China September 1-14, 2012 Day 3

Day 3 of the trip we ventured to The Temple of Heaven and spent hours wandering the grounds, watching the people, and composing shots.  This first shot is of The Hall of Heavenly Prayer within the Temple of Heaven grounds.

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 40mm, 1/250, f/6.3, ISO 100, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Clik Elite Pro Express Backpack, BlackRapid Sport Strap

How about a little info on The Temple of Heaven – The Temple of Heaven, or more literally the Alter of Heaven (天坛; Tiān Tán) is a temple of Chinese religion used for imperial ceremonies for five centuries.  Its buildings are situated in their own large and tranquil park in southeast Beijing.  Construction of the Temple of Heaven began during the reign of Emperor Yongle was completed in 1420.  It was used by all subsequent Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.  In imperial China, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven, the intermediary between Earth and Heaven.  To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important.  The Temple of Heaven was built for these ceremonies.  The most important ceremony of the year took place on the winter solstice, when the emperor prayed for good harvests.  After three days of fasting, the emperor and his entourage, wearing splendid robes, would make their way to the park on the day before the solstice.  It was forbidden for the commoners to catch a glimpse of the great annual procession; they had to bolt their windows and remain in silence indoors throughout the event.  Upon arrival at Tian Tan, the emperor meditated in the Imperial Vault, ritually conversing with the gods on the details of government.  He then spent the night in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.  The next day, the winter solstice, he performed animal sacrifices before the Throne of Heaven at the Round Altar.  The rituals were planned to the smallest detail according to numerological theories.  The ceremony had to be perfectly completed, for the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.  The temple complex remained forbidden to all but the emperor and his retinue until the gates were thrown open to the people on the first Chinese National Day of the Republic in October 1912.  That was the last time Tian Tan was used for Chinese Imperial ritual ceremonies.  It has been a museum open to the public since that time.  The site was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1998.

On any given day thousands of Chinese flock to the grounds of the Temple of Heaven to dance, play games, paint, exercise, hang out with friends, and otherwise just relax.  This next shot is of some hands playing Chinese Checkers on the grounds.  Mike G has always liked to photograph hands doing what they do.  We always encourage our guests to look and work for shots.  It makes you a better photographer when you have to work for images and train your eye to see and capture images.

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 105mm, 1/125, f/4, ISO 800, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Clik Elite Pro Express Backpack, BlackRapid Sport Strap

To some, photography is about getting into a zone and previsualizing images.  For Mike G part of this is often working a scene while listening to some of his favorite music.  On this day he walked right into an image while listening to Led Zeppelin…yes, The Stairway to Heaven at The Temple of Heaven.  Perfectly devoid of people – sometimes you have to wait a few seconds to capture an image.

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 58mm, 1/64, f/8, ISO 100, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Clik Elite Pro Express Backpack, BlackRapid Sport Strap

Just as with our visit to The Forbidden City we asked our guests to look for leading lines, colors, patterns, shapes, and details to focus on.  The next 2 images are shots Mike G captured with the above in mind.  Many of the key sites in Beijing had recently been painted in preparation for the Chinese national holiday at the end of September.  The new paint job made many of the sites vivid and excellent for photography.

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 85mm, 1/125, f/10, ISO 200, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Clik Elite Pro Express Backpack, BlackRapid Sport Strap

Canon 5DMKIII, Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS @ 73mm, 1/80, f/7.1, ISO 100, Lexar Digital Film, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Clik Elite Pro Express Backpack, BlackRapid Sport Strap

Photography is not always going to present that once-in-a-lifetime shot we have always envisioned.  Photography is often about searching for images, being creative and looking for angles, colors, and shapes that make an image rich in texture and content.  In Asia texture, colors, leading lines, and patterns are often the order of the day.

Apply the above in your photography and you’ll notice an increased attention to detail, an appreciation for patterns, and you’ll find application for many different textures in your images.

We hope you enjoy our Day 3 images and are looking forward to Day 4!  Get out and shoot as much as possible and enjoy yourself.

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