Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ABC Wednesday: V is for A Beach with A View

 A few weeks ago, I took a day off to drive to central part of Taiwan for a photographic trip.  I have shown my visit to the Camomile Tea Plantation and sunflowers field of a flower show in my two previous blogs.  My final stop of the trip was for a beach near Taichung harbor.  It is a location well known for photographing sunset.  When I was on the highway driving west toward the beach, I saw an amazing colorful sunset. The sun went down earlier than I thought in the winter month.  I was not too worried, photographing sunset does not always mean having the bright red sun in the picture.

As I arrived at the beach, the light in sky and the reflection from the water surface was just perfect.  The beach is a wide open mud plan of a river outlet by the Taichung harbor.  The wind mills built by the Taiwan Electric add interest to the sunset scene.

 The mud is as smooth as silk, many young people walking miles out to the ocean and play the mud with their feet.  As sun was setting, I have to move quickly and have little chance to set my tripod in the mud. The VR on the lens worked reasonably well which allowed me to photograph till really late.  If I used tripod and slower shutter speed, It would not be possible to freeze the blades of the wind mill.

Finally it was really too dark, I walked back to the parking and took this final picture with the light from Taichung harbor as back drop.  I leaned my camera on a lamp post and used slower speed to blur the action of the wind mill.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ABC Wednesday: U is for Upstairs, Downstairs

Upstairs, downstairs, we are not talking about the British television drama of the 70's.  We are talking about the two restaurants of Musée d'Orsay, of Paris.  Grace was in Paris for several meetings a few weeks ago and went to the museum.  It has been totally renovated (I first saw the museum when it was under construction in the 80's).  She was late for lunch and went upstairs to the Café Campana just by the Impressionist Gallery.  It is a typical Parisisn brasserie and designed by the famous Brazilian designers, Campana brothers.  As you can see it was almost two thirty in the afternoon, the restaurant was packed.  No place for her to sit.

She could not get close to the clock at Campana, instead, she went through the Impressionist Gallery and photographed through the clock at the opposite end facing towards Louvre.

Down stairs, there is Le Restaurant, the former restaurant of the Hôtel d'Orsay.  It was first opened in 1900, when the place was the Gare d'Orsay.  The new construction was by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.  It is as magnificent as ever.

Here is a more detail view of the ceiling from the original 1900.  You can imagine where Grace finally ended up having her late lunch.

These photographs were taken using the new Nikon V1, a much smaller mirrorless camera with interchangeable lens.  Consider its size, the results are not too bad.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ABC Wednesday: T is for Camomile Tea & Today's Flower #172

Camomile tea is one of the favorite for Chinese, now it is also a popular herbal tea in the Western world.  In China, it is planted in large area and produced in huge quantity.  But Taiwan still claims to have its own camomile fields.  It is mainly concentrated in 銅鑼 at Miaoli (苗栗) county.  Every year there is a camomile festival.  This year, it was held between November 13 to 21.

More scientifically, Camomile is known as chrysanthermum.  In the US, they are commonly known as mums and are planted in Fall.  It is a major color attractions in the garden during the cold Fall and early Winter season.  The chrysanthermum used in Chinese medicine is Chrysanthemum morifolium (菊花 juhua).  There are usually two colors:  the yellow kind called 杭菊 (huangjuhua) and the white kind called 甘菊花 (ganjuhua).  Here is a detail description of the medicinal useages of the two types of camomile.

Huangjuhua, the yellow flower, which is sometimes called hangjuhua, as it comes from Hangzhou....Huangjuhua especially enters the lung meridian; it is more effective for expelling wind-heat in the upper burner and is often used in cold infections, feverish sensations in the head, and headache.  It can also be used for acute infections of the eyes, such as acute conjunctivitis...the steam from juhua decoction can be used for painful and itchy eyes...moreover, the cool decoction can be used externally to wash the affected eye.
Baijuhua, the white flower, is also called ganjuhua, which means sweet juhua.  It is also sometimes call chujuhua because the white juhua growing in Chu county is considered to have the best quality. Baijuhua is sweeter and cooler [than huangjuhua], and can slightly generate yin and clear heat.  Because it enters the liver meridian, it is more effective in cooling and pacifying the liver and benefiting the eyes.  It is used for dizziness, blurred vision, dry eyes, and a tired feeling in the eyes, which are caused by yin deficiency or yin deficiency with uprising liver yang....

Sum up, if you have a cold drink yellow camomile tea.  If you have too much heat (火氣大) drink white camomile tea.

Grace has been in Europe for two weeks already and I have been planning of going out for a photographic trip by myself.  However, the weather has been miserable and only clear up till last Monday.  Thus, I grabbed my camera and headed south to 銅鑼.

Nothing romantic of farming camomile flowers, the hand picking process is hard work.  It is carried out by old weather beaten farmers.  They usually covers themselves completely to protect from the sun, a very Asian farmer's tradition.  Her garment was quite fashionable!

I arrived at the end of the festival, the flowers were in full bloom and ready to be picked.  One more week and they will be all gone.

Here is the yellow kind, of cause it makes more colorful photographs.

The palm trees in the background, which make the scenery so Southeast Asia, in reality is not your common palm trees often linked with the South Pacific Islands.  Locally, it is called pinang, the malaysian name of the tree.  The scientific name is Areca catechu.  The seed has medicinal use in Chinese medicine.  But all over Southeast Asia, including Taiwan, there is a culture of chewing the pinang seeds.  It is addictive and can give person a high.  Thus the hard labors and truck drivers especially like to chew on the seeds to keep their spirt high during the long hours of working or driving.  On Taiwan's highway, we can often see scantily clad girls maned the pinang stand selling the seeds to passing by drivers, a distinct Taiwan culture phenomena.  Chewing pinang is a major cause of oral-pharengal cancer for all Southeast Asia region.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ABC Wednesday: S is for Sunflower & Today's Flower #171

It has been raining and miserable for the past two weeks in Taipei.  On Monday, the weather finally clear up a little bit.  I grabbed the chance and drove to Sinshe District of Taichung City in the central part of Taiwan to see the yearly flower show.  The show has been famous for the mass planting of flowers in the field, from a distance, they look like multicolor carpet.

I headed straight to the sunflower field.  For the sunflower, its head often bending downwards.  From the first picture, you may think that the day was so brilliant bright.  In reality, it was still a very over cast day as show by this HDR image.

Here is a more normal image that I did not shot the flower against the sky, but using other sunflowers in the field as background.

Or I can turn around with my back to the sun and use the blue sky and distance farm house as background.

I also always like to get closer to have detail image of the flower.

When I get really close, the image becomes almost like an abstraction.

We can shot the flower from the front, but do not forget the back.

The future sunflower seeds.

Finally a busy working bee covered itself with pollens.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Seeing Red

Red bench at Exchange Place, New York.

A tern at Exchange Place, New York.

Tiffany stained glass in New York Metropolitan Museum.

Sunset over Taipei Harbor.

Fireworks of National Day of Taiwan, Republic of China.

A cross at Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, Guam.

Stained glass at Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica, Guam.

A Dancer at  Pacific Island Club, Guam.

 A male marron oriole at forest near Taipei.

Toco Toucan at Taipei Zoo.

A butterfly at local park in Taipei.

101, one of the world tallest building in Taipei.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ABC Wednesday: Q is Formosan Rock MacaQue

Formosan Rock Macaque (Macaca cyclopis), is endemic to Taiwan.  It is now a protected species.  50 years ago, our neighbor used to keep one chained as pet.  One night it escaped and it just walked into the living room and went to sit on the sofa.

I still remember when I was young, we can often see them up on the trees in the forest during our train ride to the local port city.

Even today, in some area of the island, we can still see them coming into the farm or houses to steal food.  One collage campus is famous for this activity.

I took these pictures in Taipei Zoo.

They seems to have a very good and leisure life there.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ABC Wednesday: P is for Photography

Last saturday, I was with a small group to see migratory birds at Yilan county east of Taipei.  The tour was organized by Natural Kingdom, a local ecotourism company.  I was the only photographer.  Although, I did do some preparation on Friday night.  But still, I forgot my tripod and took the wrong camera (my old D300 instead of Grace's newer D7000).

Rather than taking the highway, we drove on the country road, following a stream to cross a mountain range to get to Yilan.  It was such a nice and comfortable Fall day.  Can you see the heron on the rock waiting for its pray?

We now live in Taiwan most of the time.  It still amazes us how beautiful Taiwan is.

Even we do not have the color change of tree leaves in the subtropical forest at lower attitude of the mountain, we have no shortage of color.

 We can see different color pop up everywhere.

Half way up the mountain we arrived at the mountain lake that provides drinking water for Taipei.  You can see why our water is so sweet!

Over on the other side of the mountain range is the Pacific ocean.

Along the way, I have photographed birds by the mountain stream, in the subtropical forest, by the ocean and at abandoned fish/shrimp farm.  Come see them at my other blog, The Amazing Birds.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ABC Wednesday: M is for Marble Statues

When my sister and I went to visit the Metropolitan of Art of New York in August, other than to photograph the amazing architecture of interior, one of the objectives was to photograph the amazing collection of marble statues.

It was almost like going back to the art lesson when I was in the primary school.  We were taught to use charcoal to draw statues made of plaster.  The marble statues in the museum have perfect pose and perfect natural lighting.  It is up to us to find the best way of photographing them.

I have fully anticipated the exercise and brought with me the 70-300mm VR lens for long shots, 20 mm mainly for the architecture and 85mm f1.4 for taking portraits of the statues in available light.  No flash is allowed in the museum and tripod needs special permission.  As a hind-thought, I should bring the 135mm f2 which should give me better prospective for portraits.

In addition to all the lenses, I have also paid attention to what I wore.  I have all my camera equipments in my camera beg, but I also wore a photographer's vest.  I had to check in my beg and put all the equipments in the vest to bring them into the museum.

The museum not only paid attention to the lighting of the statues, but also paid attention to the background.  It was just up to us to find the best angle to isolate our object.

She is often figured in the museum promotional materials.  It is hard to imagine the marble can be transparent too.

This statue is called "Cold".  She is even more sensational when you realize she is wearing nothing under her shawl.   No wonder she feels cold.

She was laying right in front of the elevator.  I was sure that the museum hung the 18th century wall carpet behind her in order for us to have a perfect background.  I finally got the shot by laying down also, on the floor.

One of my favorite!  I climbed to the second floor of the American Wing and photographed downwards.  The two ladies gazed at each other over a separation of over 2000 years.

This is probably my best shot of the whole exercise.

To see more entries of ABC Wednesday click here.


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