Tag Archives: geography

Getting Ready for a Break

Next week is the beginning of Chinese New Year, and it seems like things are already winding down.  I’m planning on showing some family members around and am looking forward to exploring southern Taiwan.  In addition, we’ll be taking part in New Year’s festivities, so it’ll be a loud week, if anything!

These were taken while walking around a year-end celebration in the community.  Lots of reds here, as you’d expect!

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On the Edge of Heaven

Last weekend, I visited Miaoli with Yuling to go hiking on Lion’s Head Mountain, a trail and mountain ridge located in a national park.  While we had beautiful weather and a decent hike, I was a bit disappointed at first to note that the “peak” did not have anything worth looking at… it was too crowded with trees.  Once we made our way further down to a temple complex, however, things changed.  We were met with a 180-degree view and a temple complex that works its way down the side of the mountain.  It was pretty amazing.

This HDR image was taken to capture the sunset and how the rooftops looked with the mountains in the background.  I’m proud of it, but it’s given me some headaches.  First the picture… I’ll describe more below.

First, I’ll mention that the image deserves to be seen full-size.  You can do that by clicking on it and ending up in Flickr.  Or, you could right click and open it up in a new tab/window.

I’ve shot HDRs for this blog before, but had trouble with this one because of the lighting.  On one hand, I wanted my subject, the dragons, to be well-lit and easily visible.  On the other, the sun was setting BEHIND them.  I shot this at f/11 on the 35mm at 1 1/500 shutter speed and bracketed the pictures to a -2, 0 and +2 EV setting.  The ISO was 200, though I did de-noise the final product because of Photomatix giving me more crud to deal with.

After de-noising, I had to deal with the dragons.  Taking away too many shadows meant making a dreamlike/creepy HDR.  The kind that I hate.  Including what was originally there meant taking away from the wonderful detail of this temple.  I went for a mix and spent quite a bit of time brushing the layers on where necessary.  It wasn’t an ideal way to spend my time, but I think it worked.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

If you’re a photographer and want to criticize/critique, please feel free.

I’ll probably post more photos from this trip tomorrow.

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Looking Out the Window

I know I’ve posted my apartment view before (see this), but I thought I’d include some recent photos that I took of the same view… plus a few out the other end of the building.  These shots really show the amount of growth in my area, and it’ll be interesting to see how different it is in 1, 5, or 10 years.

The first two are HDR… one looking west and the second is looking east.

…followed by a single exposure looking west.

…and another looking west.  This last one is a bit of an experiment – it’s a mix between a nighttime long exposure (see the previous post) and a single-exposure HDR shot turned black and white.  Let me know what you think.

As always, you can click on these for full image sizes.  The reason I do not have the full size here in the first place is to keep load times on this page fast.  If you want to see the full size, click on the photo and click the magnifying glass above the picture.  If this isn’t big enough, you can click “view all sizes” to choose.

In the course of the next few days, I’ll have a lot to photograph.  You might remember my post at the beginning of Ghost Month.  Well, the month has come to a sort of climax and there are a lot of festivals this weekend – this time that I know of beforehand.  It should be interesting.

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Filed under HDR, jhubei, long-exposures, sunsets, taiwan2010

Long Exposures in Taichung

One of the more difficult types of photos to take is the ever cool looking long exposure.  Usually done at night, these are made by setting the Aperture to a high number (my lens goes to f-stop 22) and holding the shutter open on “bulb” mode.  If you hold it too long, and it’s bleached out.  Too little, and it’s too dark.  Oh – and don’t wobble it… most people do this with a tripod and remote trigger.

These photos are some pictures of traffic at dusk using this method.  I was actually very happy with this set because it’s the first time I’ve gotten this moving traffic in this way.  I’m going to have to try more techniques, like the black card – which should let me keep the shutter open longer and get more movement without bleaching things out.

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Luce Chapel, Taichung

This set of photos looks like it could have been taken in the US – a chapel on the campus of a private Methodist-founded college in Taichung by the name of Tunghai University.  Taichung is Taiwan’s third largest city and geographically in the center of the country… its name “台中” actually including the chracters for “middle of Taiwan.”*

All photos are HDR except for the last which is made with a single exposure.  Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, I changed the layout and theme of this site – let me know if you do/don’t hate it if you want.  I went with the black background because this oddly became a photo blog – something I never planned on starting.

*Lots of Taiwanese cities are like this.  台北 (Taipei) simply means “north of Taiwan.”  The city I live in, 竹北 (Jhubei or Zhubei) refers to being “north of bamboo.”  Just south of 竹北 is 新竹, or Hsinchu.  The “竹” character refers to the bamboo which I’m guessing used to be in the area while, if you haven’t noticed, 北 means “north.”

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Filed under HDR, religion, taichung, taiwan2010

Jhubei Night Market

While I have already made a post about the ShiDa Night Market, I was recently excited to visit a market here in Jhubei which is obviously easier to get to, still very large, and occurs weekly.  As I said before, night markets are pretty common here in Taiwan, and you can expect some very good food to go along with your visit.

Above, we have some common scenes: crowds and food.  Both of these are huge things to contend with… and when I mean “content with” food, I mean that you have to choose.  One of the choices, below, is known as Chou Dofu, or “Stinky” Tofu (臭豆腐).  臭豆腐 is a form of tofu which is first fermented – so you can imagine it lives up to its name of being “stinky.”  I had the chance to try this in Houston and hated it as mine smelled and TASTED like feet, and was quite apprehensive to try it again here in Taiwan.  I certainly smelled it… Yuling wasn’t fooling me extremely well when she tried to feed it to me as I finished off my barbeque corn.  I told myself, though, that I’d give it another go, grabbed it with my chopsticks… and…

…it wasn’t too bad, actually!  I even like it more than the Taiwanese “kimchi” or cabbage, which goes pretty well with it… if you ever eat it, though, do yourself a favor and DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT read the Wikipedia article on how it’s made before you do.  I thought about this while eating it, and it almost ended very, very poorly. I can at least add this to the pig intestine, duck blood, chicken feet, chicken gizzard, and beef tongue that I’ve had so far… and with the exception of that tofu, I apologize to any vegetarians out there.  Just make sure you hang around the Buddhist monasteries for food if you come to Taiwan… everyone else is a definite carnivore here.

Anyway, on to some more photos…

Again, a reminder: sometimes photos are heavily cropped to make them more interesting – to see this photo, just click on it and you’ll see a larger size in Flickr.

So the above photo is representative of some of the carnival-style games they had.  In the front of the rows, you’ll see some basic items… snacks, soda, whatever.  If you can throw a ring around it, you’ve got it.  Further back?  Beer bottles.  With beer.  A little bit more?  A full bottle of whiskey.  Hmmm.

…gotta love the flavored corn.  I tried my BBQ corn at a different stall, but will be visiting this one in the future.

…and another stall cooking stinky tofu on skewers with cabbage…

…sashimi, anyone?

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Hong Kong Skyline (HK Part 1)

While I included a photo of the Tian Tan Buddha in the last post, I’ve decided to just do this trip in chronological order, so that basically means starting with some city-scapes I took during the first night Yuling and I arrived in this massive city.

We ventured out on a few boatrides, and I had the chance to see a beautiful sunset along with a nice, partly cloudy night for getting photos of the city itself.  Of course, I had to be careful – these long exposures are not my thing and they are especially not my area of specialty on a moving boat.  The good news is that I did have a small tripod for night landscapes, so I did get some usable shots.

First, starting off early-evening with a shot of the famous Peninsula Hotel.  This is an HDR image, and I see why the only thing most people can afford is a hoity-toity tea party during the day:

…the photo above is what I’m sure is a hotel near the Peninsula – not sure on the name, but I liked it.

In the above, a ferry much like what we took is heading across the harbor.  I was happy to get the focus on the boat, but would’ve been happier to have my newly-purchased 70-300mm Nikkor lens with me to get some shots of the old-style Chinese “junks” also sailing in the harbor.

…as to why that building on the left is bending, you can blame my camera lens.  While there are special lenses for architecture shots, I’m not rich enough to worry about it – I almost like the slight fisheye effect we get at wide angles such as this.

…and on the other side, looking at Kowloon at sunset.  Our hotel was in Kowloon and was VERY nice compared to what we payed – located in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

The Golden Bauhinia, a golden representation of the flower on Hong Kong’s flag, was a gift by the Chinese government to the city of Hong Kong as a result of the 1997 declaration of sovereignty from Britain.  I could tell the Chinese see this as a symbol of pride, as tourists were taking photos of it and paying for professional photos of the statue.  Along with this were some Beijing 2008 logos, interestingly enough… good marketing for a Communist country!

The above is an HDR of the HK convention center.  Overlooking the harbor, its area provides great views of the main island’s skyline AND Kowloon.

…which is where I got this shot.  I set up my tripod on a very convenient base for a floodlight.  I really need to get a bigger tripod though – I could have gotten more direct shots of the city itself.

…and the last was taken during our harbor boat ride.  Notice the glassy water – I had to take at a longer exposure and took a LOT of photos trying to get this to match a crisp-looking city.  Of course, the city isn’t perfect, but passable, and I got the colors I wanted.

More HK photos will be coming in the next few days.  As you can see, it’s a beautiful city… and I haven’t even included photos of mountains yet.  At the same time, Yuling and I are both glad to be back on Ilha Formosa – the Portuguese term for Taiwan… which perfectly translates to “beautiful island.”

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂) (Taipei Post 5)

The last day of Taipei was spent going to one of the main cultural and political sites of the city, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.  I had half-expected Falun Gong protesters as with Taipei 101 and pro-Tibet people as at the National Palace Museum, but I wonder if the revered sanctity of this place for Taiwanese keeps that from happening.  Part of the experience is seeing a changing of the guard ceremony, much like we have in the US at Washington DC’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Some HDR is mixed in with the following.  Click on each for a full-sized photo through Flickr.

(Notice the sweat on the guard’s face – the weather was pushing 100 degrees F/38 C)

…and an HDR to finish things off.

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Taipei 101 (台北101) (Taipei Post 4)

The Taipei 101 visit was something I had been looking forward to since my time in the States, so it was worth braving the crowds of tourists from all over to get in and see the observation deck.  Lucky for us, we arrived just in front of a massive Chinese tour group, so we were able to move along in line as my boredom was quelled by my trusty iPhone.

Taipei 101 – named as such because it’s in Taipei and has 101 stories – was the tallest building in the world until early this year, when Burj Khalifa in Dubai opened.  Visitors who see the Taipei skyline might think that the city has no tall office buildings because they are simply dwarfed by the massive structure.

Unfortunately for us, we visited on a pretty hazy day, though there was some glimmer of sunlight during the evening’s sunset.  I hope to go back to Taipei in the not-too-distant-future to get some shots of this in the skyline at night.  I’m sure it’s amazing.

The above is Taipei 101 in the early evening.  It’s a 3-exposure HDR as is the following picture…

…which was taken inside the smaller building’s mall.  Anyone up for some luxury shopping?

…this HDR shows that glimmer of sunlight we had.  Conveniently in the west as well is a mountain peak and river.  You’ll want to click on that photo for the full-size image in Flickr…

The above photo is another HDR (this location lent itself very well to multiple exposures!) of the winddamper.  Located in the middle of the building near the top, it is a giant counterweight meant to, well, damper the wind.  The effects are noticed – if you go near the windows, you will sway a little bit… but not near this behemoth.

Another HDR taken in a park just outside the mall.  I’m thinking that this would be a cool photo if the ground were wet and the lights were reflecting more…

Looking up again… another 3-exposure HDR.  Though the following photo didn’t need this treatment…

…and another view from the top.  I’ll attribute the softness of this HDR to the fact that it was unfortunately taken through the window of the indoor observation deck.

…and to finish off, a photo of the outdoor deck.  The man in blue is a security guard – probably making sure we have no jumpers.  The giant cage was good as it doesn’t interfere with your photos (a lens fits right through) and it seems much more effective than the Rockefeller Center’s plexiglass.

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Filed under HDR, photos, taipei, taipei101, taiwan2010

Sights of ShiDa Night Market (師大路夜市) (Taipei Post 3)

During my trip to Taipei, Yuling and I visited Shida Night Market, a famous example of the many night markets in Taiwan.  These events, which might occur weekly or every evening, are a way for the locals to spend time (and money) shopping and eating through all hours of the night.  It makes a lot of sense that in the case of Shida, a college is nearby and there are plenty of expat and local music venues throughout.

Something I had to get used to was the fact that people go to Shida to just walk around.  Crowds of untold magnitudes of people converge in one tiny spot and really don’t mind the human traffic jam they get themselves into – it’s not uncommon or extremely impolite to bottleneck a passage – the 100 people behind you will almost expect it to happen.

I’ll link to the Taipei Times here – they offer a great description.  As usual, photos and descriptions follow and each is a link to the (BETTER) real version on Flickr!

Hopefully the above photo gives you an idea of how crowded this was…

…while this gives you an idea of the food.  These balls were made of fish, octopus, and wasabi – then served with some kind of dried vegetable on top… very tasty, but too hot to eat at first.

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