Have Some Free Time?
Most of the photographers I’ve met have been shooting back-to-back events every day since the Games began almost two weeks ago. Rising early and working late into the evening, any free time they have is spent catching up on needed sleep. There are a few exceptions, however. For photographers with some downtime or those staying in Beijing until next week, here’s my top five list of things to do and shoot in the area, far from the Olympic Green.
1. Take the train to Tianjin -- The coastal city of Tianjin is located 120 km east of Beijing, but a new high-speed train will zip you from the capital to the coast in just under 30 minutes. You’ll need at least half a day to explore, especially if you plan to shoot at the “beach.” The ocean excursion is pricey (about 160 CNY r/t including taxi and light rail), but the incredible pictures you’ll be able to make there make it well worth the time and money.
2. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City -- Several photographers I’ve spoken to haven’t even had time to visit the world’s largest public square, or the Forbidden City. If you have a few hours free, visit both, but if you can only spare an hour or two, head to Tiananmen Square to shoot tourists and locals enjoying the recently constructed Olympic displays.
3. Eat Chinese food -- Under immense pressure to stay healthy so they can produce images, experienced photographers are avoiding eating anything outside of the media village, Main Press Center, or Olympic venues. While this makes sense, they’re really missing out on some incredible Chinese food. Peking duck roll ups (available for 15 Yuan at the MPC) aren’t going to cut it -- experience the real thing at Quanjude, or visit a hole in the wall eatery to enjoy Chinese food at its best (and cheapest).
4. Wander the city on your own -- Escape the Olympics bubble to meet locals in the hutongs, or roam the streets with a camera in the older parts of town. Don’t worry about having a plan -- take the subway away from the Olympic Green, and get off at a random stop. If you don’t like what you see, simply hop back on and go somewhere else -- you’ll also be able to make great pictures on the train.
5. Bring back some goodies -- You can’t return from China without gifts for family and friends, so visit one of the city’s markets to bargain hard for souvenirs. Jade and pearls are very popular, as are calligraphy paintings, chopstick sets, and knock off clothing. Visit the Pearl Marketfor pearls (and sometimes jade) and the Tianya market (literally a few feet away) for everything else. Tianya is also a great place to shoot locals gathered around televisions to watch the Olympics.