Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 42: Sea of Two Color (Yin-Yang Sea)

We also have a gold mine in Taiwan.  It was in production till not too long ago.  At early 20th century, there was almost a gold rush.  The location is at the northeast corner of Taiwan.  The river that goes through the gold mine still carries a lot of minerals such as copper and iron.  When they mixed with the sea water, it forms a brown color layer about 3 meter thick that stays afloat near the river outlet.  

As you can see in the photo, the sea closer to the shore has a brown color as compares to the sea further away.  The sky was almost as blue as the ocean.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ABC Wednesday: O is for an Overcast Day

This past weekend, Taipei was again overcast.  For two days, the sky was totally gray.  These were no ordinary overcast days.  A weather front brought the sand storm from Mongolian highland of Nothern China to Taiwan within two days.  There were not enough time for the rain to clean the air.  The particles in the air were three times from previous highest record.
What to do on an overcast day, go take some photos of mountain stream.  The dark sky allowed me to use slower shutter speed to record the waves.  Both photos were taken using shutter speed at 2.5 seconds.  I have to use mirror up function of the camera with a remote cord and tripod to keep the picture sharp.  If you are someone like me of a certain age, carry certain amount of weight, use a telephoto lens and stay on the dry pavement.  This river has taken many lives.

For more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today's Flowers #37: Costal Coral Tree (火炬刺桐), Erythrina caffra

I photographed this interesting specimen almost a month ago on my way to a mountain hot spring resort near Taipei.  I had no idea what was it, until I saw the same tree in the Taipei Botanical Garden recently.

Costal Coral Tree apparently as you can see is a deciduous tree and flowers in the late winter to early spring.  The red color flowers on top of the up-right tree branch with no leaves make  a very spectacular showing.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Camera-Critters #55: Common Myna (家八哥), Acridotheres tristis

I cannot understand why Myna has been a very familiar bird name in my childhood memory.  I chased this bird with my D300 and the 80-400 lens the last time when I was in the park.  He was picking worms from the grass.  I had no idea at the time what did Myna look like and what was this bird.  Yesterday when I went to the park, he was high up on the tree top.  The weather was very nice and I was able to get very clean shots, off-hand using the D700 and the 80-400 lens, a great combination in term of weight and balance.  The D700, especially for the feather, gives much cleaner image than D300.  The ISO for these photos was set at 800.  You can click on the photo to enlarge for a better view.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 41: Taipei Story House

Finally, the blue sky appears over Taipei today.  I went out to take a picture of it using the Taipei Story House as foreground.  The house was built between 1913-1914 by a rich merchent of Taipei to entertain fellow merchants, foreign dignitaries and Japanese officials.  This type of European architecture was very rare in Taiwan at that time.  It is now used for various art exhibitions by the Taipei goverment.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

ABC Wednesday: N is for a Nice Day

Last Sunday, Grace left for an oversea trip for two weeks.  Before she left, on Saturday, we decided to go to a nice restaurant called 掌上明珠 (A Shinning Pearl in the Palm, usually refers to the favorite daughter) for lunch at Yilan, east of Taipei by the coast.  We arrived at the restaurant a bit early.  It sits in the middle of a rice field.  There were hundreds of small butterflies flying around in the field.

The owner has many very colorful Japanese chickens in its garden.  Grace took a picture of this cock in action.

The restaurant has a very interesting decoration, a blend of local Taiwanese and traditional Chinese.

Here is the menu, it was a nine-course meal.  You may count it to 11.  The other two were red wine and a light vingar.  Cost 50 US$ per person, expansive for Taiwan.

I mentioned to Grace that we can use a "Nice Day" for the ABC Wednesday of this week.  She started to take pictures for ever course.  I was afraid to be kicked out from the restaurant.  Here was a plate of grilled local fish.  On the side was the rice cresp still on its stem.

Here was the desert.  The plum was almost fresh just lightly marinated.  The pumpkin and Chinese Yam was cooked in a sweat rice water.

The meal was accompanied by a nice pot of hot tea.

After the meal, we went to a coffee factory store near by.  Mr. Brown coffee is famous in Chinese community worldwide.  The canned sweatened latte, can be found in almost every Chinese supermarket.

Another business of Mr. Brown is orchid.  It is a big export business and his store is decorated with all kinds of orchids.

By late afternoon, we saw several egrets in the rice field.  The little egret is a local bird.  The great egret will soon fly back to the north.

Well, overall, it was a very Nice Day.  For more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today's Flowers #36: Tung Blossom, Vernicia fordii (油桐花)

"Snowing in May", it is the Tung Blossom season again.  Tung tree is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 20 m tall.  The seed was used to produce tung oil, which can be used in paint and varnish.  It is the best wood finishing oil.  In Taiwan, it is mostly grown in the wild.  

In May, the tree is covered with white flowers.  When the wind blows, they fall like snow.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camera-Critters #54: Black Bulbul (紅嘴黑鵯), Hypsipetes madagascariensis

Where is my meal?

Ah!  This tastes good.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 40: Yeliou (野柳)

Yeliou is a small peninsula of rock formation at the northern tip of Taiwan.  Many million years ago, it was under the ocean.  The rock was eroded by both sea and wind, and formed many interesting shapes.  It is a famous tourist destination.

We have not been back to this spot for almost 40 years.  Last Saturday, the weather suddently cleared up and we saw the blue sky that we have not seen for a some time.  We drove around the northern seashore of Taiwan and stopped by Yeliou for a visit. 

The direct travel from China to Taiwan has been made easy during the last several months.  The place was packed with tourists from China.  However, the scenery was still the same and very dramatic.  Although the weather was good when we were photographing, we could see at distance a storm was coming.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ABC Wednesday: M is for Macau

We were at The Venetian Casino & Resort, Macau last weekend for a very short stay.  The place is surreal.  It is a city by itself and we never even step outside of its compound.  It has three main portions, the hotel, the casino and the shopping mall.  It was opened three years ago in a big fanfare.  The business has not been too good recently.  Officially, the casinos blame on the global economic down turn.  The real reason is that Chinese goverment although still allows group visits from China to Macau, it stops individual Chinese visiting Macau, due to too much gambling and money laundering.

Chinese is famous for addiction to gambling, it is said that it is in our gene.  Maybe that is why in the grand casino hall, hardly anyone is on the slot machine.  The gamblers, mostly Chinese all sit around the tables for card, dice and roulette.   The slot machines are just too small and not exciting enough!!??

The other part is the shopping mall.  It is built aroung a Venetian canal.  All the luxury brands are represented.

The ambiance is fanastic, the temperature is always perfect, the sky is always blue and there is only daytime 24 hours.  We did neither gambling nor shopping.  However, we did watch the Cirque du Soleil, ZAIA, which was very good, the third we have seen.

I hope behind the mask of reality, the casino is as innocent and as pretty as this young girl.

For more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today's Flowers #35: Wild Iris, Dietes grandiflora (烏葉鳶尾)

Wild Iris, Dietes grandiflora

Dietes differs from iris in having flowers with six free tepals that are not joined into a tube at their bases.


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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Camera-Critters #53: Chimpanzee

You know what I think that he is thinking?  Where is my meat?

In the wild, the chimpanzees are not as benign as they seems. They hunt monkey for meat and the meat is considered as a delicacy for them. A male shares meat with other male in order to build male-to-male bond. He also shares meat with female chimpanzees in exchange for sex. He may even make long-term investment on sexually non-receptive females. The strategy works very well, the sharing chimpanzees get twice as many sex as the stingy non-sharing chimpanzees.

The three-year study on this topic was carried out by German scientists at Côte d'Ivoire and published in PLoS ONE  this week.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 39: The Venetian

The weather has not been good in Taiwan for the past several weeks.  It was not bad, but just we have hardly seen any blue sky.  Imaging how could anything be more romantic to be in a gondola on the water of a Venetian canal with the gondolier singing an Italian love song and all happened under the perfect northern Italian blue sky in early Spring?  Sorry, this was in the Venetian Casino and Resort, Macau, which we visited last weekend.  Everything is artificial, including the sky.  The temperature was perfect though, controlled by air conditioning.

To see more real sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ABC Wednesday: L is for Hitting The Little Man (打小人)

Do you feel unlucky lately???

Well, this is kind of Hong Kong version of voodoo.  It can be done year round, but most often it happens between March 5-7 each year.  On the Chinese calander, it is the day that first thunder in Spring wakes up all the being asleep during the winter.  

The ceremony is performed by woman prists. A person writes down the information of the people whom he dislikes on a paper human figure, The Little Man.  The woman then perform the curse by hitting The Little Man with various subjects, most often with a slipper.  

I saw it once in Hong Kong and Grace saw it again during her trip to Hong Kong last March, when she took the photo.  It is usually performed in a dark place not seeing the sun such as under a bridge.  Believe me, it is not a rare event.  The place is usually packed with people and with many women performing the ceremony.  

If you feel unlucky in March, may be someone is ..........

For more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Today's Flowers #34: Alpinia shimadai Hayata (島田氏月桃)

I suppose, Alpinia shimdadai Hayata, is a special plant of Taiwan.  It was named by Yaichi Shimada (1884-1971).  It is in the Family of ginger (Zingiberaceae) and actually quite wide spread in the mountain and conutryside of Taiwan.  Grace took the photo in Taipei Botanical Garden on Saturday, April 4.  

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

Camera-Critters #52: Brown Shrike (紅尾伯勞)

Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus, is a migratory bird about 18 cm in size.  It migrates from Northern Asia toward south at the end of summer and early fall.  By the end of October, most of them that arrive at Taiwan move further south.  Some will stay and winter here.  Those that stayed will start to migrate back to the North in April or May.  I photographed this little thing yesterday, April 3 at Taan Park in Taipei.

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