Archive for January, 2011

London Landmark Walk

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I was out with a few of the guys from POTN again this past Friday.  The plan was to get a few London Landmark photos for Ian to adorn his walls with, but I ended up spending a lot of my time playing with lights again.  It had been a while since I’d made any orbs and didn’t want to get too out of practice.  Also, I’ve been chatting with quite a few folks on Flickr about making the orb tools so it sort of put me back in the mood.

North Bank Orb

Neal and I walked from my place along the north bank to St. Paul’s, shooting the standard stuff along the way and trying to stay warm.  After my recent trip to Harbin I figured that the -2 degree weather wouldn’t bother me that much, but given enough time it’s hard to distinguish -2 from -20.

St. Paul's with a tilt-shift

I spent most of the evening playing around with my tilt-shift lens.  I love it for shooting buildings and it’s even fun to play with when light painting.  It’s nice because it’s a slow-to-use lens that makes you take your time and think about what you’re doing, and manual focus always adds to the challenge.

St. Paul's and Millennium Bridge

Tide was out so we got down under the millennium bridge for a few of the ‘standard’ photos of it and St. Paul’s.  It’s one of those scenes that’s so often photographed that I just don’t have the creative capacity to shoot something new.  Still, I’m content with the results of the evening.

St. Paul's and Millennium Bridge

Also, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen an orb done in this location before so it’s got to count as unique right?

St. Paul's and Millennium Bridge and a cheeky orb.

Couple more images in the gallery.

Harbin Ice Festival, China

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Long have I wanted to go to the city of Harbin and witness the Ice festival for myself.  As we were going to be in China at the same time as the festival, I couldn’t think of a better time to make the trek.  Danni’s parents were more than generous to cover the costs of my trip as a way of welcoming me into their family.  I was a bit uncomfortable about accepting, but was told that it’s simply the tradition so I tried to be as gracious and grateful as possible.

First day in Harbin, checking out the small ice sculptures on the high street.

Arriving alone in a country where very few people speak your language is daunting, but I’ve done it before and managed so I didn’t think I’d have any issues doing it again.  Which likely would have been true had the airline not lost my luggage on a direct flight from Guangzhou to Harbin.  Fortunately I had the dynamic team of Danni and her mom to harass the complaints department until my lost suitcase turned up.  4 days later when I was due to leave, but I was happy to have it back regardless.

Cycling across the frozen river

I don’t normally mind when the airline loses my bag as it (so far) always turns up in the end.  This time however, it was more inconvenient than usual as the suitcase contained all of my warm clothes an my trusty tripod.  Had I known that my bag was going to be MIA for the duration of my trip I would have simply picked up some more warm clothes, but instead I took an optimistic ‘It’ll be here on the next flight’ approach and dealt with the -25ºC weather as best I could.

Sliding down one of the many, many ice slides.

The ice buildings were by far the highlight of my trip.  Massive, multi-story buildings constructed of ice and lit from within by every changing lights, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.  I had a grin frozen to my face (quite literally after a few hours in that cold) the entire time I was there.  I managed to push a few kids of out the way and ride most of the ice slides like every good 6 year old should and spent as much time as humanly possible taking photos.

Here are a few more from the trip, some of which are up there with my all time favourite images I’ve ever taken.  Such an amazing place and fortunately it changes every year so I have an excuse to go back!  Not that I would have needed one.

Gonging the bell

More slides

Ice buildings everywhere

There are quite a few more images of this incredible place in the gallery.  I wish I could say I did it justice, but it’s one of those places you really have to visit to fully appreciate.  Let me know if you’re going, I’ll likely tag along!

Guangzhou, China

Monday, January 24th, 2011

After dating for over a year now, it was time to make the trip to China to meet Danni’s parents.  It’s always a fairly daunting thing to meet your girlfriends immediate family, and even more so when that family speaks very little English.

Shot from a gondola on the way to another park with Danni.

I believe we managed quite well with the little Mandarin I do speak and Danni translating the rest (which to be honest was about 95% of our conversations).  I will say that I’ve never eaten so well, or so much as I did under the care of Danni’s family, and they were more than welcoming to me and my odd western habits.

More offerings of incense and oranges.

Guangzhou is a little bit like Hong Kong in that you can’t build a proper sky scraper without covering it in millions of colour changing lights in an ever increasing effort to outshine the previously completed building.  It makes for a great evening skyline, but the light pollution (not to mention the normal pollution) is something else.

And more spot lights.

It’s also a bit of an odd city in that I didn’t notice a single old car and conversely, I didn’t see one new bicycle.  There’s probably something poignant to be said about how this reflects the disparity of the wealthy and the poor, but I’m just not that deep.  Sorry if you were expecting something more!

Some lanterns on the front of some boats.

Danni was an excellent tour guide and we even managed to visit a few spots she hadn’t been to while living there.  Lots of parks and a few ‘Old Guangzhou’ museums balanced nicely with busy shops and crowded high streets.  As it was approaching Chinese New Year the public transport system was heavily burdened and the crush of people in the metro was almost unbearable.  Fortunately taxi’s were incredibly cheap (if not a little bit difficult to acquire) so we mostly stayed above ground away from the shoving millions.

Some incense at a temple.

After two weeks I made my teary goodbyes and flew back to London with a suitcase pregnant with even more food; presumably with the assumption that I hadn’t eaten nearly enough.  2kg’s over the baggage limit, but the check-in girl took pity on me…

Lots of additional photos in the gallery here.