 1000 AD during the Song dynasty, it appears the name changed to Ciqikou sometime during the later Ming and Qing dynasties.
This can be presumed as Ciqikou translates as Porcelain Port, and the town was a major producer of porcelain at that time.
Getting there today is simple; jump on line 1 of the Chongqing subway and get off at the Ciqikou station.
When you arrive, you’ll find narrow streets, handicraft and gift shops, restaurants and tea houses, and – most likely – lots of people.
And that’s really all I have to say by way of introducing Ciqikou, but do read on for an account of the vintage lens street photography I did there. 😀
Manual focus photography at Ciqikou
Shooting street photography at Ciqikou with a manual focus vintage lens meant missing some of the shots I wanted to get.
If you’re new to vintage lens photography, this will happen to you too. I’ve been shooting with manual focus for years and it still happens to me.
I use a Sony mirrorless camera, which has the brilliant Focus Peaking feature.
This helps a lot by highlighting whatever is in focus before you shoot, and is one reason I think the Sony mirrorless range is ideal for your vintage lenses.
If you need a new camera, I recommend you check them out on Amazon. But I will reiterate; you will still miss shots. It’s annoying when it happens, but that makes it even better when you nail one.
You want examples? I’ll give you examples.
I really liked the look of the shots I was getting of this violin player while I was taking them.
I liked how the lady behind him – who I think was trying to hide her face from me – was mirroring the bow with her own posture.
It looked good on the camera screen, but then you get it onto your computer and see the focus is of off. The Vintage Film preset I’ve used to process it has masked that a touch, but it is still off.
I don’t mind out-of-focus shots if that was the aim. I don’t even mind them if it wasn’t the aim but everything is out of focus and you just claim it was anyway. But when the guy’s hand is in focus, you can’t claim anything other than a missed shot.
And then you have Mickey Mouse with his thumbs up. Not a particularly special shot, but the focus is bang on and is brought out in the monochrome contrast of his face – which is exactly where the focus should be.
Playing with shallow depth of field at f2.8
If you weren’t sure what I meant when I called the F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8 a fast lens earlier, it’s to do with the f1.8 part of the name.
That number means you can open the aperture very wide, which lets in a lot of light, meaning you can shoot with a fast shutter speed.
Another effect of shooting with a wide aperture is a shallow depth of field. Typically the shots you see with a blurred background behind a well-focused subject.
It’s not recommended you shoot a lens wide open – at f1.8 in this case – as your images tend to lose sharpness if you do.
The 38mm F.Zuiko can go to f1.8 but I don’t go past 2.8 with it. You still get a depth of field shallow enough to play around with.
I will say I prefer shooting with most things in the photograph in focus these days, but it can be a lot of fun to mess around and experiment with blurring things in your shot, and especially at a place like Ciqikou.
Just… don’t overdo it. And don’t think you have to do it because the lens can. And don’t think it can turn a bad shot good.
If you don’t like the next two images here, consider it evidence of that last point.
Wrapping up Ciqikou, Chongqing
Ciqikou is a good place to visit if you’ve exhausted all of the things to do in Chongqing city. In fact, it’s a good place to visit even if you haven’t.
You might find it similar to other tourist streets in China, with similar shops selling similar souvenirs, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I wasn’t going there to buy things.
As a place to spend a day exploring and shooting some vintage lens street photography, it was all good.
If you’ve been there and have some photographs of your own to share, hit me up on Twitter and we can let everyone see them. 😀
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