The Amazing Airport

China Interview Part 2

Here is Part 1 of the video interview that is continued below!

Daily Photo – The Amazing Airport

I went in and out of this airport in Beijing a few times. Some might argue a few too many times. That some might be me.

It’s an absolutely beautiful airport. It was so amazing in size and scope that I could not figure out what part to present to you first! But we’ll start with this one, at the entrance to the international terminal. This is near the dropoff area for the international departures. It’s the bit where you roll in your bags and try to figure out where the heck to find the counter for Air Sheep.

By the way, I took a ton of photos all over the Beijing airport.  No one ever gave me any grief for using my tripod.  As you might expect, HDR in this place is an absolute blast — and not having to worry about getting in trouble for using a tripod is even better!

HDR Photo

New Video Interview

New Video Interview in China

Well, I won’t repeat what I say in the intro to this video interview, but maybe you like this new format…  

This is part 1, and you can see Part 2 of the Video Interview right there.  Btw, if you like this style of doing interviews rather than a text-version, let me know.

Daily Photo – “The Place”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again — the Chinese are not always the best at naming things.  I just don’t get it.  All I can figure is that these names are ultimately decided upon by a committee.  And this is why you never see a statue of a committee.  (well, except for maybe in China)

Anyway, besides the horrible name of this place — “The Place” — it is an awesome place!  It’s a modern outdoor shopping center with all the sorts of shops that one might expect.  High end shoe stores, purse stores, clothes, espresso, and the like.  The centerpiece of the whole place is this enormous downward-facing diamond-vision screen.  I’ve heard it’s one of the biggest in the world, and I don’t doubt it.   While shopping, underlings are entertained by non-stop animations and cool artsy video montages set to music.  It’s quite the spectacle!

HDR Photo

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

Pandora from Avatar – Zhangjiajie

A Bunch More Photos from China…

Besides the new eBook info in the upcoming Newsletter, I will include about a dozen new photos from China for you as well! Newsletter subscribers often get to see things first, so I it is actually a great outlet for me to post a ton of fresh stuff right away. And, if you like the newsletter (it’s free), I hope you forward along to your family and friends!

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Getting Around China

So, I don’t speak much Chinese. Actually, I speak so little that it is embarrassing. And, very few people here speak English. It’s less than 1%. So, most of the time it can be tough to get around… but I always end up getting where I want. It’s more a matter of will, charades, and international gestures that get me where I want to go. Anyway, this is often a question I get, “How do you get around without knowing the language?” It’s really not a worry… Have you read “The Alchemist”?

Daily Photo – Pandora from Avatar

Getting to this place isn’t easy, either. I wish I could tell you how tired my legs were and still are. I added about another 1/4 inch of calf muscle in the last week. Climbing these spires with all my equipment is not cake walk. I climbed to the top three times in my hikes, and my first day had about 10km of unforgettable pain. 10km is one thing. 10km that involves these kinds of verticals is another thing.

I also climbed one of these at night. Alone. That was exciting. I don’t know if exciting is quite the right word for it, but it certainly was an experience (that word said with French accent). On the way down, I ran into a big snake that would have liked nothing more than to rock my face off. I’ll have a full story on that in a later post from this area.

HDR Photo

The Li River

New eBook Very Soon!

We have a surprise eBook coming up for you very soon! If you are signed up for the Free Newsletter, you’ll be the first to know. Sign up here below… and enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Morning Fisherman

Now, getting to this place was not easy!

I arrived about 1 AM at a tiny family-run inn by the river. I was meeting a local guide (see Jack’s website) at 5 AM, so I didn’t get a lot of what I would call “quality sleep”. Anyway, I got up very early and went downstairs in pitch black. There seemed to be a big white cloth box I had to go around to find the front door. My guide was outside. The door was locked and we could not figure out how to get it open. Everyone at the little inn was sound asleep and I was totally confused. Then, from inside the big white box, a body flew out of it! There was a 60-year-old Chinese guy inside that was sleeping until I woke him up with all my lock-manipulations. His naked limbs in the white sheets scared the bejeezus out of me and woke me right up!

And then we were on the river about 5:15. It was still completely dark outside. And I mean COMPLETELY DARK. It was a thin bamboo raft with an outboard motor.

I turned around to ask my guide, “How the heck does the boat driver know where he is going?!?”

He calmly said, “Oh, no worry. The river is very wide.”

I not-calmly said, “Well, that’s great and everything, but I can’t even see the edge to the river!”

He calmly said, “But it is so wide.”

This line of questioning was not getting me anywhere, so I just decided to sit back and enjoy my possible last moments on Earth. Then the sun started to rise, and we moved the boat over to the best bank for the angle.

Want to hear something amazing about these fishermen? You won’t believe it… but maybe others can confirm this! The fishermen use these two trained cormorant birds that have their throats tied. The birds dive into the water, eat a fish, but then can’t swallow it because of the rope. The fisherman rudely pulls the fish from the bird’s throat and drops it into that basket behind him. The bird then goes over to a tiny keyboard and sends out the tweet, “WTF”.

The Morning Fisherman

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/2.8
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length20mm (20mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Feng Huang Cheng

Stuck In China Update

From my post yesterday, I’ve gotten all kinds of interesting response – thanks!  It looks like there are a few uber-powerful political types that stop by the blog from time to time and some strings are being pulled.  We’ll see if I can get out of the country in a timely manner!

(NOTE:  Do not ever run at full speed through an embassy.)

Three Days of China

I’ve been in China now for what is approaching a month. It has been a wild and adventurous time! I’ve been so busy shooting, and internet has been so hard to get in places — it has been hard to do regular, timely updates. So, obviously, I’ve been posting some new pieces from other photo adventures, but this is how things generally work around here.

But, for the next three days (including today), I’ll show you some brand new stuff from apart of my trip here!

Daily Photo – Ancient Feng Huang Cheng

As many cities in China quickly leapfrog American cities into one technopolis after another, there are still many old, ancient places across the countryside. So, in an effort to find some of the more unique and classical Chinese places, I had to go pretty deep beyond the major cities.

This is an old place that maintains its classic charm. It’s called Feng Huang, and the old buildings along the river are still up on stilts. They don’t build right along the river, since they know every 50 years or so, a major flood clears everything away. In the meantime, locals go on about their business, going down to the river to wash clothes, prepare food, and the like.

The entire time I was here, I never saw another white person and did not meet anyone that spoke English. I also suffered a fairly significant injury one morning… will talk about that another time. I’m going to hit a hospital here in Beijing to see what exactly happened! But, most importantly, even though my cameras hit the ground pretty hard, they are all in perfect working condition. Sweet Nikon.

HDR Photo

Stuck in China – Really!


Now I have made it out of China. Thanks to all the nice people that worked so hard to get me through the process! I appreciate it very much!

Calling in All Favors ??

So, I was supposed to fly out of China today to meet my family in New Zealand on Air New Zealand. When packing for the airport, I discovered my passport had been stolen! I can’t believe it… this has never happened and made me feel totally lame.

Now I am stuck here in Room 1716 of the XiangDa International Hotel (not the one where my passport was stolen). The problem is that it could take up to two weeks (or more!) to get a new Visa out of the country! Madness!

I have now experienced a new level of bureaucracy. Wait till you hear this.

I started at by finding my way to the US Embassy in Beijing because I figured the US Consulate could help get me home. There was a big picture of Hilary Clinton on the outside (seriously), so I knew I was in trouble from the start (seriously).

Outside the US Embassy were a ton of Chinese people. A ton. They seemed to be waiting for something while sitting on bags, shuffling about holding plastic sacks of whatnots, and this sort of thing. After wading through some (with all my luggage, mind you), I got up to a rather serious looking Chinese guard. They are all rather serious, really… they don’t hire guys that look like William Hung (of “She Bangs” fame).

Anyway… I have a VERY VERY long story to tell but I am mentally drained… After some serious form-filling-out and an interview with a very nice customs official, I was given a new 3-month passport.  So despite my worry about the US Embassy, I actually got my new passport in about 3 hours!  Great! But now, the problem is the Visa.

To get the Visa, it can take from 5 to 10 business days. This is infuriating because I already got a Visa, and I even have a copy of it. But this is useless. I don’t know why! It was just a sticker in my passport, and I have a photocopy of it. The Visa has a unique number, which happens to be the same on my photocopy! Anyway, I don’t know why it just doesn’t just key off the Visa number, and they can update their 1960’s system when I exit the country.

To get the new Visa, I need to visit Public Security Bureau (which was closed right at 5 PM when I arrived) and take: 1) The Lost Report issued by the Exit/Entry Department (a Department within the PSB), 2) a police report by the local police department, 3) One photocopy of the lost passport (thank Mao I have one!) 4) Temporary Residence Certificate (don’t ask… this is an annoying document to get), 5) an Introduction Letter by Relevant Parties (huh?) and 6) One 2-inch photo.

Now, I can get all this stuff, at major annoyance, but it’s confusing as to WHY I even need to do it just to leave the country! Why can’t I just use my existing Visa number? t’s just that I’ve never felt so trapped by absolute nonsense… especially while my family is waiting on me…

I promised the kids I would hug them in the airport when their plane landed in NZ… dammit.

Mid-Daily Photo: Hangin’ out in China

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 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

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