Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The time of tea

Steam rises from a cup of tea
and we are wrapped in history,
inhaling ancient times and lands,
comfort of ages in our hands.

This image is a traditional tea village house in the tea region of Hangzhou, with history back to East Jin Dynasty (317-420), some 1,800 years ago.   Now, this part of village has turned into a luxury resort known as “Amanfayun”.

Amanfayun, Hanzhou, China

Tamsui Sunset

A small and lovely city north of Taipei, Tamsui (meaning fresh water) was a fisherman’s city, a city where my mother was born.   In my childhood, Tamsui is a distant place; today it is only 40 minutes by MRT – Metro Taipei.
Sunset in Tamsui has been praised as one of the eight magnificent views of Taiwan but somehow I have never photographed before.
On a recent visit to my teacher and mentor, Ko Sichi  柯錫杰 and his beautiful dancer wife Jessie Fan 樊潔兮  to their beautiful hideaway home at a foothill of Tamsui, on the balcony, I finally got the chance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shades of green

I shot this image during a morning walk in the Amanfayun, a lovely tea-village turned luxury resort, with the di-da-di sound of raindrops and the morning prayers from the nearby Lingyin and Fayun temple in the background.  It was a small corner; the new life found its way out of dense foliage, different shades of green compose into an attractive image, I just need to press the shutter.

Fayun, yesterday and today

This is an image recently shot at Amanfayun, Hangzhou, a luxury resort built around a former tea village around the Fayun Monastery, or the even more famous Lingyin Monastery which was built back in Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420AD), when the Mahayana Buddhism started to flourish in China and eventually reached its peak in Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) two hundred year later, and some 1,200 years later, here I am.
Residing inside a village of such long history and a refined interior and modern amenity inside the compound of Amanfayun is without question comfortable, but one might feel irresistible to imagine what have this place could be when it was built?  Indeed many things changed, but perhaps the sky and trees are not.  I was on the stone promenade, and the beautiful traditional roof line, the trees, the sky, and wondered this might as well be the view a thousand yeas ago.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Keep tracking of all the names of monasteries we visited or photographed during the entire trip is a tough task, something I never did perfect.  And this is a good example, a beautiful monastery in the middle of the mountain surrounded by typical Tibetan villages, a stunning view, but a view with monastery I failed to recognize its name.
Daocheng, Sichuan, China


“Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go.”   

Finally I have reached the gate of Yading Nature Reserve, time to join the group and move on, and next destination – Xiancheng.

Circular infinity

“Between earth and earth’s atmosphere, the amount of water remains constant; there is never a drop more, never a drop less.  This is a story of circular infinity, of a planet birthing itself.”   ~ Richard Bangs & Christian Kallen, RiverGods

Yading, east Tibet.   Shot with Canon 5DII with EF 24-105/4L IS, ISO 100, f/18, 0.4s


Sit by a river
Find peace and meaning
In the rhythm
Of the lifeblood of the Earth

The forest

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky.  We fell them and turn them into newspapers that we may record our emptiness.   ~ Kahlil Gibran
Virgin forest, Vading, East Tibet

Monday, August 15, 2011

Motion of life

One can not reflect in streaming water. Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.   ~ Laozi

Shot on the forest trail between Milk Lake and Yading village.  Melted ice water from Jambeyang Peak carries rich minerals give the river varies of colors during the day.  Shot with Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS setting at 35mm, f/14, 0.3s, ISO 100.

The Gate

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.   ~ John Muir
Virgin forest, Yading, east Tibet

Mountain Rhododendron

Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature.  ~ Gérard de Nerval

It is the season during this time around east Tibet; Rhododendron has decorated the slopes of mountain facing the sunrise. And also the trail coming down from Chonggu Monastery to Yading village.  The rich virgin forest with the dots of pink or white from rhododendron, make the trail a beautiful ones.

Chonggu Monastery

Chonggu Monastery in the early morning.

Morning light

After around 3-40 minutes of shoot by the bank of Five-Color Lake, it is time to go, we are moving to our next destination – Xiangcheng afternoon breakfast, which would be served 8am – still quite a distance going back down.
The morning light has a totally different effect on Yading, the sky is clear and the mist arising from the forest prompted me to stop often to keep shooting.  There is always time to eat later, but with a view and camera on hand, it is a better thing to do than hurrying for breakfast.
This one shot on the way down, the beautiful Chenrezig Peak with Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS.

Friday, August 12, 2011

From darkness to sunrise

We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness.

The shot was made at Five-Colored Lake in front of the north face of Cherezig Peak, 6,032m.  To get the sunrise shot one would have to wake up early, climb the trails in almost total darkness for hours to arrive a the spot I tool this image.  With horse, one can save about 2 hours, but still need an hour walk up the trail, but it worth every second.
Only certain time in a year the get the shot such as this one, around May each year, with right ambient temperature and the heat of the rising sun warm up the mist on the surface of the lake.  It was about -2 to -3 degree at the elevation of around 4,600m above sea level, just about 15 minutes by the waterfront the thin ice started to developed around my lens hood,  although I usually have no problem of this kind of cold, I would hope I have a glove with me.
The shot was made with Canon 5DII, EF 24-105/4L IS, on a tripod.

Walk in moonlight

Over night at Yading will be a mixed of experience for most.  The good part is, it is nature and very primitive, people who appreciate the adventure would love the basic lives in Yading.  The bad part is, it is China, where often hygienic issue is least concerned, for example, Yading, or pretty much the rural area.  The travelers would need to get used to this.  Suggestion to get over this - sleep as early as you can. 
And I have no problem at all, I have traveled in China for long and often enough, to some very remote areas, know what to expect.  At least, the electricity and water is usually not an issue.   And the night over Yading after whole days shoot carrying loads of equipment, I very much look forward to the sleep.  I have to get up 3am next morning anyway!  There are snowing and constant hailstorm during the evening, I wish for a good day tomorrow.
A few hours later I was awakened by a rapid door-knocking, signaling it is time to go, and I am ready – it was a night of no-shower, just change of clothing, and slept with clothing.  I took a Canon 5DII mounted with EF 24-104/4L IS, 2 spare battery (never forget this) – prepared the previous night, and the Gitzo tripod, put on Petzl headlamp, I went out to join the die-hard group.
The die-hard group is a rather slim group, only 4 out of 20 people in this trip decided to wake up this early for the early morning shoot – and we will proof them wrong.
It is supposed not to enter the Yading Nature Reserve this early, we were basically just sneak in, ride the horse in silence, turn-off our headlamp and led the horse climb in pitch dark.  No sooner we arrived at the Chonggu Monastery, and started to walk up the stairs to our destination – Five-Colored Lake, 4,600m.
Shortly before arriving the destination, I took this image of the bight moon above the mountain range, and Chenrezig Peak in short distance ahead.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mother's Day

August 12 is Mother’s Day in Thailand, and like all the mother’s days on earth, should be celebrated as a humanitarian day because on this day, every one is equal.  Perhaps the only difference is “has one” or “had one”!
Shot in Karen vliiage, Mae Hong Song, Thailand.
Contax N Digital with Carl Zeiss Planar 85/1.4N.

Not good-bye, it’s “See you later”

One of my favorite lines in the movie, John Q, was that John Q – starred by Denzel Washington told to his son when they are to part: Not good-bye, it's "See you later."
Same to Yading!  It is almost the end of available light and it is going to be almost an hour walking down the trail to a village residence from where I stood – an observation platform made on a foothill, that I have to pack up my gears and made this last shot of the day.
Not good-eye, it is “See you later”!

Happy ending

If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office. ~ George Lucas
Yading, East Tibet, 2011.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The thunderbolt

Sitting in the center of the Yading valley, between the pasture and sky, the Chanadorje Peak – representing Vajrapani, the thunderbolt.

Hailstone - the fallen ice

I was here in Yading almost same time last year with zero luck to see any of the patron saint of Yading, except light rain, thick fog, hailstorm and snow.  It is a change of luck this year although I have also met all these, but the light does break to allow me a good view and some time to capture the splendid peaks.
Hailstorm must be often at this area or I must have the luck with it.  With a modern well made camera and lens, a hat (always good to have one for what-so-ever reason), and a Gore-Tex.   The hail (hailstone) is literally a piece of ice, and I was able to continue to stay in the storm to shoot because those ones I met in Yading is fast coming, fast gone, and small, just about 6-7mm in diameter.   There was hailstorm in India in 1939 said to weight 7 ½ pounds and killed cattles and damage crops.  Run for a good shelter, if it is in that case.
Shot in the beginning of the hailstorm.

Shot awhile later, this and above images shot Canon 5DII + EF 24-105/4L IS.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vienna in motion

Shot in a running train, Vienna, Austria.

Image shot with a combination of moving and fast zoom on the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 24-85/3.5-4.5N on Contax N Digital.

Tomorrow and today

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.   ~ Stacia Tauscher

Little girl in Mae Salong, Chiangrai, Thailand

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Helena Rubinstein once said, “ Adjust your makeup to the light in which you wear it.”  It is probably the best say on makeup I knew.
Light defines how we see things which was why upon the invention of such technical art form, it was given the name derived from 2 Greek words: photo – meaning light and graphy – meaning draw.
Image made for Makeup Store.

Friday, August 5, 2011


“Love is like a mustard seed, planted by God and wanted by men”.
…. Muda Saint Michael

Contax G2 + Calr Zeiss 21/2.8G, Koenigsdorf, Cologne, Germany

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Jambeyang Peak and the right exposure

Jambeyang Peak, 5,958m, the southmost peak of the three patron saints in Yading, is also the one in the center, especially when observing it from the Milk Lake – in fact the local Tibetan called it the Milk Sea – because Tibet is so far from the ocean so they called the lake “Son of Sea”, in fact quite true since there are many salty lakes in Tibet.  Not the Milk Sea here though, it received its water from the melting snow from the Jambeyang Peak which one can easily tell the heavy snow compressed into ice forming a small glacial cut through the rocks, however seeing it is one thing and to photography it another.
This shot was made with Phase One P65+ on Hasselblad H2 + HC 50-110 lens setting at 80mm, and a perfect example to demonstrate the powerful digital photography that would be rather difficult to achieve such exposure in the ear of film.  For this image, I have a wide-angle Lee bellow shade and I use in combination of a 95mm C-PL filter, and a Formatt 0.6 graduate ND, captured in Phase’s proprietary IIQ raw file, pack the file in EIP (Enhanced Image Package) and develop it in Capture Pro 6.2.1.  It is powerful software that brings the 16-bit raw capture to its maximum, as example here.  The snow and ice exposed under the sun light still with visible detail while the weathered rock, the virgin grassland still exposed with very fine, sharp, noise free detail.


Talk about the swift change of weather!  During the half-day shoot in the Yading area, I have seen 2 cycles of rain, hailstorm, snow comes and goes.  Chanadorje Peak, the summit is hidden the thick storm cloud.

Because it’s there…….

The great nature has long been worshipped by its local residence and it was not until the invention of steam machine that makes man rethink their role against the nature, and start the discoveries.  However, the areas left behind the industrialization the worship remains, particular so in the Himalayan and Tibetan regions where they are among least developed (in modern sense, not spiritually) but have the world’s tallest and greatest mountains.
The highest mountain on earth,  Mt. Everest (name as result of imperialism, refer my previous blog – Plume, and Chomolangma ) – a name to me of no significant historical value except arrogance behind the weapons of intruder.  However it does signify the fact it is indeed the highest mountain on earth (not even in the solar system, the highest mountain in the known solar system is Olympus Mons – on Mars that is approximately 3X the height of Mt. Everest) with a survey measurement of 8,840m in 1956, then known as Peak XV.  It was not long after the new broke; the mountaineers determined that it needs to be climbed.
Fast forward to 1920s when the British started to serious planning and organizing expedition to scale Everest and made such attempt of real international awareness, the ill-fated George Mallory retorted “Because it’s there.” when questioned why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest.
Many people do not understand the attraction of mountains until they were there.  And this is one of the largest reasons why generations of people coming to Yading, to witness the power and beauty of nature, the three patron saint of Tibetan : Jambeyang (or Yangmaiyong) the south peak as the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, the  east peak Chanadorje (or Xianuoduoji) as the Bodhisattva of Wrath and the north peak Chenresig (or Xiannairi) as the highest of the trio, symbolizes Avalokiteshvara or better known by Chinese as the Guānshìyīn Púsà (觀世音菩薩), the Bodhisattva of Mercy.
Picture here is the Chanadorje Peak, stitched from 9 captures of Phase One P65+ on Hasselblad H2 + HC 300/4.5 lens.  Original image is 35,141 X 11,977 pixels for 400cm X 136cm print.

The power of medium format digital, the small red box indicates the this image’s relationship with the entire image.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The rain and the snow

Yading is an interesting place that there is horse ride from the entrance to Chonggu Monastery, then there is another 15km trail to Milk Lake which the national park offer electric car service – of course with another fee at RMB 80, one way.  Advice: bring enough RMB cash when travel in China, the admission fee to national park is not inexpensive here.  I shot around the Chonggu Monastery and in particular the north face of Chenrezig Peak, then just about the lunch time, we took out our instant noodle, prepare us a hot noodle lunch – thanks to the boiled-and-hot water provide for public by the ticket station. And then we took the electrical car to the Milk Lake.
A mere 15km is not a long ride, and the small trail barely allow 2 electrical cars passing is quite nice, and it just took a few minutes but these few minutes see the dramatic weather change.  We started the ride in bright sun and few minutes later arrive at Milk Lake and soon we are welcomed by rain!  And soon enough the rain fell with mixed of snowflakes.  Always have a Gore-Tex with you!  And choose your camera bag wisely!  And my choice is ARC’TERYX and Lowepro, they are not inexpensive, but I have these for YEARS!
Chanadorje Peak, 5,958 meters, east Tibet. Taken with Canon 5DII + EF 70-300/4-5.6L IS,  yes, use them in rain and snow comfortably.