Tag Archives: 2010

Cambodia’s Dark Past, Part 2: Cambodia Landmine Museum

This is the second of two posts relating to the darker side of Cambodia’s history. Yesterday, I discussed Security Prison 21, a high school converted into a concentration camp and prison which operated from 1975-1979 until its liberation by the Vietnamese Army. It is now a museum in Phnom Penh.

Following the scourge of genocide and civil war in Cambodia was something left behind that maims and kills people to this day: unexploded ordinance and minefields that litter the eastern and western borders.

In the east, bombs dropped by American B-52s during the bombing campaigns against the Viet Cong guerrillas who sought refuge on the borders still exist in the countryside. Recent statistics reveal that 2,756,941 tons of bombs – more than the whole two million of World War II – were dropped on Cambodia between 1965 and 1973, even though it was not officially declared that America was involved in any way with Cambodia until 1970.

In the west where the Khmer Rogue held villages until 1998 and where Thailand heavily guarded and feared for its eastern border, minefields were created as the Vietnamese and Soviet-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea fought against the Khmer Rogue.

This war of attrition sucked many innocent lives into the ongoing conflict. One was Aki Ra, who was later given his Japanese name by journalists and lived a hellish life after his parents were killed and he was taken into the Khmer Rogue as a child soldier. As a soldier, he learned to set landmines and fight, and was eventually forced to switch sides after being captured by the Vietnamese. After his time fighting, he decided to start demining – and until 2007 when the Cambodian government stopped him for liability reasons, he removed mines himself with only a stick and a knife.

Eventually, he created a museum when tourists learned of a “crazy Cambodian guy” who had a house full of deactivated landmines. Today, this museum is officially supported and he has been trained by the UN to clear landmines with an all-Khmer team. The museum also serves as housing for several children who have been affected by landmines and by poverty and disease.

You can learn more about Aki Ra through his CNN Heroes profile here.

You can also learn about the Cambodia Landmine Museum at its website. You can donate money directly or purchase “cleanUp soap,” a landmine-shaped soap which proceeds go toward demining in Cambodia.


Above left: 500-lb. bombs line up the entrance to the museum. Top and above right: all of the deactivated munitions at this museum were removed and disarmed by Aki Ra himself. No new mines go into the museum anymore.


Above: notice the mortar shells – another issue in Cambodia is “UXO” or unexploded ordinance.


Above: these red signs do exist in Cambodia – this “fake minefield” is set up to see if people are able to identify even the most rudimentary and easiest to see mines. Consider the fact that de-mining teams have to cut through the jungle with a machete.

Above: this is “cleanUp” soap for sale – available in the store. Profits from the soap – which is sold online – support de-mining in Cambodia.

In addition to the landmine museum, visitors will often see groups of musicians playing at temples. This music gives a really interesting atmosphere to the temples and small donations are solicited. The groups that play these are said to be landmine survivors – you can see this with the amputated limbs and prosthetic limbs sitting around. It is important to keep in mind that not all amputees in Cambodia are landmine survivors in a country where diseases “wiped out” in the West like malaria and polio have wreaked havoc on the population. Regardless, I thought it was worth buying a $10 CD of their recordings after I asked to take their picture.


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Tian Tan Giant Buddha, Hong Kong

This image is from nearly a year ago. As I’m hoping to get out of Taiwan for a few weeks this summer, I’ll have another post outside of Taiwan coming up in the near future, I hope. I’m looking at flying to Thailand in July. I would LOVE to do a Thailand-Cambodia trip, but a mix between Yuling’s preferences and the amount of time we have might constrict us. Oh, and I might be stopping in the Philippines, so I’ll wave hello to Odee!

Anyway, I was thinking about my photography when looking at this shot. It was taken with my then newly-purchased 70-300mm VR. This has been a great lens for me and got me into some bird/wildlife photography and gave me a closer look at shows. Unfortunately, the aperture is f/4.5-5.6, but it works fine for daylight shooting.

I like the image in that it’s pretty simple. The Buddha is a “giant” Buddha (see more images here) and is a massive sight to behold – yet quite touristy.

With that said, I was looking at what could’ve been done better. Processing sticks out as an issue. My shadows have little contrast and the top of the head is blown out by the sun. The sky gives an awkward range of colors and there could be more detail in the bronze of the statue.

On top of that, a giant shadow covers the face. While I can’t reshoot, it’s good to keep in mind for next time.

Perhaps I’ll retry the RAW file. It’s always good to breath new life into old photos.


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NYE Concert, Part 6, 丁噹

The second-to-last post regarding the NYE Concert includes some photos of 丁噹, or Ding Dang.  She’s pretty famous for her song “我愛他” translated as “Wo Ai Ta” – or “I love him,” which from what I gather from the video is about a woman still in love with a guy who she thinks cheats on her… but is really a secret agent – pretty basic Taiwanese pop-music material :)

(NOTE: my girlfriend helped me with that meaning – I don’t put that much thought into this even if the songs are catchy ;) )

Music video below along with photos.  She was near the end and played with Magic Power for a song before she took the stage completely.

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NYE Concert, Part 5, Magic Power (魔幻力量)

I’m posting on a Saturday just to get pictures up as I’ll be expecting to be taking a LOT more this weekend.  On top of this, I still have a few hundred backlogged that still need processing as well.

This is another band from New Year’s Eve – called Magic Power, or 魔幻力量.  It’s kind of a mix between some pop/hip-hop/rock and even with the peculiar name, they were pretty good and very popular, appearing near the end of the show.

I am now using decluttr.com to link to images.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Music video of “Who Am I” (我是誰) to start things off.

Magic Power, 魔幻力量, New Year's Eve Jhubei (竹北), 4

Magic Power, 魔幻力量, New Year's Eve Jhubei (竹北), 6

Magic Power, 魔幻力量, New Year's Eve Jhubei (竹北), 5

Magic Power, 魔幻力量, New Year's Eve Jhubei (竹北), 10


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NYE Concert, Part 2, 嚴爵

These are some shots of 嚴爵 (Yen Jue), a popular Taiwanese pop star.  He was pretty well-liked by the women in the crowd and I had no clue he was famous until my girlfriend pointed this out to me :)

I liked the lighting here, but really am wanting to get a faster lens for shoots like this.  Thankfully, my D5000 handles VERY well in low-lighting with high ISO, so the f/4.5-5.6 wasn’t a huge impediment.

For the stars well-known enough to have music videos, I’ll embed a Youtube clip for each of their posts.  Here’s one below for Yin Jue.

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New Year’s Eve Concert, Part 1

This is a series of posts about the New Year’s Eve Concert in Jhubei, which I attended despite the bigger festivities in Taipei due mostly to the fact that Taipei was extremely crowded and the high-speed trains en route were sold out.

There were apparently some pretty famous people at the concert, which took place a few meters away from my apartment.  Here are some photos – captioned where necessary.  More to come tomorrow and the rest of this week.

To start off is a blue-haired entertainer that I didn’t know the name of – more of an opening act, but pretty entertaining overall.

…he was followed by a drum/lion dance group which was pretty spectacular with the lighting/fog machines.  Also, the lion costumes were lighting up – pretty great stuff.

One of the hosts was the woman below, 楊千沛 or Yang Chien Pei.  I think she’s a movie star/singer, but I’m not exactly sure… maybe someone can enlighten me :)

Notice the “100” glasses.  The reason behind these is that it is in fact year 100 in Taiwan.  The dating system is based on the date of independence for the Republic of China, which while not always based in Taiwan, is 100 years old with the Xinhai Revolution against the Qing Dynasty.

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New Year’s Eve 2010

New Year’s Eve was celebrated in Jhubei just a few feet away from my apartment.  Since it was impossible to miss, I joined in and was pretty impressed with the night’s entertainment.  This week, I’ll be posting some photos of pretty well-known Taiwanese pop stars, though I’ll have to run them by Yuling to make sure I know who/what I’m talking about.

Here are some shots from the night market taking place across the street from the main stage.  I’ll start uploading shots of the actual show tomorrow.


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Have a (Late) Merry Christmas!

I’ve always been the one in the family that sends the Christmas card a week late.  I’m not sure if it’s procrastination – I think it’s more of the idea of “eh, Christmas seems like it’s too far away…” which I guess could be interpreted as procrastination… anyway, that’s the case this year as I think I sent cards back to the US on the 22nd or 23rd.  Not good.

This photo was taken with the theme of a photo club in mind.  I actually had plenty of time for this, but never got around to it, partly because Christmas is more minor in Taiwan.  This was taken at a church in Hsinchu on the day AFTER Christmas, and I thought the HDR complimented the theme well.  I think it’s a bit over-processed – as I’ve said before, I’m moving away from HDR in general, but pull it out from time to time.

I took it with the multiple focus points enabled (rare for me anymore) at f/3.5 to accentuate the difference between the foreground and the church in the back.  I also increased the saturation (too much?) of the reds to make them stand out and tried to hilight the garland and flowers more than they are showing up.

Even if it’s late, I hope everyone’s holidays are good.  I’m looking forward to my time off in a month – for Chinese New Year.


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Slideshow: 3 Months

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for three months.  Two of those months were spent working at my school, so the time has been going by pretty quickly.  I put together a slideshow of photos in Aperture recently along with some music I found through a Creative Commons music search database called Jamendo.  The license-free nature of this content is great.  I try to be fair with music, though have to say I was tempted to pull whatever else came to mind that fit the nature of this slideshow.

Anyway, here’s the video, linked through Vimeo:


Link to the video itself.


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A Bit Different…

This shot was taken near NTU – National Taiwan University on the day of the Taipei Artist Village Daniel Pearl Music Fest.  It’s a lot different than most of my work – even my HDRs in that it’s probably overprocessed.  I decided to go with this look to capture the movement and the detail of everythiing going on.  In addition, it’s a bit small below  (click on it for the Flickr lightbox, please!) due to a crop I made to put the focus around the movement – people, traffic, bikes, scooters, etc.

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