Tag Archives: China

Starving Artists on Parade too cool too fun too shiny

Starving Artists on Parade too cool too fun too shinyStarving Artists on Parade too cool too fun too shiny

In what is rapidly becoming one of those way cool, holy crap I didn’t even have a clue this was so cool institutions, the Starving Artists on Parade show is something that is so worth going to go see. I was fortunate enough to get an all access special guest list allowed in with a camera that could take pictures in the dark and had a blast. So here is the low down, and why you should support the whole thing.

First of all Starving Artists on Parade is the brain child of Morgue Anne. She has managed to secure a venue (the next show is at the Highline in Capital Hill), secure some really good local talent, and turned it into a comedy, burlesque, singing, dancing, happy voyeur kind of show. Everyone is not local, but bringing in awesome people to do breathtaking things and get some volunteer cash for their efforts is totally worth it. I have paid more money for crap shows that didn’t pack a quarter of the talent into the room. With a well spaced intermission, everyone over the age of 21 should have a good time unless you get freaked out by people being themselves.

Any show that does a “Build your own Adventure” burlesque is pretty awe-inspiring, period, I don’t care what you might have to say about that whole idea being PC or not.

It is an urban wonderland of art, music, burlesque, and it happens monthly. The third Monday of every month at one of the clubs here in Seattle is the date to set aside. Honestly though having all camera access was pretty sweet along the way because it does not happen that often.  Enclosed here are some of the pictures of one of the burlesque acts featuring Carrole, and this was one of the coolest, most erotic use of chocolate syrup I have ever seen in this life time. Better than my annual sojourn to China, it was so worth being there, having fun, and seeing friends who I didn’t even know went to the show. It is rapidly becoming one of the most open and transparent Seattle go out and have fun at a show institutions available to new artists to get a little attention, a little love, and have an awesome night out on the town. In all so worth going to go see, here is a link to their facebook page that should help you get oriented to the show and what to expect.

In all, yes, you need to go and support local and remote artists as they ply their trade and have an opportunity to say “hey I was there when they were just getting started”. So enjoy the pictures, and make sure you go out there to catch the show.

 

View photos at SmugMug

 

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The Forbidden City at Nighttime Beijing China

The Forbidden City at Nighttime Beijing ChinaThe Forbidden City at Nighttime Beijing China

Sometimes you really just need to stay up late, and as part of taking pictures of the super moon over Behai Park, I was right down by the Forbidden City by the end of that particular shoot with Beijing Photo Walks. The Forbidden City is just one of those places you don’t really care if it got rebuilt after the Cultural Revolution or not, it has a special place in the world as one of the largest imperial family complexes in the world. At night time it is pretty darn safe, without all the people trying to sell you stuff as you walk out of the tour, or even just walk by. The nice part is that there were many photographers out that night trying to get the super moon over the Forbidden City pictures. The number of people out and about on a Sunday night was pretty impressive because you maybe had about 40 minutes from the time the moon rose to the time it was obscured by the smog clouds over the city.

The Forbidden City was closed so you are stuck outside the walls trying to get the good shots on the north side of the complex. The north side is the best for nighttime shoots because of the moat, and the lighting provided by the neon and the spotlights provided by the controllers of the area. The lighting is good enough that you can hand hold the camera unless you are doing long exposure. Most people can hold the camera steady at about 1/30th of a second shutter speed.

I shot these at 3200 ASA, Full Auto, ranging from 1/30th to 1/60th of a second shutter speed, and F Stop ranging from 3.5 to 4.0. The thing that made this the best was all the extra lighting from the neon and from the street lights and beacons in the area. You can see some of the spotlight beacons in some of the pictures from the south side of the Forbidden City in some of the pictures as an added smear of light in the otherwise dark sky.

The good part is that this is a totally easy photo shoot to do, it is safe on the streets, and there are going to be a lot of people around doing the same thing. Taking nighttime pictures of the Forbidden City is something that a lot of people do, and a good way to stretch your skills as you learn more about your camera and how to work it in low light settings. If you are ever in Beijing, take Subway Number 1 to Tiananmen East, get out, head towards the Forbidden City and start taking a walk north. You will see some other awesome sights along the way. If you have time, stop by the night time market and take pictures of the street vendors while you are on the way over if you get off at the Wangfugin Stop on Subway 1, and then walk north and west to get to the Forbidden City.

 

 

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Bell and Drum Towers in Beijing China

Bell and Drum Towers in Beijing ChinaBell and Drum Towers in Beijing China

You want to take Subway Line 6 to get there directly, but if you don’t mind a little walk, take Subway Line 2, and you will get to walk along a couple of really nice lakes right in the heart of Beijing. People fish for critters in the lakes, although I would not eat anything from an urban lake no matter where it is. Like all places in Beijing, the two lakes, The Quanhai Sea and then North of that along Gulou West Street are really quite the treat for a nice long multi-kilometer hike through Beijing. If you take Houhai Alley you can end up at some of the less visited places and monuments like the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling (no English language support but interesting) the turn into the Xaioshibei Hutong for some awesome shops before hitting the Drum and Bell towers. If you are really intrepid and want to walk all the way down to Jingshan Park, walk directly south of the Drum Tower down Di’anmen Inner Street and take a left when you get to the park. Going left you get to avoid all the hucksters, and they were really aggressive when I was there.

In all it is a beautiful walk, but long, plan on walking about three miles in total if you are doing the scenic route long walk. There are a ton of rickshaw drivers and electric scooter drivers, all I can tell you is be very careful and avoid them. They will rip you off and they are a classic Beijing scam talked about on Lonely Planet and other travel sites. They were still active as of June 2013, and will probably always be there. Don’t believe a word, don’t get in the rickshaw, far far better to take a taxi, there are tons of them around.

This photo set takes in both towers and the long walk down to the north entrance to the Forbidden City. Unfortunately the pollution levels were in the 250 to 320 range during the day, and walking around with a mask, and the heat was a pain. There is a lot of good food on Di’anmen Inner Street, from the ever present KFC and McDonalds, to some of the more traditional Chinese fare so you won’t go hungry. Lots of mom and pop stands as well to pick up water or a ice cream to help keep your core body temperature down.  In all this was a really fun walk to do, I hope you enjoy the pictures. Feel free to make comments or offer suggestions on other cool places to go in Beijing.

Bell and Drum Towers in Beijing China

 

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798 Arts District Beijing China June 2013

798 Arts District Beijing China June 2013
798 Arts District Beijing China June 2013

798 Arts District Beijing China June 2013

798 is changing, so much of it was missing from my 2012 trip that it was very sad to see what is happening to what is singlehandedly the most amazing place in China if you love modern art. In so many ways Beijing can be a crowded sterile city with small pockets of live amidst the high rise buildings. 798 defies everything you thought about china from the time you walk in the area, to the time you leave every sense from touch to taste (awesome food and drinks) to visual art to everything that surrounds you invades your mind and you will leave changed. 798 is a unique place in Beijing, there might be other places like it, but 798 is a legend.

The interesting part is what you can find there. Everything from all art forms are there. The wall art is the most special and amazing to me. It is simply world class, and would not be surprised to find a Banksy or other world class street artist working out of the spaces there. The other interesting part is that there is art there that can be found on the streets of Seattle. When you see a slap tag on a wall in 798 on a USPS priority mail label, you know that there is communication and sharing between Chinese slap taggers and American slap taggers. I almost fell over to see something like that, and would love to know more about how they communicate and how they share stuff happens. I would love to see some Chinese slap tags floating around Seattle.

It does look like the area is subcuming to the pressures of urbanization. Significant portions of 798 were abandoned this year. Pressure of high rises and other mass housing are everywhere in the area, and that has to be putting pressure on the galleries and artists that live and work there. I have no idea where they will go once 798 is gone, but I hope to find it when they do finish moving to their new digs. China faces incredible population pressures that Americans can only guess at. In a land that is 5000 years old, in a culture that has seen a little bit of everything, 798 manages to stand out as unique. It would be a shame if the area was eventually bulldozed for more high rise housing that few people can honestly afford. (One of my Chinese friends was telling me that it is 50,000 RMB per square meter of an apartment in a high rise, and you only own it for 50 years not forever. $8,000 roughly for those who want to do a quick conversion in your head).

798 deserves to live, but that is up to the Chinese government, and the artists that need to be there to help the community thrive. In all though, for as long as it exists, this is a vibrant and amazing place to go visit, you should soon, because it might not be there for very much longer.

798 Arts District Beijing China June 2013

 

 

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Super Moon over Behai Park in Beijing China

Super moon over Behai Park in Beijing China
Super moon over Behai Park in Beijing China

Super Moon over Behai Park in Beijing China

So I got fortunate with my last trip to China to meet up with the amazing people over at Beijing Photo Walks (check out their facebook page if you are in the area). We decided to head on over to Behai Park next to the forbidden city and coal hill to catch the super moon as it traversed the park. The good part is that the pollution was down enough to get some awesome shots of the super moon, and the park along the way. We were not the only people, there were a lot of photographers all over the park, and reaching to the east side of the forbidden city to catch this once a year event.

I took my trusty Nikon 5100, and an 18-105 lens for this, and did not use a tripod to hold the camera still. Rather used the tree or other object to brace myself when taking the pictures. I also had the camera up to ISO 3200 for this to help offset the jitter that is going to happen when you free hold the camera in low light conditions. I really wanted to get good vista pictures, pictures of the beauty of the park, and the super moon at the same time. So the moon does not look huge, nor did I do any special techniques to bring the moon closer by playing around with the F stops on this one. It was really more about catching the beautiful moon at a unique point in time to show off the beauty of Beijing China, and the super moon.

The interesting part was the number of people who were out there with every kind of camera imaginable from the cell phone camera to one intrepid person who had an 8X10 large format camera. I would dearly love to see the pictures that he was taking once they got developed, but we didn’t have a chance to swap photography cards.

I highly recommend Behai Park as a place to visit. Get off at the West Tiananmen subway and walk north from there right from the subway station. Take exit B to get on the right street. There are no people trying to sell the tourists anything, so it is a very nice walk to the park. Beijing has all these special little pockets of space to get away from people, enjoy some amazing history and grab some amazing pictures along the way.

 

 

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798 Beijing China the Arts District

 

798 Beijing China the Arts District
798 Beijing China the Arts District Studio Space

If you ever get the chance to go to China, you have to visit 798. It is one of the most interesting places in modern China that any visitor can go see, because it is a community that has taken over an old munitions complex and turned it into an artists’ colony. This was the first place I really visited outside of the former Olympic Sports Complex, and it is well worth the taxi ride to get over there. It was literally across town, and a metropolis of 22 million people is pretty darn huge to cross. Taxi’s though a cheap and easy to find all you have to do is say 798 and most taxi drivers will know how to get you there. It was almost 40 RMB to get there or something like 6 or 7 dollars in total. The buses are hard to navigate; it is easier to take a taxi. Plan to spend the day there because you will run into some of the most amazing people in all of Beijing there.

There is all sorts of art, and galleries, and tucked away places there. It is a photographers dream to be hanging out there and seeing what there is to see. There are a lot of pocket art installations, some gigantic transformers, and some of the pudgy art that seems to be all the rage lately. Make sure you visit the art bus as well as seeing the industrial rehab of the area. The artists are putting their stamp on everything, and that includes the buildings. Over time as the population pressures in China demand that the territory be used for living space, it is worth checking out before it goes. There was already apartment complexes being built on the land, and as they build out more bus and drive the subway line in that direction, it will disappear.

China is always growing and always something interesting to see. The city of Beijing is always changing, so if you get the chance to go, do it. I spent a month in China and I can say I had a blast seeing all the things you can see in the city.

 

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Longtan Park Beijing China

 

Longtan Park Beijing China
Longtan Park Beijing China

 

There is always something wonderful to find in Beijing, and Longtan Park in the South West area of Beijing is just such a place to find a little quiet, a little tranquility, and a little peace in a city that never ever stops moving. Longtan requires a small payment of 2 Yuan to get into the park, but it is truly an amazing place, without a lot of people. It really is one of those few places where you can really just sit down without a crowd of people around you and enjoy the lake. If you are lucky you can even rent a paddle boat and go out into the lake and just sit in the middle of it.

 

That is probably one of the biggest things about being in Beijing, is that it is nearly impossible to be alone, there are always crowds everywhere, unless you are up by the Olympic Stadium and the Olympic Park.

 

Longtan Park, so worth visiting on your next trip to Beijing China. Worth taking Subway Line Five down to Dongsi and taking a 2 Kilometer Hike along the roads to get there. Look for the huge ferris wheel at the long abandoned Beijing Amusement Park, it is right next door.

 

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