Chinese New Year, London

An impromptu and belated new year’s resolution to myself was to improve on portraiture in my photography. I’ve always stuck mainly to landscape and wildlife photography so I wanted to branch out a little and challenge myself.
With my time in London drawing to a close after Singapore and Bali, I had just a week to adjust to the new time zone and, of course, meet up with Kiran! She had a culture project due for university that required her to take a trip into Soho for Chinese New Year so I decided to tag along with my camera in tow.

My nifty fifty lens came out with me which doesn’t often see light of day thanks to my photography ‘niche’. While I’m still getting to grips with the challenges a prime lens like a 50mm brings, I fell entirely in love with the shallow depth of field all over again. It just makes for delicious photos with a dream-like quality to them. I’d love to get my hands on a lens with a really low f-stop to see what I could do with it.

Enough shop talk, though! Soho was ludicrously busy when we arrived, as it always is around Chinese New Year. This was my first time experiencing the celebrations and it seemed like much of the rest of London had come to join us. Everyone was in high spirits though, even if it felt like we were being herded like cattle.

It dawned on me as I started taking portraits how different it felt compared to my usual photography. With landscapes and wildlife, there’s no interference with cultural norms. With portraits, I was constantly battling embarrassment, shame and an assortment of other negative emotions whenever taking a photo. It felt so invasive!

Before this experience, I would have been upset if anyone had taken my photo without my permission but now I’ve been on the other end of the camera, I would do my level best to accept the lens in the interest of helping the photographer get the photo they’re after. As I mentioned a few posts back now, “a photograph is never taken – it is always given” and that is all too true when people are the subject.

This guy was the worst – he looked right at me. I had to run back into the crowd to hide.

We fell into an Asian convenience store where I made the dangerous discovery that my new-found addiction to lime juice that I picked up in Singapore could actually be sustained in the form of tiny, expensive cans of calamansi juice. After purchasing a couple of them to take back home, Kiran and I each bought a chicken baozi each (which you can just about make out in the photo above) and then decided to call it quits. It wasn’t a long walk to the tube station.

I took Kiran down to Knightsbridge instead because, despite running a beauty blog, she had still never been to Harrods! We got a little lost in there and when we finally exited back onto Brompton Road, I yelped. Loudly.

Did you know there’s a National Geographic shop?! I didn’t! Did you know it also has a café?! I didn’t either! We made a beeline to the beautiful books and hoodies and little soft toys and then sat down for a cup of chai each. A far better choice than the tea room at Harrods, I’m sure you’ll agree!

After I was done coveting the entire shop, we took a wander around the area and stared wistfully at expensive houses and private gardens as the sun began to set. It was really nice to get a small, pleasant dose of London. My day out into central reminded me exactly why it’s such a huge tourist destination. It’s a city with so much character, history, and culture, and looking back at these shots now is making me a little homesick!

Anyway, now I’ve finally caught up with my winter posts, I can fill you in on everything else that I’ve been up to! My fundraising for AICR is now almost complete(!) with only £50 to go after some incredibly generous donations. I’m officially hitting the gym in preparation for the climb by tying myself to the cross trainer and doing as much walking as possible. I’ve also just submitted my residences application for my semester abroad at the University of Victoria, so fingers crossed I end up on campus! Finally (it’s a wonder I haven’t collapsed with everything I’ve been up to!), I’ve started volunteering at the Bannockburn Riding for the Disabled Association once a week. My next post should be a little information about what I’ve been doing up there, the difference the centre makes and the nice walk I get to do each week. Doesn’t hurt my Kili training that I have to walk 4-5 miles to get there either!

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