All posts by XingfuMama

Amateur photographer seeking beauty in both the memorable and the mundane. Sharing pictures, stories and meditations from here and there.

Eye of the Tortoise

The gate is the eye, the granite rock formation is the tortoise.
The gate is the eye, the granite rock formation is the tortoise.

At the top of Tai Shan there is a round gate called the “eye of the tortoise”.  The tortoise is one of the nine sons of the dragon.

The gate itself is pretty cute.

KSM-20151018-Tortoise_Eye-01-720pxThe eye of the tortoise is a gate to a viewing area. This is one of the places people come to watch the sunrise (to read about our sunrise experience check out Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye). More famously, it is where Confucius came to view his territory, the stae of Lu.

I have wondered about the significance and connection between this formation and the bixi, which are a statue of a tortoise carrying a stele on its back. Mount Tai is a very old place of importance and it would be interesting to know if this granite formation helped shape the mythology of the region.

Yishan Dongzhen Temple, Weifang, Shandong province, China

What do you think?

Eye Spy

Predicting my future: Rain in the forecast

Predicting rain during the winter in Seattle is like shooting fish in a barrel. Here is the forecast from today’s paper:

Windy with rain at times. Rainfall amounts a quarter to a half inch possible. (Note: it has already exceeded that!) Highs near 50. Tonight: breezy with showers likely.

Don’t you love how they differentiate between “windy with rain at times” and “breezy with showers likely”?

My near future looks pretty bleak: it is so dark that it could be 5:00 in the evening although it is about noon, the promised rain and wind have arrived, and in less than an hour I have to go out in it. Drive over, walk my Grandma’s dogs, then take her to a doctor’s appointment, by driving on steep slippery streets…yuck!

The picture shows one lonely outside Christmas ornament we put up between storms.

This post is a response to the Daily Post prompt: Life Line

Rule of Thirds

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Rule of Thirds Introduction.

My camera has an option to show the grid for rule of thirds. Discovering that feature made a quantum leap in my photographic compositions skills.

The picture in the header has the fellow in the eye of the tortoise at the upper right. Not sure how dynamic that feels since the sky is white.

Here are some pictures taken this year using the Rule of Thirds grid:



Wander on in

With the holidays approaching and life’s many errands and  uncertainties encroaching, I have found myself wishing to be one place. A place that isn’t.

Home. But not the way it is now.

I want to walk into the house and feel at home, not like I have a six months or longer list of things that need to be done just to get to get it clean and comfortable instead of dusty, stained and cluttered.

I have lived in the same house for 28 years. We have made few changes and we haven’t even done much by way of basic maintenance. It has gotten shabby.

Over the last couple of years we have made some changes, mostly to update the basic functionality of the house (having natural gas piped in and replacing a furnace that was almost as old as my mother for one). The most recent upgrade was to bring the electrical service up to code, replacing the knob and tube wiring. That project left several holes in the walls and ceilings, and today they finally finished those repairs.

One room had to be completely empty so they could replace the ceiling, and its contents are in little mounds around the house.  I have carpet cleaners coming Monday, requiring more shifting things about. The carpet is so old now that it won’t look great, but with all the construction over the past few months necessary.

I put a few seasonal decorations out after the workman left this morning, but the overall clutter makes it hard to feel like that was a good idea. I want to get things pulled together but my calendar is as cluttered as the house.

I have been to many wonderful places and there are many more places to go, but right now I would like to run away, and wind up home. Not the way it is now, the way it should be.

This post is a response to The Wanderer Daily Post prompt.

Diagonal Play

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge Diagonal Lines.

Here are some pictures of a sculpture with a really strong diagonal line (I actually took them for Week 3 of Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge, but could’t post them in China). After reading the week 3 essay I really wanted to try it out, but had to get a bus to the train station so I took these in the hotel lobby while I waited.

Which one do you like? I kind of like the first one. In some ways it contains a bit of each of the lessons about lines: The column between the front doors leads you eye up to the teapot and the backdrop of vertical and horizontal lines on the wall behind the front desk make the diagonal lines of the splash noticeable, much more than they are in the second picture which was taken about the same distance away but from the front door side. In the last, taken from by the doors but at about the center of the sculpture, the splash appears almost as big as the stream coming from the teapot and the teapot becomes less noticeable.

Some other diagonal pictures:

While this isn’t my favorite picture I did one more experiment with this one from week 6 horizontal lines…I took my favorite rendition and removed the diagonal of the beach from it.

I still like the middle one best, and I think the diagonal line of the beach is at least part of why.

Buckle your Seat Belt- the Family is Gathering

This post was started before Thanksgiving, in response to the Daily Post prompt “Seat Guru”.

FYI: Seat Guru is the name of a website that is: “The ultimate source for airplane seating, in-flight amenities, flights, shopping and airline information.”

My family will gather for Thanksgiving, some smarter members will participate by calling in to say “Happy Thanksgiving”.  We could do a National Lampoon Family Holiday movie with almost no exaggeration. If we are in the same house and nothing blows up then the seating plan is perfect. Except that there is never a plan.

Our holiday gatherings are held at my dad’s place. It is definitely a barmy old codger’s pad (rat poison in the Kleenex box, skill saw on the dining table…). There is usually a close match between the number of human beings and the number of dogs. Dad doesn’t have much seating and all the dogs are people (they sit on the furniture). So these things tend to be a slow motion game of musical chairs played to football games and home improvement shows.

In preparation for this year’s festivities, I wanted to get a fire breathing dragon drone to guard the kitchen. I figured I could use it to dive bomb and breath fire on people who came into the kitchen when I was trying to cook. My husband talked me out of it.

One year at Easter the men installed a microwave over the top of the stove where I was trying to cook a meal. This was not a smooth, everything-fits-first-time type of installation,it involved several tries where the microwave occupied the only usable counter space while the installation team regrouped. Part way through the project my sister backed her car over a bank and the installation crew went to haul her mini-van out of a small ravine. Very shortly after that her new boy friend arrived in his spiffy Mini-Cooper and we were all told not to mention the over-the-bank incident. It got so ridiculous that when my Dad’s girlfriend arrived I offered her a dog biscuit as an hors d’oevre (bless her heart she got the joke!). I could have really used a fire breathing dragon that time!

Update: we didn’t have any dramatic quirkiness this year. I wonder if we are losing our touch…maybe we are getting old. I do still wish I had a fire breathing dragon drone… maybe for Christmas.


The Spirit of a Volunteer

Pumpkin blossomWe didn’t plant pumpkin this year, but one volunteered. It had blossoms as beautiful as any tropical flower.

Only one flower set but the pumpkin grew and grew…and grew.

We harvested it to sit on our porch for Halloween. I decided not to carve it so it would last to make our pies for Thanksgiving. We didn’t weigh it but you can see it was a beauty. When we cut it open I was really glad I hadn’t tried to carve it. The flesh was over three inches thick.

I now have two gallons of pumpkin puree to use! Typical over performing volunteer.

When you’re up you’re up-Vertical Lines

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Vertical Lines.

This is something I seem to have trouble with: I can’t just go out and see how to use vertical lines. I went through a bunch of old photos and chose a few where I think a strong vertical line is central to the composition.

After adjusting vertical and horizontal and cropping.
After adjusting vertical and horizontal and cropping.

Here is a before and after of an old tower in Drogheda, Ireland. It was difficult to photograph because you couldn’t get far enough away to get the whole tower in the frame at a good angle and still see the whole tower. Nothing was particularly straight to begin with, and the tilt of the camera trying to get the whole tower into the frame aggravated that. The adjustments were compromises. I used the vertical and horizontal transform corrections in Adobe Lightroom, then cropped the photo to be rectangular (those corrections make it trapezoidal). I couldn’t correct everything and still have the whole tower so I iterated a bit.

Here is some play with the same vertical, a white pagoda. The scene also had vertical elements in the white stone of the mountain and a cloud hovering over the mountain and pagoda.

In the end my own favorite was the following, which is #3 above cropped to be a portrait orientation. It keeps the vertical lines in the rock and the cloud which echoes the shape of the mountain but cuts out the clutter of buildings and the truss tower:

White King Pagoda

My hindsight is pretty good, I wish I was better at composing on the fly.