Chiang Kai-Shek Mornings

Jetlagged on our second morning in Taiwan, I woke up around 4 a.m. I knew it was still dark out but figured as long as I’m up I should run and try to get some of that magical first light. I grabbed my Domke shoulder bag with my D700, new 24mm F1.4 lens and Benro carbon fiber travel tripod and headed out.

Still blurry-eyed and a little bit stumbley, I didn’t know which direction to head in but thought a river shot would be cool. So I headed in the direction of where the river might be. I was quite wrong. But lucky for me, after about half an hour of venturing blindly I happened about the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, a place I’d shot back in 2009. Apparently I’d chosen a good day because there was a whole gaggle of other photographers there as well. It looked like a workshop or just a photographers’ outing. I exchanged smiles and nods with the friendly group I probably couldn’t talk to and set up my camera facing the Memorial Gate to wait for some nice light to come up.

That’s when I noticed that I didn’t have much of a charge left on my battery. No big deal, right? I mean I ALWAYS carry an extra battery. Nope, not this morning. I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal since my Nikon D700 batteries are quite amazing when it comes to holding a charge, but in reality I’d burned through 1157 frames the day before. (See my video of that day to understand why I shot so much.) Regardless, I still set up, started bracketing and managed to get some pretty decent exposures of the gate. I then decided to walk over by the pond, but by then the battery was dead. No charge at all. I took my battery out and held it in my hand, thinking I could recharge it with my body’s own electricity (not really). It did actually fire one or two more shots but that was it. It was done for.

Then it happened. The most magical light I’d ever seen broke through the stormy early-morning clouds. A perfect sunrise with amazing dark clouds glowing from the sun breaking through behind them. A girl with a red umbrella was walking in front of the gate—it was perfect. But my camera was dead. Spare battery back in the hotel room. Ricoh GRD2 and Nikon FM2 also back in the hotel room. I stood helplessly in front of the best light and scene I may have ever seen and got nothing. The umbrella girl was a setup by the photographers’ workshop and they were most certainly click-click-clicking away. I just laughed at myself, enjoyed the scene for a bit and headed back to the hotel for free breakfast. Of course, I returned to the Chiang Kei-shek Memorial the next two days, hoping to see that same light again, but it was never as perfect as that morning.

chiang kai shek memorial hall early in the morning shooters

Photographers at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall early in the morning | Nikon D700 24mm F1.4 lens

chiang kai shek memorial hall early in the morning

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall early in the morning | Nikon D700 24mm F1.4 lens; several shots merged to HDR, then those bits were combined in photo-merge to make one square shot

The second day I mostly shot time-lapse:

On the last day I shot the last time-lapse you just saw and then walked around the park shooting some other things. Including a lot of pigeons:

Chiang Kai-shek morning pond

Chiang Kai-shek morning pond | Nikon D700 24mm F1.4 lens; 6 shots merged in HDR Efex Pro

Chiang Kai-shek early morning karaoke

Chiang Kai-shek early morning karaoke | Nikon D700 50mm F1.2 lens

Chiang Kai-shek morning taichi

Chiang Kai-shek morning taichi | Nikon D700 50mm F1.2 lens


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