Christmas Fun

I don’t think I have ever published a specific “How to” post before, but after shooting some Christmas cards again this year, using a simple and fun technique, I thought, “Why not?”

DMEL5584December 17, 2015

This is from my most recent attempt with the technique in question. Here, the shots were taken in a dark room, against a black background and with lights on the subject coming from the left (soft box), the right (small grid) and from the back right (unmodified speed light). With such control, it is easy to get a very distinct black background as well as more saturated colors in the shapes. That being said, it takes a fair bit of space to make it work. I don’t think this could be done in a typical living room.

So, here it is. Continue reading

10/10 – the Rehearsals


Taiwan has an odd National Day holiday; one quite different from the rest of the world I think. First of all, it celebrates something that most certainly did not happen on the island of Taiwan and one which had no impact on the island when it happened. October 10th (10/10) celebrates the beginning of an uprising in China that led to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, the last of dynastic China and which led to the creation of the Republic of China (ROC). At the time though, Taiwan was under Japanese Imperial rule and in no way could you really count October 10th as being any sort of “birthday” for the Island the Chinese Nationalists came to control. Nonetheless, 10/10 is the de facto National Day in Taiwan and it is not at all uncommon to hear some variant of “Happy Birthday Taiwan” being spoken that day.

Taiwan’s National Day celebrations are also different than what is served up on most other democracies as far as I can tell. The actual celebrations happen in front of the Presidential Building on Ketagalen Boulevard in Taipei. That seems normal enough, but what seems very odd to me is that the public is mostly locked out of the main stage celebrations. Attendance is by ticket and invite; barbed wire and military guards surround the area for the celebrations, making sure that the great unwashed don’t find themselves too close. Not a very inclusive celebration IMO.

Also, the festivities are very heavily pro-militaristic. Maybe that is normal enough, but with all the precision marching and shined uniforms, it reminds me more of North Korea that a free and open democracy (which is what Taiwan has) should

Of course, those soldiers and all the spit-shine make for some attractive photos. Two days before the official celebrations, there are always rehearsals. I think this is the third year in a row where my wife got tickets to attend in the grandstand/VIP area. I might not agree with everything about the event, but it still is pretty fun to get in and take some photos of the pomp and circumstance. Here are some of the photos, though unfortunately we had to leave before all was said and done.

Typhoon Soudelor – The Next Day

Typhoon Soudelor, the biggest tropical storm of 2015 so far smashed into Taiwan on Friday. Though at sea, it was classified as a category five storm, by the time it made landfall in Taiwan it was “downgraded” to category three. In the 12+ years I have been in Taiwan, this has been the hardest hit I can remember: I am very happy not to have experienced an actual category five storm.

Personally, we were fine, though we did go without power most of the day yesterday. Today, power was back up most of the day, but when it went back down for a time, we decided it was a good time to head to Bitan (five minutes away) to see how the river fared.

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of damage and a lot of debris. There always is after a big storm and this was certainly a big storm. Of greater interest to me in some ways, is how much has already been done in cleaning up and getting things back to normal. This post will show both the mess and how much has been done in much less than 24 hours. I do know that by next weekend, things will look as though nothing happened.

As an aside, although I know Bitan will be tidied up in very short order, some of the more isolated communities will not be so lucky. All day long, helicopters were flying, bringing supplies to areas that were completely cut off because of the storm.

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Sweatin’ to the Oldies

There was a time when I used to quite regularly take macro photos of insects and other creepy crawly things. For whatever reason, I haven’t done that much in the past few years. On Thursday, I went back to it though, at an old spot near my home. Why I chose to revive the tradition when Taipei’s temperatures and humidity are nearing their most intense is an awfully good question. Even though I went relatively early in the morning, I was pouring sweat before I took my first shot and by the time I finished, a little more than an hour later, not only was I covered in sweat, but my clothes were totally saturated.

As compared to the last time I was in this location, the insects at hand seemed to be of the smaller species. Previously, I had found big butterflies, grasshoppers, katydids and spiders in this little field. This time, almost everything I shot seemed to strain the limits of my macro lens.

Ten From ’14

At the end of the year, many folks like to do a review and choose their 10 best; be it movies, songs, books etc. I’ll join in on the fun, though I wouldn’t call these my 10 best. More like 10 that caught my eye in quick review. Some I don’t even know why I like, but I like them nonetheless. No particular theme; I will just show them in chronological order.

On March 3oth, hundreds of thousands showed up to voice their displeasure at the Cross Strait Service and Trade Agreement.

On March 3oth, hundreds of thousands showed up to voice their displeasure at the Cross Strait Service and Trade Agreement.

Security from the ongoiong Cross Strait Service and Trade Agreement protests.

Security from the ongoiong Cross Strait Service and Trade Agreement protests.

Chess players; always a favorite subject of mine.

Chess players; always a favorite subject of mine.

Security on Taipei's MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system.

Security on Taipei’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system.

Continue reading