Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ABC Wednesday: K is for Kids

These are the photos of bronze figures of children that we took during our last Saturday, March 28 trip to Yingge (鶯歌). Yingge is famous for ceramics, but several art galleries exhibited bronze figures by famous local artists. The hallmark for this artist that created the two children in the above photo is the little monk-like boy. Here he is singing and the little girl is listening. The dark figure in the foreground is a bronze figure of a warrior diety.

These three pictures are actually of one single piece of art. Several girls and boys are playing and climbing on a tree.

This little boy is watching from the ground.

We like this little monkey boy particullarly, who makes us think of our son-in-law as a kid in India.

Here is another bronze creation. She makes us think of our granddaughter. We almost bought it.

Well who else, this little boy makes me think of me as a little boy long time ago, the future biologist, sitting by the pool and thinking of how to catch the next frog.

For more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Yingge III: The Restaurant 富貴陶圓

This restaurant is the more elagent one on the Old Street.  We almost always eat here when we come the Yingge Old Street.  No, she was not made of ceramics.  She is a bronze figure.  

The establishment has a gallery and a restaurant.  It exhibits many fine ceramic and bronze pieces.

The food is so so, but the place is a good location to relax.  The D40 with the new 35mm 1.8 lens is increditable lightweight and capable.  It took on the low light condition in the restaurant without any difficulty.

Yingge II: The Old Street

This is the street sign that marked The Ceramics Old Street.  The industry has not always been so glorious with our imagination of individual workshops of artisans.  It has been the manufacturing center for bath tub, toilet, etc. and it is still very active.

The is actually a bench made of ceramics.  It has a beige and indigo color.  The texture seen on the pattern was rain water and the reflection of light.  

A beautiful lotus lamp on top of a ceramic pot,  the store placed it at the storefront to attract tourists like us.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Yingge I: Gouldian Finch (胡錦鳥,七色鳥)

We were visiting Yingge (鶯歌) on Saturday, March 28.  It is a village not far from Taipei.  I used to ride my bicycle alone the river to reach it in about 2 hours.  It is the center for ceramics in Taiwan.  It has the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum and a beautiful old street with many shops selling items ranging from common souveniors to collectables.  At the first shop we stopped by, I went in to buy a replacemant for the cover of a ceramic pot, which was broken back home.  We only had our Nikon D40 and the new Nikon 35mm G 1.8 lens, which I got on Friday, probably the first one became available in Taiwan.  Grace saw this lovely bird in a cage at the shop and started photographing.  The owner was kind enough to open the cage to let her to have a clear shot.

The bird is a Gouldian Finch, Erythrura gouldiae.  Named by the famous British ornithological Jhon Gould in 1844 after his wife Elizabeth.  Jhon Gould has been most famous for his painting of birds which was produced into colorful prints in the 19th century.  These prints has been highly sought after by the collectors.  We saw several of his prints in the antique shops in London many years ago, and have two 19th century copies of the original given to us as a gift by one of the store owner.

For more Camera Critters visit the Camera Critters Blog.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hong Kong Flower Show IV: Orchid

Taiwan is probably one of the largest orchid production countries in the world.  The science of growing orchids is so advanced now that most orchids are propagated by cloning in a Petri dish in a nice clean laboratory.  We just have two flower shows in Taiwan concentrated around orchids.  One is the major trade show for the orchid merchants and the other is Taipei flower show, which acted as a prelude for the 2009 World Flower Show in Taipei.  We did not get the chance to go to either of them.  Instead, Grace visited the Hong Kong Flower Show last weekend and she took these photos of Orchids.  It rained the day before, so you can still see raindrops on the flowers which made them appear clean and fresh!

To see more flowers from around here visit Today's Flowers.

Hong Kong Flower Show III: Hollyhocks

I (Grace) took this picture in the flower show.  We used to grow it in our own garden but we rarely see it in Taiwan.  The texture of the leaves and flowers looked unreal.

Hong Kong Flower Show II: Vegetable Stand

I (Grace) saw this unusual vegetable stand in the middle of the flower show.  The organizer specially arranged the stand to make it look like an old farm house.  The color and the mood was just perfect and I took the picture.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hong Kong Flower Show I: Tulip

Last weekend, Grace accompanied her father back to Honk Kong and stayed over for the weekend.  She was just in time for the Hong Kong Flower Show, which was held in the Victoria Park.

I am showcasing here two photos of tulip that she took during the visit to the flower show.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Skywatch Friday #37: Mountain Cabbage Field

PinTai is small mountain top half way up the central mountain range of Taiwan. We can reach it by driving along Langyang River from the Northeast coast of Taiwan. The wet air from Pacific ocean on the east moves up the mountain and creates a wet and cold climate in the region. The sky and air are almost always misty. It is a perfect condition to grow cabbages. They taste sweeter and juicier than those grown on the lower ground.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ABC Wednesday: J is for Japanese White-eye (綠繡眼)

I was so encourged by my success of photographing birds on the cotton tree on Thursday, that I went on Saturday, March 21 by myself to Taipei Botanical Garden to try my luck again.  There were quite a few bird photographers with tripods and huge telephoto lenses around.  I had my 70-300 VR lens and had the advantage of being very mobile.  I saw this little yellow bird came to a nearby bush to feed.  

I was able to get several quick shots.  I found out later that it is a common bird called Japanese White-eye, Zosterops japonicus, it can be found in southern Japan, Taiwan and many parts of China.  It is a good "J" for me.

See more ABC Wednesday entries here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Today's Flowers #32: Cotton Tree

Cotton Tree (木棉), Bombax Ceiba is a big tree about three stories high and they are planted frequently around the sidwalk in Taiwan.  It is a deciduous tree, the flowers, each the size of a man's fist,  come out in early Spring before the new foliage.  It is not possible to phgotograph the flowers from the ground, they are too high-up.  The metro line that I takes regularly is above ground and the station is about two-story high.  It gives me a perfect plateform to shot the flowers.  This was what I did last Thursday, March 19.

The interesting thing was there were birds came in to eat whatever inside of the flower.  Thus I also got the chance to photograph the birds.  This is a Lighted-vented Bulbul(白頭翁) also known as Chinese Bulble, Pycnonotus sinensis.

Go to Today's Flowers to see more flowers from around the world.

Close-up of a Fly

Grace was away to Hong Kong.  I was alone photographing at Taipei botanical garden on Saturday, March 21.  After walking around for an hour, I was sitting at a garden bench for a rest and noticed this fly.  I took this close-up photo sitting comfortably on the bench with my 105 VR micro lens.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Skywatch Friday 6: Sky over Taiwan's Northeast Seashore

Northeast Coast National Scenic Area is a rugged coastline around the northeast cornor of Taiwan facing Pacific ocean.  It can be reached easily from Taipei through several newly constructed highways within 45 minutes.  It is dotted with small fishing villages and has beautiful scenery of moutain and ocean.

For more sky around the world, check out SkyWatch Friday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ABC Wednesday: I is for Dutch East India Company

Fort Provintia at 15th century

Dutch East India Company ruled Taiwan from 1624 to 1662 for 38 years.  Their main base was at southern Taiwan, where we call Tainan (台南) today.  Last Saturday, we and Grace' father, who was visiting us from Hong Kong, took the high-speed train to Tainan and Kaoshiung for a one-day excursion. The points of interest in Tainan are the two remaining structures left by the Dutch, Fort Provintia (赤崁樓) and Castle Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城). 

After an unsuccessful attack of Portuguese at Macao in 1622, the Dutch fleet diverted to Pescadores (澎湖), a group of islands between Taiwan and China. After defeated by the Chinese navy, they were instructed to set up their trading post in Taiwan, which at the time Chinese goverment did not consider it as Chinese territory. They built Forte Provintia and Castle Zeelandia and did in-depth survey of Taiwan and brought in Chinese immigrants to cultivate the land.

Koxinga accepting Dutch surrender at Fort Provintia

China was in turmoil at the time. The Ming dynasty was quickly replaced by the Qing dynasty. The Ming loyalist Koxinga (國姓爺), retreating from Chinese mainland attacked the Dutch settlers with 1000 ships. The Dutch surrendered on February 1, 1662.

Remnants of Castle Zeelandia

There are not many stuctures built by the Dutch still remaining today except some brick walls. The major influence by the Dutch to Taiwan was actually the starting of Chinese immgration to the island. In another words, it started the process of building Taiwan as we know today. There are many legends left from that period of time. Our taxi driver insisted that there is still a hidden underground tunnel connecting Fort Provintia to Castle Zeelandia that was built by the Dutch. And, my father-in-law said when he visited the area 60 years ago, he saw people with red hair and blue eyes, who had Dutch ancestery. Well, the only Dutch we saw this time were a couple of Dutch tourists.

See more entries of ABC Wednesday here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Today's Flowers #31: Flowers of The Dome of Light

Grace' father and we took the bullet train headed south from Taipei to visit Tainan and Kaoshiung this Saturday, March 14, 2009.  One of the major attraction in Kaoshiung was to visit and photograph "The Dome of Light" at the main station of Kaoshiung Rapid Transit.  

This is the second such structure created by Italian Maestro Narcissus Quagliata.  The first one was finished in 2000 for Vatican.   "The Dome of Light" of Kaoshiung Rapid Transit, which finished in 2008, is 660 square meter in size and was assembled using 4500 pieces of window glass.

It was certainly impressive when viewed in person under the dome.  Here we show some of the details of the window glass with flower images.

See more entries of Today's Flower here

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Skywatch Friday 5: Sky over Yangmingshan

Yangmingshan is a mountain range separating Taipei from the ocean to the west.  As the wet air from the ocean moves up the moutain, we can often see dramatic cloud formation over the hill.

See more entries of Skywatch Friday here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ABC Wednesday: H is for Honor Guard

These are honor guards at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the founding father of modern China, in Taipei. It was completed in 1972. I remember taking Grace to this location for photography, she as model, just after we were married. It must be in 1974. We have not been back, even after we came back to live in Taipei, till recently. Our friend asked us to check out a restaurant call "Do It True" that serves Northern Chinese food in the vicinity of the Memorial. At the same time we found a "Cafe de Paris" near by. We have been back to have breakfast or afternoon tea in the cafe and started to revisit the Memorial.

Grace' niece from LA and my father-in-law, who now lives in Hong Kong came to visit us last week. Last Sunday, it was the International Women's Day. Grace has a whole day activity, thus I took the relatives to have a whirlwind tour around Taipei and end up to have lunch at "Do It True". This restaurant has been serving authentic Northern Chinese food for over half century. Even the elder President Bush paid a special visit to the restaurant during his visit to Taipei. Before meal, we had a walk around the Memorial Hall. Grace' father, who is 87 years old, knew the way well and took us staight to see the guard change inside the Hall, where I took the photo.

See more entries of ABC Wednesday here.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Today's Flowers #30: Rose

Today is Sunday, March 8, the Women's Day in Taiwan.  I (Grace) went to the CKS Residence with many women working in the biotech field.  Chiang-Kai Shek was our President who led many Chinese fled to Taiwan during 1949 when the communists took over mainland China.  His official residence has been open to the public several years ago.  His wife particularly loved roses, so they have a well-maintained rose garden.  Here is a dainty rose with rain drops from this morning.

See more enties of Today's Flowers here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

SkyWatch Friday 4: Desert Sky of New Mexico

It was fourth day of our photo tour in New Mexico last November.  The previous three days, the sky was brilliant blue.  We almost came to believe that was how the sky always looks like in New Mexico.  We had a light snow in the morning of the fourth day.  Then the sky showed us this amazing clouds formation.  This picture was taken when we were on our way from Taos to Abiquiu, home of Georgia O'Keeffe.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Exposure Blending II

The picture that I will post for this week's SkyWatch Friday used the Exposure Blending technique.  I have described this technique previously here.  Now I describe a slightly modified version using Photoshop CS3.  
1.  I normally take three bracketed shots when the sky is bright.  The normal sequence for my Nikon camera is +1, 0, -1.  Sometimes when the contrast is really to high, then a sequence of +2, +1, 0, -1, -2 will be used.  I usually find +1 give me already enough detail for the foreground to work with and -1 already does not over expose the sky.
2.  Copy the -1 image onto the +1 image in the Photoshop CS3 by "dragging".  Thus, the lighter image is in the background and the darker -1 image is at layer 1.
3.  Select both layers then go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers.  Check the alignment by change the opacity of the layer 1.  This step in CS3 is the most important invention that make the Exposure Blending easy.
4.  Crop the image (both layers together) to the desired size.  If you do not, the following "masking" step may not align properly.
5.  Creat a "mask" for the Layer 1 (the darker image).
6.  Click on Layer 1 image to select it then go to Select>All, which select the entire image, then, copy.
7.  In Mac, hold down the option key then click on the mask of Layer 1.  Paste the Layer 1 image on to the mask.  Now I have an B/W image on the mask.  If I want I can check the image now and it should be already not too bad.  In the previous version, I will apply an Gaussian Blur onto the B/W image of the mask and that is.
8.  In the newer version, to the B/W image of the mask, I bring out Image>Adjustment>Curves.  I select the white eyedrop and click it on the darkest part of the sky.  It now will change all the sky to almost all white.  I can use the brush tool to paint out any left over black patch.  Then I select the black eyedrop and click it on the brightest part of the foreground.  It now will change all the foreground to almost all black.  Again, I can use the brush too to paint out any left over white patch.
9.  Return to view the image, it should be perfect.  I can add a little bit of Gaussian Blur to the "mask" of Layer 1 to soften the transition from sky to foreground, otherwise flatten the layers and that is done.

The "Auto-Align Layers" function allow the perfect alignment of the two original images and I do not have to count on Gaussian Blur to hide the imperfection.  The whole process only take a few minutes.  Following is another example.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sansia XII: Details of Wood Carving of Zushih Temple

This is the last post for the Sansia series.  Zushih Temple is most famous for its fine wood carving. 

At the second floor, we got a closer look at the carving on the roof top of the first floor.

Here is an official-looking diety looking out.

A dragon that supports the ceiling.

A gold-leafed general on horse leading his solider to fight the evil.

Sansia XI: Roof Decoration of Zushih Temple

The second floor of the temple allows us a closer look at the tiled-rooftop decoration.  They are made of ceramics.

The intricated gold leafed wood carving on top of stone carved pillar.

Detail of the carving.

Sansia X: Decorations in Zushih Temple

The ceiling inside is all hand-carved and covered with gold.

A colorful lantern decoration on a table.

A huge drum.

Sansia IX: Dragon and Lion in Zushih Temple

The is a wall carving showing two dragons playing with a pearl.

This is a dragon carved as decoration for an incense burning pot.

Stone carving of a lion.  
Notice the lion in Chinese mythology is very different from the Aferican lion.  It looks more like a pekingese.

Wood carving of two lions.


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