On a recent trip to China, I got a chance to pay a visit to the National Stadium-"Bird's Nest", where 2008 Olympic Opening ceremony was held.
It's a cold week day afternoon in the winter, I arrives at the stadium around 5:00pm, the air is hazy and heavy. To my disappointment, all adjacent areas around the Bird's Nest are closed to public due to a Formula-One car racing event at the stadium that evening. Well, I just lost a great amount of point of views to shoot Bird's Nest as planned. Only one venue is open-the promenade in front of the stadium where tourists gather. I have no choice but going there and make the best of the situation.
As I am walking down the promenade, trying to find a good shooting position, the Bird's Nest went alive-the beautiful red and yellow lights lit up the whole stadium. I am filled with joy at the moment! What a roller coast ride-from disappointment to excitement. Usually, Bird's Nest is not fully lit every evening. Thanks to the car racing event, it's fully lit and I am here with my workhorse Canon 5D II, my 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens. Time to shoot.
I make a couple of wide angle shots, as shown above. To me, the images are just plain snaps, weak on energy and expression. What really caught my eyes is the lines, the curves and of course, the colorfulness of the stadium against the deep blue evening sky. Wide angle lens is definitely the wrong tool of choice to express these design elements in the photo, wide angle image includes too many distractions in the foreground like people, fences, trees, etc.
With the pre-visualized image in mind, I switch to 70-200mm lens and walk as close to the stadium as possible(leaning on the fences). At 200mm, I turn my camera and shoot the above images. You can clearly see the colors, curves, lines and textures. No distraction at all. By twisting the camera, I compose the image in which, the lines and curves run diagonally, making the image more dynamic and energetic. As rule of thumb, never forget to shoot both horizontal and vertical. It's a good habit and practice, particularly if you shoot stock images.
Tip: Although most of our images are shot in color these days, it's a good idea to think about the good old black and white from time to time. Especially, when you shoot a lot of night scenes or high contrast images, these are perfect candidates for black and white conversion. An excellent tool that does black and white conversion easily and gracefully, is Silver Efex Pro from Niksoftware, a plug-in for both photoshop and lightroom. The above images are the result of black white conversion using Silver Efex Pro.
Overall, Although I lost chances to shoot from different point of views of the Bird's Nest, I managed to make the best efforts within the limits of the situation, and got some decent images. As photographers, we have to adapt and adjust to whatever the situation are throwing at us, and make the best of it.