Thursday, May 28, 2009

Camera-Critters #60: Sandhill Cranes of Bosque del Apache

What else to do at Bosque del Apache, photographing the Sandhill Cranes!  I got this picture during the last day of our trip to New Mexico last October.  They went out during the day to the surrounding area to feed than came back en masse during the sunset, very impressive to watch.

Here is a close-up of these amazing birds.

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Skywatch Friday No. 46: Moon Rise over Bosque del Apache

We have been chasing the moon throughout our trip to New Mexico last October.  I finally got this perfect moon shot the last day of the trip at Bosque del Apache National wildlife Refuge.

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ABC Wednesday: S is for Sunset over Bosque del Apache

Both Grace and I are traveling to the US this week, thus we post a picture taken during our trip to New Mexico last October.  This photograph was taken during the last day of our trip.  Grace actually already left in the afternoon.  I and the rest of the group of photographers went to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to photograph birds.  We stay till the sunset.  The color of this sunset let us really appreciate the richness of the color of the scenery of New Mexico and the color that we saw in many paintings of various galleries that we visited at Taos and Santa Fe. 

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today's Flowers #41: Plumeria (雞蛋花)

I want to photograph the plumeria after the rain.  I got the chance on Thursday afternoon when Taipei was drenched in a thunder shower.  Plumeria is a plant of the New world, not native to Taiwan.  It was named after the 17th century French botanist Charles Plumier.

The common name for Plumeria is Frangipani, named after the Italian marquess, who invented the plumeria-scented perfume.  Frangipani is certainly much more romantic than its Chinese name, the direct translation of it is "Chicken Egg Flower".

We have both the yellow and red/pink varieties in our condo's garden.

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Camera-Critters #59: Black-crowned Night Heron (夜鷺), Nycticorax nycticorax

We visited Danhsui village two weeks ago.  Danhsui river is the major river of Taipei.  It flows into Taiwan strait at Danhsui village, west of Taipei.  It is approachable by Taipei metro and is a major weekend attraction for people in Taipei.  We can take a ferry to the opposite side, the left bank of Danhsui river, which is famous for coffee, fried donughts, local seafoods and bicycle trails.  Danhsui village has an old street selling all kinds of delicacies and a pedestrian walk along the river bank and harbor.

We saw the two herons landed on the local fishing boats.  They were very calm and easy to photograph.  Their attention was not on us, who they did not really care.  They were watching for the fishes in the water.  Notice the different dolor of the feet of these two herons.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 45: A Stormy Afternoon

Today is a typical summer day in Taipei.  It was very humid and hot in the morning and by the lunch time we could see a gathering storm coming.  Some loud thunders and shower ensued.  Some parts of Taipei actually had hail.  During a short break of the storm, I went out to the garden to photograph some plumeria flowers after the rain.  I saw the apartment building on the opposite hill under the sun from a small break of the cloud.  The air was very clean due to the rain.  I thought it looks great against the stormy sky.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

ABC Wednesday: R is for Rice Paper Plant (通草), Tetrapanax papyriferus

This is the Rice Paper Plant we saw in the same forest of La-La Mountain where there are many huge ancient trees.  Do you know that Chinese rice paper is not made from rice, rather from the pith of this plant?  We remember that we used to use brushes to write Chinese characters on very thin rice paper.  

We were attracted by the gigantic leaves which look like leaves from the papaya plant.  The leaf can be several feet wide, with the sunlight shone through it, it was quite a sight!

This is the young shoot of this plant about to open.  The interesting thing about this plant is, before the invention of styrofoam, we used the dried pith of this plant to make models in the kindergarden and primary school.  They were often dyed into different colors.

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Today's Flowers #40: Wild Flower in the Giant Tree Forest

This is the giant tree, Chamaecyparis formosensis,  that we mentioned in our last blog.  We visited this giant tree forest at La-La Mountain yesterday.  Most giant trees are between 1,000 to 3,000 years old.  This one is more than 1,000 years old, a teenager really.

Like old people, these old trees often all wrinkled up.  This tree actually fell down many years ago, however new branches have grown out from the remaining trunk.  Life is amazing!

I know that we did not actually show any flower, so here is one we saw in the forest.  We are not sure what it is but it looks like lacecap hydrangea in the US.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Camera-Critters #58: White-tailed Robin (白尾鴝), Myiomela leucura

We were out for a trip to a mountain forest called La-La Mountain.  We go to this area almost every year, mainly for the famous peaches that are grown in the farms high up on the mountain. The peach season usually starts from the 1st of June till mid-July.  But we will be away during that period of time this year thus we decided to visit this region today.  It is almost at the mid-point of Northern Cross-Island Highway, about 1500 meters in elevation.  Other than the famous peaches grown in the region, another major attraction is the giant Chamaecyparis formosensis sub-tropical forest.  It consists of over 20 of these trees between 1000 to 3000 years old.  They are a species almost extinct due to logging in the 19th and early 20th century. Although the outside temperature was 32 degree C, it was quite pleasant to walk in the forest with sounds from various birds in our ears.  Even we could hear them we were not be able to see them.  Then this little thing jump into view right in front of us.  Neither of us were really ready to photograph it but we tried out best.

It is a relatively rare bird distributed at the mountainous region of Indochina and Taiwan.  This one is a male of a special Taiwan variety.  It is identified by the crystal blue color of its upper body and white feathers in its black tail.  We are happy that we actually got these two not-too-bad pictures.  In case you are wondering, the peaches are very very delicious this year.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 44: Aodi (澳底)

I was driving on the highway along the northern coast of Taiwan two weeks ago by myself. Grace was away for her two-week trip around the world.  I noticed a newly constructed bike path/walkway along the rugged seashore.  At the northern end of the path is a small fishing village, Aodi (澳底), with a very nice crescent shaped sandy beach and restaurants.  From the village the path continues further north alone a coastal road.  The southern end connects to another bike/foot path along the coast.  I have been quite familiar with this area and was very happy that the path has been constructed along the cliff to make the bike path/walkway complete.
People dive and fish off this coast, but it could be very dangerous.  When the tide comes in, if these fishermen do not move fast enough, they will be lost in the sea.  They also have to watch out for the sudden big waves, which are also famous for the region.  Maybe that was the reason they hide behind the rock.

I was quite fully equipped as far as photographic equipment concern that day.  I had with me both the 12-24 wide zone on my D300 and 80-400 telephoto lenses on the D700.  When I saw this Black Kite, Milvus migrans flying high above, I tried to get a photo of it.  The picture came out better for the sky.

It circled high above then dived down suddenly into the ocean to catch a fish.  Here it came out behind the cliff.  

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ABC Wednesday: Q is for a Quick Tour Around the World

Three weeks ago, I (Grace) went away for a business trip that took me around the world in two weeks visiting six cities.  I first arrived at Hong Kong airport for transit.  After an overnight stay at the airport hotel, I flied to Frankfurt to see our contractor.  I then arrived at Heathrow airport in London to have the company's scientific advisory board meeting.  When my colleagues were at Windsor Castle sight-seeing, I flied to Washington, DC to have a weekend with my daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law.  After the weekend, I had a conference in Boston then visited our partner at San Francisco before flying back to Taipei.

I had with me the Nikon D90 with the new 35mm 1.8 lens.  Here is a Quick Photo Tour of my trip.  The first picture is Hong Kong airport, an airplane, a fitting start of my trip.

A scene from my hotel room at Hong Kong airport.  Not the usual scene that one would associate with Hong Kong.  The new airport is very far away from the city and sits on its own island.

A view from the hotel lobby.  A sign showed "No Stopping" on either side, the only way was flying away!!

At Frankfurt, we went to a German Restaurant Kartoffelhaus, which is famous for its potato dishes.  It is a charming traditional restaurant with beams and many chicken paintings on the wall.

The other side of the restaurant has a mirrored window.  I liked the mood, which was almost like in a painting.

The table setting was very romantic with a candle and a single tulip.

This is the ultramodern lobby of Hilton Hotel that connected to Terminal 4 of Heathrow airport of London.  The lightings of various colors give interest to this atrium.

In England, besides fish and chips, roast beef, etc., people like to have either Chinese or Indian meals.  We went to the Memories of India, which uses many interesting wooden structures (doors, columns, etc.) as decoration.  The gentleman above in the Indian restaurant saw me with the camera, took me to the Thai restaurant called Tiger Lily across the street.  

It is owned by the same owner.  It has a beautiful carved traditional wooden door.

But the bar of this restaurant is very modern.

We came back to the Memories of India for our meal.  Here is a beautiful wooden commode at the entrance of the restaurant.

All the clients were having a good time at Memories of India in front of the wooden panel hand carved and shipped from India.

Here is our adorable 20-month granddaughter eating a waffle!!  I spent a weekend with her at my daughter's home at Washington, DC.  It was way too short.

My final stop was San Francisco.  Whenever possible, I always have an American breakfast at Sears near the Union Square.  There is often a queue waiting to get in.

This is the ticketing booth for the car park at Hilton hotel, which shaped like a cable car.

The mural painting makes the parking a lot more interesting place.  

This comes to the end of my Quick Tour Around the World. It seems the only places that I have been were the airports, hotels and restaurants.  I was glad to be back home in Taipei.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Today's Flowers #39: Arum Lilly (海芋), Zantedeschia aethiopica

Today is mother's day.  We went out for a late lunch at the mountain spa that we frequently visited.  It is at the back of Yangmingshan facing the Taiwan Strait.    Yangmingshan is a dormant volcano, thus it is rich in hot spring.  It is also quite often called as Taipei's back garden.  We took the way across the mountain to come back to Taipei.  I mentioned to Grace that it should be the season of Calla Lilly now.  There it was in front of us a Calla Lilly field.  We stopped to shop for some, and to photograph.

We thought the flower's name is Calla Lilly.  But after reading through Wikipedia, it seems the correct name should be Arum Lilly, Zantedeschia aethiopica.   The pure white flower is a very dramatic flowering plant.  We brought two cameras, one is D90 with 16-85 lens, and the other is D700 with 70-300 lens.   We hoped that we would have the 105 macro with us.

All through the photographic session, we had the paintings of Calla Lilly of Georgia O'Keffe on our mind.  She has depicted the flower many times in very provocative and sensual ways.  We visited her museum during our trip to New Mexico last year.   

Here is a close-up of a small frog taking a nap inside a flower!

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Camera-Critters #57: Sparrow (麻雀), Passer Montanus

Sparrow must be the most common bird.  When I was young, it was the only bird that I know and saw everyday.  They were everywhere.  Now, when I pay more attention to the bird around me.  I saw many different kinds of bird and sparrows are actually not so numerous as I remember.  They move fast as a group and quite often on the ground seeking foods, which make getting a photograph of them without complicated background quite difficult.  Two weeks ago, I was in the Guandu Nature Park and saw this little thing posing perfectly for me on top of a wooden post.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 43: Morning sky over Frankfurt

I (Grace) went to Frankfurt two weeks ago.  It has been an unusally warm spring.  The morning sun shone on the trees in various colors.  The city skyline is in the background.  I used my D90 with a 35 mm/F1.8 lens shot through the window of my room.  

The other side is a field with canola oil flowers.

To see more sky from around the world click here.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ABC Wednesday: P is for Photomatix Pro

What can a man do if the wife was away for two weeks. Buy a new gadget to play with. I have been playing around the trial version of the software "Photomatix" for over a year and finally decided to get the full version last week. The idea of the software is to take a picture that is perfectly exposed to the high light and a one that is perfect exposed for the shadow to blend them together into a HDR, High Dynamic Range image. Well, our regular computer monitor cannot view the HDR image. It needs to be "tone mapped" to generate a viewable picture. During the ton mapping process, various parameters can be adjusted. It sometimes produced a particular look.

The RAW image of the modern camera already has a very wide dynamic range. Thus a single RAW image can be manipulated to also generate this particular HDR look.

I mean to photo this special mountain stream for a long time. It is very photogenic for two reasons. It originates in a volcanic hot spring and its water contains sulfur, which staines the rock into a reddish gold color. When the stream flows through the forest, the light shinning through the trees gives the rock and stream an added interest.

For the first picture, I used the software to generate a pseudo-HDR using a single RAW image. For the second image, I use Capture NX2 (Nikon's software) first generates a +2 stops over exposed image and a -2 stops underexposed image from a single RAW. I then blended the two together to generate a HDR. The result is interesting and does have a different look.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Today's Flowers #38: Lepoard Lily (射干), Belamcanda chinensis

I have post this flower once before, but at that time, I have no idea what it is.  It is a native plant of China and has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.  It has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory function and used mainly for ailment of throat and lung.  

It is quite pretty and now widely planted as an ornamental plant.  It is the sole species of genus Belamcanda.  However, through the modern DNA analysis, it has been reclassified into genius of iris and renamed as Iris domestica.  Luckily its Chinese name still stay the same.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Camera-Critters #56: Great Egret (大白鷺), Ardea alba

This series photos of Great Egret were taken during our trip to Yilan two weeks ago.  We have posted photos from that trip at our blog of ABC Wednesday of April 22.

Great Egrets are migratory birds and will fly back to the North this month.  They are very shy and will not let us get any closer.

The little white dots in the rice field are butterflies, which we have also showed a detail photo at our ABC Wednesday blog of April 22.

One of the hallmark of the Great Egret is the S shape of its long neck.  You can click on the photos to have a closer look.

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