1/40s, f/7.1, ISO 5000, 24mm (Nikon Df)
This week, I contributed a piece to the Guardian's series on "a History of Cities in 50 buildings". I wrote about the Old Beijing Stock Exchange and what it tells about the city's development. You can read it here. Make sure to follow the excellent series as well.
15s, f/16, ISO 50, 24mm (Sony A7r; Nikkor 24mm f/2.0)
Guomao Bridge at Night. The first (east-west) section of Guomao Bridge was opened to traffic in 1986 as Dabeiyao Bridge (大北窑桥). In the 90s, when the third ring road was built, a north-south lane was added on top. Located in Beijing's central business district, it's one of the city's busiest intersections today.
Before it was named Guomao in the early 1990s, the neighborhood was known as Dabeiyao (大北窑), which means something like "large northern furnace". The name is a reference to the fact that the Japanese used the area as a brick kiln during World War II. Continue below the fold for a picture of Guomao from the mid-1980s.
1/2000s, f/5, ISO 200, 70mm
In two recent posts, I have written about my experience with Nikon’s new retro-style DSLR, the Nikon Df. Nikon was kind enough to lend me the camera for a month and I’ve put the camera to use for my street and urban landscape photography.
The image quality and light weight make the Df a versatile fit for all day shooting. And the readily available manual controls made me feel that I was truly crafting my images. In this post I will wrap up with some general thoughts after taking the Df with me on a hike on the Great Wall.
For my last day with the Df, I went to the Great Wall at Simatai (司马台). Simatai is a few hours northeast of Beijing and offers stunning and dramatic views of the wall and Yanshan mountain. To keep things light, I only packed the Df with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED.
1/1250s, f/5, ISO 200, 24mm
8s, f/4, ISO 400, 24mm
In my last post, I shared my impressions on using Nikon's new retro-style DSLR, the Nikon Df, for my street photography. In this post, I will share some thoughts on how I thought the camera performed for the urban landscape photography I do.
Doing landscape photography in Beijing can be challenging. The city’s unpredictable air pollution means that you rarely know what the light and the sky will look like the next day or even later the same day. The convenience of being able to have a light camera to carry around and yet still have the power of an amazing sensor make the Df a great fit for a place like Beijing. The camera makes it possible to shoot handheld in the low light around dusk and dawn and still get sharp pictures. Images are amazingly crisp at ISO 1600 and even at 6400 and beyong there is plenty of detail left.
1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 34mm
1/4000s, f/2.8, ISO 100, 55mm
Earlier this month, Nikon gave me a chance to try out the Nikon Df, Nikon’s new retro-style full-frame DSLR. The camera itself is beautiful, taking design cues from Nikon's 1970s-era FM film cameras.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve put the camera to use for the photography I do the most: urban landscape and street photography. I will cover my impressions of the camera for street photography in this post. For my next post, I will focus on using the camera for landscape shots, and then wrap up with some more general thoughts in a final post.
The technical specifications of the Df have been well documented, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. The camera features the same 16-megapixel image sensor as the Nikon D4. The images are sharp and the performance in low light is superb.
Images at ISO levels of up 25,000 maintain plenty of details and the noise is kept under control. The camera’s dynamic range (the ability to capture shadow and highlight details at the same time) is also exceptional. In short, the Nikon Df is plenty capable of producing stunning pictures in the right hands.
1/400s, f/7.1, ISO 5000, 55mm
1/400s, f/2.8, ISO 800, 24mm
The former Beijing Stock Exchange (中原证券交易所) at 6.30am on a Sunday. Opened in 1918 and tucked away in an alley behind Qianmen, this was Beijing's first stock exchange. Thanks to Sue Anne for the discovery. If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and follow her stories and pictures at Shanghai Street Stories.
6s, f/20, ISO 200, 24mm
The second ring road in Beijing (more or less) runs the parameter of the old city wall. The Beijing city wall stood for more than 500 years until most of it was torn down beginning in the 1960s to make room for Subway Line 2 and the second ring road. The Beijing Ancient Observatory, which formed part of the city wall, is visible on the left.
I shot the picture just after sunset on a hot July summer night on a pedestrian bridge. The exposure is six seconds long at the lens' minimum aperture at f/22. Taking long exposures on Beijing's pedestrian bridges can be tricky because the bridges to to shake a little large vehicles pass below. If the platform had been a bit steadier, I would have gone for a slightly longer exposure to make the light trails a bit stronger.
1/640s, f/5, ISO 200, 43mm
I finally got a chance to explore Guilin and YangShou. It was a short trip with packed program and I didn't get to spend as much time shooting as I would have liked. In the picture above, I was really drawn to the life by the river side around sunset and the contrast between the rigid lines of the manmade bridge and the hills and rock formations in the back. A similar contrast is present in the picture below on a larger scale.
320s, f/11, ISO 400, 24mm
2s, f/3.5, ISO 800, 27mm
Officially, the Inner Lakes of Copenhagen, the Lakes (Søerne) are a row of three small rectangular lakes on the western edge of the city center. The Lakes date back to the middle ages when they formed part of the fortifications of the city. The paths around the Lakes stretch for about 6 kilomaters and are a popular with bikers and runners.
At night, old school neon ads light up some of the buildings around the lakes. I took the picture on a late January evening. I wanted a longer exposure to make the reflections in the water a bit more smooth. But just as I was about to take the longer exposure I ran out of battery. I didn't get a chance to go back and so had to stick with a shorter 2 second exposure instead.
1/640s, f/6.3, ISO 200, 27mm
With the odd day or two of smoggy air, the last month have brought unusually clear skies to Beijing. The city is a different place when the air is clean. From smiley faces on the streets to chummy taxi drivers, you can feel the people of Beijing draw a collective sigh of relief. And no doubt most Beijingers enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude as Shanghai reached record breaking pollution levels a few weeks ago. Perhaps the liquid nitrogen is already working its magic.
On a beautiful day earlier this week, I stopped by the Hongqiao Pearl Market across from the Temple of Heaven. They have a balcony with great view of the park. Above is a shot from the late afternoon.
The pictures shaped me. There were landscapes and cities on a scale I would never see in Denmark. And my father’s stories suggested that travel and discovery was a normal part of adult life. I understand now that those experiences were based on choices. My mom made similar choices in her early 20 and spent time as a waitress in Germany, a nanny in England, and later as an exchange student in Spain. The experiences of my parents had a profound impact on me, and I couldn’t wait to go out and see (and photograph) the world on my own.
More pictures below the fold.
1/60s, f/1.2, ISO 3200, 50mm
So I have been trying to settle on a new photography theme. Lately, I haven't had a chance to shoot much during the day, so I've ended up with a lot of evening shots. And most of them have been landscape shots of the citiscape variety. When I lived in New York and Hong Kong, I ended up doing a lot of late night street photography but in Beijing I've found this type of photography more challenging. This is mostly my own fault. Unlike New York and Hong Kong, I no longer have a bustling street at my doorstop. I have lived in Beijing neighborhoods without much street life, and to capture street scenes and portraits, I have had to make it a point to go somewhere and shoot. But I am trying to change that since Beijing has so many parts that are rich with street life, character, and contrasts.
In this post, I have compiled some of my street photography highlights from my time in Beijing. More to come soon...
1/800s, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 35mm
More shots below the fold.
1/800s, f/10.0, ISO 400, 30mm (HDR)
As you set out for Ithaca
hope that your journey is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laestrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare sensation
touches your spirit and your body.
Laestrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope that your journey is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and learn again from those who know.
Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so that you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would have not set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.
C.P Cavafy (1910, 1911)
1s, f/4.0, ISO 800, 35mm (cropped)
What a relief! After a week with heavy smog, a rainstorm came through last night and washed away the polluted air. This morning it was all blue skies and the light in the early dawn was totally stunning. Beijing will seduce you like that. Just when you think you've had more than you could possibly take, she will come back with the most amazing weather.
Regular blogging will resume soon. I've been travelling over the last month and will be back with some shots form Denmark and France.
1/500, ƒ/2.2, ISO 400, 35mm
Sanlitun is an area in Beijing's Chaoyang District packed with high and low end shopping malls, restaurants and bars. In the 1950s, the new government moved most of the embassies here and built several apartment complexes reserved for foreign diplomats in and around the neighborhood (until the 1980s, these apartments were generally the only places where foreigners could legally live). As China opened up in the 1970s and 1980s, bars and restaurants catering to foreigners began to appear.
Like most of Beijing, Sanlitun has undergone a dramatic transformation. Until about a decade ago, most of the businesses catered to a younger, budget-minded audience, and cheap bars and hostels were surrounded by low-rise apartment buildings and hutong neighborhoods. Then the Olympics arrived and with that several high-end developments. Today, an upscale, open air shopping complex called the Village (recently renamed Taikoo Li in an effort of corporate branding) has become the center of Sanlitun complete with designer stores like Rolex and Versace and a trendy boutique hotel (where the nightly rates exceed the monthly salaries of people living just blocks away).
Despite the changes, traces of old Sanlitun remain. I recently took a walk with my camera around one of the hutongs behind Sanlitun Village. The contrast between the new and the old is mind-boggling, really--even if it's typical by now for most large Chinese cities.
1/2000, ƒ/1.4, ISO 1600, 35mm
Read on below the fold for more shots.