Category Archives: taiwan

Long(ish) Exposure in Taoyuan County (Single Shot)

This shot is a longer-than-usual exposure, taken while braced against some rocks at 1/3 of a second, an eternity in terms of my usual exposure lengths of at least 1/60 of a second.

For this shot, I stopped all the way down to f/22, which is ridiculously high for me, and switched the ISO down to about 100. This let me get a nice silky feel to the water. Unfortunately, while the day was not overcast, it was cloudy when I took this shot, so I decided to go black and white.

This was taken near a “swimming hole” near Fuxing Township (復興), Taoyuan County, a very rural area of Taiwan – close to the “Xiao Wu Lai” waterfall (小烏來瀑布).

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Single Shot: Welcoming the Ghosts

I’ll take a break from posting a recent series from my last trip to Okinawa to show off something I saw last weekend at the Hsinchu City God Temple. This is part of a ceremony allowing and welcoming spirits to roam sort of “finish business” from the earthly realms. During this month, spirits are appeased and/or kept away from homes through incense and offerings and spirit money, or ghost money, is burned as an offering. I have some more shots from last year here.

As school is about to start, this is a bit of a culture shock to many foreigners entering Taiwan for the first time. It’s hard to believe this is the start of my third year on the island!

 

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Single Shot: Tainan “General”

This is a repost of a reprocessed image I took in Tainan a year and a half ago. I decided to redo the RAW file as I’m trying to improve my processing skills by bringing new life to old photos. The original can be found partway down the page here.

For this shot, I warmed up the image’s white balance, increased some sharpening and contrast, and balanced the stark dark and light levels to even out the image but still put a focus on the faces. Any improvement here shows the importance of keeping RAW files, among other things.

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Single Shot: Tourism Tricycle in Lu Kang

This was taken quite a while ago during a trip to “Lukang,”, or 鹿港, an old town further south in Taiwan that was once an important harbor. Apparently, this cart is from the nearby Presbyterian Church, and I forgot about this picture as I was getting other shots posted and moving along.

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Lion Dance and Temple Ceremony, Guqifeng (古奇峰), Hsinchu

A month ago, I visited Guqifeng, or 古奇峰, a temple in Hsinchu marked with a very large statue of the god of war, Guan Gong, on top of a mountain just east of the city. Last weekend, while visiting the general area, my wife and I noticed something going on inside and saw a lion dance troupe preparing to perform. Here are some shots from this performance.

Above: the drumline beats out the rhythm for the dancers. These guys were very talented and drumming is an art of its own in Taiwanese and Chinese culture.

A performer tests the stands before the performance by jumping between them. These performers will rarely make mistakes, but an important safety procedure for this was a group of performers underneath, holing the stand steady and acting as a buffer for falling friends. This did happen – the first time I’ve seen this happen before – and the performers who fell were perfectly fine, their fall being broken as they were caught. During this time, the drums kept going and the lion dancers were back in no time.

A confetti-covered ground marks the main ceremony area before the lion dance performer took the stage.

A walking god watches as the altar of another god “visits” the temple god. The confetti canons were set up at a climax during the ceremony and I was happy for a wider angle lens here.

Lion dancers jump across. Notice the drummers yelling below.

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Hsinchu Air Show, 2012

Each year, the local air force base hosts an event for the public which is open to all to visit the base for an air show. Growing up, I frequented events like these with my grandparents taking me each year. It was exciting to see this again, even if we were a bit limited for time and the weather could’ve been better.

The stars of the show were the ROC Air Force’s “Thunder Tigers,” a stunt group much like the US Navy Blue Angels or US Air Force Thunderbirds. They flew AT-3 trainers, which is a Taiwanese-created and engineered aircraft. They aren’t too fast, but are very maneuverable and actually quite quiet compared to the louder engines of a Mirage or F-16.

I noticed that tigers play a big role in ROC squadron art – I’m guessing this is partially due to the involvement of the American “Flying Tigers” who flew against Japan for the Chinese Air Force before Pearl Harbor. Their history is a bit fascinating and serves as a sort of basis to the rest of the ROC Air Force.

After the Thunder Tigers was a Dassault Mirage 2000:

Unfortunately I didn’t get this “sweet spot” over the crowd, but I survived. It was quite humorous to see them moving their cameras in unison as the planes flew by:

One of the main issues facing the ROC Air Force is its weakening relationship with the United States. Ever since ties have warmed between the PRC and United States, the ROC has found itself short on weapons to buy as the US fears it will anger China. As a response, the IDF or Indigenous Defense Fighter, was created in the 1990′s:

Of course, Taiwan does have its own F-16s, but they are the older A/B variants:

In addition, other American-made aircraft include the E-2 Hawkeye and C-130:

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Mazu’s Carrier and More from Jhubei Mazu Parade

This man was at the Jhubei Mazu Temple parade last November, which I posted lots of photos from after the event. I’ve decided to go ahead and post a few more, as I have neglected quite a few decent shots from that day.

If you ever end up following one of these groups, it’s best to make sure you have water, a mask, and earplugs. Trust me.

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Visiting Yingge (鶯歌)

This is a short post from Yingge, a town near Sanxia, which I’ve posted from before. I recently returned for a second visit and stopped this time in Yingge, a town known for its creation of ceramics. It’s a bit of a touristy area with cobblestone roads and pedestrian-only zones.

Above: a mounted policewoman in Yingge. This is a rare sight in Taiwan – I rarely see horses on the island.

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Falun Gong Demonstration, Jhubei

Last Saturday, I was sitting inside my apartment when I heard a marching band go by. Looking out to see what it was, I saw people exercising in the street and a costumed drum group. Soon enough, I saw the familiar expression “Fa Lun Da Fa Hao” (法輪大法好) or “Fa Lun Da Fa is Good” – a message often repeated in Taiwan where this “new religious movement” is free from persecution, unlike in mainland China where practitioners of this blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and exercise have been tortured, imprisoned, and killed. Also known as Fa Lun Gong (法輪功), the movement itself is very peaceful and lacks any real controversy on the surface. While there are claims of wrongdoing made by the Chinese Communist Party, it seems that the group’s exponential growth in the 90′s is what most concerned the communist government.

While I did not follow the parade very far, I did catch all of it as it went through central Jhubei being protected by the Taiwanese police. This was not a political demonstration primarily, although there were some politically-oriented signs. Instead, it simply seemed like a way to show off what the movement is about. I was welcomed by some of the people following and covering the march as they answered any questions I had with a great deal of respect and excitement that I would be interested in their march.

Above: a set of banners proclaiming that the next group would be an exercise team (seen on top).

Above: this banner states the fact that in 1999, Falun Gong had more members than the Chinese Communist Party. 1999 was the first major year of crackdowns against the movement in mainland China.

Above: a policeman watches as the parade goes by. Religious and political freedoms are heavily protected in Taiwan, and seeing this is gratifying.

I have to say that as China grows and becomes a world power, it has to deal with the fights it wants and the fights it needs. It will be interesting to see how and if Taiwan influences China in the coming years as we see the two countries creating economic ties. While one can always hope for more freedom anywhere in the world, it’s important to keep these things in mind as we as Western countries decide who to deal with when it comes to international politics.

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Visit to 古奇峰 (Guqifeng), Hsinchu

Guqifeng, which translates to “ancient peaks,” is sort of hard to describe. Its most obvious mark is a huge statue of Guang Gong, the god of war. In addition, a statue garden and museum are also on the grounds and provide viewers a sometimes fascinating and sometimes – somewhat strange – view of various statues, historical artifacts, and religious symbols.

Starting off is the Guang Gong statue, easily seen throughout the mountaintop area:

This shrine of the Hindu god Brahma in the Thai style was interesting, especially after I visited Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine last summer. I saw these in a few other temples in the area, indicating that the deity is popular locally.

One of the interesting parts about Guqifeng is the large collection of statues from around the world. Here’s a copy of one of the famed Terra Cotta warriors, something that wasn’t too out of place…

…and some statues of who I think is Guan Yin. Two copies with awkward smiles…

…and a Buddha in the woods also made sense…

…but once I saw Beethoven’s bust and some other European items, I knew there would be quite a bit of diversity with the selection…

…and then a mythical beast of some sorts? I have been in Taiwan long enough to have never recognized this in Chinese mythology/religion. I have no clue what it is.

Some statues weren’t taken care of very well or just fell into disrepair. I guess this can be expected.

At any rate, I had a great time exploring this site. It’s located in a slightly hard to find spot but can be found through Google Maps. In the next few days, I’ll be posting more from another trip – this time to Sanxia, Taipei again.

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