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!
I guess these are quickly turning into monthly posts, but at least I’m posting something! These are from Jhubei over the past month.
The side to this building looked a bit like… the Polish flag!
I know I haven’t posted ANYTHING yet this year. The reason for this is because of a few personal changes that made me pretty busy mixed with some absolutely nasty weather here in northern Taiwan. Nasty weather makes it hard to get yourself to go out and shoot, and I hope to alleviate that with today’s beautiful Spring-like day.
This single shot today is taken at 18mm, or a crop-sensor equivalent of about 28mm, was taken as I try to explore other focal points than the regular 35mm/50mm.
It’s actually not the most exciting picture, but the subject itself is pretty cool. This is a Hakka cultural park in Jhubei. Rather than demolish these old farmhouses in the midst of a huge real-estate boom, the developers of this park created a place for locals to preserve and learn about their culture. I’m a huge fan of it and it sticks out in contrast to the modern city surroundings.
I used Lightroom’s rather amazing distortion/lens profile features to fix the image and have been enjoying using Lightroom since the death of the MacBook a few months ago.
With Chinese New Year, a relaxed schedule, and HOPEFULLY, some decent weather, I plan on getting many more images up in the next few weeks.
While I didn’t get much of a chance to delve into street photography as much as I would’ve liked, New York seems to be the de-facto capital in the US for photography. Unfortunately, I was on a pretty tight schedule and didn’t wander around aimlessly with my camera as much as I wanted.
These shots are all at least a little cliched, but were fun to take in the subways. While the Manhattan subway system has “character” (e.g. it smells a lot more than Taipei, Bangkok, Hong Kong, or any other Asian system) I have to forgive it somewhat for being so old and so large.
These are shots taken from Canal Street and Grand Central.
Even though this is a bit too out of focus, I liked it. I think I was trying to focus on the Grand Central sign, but that was a pretty futile/silly attempt.
These are some semi-touristy shots of landmarks around New York, mostly Lower Manhattan, which is full of history. In addition to Ground Zero and Wall Street, visitors regularly see Battery Park, Trinity Wall Street (not pictured), South Street Seaport, Federal Hall National Memorial, “The Bull,” and a host of other sites centered around New York’s oldest and most historic district.
Federal Hall (above) is the former home of the United States Supreme Court, Congress, and Executive Branch. George Washington was sworn in here and his statue is a focal point for many tourists. I think it’s quite symbolic/fascinating that it faces the Stock Exchange just across the street.
The Helen McAllister at South Street Seaport (above) is a turn of the century tugboat. South Street Seaport was undergoing a huge renovation, something that I didn’t expect from my former lunch spot while interning in New York.
Above left: the Peking, a tall ship from the last days of the age of sail and on the right, the famous Charging Bull.
Above left: the Battery Park memorial to soldiers, sailors, and airmen who lost their lives crossing the Atlantic during World War II and on the right, a statue that needs no introduction.
Above right: the beginnings of the Freedom Tower have sprung out of the ground in recent months. I was quite amazed to see how much progress has been made.
Traveling back to the US for my “second” wedding last week was great, if not a bit of a culture shock for me. Whether it was driving in a Chevy Suburban (compare that to my 125-cc or 50-cc scooters), experiencing Wal-Mart again (need I say more?), or eating actual “American” cuisine, it was a bit of a change for Yuling and I. We went on a side-trip to New York City about halfway through the trip, where I took the most photos by far. These are from the super-tourist site of Times Square. Even though I had been familiar with the city having been an intern for the city government a few years ago, the “touristy” things were a bit new to me, and I hate to admit, kind of fun.
As I mentioned a few days ago, my MacBook went kaput. Thankfully, everything’s backed up and the hard drive is still alive. This did leave me, however, without a photo processing tool. I’ve always used Aperture 3 just because it was the first thing I tried. While I’d played around with Lightroom, I hadn’t had a chance to use it for my own shots.
I think I might stick with it. It’s much more responsive to Aperture 3, for one thing. Even though it always deals with the huge amount of data in a RAW file, it’s a million times faster on a PC comparable in hardware to my MacBook. I was also able to experiment with the different settings – which do the same basic stuff – and have some more features.
A few things I was looking for include contrast, color, and sharpness. All went extremely well. Here are three results:
The above was a bit over-saturated for my taste. I’ll keep experimenting with what to do with saturation in the future.
With how poorly Aperture 3 acts on my more-than-decent MacBook, I might just have become a convert…
This shot was taken in the older section of Jhubei around the BoAi Street area. I find it more photographically interesting and should really go back there more as there are plenty of distractions unlike the relatively “sterile” newer parts of town.
This is from a Chinese opera performance in Jhubei which took place last summer. Lately, the weather hasn’t been good for these sorts of events so I’m reposting some older shots.
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?