Best Sites for West Lake Photography
“One Lake, Two Pagodas, Three Causeway & Three Islands” Photography
West Lake is mainly composed by “One Lake, Two Pagodas, Three Causeways and Three Islands”. The three causeways are like silk ribbons flying over the clear water while the three islands are the fairyland on earth floating on the lake.
One Lake: West Lake is divided into three parts, including Outside Lake (外湖), West Inside Lake (西里湖), North Inside Lake (北里湖), Small South Lake (小南湖) and Yue Lake (岳湖). To best shoot Outside Lake is at the top of Leifeng Pagoda. To best shoot West Inside Lake is at Wangshan Bridge (望山桥) on Su Causeway. To shoot North Inside Lake, photographers can come to Broken Bridge or at Jindai Bridge (锦带桥) in the middle of Bai Causeway, or at Xiling Bridge (西泠桥) which is good to shoot the dawn of North Inside Lake. To best capture the scenery of Small South Lake, you can climb up to Jiuyao Hill (九曜山) for the whole lake view. Photographers head to the first bridge of Su Causeway called Kuahong Bridge (跨虹桥) can shoot the beautiful scenery of Yue Lake.
Two Pagodas: There are two pagodas located around West Lake, one is called Leifeng Pagoda (雷峰塔) at the south side of West Lake and the other is called Baochu Pagoda (保俶塔) at the north side of West Lake. Baochu Pagoda is at 45.3 meters in height, like a slim and elegant lady standing on Baoshi Hill. No matter which season, any time during a day, Baochu Pagoda can be your subject. You can use down-shot from Baoshi Hill or use low angle to shoot from Bai Causeway. If you want to capture Boachu Pagoda at eye level, you can climb to Mantou Hill (馒头山) of Baoshi Hill. Leifeng Pagoda is newly rebuilt in 2002, standing at 71.7 meters. To shoot Leifeng Pagoda, photographers can head to Yuhuang Hill, Jiuyao Hill or at the south side of Su Causeway. To best shoot the well-known scene “Leifeng Pagoda in the Sunset” (雷峰夕照) of “West Lake Ten Scenes”, photographers can reach Shuangtou Bridge (双头桥) to wait for the best dusk light and sunset.
Three Causeways: The three causeways are Su Causeway (苏堤), Bai Causeway (白堤) and Yanggong Causeway (杨公堤). Su Causeway is about 2800 meters linking by six stone arch bridges. The scene “Dawn at the Su Causeway in Spring” (苏堤春晓) is listed as the top 1 scenery of “West Lake Ten Scenes”. To capture the panoramic view of Su Causeway, you can take your camera up to Jiuyao Hill or Yuhuang Hill. Bai Causeway is shorter than Su Causeway, with 987 meters in total, linking Broken Bridge with Solitary Hill. You can stand on the Broken Bridge to shoot Bai Causeway with Outside Lake on the left and North Inside Lake on the right. Yanggong Causeway is covered by numerous green trees which is hard to see the face on high and you can have a try at Jiuyao Hill.
Three Islands: They refer to “Xiao Ying Zhou”, “Hu Xin Ting” and “Ruan Gong Dun”. It is a good idea to capture the panoramic view on high that photographers can climb to Yuhuang Hill and Baoshi Hill for different angles.
West Lake Four Seasons Photography
Hangzhou West Lake belongs to subtropical monsoon climate with four distinctive seasons. Different season shows you different beauty and no matter you come in spring, summer, autumn or winter, you are guaranteed to capture many gorgeous pictures around this heavenly lake.
Best Sites for Photography in Spring
The West Lake spring scenery is incomparable which is proved true Marco Polo says “Hangzhou is the most beautiful city in the world”. The reviving Su Causeway and Bai Causeway putting on their colorful dress and stretching their graceful body, the waving willows dancing over the clear water, peach and sakura fully in blossom on the banks of West Lake…When you come in this season, you’ll be full of excitement to get out to shoot the finest scenery.
Sakura: Sakura around West Lake usually is blossom in the early April which lasts for 4 to 5 days. (a) At the north side of Su Causeway, there is a bridge named Kuahong Bridge with several sakura trees under the bridge. Photographers can shoot some pictures using Sakura as foreground, Xiling Bridge and lake view as background. (b) In Prince Bay Park, Sakura are blossom beside the water with green grassland widely spreading on the ground.
Peach Flowers: Photographers can view peach flowers on the banks of Bai Causeway and Su Causeway. Peach flowers are used for ornament when shoot the natural scene of West Lake. You can put peach flowers as foreground and lake view as background. Or, you can make it subjunctive scene.
Weeping Willows: when the willows first burst into buds, they are like the young ladies dancing with graceful figure. The wickers are like the long hair of a lady. Photographers won’t miss the weeping willows all around the West Lake, especially on the banks of Bai Causeway and Su Causeway.
Best Sites for Photography in Summer
Yang Wanli of the Song Dynasty wrote poem “Lotus leaves grow to sky with endless green, lotus blossom bathed in the sunlight appear especially red”. When summer comes, the boundless lotus in the West Lake slowly opens each beautiful petal to the sun, basking in the worldly beauty surrounding it. They are pure, bright and beautiful. The flowering lasts from early June to late October. In a day, the best time to shoot the lotus is from 06:00 to 09:00 for the soft light shining on their leaves. You’d better use backlight and Rembrandt light to capture pictures with three-dimensional sense. The best sites to shoot lotus are “Lotus Swaying in the Breeze (曲院风荷)” and “North Inside Lake (北里湖)”.
Best Sites for Photography in Autumn
In autumn, the West Lake turns into a colorful world, surrounded by fragrant osmanthus, golden plane trees, red maple trees, withered lotus…Of course, if time is right, don’t miss the moonlight view around West Lake.
Osmanthus: osmanthus is the city flower of Hangzhou. The poet Bai Juyi wrote “look for osmanthus around the temple on hill in the middle of autumn”. Today, photographers can not only enjoy osmanthus on hill, but also appreciate them in parks around West Lake and the best known locations to enjoy are “Sweet Osmanthus Rain Manjulong Village (满陇桂雨)”, one of “New Ten Scenes of West Lake” which is with more than 7000 osmanthus trees along the road and Hangzhou Botanical Garden. West Lake Osmanthus blooming period commences from early September, lasting till early November.
Plane Trees: The best locations to shoot golden plane trees are in Beishan Street or Baoshi Hill. Or, you just stroll along Broken Bridge to shoot the gorgeous view of North Inside Lake and Beishan Street.
Maple Trees: In the late autumn, photographers can come to Longjing Road and Solitary Hill. In a day, the best time to shoot maple trees is during 08:00~11:00 when the leaves in backlight, showing full and bright color.
Autumn Moon over Calm Lake (平湖秋月): It is located at the west side of Bai Causeway which is famous for the bright and round moon in Mid-Autumn Festival (the fifteenth day of the eight month in lunar calendar). There are two best sites to shoot the moon, one is at the lakeside of south foot of Solitary Hill and the other one is at the lakeside of west side of Bai Causeway with the traditional building of “Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake” as the main scene, while the brilliant moon hanging in the sky.
Best Sites for Photography in Winter
Usually, it is rare to snow in Hangzhou in winter season. If lucky, it may snow around the Chinese Traditional Festival – Spring Festival (usually at the end of January and early February). When snows, the whole West Lake and its surrounding areas are capped with white blanket, beautifully and silently. The most famous site among “West Lake Ten Scenes” is “Lingering Snow over the Broken Bridge in Winter (断桥残雪)”. To capture the fantastic snow scenery, photographers should seize the rare time and you’d better come at the night of the snowing day or come before 07:00 the next day before other travelers reach. Photographers can use wickers and clear lake view as foreground with the snow-capped Broken Bridge scene in the middle of the picture. Besides shooting the snow-capped Broken Bridge, photographers can climb up to a hill, like Yuhuang Hill, Baoshi Hill to shoot the whole lake view.
West Lake Sunrise & Sunset Photography
Best Sites for Shooting Sunrise & Dawn
Though the sunrise of West Lake is not as magnificent as the sunrise of Yellow Mountain and the sea, it has its own unique beauty with the characteristic of city sunrise and charm of sunrise on the sea. The best place to shoot sunrise is at the Kuahong Bridge of Su Causeway. The sunrise location is between Huxin Pavilion and Ruangong Dun. Photographers should arrive before 05:30 in spring and autumn, 05:00 in summer and 06:30 in winter.
After the sun emerged, you can capture the early morning West Lake scenery, like the rosy clouds spreading all over the sky, the willow weeping on the bank, the wild ducks, mandarin ducks and cormorant swimming on the lake, green hills standing quietly in the distance…But sunrise doesn’t show up every day, the morning may change variously, sometimes the mist making West Lake a mysterious world, sometime the rain turning West Lake a poetic world…
Best Sites for Shooting Sunset, Dusk & Night View
The scenery before or after sunset is amazing and gorgeous with abundant colors which is the best time in a day to shoot the finest scenery of West Lake. The best sites to capture sunset are Changqiao Park, the Sixth Park and Hubin area to wait for the changes of the light and view. Or, you can take a boat sailing to “Xiao Ying Zhou” to shoot one of the famous scene of “West Lake Ten Scene” – “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon (三潭印月)”. To capture the sunset in every season, you can have a look at the reference time - 18:00~18:30 in spring and autumn, 18:50~19:05 in summer and 17:00~17:30 in winter. (For exact sunset time of your day, please check the timely weather forecast or ask for the local tour guide.)
As the sun goes down, the dusk of West Lake is as beautiful as the sunset. Photographers can head to Su Causeway to shoot its west side water area scenery. Furthermore, the light around West Lake including Leifeng Pagoda area, Baoshi Hill area, City God Temple area turn at night. Photographers can head to the Third Park to shoot the West Lake musical fountain show or come to Shuangtou Bridge or Yunhuang Hill to shoot Leifeng Pagoda. Or, you can get up of City God Temple, Baoshi Hill to capture the brilliant night view.
Best Sites to Shoot Lingyin Temple
Lingyin Temple was first built in 326 in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, with a history of 1700 years. Leaned against Beigao Peak and faced with Feilai Peak, Lingyin Temple is with cloud-wrapped mountains, massive trees, the ancient temple, religious grottos, delicate rock carvings. The main halls of Lingyin Temple were built in the axis, including Hall of Heavenly Kings, Grand Hall of Great Sage, Palace of Medicine Buddha, Dharma Hall & Sutra Library and Huayuan Palace. To shoot the panoramic view of Lingyin Temple, photographers should climb up to Feilai Peak that you can take photos of the whole Lingyin Temple and its grand halls in axis. At the foot of Feilai Peak, you won’t miss the hundreds of Buddha stone carvings which can be dated back from the 10th century.
Best Sites to Shoot Longjing Tea Plantation
The evergreen Longjing tea plantation will please your eyes and fresh your body. Actually, in Hangzhou, Longjing tea planation is everywhere once you travel to the west side of West Lake. You can see them at Longjing Village, Meijiawu Village, Lingyin Temple surrounding area, etc. The most recommended places are at Longjing Village to shoot “Eighteen Emperor Tea Trees”, Meijiawu Village to shoot the tea-picking scene in spring, especially during Pure Brightness Festival (around April 5 every year).
Best Sites to Shoot Liuhe Pagoda
Liuhe Pagoda, also called Six Harmonies Pagoda, was first built in 970 in Northern Song Dynasty. The pagoda itself is exquisite and the Qiantang River flows by which makes it grand. To shoot panoramic view of Liuhe Pagoda, you can have a try to reach Yuelun Hill (月轮山) or head to the hydrological station. To see the yearly great Qiantang River Tidal Bore, you can climb up to the top of Liuhe Pagoda during the early and middle of every month in China lunar calendar, among which the three days before and after the Lunar 18, August are the “Tidal Bore Enjoying Festival”, and you can see the very grand tide that can rise up for 1 to 1.5 m high and make very loud sound during that period and that is the famous scene named “Liuhe Listening to the Wave Sound” (六和听涛).
Best Season for Photography
Photographers don’t have to worry about what is the best time to visit Hangzhou. There is no time restriction that you can travel all year round. In spring, you can shoot different kinds flowers (sakura, peach flower, tulip, peony) blossom along Bai Causeway, Su Causeway, Prince Bay Park; in summer, pure, elegant lotus are blossom happily to the sun. When autumn comes, the osmanthus, chrysanthemums, plane trees, maple trees can be your subject. Also, you’ll never get bored in winter, you can shoot wintersweet flowers and the rare-to-see snow scene. Hangzhou shows you more than its beauty, if you listen with your heart, you can touch its inner spirit which can be presented in your amazing photos.
Tips from Our Experts
1. Photographic Equipment
You’d better take two kinds of camera lens – 24~70mm and 70~200mm. If you have extra lens, you can take another 12~24mm lens. Though it is a little heavy, try to take a tripod.
2. For Cloudy Weather
The changing clouds in the sky will romance the scene, heighten the theme and atmosphere by contrast. There are three kinds of clouds, including billow clouds, sheet clouds and cumulus clouds. When billow clouds appear, you can make full use of them. If they appear in the early morning or at dusk, you can take photographs of rosy clouds of dawn and sunset glow. The cumulus clouds usually appear after rain in summer, you can shoot in different places in different angles.
3. For Misty Weather
The misty weather takes up one third of a year. The mist can strengthen the main theme and filter out the unimportance. Photographers can take full advantage of the misty weather to shoot poetic pictures. It is a good idea to cover three islands, causeways, pagodas, cruise on the water…
4. For Rainy Weather
It rains a lot in Jiangnan area which takes about 100 days in a year, especially in spring and summer. In spring, it is light misty rain; in summer, it is showery rain and in autumn, it is romantic misty rain. To shoot the rainy weather, you can head to Su Causeway, Bai Causeway, Solitary Hill, Hubin Road, “Curved Yard and Lotus Pool in Summer” and “Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn”, etc.
5. Cruise on West Lake
For photographers who want to take a cruise sailing on West Lake, you can get on your boat at the following piers: King Qian Temple, Huaguang, Hangzhou Hotel, Sun Yat-sen park, “Moon over the Peaceful Lake in Autumn”, the First Park, the Second Park, the Fifth Park, the Sixth Park, Children’s Palace and “Remnant Snow on the Broken Bridge in Winter”. No matter where you take the cruise, you can land on “Xiao Ying Zhou”, the largest island on West Lake to have an in-depth visit and you won’t miss shoot “Three Ponds Mirroring the Moon”.
For more photography advice in Hangzhou, you can feel free to contact us and we are here ready to help!