The Holy Ridge 雪山聖稜線

The Holy Ridge 雪山聖稜線 is one of Taiwan’s most famous big hiking trails.  It’s a stunning hike along a long ridge line that usually takes about 5 days.  It crosses several high peaks, including Taiwan’s second highest, Snow Mountain 雪山 (Xueshan) at 3886 m (12749 ft).  The ridge is so long that three full days can easily be spent at over 3,400 m.

My friends and I hiked The Holy Ridge recently in a four day blitz.  We achieved this by starting at midnight and hiking in the dark for an hour, then skipping the Snow Mountain Peak.

A Hiker Above the Clouds

A hiker looks out on a sea of clouds on Taiwan's Holy Ridge, a hiking trail on and around Snow Mountain (Xueshan).

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Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Longshan Temple 龍山寺

Longshan Temple 龍山寺 (aka Lungshan and Mengjia 艋舺龍山寺) is the oldest and most well-known temple in all of Taiwan.  What’s truly wonderful about it, is that despite being a major tourist destination, Longshan Temple retains it’s charm and genuineness by remaining a place of daily worship.  The area around Longshan can be quite interesting as well, and features traditional markets, calligraphers, traditional medicine shops, fortune tellers, and a place called Snake Alley.  All these reasons and more are why Longshan Temple is on my list of must see places in Taipei.

Crowded on Chinese New Year

Throngs of Buddhists and Daoists pack Longshan Temple in Taipei on Chinese Lunar New Year 2007.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Yehliu GeoPark and Other Coastal Geology

Yehliu GeoPark (野柳地質公園) is a popular stop on the Taiwan tourist circuit.  It’s an interesting set of geological formations found in a small park about 20 minutes north of Keelung, Taiwan.  Truth be told, the entire length of eastern Taiwan is an interesting set of geological formations, but here you can find them all in one small area with a coffee and souvenir shop.  If you’re only in Taiwan for a short time, or don’t have any transportation of your own, this it the place to go to be awed by Mother Nature’s artistic side.

Yehliu Taiwan

An overview of the most popular area of Yehliu GeoPark.

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Categories: Motorcycling, Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 74 Comments

Snow Mountain - 雪山

Snow Mountain (雪山) is Taiwan’s second highest mountain at 3,886m (12,749ft).  Located in Shei-Pa National Park, the most popular trail to the peak is called the East Xue Trail and is quite a beautiful one.  The trail passes through a variety of scenery including open grass fields, several different pine forests and a stunning ex-glacial cirque.  Despite the fact that I say the following after nearly every hike in Taiwan: This might be one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on!

It’s possible to hike Snow Mountain (aka XueShan or Syue Mountain) on a two day weekend from Taipei, but it’s difficult.  We spent an excruciating Saturday hiking for about 13 straight hours.  Our day started at 3 am and finished at dusk.  In between, we were lucky enough to have some beautiful weather and see some beautiful sites…

Snow Mountain East Peak

The East Peak of Snow Mountain pokes out of the mist during an early morning sunrise.

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Random Taiwan Images

Here are my most recent “random” images from Taiwan.  It’s quite a mish-mash this time with images from the beach, the mountains, the city, a drainage ditch in Banqiao, and even one from a night club.

I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone over at Taiwanderful.net for holding the yearly “Best Taiwan Blog Award”.  I’m very honored to report that I’m a co-winner this year for the Best Overall Taiwan Blog and the Best Taiwan Photography Blog!  I’ll be sure to keep up the posting and I have a few new blog posts simmering that I should be able to put up in the near future.  Thanks everyone!

This first image was featured in a album on my facebook page called “Critique Me.”  If you’re trying to progress as a photographer, I would highly recommend asking for critiques from your peers.  It’s an invaluable way to get a different perspective of your images.  (Just don’t forget to wear your thick skin!)

Taiwan Economic Contrast

Old world meets new in a Taipei, Taiwan alley.

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Myanmar Memories

Myanmar (Burma) is a remote country in Southeast Asia.  It’s a country that is isolated from the rest of the world for both geological and political reasons.  Travelers here are rewarded with very friendly people, and a culture set apart.  The years of isolation mean that Myanmar is one of the only places you can still experience true “old Asia” culture.

Myanmar has had some recent elections and I’ve had a friend ask me about traveling there, so it’s a place that’s been on my mind.  I went through some old images that I photographed there, and thought I’d share.

Sunset in Myanmar

This is just a beautiful sunset that I was lucky enough to witness in a beautiful part of the world. This is U Bien's bridge, near Mandalay, Myanmar.

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Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | 132 Comments

Multimedia – Forgotten Tibet

The Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham are the subject of my first multimedia project in a long while.  Amdo and Kham are beautiful regions of the world that I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice recently…

Most westerners think of Tibet as being only what is today called the Tibet Autonomous Region (Xizang) in modern China.  But what they don’t know is that this is only one third of the historical Tibetan Kingdom.  Split off from modern day “Tibet” are the Tibetan Kham and Amdo provinces, now found in the Chinese Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

What is surprising though, is that these areas have become much better places to see Tibetan culture than Lhasa or many other places in Xizang.  With both Chinese and Westerners’ attention focused on Lhasa, these areas are much less traveled and have far fewer travel restrictions than Xizang.  That gives the Tibetans found there an sense of ease in their day to day lives and makes it a great place to explore.

If you’re interested in learning more or even visiting the region, have a look at my more in depth series of blog posts on the Kham and Amdo Provinces.

Cheers,
-Neil

Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, Tibet, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Jialuo Hu 加羅湖 Revisited

Jialuo Hu 加羅湖 is a mountain lake found high in the mountains of northern Taiwan. Only 70km southwest of Yilan, the trail head is a three hour drive from Taipei. The hike to the lake takes about another three hours, making this an awesome weekend away from Taipei’s bright lights.

This was the second time we hiked up to the beautiful lake, so I’ll keep this post short, and get right to the newest pictures:

Dream Catcher at Lake

A dream catcher-like spider web reflects the morning sun on Jialuo Hu Lake, near Yilan, Taiwan.

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Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Making a Panorama

Making a panoramic image is a fairly easy process these days.  There is lots of software out there that will easily stitch together several photos into a very wide panorama.  But there are a few things you need to remember when taking the photos that will make things much easier in the end.

Below is a panorama made up of 6 separate images of a very nice sunset over Taipei, Taiwan, stitched together in Photoshop.  Read on to learn how to do this for yourself…

A beautiful sunset over Taipei.

A beautiful sunset over the Taipei, Taiwan skyline.

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Exit 3 – A Study in Light

Had a great time shooting some beautiful light tonight so I though I’d share.

The following photos were all shot within about a 30 minute period in the late afternoon here in Taipei.  I shot 270 images in that time, and decided to share the best here, and make a video of the rest.

Every image was made with a 50mm lens set at various settings and they were only lightly retouched in post.  They’re all in chronological order, except for the first one.  What’s important though, is to look at the light, how it changes, and the things that can be done with it.

Light…
Shadows…
Lines…

Enjoy…

Stairway 1

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Three Ways to Get Inspired

It’s been a looong time since I’ve posted one of these.  The main reason is that I now have a fan page on facebook, and I’ll often share stuff like this over there.

But recently, I’ve come across sooo many inspiring websites, videos and blogs that I thought I’d share a few.

The first is a nearly hour long interview with Tim Mantoani for Photoshelter.  A bit long for the casual viewer, but one of the best interviews with anyone, on any subject that I’ve ever seen.  His passion for photography will definitely rub off on you.  Definitely a must see for anyone working in a creative field.

Please continue reading for more inspiration.

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Categories: Inspirational Links, PHOTOGRAPHY | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Must See Taiwan – Shiding and Shenkeng

Shiding (石碇) and Shenkeng (深坑) are two small towns found just to the east of Taipei, Taiwan.  They’re both withing 3o minutes of Taipei’s  convenient MRT system and together, they make for a great day trip out of the city.

Shiding (石碇)

Shiding is a simple mountain village located at the convergence of two small mountain streams.  It’s got an old-time Taiwan feel to it, and in fact has many stores that are over a century old.  It also has two very clean, fish-filled streams that come from virgin forests high above, in the nearby mountains.

Tree roots overgrowing an old doorway in Taiwan

Doorways don't get much cooler than this.

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Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Don’t Forget to Have Some Fun!

Now for something completely different…

I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut lately.  Why?  Let’s just say that I now understand why some of of the greatest artworks from some of the greatest artists came from them when they were at their lowest (life’s been good).

In an attempt to get out of this rut, I’ve tried a few things (sabotaging my life isn’t one of them).  Some failed, some succeeded, and some are still under wraps.  But I have rekindled my love of  photography and hopefully some new personal projects will be coming forth.   I suggest that if you’re also in a creative rut, think of something silly like this to get you take your camera out more often.  (I also recommend you watch this video.)

About as far as it can get from my usual portrait work, I present you with my “Face Project”.

funny faces

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Hiking Jade Mountain 玉山

Jade Mountain (玉山) is Taiwan’s tallest mountain at 3,952 m (12,966 ft).  It’s located within the Yushan National Park (玉山國家公園) just next to the famous Alishan National Scenic Area (阿里山國家風景區) in the central mountains of Taiwan.  If measured from the nearby ocean floor, the Jade Mountain Main Peak rises an impressive 8,000 m in only 100 km.

Getting a permit to hike Jade Mountain is no easy task.  My friends an I applied 14 times before finally receiving a permit to hike it on a weekend (A big thanks to Stu Dawson for his tenacity).  We received a second round of good luck by getting perfect hiking weather on the 4th of July weekend.  The trail to the peak is beautiful, and this hike is an absolute must-do for anyone with an adventurous soul living in Taiwan.

The Jade Mountain Main Peak as seen from the West Peak hiking trail.

The Jade Mountain Main Peak as seen from the West Peak hiking trail.

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Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers, TRAVEL | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Hiking Xiaozi Shan in Pingxi (孝子山平溪)

I went on another weekend hike with Stu recently, this one to Xiaozi Shan (孝子山) and its nearby mountains located just to the south of Pingxi (平溪), Taiwan.  We had a good time as usual, enjoying the first rain-free Sunday that Taipei has seen in months.

XiaoZi Shan and it neighboring mountains, Cimushan (慈母山) and Cimufeng (慈母) are all just a few minute’s hike from the 106 highway and downtown Pingxi.  They all feature sheer-rock faced peaks with awesome views of the surrounding mountains and the Pingxi valley. What’s unbelievable about this area, is that all of the peaks are accessed by a trail “intersection” that has 4 different trail heads withing 40 meters of each other, and the peaks are all within a 30 minute hike from there!

Stu and I spent a few hours hiking up and down all the different peaks, then wandered home on a back trail and still got home for a late lunch, which has to make this area THE most accessible and best bang-for-you-buck hikes in all of Taiwan…

Hiking near Pingxi, Taiwan

A couple of men descend from the peak of Xiaozi Shan (孝子山) on a aluminum ladder in Pingxi (平溪), Taiwan.

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