Postcards from China V – Stephen Patterson

Today’s Postcard features the photography of Stephen Patterson. Stephen and his wife Tina have worked and lived in both the US and China for several years but now live in Laifeng, Hubei Province full-time, where they have recently opened an English Language Academy. Stephen has traveled all over China but is fully enjoying life with his camera in relatively small Laifeng.

“I like to ride my motor scooter around the countryside and scout out interesting people and locations for photos. I was riding along one day when I noticed this older brick home with LOTS of corn. I parked the scooter, grabbed my Leica and walked up to the house, poking my head in the door and giving my best,”Ni Hao”. From the looks on the couple’s faces, I might as well have just gotten out of a space ship. After explaining, in broken Mandarin, that I was interested in shooting some photos, Mr. Zhou did all he could to make me feel welcome.

After I got my shots Mr. Zhou invited me inside for a bit and his wife handed me a cup of corn juice (no kidding). If only Mr. Zhou had been smoking a corn cob pipe my photos would have been perfect! What nice people! As in much of the world, corn is a staple in China, although not as much as in the west. The farmers pick the kernels and then leave them in the sun for about a week. The result (in my humble opinion) is a hardened leathery morsel that is far from the buttery goodness of Alabama sweet corn. Oh well, horses for courses.”


Corn was taken with a Leica M9-P and Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super Elmar-M lens. In order to get the shot he wanted Stephen had to navigate the edge of the courtyard with less that a foot of available concrete to work with in order to not step on the corn. “I wanted to get a low perspective, so I knelt down and held the camera just a few inches above the corn. I couldn’t look through the viewfinder, but shooting with the 21mm I knew that at f/8 everything from 3 feet to infinity would be in focus. As I was walking along the edge of the courtyard I took several images to check the histogram for exposure in the contrasty light, and while I was doing so Mr. Zhou was staring directly at me. By the time I got to this spot and knelt down he must have thought I was adjusting the camera, so his gaze is more distant and I feel pleasing to the composition.” So… F/8 with a shutter speed of 1/350 and 160 ISO at 21mm. He made some minor adjustments to the RAW file to lighten the shadows and bump up the clarity.

As for shooting in China, “My experience with photography in China is that a smile and a “Ni Hao” will take you far with the locals. Sure, I get waved off like everyone else from time to time, but my experiences are far more positive than negative. It probably helps that I am the only foreigner living in this city and I have yet to meet another photographer here doing anything except shooting weddings, and so in many ways I am blazing new territory.”

Stephen and Tina have invested in several local businesses and have decided to undertake a book project to document their life and experiences in the Middle Kingdom. For now you can follow the couple via their website at and you can see more of Stephen’s photography by way of his gallery at In addition to his passion for photography, and specifically Leica Camera’s history and products, Stephen is a commercial pilot who holds numerous civil and military ratings in both propeller and jet aircraft. He has performed at air shows across North America, including the EAA airshow at Oshkosh and the National Championship Air Races at Reno, competing in the Unlimited Division flying a Hawker Sea Fury. How cool is that?

The next Postcards from China installment will feature one of my favorite photographers. It’s coming up early next week.


All photographs and text within are copyright Michael Steverson and/or the stated publication or other featured photographers. They are presented for web browser viewing only. Nothing contained within this site may be reproduced, downloaded, stored, copied, manipulated, altered, or used in any form without prior written permission from Michael Steverson and/or the stated publication or featured photographers. Using any image as the base for another illustration or graphic content, including photography, is a violation of copyright and intellectual property laws. Violation of copyright will be actively prosecuted.

4 Responses to “Postcards from China V – Stephen Patterson”

  1. Gary Tyson says:

    Great image Stephen, one of my favourites of yours, really showcases that 21mm lens :-)

  2. Keiko Wong says:

    Beautiful, and so much detail. Makes me want to switch to wide angle lens now.

  3. Fabrizio says:

    Great Moment, I particularly like the details in regard to the setting of the shot-

Leave a Reply