Digital Hunter

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Typhoon Nuri. Tame?

Filed in Digital Hunter, General, Hong Kong, Photo of the DayTags: , , , ,

The first time I was in Hong Kong, visiting with a student from The University of New South Wales in 1985, we were hit by a #10 typhoon. At the time, I believe I was staying with his family in a hillside home made of tin and concrete next to the now non-existent 荔園 amusement park. It was quite an experience, although the hurricanes in Australia can be even stronger. In my hometown in Queensland, a hurricane lifted a hurricane-proof roof off from a motel and dropped it elsewhere!

A young Bulbul feeding before the typhoon

The wind and rain as it began this morning stirred insects from their hiding places. The birds, including this young Bulbul, were joyfully catching more bugs than they could count.

Today though, here in Hong Kong, my family and I are staying indoors. No one in Hong Kong is going to work. Everyone is waiting, waiting for the biggest typhoon we've seen in a while pass smack right over the middle of Hong Kong.

Our kids are inside. We went out for their daily walk this morning before the rain became too heavy, and now they're sleeping. There's nothing else for them to do. Fortunately, there's no lightning. A couple of them really don't like lightning, especially 小白. If there's lightning at night, she'll come looking for me and sit next to our bed forlornly looking at me as I sleep. If I don't notice her, she'll paw me until I wake up and sit with her. Rachel doesn't like lightning either. Wind and rain don't seem to bother them much although Jason and Dallas both hate getting wet. If Jason is out roaming around the village and it begins to rain, you can be sure that very soon after, he'll be at the garden gate barking politely to be let in.

Typhoon Nuri won't be on top of us until around 5pm today. Until then, I'll have to keep my ears and eyes open, watching that everything around us remains stable and anchored to the ground. It will be an interesting day.

Update 4.30pm

The wind stopped. Everything is quiet. We took this opportunity to drive down to the local shopping centre. Unfortunately, only one supermarket and one coffee shop were open, and the lines were way too long at the supermarket, so we came back with just a cup of coffee and a slice of typically commercial low-grade cheesecake.

Arriving home, we were met by an amazing sight; thousands of dragon flies and hundreds of swallows feasting on them. This was the first time I've seen evidence of a natural enemy for the dragon fly. I stood near the middle of one swarm of dragon flies as the swallows flew around me. They were definitely enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to photograph what I was seeing so I don't have any photographs to show you.

There was still no wind or rain so we took the kids for a walk while we could.

Everything is very very still. I suspect that we are perhaps in the eye of the typhoon. So far though, this typhoon is nothing to write home about.

Update 9.00pm

I was right. We were in the eye of the typhoon. But I was wrong. This typhoon is very powerful, even though it's only a #9. I tied down a few of the not-so-sturdy construction items around our home today, but this wind is proving to be too strong for my reinforcements. Our second fridge on the balcony was moving away in the wind. I had to tie it to the wall. Most of a light aluminium sheet fence that keeps the kids within our garden area is warped and ripped. We'll have to replace it. As long as it doesn't fly away and damage someone's property or hurt someone, I'll accept the situation.

Also on the balcony, a wonderful stainless steel cupboard that someone kindly gave to us when they moved house a few weeks ago isn't moving anywhere, but the doors unfortunately are no match for the vacuum force created by the typhoon wind, and everything within the cupboard including my power tools is getting wet. We'll have to dry everything out tomorrow, and I'll have to develop a method of securing the doors in typhoon weather.

Nothing to write home about… yeah, right! This is one pretty nasty wind. On the other hand, it's very soothing to stand in. If not for the danger of getting hit by flying objects, I'd spend a lot more time standing out there.

This is the first time we've experienced a typhoon of this magnitude while living in our current residence, and as such, we have no idea how resilient the flat is to the elements. There's a large window and a large two-panel glass door in the living area. You can see the window swell and flatten with the wind, and as new-comers, it's quite scary. For the first hour or so after this wind hit us, I had a hard time relaxing, wondering if anything was going to break or shatter. So far however, everything is ok.

According to the government weather site, typhoon Nuri is moving away; very slowly, only 14km/hr. We'll probably have to put up with these gale-force winds for at least another hour. We won't be getting much sleep tonight.

I should mention that unlike most people in Hong Kong, we don't live in a high-rise. We live on the ground floor of a village house facing South to the ocean which is just half a kilometre from us. According to the government weather site, Nuri is now blowing us from SSW so we're really getting the full force of Nuri.

I wonder how the birds survive these winds…

Update 11.30pm

Nuri is still blowing just as hard as ever. The fence is still on the ground although disconnected in several places. I hope it stays on the ground for the rest of the night, and I can then hopefully repair it tomorrow. According to the weather site, Nuri is already on its way away from Hong Kong. I really hope the wind drops to a more modest speed within the next hour. We'll see.

Update 2am

Still blowing hard. There have been lulls now and then, but the occasional powerful buffets make up for those lulls. I'm really tired now. I need to shower and sleep. With luck, nothing more will be broken tonight and the weather will allow us to clean up tomorrow. The fence will take longer to repair but I'll examine the problem tomorrow.

Next time, we'll be better prepared ;-)

Warming in the Sun

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: ,
Lizard Cooling Off

Pearly white teeth and a creamy-yellow tongue. Nice teeth!

My (relatively) new Canon 1D Mark III is in the shop getting a new focus mirror installed. You can read a lot about the problem on Rob Galbraith's page although it hasn't affected me as much as others. In addition, my Canon 70-300mm DO lense is getting a clean and recalibration, so I'm feeling orphaned and alone at the moment. Many of my photographs are of very small creatures usually shot at 300mm (x1.3=420mm for the 1D Mark III) and even at f16, the Depth of Field is extremely shallow, typically around 1/8". Manual focus is absolutely necessary to fine-tune the auto-focus and if the lense is not spot on, I return home with many non-ideal photos. 1/8" DoF means that I have to be very aware of my body movements while shooting because the slightest motion forward or backward will put the photo out of focus. The lense clean/recalibration will be very expensive but if you want great photographs, you cannot avoid these occasional expenses.

Before I handed the camera in, I had the opportunity to get these photographs. This young fellow was walking around just outside our yard, and once again, the pollution-filtered sunlight shining down from the South was fantastic.

Many of the photos I came back with were out of focus. I learned something important this day. Never try to take photos with your lense at the minimum limits of its focus range because the focus may very well be less than ideal (1.4m in this case). One day, I might experiment with an Extension Tube to get closer to the subject. I'd like to get the 400mm/4.0 DO lense but that will have to wait a while longer while I save a few more pennies ;-) That said, the less expensive 400mm/f5.6L might be the more ideal option for me because most of my telephoto photos require an aperture of f16 or smaller anyway. I'll think about it for a while.

Note. You really need to look at the larger version of the photo to fully appreciate it. Some of my photos look their best when printed to A3.

Sunning Lizard

This is my favourite photo from the set.

For a larger version, click here. For a different photo, click here.

Who you lookin’ at bub?

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags:

If there's an advantage to having a polluted sky, it's that sometimes the sunlight filtered by the pollution can be quite extraordinary; bright and warm without being harsh. Such was the case yesterday afternoon, so I decided to hide out for a few minutes behind a bush hoping that the local Sunbirds would visit. While waiting, I suddenly became aware of another life, totally unexpected, and as I watched him, he suddenly noticed me, perked up his head and looked straight back at me; a praying mantis. Here is one of the photos I was able to take in that short fortuitous time.

Praying mantis on Guard

Stop watching me! You'll tip off the birds to my presence!!!

For a larger version, click here.

And for a later photo of the same mantis watching carefully for any birds flying above, click here.

Working hard to impress the girls

Filed in Digital Hunter, Entertainment Ind., Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day, WorkTags: ,

It will be a busy week with "They're Playing Our Song" rehearsals every day, TVB dubbing tonight, TVB filming on Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and a special appearance at the Mongrel Adogtion function at the City University on Friday.

But the weekend was a break and a welcome one.

Sunday morning, noting the wonderful weather and hearing the sounds of the local white wagtails (just one pair) which I have not yet been able to photograph, I grabbed my camera and went outside. As I left our gate, I noticed the flicker of a bird on a nearby flowering bush. As I walked over, the bird saw me and left but the sunlight was perfect and the bird or other birds were sure to return if I sat still. So for the next hour and a half, I knelt as steadily as I could in front of the flowering bush. Nothing came!

Then in the afternoon as I was returning from grocery shopping with my wife, we passed the same bush and I immediately noticed a sunbird in the bush. I was a little concerned at first because there appeared to be a yellow lump on its back. It was either injured or it had some flowery object stuck to it. I had my camera and asked my wife who doesn't like waiting without a definite deadline to continue home on her own; just a few steps away.

I've been trying to get decent photographs of the local sunbirds (again, just one pair) for more than a year. They're extremely difficult to photograph because they're very small; around two inches long; and they never stay in one place for longer than one or two seconds; extremely hard to photograph.

This time in spite of the now far-from-ideal sunlight, I was lucky and managed to come home with a few very nice photographs; not perfect but good enough until next time. As I was photographing the sunbird in the bush, I soon realised that he was courting a nearby female and that the yellow object on his back was a special feather reserved specifically to show off to any attractive girls that he became interested in. The feather is normally hidden beneath his other back feathers which is why I've never seen it before.

So without further ado, here are a selection of the photographs I came home with. Note: all of the images have been cropped. Time issues and location didn't allow me to get the positioning I would have preferred in each photograph.

Male Sunbird on Fence

Fork-tailed Sunbird (male) 叉尾太陽鳥

(Aethopyga christinae)

Date: 4 February 2006, Location: Clear Water Bay

The male sunbird is a very colourful bird. Personally, I believe Hong Kong's sunbird is related to America's humming bird. They're very similar in size and shape.

If you look closely at the middle of his back, you will see the bright yellow of his courting feather.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

For yet another photo of this sunbird, click here.

Female Sunbird

The girl that he was courting. For just three seconds, she flew over to a flower less than 4 feet away. I was able to get two photographs of her in that time. One was blurred. One was near perfect making me one very happy photographer.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Male Sunbird Courting

The male sunbird in his courting pose, showing as many colours as possible including the special yellow feather in his back, the red in his chest and two deep blue stripes down each side of his chest. It takes a lot to impress the girl.

The Yellow-bellied Prinia

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags:

I went digital hunting yesterday. While standing on the upper rail of a steel pipe fence, leaning against a five-inch thick tree which was the only thing between me and an eight-foot drop to the road on the other side of it, I waited and waited. Suddenly, an unnatural movement of the twigs in the bushes ahead of me caught my eye and I watched and readied my camera. A few twitches later, I spotted the small bird, rustling through the bushes looking for food. He wasn't a variety that I recognised and I therefore hoped more than ever to get a decent photograph of him before he left.

Suddenly, he decided to leave; possibly aware that I was just ten feet from where he was foraging for food; but he needed to find out where his partner was. He flew up onto a thin bare trunk protruding from the grass and called out to his partner who replied immediately from the other side of the road. Another thirty seconds and he was gone, but not before I had photographed him a few times. Here is what I consider to be the best of those photographs.

Yellow Bellied Prinia

Yellow-bellied Prinia 灰頭鷦鶯

(Prinia flaviventris)

Date: 9 January 2007, Location: Clear Water Bay, Hong Kong

There is another variety of the Prinia known as the Plain Prinia, but I'm pretty sure that this one is a Yellow-bellied Prinia based on the yellow in his tummy region.

The blue behind him is not the sky but rather hills blurred by the particulate pollution (and the lense's DOF) now pervasive here in Hong Kong.

The image has been cropped to about a third of the original image. He was too small and too far away to photograph at a decent size with my 300mm (x1.6 = 420mm) lense.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Just for fun, here is a photo of the prinia while he was foraging for food. Can you see him?

Yellow Bellied Prinia in hiding

The Bees Have a Visitor

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day

A while ago, I discovered a wild bee hive near our home and managed to get a few photographs. As long as I didn't get too close to their hive in the base of a tree, they wouldn't feel threatened and I wouldn't be a target. The photos were ok; not great; but ok.

Bee Hive

Busy bees at the entrance to the hive which extends beneath the tree. As long as I don't threaten the bees, they won't attack me. Fortunately, the 1000-candle torch I used to illuminate them did not disturb them in any way although one bee was attracted to the light and kept flying into the torch glass. I eventually turned the torch off and walked away to put an end to the torture that the bee was apparently being subjected to.

At my home in Australia, we have wild bees but they're small and black without the stripes. The usually build their hives high up in the trees, sometimes in the tree, and sometimes in earthen structures on the tree; probably different species of bees.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

A few days ago, I was in the same bush area trying to get photos of a bird I could hear but not see. As I passed the hive, I thought I'd take a look and see how they were going. I was intriqued by what looked like a hornet, flying just above the entrance to the hive, occasionally getting side-swiped by a passing bee. It was very curious to watch because every time a bee came by, the hornet; or wasp, I'm not sure at this point; would outstretch all of its legs downward. It was intriguing and almost funny. Needless to say, I took a few photos and some of them turned out surprisingly well.

Bees have a visitor

The bees in this photo were busy on a leaf at the entrance to their hive while the visitor hovered above. After about five minutes, the visitor left the scene. It was really interesting though, watching the visitor extend his legs outward every time a bee approached.

Note. I almost never crop my pictures and this is no exception. This is the whole picture ;-)

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Christmas Butterfly

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the Day, Technology

Sometimes you get lucky…

The week before last, just as I was leaving home to go to TVB, I noticed a butterfly in the Christmas trees. The colours struck me immediately and I raced back inside to get my camera. Opportunities like these come once in a lifetime.

The result was a wonderful photograph which looks even better when enlarged.

Christmas Butterfly

The complement of the Christmas tree colours and the butterfly colours were extraordinary. Being able to photograph from below the butterfly made the photo all the more special.

For a 750x500 version, click here.

Printer Dilemmas

One day soon, I'll be able to begin printing my favourite photos. It's been a long wait but I'll be finally getting a decent printer. The problem is that most of my photos are wildlife and nature photos featuring vivid colours, and many of the printers available until recently were incapable of faithfully reproducing these colours. My Epson Stylus Photo 1290 is terrible at reproducing nature's colours.

I had planned on getting an HP Photosmart Pro B9180 but HP decided that Hong Kong didn't have enough serious photographers to warrant making that printer available here. Instead of the B9180, HP Hong Kong only offers the older Photosmart 8750 printer with nine ink colours in three cartridges making it an expensive printer to use. The B9180 is available in China though. Unfortunately, I don't know who to trust over there (China even has fake eggs!), and I'd have to make a long trip every time I needed ink supplies or the printer needed servicing. I considered getting the printer from Singapore and a friend actually contacted a familiar reseller while visiting Singapore last week but the warranty was a concern nonetheless.

Canon has the imagePROGRAF iPF5000 which is a great printer, but again it's not available in Hong Kong, and in any case, our home isn't big enough for it. And I have to admit; I simply have no way of justifying the price.

I then heard that Epson was releasing a new printer based on the Epson Stylus Pro 4800. The new one is called the Stylus Pro 3800 and is much smaller than the 4800 but uses many of the same technologies. Unfortunately, the 3800 had not been announced on Epson Hong Kong's web site so it appeared that once again, the serious photographers of Hong Kong were going to get left out.

But late last week, I had to take my Epson 1290 in to get serviced. It was printing red stripes on my photos. I had extended warranty for the four-year-old printer which expires in January of next year so it made sense to get the printer fixed now. Just before leaving the centre, I noticed a display section and walked on over. Without expecting any good news, I habitually asked the attendant about the 3800 and was very pleasantly surprised; almost shocked; to find that Epson will be making it available in Hong Kong, although not as the 3800 but as the 3850. They even had one on display! I was also pleasantly surprised that the attendant understood my technical questions, all of them except the one regarding dMax which he thought only applied to scanners. And he thought Adobe 1998 was the largest profile available. It's not. The Kodak Prophoto profile is much larger and much better suited to wildlife photography.

If the B9180 was available, I would probably have bought it although I've heard that it has problems with dark colours on non-HP paper. If Canon had a smaller printer based on the iPF5000, I might have bought that too. Apparently, they're planning just such a printer called the PIXMA Pro9500; possibly available around March of next year. I wonder if we'll see it in Hong Kong. That said, if I had more space in our home, and if I had money to burn, I'd buy the HP DesignJet Z2100. Now that's a printer, with built-in professional class calibration capabilities. Yum! But we don't have a roomy home, and I don't have money to burn, so the Epson 3850 will probably be my printer for the next few years. Incidentally, Epson's warranty service has been very reliable so that's a big plus.

So finally, I'll have a printer that respects my photos, producing almost all of the colours that my camera captured. Printers have come a long way in the last four or five years. They're still not perfect but they're getting close.

Twenty years ago, Hong Kong people prided themselves in saying that you could buy anything in Hong Kong. They were wrong. I wonder if they're waking up to that fact yet.

A very cute Hong Kong resident

Filed in Digital Hunter, Hong Kong Wildlife, Photo of the DayTags: ,
Cute Squirrel!

I was able to get several good close-up photographs before he/she got nervous and ran away to the next tree over. This is one of the better ones. Is he cute or what?

For a 340x510 version, click here.

A couple of weeks ago before coming to L.A. while completing some chores in and around Causeway Bay, I was waiting in my car at a red traffic light when I suddenly saw something in the trees ahead of me. I immediately backed my car into the striped stopping zone behind me, picked up my camera and raced over to the trees.

In the 19 years that I've lived in Hong Kong, I've only seen these cute animals once, for just one glancing second in a tree near a friend's home in Repulse Bay. That was when I first realised that we have squirrels in Hong Kong. We don't have squirrels in Australia; we have wonderful possums but no squirrels; so getting the chance to photograph one in Hong Kong was a big thing for me.

I should have used a higher ASA speed but the photos turned out ok anyway.