While spending a few days in Shanghai we spent one evening walking down Nanjing Road, which is the primary shopping street of Shanghai. We had strolled down the street during the day but after walking for a while we decided it would be a great photography walk at night. The buildings are lit up in fluorescent lights, reminding me of Macau (or Vegas for that matter). But more interesting for me was checking out what they had for sale in some of the stores. Despite all the places we’ve traveled, China was still a country capable of giving me a significant jolt of culture shock to make me feel like an alien on my own planet.
One of the stores that we walked into was sort of like a dry goods grocery store. They had all kinds of things that looked … foreign. Things that looked like taffy, various animals that almost looked like they were “candied” (see the pig face below) and some things that were less appetising – yes, that’s right, less appetising than a candied pigs face. They were also selling what looked like petrified meal worms, but in reality are called cordyceps and are actually sold for huge amounts of money. While researching for this post I found a great write-up of some of the stuff I was seeing, you can read about it here.
I took a few pictures in these stores but didn’t go crazy; I know some people will think I’m overly careful but I’m still a bit hesitant to just snap away in someone’s store with my DSLR.
The other thing I found for sale in some of the stores were calligraphy sets. I find calligraphy a very interesting aspect of Asian history and culture. While we were there we got a little sign made up for the “Millers” by this gentlemen below. He did it right in front of us and charged us a few bucks. I like the picture with him blow drying the finished product; it really was interesting to watch him do it and I think we even took some video of it (which I’ll eventually post). To be clear the picture below wasn’t taken in Nanjing Road but rather on the illustrious “Bund Sightseeing Tunnel” which I’ll write about in my next post.
The store below was on Nanjing road and was super cool – it had a huge selection of calligraphy and painting brushes, stamps, inks, and all the material to take up and learn this ancient art. It was fascinating to walk through and see all of these interesting things for sale.
Aside from the stores, we really enjoyed the street itself, particularly at night. Nanjing road is largely pedestrianized, so you don’t have to worry about cars (although there’s a little blue train which you can see below that you do need to watch out for!) The picture below is a 3 exposure HDR that I took with my tripod. Yep, that’s right – I carried my tripod down Nanjing road and it was absolutely fine. I never felt in danger or that we were getting too many strange looks, and I’m glad I had it because I don’t think as many of these pictures would have turned out without it.
As you can see the lights are just amazing. And I like the movement of the blue train in the picture to offset the largely pink/red colors of the lights.
While we were walking down the road we took a few pictures of each other, on occasion setting up the tripod. To take a picture like the one below I would first understand what settings provide the proper exposure for the scene in general, without Adriana. Then I remember those settings (in this situation they were aperture of 6.3, shutter speed came out to 1/25 sec, and an ISO setting of 800). So I set the camera to Manual, enter all of those settings, and turn on the flash (to manual) and set it to 1/8 as a start. I snap the photo, check to see how she looks compared to the background light, and generally need to take one or two more to make sure I nailed it. Once you get used to practicing it’s fairly easy, but I have to tell you it sure helps to have a patient wife (or partner) because photo’s like this used to take me 20 minutes each!
Notice the Radisson in the back that sort of looks like a flying saucer ready to take off? Remember that – I took some other photos from there you’ll be seeing below!
Here’s another picture of my beautiful wife – in this one I zoomed in closer to her face for a tighter picture. I think people often underestimate how effective a tight crop is – don’t be afraid to show a person’s face! Sometimes I see people taking pictures from like 300 yards away – the end result is a human shaped ant that’s completely lost amongst the background. Like all my little rants there are certainly times that this is very effective, for example to show the insignificance of man or to show scale. But here it’s not what I wanted to do.
We walked around for quite a while, taking some pretty cool pictures of the lights, the people walking, and trying to capture the general ambiance of the place.
Now – remember the Radisson in the background of the Adriana picture? Well we went up there to have a few drinks before our dinner that evening and …. you guessed it! We took some pictures from the top! It’s a rotating bar and at night that creates a challenge in taking anything that resembles a long exposure. So I had to crank up the ISO and take at a much larger aperture (smaller number) than I wanted. The two pictures below are the two best ones that I got. It made me really wish that I had gotten a better viewpoint to try and capture a quality image. One of the things they do in Shanghai is light their roads – you can see it below in the eerie blue light and after looking at some of the images on 500px or Flickr from Shanghai you can see how beautiful the lights look.
After having a few drinks we left and went to Mr. and Mrs. Bund for dinner. This is a rather upscale modern French eatery, we honestly went for the view over the Bund but didn’t realize that the lights on the famous Pearl Tower turn off after 10:00! So we focused instead on having a wonderful meal and good conversation – it wasn’t terribly difficult! Below is one picture that I did take of the Bund (you can see the large walkway on the right) from the terrace of the restaurant. It’s a nice teaser for the next post!
That’s it for Nanjing Road. I definitely recommend taking a walk to check out the stores and the view from the Radisson Blu is pretty amazing. Next post will be my final for Shanghai; I’ll detail the Bund and how we took some incredible pictures of the Pudong skyline.