Category Archives: photos

Traditional Bridal Dress, Jhubei

This was taken last Saturday at a cultural festival right before that evening’s opera performance.

Have a great weekend!

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Hakka Teahouse, Beipu

These shots were taken at a teahouse in Beipu where visitors are able to grind their own spices, tea, and nuts into a Hakka-style tea which is eaten with a bowl and spoon… and in my case, crisped rice.  It’s a different take on tea, and it’s interesting to see a culture that has so many different kinds… much like the European/North American beer and wine culture.

…first, we’ve got the unground ingredients, which were placed in the bowl from biggest to smallest…

…followed by the finished product, which might not look appetizing at first.  It WAS tasty, with a sort of nutty “healthy” taste to it – if that makes sense.

I’ll be posting more outdoor shots from Beipu soon…

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Beipu Township (北埔鄉)

Beipu Township (北埔鄉) is a Hakka community located about a 50-minute scooter drive east of Jhubei.  Hakka culture (see the Wikipedia), based originally in Southern China, makes up a big part of Taiwan’s cultural heritage.

Starting off is a Hakka-style tea bowl.  Hakka tea is ground from spices and nuts – and mixed together with water to create a sort of porridge.  I’ll be posting photos of our experience in a tea house later… it was very good though I have to say it didn’t look incredibly appetizing at first glance.

We also visited a temple in the central part of the town.

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More from Sinwu

I managed to miss posting some great shots last time that I took in Sinwu.  The main reason was that when I got back on Sunday, I didn’t feel like processing them all.  Here are some more from last weekend:

The above is obviously a grassy field.  Typhoon Fanapi makes up the cloudy section of the sky.  You might notice the garbage can to the bottom right – I would’ve cropped that out, but I would’ve had to take out the beautiful sun… or the interesting irrigation ditch that kind of leads the eye.

Finishing off with a country house – much like you’ll see in rural Taiwan.  These are interesting… kind of a mix between urban architecture along with the countryside.  Much different than American styles when it comes to architecture or city planning.

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Sinwu Countryside

Here are some shots from yesterday when Typhoon Fanapi was heading to the south of us as the Moon Festival festivities occured:


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Watching the Sea

This weekend became a time of remembering Hurricane Ike, which came through my community in Texas about two years ago and devastated much of the surroundings – and in addition gave us all two weeks of unneeded “vacation” as students and teachers.

Oddly enough, I had another storm come in right about the same point that I was previously at in the school year.  This time, a typhoon – called Fanapi, which is a Micronesian name for “sandy islands” was scheduled to hit in north-central Taiwan over the weekend.

It’s interesting to see how Taiwanese react to these storms.  They’re a normal part of life, and if this one hadn’t been so strong, I doubt many people would’ve reacted seriously to it at all.  Thankfully for my area, it mostly went south – we got very little rain but certainly did get some heavy winds.

Yuling, my girlfriend, had me join her family for a Moon Festival barbeque today.  As a result of the storm, we were treated to some amazing skies – half blue and half a slightly spinning gray.  One of the areas I checked out in her grandparents’ rural community of Sinwu was a statue and temple dedicated to Mazu, Chinese goddess of the sea.  Photos follow.

The sheer size of this statue made it hard to capture.  For this reason, I did not get a good HDR of the entire ~50ft. bronze behemoth.  What you see is the goddess looking toward the sea (west – away from where the typhoon was coming) with two spirits near the bottom acting almost as assistants.  You can see one of them pointing to his eyes and the other to his ears.  They have these odd headdresses that look like horns…

The following is an HDR of the top part.  I had to use the 70-300mm for this because of the size of this thing!

Above is the altar – which you can’t see in the first picture.  It is situated at the base of the main statue and gives a place for people to offer prayers and incense to the sea goddess.

Above we have the main temple building in HDR.  The temples in this rural area are very ornate – and numerous.

The temple interior had a lot of these lanterns hanging in an area that was naturally lit.  You’d think I’d get sick of photographing these by now, but I was really impressed by the amount and played around a little bit with the depth of field.  Check the Flickr by clicking on the photo to see the other shots of these I took.

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Digging Through Past Photos

Our original plan today was to go back to Taichung on a camping trip.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t allow that to happen, so I found myself relaxing on a lazy Saturday – not wanting to see if my camera was up for being tested in the rain.

Instead, I dug through my photos from before.  Whenever I take pictures, I get hundreds – if not thousands of shots.  Usually, the good ones jump out at you – I probably knew which ones I wanted to keep before I even saw them on the computer screen.  Links in the description should be linking back to the original post from that series.

Consider these newish in a way.

The above was taken across the street from one of Taiwan’s most famous temples in Hsinchu.  Interestingly, there’s a movie theater which runs American films across the street.  I thought the mix of old and new here was interesting… not that I’ve seen Sex and the City 2 or plan to…

The two above photos were taken at a beach near Hsinchu.

Street dogs are a common sight in Taiwan.  I’m not sure if the above was a stray or not as I saw him/her in a park.  While the situation is apparently much better than it has been in the past, there are a combination of factors of dogs not being spayed and the lack of space making them more obvious.  In most cases, they’re pretty tame, but it is still quite  a sad sight.

The two above photos were taken during the pre-ghost month festival that came near Yuling’s house…

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Working Hard

With the school week half-over, I haven’t been out with my camera for a while.  I’ve missed some great sunsets, so that sure is a shame.  The good news is that I plan to go camping this weekend and I think I’ll get plenty of use out of this Nikon.

I’m posting something I went back to retouch before I made the decision to post.  I loved this picture – but was never happy with the fact that this lady’s face isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be.  I think part of the reason stems from the fact that a 300mm lens with a hood on is hard to ignore – and I just didn’t feel like holding it up all day.

Anyway, here’s the photo.  I decided to desaturate some colors and leave others in… in addition, I increased some details through sharpening and a few minor contrast tweaks.  The thing that really makes the photo, however, is the slight smirk on her face, I think.

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It’s Been a While…

…yes, it HAS been a while since I posted to this blog.  The biggest reason being that I started work on Friday the 27th and we got students the next Monday, the 30th of August.

Since I am teaching a… wide variety of classes, I have no shortage of preparation.  The good news is that most of this has been done for me – and teaching 4th grade isn’t extremely difficult as long as you can include games and activities to keep the kids’ from going insane.  In addition to 4th graders, I also have some 5th graders (only one class), some 7th graders, and my other main group, an advanced Junior High class with students who all plan to move to the US or Canada for high school and/or college.

I haven’t even touched my camera this week, unfortunately.  I will probably try to do more with it this week as I get used to a new apartment, new routine, and new school.  In the meantime, I do have some photos outside of my NEW apartment window.  These are HDR shots looking across the street from my new balcony.  I think these are a little too saturated on one hand, but do like how they turned out.  There’s some ghosting on the one that shows the intersection as I didn’t bother to mask out the moving people.  They’re not TOO noticeable…

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Ghost Festival (Part 2)

Yuling and I arrived to the Yimin Temple celebration of the Ghost Festival on Friday anticipating some pork.  Well, at least what will become pork.

At the temple, a pig (yes, a whole pig) is offered to the ghosts and gods in order to bless the town and appease the ancestors.  While this food source is NOT wasted (Chinese food rarely is!), its head is put on display for a time.  We missed this event as we were too early, but managed to capture some temple music meant to entertain the spirits that walk the earth during ghost month.

The first thing I noticed was a stage to the side with a Chinese Opera performance.  This is pretty common during ghost month as it is believed to “entertain” the ancestors.

The performance, I later learned, represents a distinct brand of Chinese opera here in Taiwan.  Taiwanese opera has its own style – and is much different than the varieties you’ll see in Hong Kong, Shanghai, or (especially) Beijing – where it is known as “Peking” opera… by the former Westernization of the capital’s name.

The above jar of sticks are 求籤, or (Cantonese) Kau Cim.  I’m not sure what the Mandarin translation is, but I remember seeing them at Hong Kong’s Wong Tai Sin temple.

The above photos show some temple musicians playing a call for the gods to join the ceremony at the temple.  I was joined as a photographer by a large cadre of locals with DSLR cameras – I’m guessing they were covering the temple’s preparations for the event.

The instrument in the first photo is a Suona, as covered in one of my earlier posts.  You can listen to the unmistakable sound it makes it at the Youtube video I posted there.

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