An opportunity to walk the Great Wall is not one to pass up. Last year while in China as part of an education project, I was asked to lead a photo walk on the Great Wall. Cool!!
The day was intermittently overcast and cloudy, which of course always makes for more interesting skies. The wall is a dull brownish grey, which unfortunately blended in all-too-well with the surrounding greenery. The original color photo is a bit m’eh, but a little black and white magic goes a long way.
If you’re a Silver Efex Pro II user, feel free to download the custom preset I made, called “Slovenian Mist”—named such because the first time I created and used it was for this photo from Slovenia(how very odd… I can’t find the photo I’m referring to, so I guess I never posted it! OK, that’s tomorrow’s post decided, then!).
It’s almost shameful… it feels like it’s been ages since I’ve traveled at all, much less gotten a new stamp in my passport! Fortunately that dry run is about to end, and I can finally post something on the Travel Junkie blog that’s actually about travel! (And maybe even update those “feet” photos to the right.) Go figure…
As any regular readers know, I’m about to leave for a trip to Singapore, then Hong Kong. The Singapore trip has filled up amazingly well—other than the conference I’m speaking at, I’m leading two photowalks (one with over 40 people attending!), doing some Aperture 3 training, possibly speaking at a major corporation on small-flash lighting techniques, and shooting a group portrait of the entire conference attendees on the last day.
Hong Kong is a bit quieter though… one small photowalk in the works, plus a TWiP listener was kind enough to arrange a gathering of like-minded professionals for a casual meet-and-greet. Other than that I suppose I’ll have a suit made and stuff myself on the local street food!
The Things I’ll Eat…
In honor of this upcoming trip, I wanted to share a couple of old photos. The second you’ve seen before; it’s from the Beijing Olympics when I ate something… odd… at the Donghuamen market. The first is a photo my father scanned and sent me from an old photo album, dated 1985. I was 11 years old in this photo, taken in Gijon, Spain. Some things never change.
Pretending to eat a live crab (I hope I was pretending!) on July 19, 1985 in Gijon, Spain. I was 11 years old.Eating (actually eating this time) fried scorpion at the Donghuamen market in Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympics
Singapore and Hong Kong
Here’s a shot from my last trip to Singapore. It was taken from my hotel room as a storm rolled in just before sunrise.
Early morning lightning Storm, view from Pan Pacific Hotel
And a couple from previous trips to Hong Kong.
A hotel view
Ahhh, you see, now THIS is why I travel!More will follow!
One slow night in the MPC, I took a Nikon D3 out for a little test-run. The camera performed admirably, although the meter is completely bonkers in low light. I had to shoot manual and under-expose (per the meter) every shot by 1–2 stops, and then tweak the heck out of the RAW files in Aperture. I've never chimped that much in my life. However it performed better in daylight; those images will get here soon(ish).
Anyway the Village at night is gorgeous. It's pretty clear that both landmark venues, the "Bird's Nest" and the "Water Cube", were designed to look amazing at night. I wasn't very impressed with either of them during the day, but to be fair they grew on me. However in total disclosure, when I first arrived in Beijing, I compared the National Stadium (the Bird's Nest) to the Brussels 1958 World Fair's Atomium and its surrounding structures (1958—2008; 50 year anniversary… coincidence? You be the judge!). Not because of it's shape, but because of its hideousness against the grey sky. In Belgium, you have a pretty much guaranteed grey sky most days. Same in Beijing. I'd think that if you were going to build something that large in a city that's mostly grey during the day, you'd find a way to make it stand out. The brushed steel nest against the grey sky does not a pretty picture make.
Site of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, taken in 1998 on a Kodak DC210 (!)
However again at night, this place really shines. And because of the heat, many events went well after dark, and most guests didn't leave the Village in a rush—there were thousands of people enjoying the warm night, the beautiful lights, the music and the water features late, late into the night.
Here are a few images; there are more in the gallery.
"One World, One Dream"… just not for YOU! (*ahem*)
As with any Summer Olympics, there are so many sports, and therefore so many venues, that it's impossible to have them all in one place if they're going to be hosted in an existing metropolis—especially one that's been around as long as Beijing! So as you might imagine, venues are spread far and wide around the city (and actually, the Equestrian Venue was all the way out in Hong Kong!). And as far as cities go, Beijing is huge. Fortunately the Olympics Committee had organized an extremely effective bus system (albeit not a 'green' bus system, which would have been very welcome considering the pollution problem that they already have), that could get you to any venue and most of the hotels, any time, any day.
Many of the venues were newly built for the Olympic Games, and the rest were newly renovated. I'm going to take a wild guess that the Basketball arena fell into the former category. It was gorgeous inside and out. You saw the inside in the previous post; here is the outside (front and back) of the 168,000 square meter, seven floor, 18,000 spectator capacity Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium.
Front of the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena
The front and back are not different colors; the colors actually change over time. The "texture" of the surface are a series of uneven slats that give the building a dynamic, ever-changing look. It's very, very cool.
One of the two tickets I had to competitions at the Olympics was to a women's basketball quarter-finals match between USA and Korea. I had amazing seats; second row by the U.S. basket. It was easy to tell which team had more supporters in the audience… every point Korea scored elicited an absolute eruption in the crowd. However I'm very happy to say that even as the U.S. scored their way to victory, the Korean supporters cheered them on. It was heartening to hear — and feel — such universal support. I suppose that's part of what the Olympics are about. Sure we're all there competing for the same medals, but we're also all there to support the players and the love of the friendly — albeit aggressive! — competition.
I was warned against bringing a "big" lens (i.e. a 400/2.8 on a monopod) into the audience, as I'd likely be chased away by the media police, so I shot only with a 70~200. Still, since I was so close I got a few decent shots. Nothing award winning, but fun nonetheless. One of the advantages of working in the MPC was having access to dozens of terminals with the entire database of events, players, results, and venues. This also included some photo-specific information, like the color temperature of the lights in the stadium. Too bad they were off by about 1500ºK!
I’ve seen this mentioned around the web a few times [i.e. gizmodo], so I thought I’d throw my photos up. At events like the javelin, discus, and hammer throw, these little red remote-control cars had the duty and honor of returning said hurled object to the other end of the field. It was quite comical to see these things puttering around the green.
I spent about an hour in position waiting for the show to start. When I spotted these guards (there to keep the flow of people exiting the stadium from going down the stairs I was sitting on) they fortunately let me stay where I was, and never seemed to mind my firing off constant test shots. I love that if you look at each guard, only ONE is doing his job right—looking straight ahead. The three facing the stadium are watching the show on the one at camera-right is keeping an eye on me!
Pretty much all the news you've watched, read, or looked at from the Olympics comes out of two buildings here… the IBC (International Broadcast Center) and MPC (Main Press Center). Every video feed from every venue around the city is being fed simultaneously, in real-time, into the IBC where the various networks from around the world have set up camp. They all have access to the same feeds, and cut and edit at-will. Meanwhile the MPC is for the photographers and journalists. There are huge rooms set up with hundreds of computers, as well as laptop stations for those carrying their own. They all have high speed internet, so the journalists can edit their photos, write their stories, and get it all out to their respective publications. Larger organizations, like the AP or USA Today, have their own dedicated rooms spread throughout the multi-story building.
The MPC is practically a small city. There's a large, international cafeteria along with a McDonald's and McCafé, a general store, a gift shop, copy shop, UPS Express shipping center, and more. Kodak provides printing services (along with film developing services for anyone shooting film… yes, it happens!), and both Nikon and Canon are loaning gear by the metric ton.
Here's a few photos from around the MPC so you can see, during the Olympics, where journalism comes from. These are made during a quiet time; after a big match the place would be packed to the brim.
The main hall in the MPC.
Nikon (and Canon) are loaning gear to the photographers.
Several rooms like these are open for anyone with a laptop to plug in and work.
Panasonic put a massive plasma TV in the lobby.
100"? I dunno but it's bigger than mine!
The general store, for everything from aspirin to zip ties, and the oft-needed beer!
A map of the MPC. See, it's big!
The UPS Express store.
McCafé, the only place for a drinkable latte (sold as a 'flat white', surprisingly enough)
McDonald's. 'Nuff said.
The big international food cafeteria. Some decent food to be had here.
And the cafeteria seating. As you can see… room for a LOT of people.
For those that follow the twitter, you know I did something slightly… unusual yesterday. I ate a few things that you don't normally find on western menus. Things you don't normally consider eating. Things if seen in the wild, you'd probably run away screaming like a little girl.
I ate snake.
I ate centipede.
And the pièce de résistance… I ate scorpion.
But let me back up and take you on a tour of the great, famous, Donghuamen Market in Beijing (also seen written as the DongHuaMen Night Market, although it's open during the day).
Breaking tradition, I can't resist posting this movie on here. When we walked into the market, we immediately ran into a TV crew from Curaçao, traveling with Shawn Crawford, winner of the 200m Silver, who were trying to talk themselves into eating something bizarre. They finally settled on the snake (tame enough), but when I ordered a centipede, they couldn't resist getting in on the action. With cameras rolling, the host bit into his snake while I gnawed on the centipede. We traded sticks, and sampled each-others snacks. As you can see in this video, snake and centipede are not high on the yummy list in the islands!! You'll also see the devastation of one crispy scorpion. Delicious!
This market is amazing, selling pretty much everything you would ever think not to eat. They sell starfish, centipede, grub, scorpion, snake, all kinds of internal organs, and — wait for it — sheep penis. No, I did not put that in my mouth.
Pictures speak louder than words. Check it out…
Selection of scorpions (I ate the smaller ones, thank you!)
Scorpion already fried and ready to be reheated
Soft shelled crab
Soft shelled crab cooking
Yep… there it is. Sheep penis.
Of course the market doesn't just sell the bizarre. It also had a great selection of fruits, vegetables, noodles, and different meats. Not that I'd eat any of that crap.
Little boy eating corn
Old woman eating noodles
What an experience. Even if you don't have the cojones to eat any of these delicacies yourself, no trip to Beijing would be complete without this bizarre experience. You gotta go!
In fact… I'm rating this "restaurant" with 5 feet… because damnit, it rocks!!