Category Archives: Beijing
Life in the fast lane
This image conveys the rapid urban development, emerging middle-class (with more income and prosperity), and the Americanization of the Chinese culture.
This particular street, named Wangfujing, meaning “Prince’s Mansion well” (after a sweet tasting water well was unearthed during the construction of ten aristocratic estates and a prince’s residence in the Qing Dynsasty- 1644 to 1912), is Beijing’s most famous shopping street that is located in a downtown district of Dongchen, dating back to the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) the markets, commerce and other consumer activities have been conducted in this area for centuries. It is only about one block long but consists of many large and small stores, consisting of Beijing’s most prominent brands (around 280) and many international brands.
There is also a section that is dedicated to food and snacks, with many street stalls and restaurants crammed together serving common and exotic street food such as fried scorpion, meat kebabs, desserts and candied fruits on a stick.
In the past this street was known to English-speaking foreigners as Morrison Street (named after the Australian journalist George Ernest Morrison – another interesting story).
It used to be a street for vehicles to travel through, but since 1999, much of it has been pedestrianized. The hustle and bustle never seems to stop here, open and busy during the day but much more alive during the night with the bright lights and more locals and tourists out to eat and shop.
Creating this Panoramic Photo
Captured using the Canon 50D with a Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens, mounted on a Benro carbon-fiber tripod and remotely triggered to capture four separate long exposures to create one seamless photo using Photoshop. Not much post-editing was required, as I like the way my Canon camera renders colorful night scenes, so I just boosted the sharpness and contrast a little.
Would have been easier to do this with a landscape lens but my Tokina 11-16mm broke before my trip to Asia and was under repair. So for all the landscape shots requiring a wider perspective, I had to make-do with the Sigma 30mm (which has a 50mm perspective) during 90% of my Asia trip, shooting multiple images to stitch up later on the computer. A very time-consuming task!
I’m glad that my images turned out OK, considering the difficulties. I certainly learned a lot about composition with a prime 50mm lens and also improved my understanding of making panoramic images.
Temple of Heaven
Built in Beijing in the 1420’s during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) for the emperors of both Ming and Qing (1644 – 1911) Dynasties to hold Heaven worship ceremonies.
Only recently in 1988 did the government authorities open it up to the public to revel the ancient philosophy, history and religion of this old civilisation.
The complex is 2.7 million square meters, bigger than the 740,000 square meter Forbidden City (where the Emperors resided) because the Emperors were seen as the “Sons of Heaven” therefore they were prevented from building any dwelling for themselves that was bigger than the Temple of Heaven Complex.
This main temple, is surrounded by other fantastic monuments such as the Circular Mound Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
The design is semi-circular in the north and square in the south, this symbolizes Heaven as a circle and Earth as a square, and the former is always elevated higher than the latter. Which reminds me of the Hermetic maxim of “As above, so below”.
Creating this Pano
This image is made up of 7 hand-held vertical images taken on my Canon 50D with a super-sharp Sigma 30mm F1.4 prime lens. Originally I had used ‘bracketing’ mode to shoot 3 exposures per shot but I just stitched together the normally exposed shots in Photoshop CS6 to create this image. After some fiddling, I did experiment with making the HDR version, but it didn’t look as good or realistic, with a lot of ‘ghosting’ where the people were moving in the shot. It would have taken too much time in post-processing so I abandoned it to work on this pano. It wasn’t a very contrasty day requiring high dynamic range so the normal exposures were fine, I did however have to brighten the shadows on the temple to bring out the details while sharpening and tone-mapping the overall image.
There was one major optical obstacle to overcome such as a guard rail in the foreground that I wanted to remove because it posed as a distraction, this tested my healing brush and clone-stamp technique in Photoshop.
Purchase your own copy of this panoramic image and many others at my Stock image page.