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

The Wormhole

Back to China

I’m going back to China for quite a while.   This will be a fun trip, and I’m getting access to all kinds of incredible places. I’m not totally sure about the details of my adventure, but I’ll be sure to share them with you here.

I’ve also recently gone through the trouble of getting another Chinese Visa. These things are not terribly easy or cheap to get! The first thing that is horribly unnerving is the requirement to send my actual passport through the mail. It’s a major worry to do this! Furthermore, it’s not cheap — in order to get everything back and forth to me as quickly as possible, fees + Fedex costs over $300.

I like the “softcore Visas”, where you stand in line after arrival and then pay some shifty-eyed Indonesian customs worker $20 US cash and he stamps you through right away.

Daily Photo – The Wormhole

Shanghai has this incredible tunnel that goes under the river to the Bund. It’s just wild inside!

They have a series of robotic trains that shuttle people back and forth. Robotic doors whir open then shut again. The front of the capsule has a bubble-window that allows for a stunning view as you dip below the river and back up again. Colored lights in every lighting configuration fly by in beautiful colors. This is an amazing experience that I recommend if you ever get to Shanghai!

HDR Photo

Climbing to the top of Hong Kong (and an interview on NPR)

This is an HDR from a single RAW file! I shot it while on an escalator inside a building… while the escalator was moving! I would have to say that one of the top three questions I get is “How do you make an HDR out of a moving subject?” Well, that is covered in page 3 of the HDR Tutorial here… Maybe some people don’t make it to page 3? I don’t know. It’s easy! :)

Also, I was recently interviewed on NPR for a the station WUKY. You can listen to the NPR interview here online. Enjoy!

Climbing to the top of Hong Kong (and an interview on NPR)

The Curious Old Chinese Village (and a BorrowLenses Review)

If you all want to try out “Netflix for Lenses”, read my new review of Lens Rental from BorrowLenses. I think it’s a great service. I gave the service a full run recently and came away happy!

This pic below was taken in China. It’s curious isn’t it? I’ll open it up for discussion… see who can figure out what exactly is happening in the photo… (don’t forget you can zoom into the original size on Flickr)

The Curious Old Chinese Village

Connecting in Hong Kong

Hong Kong airport is a great one, as are many Asian airports. They put US Airports to shame. The security is actually nice to you there, and you don’t get all the attitude of the TSA. The TSA looks so important with their little uniforms. I think they are just silly… but it is remarkable how people react to uniforms.

I was going to find a pic of the silly uniforms so we could all make fun of them, but then I found out that the TSA has a blog! How boring. It makes me real happy that my tax money is going for the TSA’s social media operation. Look at this TSA blog entry on the Fourth of July and the YouTube videos they provided (especially the charmer about the dangerous “Sparkler”). Don’t worry everyone, the US Government is now blogging for you.

Connecting in Hong Kong

Old China

I found this woman outside the train station in Hangzhou. She was sitting by herself waiting on someone or something. Like most Chinese, she didn’t speak a word of English, and none of my international gesticulations seemed to trigger a response. Except, that is, for the one when I asked if I could take a photo. She nodded happily and sat serenely while I grabbed a shot. I walked on, and turned around to wave. She gave me a little nod.

There are a lot of the older generation in China that I am sure are completely amazed by what is happening of late there. I wished I could have asked her a few questions, but my Mandarin is woefully inept. My 8-year-old son is taking lessons… maybe I’ll have to take him with me next time to act as translator!

Old China (by Stuck in Customs)

Even the Model of Shanghai is Huge

Look at this crazy place I found in Shanghai!

This was inside one of the many government buildings. It was a multi-story complex dedicated to the past, present, and future of Shanghai. It was filled with multimedia presentations on the water systems, photo exhibits of the Bund under British control, and video extrapolations of what the city would become in 2020.

Of all these cool things, the best was this gigantic model of Shanghai. I walked around it about five times, trying to get some kind of sense of how to photograph the dang thing. Then, finally, I decided to grab a shot that included a few tourists to show the scale of this monstrosity.

By the way, thanks so much for all the interest in the Newsletter yesterday! I put a map on that page showing where all the early subscribers are coming from. I was, frankly, surprised how many people signed up! Now the pressure is on to deliver something that is worthwhile!

Even the model of Shanghai is huge (by Stuck in Customs)

The Motion of Shanghai

I crossed under the river one night from the Bund to get a closer look at the Oriental Pearl Tower. There was a cool fountain at the bottom and no tourists around.

This is a good thing, since it is always hard to make tourists look “cool” in photos. No matter what, everyone ends up looking like a gawking Rick Steves. Speaking of which, his travel series on PBS called “Europe through the Back Door” always gave me cause for concern.

The Motion of Shanghai

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