Photographer's tour of Beijing?
June 25, 2007 5:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Beijing for a week in October. I would like to take some really great pictures. Where should I go?

My friend is going to university in Beijing this fall to start her third year of college-level Mandarin. I'm going to spend a week with her during the first week of October while she's on break. We have a full seven days to explore Beijing, and we're open to spending a couple days taking a trip outside the city.

I'm an avid amateur photographer and I'd like to find some striking scenery and people to photograph. The typical tourist traps are ok, but I'd also like to see things that are unique and off the beaten path. What places are essential for a photographer's tour of Beijing?
posted by mullingitover to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should go to the Old Summer Palace, I think it's called. A little further out and not visited quite as often. Loads of pagodas, bridges, and some old ruins. Lots of trees and open spaces. Of course, all this was 4 years ago. Who knows what it looks like now with the Olympics?

You absolutely have to get some hutong pictures, assuming any hutongs still exist.

You want to ask this question on the Oriental-List.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:57 PM on June 25, 2007

Food! Take photos of food. That is all.
posted by mdonley at 6:04 PM on June 25, 2007

Best answer: I was in Beijing in October a few years ago. When I was there, there was massive construction all over the city, and people I know who have been there more recently say that its increased even more. The old next to new architecture can lead to some interesting photography, but the view of giant cranes does get old. The air quality was quite poor (general city smog, and crops being burned out on the outskirts), and every long-distance shot I took in the city looks washed out, you should probably bring the proper filters to compensate.
As for where to go, just walking around is the most interesting (of course). As for the touristy places,I agree that the summer palace had a wide array of interesting shots photgraphically. And of Tiananmen square is a great place for people and large crowd shots.
You'll likely want to get out to the Great Wall -- talk about a photo op! -- but its a big decision on which section to go to. Badaling is the closest & easiest to get to from Beijing, but the most crowded. Every photo I've seen of this section is stuffed with people. If you'd like just scenery/wall photos, go farther out. I went to Simatai, which a hassle to get to and probably 2.5+ hours from Beijing, but was close to deserted. Air quality was better out there so the long distance shots look great, but I dont know if I just lucked out weather-wise that day. I've been told that the wall is less maintained at Simatai than at Badaling, which gives you a better sense of its age. It also increases the risk of you falling down a cliff as you get to the end of that section!
posted by Spurious Packets at 6:19 PM on June 25, 2007

Best answer: Seconding hutongs, they are amazing and disappearing fast.

If you are going to take photos of the Forbidden City, I'd suggest going out the North gate on your way out, then go into JingShan Park on the other side of the street and climb the hill. That's the best place for overview photos, particularly if you have a good lens and it's not too foggy.

Pick a park (my favorite was the DiTan "Temple of Earth" and nearby QingNian parks, since I lived not so far away) and go there early in the morning to see the traditional qigong groups and backwards walkers in action.

There are amazing photos around every corner in Beijing. The key is to get out and explore beyond taking taxis everywhere, and to make sure you have your camera handy. And yes, take pictures of the food! You have probably never even imagined some of the stuff that gets put on your plate if you are adventurous enough...

Have fun!
posted by gemmy at 6:23 PM on June 25, 2007

I did this back in 2000, so I have no idea whether you could still do it today, but I slept overnight on the Great Wall. Some ice cream vendor living in one of the turrets at Simatai had an extra cot and after playing card games and drinking baijiu with him until 4AM, I stumbled out and got some fantastic dawn shots of the Wall.
posted by alidarbac at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2007

this might help in a different way. i asked this question about a year ago. unfortunately, i've all but given up photography now.
posted by trinarian at 1:20 AM on June 26, 2007

Best answer: October is a great time to go to Beijing weather-wise, but your friend will be on break because it is a huge national holiday! That means any form of transportation and any tourist site is going to be packed and by packed I want to remind you that there are four times as many people in China as there are in the USA, in the same ammount of space and less personal automobiles. Be prepared for crowds, crowds like you have never experienced in your life. The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, while fabulous must-see places will be packed, like Disney World except if they opened it up for one day for free and trucked millions of rural Chinese in for the day.

That said and not to scare you, there is still tons to see and do in Beijing. Walking/biking the neighborhoods will not be the tourist nightmare that Tienanmen will be and will result in some great pictures. Rent a cab for the day (for about 400 to 500 kuai) and head to the Wall in Simatai rather than the horridly overpacked on a slow day Badaling. Even there, there will be lots of folks, but far less.

Eat. Eat lots. Eat street food. Eat things that you normally wouldn't.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:22 AM on June 26, 2007

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