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Chongming a picture of nature in harmony
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Participants in the Chongming Island photographic contest search for the right angles on the pristine and colorful Dongtan Wetland. [Shanghai Daily]

Chongming Island is known as "Shangri-la in Shanghai" where man and nature coexist in harmony. As China's third-largest island, after Taiwan and Hainan Island, Chongming has become a magnet for tourists, bird watchers, environmentalists, eco-innovators, and "green" developers dedicated to the idea of living in harmony with nature.

The beautiful island is a major tourist attraction for its natural tranquility, wetlands, its ecological villages and pilot environmental projects. It has clean water, soil and fresh air and is a unique haven from the hectic life in Shanghai, which is just 40 minutes away by ferry. It is that rare getaway to the country where you can experience "the integration of man and nature."

Last weekend, 55 foreigners from 19 countries participated in a "Capture Chongming" photography contest.

They visited Dongtan Wetland, Xisha Wetland, Dongping National Forest Park, North Lake, Pearl Lake and some well-known ecological farmhouses and fishery homes including Yingzhou Ancient Village and Qianwei Ecological Villa.

An important part of the 2008 Chongming Tourism Festival, it was the first photography tour to Chongming for foreigners from all over the world who live in Shanghai.

The event was organized by Shanghai Tourism Administrative Commission, Chongming County government, SMG International Channel Shanghai, Shanghai Daily, Shanghai Call Center 962288 and supported by the Information Office of Shanghai's government.

Every participant received souvenirs including new organic rice which was reaped on September 20 and a Sunday Club card from Shanghai Daily.

The winners will be announced late next month and will be invited to attend an awards ceremony. Their works will be exhibited and edited into an album later this year.

Before then however, here are some special awards of our own for these excellent photographers.

The longest lens

Lutz Michaelis, of Germany, is 44 and a translator of German and English. He brought a 1000mm made-in-Russia lens.

The lens is ideal for very long-distance shooting, especially photos of birds flying solo.

Michaelis has been in China since 2005 and has been to many places.

"It's a very interesting experience. I prefer more natural places such as the wetland. My audience can get to know the true Chongming through my pictures," says Michaelis.

The most professional

Among the participants, American couple Jamesen Johnson and Bethany Rich were very professional in their approach.

Both majored in film in college and are now studying Asian films and Chinese languages in Shanghai.

Besides still cameras, they also brought their video camera, making them among the best-equipped photographers.

Rich also took time to help others when they experienced difficulties with their cameras.

Another couple, Sebastian and Karine Sabourault, from France were visiting Chongming for the first time and marveled at its beauty, insisting it should be protected.

Both are 35 and have lived in Shanghai for three and a half years. Karine is a librarian and Sebastien is a factory manager.

"It's a very nice place. I hope it can be saved. Too many tourists would definitely damage the environment here," says Sebastien of Dongtan Wetland.

The most energetic

In Qianwei Villa, photographers could not only take pictures of natural landscapes but join in a lot of traditional farming activities.

The most energetic participants were the youngest - eight-year-old Sebastian Ceolin from Canada and James Li, also eight.

They took part in the tour with their moms, and quickly made friends with each other. Besides taking photos with their own cameras, they also enjoyed walking on stilts in Qianwei Village.

The oldest participant

Fifty-nine-year-old New Zealander Carole Kostanich was the oldest participant on the tour. She has lived in Shanghai for more than three years.

After quitting her job as a teacher, she now collects material for a New Zealand television series.

Xisha Wetland was her favorite site on the tour. "I think they are the happiest crabs in the world," she says of Xisha Wetland crabs.

The best student

At the opening ceremony for the contest which ran in conjunction with the Chongming Forest Tourism Festival, American student Thomas B. Miller gave a short speech on behalf of the photographers, expressing his appreciation to organizers and encouragement to participants.

His final cry of "come on" in Chinese won loud applause.

The 22-year-old studies film and TV production at New York University and has studied Chinese for three semesters at Nanjing University, Beijing University and now East China Normal University in Shanghai.

(Shanghai Daily September 25, 2008)


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