Tag Archives: dragon

Bombing the Dragon in Miaoli

Every year at the end of Chinese New Year, festivals throughout Taiwan seek to bring prosperity for the new year. One, near Tainan, is the famous Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival. People actually volunteer to have fireworks shot at them as they believe it will show their strength and health. Unfortunately, I missed it again due to unpredictable train schedules the night before I had to be at work.

Instead, I went to another festival that did not involve fireworks being shot at me, but instead at and around a dancing dragon. This Miaoli Hakka festival is called “Bombing the Dragon” and it’s easy to see why. After a few days of dancing dragons visiting storefronts and asking for red envelopes in exchange for good fortune, they are brought to an area where they dance around firecrackers. The dancers must wear protective eyewear, hoods, and masks, though a respirator is something I’d personally rather have. Even though I was further back (though still quite close), I was happy to have a mask and I will say that old clothing, earplugs, and a mask are all essentials when visiting.

  

  

Above: top, a dragon much like what was in the festival sits as the crowd arrives; bottom, festival-goers practiced their own dragon dance as a dragon team prepared for the night.

Above: a hanging dragon made of fireworks lights up as festival goers watch.

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Out and About on New Year’s Day

These were taken on January 23, the day which Chinese New Year began on this year’s lunar calendar. It was a bit early for this year, but I didn’t mind having a week off to relax and take a photo or two. Most of these take place in temples and markets as both are full.

Temples are full, as Jhubei Mazu Temple above shows, as people make prayers and concessions on the first day of the new year. Certain things are considered auspicious depending on the year – many couples will get married and have kids for example, in the Year of the Dragon.

…and another at the incense holder in front of the temple. The area was crowded an the 18mm end of my lens came in handy.

A fire burns away ghost money, used as a form of currency for spirits in the afterlife.

Deals, deals, deals are everywhere on the first day of Chinese New Year. Competitions and contests offer free trips around Taiwan and heavily discounted travel deals to those who ask. This guy was getting his audience stirred up for trips around the island.

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Ten Shots from 2011

I decided to put together ten shots from 2011, mostly based on popularity of posts, but also including shots that I really grew with as a photographer and just plain old like.

Let me know what you think. I’ve linked each image to the Flickr page and each description to the original post.

This guy was taking part in the annual Dragon Boat Festival (龍船節), a major Chinese holiday celebrated as a bank holiday in Taiwan. Cities all over the island hold races between dragon boats – large, colorful regatta boats powered by rowing teams. This particular race was in Hsinchu. 

These dancing San Tai Zi (三太子) gods were in Taichung during the annual Mazu Festival. The festival involves a large pilgrimage which takes days to complete and the size of which can only be explained as “massive.” See this for the original post.

Hsinchu’s East Gate is seen here at the “roundabout” in the city’s center. This photo was taken with my iPhone and the app Instagram. More shots can be seen here. 

Not long after the Mazu Festival was Spring Scream, a multi-day music festival held annually in Kenting, located on the southern tip of the island. This was a Japanese punk band called Samurai Attack, or SA.

In the days and weeks following the Fukushima incident, the international controversy surrounding nuclear power reached Taiwan. I took a look at a protest taking part in Taipei.

This was taken during my trip to Thailand last summer. Wat Arun is the tallest temple in the city of Bangkok and one of the most amazing places I’ve visited.

Another “touristy” shot from Southeast Asia, but one which I had in mind as soon as I got on the plane to Asia. Angkor Wat is a spot that everyone needs to see and its location in Cambodia is changing the face of the local town, Siem Reap.

This bear was at the Taipei Zoo, an extremely affordable and large zoo located in the country’s capital.

Also in the capital is the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, home to one of many ceremonies showing the changing of the guard. Precision and solemnity highlight this ceremony.

And the last is a shot of a sushi joint called Sushi Express from a newer camera, the Nikon P7000. I wrote about my initial reactions and posted some shots around the time of Dragon Boat Festival weekend. It’s a nice camera, but the lack of a mechanical shutter kind of irritates me.

For anyone who follows my blog: thanks! To be honest, I mostly blog because it forces me to take pictures. The fact that I have a bit of an “audience” helps me get out the door with my camera in hand. Doing this has helped me develop my photography and force me to make the photos “good enough” for public consumption. In the future, I hope to add a little more as I delve into film photography and continue to explore “Ilha Formosa.”

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Reprocessed Shot: Jhubei Lion Dancer

As I improve my postprocessing in Aperture 3, I try to go back to old RAW files and see what I can do to improve some of my favorite shots. One of these is a dragon “handler” from mainland China who was taking part in a cross-strait Chinese cultural festival in Jhubei last year. The original post can be found here. You’ll notice that the images aren’t resized to my new blog format – I’ll get to doing that later for that post as it was one of my personal favorite days of shooting.

Since I like the after shot more, here it is first:

…and the before:

The most obvious difference, and what I thought was the most important, was the crop. The second shot has an awkward non 3:2 or 5:4 look to it. Since my camera is a cropped-sensor, it uses the 3:2 format, which I use 95% or 99% of the time. For some reason, I’ve noticed that that natural crop is more appealing. I also changed it by lightening up the eyes (not by too much) and messing with the sharpness, contrast, and color temperature (white balance) to get a more appealing, less yellow look.

What do you think? Does it work?

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Dragon Boat Festival, Hsinchu (龍船節)

Yesterday marked the annual Dragon Boat Festival in the world of Chinese culture. It is celebrated through racing dragon boats – large oar-powered boats with dragon heads. The races resemble that of a Western regatta, with teams competing throughout the day.

These races were held at Nanliao, Hsinchu.

The above boat was towing boats back to the starting point after the race. It would let them go nearby, and the crew of each boat would have to ease it in so they could disembark and let the next team board.

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Dragon Boat Weekend! – 龍船節

Since I usually post on Monday morning Taiwan time for my first of the week, I’ll go ahead and make a quick one. We’ve had a busy/very fun weekend as it’s the Dragon Boat Festival, which takes place the first weekend of June.  It involves dragon boat races on large rowboats. While we are leaving soon to go see them, we also saw a lot between visiting Taipei yesterday and a Chinese Opera Saturday. Here’s a preview of the weekend below. I’ll also have another post detailing a new photography “toy” that I’ve acquired… more on that later.

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More from the Jhubei Dragon/Lion Dance

These are some more photos from the Jhubei Dragon/Lion Dance Festival back in December. I posted photos and had a very productive, fun day that afternoon – all of this taking place about a block away from my apartment.

In fact, it was productive enough that I got some photos that I never did post here.

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Dragon/Lion Dances and Drum Competition

Last Saturday, I had a chance to see a drum competition mixed into some dragon and lion dance performances.  I’m pretty sure this included some dance troupes from the mainland, and needless to say all of this was impressive.

This was also a good chance for me to get better with photographing moving objects.  I flipped on my AI-servo functions for the autofocus along with the continuous shutter and had a blast trying to get the performers jumping.  The first image is an example of that:

While I’ve got a little bit of blur on the feet, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I do wish that I had a more neutral background with some bokeh, as my lens isn’t an f/2.8 or anything (it was at 70mm f/4.5) and since hindsight is 20/20, I could have used more zoom to fix that – this image is obviously cropped a little.

Some shots that did come out a little better is a series of jumping lions.  These guys work in teams of two and have to jump on very small platforms – no more than the size of each foot.  Include some acting that the “lion” must perform, and you have a very stressful situation:

I did manage to get both “parts of the lion” with their feet up in the air, but not as dramatically as I would have liked:

I think I prefer the first of the two, because you can see the concentration in the faces – some flash might have worked, but a correct exposure would’ve been tricky.  I’m still getting assimilated with fill-flash on sunny days – this was a tough day to measure for.

Something that also helps me is to judge timing by the rhythm.  It’s easy to tell if a lion will jump based on the sound of the gongs played by the musicians in the back.  With drummers, I was able to pick up this pattern:

While I had seen dancing lions before (in Houston’s Chinatown, no less), I hadn’t had a chance to see these “lion trainers” and the act they brought.  The very first picture is a shot of the first lion trainer I saw – a guy who plays with the lions with a large ball and has them do tricks.  This was also done by a woman who put a lot of personality into the show as she interacted with her “animals.”

The male “lion trainer” was less interactive, but more acrobatic.  The very first photo on this post shows his backflip – he landed on the back of a lion and rode it for a few seconds.

Another event which I hadn’t seen before was a dragon dance.  This involved a leader which carried a ball on a stick which the dragon – handled by about 15-20 people – followed around.  I was pretty impressed by the contortions needed to make the dragon do different tricks.

The above shot is one of my favorites from the day.  The handlers were yelling the whole time – which, along with the drums, added to the atmosphere.

The above shot shows some of the crazy contortions needed to get a dragon to do what you want.  Sure looks painful.

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