Checkpoint Charlie: Old Glory flies in Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie: Old Glory
Checkpoint Charlie: Old Glory

Checkpoint Charlie has been the venue of uncountable scenes in espionage books and movies. One of the crossing points between west Berlin and east Berlin during a Cold War – a hole in the Iron Curtain. The United States flag still flies over Checkpoint Charlie, now a tourist attraction instead of a tense a one of the cold war’s best known locations.

The 155 km-long Berlin wall started construction in 1961 and was upgraded and modified until the end of the cold war in 1989. Checkpoint Charlie was one of the three crossing points in the wall – set in Berlin’s Friedrichstadt neighborhood. It was the one crossing point that allied service men could use to enter East Berlin. Checkpoints Alpha and Bravo were less visible, outside urban areas. Cafe Adler (“Eagle Café”) at Checkpoint Charlie offered a view directly into East Berlin and was used by armed forces or visitors to take a look into the east.

Continue reading “Checkpoint Charlie: Old Glory flies in Berlin”

The X100 and the Mid-Autumn Festival

Saturday night in Shenzhen with the Fuji X100
Saturday night in Shenzhen with the Fuji X100

I spent the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival in Shenzhen, China: My old stomping ground, with old friends, including a Fuji X100. It was a couple of days of cheap beer and eats, a whole different world than Hong Kong. This is hard to believe as they are so close together. Can 50 miles make literally a world of difference? Absolutely.

I had been shooting some street photos with a Fuji X-Pro1 and a 35mm lens. They X-Pro1 has gotten a lot of good reviews, I know several photographers that have set aside their DSLRs and shoot exclusively with the X-Pro1. There will be no ringing endorsement from me – perhaps it’s the learning curve but I can only describe my experience as “meh.” The fact my memory card was bad (or the card slot on the X-Pro1 is faulty) did not help improve my impressions. Continue reading “The X100 and the Mid-Autumn Festival”

Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong

Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong
Wong Tai Sin Temple, Hong Kong

Having recently relocated to Hong Kong from Shenzhen I took a Saturday afternoon to visit Wong Tai Sin Temple in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I love temples. Does matter which country, I’m drawn to them.

As far as Asian temples go it’s no old. Construction started in the 1920s. Leung Renyan arrived in Hong Kong from China in 1915 and started to preach the praises of Chinese diety Wong Tai Sin aka the Great Immortal Wong (a kick-ass nickname). The Immortal Wong is the divine form of Wong Cho Ping – a poor and hungry Chinese shepherd. He practiced Taoism starting in his teenage years. One one tale he could transform stones into sheep. That’s a party trick on par with water into wine.

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Bhubing Palace Chaing Mai: Royal trees

Bhubing Palace, Chaing Mai - Foggy Trees
Bhubing Palace, Chaing Mai – Foggy Trees

Getting to Bhubing Palace Chiang Mai in Thailand can be a challenge. It’s on top of a mountain, which means you jump into one of the many local covered pick-up trucks and venture up a twisty mountain road, hire a taxi and and venture up a twisty mountain road, or rent a scooter and and venture up a twisty mountain road. Continue reading “Bhubing Palace Chaing Mai: Royal trees”

Hong Kong Protest: Hands

Pro HK Police / Falan Gong HK protest hands

How did I end up in the Hong Kong Protest –  Pro-Police / Falun Gong – in Mongkok on August 4, 21013?

I was in Mongkok doing a few things on a Sunday afternoon. There were shouts and loud chants audible from the time I exited the MTR. I thought it was some sort of football rally. Of course not. Hong Kongers love to protest. For good reasons, for questionable reasons, it seems a large percentage of people enjoy taking their grievances to the streets. More power to them.

From the SCMP: Continue reading “Hong Kong Protest: Hands”

Thailand sunrise with a Fuji X100

thailand sunrise

I have been super-lax about posting to this blog. Long gone are the days of me blogging daily – and winning awards, accolades and kudos for blogging. So be it. Blogging filled a void in   my life, that void has been filled by other things. All that said, I will try to post more, and maybe start a new personal project or two.

I recently visited Thailand. I do that 3-5 times per year depending on my schedule. Sometimes it is business, sometimes pleasure. This time was pleasure. I hate a love-hate relationship with Thailand. The love is bone-deep: The sights, sounds, people, the hate: The cheating, gouging and indifference thet same.  I went from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train. 14 hours by train, overnight, and then back again 5 days later. As the name professes the night train travels at night. You don’t get to see a whole lot. The morning though, that’s another story. Continue reading “Thailand sunrise with a Fuji X100”

Hong Kong: Phones on the train

de-vice 600

In Hong Kong phones are some things you see a lot of.

This is my homage to Zack Arias’ #de-VICE series. Zack is one my favorite photographers and I had the chance to meet him earlier this year. I took his famed “One Light” Workshop. It’s great to see real photographers sharing their knowledge – not wannabes offering workshops based on their internet fame.

Did I say that? How catty! Apologies, I digress… Continue reading “Hong Kong: Phones on the train”

China: The Forbidden City

Tour Guides at the Forbidden City
Tour Guides at the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City in Beijing has stood since 1046 and was home to Chinese royalty for 500 years. It is a grand structure, really something to behold. A city within a city that has seen wars, uprisings, foreign invaders, regime changes. And tourists – most likely worse than all the wars, uprising and foreign invaders combined. The noble cobbles weep each night when the gates are closed.

I’ve visited the Forbidden City, known as the Palace Museum since 1925, several times. The first time was my choice, the other visits were with visiting friends. Once is enough.  The Palace Museum is a UNESCO Heritage Site, that fact is lost on the hordes that descend each day. Bus upon bus vomit tourists, mostly farmers on package tours, into the Chinese Mecca.  For me, a place this old, so grand, should be revered, like a library or a good brothel.

Tour guides and their charges are everywhere. Each guide carries a flag for his group to follow. Some groups wear brightly colored t-shirts or hats. Guides run to and fro to keep their group members, similar to malevolent toddlers, together – a task as easy as herding cats.  With my been-there-done-that attitude, this past year I decided to shoot the guides instead of the halls and thrones. The guide in the foreground looked about as happy as I did to be in the Forbidden City.


Photography Epiphanies

On Guard
On Guard

We all have those “wow” moments when we first start to take photos. The above image (as shite as it is looking back) was one of these photography epiphanies.

I have always loved photography. Me and the camera were star-crossed lovers. I’d fall in love then we’d drift apart. A lot of it was cost. Back in the day getting film processed wasn’t cheap. I haunted darkrooms for a few years – making my own B&W prints – but I didn’t have the passion to keep it going. Chasing girls and drinking beer was a more noble passtime in high school and collage.

I shot in college, then got back into it as digital came down the pipe. I shot film and digital for a newspaper just as DSLRs were going mainstream. After a change in career – photography was distant thought. It wasn’t until I came to Asia and bought a Sony point-and-shoot that my interest perked up again. As a wedding gift to myself I bought a Canon 400D – a reward for not killing my inlaws (or myself) before the reception.

I didn’t have a clue. My photos were awful. I cursed, I cried. The Sony P&S made better photos. I persevered. The above image was shot at community event. I saw the lights, the silhouette and managed to capture it how I wanted to. Yeah, I had to bump the ISO to extreme noise levels. Techinical problems aside, I was happy. There were a few triumphs after that – photos that I still look at and say “wow.”

As I try to regain my photo passion I post this as a reminder. What about you? What was your photography epiphany?