Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Taipei 101

So while I was working in the Taipei office, which happens to be located in Taipei 101, I wanted to take off early one day and hike up 象山, a near by mountain that offers an amazing view of Taipei 101 and the entire Taipei Basin. I've seen some AMAZING pictures taken from there (see which is why I'm so interested in going there to try my hand at taking some pictures. All I needed was a nice clear afternoon and a perfect sunset... Unfortunately there was a thunderstorm EVERY afternoon at about 1:30 sharp... and it'd rain until 5:30 or so which unfortunately killed any chance of me going up the mountain. My last chance was on Friday... but the forecast is the same... rain in the afternoon... Lucky for me, it stayed beautiful all afternoon so I left work a bit early, grabbed my gear and found my way up the mountain. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in as I was hiking up (perfectly clear overhead, but cloudy in the west for the sunset). While the sunset itself wasn't amazing, but it wasn't too bad :).

Monday, September 3, 2007

Days before typhoon...

The days before typhoons typically results in the best weather as the clouds are swept away. I didn't want to let this opportunity to slip by so I had a friend of mine take me on a road trip into the mountains to the south of Taipei near Taoyuan... The weather was indeed spectacular with clear blue skies and scatter clouds that were pure white. It was really breath taking views but I found it really difficult to compose a good photograph to do the view justice... All the pictures I took felt flat and didn't evoke any emotions for the viewer... well, take a look:

With such beautiful weather I then dragged my friend to DaDaoCheng (大稻程) for sunset. The sunset started off great and the place was packed with photographers (people just kept coming on their mopeds one after another, each with a nice SLR and some expensive tripod among other equipment...). But as the sun actually fell below the horizon, the storm clouds gathered and soon was drizzling... Originally I really wanted to get to 象山, a popular mountain near Taipei 101 to photograph all of Taipei basin but that was too far out of the way. From pictures that I've seen, it stayed clear and beautiful for the entire sunset there. Oh well.

Finally on the day that typhoon was suppose to make landfall in southern Taiwan, I decided to sneak out in the morning for some quick photograph (really scouting) at the water museum (自來水博物館). It has become a popular place for portrait (especially engagement/wedding photos).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back home

So I've finally settled back in California... jetlag mostly adjusted. Had some time to start going through my photos so I figured I'd post them first...

First album is a collection of food photography. Some of the pictures I tried harder to make it "artistic" while others are just snapshots to remember what food I've been and what food was amazing. Really it's just a food blog since the food there is AMAZING :).

The second album is just a collection of quick snap shots around the city. Mostly at night since thats when most things are the most beautiful in Taipei (so you won't see the gray smog everywhere!). Since I already did a lot of the popular spots last year, this album is much smaller and doesn't contain as many photos that I like...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Is it time to go back?

Man... I can't believe two weeks went by just like that. The last week has gone by especially fast with working at the Taipei office. It's just been work + chatting with coworkers and dinner and home. But at the same time... I guess I got quite a bit done... new hair cut (that costed over 20 dollars... but I guess thats pretty standard for hair stylist and the full treatment), I guess I like it. People say I look younger with it... to really look good I guess I gotta use a little gel or hair wax... I wonder if I'll actually try to maintain it. Eventually it'll grow long and I'll go back to my usual haircut... but at least for a few days I get to look different :0. I also picked up a new pair of glasses... it's slightly shaded gray so it looks almost like a light sunglasses. It looks darker in pictures than in real life I think... this random guy on the metro already commented that its a really nice pair of glasses. Apparently he really likes it hehe.

But man I've gained so much weight... not just from Google, but from just being in Taiwan. I think I've probably gained 3-6 lbs in two weeks... all that good food is killing me. After dinner I almost always go to a nearby night market for some shaved ice or 愛玉... maybe the ever popular mango shaved ice... That and I've been eating later than normal... At least I'm walking more... but obviously thats not enough.
So as usual I've been out taking pictures of everything I can think of... been traveling to various places outside of Taipei. Unfortunately unlike last time I didn't have time to really travel far (like go down south... I've mainly still stayed in the northern half of the island but got to revisit many places I haven't been since I was a kid which was kind of cool. I also got to meet a friend that I met on WoW (pictured left... Kenavalon from Cenarius... at least I think that was his character :)). It's been such a long time since I played WoW (oh wait, I just played when I was back in Taiwan...). But anyways, it was cool to meet him in person for the first time.
I've also finished organizing one of my albums from my trip along the northern coast of Taiwan. I got to visit 野柳 (YehLiu) which I haven't visited in around 20 years. Needless to say the place has totally changed. Luckily the iconic Queen's head is still in place... but as they say with erosion... that head could snap in the not so distant future. Anyways, here is the album:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cousin's wedding

So, 3 weeks later and I'm finally done going through my cousin's wedding photos. I think I took over 550 that day... ended up keeping about 300 (I want to cut down some more, but it's his wedding, so I'll stop there and let him pick from here on out). I spent a lot more time at this wedding trying to get the right angle and get the right shots (more so than at Peter's wedding where I was more opportunistic and took a shot whenever I thought I had the right angle). So I ran around from one side of the church to the other back and forth quite a few time... I didn't feel comfortable cutting in front of all the audience since I'm not the official photographer... instead I walked all the way around the back... quite a workout :). While I did end up with a good number of pictures that I really like, I do regret that I wasn't able to pay attention to the wedding. I heard everything that was said, laughed with everyone and everything... but I just can't remember that much of it. It's strange, I knew I was there, I knew I paid attention and heard every word... but at end of the day... it's all a blur and I only have my pictures to remember it by. Is it worth it? I don't know... on the one hand I end up with some pictures I really love (and I enjoyed taking pictures of my cousin... hopefully he'll like my pictures)... on the other hand I missed the most important moment in my cousin's life. Maybe it's a blessing that I didn't have my camera yet at my brother's wedding... maybe I should seal the camera away at future weddings that I really care about? I don't know how to find the right balance yet...

Anyways, here are the pictures from my web album:

I also realized I need better equipment, better flash (with quicker recharge speed), faster lens or 5D with much better low light performance. I had to shoot at ISO 1600 for most of the wedding and that wasn't really enough even tho the church was so brightly lit. So unfortunately I ended up with quite a few picture I had to toss because its blurry (I had to keep a few blurry ones as well...) but even then all the pictures have quite a bit of noise in them... sigh. One day I'll switch to a 5D :).

Also I finished going through the first set of photos from Taiwan (other than the Yukata photo shoot).

These were taken at 中山樓 (ChungShan Hall). IngIng's (the girl in the Yukata) parents took us there after the photo shoot.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Typhoon @ Taipei

Well... the typhoon (Sepat I think its called) will make landfall tomorrow (8/18). Apparently its pretty strong typhoon (roughly category 4 hurricane in the west). Its been a couple of years since the last time I experienced a typhoon in Taiwan. I think one year I visited there were 4 or 5 typhoons one after another. 2 of the typhoons even merged together and became this dual typhoon thing... I think my dad and I even went out to 石門水庫 (ShihMen dam) to see it opening the water gates... much to my step mom's disapproval :). She thought we were nuts but my sister wanted to go too so she had to come along :). Picture below:
It's one of the crazier things I've done, driving out (roughly 40 some minutes) in typhoon weather to take pictures of a dam :). I think my dad actually ended up sleeping most of the way too, leaving only my step mom awake to keep me company as I did the driving.

But anyways the weather is always the best right before a typhoon so the past two days I've been busy traveling taking pictures. Today was no exception.... it was sunny enough outside in the morning so I grabbed my camera and went to Taipei Water Museum (where it talks about the water processing and stuff like that). It has a beautiful garden and buildings... apparently a lot of couples gets their wedding photos done there (and it is quite beautiful, I have to go back for a portrait shoot myself someday). Anyways, as I was changing filters today, my external flash fell out of my backpack to the ground! I think it mostly works... as far as I can tell anyways. The only thing that seems to be broken is the LCD (some of the characters don't display anymore... bleh :(.... I should have been more careful.

My grandma also seems quite upset with me lately... probably due to the fact that I haven't been home for a meal since... well... Sunday night (the day after I got back to Taiwan). I went down to say hi before I left this evening and she didn't even bother looking at me.. hehe. Oh well :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Raining @ Taipei

So I've arrived in Taiwan... been here for a couple of days now. Its been mostly raining every day, today is the first time I saw the blue sky since I've been back. Its so weird coming back sometimes... like I'm not sure how to feel. For the first couple minutes, I have to readjust myself not just in terms of language, but how to interact with my friends. I mean its not a problem since I've been friends with these guys for 10+ years now as we watched each other grow up. But it takes a few minutes to adjust to what they are saying with the newest hit phrase... (2 years ago was 機車 now its 殺 among other things). On top of that, I live in a house thats a home... but at the same time its not. Its almost as if I am living in a hotel... except not as well maintained and "clean". Though I am sure my home is actually cleaner. But then again I only spend a few of my waking hours at home. I've mostly just been meeting people, old friends, KTV, enjoying great food etc etc :). The usual stuff in Taiwan with some photography thrown in.

Speaking of photos, I did a quick photo shoot with a friend. I thought it was gonna be informal... it was a cloudy day... things were kinda gray so it's not like I can take pictures of much else so I called her up to see if she wanted to do a quick photo shoot. Little did I know she went all out for me, putting on a yukata (kind of like a Japanese style bathrobe). No wonder it took her all morning to get ready with makeup, hair and all. Needless to say, I was VERY pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fortune Cookies

It's a fact that no body ever believes in fortune cookies, they are just fun little things you read and forget about. But they are usually written general enough that they could always be interpreted to be relevant to your current life. It happens that my recent fortune cookies have been... pretty relevant :). I guess the first one I got was "Embrace change, don't battle it". Ironically, at the time I probably was struggling against change, fighting it because as usual, I hate change. I know change is inevitable, but at that particular time, nothing made sense, it was completely illogical and perhaps thats why I battled it so hard. To me, everything MUST make sense, it has to be... logical. Of course I'm wrong... life is not a program or a problem where there is a logical solution or that its simply following one logical step to another. If it was like that, we'd all just be androids walking around without emotions... I guess with that fortune cookie... I started to accept things as they were, let whatever will happen... happen instead of constantly fighting it. A lot has changed in the past 2 months. The other fortune cookie that day was "If you wait too long for the perfect moment, the perfect moment will pass you by.". While its not my fortune cookie... it was still oddly relevant... but thats a different story.
This past Sunday I got another fortune cookie... "Sometimes it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive". After staring at the fortune for a minute, I realized that maybe I've been "traveling hopefully" this past couple of months. I knew what the final destination would be from the start... I knew what I wanted was impossible... but with every step that I took, a part of me held on to the hope that the destination would be different... that it'd be possible to make things happen. I suppose this past week, I finally arrived... no more "traveling hopefully"... I ended up where I thought I would, I guess some things are too difficult to overcome. A large part of me wish this journey could have gone on forever, well at least another month or two :)... after all traveling hopefully is arguably happier (at least, less sad) and more enjoyable. But at the same time... you gotta arrive at one point or another. Having that closure is just as important and really it ended pretty well all things considered. Perhaps the strangest thing is that even though I expected to arrive here, it affected me a lot deeper than I ever imagined. I haven't felt this way in awhile... Sure there are things I wish I did differently, or improve, but thats life. If given the chance, I'd make the same decision as I did... I would still take on this journey... I still wouldn't trade the past few months for anything in the world. Definitely no regrets :).

I'm not sure what happens next. But I guess as people say, the end of one journey is the start of another. Except this time, I don't know where I'll arrive and I will still "travel hopefully" :).

Here are two random Chinese old classics... one from Andy Lau:

and one from Jacky Cheung

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Okaeri (お帰り)

So a high school friend who has been teaching in Japan just came back yesterday. While I've been keeping in touch with him via IM and met up with him on his various short visits back to the states... it was just nice to see him back home for little longer than a few weeks. So much has changed in the past two years, yet so little. He is almost like a totally different person, having experienced so much while teaching in Japan and obviously grown quite a bit. But we still sort of chat about the same thing, its as if it was only a month or two ago that he was sitting in my room and we were just chilling or playing Halo2. We ended up just catching up for 3 hours in my room that hasn't changed much since his last visit (still just as messy... filled with anime posters from high school....).

I guess two things that especially stuck out from the conversation are the advices about relationships.... The first one he thought was one of the best advice he has ever received... "Relationships don't get easier with time, it actually gets harder." As time goes on what use to be exciting becomes the mundane and you must continue to grow and the relationship must continue to evolve or else it'll become stagnant and fall apart. I guess that's why so many relationships and marriages fail after a couple of years... the couple must continue to grow together find new things of interest... new things to do together. So incredibly true, yet so easy to fall into that trap...

The second piece of advice was apparently something I said to him a few months back: "After you've broken up with someone, you really should not try to get back together. Once the glass shatters, its impossible to put it back together. But if you feel like you must try again and get back together... then do so without any doubts or hesitation. Only look forward and forget about the past mistakes." It is so easy to get stuck in the past and just pass the blame around ("its your fault" or "I wish you did X"). But with all things in life, its easier said then done as he wasn't able to follow it :). Sigh...

Anyways time for more random youtube vids of songs from an artist I've been listening to lately (JJ Lin):

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Engagements... weddings?

It seems like more and more people are getting married around me... maybe I'm finally at that "age" where its time to get married. Seems kind of strange... 2 years ago was when some of my friends first got married. Then last year was a quiet year... now this summer I'm going to 2 weddings and 2 more friends are about to get engaged...

Here is the pictures from the first wedding... an old Chinese school/high school friend (who is a year younger). He married his first girlfriend who he was dating for a good number of years. I was actually totally shocked as he messaged me maybe a month before the ceremony asking "hey, are you free in June? I'm getting married"... I was expecting a bit more notice than 1 month but what ever works :).

Then an old family/childhood friend is getting engaged soon (I hope!). I actually introduced her to her current boyfriend last year (met him while interning at Google). It's one of those hard to believe stories as I introduced them via MSN while he lives out in Portland and my friend lives down here in southern California. Somehow they hit it off right away and was pretty sure they were meant for each other after a couple of months of chatting and one in person meeting... Here are some pictures I took of them for their engagement/wedding portraits. They'll probably do the officially wedding portraits later in Taiwan with the full gown and all.

Then this weekend my cousin is getting married too... will post pictures as soon as I get back from Boston. All this marriage talk is actually kind of depressing for me... I guess it is impossible to plan life... To think I wanted to get engaged by 25 ish... married by 26-27... etc. I had a "timeline" :) but of course those NEVER work and fate just plays tricks on you. My brothers wedding last year really made me think about what kind of wedding I'd like and of course, the type of person I'd like to be with... The wedding part I probably won't get much say in... but I guess I can at least decide who to marry :).

Anyways... whats a post without some YouTube link :)
Here is a song by David Tao and Jolin called... "Today you will marry me" (roughly). It's a cute song thats become quite popular at weddings for obvious reasons.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


So another hectic week has gone by. Another launch :). I guess my coworkers were right... it doesn't get better. I always told myself... after the geo crunch, I'm soooo taking a vacation. But things just kept going, more things to fix, more work to do... this time it was for mapplets (you can check out the mapplet here).

Or just go to the my maps page and then click on add content and search for "picasa". now you can browse all the public geotagged photos in picasa web! I've found a number of amazing pictures/albums already and its quite addicting. Its especially fun to take a look at your home town and see what kind of photos people take there. Apparently people like to take pictures of food in Taiwan and south east asia... :)

On a completely different side note... I just spent the past several hours watching YouTube...

"First Time"

"Fairy Tale"


Friday, May 11, 2007

First post!

My first blog post ... testing Picasa web integration... :)

Picture from Vegas... geotagged no less :0