Soft Clouds over The Forbidden City

Sony A7s Review

Check out the new Sony A7s Review I just recently finished!

Instagram Fun

I’ve been doing a fun series over on Instagram with combining some of my photos with a few of my favorite passages from the Patrick Rothfuss books.

Daily Photo – Soft Clouds over The Forbidden City

Blue skies are a rare thing in Beijing, so it was a super-surprise to see these kinds of delicate clouds over the corner tower here. I do love the way these clouds turned out… they look like the kinds of clouds that Bob Ross would paint! The clouds did not last long, and it takes forever to get anywhere else in Beijing. I wanted to get photos of the whole city before this perfect situation went away, but I knew that would be pretty much impossible… I just stayed here and chilled out… watching the clouds slowly fade across the sky.

Soft Clouds over The Forbidden City

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1250
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length33.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Inside the Chinese Megapolis Waterslide Utopia

Interview with Ignite Channel

Here it is, in its entirety. I pasted the questions that Pamela Stewart asked me below the video.

1. You were one of the first photographers I saw working in HDR. I had no idea what it was, I just knew that your photographs felt real and surreal. They reminded me of the best dreams I have ever had. The Gentle Path to the Beyond is probably my favorite photograph. I don’t even know if I can explain how that image has settled in my soul, but it has. There seems to be a split between those who think the kind of photographs you take are more “real” and those who don’t see that. For example, The Edges of the Flatiron just feels more like a real experience to me. The first historical photographs weren’t in color, so technically they weren’t real either. There is nothing that can duplicate exactly what each person’s eyes see. What do you wish to convey with your work?

2. Your photographs of Burning Man are some of the most luscious and warm I have seen. I especially like the one from this year of Embrace with the couple dwarfed by the giant sculpture, and yet the feeling we get of the couple is larger than any representation made in wood. Burning Man is a photographer’s dream, but it is so much more. How has the experience changed you?

3. You’ve become a teacher and a mentor to thousands online. I like that you add the technical information to your photos, which is great for photographers who aspire to learn your techniques. You must get a ton of questions. What do you wish people would ask you and what is the question that you really can’t answer anymore?

4. People want to know the secret to your photography, but isn’t the secret something inside you? Isn’t it something that all artists have that can never be duplicated by another? What is you secret, or is it something so nebulous that even you don’t know?

5. Given all the places you have traveled to and shared with us, while you focus on the beautiful, you must witness the dark side of humanity in poverty and the destruction of nature. Do you ever have the urge to turn you camera in that direction, or would you rather share positive light?

6. I love your drawings (there is one titled Scarlett, which captured me). What art or music inspires you? How does working in other media influence your photographic work?

7. A lot of people may be fans of your work, but have not read your bio and the fact that you are blind in one eye. Since you were born that way, it’s all you know. When we look through a viewfinder, we only use one eye, so maybe you were given this gift as a kind of second eye, although I kind of see it as a third eye because your art seems to be imbued with a spiritual and intuitive quality. I know you didn’t take up photography until later in life, and I get that because I didn’t start writing until I was in my late 30s. I don’t know if you believe in a higher power, but if you do, what do you think? How do you think this gift came to you?

8. You create some incredible videos of your work with a soundtrack. Do you have any desire to do something outside of still photography like a documentary film?

9. Do you have any upcoming plans or events you would like to share?

Daily Photo – Inside the Chinese Megapolis Waterslide Utopia

I was having a bad day in China, so I decided to go here and see what it was like.

I was there, invited by an arm of the government. I had this massive fight with them that morning. They do help set things up for me from time to time, but they told me I could only go to a “certain” location on the Great Wall at a certain time. I told them they were being ridiculous and the light would be horrible in the middle of the day. The idea that I would not follow their plan, which was completely arbitrary to begin with, was so foreign to them that they had no idea how to handle me. These people still have no idea what the hell to do with me… so aggravating. Anyway, I'm not gonna work with those people again; way too frustrating.

ANYWAY, after I had the fight, I told the driver to take me here, because I always wanted to go and see what it was like… it was super-awesome inside!

Inside the Chinese Megapolis Waterslide Utopia

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/400
  • Aperture4
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length15.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.3

Walking through the Forbidden City

From the Museum

See Edy in this video? She was my assistant in China. I didn’t choose her; she was automatically given to me by the government. I was there taking photos on behalf of some government arm… they kind of gave me free reign, an assistant and driver, etc. But, in all honesty, I would have been much better off without her. She was a very goofy and silly girl. You can kind of get a sense of it in this video below… Halfway through, I complained so much that I finally got a new dude named James. HE WAS SO AWESOME… probably the best assistant/guide I’ve ever had… I loved that dude!

Daily Photo – Walking through the Forbidden City

And here's the same gal from above, walking through the Forbidden City one afternoon. I liked her dress and thought she looked pretty awesome walking into around the inner courtyards of such an amazing place.

Walking through the Forbidden City

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture9
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-2.7

Looking Down From the Bell Tower in Beijing

New Perspectives with Drones

I really like this top-down view that you get from drones. It’s so interesting to me… I follow a few other quadcopter photographers that do this also, and I’ve seen a few comment that it’s now “passé” — which I find to be ridiculous! I love looking at them and I think it will be a long time before I tire of it.

Daily Photo – Looking Down From the Bell Tower in Beijing

This is on the edge of one of the most famous buildings in Beijing. The building itself is great, naturally, but one of the best views is right here along this road. It’s where all the little covered bike-things line up to ferry people to and fro. I like how they are all a deep red and stand out against the greenness of the Beijing concrete.

Looking Down From the Bell Tower in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraHero3-Black Edition
  • Camera MakeGoPro
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length2.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

Walking Around Beijing

Snapshots

In writing the essence of this photo, I started thinking about the word “snapshot” — it got me to thinking… what do you think about it? Sorry for the esoteric questions, btw!

Daily Photo – Walking Around Beijing

In some ways, this photo is quite banal. In fact, I'll be honest, in Most ways. But it is kind of a snapshot of Beijing. I'm not so into “snapshots” which are kind of modern or current pictures of people and their places. I don't know if that makes sense. Probably not. But I think about this a lot when I look at old-timey photos. I'm sure they are very obvious or plain back when they are taken, but they seem so interesting when seen 30+ years later. I figure these sorts of photos probably won't hit that kind of awesome-level, because now everyone has cameras, so photos are less rare, but I do my humble best to pick out interesting slices of humanlife in places like this.

Walking Around Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture5
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

A Red Foggy Night in Northern China

See any typos?

You know what? I’m terrible with typos… just terrible. I make them all the time. I re-read my blog posts and I can never catch my mistakes. So, if YOU ever see one, just leave a comment! Don’t worry… it won’t hurt my feelings. Then I can just fix it right up! :)

Lake of Dreams

I just got back from another amazing Burning Man. I thought you might like to see this video called “Lake of Dreams” – it was made during last year’s burn!

Daily Photo – A Red Foggy Night in Northern China

Here, at the Great Wall of China, you get a very epic sense of the world. I've now been here four times, and every time I'm totally impressed. This is by far the most impressive section I've ever been to. I'd like to go back here, maybe even in the middle of winter when there is snow. How awesome would it be to camp out up here? It should be amazing!

A Red Foggy Night in Northern China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/8
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length46.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

Fishing Near the Summer Palace

Another China Scene

This is a video I made when I was north of the Palace here up near an abandoned part of the Great Wall of China.

Daily Photo – Fishing Near the Summer Palace

This is a peaceful Chinese scene, don't you think? It's nice to see these kind of quaint things happening in beautiful spots like this, I think. I see a lot of people fishing all over China. Not all the scenes are quite this idyllic, believe me. But I do like to try to capture it when I can. This was shot in one of the many lakes that surround the Summer Palace.

Fishing Near the Summer Palace

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture8
  • ISO640
  • Focal Length14.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Smiling Over the Top

The African Photo Adventure

I’m really getting excited about the African Photo Adventure. It’s happening very soon! We’re thinking about a few other big trips for 2015… be sure to check our newsletter for the latest!

Daily Photo – Smiling Over the Top

While walking down one of the busier streets in China one night, I saw this girl smiling from behind all these cups. I thought it was super funny and cute because she would just watch me as I went by. I could tell she was smiling, but I just saw her head rotating. I was cracking up and decided to turn around and take a photo!

Smiling Over the Top

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture
  • ISO1250
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramShutter speed priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.7

Beijing PhotoWalk Recap!

Update from the Sony A7r Winner!

I received a nice note from Jack Soltysik, the winner of the Grand Prize at the Beijing PhotoWalk, a Sony A7r. (Here’s my Sony A7r Review in case you missed it!)

Got the camera! Thanks so much for the lens! I literally had the 35 arriving the same day but was able to switch It w the 55 when I saw you’d sent the 35. Thank you! That was a really nice surprise. I’ve been too busy to go shooting recently because I’m in an intensive Chinese course at Tsinghua for the rest of the summer. I wanted to say that I got a full scholarship to this course thanks to getting this camera.

The shots I take now are mostly sneaky street shots w my iphone and I wrote an essay about how, w an actual camera, I should probably be able to speak to my subjects – the essay got me into this summer semester long program w a full ride. Your photo walk really ended up having a pretty big impact for me. I can’t wait to go out shooting once I can interact w people.

I’m waiting for the release of a wider lens before I go out and try hdr work but already have travel ideas planned out for that. The camera feels great and I love the low profile. Thanks for all the extras. My friend got your HDR course which I watched recently and I especially found valuable the part about adjusting the black point in photomatix.

Anyway I can’t stress enough how much this has inspired and motivated my own work so I wanted to say thanks again for hosting the walk and for all the things that’s led to, not the least of which is friends I’ve made from hanging out w people at 798.

For those of you that are on Weibo, mine is here… my name in Chinese translates to “Special Thunder!” haha.

Trey Beijing Photowalk CN3

Some Other Favorite Photos from Beijing

Here’s a collection of some of my favorite photos from Beijing. If you want to see more from China, check out the SmugMug China Search of my photos! :)

Lijiang at Night This is the old town of Lijiang, China, where I spent the week with Tom Anderson (the MySpace guy).  I think I mentioned him before.  Anyway, we got to be friends over the past several months, and we ended up spending a week together here in the south of China.Tom had first been here many years ago when he was setting up the MySpace office in Beijing.  He had great memories, and he thought it would be great for a big return now that he is getting more into photography.  So, it was definitely a week full of non-stop photography action.One late night after the sun had set, we weaved through the old streets until we found this place.  Looking up, I knew it would be a wonderful place to take a photo, so I set up for this one.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Temple of Heaven One too-early morning brought me to this very important place for the Chinese called The Temple of Heaven.  It's the most important Taoist structure in all of China and millions flock to it every year, especially during the National Holiday.  It was built in the early 1400's during the reign of the Yongle Emperor.  I was lucky to get private access in the morning during the sunrise.  After waking up in the dark at the hotel, my driver took me out to the location, where I met one of the directors while members of the military let me inside the giant doors.  Since it was a special celebration week, there were throngs of people waiting to get inside.  I'm sure they were wondering what in the heck some white dude was doing busting through the doors with a giant tripod!  I nodded to them all in a mysterious way before I went through the doors.(btw, a few questions as to whether or not I photoshopped the moon there.  The answer is no... I'm not one of those guys that will "photoshop in" something major like a moon.)- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Mysterious UFO Device What do you think this structure is? There are almost an infinite number of possibilities.I was being driven around by a very nice driver with Tom and he took me through this technology park. Most of it was rather banal, but this one structure was so unusual, I had to get out and examine it. I walked around and underneath the structure to try to figure it out. I never did, so I just set up to take a photo.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

On Gossamer Wings I had spent most of the day inside the Forbidden City, trying my best to find little bits here and there.  Tiny discoveries, you know.  I was pretty tired after a day of searching, but I still had barely enough energy to keep exploring into the night.  At that point, I decided to go to another, older area of the city.There were hundreds of quaint shops, the smell of fresh food, families walking to and fro... it was all very nice.  I came to cross a little raised bridge, and I saw this woman standing there.  She was dressed in vintage Chinese grab and holding a delicate umbrella.  While talking with her friends, the light caught her umbrella just right, so I snapped a quick photo.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Birds in the Nest This is the famous “Bird’s Nest” building from the Olympics in Beijing. After the Olympics are over, these special buildings all seem a bit lonely. I know they still hold events in them from time to time, but that seems more like the exception than the rule. Also, this location is so far away from the center of the city that it is extremely inconvenient. Once you arrive to have a look, you are interested, but always thinking of getting back to the main part of the city… this gives it even more of a forlorn feeling… but maybe that is just me.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Chinese Mothership Look at this magical place in Beijing... it's on the edge of belief.I could hardly fathom the nature of this place.  I expected the lights to appear on the grid with melodic tones a mystical, alien language, like in Close Encounters.  But none of that happened...  So I just stood there for a long time, thinking about how incredible this place was... and took my time, setting up my system for a fitting photograph.Remember when we were kids, and we never finished our food, even under the threat of starving children in China?  Now, I say to my kids, you better eat your food, or else Chinese children will grow up and create an economic powerhouse.  Well too late for that!This is the amazing National Centre for the Performing Arts, or as I like to say, the 国家大剧院 -- I find that rolls of the tongue a bit easier.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Birds in the Nest This is the famous “Bird’s Nest” building from the Olympics in Beijing. After the Olympics are over, these special buildings all seem a bit lonely. I know they still hold events in them from time to time, but that seems more like the exception than the rule. Also, this location is so far away from the center of the city that it is extremely inconvenient. Once you arrive to have a look, you are interested, but always thinking of getting back to the main part of the city… this gives it even more of a forlorn feeling… but maybe that is just me.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Red Prayers

A Red Votive

I think it’s interesting how Asian cultures do the sort of thing you see below and Western cultures use votives. I think it’s also interesting how both are red. It seems to be a fairly convenient way for the masses to contribute and be part of the movement.

Daily Photo – Red Prayers

Many temples throughout China have these hanging just outside the main entrance. People that go visit buy them and write little thoughts or hopes or prayers on them and let them hang in the breeze outside.

Red Prayers

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramShutter speed priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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