Gallery: Spectacular, rarely seen images of China's railways
China's rail system is one enormous mass of statistics.
It's 93,000 kilometers long -- the third largest in the world after the United States and Russia -- and according to China's Ministry of Railways, total passenger-kilometers reached 961 billion in 2011, the highest in the world.
But for one Beijing-based "photoworm" (图虫) -- as photographers are dubbed in China -- it's far more beautiful than a bunch of big numbers.
Wang Wei (王嵬) is possibly the most passionate rail fan in China, having traveled 200,000 kilometers over seven years -- braving frostbite, dodgy time-tabling and months away from home -- to capture the network and its trains on film.
The 22-year-old University of West Beijing for Science and Economy graduate plans to write a book about his experiences.
We got a preview of his work and asked him a few questions.
More on CNNGo: Gallery: A year in the life of a travel photographer
CNNGo: How did you get into railway photography?
Wang Wei: I am a Beijing native and grew up by the train station. I started taking railway photos in 2005 when I was 15.
I have a deep connection with the trains and railways. From my window, I can see trains every day.
The first photos I took were of trains at Beijing North Raiway Station, which is next to my place.
CNNGo: What's the secret of a good railway photo?
Wang: I usually make a plan two or three days before shooting. According to the train schdule, color and type, I will think of light and background, with light or backlit, things like that.
It’s actually not too complicated.
CNNGo: How far have you traveled in this quest?
Wang: More than 200,000 kilometers, in all provinces of mainland China.
CNNGo: Which places have been your favorites?
Wang: The Greater Khingan Mountains; Qinghai-Tibet extension rail; south of Xinjiang; and Yunnan–Vietnam Railway’s China section.
CNNGo: What equipment do you use?
Wang: Nikon D300S and D80, plus 18-200 VR Lens.
CNNGo: How do you travel to your destinations?
Wang: I use every form of transportation depending on where I go.
Trains and cars half of the time, and on foot the other half.
During my trip to northeast China in October 2011, I walked more than 186 kilometers in 15 days, not including the mountains I climbed. Because it was the only way I could reach the places I wanted to go.
CNNGo: How long does a journey usually take?
Wang: I’m freelance at the moment so I have plenty of time. Depends where I go -- the journey usually takes from 10 days to a month.
The longest journey I took was a 56-day trip covering seven provinces -- Beijing, Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Shannxi, Yunnan and Guizhou during the summer of 2011.
CNNGo: Any difficulties during any of your missions?
Wang: To me, the difficulties are finding angles and waiting for trains.
I love the high angle, so I usually climb mountains to take photos.
Some of the mountains are steep and have dangerous wildlife like snakes. So I need to be very careful.
And at night, it’s even harder to climb.
The trains often change schedules according to the weather or other unpredictable reasons, so it’s quite normal for me to wait in one spot a whole day without seeing a train.
CNNGo: Is your family supportive?
Wang: Like many Chinese parents, they thought I should go to college and get a degree so at first they didn’t support me at all.
But when they heard my experiences of my journey and saw my photos were getting better and better, they were OK with it. My Dad sometimes will join me on photo shoots.
CNNGo: How do you fund your travels?
Wang: I shoot weddings, portraits and conferences to make money.
CNNGo: What do you want to do with your photos?
Wang: I’m planning to write a book about my experiences, illustrated with my photos. I hope to stage an exhibition later this year.
View more of Wang's photos at blog.sina.com.cn