Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A visit to Macau, the Las Vegas of Hong Kong (about an hour away by ferry)

It was our last night in Asia and we decided to head to Macau to shoot pictures of their annual fireworks competition (with 10 countries competing for the top award). I was excited to find out that we were in the area for this once a year occurrence.

We had another smoggy day in the city, but it made for one heck of a sunset.
We took the one hour ferry ride from Hong Kong Island to Macau and made it through customs with a couple of hours to spare. (Yep, you actually have to bring your passport and go through customs to get into Macau and back to Hong Kong.) On the Internet, I had seen some images of previous fireworks shows in Macau and searched hard to find the spot that I liked best. We found the location and fired off some test shots. Even though this was taken before the fireworks show, it is still one of my favorites since it was taken at my favorite time of night, just after sunset.

And then...after a couple hours of waiting around in the heat and humidity (and a McDonalds run) the show began. We were hoping to get the fireworks closer to the tower, but the show was lower and more to the left than we expected. But, with that said, we still got some cool shots.

After the show, we had 45 minutes before our ferry ride back to Hong Kong so we checked out some of the city.

Macau is like a mini version of Las Vegas with many of the same hotels and over-the-top lighting and casinos. 
For this last shot of the trip to Asia, I leave you with a mug shot of me. This was taken from Kowloon, looking over the city of Hong Kong. I stood in this spot and we filmed a video segment of me teaching some night photography tricks. I think that we ended up shooting 8 different video segments during the trip. Stay tuned, as these will be edited and posted to YouTube in the coming months. I hope you enjoyed all the images from Korea and China.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Views of Hong Kong - Day and Night

Today I am posting more images from the trip to Hong Kong. When it comes to photography, this city has a ton to offer. Lots of color, many different types of architecture and, of course, some pretty amazing views of and from the harbor.

We landed in Hong Kong and, as we exited the airport, I looked up and saw this really cool shot of the clouds reflecting off of the top of the airport. So I dropped my bags, grabbed my camera, and shot this image.

I usually do not do "drive by shootings" from inside a moving car, but when I saw this view of the sprawling city of Hong Kong in the distance, with the suburb in the foreground, I thought that it told a story. Unless you have been to Hong Kong, it is hard to understand how many people are crammed into one small place.

These next shots were taken from the Kowloon side of the harbor. We were shooting some videos from this side, looking back at Hong Kong Island, when I saw this old boat cruising by and had to get a shot. As you can tell from the images, it was not the clearest of days. The weather was really hot! Most of the time we were out shooting in 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity. Fun huh?!

This images was taken on Sunday and many people were out sailing. Much like the other image above, I liked the way that these four sailboats gave me a foreground subject while highlighting the mass living in the background.

This photo spoke to me because of the colors in the image. I really like the way that the sails of the boats mix with the colors of the buildings in the background.

They are very proud of Bruce Lee. In the markets, we saw countless shirts and other "stuff" with Bruce Lee's image and this new statue was erected on Kowloon. 

As we were walking back to the ferry building, I saw this building which was casting some really cool shadows and, of course, had to stop and shoot some images. After taking a bunch of shots, each of us took turns shooting portraits of each other in this location.

You can't go to Hong Kong and not go up to "The Peak". This is one of the great vantage points from which to see the whole city. We were lucky enough to complete all of our work during the day so that we could get up to the peak before sunset. Again, not the clearest of days, but I was hoping that the night shots would be more impressive.

And then, the sun dropped out of the sky and the lights of the buildings came on, and voila! I took this photo just after sunset, making sure to highlight the last sunlight (which was setting off to the left of this shot) bouncing off of the tall building on Kowloon.

And then it was my favorite time to shoot photos. One of the great characteristics of Hong Kong, and other large cities in China, is the lighting and colors of the buildings. The scene is always changing, providing a different look with each couple of seconds.

This is one of my favorite shots from the evening. After standing at the peak for more than 3 hours, I got to the point where I was "shot out" and had nothing left to capture. I met some very nice people while shooting, and while showing some of my past night shots (on my iPhone) to a nice girl from Holland, I came across a zoom shot and thought "that would be a cool trick to try now." So I shot for another 30 minutes and came up with this one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chinese food markets in Hong Kong - the colors, the patterns and the differences from home!

During the trip to Asia, we made two visits to the Chinese food markets in Hong Kong. One of the markets was on the Kowloon side and the other was on Hong Kong Island. As I looked back over the images, I realized that these images would warrant their own blog entry.  

This is a fairly typical view from a downtown street in Hong Kong. I shot this image because I liked the large amount of store signs and activity in the street.

And then it was time to enter the street market to get some shots.

I am not sure what the heck these were, but I love the colors and textures of this fruit (or vegetable).

A woman organizing her veggies.

There were some amazing colors and patterns in the market.

I took some close-up images of this particular vegetable stand, and then started to walk away, when I turned back and saw this side view of all the asparagus stacked high. 

This old lady made me laugh. I must have watched her for 5 minutes and she never changed her expression or her pose. I am not sure if she was selling anything. Maybe she was the matriarch of that vegetable stand. :)

At these markets, people can buy just about every kind of food imaginable.

These meat stands were everywhere in the market. I was intrigued by the large amounts of meat which are hanging in the 90 degree weather, exposed to all the elements.

Many of the vendors did not like being photographed, but this butcher was hamming it up with me.

Someone got your tongue?

Just like the meat stands, there were many stands with fresh fish. Many of the fish are still alive.

Not these. :)

This was a little shocking to a guy from California. Sure, I am used to seeing crabs sold at Fishermens Wharf, but as I walked through the market, I was surprised to see bags of live toads, turtles and other creatures.

I was just about done shooting images in the market when I looked down an alleyway and saw these pigs hanging. I ventured behind the stands, made my way into the back alley, and shot this.

 Smoked duck.

Ahhhhh - this is how they smoke the duck!

I hope you enjoyed the trip to the market. Stay tuned for some cool shots of the Hong Kong skyline (during the day and night).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A window view of Shenzhen, China

As part of our business trip to mainland China, we made a visit to Shenzhen, China. This city was much more modern than Dongguan, where we had been for the last 3 nights. We only had one night here, but I wish that we had more time to see this place.
I shot this image from the car as we drove into the city. I wanted to make sure to show people at home how crowded this area is. All I could think was, "wow, my kids have to see this to appreciate what we have!"

We ended up in the Ritz Carlton for the one night, which was an unbelievable experience. For some reason, I was upgraded to a suite on the top floor. When I walked into my room, the first thing that I noticed was to amazing view outside of the window. I immediately sent a text message to my two co-workers who are also photographers and said "Get up here for sunset!"

And so, for two hours, as the light continued to change, the three of us took images out of the window. If anyone could have seen that scene, they would think that we were crazy. We turned out all the lights in the room, and even used our black jackets and shirts to tent the camera to block any ambient light reflections. We did shoot a video in this location (coming to YouTube in another month or so) explaining the best way to shoot in this environment.

One of the tips that I always give to aspiring photographers, is to really work the scene and look beyond the obvious. In this case, while we were shooting the entire view from the top of the Ritz, I noticed this really cool reflection on one of the buildings. So...I decided to use my 400mm lens to frame just this section of the building.

This was my favorite shot from the evening, taken about 20 minutes after sunset with the last of the deep blue color left in the sky. If you look closely at the well-lit building on the left, you will see the refection (mid way up) that I shot in the image above.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A visit to Nanshe Village, an ancient village in mainland China

A couple of days ago, we had a chance to visit the ancient Nanshe village located about an hour drive from central Dongguan. This village dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties and is surrounded by a fortified wall.

This is the view that you see when you first enter in to the village. This is one of the three bridges in the village.

As I entered the village, I was surprised to see motor traffic cruising through. I was expecting an old preserved village, preserved for tourists. This was not the case at all. It turns out that we were the only foreigners there and we really stuck out. :) As I ventured around this small village I also realized that many people were living in the buildings.

Some of the buildings were restored more than others, but I was drawn more to the older unfinished structures. I really liked this one which had a lot of character. You can see the incense bowl on the old table, where people must still hang out.

This is the doorway of the same structure as the picture above. I loved that way that the bowl seemed to stand out amongst the overgrowing foliage.

A close-up shot of one of the incense bowls in one of the restored temple rooms. I really liked the lines and the colors of this shot.

There is so much color and detail in the architecture here, it is hard not to shoot every rooftop.

As we first entered the village at approximately 4pm, I saw a group of 8 old men who were sitting under the big tree in the middle of the village. I was hoping to find a good subject amongst these guys, and I did. I made sure to ask for permission to shoot there pictures (using hand gestures) and eventually got their approval. Funny enough, this guy was one who did not want his picture taken. It wasn't until I showed him the back of my camera to see what I was taking of the other men, that he let me shoot some portraits of him.

It was so cool to take these images of this guy at the perfect time of day. You can see that he is lit by the golden light at the end of the day. Great character in that face! Normally I would have asked if he had an email so that I could send the image to him, but I am not sure if any of these guys knew that the Internet even existed. :)

Cruising through the village, it is not uncommon to see 3 or 4 people on a motorbike. I liked this shot of, what looks like, multiple generations heading home. (Yes, that is a sticker on the little boy's forehead.)

We really wanted to get a shot from above the village, but were not sure how to get to that vantage point. If you know me, you know that I will try anything to get a good photo. So...I found a four story building in the village and, pointing to my camera and then to the fourth floor deck, asked the old man if I could enter his home and shoot. He obliged and I made the quick climb to the roof deck for a bunch of rooftop shots.

When exploring the back alleys of the village I happened to stumble across a couple of dogs and cats. I turned a corner and saw this cat sitting in the last remaining light of the day and I shot off 4 or 5 images before he scampered off.

And then the sun dropped away for the night and we got ready to head back to the hotel. Our driver was very patient with us as he waited for 3 hours while we shot these photos. The poor guy.

This last shot is an HDR shot of the village. For those of you who do not know what that means, it is a combination of 4 images (capturing the same scene with 4 different exposures) and then combining them. This allows me to show the scene as the human eye would see it, even though the camera can not expose the sky and the buildings in one shot.