Banqiao & Xinpu
This guide is a little different in comparison to my previous posts so far. In this one I want to focus more on the challenge of photographing your local area. More often than not, there are great pictures and compositions just sitting right on our doorstep that we miss. The trap I find myself falling into sometimes, as do most people, is that you assume that to get good pictures you need to go off and adventure in all these isolated striking landscapes. In fact with a little imagination, I've found some of my nicest street photography pictures have come from shooting in my immediate area, or even shooting from the roof of my building!
For this guide in particular I am going to run through some of my favourite spots to photograph in Banqiao. The advice here can be applied to wherever you happen to live though! The trick is to think outside the box and experiment a little.
The centre of Banqiao and the surrounding area has plenty of traffic, so one of my first thoughts was to try my hand at long exposure pictures. There are numerous busy junctions in the Banqiao area that can yield some nice results. The roof of my apartment building provided a good vantage point on the traffic below. Lucky for me there are some strong leading lines that frame the shot quite nicely. With the construction of the new MRT line right on the main road, I felt it provided a nice anchor for the photo!
All of these above featured pictures were taken from the roof of my building, I tried to pick out the different angles and unique compositions with the zoom and prime lens at my disposal.
These other two pictures happened to be shot from my window and the junction 2 mins walk away from my home. With the amount of traffic and scooters that pass through this location I knew I would get some decent light trials. I got lucky in the last shot, as the scooters and bus lines created some unique shapes. At a large junction like this, it can be a bit hit or miss but the best way to see is shoot and see what you get!
I was pretty happy with the results nonetheless. Moving on from the area right outside my home, I walked towards Banqiao to see if there were any nice junctions and traffic lines that stood out somewhat. In the end I settled on the T junction at the top corner of the park right outside the main train station in Banqiao. I set up my tripod on a bench fairly close to the traffic lane and tried to mix various different neon lights and store fronts together. Shooting at night is always a nice challenge and change of pace to the golden hour style of photography. I've found it forced me to think and frame my shots a little differently, compared to if I'm working with natural light.
Another great location I found was the bus terminal and junction next to it. Again both provided nice leading lines through the picture. I was happy with the somewhat abstract nature of the pictures. There was another junction under construction close of one of the entrances which again provided a nice framing for the light trails. I found that getting as close (as safely permitting) gave the pictures a nice vibrant / dramatic look to them.
A short bike ride from Xinpu is the riverside park. This is one of those locations I stumbled upon while going for a bit of a wander one afternoon. I was looking for some nice sunset pictures and managed to find my way to the riverside track. Even though it's so close to the built up centre of Banqiao here, you would never know it from the pictures! It proved to be a nice surprise indeed. It is also a great spot if you want to take some candid people pictures, as you have a big mix of people out enjoying the green space on a sunny evening.
Another nice location for long exposure shots is the bridge between the Eslite mall and the bus station. The skywalk has a nice vantage point of the road sweeping towards Fuzhong. While is was a little tricky to keep the camera steady in the strong wind there I was happy with the results of the dual traffic lanes, I felt they created a nice colour contrast.
The next location in Banqiao worth photographing is Mega City Mall. The 9th floor features a large glass walled mezzanine that is lit up on a clear sunny day around 5 or 6pm. It faces the setting sun just right, meaning you are able to catch the dying light in a unique way. There are also several nice little cafes to sit and grab a coffee to enjoy the sunset! A win win situation in my mind! Using the architecture around the area where you live is always a good way to snap some nice street pictures. The little details and sights we see everyday are the ones we tend to ignore as photographers, so with that in mind I say go explore! You never know what hidden gems you might fine right on your very own doorstep.
One aspect Banqiao is famous for is the Christmas light show. Every year from around November until February all of the parks surrounding Banqiao city hall are lit up with a huge amount of fairy lights, fairground rides, pop up markets and festive attractions. It draws big crowds to Banqiao every weekend. People from all over Taipei come to enjoy the lights here. As a photographer it provides a nice chance to experiment with soft focus shots and using all types of man made light.
One technique I like was to first pick out a mix of various coloured lights. Then instead of getting them pin sharp, I purposely took the photo out of focus as to create a bulb effect. The results look abstract but pleasing to the eye I feel. It's just an example of how trying a different technique or deviating from our bread and butter pictures is a good exercise!
One challenge I know I'll try this year is to use these neon type lights to try and shoot more portrait shots. It's an area I'm not as familar with, so experimenting with the different styles of light is a good chance to learn new techniques.
The small artificial stream and small pond in the park next the bus station are another a great location for shooting light reflections in the water. There are some interesting opportunities to shoot some creative pictures here. I found some success taking pictures of the reflections in the water, then flipping them vertically to create my own unique take on the light.
The mix of all types of colours was challenging to deal with at times, and battling the crowds at peak times can prove tricky but not impossible! The architecture around city hall is a unique blend of traditional and modern, you'll often see dance groups practicing routines, guitar clubs and all sorts of people coming to enjoy the sights and sounds at Christmas.
To conclude this guide, the best advice I can give is to simply explore your immediate area and see what you can find. You might find yourself surprised with the results you come back with. As for me, Banqiao has been a great place to practice my urban shooting skills. It is a good challenge as I spend the majority of my time photographing mountains and isolated mountains! I really enjoy the chance to try something different though. I think as a photographer it's important to push yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes. It's the best way to grow and learn new skills!
I hope this has been an interesting read for those who made it this far. Let me know if you have any favourite urban shooting locations or any techniques you use!
Until next time!
Sy Edbrooke ^^