Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Taipei National Theater

During our trip to New Mexico, we photographed many adobe colored building against beautiful blue sky.  I have been wondering where can I have such amazing color to photograph again in Taiwan.  On Thursday, December 18, I was on my way to lunch on the bus.  On impulse, I jumped of the bus at the Freedom Square near the Presidential Palace.  It is the location of Chang Kai-Check Memorial.  It was renamed to "Freedom Square" during the last presidential election due to local politics.  I have photographed the location before when I just had the D300 with the 70-300 VR lens.  At that time, the National Theater which is at the same location was under renovation.  Thus I only photographed the Memorial Hall which has glazed blue tile roof.

The National Theater has glazed gold/brown tile roof.  It is the largest structure in the world with this type of the roof.  When Photograph against the winter blue sky of Taipei, I got very similar colorful scene as in new Mexico.  Here are more photographs.

This time I used D700 with the 70-300 VR lens.  The lens was easier to use on the FX format D700 than on the DX format D300.  The field-of-view is much more natural without the 1.5x factor.  I did not have to keep on stepping back.  The lens was good, but I still need to do a lot of distortion adjustment by Capture NX or Photoshop.  Shooting against the blue sky also made the vignette very evident.  They were so strong that could not be corrected easily using Capture NX, the Photoshop corrected it without a hitch.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taipei Zoo

Today is Saturday, December 13th.  Grace was out for her company's clinical PI meeting.  I took my D300 with 70-300 VR lens to Taipei Zoo.  It is not too far away from our condo.  But the metro was out of order.  Though, the connecting bus was free.  I was out to the zoo for photography two times before.  They were with my old D70 and the old 70-300 lens.  That lens was not really a very good lens and without VR.  It was quite difficult to use hand-held.  This time, I just wanted to see how good are the new camera and new lens.  They can be really good.  Click on the photo and you can see the photos in larger size.

I photographed him once before.  The photos were quite sharp already.  He looked even better this time with the bright sunshine and the water in background.

It is amazing how the camera and the lens bring out all the detail of his fur.  I think I also caught a better expression of him this time.

North Shore

It was Saturday, December 6, almost one month after we came back from New Mexico.  I had spent most of my spare time on the computer to develop the images from that trip and had not touch my camera.  I suppose after the intense 5-day photographic session, I was a bit shell-shock and gun-shy about photographing again.  On this Saturday, Grace had an outing with all her lady-friends from the Biolady Club at Danshuei Village.  The village is reachable by metro from Taipei city and is a very active tourist town.  I also bike over there often.  Danshuei river is the major river of Taipei.  The village is where the river flows into Taiwan strait.  Because of its location, it has many historical buildings from the 18th and early 19th century.  I took her to Danshuei by car then continued northward alone the ocean for a little tour of myself.  It was a very scenic drive started from Danshuei and ended at Keelung.  The highway then continues southward alone the northeast shore, where I have photographed several times before.  I took only my D300 and the 105 VR micro lens.

The first place I encountered was this nice litter park by the sea.  It was made of various concrete structures.  Guess what, it is a special park constructed by the county government for wedding photography.  As shown at the LeDeux Street in Taos, New Mexico, the 105 lens was just perfect for the location.  I got many photographs in perfect geometry.

The next place I stopped by was a small harbor called Dragon Hole (龍洞).  It does have a natural stone gate (a big hole) about two-story high over looking the ocean by the harbor.  There was a squid boat in the harbor.  Squid boat differs from the normal fishing boat by the lines of enormous lanterns on the boat.  It uses them to light up the ocean surface at night to attract squid.  Just as at Elizabeth Town at New Mexico, where I took a series of photos of an old truck.  I took a lot of colorful photographs of this old squid boat.

Then I saw this incredible image by the sea.  An ocean-going vessel tied to the beach.  I did not think it was beached by accident, but was tied up for repair.  There were some kind of operation on the beach.  Here are more photos around the area.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Mexico VIII: Photographic Equipment and Post Processing Work Flow

Grace took her new Nikon D90 and the 18-200 VR lens.  Mine was much heavier set up.  I had the Nikon D300 with vertical grip and the 12-24, 16-85 VR and 70-300 VR lenses.  I also had the Nikon 50/1.4, and 105 VR micro lenses with me.  

Contrary to conventional wisdom, we often used the wide angle lens for closer scene.  For the wide open space, actually we used more often the long telephoto lens.  I did not have a chance to really use the micro lens capability in the New Mexico trip.  However, I used the 105 VR micro lens, just for fun, for all the shots at LaDoux street after the morning snow.  The lens was amazing when used to photograph buildings, every line was straight, perfect vertical or horizontal, almost no prospective distortion.

Each one of us had two batteries.  I kept one in the camera and one in the vertical grip.  We brought with us also two 8 GB memory cards each.  Each one of us took over 400 pictures per day.  We rarely used out one fully charged battery each day.  We took all the pictures in RAW.  8 GB memory card can store over 500 loss-less compressed NEF RAW file.  Thus in reality the extra battery and memory card were just for emergency.  

I had a 160 GB storage device that we transfered all the pictures of that day to it every night.  Grace had her portable computer with her and we transfered another backup copy to her computer.  We then erased all the pictures from the memory card and ready for next day.

Shooting NEF and using Capture NX2 allowed us to mend many mistakes that happened during our photographic process, especially for Picture Control.  Photoshop's ARC (Adobe RAW Conversion) does not always convert the in-camera Picture Control reliably.  It takes quite an exercise in Photoshop to reproduce the Picture Control effects.  Thus my work flow is to review the pictures in Nikon ViewNX, open the selected photos in Capture NX2, adjust exposure, picture control etc., save as JPEG then do further adjustment in Photoshop. For people portraits shot in "neutral" of Picture Control, I will then open directly in Photoshop ARC, which gives me better control on skin tone.  Photoshop ARC will not read any adjustment done by Capture NX to the RAW file.

The unselected RAW pictures eventually get deleted.  I keep both adjusted JPEG and its RAW.  Unless the JPEG compression artifact is obvious, I do not save pictures in TIF.  I also do not save Capture NX2 adjustment in RAW file unless necessary, it increases 50% of the file size to 15 MB each.  This way, I keep a middle ground between keeping the pictures either all in RAW or all in JPEG.

New Mexico VII: Ojo Caliente and Round Barn

Ojo Caliente is a hot spring resort, we passed by on Monday, November 10th when we were on our way to Abiquiu.  Much to Grace' dismay, we did not stop for the famous New Mexico hot spring spa, but to photograph a round barn!!!

This is a scene from the Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort taken by Grace.  I often have to straighten Grace' photo in Photoshop and do some prospective adjustments due to her height and the wide angle lens that she used.  However, if I do any of these things to this photo, it will lose its charm and make it to become so ordinary.

The round barn has been totally renovated (unfortunately).  I had a look at it and did not know what to do with this huge brand new structure.  Grace got a reasonably good shot.  

Dave was even better, showed us his picture of the round barn on his computer converted to sepia monochrome, which made the new barn aged 50 years and filled with character.  Here is my attempt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Mexico VI: O'Keeffe Museum, Canyon Drive and Bosque del Apache

Wednesday, November 12th, it was the last day of our New Mexico trip.  We came into Santa Fe last night and stayed at a very nice hotel just by the Santa Fe old Town Center, Inns of the Governors.  In the morning, we visited Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  It had a special exhibition of the photos that contemporary photographers took for her and her life in New Mexico with selected paintings by her.  We then walked alone the Canyon Drive, a street lined with famous art galleries.  Here are some photos of the morning tour.  We then drove back to Albuquerque to send Grace to airport to continue her around the world trip.  The rest of the group then rushed to the famous bird sanctuary Bosque del Apache.

We arrived just about sunset when the birds were coming back from a day of feeding in the surrounding grounds.  There were thousands on the lake and hundreds continuously fly in.

The scenery pushed us to the limit of our skill and photographic equipments.  Here are some more of my photos.

Bosque de Apache not only is a bird sanctuary, it is also teamed with other animals.  Here was a lucky shot of a deer family.

All through the trip, we have been chasing the moon rise, over the adobe church, over Hernandez, etc.  We finally got the perfect moonrise at Bosque del Apache.  

It was matched by an even more amazing sunset New Mexico style.  Here are more photos.

Finally, the dark fall and it was time to go back to Alburquerque, packed the luggage and ready to head home.

New Mexico V: Mountain and desert landscape, mural paintings and Santuario at Chimayo

Today, Tuesday, November 11th, we said farewell to the Adobe Wall Motel, which our group holed up for three days at Taos.

We had breakfast at LeDoux street and took our final photos at Taos' old town plaza.  The sky was again brilliant blue.  We took the High Road (Highway 76) back to Santa Fe.

There are so many artists around Taos (7000?).  We could often see them unleash their talent on mural paintings.  This mural painting of eagle was taken yesterday on the way to Abiquiu.  It was painted between two walls.  I took three pictures and stitched them together in Photoshop.  Today we saw other amazing mural paintings on the wall of the Sugar Nymphs Bistro at Peñasco.  Here are some of the photos.

In the morning, the road we took first lead us through the mountain range.  We could see snow covered mountain top in distance.  We passed by many interesting farming valley and small towns.  

In the afternoon, on the way to Chimayo, we then surrounded by the typical New Mexico desert landscape.  Here are a few more photos.  

Chimayo was settled by Spanish settlers not long after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680-1692.  El Santuario de Chimayó is a church filled with legend.  The location was where a crucifix was found around 1810.  It was brought to St. Cruz three times and mysteriously returned by itself.  The church was built at 1816.  The crucifix is still located in the chapel alter.  However, the real magic power is from the "sacred sand pit".  All kind of diseases have been claimed to be cured by it.  Grace had a shot of Dave lay on ground to take the photo through the doorway, then Ken lay on the ground.  Finally it was me, just follow the masters to get the best shot.  Here are our photos of El Santuario de Chimayó.

New Mexico IV: Snow over Taos and Abiquiu, Home of Georgia O'keeffe

On Monday, November 10th, a light snow covered Taos just before down.  We went out to photograph very early in the morning.  The historic LeDoux street is just by the old town square.  It was established by the frenchman LeDoux many centuries ago, originally as a walled compound, now is lined with art galleries.  We took many pictures, the light snow covered adobe wall and art decor were very photogenic.  

We then drove around on Highway 64 in and around Taos Pubelo to photograph the snow scenery.  There were many farms with horses and cows and with the mountain as backdrop all covered with a layer of white light snow.  They were very beautiful and so different from the scenery of previous days.  Here are a couple of the photos.

After breakfast, we drove toward Abiquiu, home of Georgia O'Keeffe.  On the way we visited an Earthship exhibit.  It is a community of ecological friendly buildings in the middle of the barren desert.  The buildings were half underground, and virtually self-sustainable.  They used solar and wind energy and recycled water from natural vegetation inside the house.  All the houses were built with reclaimed materials.  We than visited the interesting art collection by Ken Nelson at Pink School Gallery.  It was again in the middle of desert.  The collection was so diverse and so colorful.  Here are some photos of them.  

The sky was very different from the previous several days.  It was a stormy sky covered with clouds.  It made the desert landscape very dramatic.  We arrived at Abiquiu, but O"Keeffe's house was closed for the season.  A local, Napoleon Garica gave us a first-hand account of her life at Abiquiu.  The challenge of photographing the Abiquiu pueblo church was how to avoid the modern out buildings and electricity wires, but include the red cliff and mesa in the background.  We then drove around the back road of the town and came across the three crosses, which may gave her the idea for her "Black Cross" painting.  I was the last person to get back into the van, and got the amazing light at far away mesa behind the crosses.  Here are some more photos.

Our final task of the day was to look for the location that Ansel Adams photographed his famous photograph of "Moonrises over Hernandez" at 1941.  Here it is, the church and the grave yard, minus the moon.


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