The Great Wall of Photography

If there’s one person who loves travel as much as me (or more), it’s my cousin Phil. That’s why I was so excited for our whirlwind adventure to China! Our journey was just five days, so I had to pack lightly, but I wish I could have brought my Dad and more camera equipment with me: the photography conditions were tricky! Since he couldn’t be there with me, he processed my photos after, and has joined me in this post with photo hints.  So here it is: Central Florida Photo Ops official furthest-away post ever!

Great Wall - MutianyuMK and Phil on the Great Wall – Mutianyu

First, we visited Shanghai – If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend the Shanghai Museum, and then a meal at the Living Room restaurant on the 87th floor of the Park Hyatt Shanghai. From there, you’ll find sweeping views of the Bund and the Huangpu River, and on a clear day like we were lucky to have, you’ll gain an amazing appreciation for just how large the city is.

My Dad lent me his polarizing filter, but I enjoyed the meal so much I didn’t think to use it on this shot while we were indoors.

Shanghai SkylineView from the 87th: Shanghai

Editor:  A polarizer can be useful to darken skies, reduce the fog / haze in a photo, and eliminate reflections when shooting through glass.  It doesn't always work - success depends on the conditions (amount and direction of the light).  I always try to carry one with me and use it if I remember.   I processed this image through DxO Optics Pro for sharpening / noise reduction.  Then in Lightroom, I adjusted the exposure, and contrast, straitened buildings, and used clarity and dehaze adjustments along the horizon with a radial filter to lessen the haze.  Here is a "before version":

The highlight of Beijing was, of course, the Great Wall of China. There are several places along the wall you can easily visit from Beijing.  We chose Mutianyu for its sweeping views (and it’s reputation of being less crowded than nearby spots). While we had perfect weather in Shanghai, fog almost completely enveloped us at Mutianyu. But every once in a while the fog would shift and we’d get a quick but miraculous glimpse of just how Great the Great Wall is.

Mutianyu is about an hour from Beijing.  I recommend hiring a private driver – we used John Yellowcar – for about $150 USD, we had our own private driver/translator/tour guide for the entire day.  We thought this was a great value for a 10-hour day trip.  While there are restaurants and souvenirs at the wall, bring water/snacks and wear comfortable hiking shoes!  Also remember that haggling with vendors is accepted and expected at the Wall.

Great Wall - MutianyuMisty Mutianyu Watchtower

The fog was too thick for the polarizing lens, so I tried to take as many photos as I could and hoped my Dad could help when I got home! Here are some pointers from him on how he was able to save these photos, and in hindsight, things I could have done differently to make the photos even better.

Great Wall - MutianyuWinding Wall and Watchtowers – Mutianyu

Editor:  MK faced some tough photo conditions.  Fog greatly reduces contrast and the amount of light.  It also diffuses the light so that the polarizing filter won't be much help  (sorry MK!) and the filter itself also reduces the amount of light getting to the sensor by 1 or 2 stops.  About the only thing I could recommend is to be careful with exposure (sometimes fog can cause underexposure). I processed this photo like the previous one.  DxO Optics Pro and Lightroom.  In these conditions, clarity and dehaze adjustments are again very helpful.  I used quite a bit of dehaze in this image.  It's easy to go too far - be careful.  Here's the "before version" of this one:

More photos from my trip (with my Dad’s amazing edits) can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marykate/sets/72157676855966605/

Thanks to our roving correspondent MK for our first ever opposite side of the globe post! And thanks to all for stopping by and reading the blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2016, MK and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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