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Monday, December 29, 2008

NoID Spider

I took this shot on a recent night hike. I'm not sure about the species, but hope to find out soon.


These are two very nice specimens of Latouche's Brown Wood Frog (Rana latouchii) - and extremely docile ones, too: they let me approach to about three inches distance.

Drosera prolifera

Not much dew, but pretty anyway

Drosera burmannii "Beerwah Queensland"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Egret Tree

A sunset shot of a few Intermediate and Little egrets (Ardea intermedia/Egretta garzetta) getting ready for the night on their favorite tree by the pond.

Alien Stormtrooper

Made you look. No, in spite of the resemblance, this is not a CGI creature hellbent on making Jedi lives miserable. Rather, it's Statilia maculata, a mantis endemic to China, Japan and Taiwan. For this specimen, the warming asphalt road was more important than the possible danger from the sweaty hominoid crawling up to macro distance.

Two more from the kitsch front

Another two sunsets....not that I go out of my way to shoot them, but sometimes they're unavoidable.

Drosera intermedia

Sunset at the Graveyard

I've never fancied myself a sunset photographer, but when I spotted this beautiful sky the other day on my way past a local columbarium, I couldn't help but grab a few shots.

Bamboo Spider

My Dad retired his '72 Hasselblad V series gear, so I'm now the dazzled, befuddled, yet still highly confused owner of a truckload of world-class photo equipment.....none of which I really know how to master. Obviously, the Hassy stuff is all-analog, all-manual, and at the moment I can't even use the camera bodies, as medium format film is very expensive here in Taiwan; so I might as well save the money until I have enough for a digital back, which, of course, could take a few years or so. However, I did at least find a way to put those fantastic Zeiss lenses to good use in the meantime: a Zörkendörfer adapter for my Pentax K10D. Of course, even this way everything's still all-manual, as the lenses and the camera don't "talk" to each other: no auto-focusing, no auto-metering, no auto-anything at all. Adding to that the fact that the original optical properties of the lenses change due to the 1.6 crop factor of the Pentax sensor, I now have a whole world of learning to do. But who cares, with this kind of glass?

Here's a test shot of a non-ID'd spider, done with a 60mm f/3.5 Distagon. The realistic color rendering of the lens is truly spectacular.

Dhaman Rat Snake

This Ptyas mucosa is by far the largest serpent I've ever encountered in Taiwan: about two meters (6 1/2 feet) of shining, angry glory (note the swollen neck). Having been awoken from his semi-hibernation by a unusually hot December day, he was still quite groggy and barely able to cross the road, which is where I came in. Judging by its size, he was at least ten years old, so it was just like helping an old lady across the road. I took the liberty to grab a few close-ups as compensation for my chivalric behavior.

Cyclophiops major

Cyclophiops major - quite a mouthful. The Chinese in their eternal pragmatism just call it qingshe - Green Snake :-)

This one tried to hide from me in a ditch - unfortunately, I climbed in right after him, so he had no choice but to pose for me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Masochistic Frog

The Long-legged Brown Frog (Rana longicrus) is endemic to Taiwan and also a bit of a masochist, picking the coldest time of year to mate and lay eggs. Ski gloves are required for frogging at 3000 feet up on Yangmingshan in winter. Didn't somebody say this is a tropical island?

I can see my house from here

Well, sort of. If you're to mosey out our front door and head straight for about one mile, then do an about-face, this is what you'll see - the northwestern hills of Yangmingshan National Park.


I love cannas. The contrast between the brilliant blossoms and those earth-toned, antediluvian seed pods resembling ankylosaurus tails is just striking.

Sun Eagle

I was taking a midday stroll through a few neighboring fields when this Crescent Serpent Eagle (Chelornis speela) took off from a tree above me and started circling. I followed him for a series of about 30 wild and useless shots, but this one came out pretty OK, I think...(Yes, that's the sun there. 1/4000 sec made it possible)

Cruel Beauty

I've been playing around with my macro gear and various lighting options again lately, so here are a few shots of a Madagascar sundew (Drosera madagascariensis) and an Australian Forked sundew (Drosera binata). I still have problems creating enough depth of field (even at f/32!), but will hopefully find a solution to this soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Taro Snail

Taro leaf + Giant Snail = Crap on the Ceiling

Feral Pineapple

Its ancestors must have escaped from a plantation. This plant, one of several growing in a little bamboo grove near my house, has become wild enough again to have shed many of the characteristics of its "tame" brethren.

Nutmeg Mannikin

I love this bird, if only for its peculiar name :-)

Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchula punctulata)


Taiwan boasts quite a number of dragonflies and damselflies, and most of them come with a bonus: their colors differ depending on age and gender. This makes identification sometimes difficult, but the rainbow of hues makes up for that.

Crimson Dropwing (Trithemis aurora)

Lesser Pruinose Skimmer (Orthetrum triangulare), male

Red Percher (Neurothemis ramburii)

Crimson Darter (Crocothermis servilia servilia); young male - that's why he ain't crimson :-)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Banyan Bunker

This banyan tree (Ficus microcarpa) has decided that the Cold War is over and is now taking back his turf. The bunker is located about three klicks from the ocean near Danshui, but judging from the dense vegetation surrounding it it's been a few decades since it was last used as an observation outpost against Communist invaders.

Purple People Eater

I haven't been able to ID this one so far, but it sure is purdy...

Fig Bonanza

This majestic White Fig (Ficus virens) grows on a little farmstead here in my neighborhood. Armies of birds and insects visit the tree when it's in fruit.

Skeeter Hell

These Asian Tiger Mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) are being slowly devoured by pygmy sundews (Drosera pulchella x nitidula). I grow a whole battery of different sundews in a tank in my office, and their pots are standing in an inch and a half of water to emulate their natural swamp habitat. Naturally, this indoors pond is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. I know, I know - who in his right mind would breed the little bloodsuckers on purpose, and in the &^%$#! house at that? Well, people who love their carnivorous plants, that's who. You have to admit that this sort of habitat offers quite amazing photo ops:

Pentax K10 D, Sigma 105 mm macro lens, 72 mm worth of extension tubes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wild Ginger

Various species of wild ginger grow everywhere in lowland Taiwan.

Shell ginger, Alpinia zerumbet (seed pods)

Butterfly ginger, Hedychium coronarium

Tree Moods

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two more CPs

Rounding up the, uh, carnivorous plant roundup, here are two more protein-loving veggies:

Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula), red variation

Drosera dielsiana, a tropical sundew

Pitchers! (Part 2: Nepenthes)

And now, howzabout some Nepenthes, the plant genus for which I created this blog in the first place!

N. rajah, the largest pitcher plant on Earth. (No, not THIS specimen, of course!)

N. x "Red Leopard" (N. ventricosa x maxima)

N. ventricosa x pectinata

N. sibuyanensis, up close and personal