Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wuzhen at Night

Sunrise and sunset are termed as the golden hours for any landscape photographers because the light is not direct and harsh and the often times, the multi color skies added with some dramatic clouds formation, sometimes accompanied by a round red or orange sun captured made almost a postcard like picture.

I was hoping for the same, as I hurriedly walked about Wuzhen to find a right spot where I could spot the sun going down, checking the direction constantly with my iPhone compass. However, the downcast skies during the day and the clouds obscure any chance whatsoever to see a dramatic sunset for the day. I was lucky that at least, it was not raining as the day before or the day we left Wuzhen. But sunset is not all about dramatic colorful skies or bright perfect orange sun, as I found out here in Wuzhen. As dusk approached where the sun had already set, this ancient water town was cloaked in a shade of yellowish orange light and a slight mist in a distance, with almost perfect reflection of the houses on still and calm waters adds a dreamy feel to this historic town.

Dusk falling upon this ancient water town of Wuzhen ..

Calmness and tranquility at dusk ...

But the real beauty of Wuzhen is when the lights come on at night. That was the whole reason we ended up in Wuzhen. We were supposed to visit another ancient water town somewhere else, nearer to Suzhou but when I specifically told my guide that I wanted to take night photography, he recommended Wuzhen instead and insisted that we must stayed a night. His recommendation was spot on.

As the night approaches, the lights began to come on, one after another, and the entire place takes on a totally different feel. In fact, it comes alive ...

As the night sets in, the lights came on and the entire town takes on a different perspective, feel and atmosphere. It comes alive. The crowd began to swell, bearing in mind that it was winter with temperature in low single digit and it was a weekday. 

I just got my D610, my new Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 lens and my new tripod just before I made this trip and I was eager to try them out for the long exposure shots.

Wuzhen is a string of islands all connected with stone or wooden bridges, some small and some magnificent ones like the one below. Capturing them with their reflection on the water below was something that I was hoping to do when I first decided to visit an ancient water town.

An almost symmetrical reflection of the bridge and building on the water below ....

If you are visiting Wuzhen, I would highly recommend that you insist on staying for a night. There are many day tours who might include this into one of the places you might visit from Hangzhou but to truly appreciate the beauty of this place and to experience her tranquility and atmosphere, an overnight stay would allow you to walk among the narrow streets and alleys and admire the beauty of the reflections of these ancient structures on the water. If you an early riser, you might even catch the sunrise the following morning before the rest of the crowd wakes up. (More of that in my next post ..)

This is the famous Bridge in Bridge where at a certain angle, one could see another bridge through the arch of the first. Here, you can catch a bit of the second bridge on the left hand side of the picture. This two bridges are the Tongji and the Renji Bridge which apparently has been rebuilt 5 times over the years....

The beauty of night photography of an ancient water town lies in the mesmerizing reflections on the water such as the ones below :-

Every corner offers a different feel and look at night ....
Located near the Bridge in Bridge, is a street lined with pubs, cafes and bars where one could sit down to listen to some life music while enjoying your favorite beer or drink.

Wuzhen offers more than just reflections of the lights on water. Walking along the narrow streets and alleys, lined by old wooden souvenir shops, guest houses, cafes and shops that offered local delicacies that are delicious is an experience by itself.

The streets themselves offered delightful opportunities for night photography especially if you have a tripod set on longer exposure. Deeper into the night, when the crowd thins, you might find yourself alone along a lonely stretch of narrow alley, lined with old wooden shops that have closed. There is a eerie sense of quietness surrounding you and your ears suddenly becoming ultra sensitive to any `funny' noises as you go about taking that one picture that you hope is worth all efforts.

A view of a shop opposite the other side of the river, captured here, between two walls with creepers ....

A window in one of the dead end walls with overgrown creepers ....eerie ....

The almost abandoned streets ....

Besides the streets and the river, there are also other interesting historical sites that literally glow in the dark such as those below :-

The old post office .....

By the time I finished the above pictures, it was closed to 9pm and we have not had our dinner. Most restaurants have close by now and the only shops that remained opened are the pubs and bars. We gave the owner of the shop we had our lunch earlier a call and asked if his is still opened. 

"I was waiting for you guys to return" he said "..and I was surprised that you didn't turn up till now ..."

"Well..we are coming right now .." we told him. We have little choice as there are no restaurants that were still opened by this time.

There were no regrets. We ordered a few other dishes, and they were just too eager to serve us. The food was delicious and hot. As we attacked the food with vengeance, the owner's wife was there chatting with us and sharing about their lifestyle and how the restaurant were being run. The bill came to RMB156. 

With our stomach filled, we made our way back to our hotel and settled in for the night. Both my 5 years old boy and my 2 years old daughter was fast asleep by this time.

Tired but satisfied, the alarm was set at 6 the next morning as I was eager to go out early in the morning, hoping to catch the sunrise over the ancient stone bridges, reflected on the clear calm waters....

....but that was not to be .......more in my next post ...


  1. Dear Sir,

    May I ask for your knowledge about this town? If my friends and I are going to stay for a night in Wuzhen, what kind of ticket we need to purchase? Or we only purchase just one time before entering the town and will get the privilege to stay for a night along with the scenic morning for the next day? I'm quite concerned about this since most tourist attraction tickets are for daily use.

    Thank you in advance,

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