Dennis Wright's Blog

China’s yellow sky

Posted in China, Far East Cruise 2007, General, Travel by Dennis Wright on July 15, 2007

It troubled me, when preparing photos for earlier blogposts about our Far East cruise, that I’d had to alter the colour balance to get the sky the “right” colour.

Take a look at the picture below which first appeared in my post dated 3 July about the Chinese city of Dalian which we visited in late April.

china dalian

This is how the picture looked before photoshopping.

Now I make no apology for using Photoshop on the pictures I present in my blog. It is perfectly legitimate to crop, resize, adjust for exposure errors, optimise contrast, maybe correct some verticals or sloping horizons. Manufacturers of digital SLRs pretty much expect you to do some post-processing (essentially you have to if you are using “raw” format) and the cameras are set up accordingly. More particularly, I am not “lying” or distorting anything, or at least not trying to. That is why it bothered me when I found the picture had a yellow cast, assumed it was spurious and used Photoshop to dial it out.

Was the sky really yellowish? Was it some quirk of the way the camera works or evidence of a polluted atmosphere? I wasn’t sure. I did not particularly recall the sky being obviously yellow when I was in Dalian, but then your eyes adjust quite rapidly if the effect is slight. I do not recall having trouble breathing or any odour suggestive of pollution. My nose is not the most sensitive but Naomi can detect a gas leak at three miles, and would normally have made some mention.

All the same, going back over the photos taken in China, groups of them, taken over a limited period in a particular place, display a yellowish tinge. Notably Dalian and the smog over the Huangpu River in the environs of Shanghai. The photos in that set originally had a strong brownish-yellowish cast, and even after correction in Photoshop the pictures still bear traces of a brown cast.

I don’t think the camera was lying. The Exif data recorded with each shot indicate the camera’s colour temperature was set to daylight mode. That suggests the yellow is real, not some artifact resulting from the combination of ambient lighting conditions and the camera’s settings. So my removal of the colour cast was probably wrong, distorting reality. Making Dalian’s sky look like the Med when it should have had a tell-tale yellow tinge.

China does come in for criticism about pollution of the atmosphere, particularly around the big industrial cities.

There is plenty on the Internet about China’s pollution problems, but I alighted on the snippet below from this post on the Eyes East blog:

“This morning, sitting on the plane, I saw the bluest sky I’ve ever laid eyes on. The clouds broke over the Indian Ocean at sunrise, and the pale dawn reached up toward indigo overhead. I forgot what a blue sky is supposed to look like, even in Dalian”


2 Responses

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  1. Idetrorce said, on December 16, 2007 at 6:13 am

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  2. […] Hasta la vista, Vista! Vista is on trial and my XP install disk is within easy reach « Value Added Resellers not recommending Vista Luckily you don’t need Vista to enjoy some of Vista’s better features » China’s yellow sky July 15th, 2007 This post has been moved here. […]

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