CONTRAST in CHINA” by Daniel Cai

Since discovering photography I finally decided to make my fifth trip to visit family in China with a bag full of film to fulfil my own all-analogue adventure.

Xiamen which is located in the Fujian Province in Southern China was my destination. My mother, sister and I met up with my uncle, who tirelessly volunteered to be our personal tour guide, driving us around the region. In a short few days, we crossed between Xiamen Island and the mainland several times in a whirlwind of discovery and nostalgia.

Urban Jungle – Skyscrapers rise from a surprising amount of greenery under blue skies in Xiamen Fujian ~ Image by Daniel Cai
On the misty path up Qingshui Yan (“water rock”) mountain in Anxi County, Fujian ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Nothing but clouds. From here, the temple atop the mountain was invisible behind the fog ~ Image by Daniel Cai
It seemed as if we were miles up from the tea gardens below ~ Image by Daniel Cai
The reception centre of Qingshui Yan Temple mimics the distinctive style of the temple halls. Both it and the large Guanyin statue are set against the backdrop of upwards-stretching mountainside ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Fog finally gives way to smoky incense at the temple ~ Image by Daniel Cai
A serendipitous discovery on the way back – a familiar name on a road sign lead us to my mum’s ancestral shrine ~ Image by Daniel Cai
The uniquely shaped Tianloukeng Tulou (literally “snail pit village”), its formation often referred to as “four dishes and a soup”. ~ Image by Daniel Cai

These traditional townships made primarily of compacted earth house up to 800 people. A “community for equals”, each family owns an equally-sized vertical segment of the tulou ~ Image by Daniel Cai
There are stores replete with just about everything, from fruit and vegetables to traditional souvenirs for visitors ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Colourful modern inflatables being prepared for Chinese Lunar New Year ~ Image by Daniel Cai
A fisherman looks out over Xiamen’s harbour ~ Image by Daniel Cai
A wartime bunker on Gulangyu. The island was once a colonial home to many foreign communities and is now a popular tourist attraction ~ by Daniel Cai
Gulangyu literally means “drum wave island”, after the sound of the ocean hitting the reefs ~ Image by Daniel Cai
A small fishball stall on Gulangyu ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Oyster omelettes, another popular Fujian dish served by the many Gulangyu food vendors catering for the millions of tourists ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Local Floral ~ Image by Daniel Cai

We bid goodbye to Xiamen and flew into the waiting arms of my mum’s parents in Beijing. My mum’s sister and her husband then accompanied us to the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall for an overnight stay. After the fairly mild weather of Fujian, this place was shockingly chilly.

Where one province ends and another begins. Here, the Great Wall is interrupted by a deep ravine ~Image by Daniel Cai
The Gubeikou section of the Great Wall has been maintained but not restored. It is a much more challenging climb than the usual tourist fare ~ Image by Daniel Cai
But it was well worth the numbing cold and sore legs ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Golden hour was breathtakingly beautiful ~ Image by Daniel Cai
We returned to town, basking in the blue hour light ~ Image by Daniel Cai
One last peek at the still-illuminated Great Wall ~ Image by Daniel Cai
The resort’s spacious swimming pool and hot springs. The outside deck is closed for the winter ~ Image by Daniel Cai
Old meets new. Contrast in China ~ Image by Daniel Cai

Everything you see here was captured with my Hasselblad 500C/M and Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 on Fujifilm 400H (some rolls pushed one stop), metered by eye or with a Sekonic L-208 Twinmate lightmeter. I also brought along a Leica M4 with a Nikkor Sonnar 50mm f/2 & loaded with Fujifilm Industrial 400. You can see all of my photos, albeit with hasty edits, on my website

Massive props to the wonderful folks at Rewind Photo Lab in Sydney for their continually excellent service. Many thanks to the Australian and international film photography community for their ongoing support and inspiration. In particular Australian Film Photographers, Negative Feedback and SWG. Big thanks also to John for giving me this opportunity on AFPS, as well as my family and friends. And many thanks to you, the reader, for taking the time to read through all this!

About Daniel Cai

Hi! I’m Daniel Cai, a communication and media arts student at UTS currently, also working part-time at Blackbird VFX with the goal of becoming a VFX compositor. I got into photography about 4 years ago, after years of watching my dad frame and compose family photos. My foray into film photography followed about a year after my first camera. I don’t really know what genre my photography work falls into. It’s just whatever scene, object, or juxtaposition that calls to me in the moment.

Portfolio site :

Instagram (mix of film/digital, I swear I’ll post more often!): @danielcai_