Looking out my hotel room window on my first morning in Shanghai, China, I noticed that everyone had umbrellas. I’ve never seen so many umbrellas! Someone told me I should bring one, but of course I thought I could handle rain since I come from a rainy part of the world and I never use an umbrella here.
The difference? It was 35 degrees Celsius AND raining.
Sticky raincoat anyone? I tried keeping it on for awhile before deciding that getting wet was going to be part of the fun.
Everyone was looking at me. I mean, haven’t they seen a soaking wet white woman with a tripod before? Ya, I wasn’t blending in very well.
That’s okay, I’ve suffered a lot worse for the sake of a photograph.
On my first day, my only objective was to go outside, walk around a bit, try to shake off some jet lag, and maybe make a photograph of the skyline.
To make the image above, I used my camera’s automatic panorama feature. This isn’t the carefully calculated panoramas of the past, you just hand hold the camera and sweep it across the scene while it takes a bunch of frames and then stitches them together. I think it does a pretty good job!
The next day it was still raining, so I decided to take a bus tour through the city. Bus tours are a great way to see the sights, get acquainted with the city, and learn some history without getting too worn out. I picked two spots to get off the bus and have a look around.
Yuyuan Tourist Mart
The first stop I made was at Yu Garden. Or at least that was my intention. But I realized afterwards that what I saw was not the garden, but Yuyuan Tourist Mart, a collection of shops. I enjoyed the traditional architecture, but somehow I missed the entrance to the actual garden.
My second stop was in the Jing’an District, where I visited Jing’an Temple, a traditional Chinese buddhist temple that is sandwiched between skyscrapers and shopping centres. It has a bit of a a troubled past. I guess anything that’s been around that long is going to go through some changes.
It was first built in 247 AD, moved from it’s original site, was rebuilt, turned into a plastic factory during the cultural revolution, and then it burned down to rubble in 1972. It was then reconstructed in the 1980s when it became a temple again. This is a very popular place with lots of people coming in to pray (notice the umbrellas).
In the evening, I went over to the other side of the Huangpu River (seen in the first shot), to try some night photography at Shanghai Tower. To get across the river, I took the Bund Tunnel, which is quite the psychedelic experience! After hopping on a rail car, I was bombarded with a pulsing neon light show and apocalyptic sound effects that made me wonder if I was on some kind of colourful trip to hell! It’s only a 5 minute ride to the other side after which I emerged thinking “wtf was that?”
I wasn’t quite expecting what I got, but I was ready for a light show and made some hand-held long exposures on the way.
The Shanghai Tower is a 632-metre, 127 story mega-tall skyscraper (shown on the right in the image below). It is the world’s tallest building (by height to its highest usable floor), has the world’s highest indoor observation deck, and the word’s fastest elevator.
Before going inside, I made some images of the architecture from the perspective at ground level.
What a perfect spot for a night shoot! The elevator was a little freaky, but I was pleasantly surprised that there weren’t too many people on the observation deck. Well, not by Asian standards anyway.
I only arranged a short time in Shanghai to get adjusted to the time change before heading off into the countryside, but I can see that there is a lot here to explore. Next time I’ll remember the umbrella.