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.
Well, my weather predictions for the weekend go to show that I shouldn’t be a meteorologist. We had a beautiful day today with temperatures in the mid-80s F and plenty of sun. I decided to go to the traditional market and, finding that it was starting to shut down for the day, went to the riverside that divides Jhubei from Hsinchu. I’ve taken pictures here before, even having a second post of shots from the same area.
This time, I decided to venture closer to the river itself. I found a trail used by fishermen who park their scooters nearby and bring waders with them to go fly-fishing. I set up on a rock that worked as a seat and managed to get a glimpse at a few egrets, which are common in rivers and rice fields here in Taiwan. I watched this egret get used to me staring at it with the 70-300mm lens and waited for it to get comfortable. Then it started fishing and gave me a good show:
It would dart back up the rock from time to time – and I’m not sure why. At least once, it gave me a good display of plumage. You’ll want to click on this to see it full-size:
In addition to the egret, I was treated to a black-crowned night heron. I’ve actually seen these in Texas before (as well as egrets) and even previously posted a photo of one. Of course, that was before getting my nice 70-300mm glass, so I was relying on the fact that the previous bird was probably defending a nearby nest as it was squawking furiously at me. This one was wasn’t so interested, and didn’t hang around for long. On the other hand, the egrets were there before and after I had left.
The last shot is actually the first bird I saw today, a Taiwan Bush-Warbler:
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.
OK – to straighten things out first, only the first three photos are new. It amazes me… whenever I have time to shoot photos outside, it rains. When I don’t (and end up not getting home until after-dark), it’s… well… dark. This has been annoying as of late.
I do have good news, though. Over the summer, I entered an HDR image of Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas (click on the title for that post/photo) to Harvard University’s Pluralism Project. The Pluralism Project exists to educate people about America’s growing religious diversity and I was excited when they had a call for photos. Well, I am one of the winners, but I can’t say that I got the grand prize. That’s OK – the grand prize definitely kicked everyone’s butt… it’s a beautiful shot of floating lanterns. My shot wasn’t bad, but looking back, I realize that I still need to keep working on framing. I liked the dramatic perspective this one had and will try to improve on it in the future.
Anyway, as for tonight’s shots – the first three come from a quick jaunt out for some rice and pork at a Japanese-Taiwanese restaurant. It was pretty good and cheap… nutritious, too… so no complaints here. The first shot is a nearby restaurant’s paper lantern:
After dinner, Yuling and I walked around the neighborhood. We came across this temple which was located right next to a park – the first shot includes some bokeh in the background as I was trying to get the obligatory temple incense shot:
I had mixed feelings once I was done with the following shot. Since these were taken at night, I was playing around with ISO settings on my camera. I set the ISO on the following shot a little too low/slow (OK, “a lot” too low/slow) and it came out a bit blurry. At the same time, I like the effect on the colors and think the blurriness might work for the photo…
The following photos were taken and recently re-touched. The first was on this blog earlier – I decided to lighten the photo some in order to make it “pop” out more:
…followed by a Taipei photo I dug out of the neglected batch:
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.”
On the second day of our Hong Kong trip, we took a walk around the city as I searched high and low for a Nikkor 70-300mm lens, the second of my collection since purchasing my DSLR.
While I didn’t get the lens at first, we did get to tour the Lower Manhattan-esque Central District of Hong Kong. I honestly wasn’t enthralled as other than the fact that I was walking up steep hills and sharing narrow sidewalks, it felt as if I’d seen it all before. However, we did get to a series of ridiculously long escalators, which took us most of the way up the mountain. Closer to the top, we eventually encountered the “Peak” cable trolley – which took us to the top of the city for a spectacular view. Photos below.
The two above photos show our trolley on the way up (first photo) and the way down. You can see the grade on this hill – it was actually very steep… I tried not to think about that too much…
…an HDR of a lion “guarding” the city…
…and the city itself, with a regular single exposure. Too bad it was a dreary day, as it didn’t help my lighting at all…
…and the trolley going down the mountain.