Alright, this week’s post is admittedly different.  Allow me to explain.  🙂

As I’ve been to China over the last several years, I’ve noticed that I’m feeling a little stuck artistically.  Each year I come back with pictures of the Great Wall – which I love by the way – and a few other random things, but nothing that really jumps out at me as being fresh (you’ll notice that no Great Wall pictures made it to POTW this year… I visited it again, but nothing panned out from my camera).  So I decided I was going to try something different this go around.

An inescapable part of visiting China are the crowds.  I typically try to avoid them as much as possible by visiting at off hours, but some places you just can’t do that (because they’re closed).  Also, since we had our niece with us this year, I recognized and accepted the fact that she might not appreciate getting up before sunrise every morning, just so I could get “the perfect picture”.  Fair enough.  Here’s what I did; rather than avoiding the crowds, I embraced them.  Using what’s called a 10-stop neutral density filter (think of it like really dark sunglasses for your camera), I was able slow my shutter speeds way down, causing people in the picture to blur, as though I were shooting in the evening or night.  The net result is that the people either turned to ghosts (meaning you could see through them), or disappeared altogether; leaving a very crowded place looking completely empty.  In some cases, as in the picture just below, I put my camera where I knew people would stand a little longer, because I had been observing them stopping for their own photos.  In other cases, I just chose my shot and let whatever happened, happen.  In the picture of the girl at the staircase, I was totally surprised.  She walked up with her umbrella, snapped a photo, and walked on, leaving the ghost of herself in my photo.  In the example just below, the man and his daughter came past me slowly, making a blur… then stopped just in front of me, and stood relatively still.  In the other pictures you may notice some people that are sharp… those are people that didn’t move, while others are blurred out.

The other thing I did, which I’ve been doing a lot of over the past several years, was create panorama shots – but with the twist of the long exposure.  The picture above, my favorite of the bunch, is well more than 90 degrees of view.  These too can also be a surprise because you can’t see everything with your eyes as you’re standing there, that the camera ends up capturing.  So fun!

–Dan Thompson

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Beijing, China

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