Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2011 by Peter Wong

I am now blogging at my website at http://www.peterwongphotography.com
Please check it out.

My Project: Bodyscapes

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2011 by Peter Wong

I have been thinking of a project to satisfy my creative side for a while. Getting involved with camera clubs around town, joining a group of like-minded photographers and just going out to shoot like I used to in my college days got me juiced.

My ‘bread and butter’ work is photographing golf courses, naming them “Golfscapes”.
Images I have seen, from online websites of photographers I admire and other images from the past were playing in my head like a repeating slideshow. But that elusive project that I can sink my teeth into was just beyond my grasp.

I have always been very active, playing sports, running marathons, and in the past five years I have been trying to get past the “I am a weekend runner” phase. I started doing more than just cardio exercises. Yoga, weight training, pilates, bootcamp training and spinning were some of them. In my mind these exercises seem to slow down the effects of aging, help in combating the effects of chemotherapy from eleven years ago and the mysterious illness I had that stumped even the doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

My daily stop at the gym started a small but yet potential idea. I started referring to the idea as “Healthy Bodies”. I look at the trainers, other members of the gym and realized that they are the people and bodies I want to photograph. Ideas started forming in my head of how to photograph them. The next step is to ask them to be my models, which can be a daunting task. Luckily the trainers are a fun bunch and they agreed.

The first shoot was about 2 hours and it was a blast!! The trainers were very helpful in pointing out the muscles and how to make them “jump” out. It was an exhausting couple of hours but very rewarding. I am now armed with some good images and will approach more people to be part of my project. I think this will be a year long “Bodyscapes” project. Enjoy!!!

Lankayan a dive resort, Sepilok nature resort and Kapalai a dive resort

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2011 by Peter Wong

Lankayan Island, a dive resort in the Sulu Sea.

There were only a few hours of rest time after the Mount Kinabalu climb. At 7 am the next morning we flew across the state to the town of Sandakan, boarded a speedboat for the ninety-minute trip to the island of Lankayan. The seas were rough and it took two hours of rocking and rolling to get there. The island was just how I remembered it but with a few changes. A new restaurant is being built on stilts over water and my wife’s favourite chalet (#1) has been torn down to make room for the walkway to it.

After settling in to my wonderful and spacious chalet, I explored the island. It takes approximately twenty minutes to walk around it. I observed faded turtle tracks headed away from the sea to an area near the tree line where they dug holes for their eggs. These turtles come on shore at night to lay their eggs where the resident biologist, Archie, would gather the eggs, incubated them and released the hatchlings to the sea. The guests were notified of these events, usually in the middle of the night.

Paradise was slightly dampened by the continuation of the rainy season, which was supposed to have ended a month ago in February. However, the skies managed to clear that first evening allowing for a beautiful sunset. I took advantage by using Tom, and other guests as models, giving the images a human touch. The colours were amazing, the golden rays turned red and magenta, giving me hope that the next day will be sunny, as in the phrase “….red skies at night, sailors delight”. It was not to be, the skies were grey throughout the next two days. Torrential rain fell most of the two days and my thoughts of getting bronze colouring on my skin faded with the rain.

Our trip back to the mainland was uneventful, the seas were smooth and in ninety minutes time, we were on a bus headed to Sepilok Nature Resort, situated next to the Orang Utan rehabilitation center.

Sepilok Nature Resort.

Now I know why it is call the Equatorial RAIN-forest. The vegetation is green and lush. Plants of all kind can grow anywhere and everywhere. Trees grow tall and straight up, fighting for the life giving sunlight. Different species of flowers, from orchids, bougainvilleas to ginger plants dotted the landscape.

We checked into our chalet and it will be the first time that we needed air conditioning. On a positive note regarding the weather: not having the sun shining, the temperature and humidity were not as intense as it usually would be.

It was a short walk to the Orang Utan rehabilitation center to catch the feeding time at 3pm. Not only were the Orang Utans there for the feast of bananas, there were dozens of Macaques, a medium sized monkey. The outnumbered Orang Utans were constantly swatting at the Macaques as they tried to steal the bananas making the situation very amusing for all the humans.
The following day we were transported to the airport for our last leg of the resorts: Kapalai, a dive resort in the Celebes Sea.

Kapalai, a dive resort in the Celebes Sea.

We arrived at the Tawau airport from Sandakan in 40 minutes, and transported again by bus to the coastal town of Semporna. We arrived at the jetty and the tide was extremely low and had to crawl from the platform into the speedboat. The trip would have taken 30 minutes but it took 40 minutes due to the low tide. The boat had to go around coral reefs instead of over it at high tide. Tom and I searched Google for explanation of tides and found out that the Spring tide (nothing to do with the season) is in effect. “When the moon is full or new, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun are combined. At these times, the high tides are very high and low tides are very low. Spring tide occurs when the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon are in a line. The gravitational forces of the Moon and Sun both contribute to the tides. Spring tides occur during the full moon and new moon.”.

Unfortunately for us the sun did not make a strong presence. However we made the most of it by exploring this resort on stilts. A “green house” lined a walkway for about 200 meters, a “beach”, and a new sitting area for watching the sunset were some of the spots we explored. During low tide we walked down to the sandy reef and found a turtle near the water’s edge. We wondered why it stayed up on the sand bar, and were told to leave it alone and it will get back to the water. At high tide, the waves were splashing through the boards around the dining room, making cool patterns coming up through the slots.

I had an unfortunate accident but not a serious one. I was going to photograph a dive master in her suit, goggles, fins and tank. We met around the pier (it was low tide), she headed down towards the water, slipped and fell. I went to help her up and end up slipping on the slimy boards. At that instant I imagined myself and my cameras sliding off of the pier into the ocean, my right hand broke the fall and slide. The pain was quite intense, I thought I had dislocated my shoulder.

The staff was very helpful and told me that they are readying a boat to take me to the mainland for x-rays. There was not much different between going to the ER here as in the US: there is a long wait, and then the doctor comes in for 5 minutes, writes a prescription and you are done (she told me that my shoulder did not dislocate, just sprained). The only difference is what I paid for that visit as opposed to the US. I paid 10RM, approximately US$3.33. I got back to the resort just before sundown and got in a couple of late evening shots and dinner.

The food here and also at the previous resorts and Mt. Kinabalu were just fabulous. It was “too good” to not eat more than usual. It was justifiable to have two or more helpings during the climb; I burned a total of 7,000 calories in one and a half days. However, at these resorts, it was simple gluttony!!! I will have to get back to my routine and work off all the excess food.
Tomorrow we are departing Kapalai resort. The general manager of these three resorts will meet us at Tawau to show us around town and then DINNER before we fly off to Kota Kinabalu. Great, more food!!!

Even though the sun was not the most cooperative, we had a terrific time for the past two and half weeks. I captured many excellent shots and the memories will last forever. I hope that I had “taken” you on our journey and maybe you will consider visiting Malaysia in the future. Thank you.

Images of these three resorts are at this link: Click on the albums of Lankayan, Sepilok and Kapalai.
http://gallery.me.com/peterwongphotography#gallery

Mount Kinabalu Climb, March 16th and 17th, 2011

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2011 by Peter Wong

March 15th, 2011

We left our hotel at 7am in Kota Kinabalu, heading for the Kinabalu National Park. Kinabalu Park was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2000, and the first one in Malaysia. Two hours later, we arrived but it took longer than it should have due to stoppage to photograph our sought after “prize” – Low’s Peak. The mountain got larger and larger and took on a mystical appearance. Clouds would form and drift along constantly changing the look and feel, thus the many stops.

View of the mountain from the highway.

Upon arrival at the Park headquarters, our pre-arranged documents were waiting for us and also finished up other necessary arrangements: guide, porter and lodging.  We explored some simple jungle trails to get a feel for what was in store for us – we would discover that the trekking over the next two days were significantly more challenging.  Our accommodations were very comfortable at the Peak Lodge.  There was a perfect view of the mountain from our deck.  Again, the constantly changing character of the mountain was an inspiration for what lay ahead.  Rain came and went throughout the afternoon into evening, giving us pause to consider what our climbing conditions would be.  By early morning, the skies had cleared: more photos ops.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Awesome sunrise and clouds.

Hopefully our sunrise will be the same!!!
The morning of our climb.
Early dawn.
What a sight!
Rain and mist blowing through.
View from the Kinabalu Park Headquarters.

March 16th, 2011

Our guide was a bit late; needless to say we were anxious to start our climb!  After a hearty breakfast, not too different from a marathon race carbo-load meal, we were transported to the starting gate named Timpohon, elevation1866 meters (6,122 feet).  At 7:40 am we started our climb.  I had my cameras and clothing in a backpack, Tom had a smaller backpack and a shoulder rucksack and Dan had two heavy backpacks, one of which was carried by our guide, Anddy Maz.

The trek begins downhill for the first few hundred meters through the rainforest.  At this elevation it is a temperate climate and we were all clad in shorts, tee shirts and hiking shoes.  The trail became steep immediately sending our heart rates to near anaerobic.  The terrain was constantly taxing our balance skills and leg muscles.  It was a good thing that we had train for months before this climb.  Thankfully there were rest huts with toilets about every kilometer as we were consuming a lot of water.  The only water provided along the trail was collected rainwater, NOT a good thing for us foreigners. Thus the three liters of bottled water we each carried in our packs – dehydration can contribute to altitude sickness.  The scenery along the upward trek was awe-inspiring as we moved from dense rainforest to wind-driven alpine vegetation and terrain.  The following photos can best describe better than words.

Four hours and fifty minutes from Timpohon gate, we arrived at Laban Rata, our base camp for the night before the final ascent. From this vantage, the rock-face of the mountain was right “in our face”!  This made us wonder how much more difficult the next day’s climb could be compared to today’s grueling ascent.  We checked into our hostel, Gunting Lagadan, at elevation of 3353 meters (11,000 feet).  We were issued a single towel each (for use after our cold showers) and this was the extent of the amenities we would receive while here. The cramped room had two bunk beds that we shared with a nice couple from Perth, Australia.  We made friends with other climbers from Great Britain and San Francisco – they were good company as they shared stories of their travels.  After dinner, we all went to bed early to rest up for an early call time for the final ascent.

View from the Timpohon Gate of the valley.

Trail of rocks and boulders, going straight up!

Cool and damp at the start.

Looking at the summit at the start of the trail.

View of the valley

Mist blowing through.

Daniel.

At a rest area.

Porters carrying supplies to Laban Rata.

When will it end!!!

Windswept vegetation.

Trail of slippery rocks.

Rest stop!

Next day's climb

Laban Rata, overnight rest area at 11,000 feet.

Friends we met, from all over the world. At Gunting Lagadan

March 17th, 2011 (St. Patrick’s Day)

After a restless night in our unheated, cramped and noisy hostel, we arose at 1:30 am.  The temperature at 11,000 feet was 47F and 32F was predicted at the peak.  After struggling with what to wear and what to bring along on the climb, we headed to breakfast.  Climbers began queuing at 2:15 am for the 2:30 am start in order to reach the peak for sunrise.  Because this portion of the climb is in total darkness, most climbers were wearing headlamps.  The conditions of the trails, with seemingly endless flights of stairs, up to the final check point (Sayat Sayat,  3810 meters or 12,500 feet), were similar, but steeper, to the previous day’s trek.  We were noticeably rising in elevation at a faster rate.  Starting at the check point, the terrain was all granite rock-face and the vegetation disappeared.  Due to the darkness, this was even more apparent on our descent.  For this portion of the climb, a thick white rope was anchored to the granite to act as a trail marker also to assist us in the steeper parts of the mountain.

After the steeper parts of this segment, there was a slightly inclined “plateau” which gave us a chance to catch our breath. We were amazed by the awesome star filled night and the view of a glowing Kota Kinabalu some 90 kilometers in the distance.  Most of the maps tell us that the summit is at 8.5KM, then as we go past each marker, 7 KM, 7.5KM, 8 KM, and finally the 8.5KM marker, not at the top yet.  However, Low’s Peak at 4095.2 meters (13,450 feet), was still another 200 meters straight up!!!  Finally, we are at the top. WE MADE IT!!!  As an aside, Tom, filed past every single climber of that morning and reached the peak at 4:48 am.  The next climber, as Tom, proudly tells it, was eighteen minutes behind him.  I was in the 10th to 15th place.  There were jubilant cheers, high fives and fist butting as each climber got to the top.

I took out my hand phone and attempted to call my wife, Becca, but alas, there were no bars.  There was hand phone service at 11,000 feet, thus I assume that I can call Becca.  As we waited by the marker on the peak to see the sunrise, it was a sight to see the slow moving stream of headlamps heading towards us.  Unfortunately for us, the clouds blocked the sun from shining on the mountain.  We could see that the sun shone through other openings in the clouds but not on the mountain, boo hoo :-((  I tried my best to capture our achievement with the camera, the light was low thus the quality will not be the best.  No worries, it will be etched in our memories forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brave soul at the edge....

The other side…
Views are amazing!!!
It gets crowded at the top!!!
At the top!!
Tom, at the Summit.
First light from the top.

Descending to Kinabalu Park Headquarters.

Even though climbing up was taxing on the lungs, heart and muscles, it was more difficult going down the mountain.  Focusing on every step is a must, and figuring out the next three steps will keep you from an unfortunate fall.  A misstep could result in a finely etched image of your face on Mount Kinabalu!  While the breathing was easier on the descent, the quadriceps, knees, ankles and feet (toes) take a beating.  Two days after completing the descent, the feelings in our legs are not unlike that of the pain felt after running a marathon.  Thankfully the scenery, terrain and vegetation were just as spectacular going down as going up.

 

 

Getting near the end!!

A pitcher plant found only in Borneo.
Thank goodness for ropes.
A golf course.

I hope that you have enjoyed the narrative and photos as much as we enjoy our adventure.  Thank you.

Here is a link to these images and more:   http://gallery.me.com/peterwongphotography#gallery

Click on the album: “The Climb up to Mt. Kinabalu”


Trip to Malaysia, March 2011: Hong Kong and Kota Kinabalu

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2011 by Peter Wong

I was praying that the big “snow storm” would not ruin the long anticipated departure for Tom and I from the cold, snowy place called Minnesota. To our delight the storm fizzled. Our flight took us from MSP to DTW to HKG. The DTW to HKG leg was 15 hours long (4 movies and 3 meals), flying over the North Pole, Russia and China. Flying coach was literally a “pain in the ass”; business class would have been preferred.

After retrieving our luggage in HKG, we met up with Daniel (my classmate since kindergarten) who flew in from Toronto. A ride on the Airport Express train to Kowloon Station, then taxi to our very, very cramped hotel room situated in the busiest district in Kowloon on Nathan Road: neon lights, wall to wall people and exhaust fumes bombarding our senses at the midnight hour.

I had tried numerous times over the years to photograph the Hong Kong island skyline to no avail. This time was no different. The smog and haze prevented a “clean” shot. Tried as I may in Photoshop, the results were disappointing. Guess I have to settle for a postcard from the hawkers by the waterfront.

After a short night’s rest and Dim Sum, we headed to the airport to catch the flight to Kota Kinabalu. The news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan was abuzz, sad and very unsettling; concerned emails were exchanged from my wife and our friends.

We landed at 9 pm Friday to warm and humid air, which was a welcome change from what we had left behind in Minnesota.

My former classmates, wanting to insure that we enjoy ourselves, were more than hospitable by treating us to sightseeing (awesome sunsets at the Sutera Resort) and wonderful food. Acquaintances were renewed, old times reminisced, and as usual accompanied by good food. They made us feel like we belong. Thank You!

Tuesday we begin the climb on Mt. Kinabalu, hoping that three days should be sufficient time to recover from jet lag. Mt. Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in SE Asia at 13,455 feet. We are hopeful that our workout routines have prepared us well for the climb.

Most of my former classmates have climbed it during their high school years. I need to climb it! Stay tune for more photos and narrative of this adventure.

Click on this link to view images: http://gallery.me.com/peterwongphotography#100764&bgcolor=black&view=grid

The Prairie Club, Dunes Course. Valentine, Nebraska

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 by Peter Wong

I don’t usually answer my phone while I am playing golf, but the caller ID read Tom Lehman.  Had to answer.  He wanted to get me all set to shoot the Prairie Club near Valentine, Nebraska, before his trip to Wales for the Ryder Cup.  I checked the weather and it looked great for at least 15 days.  The temperatures were in the mid 70s, wow!! in late September and early October.

Stocked my cooler with fruits, munchies and water, and got on the road at 6:15 am. The drive was an uneventful 8 hours.  I watched the landscape slowly changed from flat farmland to rolling hills as I crossed the Missouri River, I knew I was in the  Sandhills of Nebraska.

The outside services gentlemen were extremely helpful, brought my camera gear and travel bag to my room in the lodge.  The lodge is very low key, comfortable but elegant – from the bar to the members’ area to the rooms. It overlooks westward toward the 18th green of the Pines course, designed by Graham Marsh.  Members and guests can enjoy a cocktail out on the patio while admiring the always amazing sunset.

I started touring the Dunes course from the first hole on.  It is a links style course with elevation changes, prairie grass, wide fairways and large greens.  The wind is constantly blowing making every shot a challenge.  The most noticeable features on this course are the “blow outs” a.k.a sand bunkers.  From the information I received, the blow outs are created by cattle grazing and digging down to the sand, the wind takes over and makes these great looking sand bunkers.

From every tee box you see the hole in front of you and the expanse of the rolling Sandhills.  It goes for miles and from the yardage book provided, it states “The Sandhills region rivals the size of Ireland or Scotland with miles of natural land formation for playing the game as it was meant to be played”.  My images are always shot early mornings and late afternoon, taking advantage of the golden rays.  It is definitely worth getting up early and staying out till the sun goes down.  The sunrises and sunsets out here are spectacular!!!

I am having difficulty gathering my thoughts to describe the course other than to show you my images.  So I asked Tom Lehman to write a short paragraph of his feelings toward his creation.  I hope that my images will illustrate his words.

“There are so many potentially good golf holes in the Sand Hills near Valentine, NE on the Ranch that has become the Prairie Club that it took a year and a half to finally narrow it down to the best 18 that now comprise the Dunes Course at the PC.  There just is no better topography for golf than this piece of land and it was genuinely a project that I looked forward to going to and was sad to have to leave when the trip finished.  I love this land and I love this golf course.  My heart and soul are in every tee, fairway, green, bunker and fence post.”

………………..Tom Lehman

Attached are a few images, to view all of them please visit my gallery at this link:

http://gallery.me.com/peterwongphotography#gallery   click on The Prairie Club

Or my website:  http://peterwongphotography.com/golfscapes.aspx   and select a course.




Shoot at Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay

Posted in Uncategorized on August 25, 2010 by Peter Wong

Northern Minnesota has always been a place I love to visit.  When I do get there, I always asked myself, “Why don’t I visit more often?”.  An escape from the city heat is to head up to the North Shore of Lake Superior, photographing the same scenes as I did the year before and enjoying the cool lake breeze. The days are fabulous as well as the nights.  I have not seen so many stars since I was a young kid back in the jungles of  Malaysia Borneo.

After a couple of days on the shores of Lake Superior, I head inland on MN Hwy 1 from Illgen City towards Ely, going by Tower and then to Biwabik where Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort is situated.  The two golf courses at the resort, the Legend and the Quarry are rated highly by all the golf magazines. Besides the high ratings, it is just great to be there.  There are no traffic and airplane noise.  The only sounds you hear are your golf balls hitting trees or splashing into the lakes and ponds, and an occasional #@!? utterance from a golfer a few holes away.

I was commissioned by the resort to photograph the courses.  I had shot both of them eight to nine years ago and they decided to have new images.  I was also commissioned by The Wilderness at Fortune Bay near Tower, MN to photograph their course too.  I made arrangements with Danae from Giants Ridge and Leah from The Wilderness to shoot the courses on this same trip.  The Wilderness was also designed by the same course architect as the Legend and Quarry, Jeff  Brauer.

My plan was to be there for four days, two at the Giants Ridge and two at The Wilderness.  Mother Nature was not on my side this trip.  I believe that this is the first time in MN that the weather did not cooperate when I wanted it to.  It was heavy clouds during the first 2 days at Giants Ridge, so to pass the time, I played golf at the Quarry.  On the third morning, I was hoping that the sun would appear.  It did, but a layer of thick fog prevented the sun rays from shining on the course.  I decided to drive the 30 miles to the Wilderness.  As far as I was concern the fog was only over Giants Ridge, because a few miles away from the resort, the sky was clear and the sun was brilliant.

I shot for a couple of hours at the Wilderness.  Even though the sun was higher than I like it, I shot some angles of certain holes.  These captures serve as a reminder of the spots I need to be when I return later in the evening or the next day to capture it again with the correct lighting.  I had a chance to play a round of golf during midday, then went back out with my cameras for the late afternoon light.  I thank the golf and photography gods that I captured all the shots I had wanted on this beautiful evening that lasted till almost 8:30 pm.  Fourth day, 5:30 am, I looked out my hotel window, sheets of rain going sideways.  Looks like the day is done.

Making sure on my laptop that I had all the shots I needed at the Wilderness, I turned my attention to the “grab” shots I had of the Quarry, making sure that the sun will light the hole the way I had imagined it.  The maps and compass and my flashlight (sun) were out on the hotel bed.  I charted out the spots where I needed to be at sunrise through 8:30 am.

Fifth day, 5 am, it is going to be a good day for photography, not a cloud in the sky!   I drove hastily to the Quarry in plenty of time.  It was a chilly morning, the sun slowly climbed over the tree line.  I captured eight holes with the morning light, thanks to the preparation and knowing the short cuts used by the maintenance crew to get to all the greens and fairways.

The day promised to be sunny with puffy clouds all day, the weatherman was correct for a change.  I went to the Legend course and scouted the positions of how I will photograph these specific holes later in the afternoon and evening.  At 5 pm, I went back out on the course and captured nine holes with the low warm light.  Finally my assignments are done, at least the shooting part.  The post production comes later, back in my office, in the big city.

To view all the images of The Legend, Quarry and The Wilderness please visit my website:

http://peterwongphotography.com/courses.aspx?gallery=giants_ridge_1.aspx

and

http://peterwongphotography.com/courses.aspx?gallery=the-wilderness.aspx