Beijing at f/1.4

City Planning Museums

Is this simply a Chinese thing? The way they have these huge museums that are tributes to the city planning itself? It feels like a very “Chinese” top-down thing to do… to talk about how wonderful top-down design is and then build a museum around that idea.

Daily Photo – Beijing at f/1.4

I love taking photos in these Chinese city planning museums. It sounds so boring, I know… but they really are beyond wonderful. Maybe mostly guys like them because they are such cool models. I've taken photos of this from every angle, but I decided to get down low and take a prime photo at f/1.4 — I really dig the way it turned out!

Beijing at f/1.4

Beijing at f/1.4

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/750
  • Aperture
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Walking to the Summer Palace in Beijing

SmugMug Review

Don’t forget to check out the SmugMug Review here on the site if you haven’t lately!

Arctic Swell – Surfing the Ends of the Earth with Chris Burkard

Here’s an amazing new film from SmugMug and Anton Lorimer. Check it out!

Daily Photo – Walking to the Summer Palace in Beijing

Here's one of the many ornate bridges I saw while walking around the many lakes at the Summer Palace. I decided to do a treatment with the new Analog Efex Pro 2 from Nik/Google. The original photo was pretty good, but it felt a little boring or something. The texture and the feel was not right… so I spent a fun 15 minutes in AEP2 to make it the right kind of interesting!

Walking to the Summer Palace in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1500
  • Aperture
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Monk on a Trike

Upcoming PhotoWalk in Dallas!

It looks like it’s gonna be on September 5! I’m very excited about it… details to come, but block off that evening!

Denver PhotoWalk Winners!

And now, for the two Grand Prize winners in Denver! Sorry it took me so long! Both of you receive Trey’s Complete HDR Tutorial! Just contact luke@stuckincustoms.com and he can get you set up.

Prize #1 for Dan Sanabria – A very interesting shot of as the evening light splashed across one of the facades.

Prize #2 for Michael Kleih – what a smart shot!

And here’s a bunch of the #StuckInDenver photos that were posted on G+!

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Daily Photo – Monk on a Trike

I visited this wonderful monastery and temple in Beijing. I arrived there just as they were getting a delivery. Monks would ride these specialized trikes back and forth to ferry the goods back to their living area. You'll never guess what is under that blanket. And I'm not kidding. About 100 Red Bulls!

Monk on a Trike

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/6400
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramShutter speed priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+0.7

The Summer Palace and New Gear Page!

Updated Camera Gear Pages

Since Sony has now kinda renamed all their NEX stuff to Sony Alpha stuff, we’ve redone the “Trey’s Gear” page here on the site with Good, Better, and Best. I know it looks like I’m a total Sony shill, but they actually don’t pay me to say any of that… I love my A7r so much that I even bought a second one! Hehe… anyway. Related to that, btw, is the Leica Lens Buying Guide if you want to equip your new Sony with some Leica lenses. Be sure to look at the R-lenses there too — they are quite affordable!

Also new on there is the DJI Phantom Review, among other things.

Denver PhotoWalk Prizes

Sorry for being a bit recalcitrant in the Denver PhotoWalk Grand Prize winners! I will get on that soon – I will not forget. I promise! :)

Daily Photo – The Summer Palace

This is my third time to visit The Summer Palace in Beijing and the first time I've ever gotten a photo I liked! This is one of those places where you're gonna walk for many many miles if you want to see all the angles. This spot was about 4 miles from where I entered, and the palace was closing soon. Luckily, I found another exit so I didn't have to walk back all that way. Honestly, I could have used the exercise, but, also, honestly, I didn't really want to do it.

The Summer Palace

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length50.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Police Protection in China and a new Travel Podcast Interview

New Podcast on the Daily Travel Podcast

Nathaniel from the Daily Travel Podcast interviewed me recently. I’ll put the soundcloud player embed below. It was a fun discussion – thanks Nathaniel!

From their website:

What We Cover:

— How travel inspired Trey into a creative life of travel, photography, and creativity.
— How taking a creative approach towards your travel photography can help you get more from your travel experience, enhance your memories of the places you’ve been, better share the “feeling” of the places you’ve been, and expose and connect others to the world.
— HDR photography, what it is and why Trey went looking for it before it went mainstream.
— How the human race is becoming more and more connected, like a super organism and how travel relates to this.

Daily Photo – Police Protection in China

You really can't negotiate with these guys, you know? I mean, if they want you to do something, you better go ahead and do it. They are kind of no-nonsense kinda guys that are used to following orders.

I was at the Summer Palace to go up on stage for an opening ceremony event, and there were a bunch of these guys on the perimeter keeping the peace. It was quite a docile crowd, really, so they weren't really needed. While I was waiting to go up on stage, I snapped this quick photo.

I actually originally had this as a portrait orientation and you could see his whole body. But I was editing this in the car in Lightroom and my friend Tom saw it while it was zoomed in. When I zoomed out, he was surprised! He said, wow, I like the zoomed in one better. And so do I! :)

Police Protection in China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/6000
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The View from Tiananmen Square

John Oliver – Tiananmen Square

Here’s a funny video about what is happening in China now around the Tiananmen Square issue… (I could not embed it for some reason)

Daily Photo – The View from Tiananmen Square

Two military police stand guard in the square here, with the photo of Chairman Mao in the background.

What I find very amazing every time I go back to Beijing (I've been six times now) is how young people there are really into Chairman Mao, talking about how awesome he was. This most recent time, my hosts saddled me with this 28 year old Chinese female assistant. She was annoying in many ways (in fact, most ways) — all she did was talk about how important it was to get married and how happy she would be if that happened. It was non-stop. But, anyway, she kept talking about how wonderful Mao was. I said, “Uhhh, you know he's kind of in the big three, right, along with Stalin and Hitler?” She just waved her hand and started talking about how happy she will be once she gets married.

The View from Tiananmen Square

The View from Tiananmen Square

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length300.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Getting ready for the Wedding

Cheesy Wedding Photos

Do you know of any sites with crazy wedding photos? I’ve seen some crazy Russian ones… here, let me try to find it. Here’s a crazy one. Oh, and here’s another!

Daily Photo – Getting ready for the Wedding

We were on the outskirts of the Forbidden City then went into a temple area and there were about 20 couples taking their wedding photos. It was so funny to see everyone posing and all the photographers taking photos. They were all trying to find angles where they wouldn't see the other couples. The men wore the craziest tuxedos, but the girls mostly had on really pretty dresses. I took this one while she was moving from one position to the next.

Getting ready for the Wedding

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4000
  • Aperture
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Little Girl Guarding a Store in Beijing

Leica Lens Buying Guide

Thanks for coming to check out the Leica Lens Buying Guide on the site. I made it as part of the Sony A7r review. I mention it now because this photo was taken with a Leica lens. And no, I’m not sponsored by Leica. I wish!

Daily Photo – Little Girl Guarding a Store in Beijing

I walked down a side street near an area called HoHai in Beijing to find all kinds of little treasures. This street was perfect. Dozens of tiny shops, from antiques to chocolates to perfumes to books to everything in between. There were many colors and outfits. From inside one of the little stores, this tiny girl walked out. She must have been the daughter of the proprietor. She leaned on the door and looked up and down the street, in her own zone.

Little Girl Guarding a Store in Beijing

Little Girl Guarding a Store in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/350
  • Aperture
  • ISO5000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramShutter speed priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Inside the Infinity

Working from home

I’m curious… do you work from home instead of going into an office building? I was thinking about this when looking at today’s photo of a cool office building… I wonder if a cool office building even helps. If you like your job, then you don’t really mind what the building looks like, I think.

Daily Photo – Inside the Infinity

This is the inside of an interesting office building in the CBD (the boringly named Central Business District) of Beijing. Tom and I wontonly walked inside here and started taking photos. The security approached us and there was a lot of confusion. Then the manager showed up and everything went a bit pear-shaped. But at least I got this photo… I find it so strange… the design of these buildings… they are wonderfully inhuman, but kind of beautiful.

Inside the Infinity

Inside the Infinity

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Beijing From Above, aka The Story of How I Was Detained by the Police for flying my DJI Quadcopter

The video – Beijing from Above

Before I tell you the story of being detained by the Chinese (and, like Taborlin the Great, I similarly did not have key, coin, or candle), I’ll share the video I made! I would have gotten even more footage had the quadcopter not been, ahem, confiscated… BTW, I recommend running the video in HD mode with earphones!

This was made with a really awesome quadcopter — the New DJI Phantom 2 with Zenmuse H3-3d 3-axis Gimbal and Gopro Hero 3+ Black Edition. All the footage was shot with that GoPro. I did a mixture of wide angle and narrow shots. I also had it in a mode that automatically took a photo every 5 seconds, and I put some of my favorite photos at the bottom of this blog post!

That music is by the great Jon Hopkins. The name of the track, fittingly, is “A Drifting Up.” Thanks to Chris Craker for the introduction.

The Detention Facility and Quadcopter Confiscation

So, I went into this not knowing what was legal and what was not legal. Okay, I had a sinking feeling that flying a quadcopter over the Forbidden City might be more black than grey, but my intentions were pure and artistic, so I figured that gave me some sort of leeway. At least, this is how I justified everything in my head beforehand. You’re starting to see how I make bad decisions.

Note to self: don’t mess with these guys. Another note to self: don’t goof around with drones the 25th Anniversary of It-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named. This was taken with the Sony A7r the Alpha 28-300mm lens. See my Sony A7r Review for more.

Let me set the stage here. Beijing is the seat of all Chinese government power. So, deciding to fly a drone over China is kind of like Luke Skywalker deciding to ride his landspeeder on the Death Star.

There are multiple “rings” that encircle Beijing. The first ring is the Forbidden City. The second ring has many monuments and other houses of government. It’s kind of like Washington D.C., except with less communists.

I had flown the DJI Quadcopter for about five days with no problem. I was there with my friend Tom Anderson who also had the same DJI Quadcopter setup as I did. We were both having a great time and getting some really cool shots. I am so excited to take photos and experiment with this thing! We had even flown it several times around police in various places. They never said anything. The police were probably generally confused; their lack of interference only emboldened us.

Note to future self: Do not fly quadcopter over the Chinese NSA Intelligence Buildings

So here comes the juicy bit. Well, it could have been worse. But I was certainly at fault!

I was at Beihai Park. Now, some of you may already be rolling your eyes, because you know what I did not know. That behind those trees there are all their government buildings, where they would rather not have things flown above.

My DJI remote control was low on batteries, and I have this rather sane fear of the controller going dead while quadcopter is off having a party somewhere without me. So I set the quadcopter on the ground beside my assistant. My assistant is this 28-year-old female who was kind of cute and quite bubbly named Ady. I say this because it comes into play later in the story. One other thing I can tell you about her is that she was absolutely zero help in warning me that I was about to fly the quadcopter over the Chinese NSA and FBI buildings. That’s one of those things I would have liked to know… My plan was to take an aerial shot of the White Dagoba on Qionghua Island (which you can see from the ground level here).

Anyway, I went out to get my batteries and walked back. I saw Ady still standing by my quadcopter with a rather surly-looking female police officer. I was getting a bad vibe. As I approached, the surliness seemed to increase, and it was really harshin’ my mellow.

Beijing From Above

Here’s a view from over the Northeast Tower. This is the most popular area to take photos in Beijing… so I was happy to see what it looks like from a thousand feet up with the sweet DJI. I had this set to take a photo every 5 seconds while recording HD video!

Off to the lockdown

I approached and planned on using my charm offensive. It’s the only strategy I have, so I hoped it would work. One unforeseen fault in my plan is that this policewoman did not speak English.

But Ady spoke both languages, so we began a brief frenzy of back-and-forth, all of which went nowhere fast. We were then escorted to the nearby police area. My friend Tom was standing nearby. But not that near. Actually, he was off in the bushes by the lake, peering at us from afar through multiple tiers of shrubbery.

We were escorted inside a series of secure doors, and the last of which made that CLA-CHUNK-CLINK sound effect that you hear in movies and TV shows. It really made that sound. I thought….oh shit.

To the right here, you can see an example of the sorts of bad decisions I make in China… this is my “spa” day with Tom.

There were more enforcement officers inside. I figured I had a lot of ‘splainin to do. And I did!

I had a feeling that I was in a rather sensitive area that I did not know about. So I was sure I had indeed done something wrong, but I just didn’t know what. Thank mao I wasn’t actually flying the thing and it was sitting inert on the ground when security descended. This helped.

Now, this small little detention facility did not have a lot of lights. It was dimly lit, flickering in a sickly yellowish light, and I could not quite see everything inside. I did see the rather burly gentleman officer that was right there with me, leading the questioning. Ady translated. Although I wasn’t so sure of her translation capabilities because earlier in the day we had gone to KFC and she had ordered me a chicken neck.

Luckily, she was very smiley and cute, which probably did not hurt. She seemed very positive and happily began translating for me. The senior policeman seemed to enjoy her bubbly nature.

He was holding the quadcopter and turning it around, examining the camera, the blades, the everything. He was a curious cat. He asked many questions while a female officer held something that looked like an old CB radio but actually had a camera and was recording me. So I’m somewhere in some Chinese video database, making some amazing arguments.

I basically explained that I was a photographer, and I like getting unique angles. I simply like taking photos and making Beijing look beautiful. I noticed they liked to hear this and were a bit surprised. I saw an opening.

I whipped out my Samsung Nexus Android (S4) phone. I pulled open my photo portfolio and asked Ady to translate. I started sliding through the photos, then I handed the phone to the alpha male. He started swiping and asking questions. She translated and I answered. Oh, that is in Japan. That one is in New Zealand, my home! That one is in Indonesia. This one is in Death Valley where the rocks move on their own! Very mysterious! By now, the guy was smiling and inviting the other officers over to see. They were all crowding around, smiling and laughing, pointing. Now Ady was laughing and having fun and explaining. I was telling stories about the photos… etc etc. It was a suddenly a fun party in jail!

Okay, so this little photo party went on for about ten more minutes… this was an exciting day for them! I think they saw that I was an artist and I really had no interest in taking photos of sensitive things. Those of you that have been coming to the blog for the past 8 years also know this… but, well, these guys were not regular readers so I had to fast-track them! In fact, the alpha male there asked for my blog website here so he could come see new photos. He’s probably reading this now. Hello Nice Chinese Military Police Man! I forgot your name, but thanks for not doing bad stuff to me and stuff.

After the little photo partay, he gave me back the quadcopter and said, “Okay, here you go, but please don’t fly it inside the first or second ring of the city.” I said, okay, cool. And then we made our hasty egress.

Apparently, the news kind of spread around to another group with which I was working in Beijing. They showed up at my hotel the next morning to confiscate the quadcopter, obviously not trusting me not to fly it any more. They agreed to bring it to the airport before I left Beijing. I doubted I would ever see the thing again, but, sure enough, they showed up! I threw the sweet beast in my bag then jumped on my flight back home to New Zealand. Shwew!

Other Photos from the Quadcopter

Here’s some of my other favorite photos that I took with my little toy :)

Metal Underpants

Here’s an arial shot from the CBD area. This building is really cool, isn’t it? The locals call it the “Metal Underpants”

 

Quadcopter Perspective

The perspective from up above is truly amazing. I find myself trying to picture what it looks like from above then launching the quad to confirm. It really makes you think about 3D space in a different way.

 

World Park

Here’s one from their little World Park where they have all the world’s monuments in semi-miniature. It’s a strange place, truly. I treated this one with the new Analog Efex Pro 2 from the Nik Collection

 

Trees on Roof

I didn’t even notice there were trees growing on top until I got the quadcopter up there!

 

World Wonders

Here’s another from that strange world park. You can see four World Wonders right there below!

 

Drum Tower

Looking down near the drum tower.

 

Ming Tombs

I like how they lay out the towers for the Ming Tombs in this pattern. I bet the original designers would have enjoyed seeing this perspective.

 

798

Getting up high in the 798 area gave a nice perspective on the industrial detritus.

 

CBD

Traffic on both sides of a park in the CBD (Central Business District)

 

Ming Tombs From Above

One of the Ming Tombs from above. This is honestly the straightest shot I’ve ever taken! I didn’t even have to rotate it 1% in Photoshop… and I was 1000 feet up in the air!

 

Drum Tower Axis

The amazing drum tower sits right in the middle, along the central axis.

 

Willow Path

A beautiful path of willows bends into the distance.

 

The Forbidden City From Above

And last, The Forbidden City from above.

 

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