Amazing Opera Discovery in Beijing

New 28-300 Lens

I could not stand it!  I’ve been on the road for closing on 80 days, going around the world in an easterly direction, and an awesome lens came out mid-trip!  The nerve of Nikon!  Shouldn’t they check with me first?

So, while here on the shaky south island of New Zealand, I had to swing by a camera store in Christchurch to pick up the new 28-300 Nikon lens.  It’s expensive here… probably an extra $700 over the 28-300 cost in the US…  That kinda sucks eh?  Does anyone know why its so expensive?  Are there tariffs and taxes?  Why do governments do this?  (I come from the Milton Friedman schools, as some of you know…)

Daily Photo – The Peony Pavilion at The Imperial Granary

Look at this place! (and it’s worth a 100% zoom to original on SmugMug too)

I was invited to go see a very special event here in Beijing. There is an old area that has the ancient Imperial Granaries that date back hundreds and hundreds of years. One of these has been converted to an intimate opera house. They bring in some of the best opera actors from all over China to perform here.

If you haven’t seen a Chinese opera, you are in store for something totally original!

This particular performance was called The Peony Pavillion, which was written during the Ming dynasty and is a love story about all kinds of crazy mythical stuff that I don’t want to spoil for you. But it’s really a must-see if you are into unique forms of entertainment. And you do feel a bit like a time-traveller, watching a scene from hundreds of years ago.

Even more interesting, there is a trendy and delicious restaurant next door. Everyone eats together and has a wonderful leisurely meal before meandering over next door to enjoy the opera. It’s a great experience!

HDR Photo

Bustling Beijing

Thanks again Beijing!

When I called for some assistants here on the blog to help me out in China, I did not expect so many people to contact me! Thanks again for all the emails. I’m not sure I was able to contact everyone back, but I did my best. I ended up with a great gentlemen who was already at the airport with a driver holding my name card! His name is Woo and he’s studying international relations. His English accent is extremely-proper British, so it’s a bit like having a non-stop Jeremy Irons voiceover. He’s been great… even though I think I am wearing him out.

Daily Photo – Bustling Beijing

Getting this photo was not easy at all!

I knew of this area of Beijing called the CBD, or Central Business District. I notice that they have all these catchy names here, much like the building I took this photo from: “China Merchants Building.” At any rate, I had the driver circle the business district a few times so I could find a good angle. We found one in this building, but did not know if we could take a photo from the top floor. Woo went in first. This might have been a mistake because during the shoot he admitted he had a dreadful fear of heights. But he said it in such a charming British accent I thought it could have been my subconscious.

We went up to the 32nd floor. No windows no dice. We then went to the 31st floor, but the confused secretary would not let us through. Then we tried 30. The secretary said yes and let us into a boardroom, but the angle was not right and the other offices were busy. So we went to 29.

The secretary on 29 was confused so I instructed Woo to tell her, firmly, “We are with the Government.”

After that, we rushed in to set up, since the light was fading. People in the office were having some sort of light party at the end of the workday and were very confused by our presence. While I was setting up, Woo gave them the full story about how this was for an organization that had approval from the government and we were trying to get a fun shot of the city, etc etc. And then he pulled out my iPad to show the managers some of my work. Then they all got excited and came over to get their photos taken with me. All of that was fine and well, but I had to convince them to stop doing that and turn off all the lights because the reflections were killing me.

Bustling Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4.8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length15mm (15mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Secret Treasures of Beijing

Daily Photo – Secret Treasures of Beijing

These little finds are everywhere! Sometimes, while stumbling around from alleyway to alleyway, I appear right in the middle of these perfect little scenes.

It was very close to the National Day, and crews were out freshening-up the city. There were about four Chinese painters that were busy putting a fresh red coat of paint on this perfect little bridge. By chance, they were just finishing up as I approached. This little boat from the painters was pulled up beside the bridge in a wonderful way, so I set up my tripod along the bank for a photo.

They all looked at me in a confused way. They had no idea why I would want to take a photo of their little boat and the bridge. I imagine they find this so commonplace as to be hardly worthy of a photo… and it makes me wonder about all the non-photographers (or fans of this site) out there. Perhaps they just go through life and don’t even notice anything interesting pretty and nicely composed. What an empty visual life this must be!

HDR Photo

Entering the Forbidden City

Hi to Gernot!

It’s such a small world! I was standing at this very spot below when my friend Gernot walked up and said hello! I first met Gernot at my workshop in Tokyo, and he had flown in from Shanghai. He’s an Austrian that’s been living and working in China for the past few years. In fact, besides other things, he’s just started giving motorcycle sidecar tours of the city. He’s trying to convince me to do it here in Beijing… and I’m not sure i have the time but will try!

You can see a video about the motorcycle sidecar service at http://www.vimeo.com/3569937. Looks kinda fun, eh?

Daily Photo – Entering the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City sits in the middle of Beijing along an imaginary line called “The Central Axis”. Many of the important buildings, temples, and monuments are along this line. It might seem convenient just to walk along this line to see everything you need to see, but this idea only works if you have the mobility of the Genghis Khan cavalry.

I had a delightful tea inside the Forbidden City at a secluded and secret tea house with my contacts. It all sounds somewhat cloak & dagger, doesn’t it? But this ancient tea house was so hard to find that Google Maps street view would have just shown a black starfield instead. There was a tiny and old looking building in an aged arched alleyway that had a long line of antique windows. Upon pushing on one of the windows in a certain direction, you would suddenly discover it was a door that would open into another set of richly decorated rooms. There were rich wood surfaces everywhere, each full of antiques, ornate bowls, delicate tea service, and Chinese women clad in traditional garb running about whilst preparing tea in the old way.

After spending a few hours in here getting lost and having tea, I emerged around sunset to move around the fortress area. Arriving at the corner tower just in time (and with my slight Chinese assistant buckling under the pressure of my Lowepro), I snapped off this HDR of the setting sun.

HDR Photo

Trey at the Great Wall

I’m not sure how I got in this position, or how I got the camera on a timer, but I did it. Just afterwards, I cut open my knee when jumping across a tiny gap in the wall to get back to my camera. Getting this shot was a lot like playing Braid, in retrospect.

You can see the Great Wall there on the left (and under me).

Trey at the Great Wall

Grabbing Dinner in Beijing

I had decided to eat out on the streets, since there seemed to be such a variety. The real reason might have been there was this guy with a giant vat of fresh unagi (eel) which happens to be my favorite. I bought enough to feed a small family and ate it while I marched around with my camera, looking for a good spot for the shot.

The second shot below is of a famous Chinese dancer warming up for the Olympic ceremonies by launching himself into the air, just beside the official flag.

Grabbing Dinner in Beijing

Dou Dou Huang Soars up the Beijing 2008 Banner

The Wall Across a Continent

The Great Wall sprawls on and on… still the most impressive thing I have ever seen built by man. Four horses can go side by side while walking along the walls. I thought of all the European castles I have built where I would be standing on a wall and thinking, at the time, wow, this is really a big and impressive castle. But then one day you make it to the Great Wall and you think back… wow, I was really kinda out of the loop on this whole magnitude issue.
The Wall Across a Continent

The Kwik-E-Mart in the Backstreets of Beijing

I went ahead and bought a cardboard sheet of dried fish even though I was not hungry. It was sort of like getting one of those tiny fried apple pies from 7-11, only completely opposite.
The Kwik-E-Mart in the backstreets of Beijing

The Christian Church in Beijing

I shot this just after dusk…
Beijing Christian Church

The Back Streets of Beijing

I tried to get into Tiananmen Square in the middle of the big pre-Olympic celebration. The military not only had the whole square shut down, but they also had all the surrounding blocks at a standstill.

A taxi dropped me off where the police told him to drop me off – and my taxi driver did not ask questions. It was impossible for me to get over to the square. All of my cajoling and joking with the Chinese government police was absolutely not working. They neither found me charming nor amusing. It was about as useful as when I was stuck in immigration in Canada and trying to get back across the border using only my Blockbuster card as identification.

This left me in an older part of Beijing for about 5 hours trying to find my way back to my hotel or something I could recognize, since most of the car activity was shut down in the central part of the city. I went through a ton of back streets and captured many interesting things with my camera. I’ll post them in coming weeks!

The Backstreets of Beijing

Welcome to STUCK IN CUSTOMS Welcome to my travel photography blog!
Enjoy the daily photos, tips, tutorials & more!
Newsletter Sign Up
The Most Beautiful Newsletter Ever!


x