Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's Flower #100 & ABC Wednesday: X is for XinWu Lotus Farm

It is the lotus flower season again and the Lotus Festival is held every year at Xinwu (新屋) and Gyanyin (觀音) townships of Taoyuan County (桃園).  The area is a low-laying area near the western coast of Taiwan, just an hour drive from Taipei.  It used to be covered with rice-paddy.  After Taiwan joined WTO, it is no longer economically feasible to grow rice any more.  As in Korea, the situation had a great impact to the tradition of the local farming community in Taiwan.  Some of the rice fields around Xinwu and Gyanyin area have been converted to lotus pond, both for tourism and for its seeds and roots.

Xinwu means "new house", the phonic translation can also be Sinwu.  I need a "X", thus it is Xinwu.  Gyanyin means "watching the sound" and it is the Chinese translation of "Avalokltesvara" buddha's name.  By "watching" the sound of the universe in her/his mind, Avalotesvara obtained the eternal wisdom and became a buddha.  It is all very "Zen".  Let us go back to the more practical matter of photographing Lotus flower, where the buddha used to sit on.  You can go back to my old blog here, to learn the difference of Nelumbo (lotus) and Nymphaea (water lilly).

Both Nelumbo and Nymphaea are very photogenic.  I was told that they should be photographed in the early morning, when their blooms are at its best.  In reality, you really want to only shot in the early morning.  Who can stand the heat of the mid-day and early afternoon sun of June in Taiwan, not the flowers and not the photographers.  A single solitary lotus in perfect bloom can some way reflecting the light to make it almost like glowing against a background of lotus leaves.

Some times we want some seed pot and flower bud in the background to add interest and the yellow seed pod in a full bloomed flower gives even more colors.

A long telephone lens help us not only blur the background but also keep us, the photographer on the solid ground, dry and clean.  One way to get us really into muddy situation is try to photograph the lotus with a wide-angle lens.

However, a wide-angle lens does give us a totally different prospective of the flower and the lotus field.

Another way to get real muddy is to try to do a close-up.  But the flower is so big, it is usually not necessary for a macro lens, just a telephone lens can take us close enough.

Grace went to her ladies' club outing last weekend.  I went to photograph the lotus by myself.  They were shot with my Nikon D700 with 80-400mm and 20 mm lenses.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.
To see mor flowers from around the world click here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kew Gardens III and Today's Flowers #99

Probably the most impressive plants during the Spring day when Grace was visiting the Kew Gardens are the century-old rhododendrons.

There are many different varieties.

Some have two colors.

The yellow ones are certainly one of the most beautiful and unusual specimen.

There are also a lot of massive planting of the spring bulbs in the flower beds and grass fields.  Some were planted hundreds of years ago

The color combination is fantastic.

To see more flowers from around the world click here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kew Gardens II and Camera-Critters #115

A magnificent peacock that Grace saw in the Kew Gardens.  Look how elegant it walks.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kew Gardens I and Skywatch Friday

Grace was in Europe for a business trip in early May and stopped by London for a very short visit.  However, She still found time to sneak out to Kew Gardens for a half-day visit.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, commonly known as Kew Gardens is in southwest London.  It was created in 1759 and contains the world's largest collection of living plants.  The liviing collections include more than 30,000 different plants and the herbarium has over 7 million preserved plant specimens.  The gardens are visited by 2 million visitors every year.

This is the famous Palm House.  It is a green house specialized in growing palms.  Palm trees need constant tropical temperature and the palm houses were built in the Victorian era as status symbols.  The Palm House in the Kew garden was built between 1844 to 1848.

The Kew Palace is the smallest British Royal Palace. It was built in 1631 by a Dutch merchant and later on bought by the Royal family.

This is Queen Charlotte's Cottage looking over through a field of bluebells.  The cottage was a wedding present of King George III to Queen Charlotte.

This is the building known as "Museum No, 1".  It is across from the Palm House and was opened in 1857.

Temperate House has twice the floor space of the Palm House and is the world largest surviving Victorian glass structure.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Camera-Critters #114: House Finch

Male House Finch

Female House Finch

Now they are together.  I took the pictures when I visited Scusset Beach at Sandwich, Cape Cod in May.

To see more Camera-Critters from around the world click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Skywatch Friday: Chase Garden Creek

Last Tuesday, I went with Audubon's Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary to Chase Garden Creek of Yarmouth, Cape Cod for a three-hour Kayak Trip.  It was a perfect day with temperature just around 70F.  This picture was taken from Gray's Beach toward west over looking the Sandy Neck.  The lighthouse of Sandy Neck can be seen at the left hand side in the distance.

This is the view of Chapin Memorial Beach from Gray's Beach looking toward northeast.  Overall it was a very nice trip.  It was the first time that I did kayaking, I have only done canoeing before.

Paddling up the Chase Garden Creek was also very interesting with various sea birds and ospreys in the mash land on the  two sides of the creek.   The water was very shallow and tide was going out.  Here Ian, Director of the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary was explaining to us about the features of the horseshoe crab that he picked up from the sand bottom of the creek.

To see more sky from around the world click here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

ABC Wednesday: U is for UsUal vs. UnUsUal

Last Saturday, I packed up my camera and went out to have the Usual drive through the picturesque back road (Route 6A) of Cape Cod.  The Unusual thing about the drive was that Grace was not with me this time.  She left two-day ago for Chicago then back to Taiwan.  Our Usual drives were also Usually not planned.  It was Unusual this time, I checked the tide table and well-planned my trip to visit some of the beaches and parks that we have not been before.

Route 6A goes alone the coast of the northern side of Cape Cod and it is Unusual because it goes through some the most picturesque and least touristic parts of Cape Cod.  It is lined with old towns, century-old houses, small museums, antique shops and fine-restaurants.  My first stop was Corporation Beach of Dennis.  Dennis is a bit Unusual because the town covers a land stretches from the Cape Cod Bay at north to the Atlantic Ocean at south.   Thus it has beaches on both sides, a plus for local residences because you need beach sticker, only the local residences can have, to park at any of these beaches.  Corporation Beach is facing the Cape Cod Bay.  As all the beaches facing the bay, it is quite Unusual as compares to the Usual sand beaches, such as those on the south side of Cape Cod.  When the tide goes out, the sand flat can stretch for miles out into the bay.    Various birds come in to feed on this sand flat.

This Laughing Gull is quite Unusual.  Unlike the Usual laughing gulls that group together far away on the sand flat, this one mixed with all the other usual sea gulls and come close by to the beach goers. I was able to get really close to it.  Look at its Unusual red beak, it is the Usual sign of this bird in the breeding season.

Laughing Gull has an Unusual media exposure this past week.  The picture of a completely oil-covered Laughing Gull from the Gulf Coast was shown on the TV, newspaper and internet all over the world.  It dived into the ocean covered with oil leaked from the damaged BP  deep sea oil well.  Luckily it was rescued.  I am happy that our Laughing Gulls on Cape Cod are still soaring high in the sky.

Well, this is just another one of the Usual sea gulls picking on a crab from the sand flat.  But, exactly what sea gull is it?  Look at the Unusually beautiful pink legs, it is a young Herring Gull!

Here is the Usual adult Herring Gull that we often see.  Click on the photo to enlarge it to see the Unusually blood-shot eye.  It is the breeding season for it also and the red orbital ring around the eye is the Usual sign of a breeding adult bird.

Anything is Unusual of this Gray Catbird?  Nothing except I usually only see them up on the tree branch and they do not let me get too close.  This one came very close to me on the picnic table while I was having my fish 'n' chips at Kate's Seafood at Brewster, the next town from Dennis.  Does the Catbird eat fish also like a cat?

What an Unusually beautiful scene looking out from Kate's Seafood!  The field was covered with wild flowers.  Kate's Seafood is such a local institution, people travel miles to sample its fried seafood and ice cream.

This is another bird came near me at Kate's Seafood.  It is the Usual House Sparrow. Its Unusual black face and breast caught my attention.  It is the Usual sign of an adult breeding male.  The Unusual thing of this little bird is that it is like all the Usual American, it is an immigrant.  It was introduced to New York in 1850.  By 1910, it has spread to California.  It is the most widely distributed wild bird on earth.

After the Usual satisfying lunch at Kate's, I went to have a walk on the John Wing Trail to the Wing Island in the Cape Cod Natural History Museum at Brewster.  As much as I like about the sand flat of Cape Cod Bay, if you are a summer tourist, it is almost impossible to get to.  All the beaches need a local town sticker for parking.  The Unusual thing of this trail is you can park at the museum then take a walk on the trail which takes you to the beach and sand flat of Wing Island, no parking sticker needed!

Next to the museum is the Old Higgin's Farm Windmill.  It is over 200 years old and has been meticulously restored.  I did some trick on the computer to make it look a little bit Unusual!!

One more Unusual event happened on that day, I now have officially taken over 10,000 pictures with my Nikon D700.  It restarted counting from 0001.

This is an UnUsUally long blog than we UsUally have.  Hope you have enjoyed following me on this trip.  To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

D700 High ISO Performance

This photo was shot with a Nikon D700 with AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF lens at f/2.5, 1/6400, ISO 200, in camera High ISO Noise Reduction off.

This photo is shoot with the same Nikon D700 with Nikkor 85mm f.1.4D IF lens at f/2.8, 1/200, ISO 3200, in camera High ISO Noise Reduction on.

D700 uses the same full frame sensor as its more expansive sibling D3.  DxOMark ranks the image quality of D700/D3 higher than most other DSLRs, only surpassed by the newer Nikon D3x and D3s.  One of the reason for the high ranking is the high ISO performance.  The high ISO performance not only means that we can shoot at lower light, but also means much better image quality in the shadow.

Although I shoot my D300 routinely at ISO400, but even at that ISO, I feel I am pushing it.  For D700, I routinely shoot at ISO640 without any problem.  The Nikkor 85mm does not have VR, thus I have to watch out for my shutter speed, not letting it to go too slowly.  An image shoot at higher ISO with higher noise is still better than a blurry image due to slower shutter speed.  Thus, with the 85mm lens, I set the auto-ISO between 200-6400 with minimum shutter speed at 1/100 (1/200 for Grace).  Since my new iMac and MacBook has much better processing power, I let the in camera High ISO Noise Reduction on.

The first picture was shot at outdoor under bright sunshine by me.  Grace took the second picture indoor.  It is incredible what a modern camera can do.  We do not see any significant difference of noise between the two pictures, even though the second picture were shot at ISO3200!!

Click on the pictures to have a more detail view of the images.


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