Once again I have been super busy, and my plan to blog more regularly skipped by. I am sorry about this, I do mean to write a bit more often. If you push me I will, so be sure to let me know if you like my words and pictures. I like what I make but we all enjoy a bit of reassurance that we are reaching out and hitting the mark, don't be shy and let me know, ok?
Right, on with the show, as I said I have been a busy boy. Camille and I headed to the South of Taiwan and I had my first experience of Kaohsiung and Tainan. I immediately fell for the lazy charms and lovely light of Kaohsiung, what a contrast to Taipei. Tainan was a little more hectic and boy are there a lot of scooters there, wow. I am so happy to have visited that part of the country, it isn't a long journey on the High Speed Rail (HSR), Taiwan's answer to Japan's bullet train. It isn't too expensive either, especially compared to the UK's ridiculous train prices, as you can imagine the travel experience is worlds better than the UK too.
First up Kaohsiung...
As a travel photographer it is always good practice to shoot the hotel room first and resist jumping on the bed, which let's be honest, we all want to do.
The room, although nice wasn't the largest or most inspiring, however I always find something interesting (or at least try to), in this case I liked the light shades and had a little play around photographing them.
As usual, after freshening up from the journey and very hot walk from the station in Kaohsiung. It was so hot that the rubber tyre on my suitcase wheel melted and split in two. I set out for my usual walk to see the lay of the land and get a feel for the place. Kaohsiung is pretty chilled out, the ladies gossiping away the afternoon where amused at me taking pictures of the guys manually splicing steel cables together. Being a working port there are signs of the industry everywhere.
Having worked up an appetite walking around the streets I looked for something to eat. If a place is busy with locals, it is usually a good sign so I popped in and enjoyed a delicious bowl of the Taiwanese favorite Beef Noodles. The Taiwanese take great pride in this dish, each chef has their own recipe, often handed down through the family. It is to our benefit of course, I strongly recommend trying a few bowls of this great dish should you have the luck to find yourself in Taiwan.
Refueled and revitalised it was back to the streets to see where my feet would take me. Spotting an old house down an alley I walked off the main streets and into a little maze of narrow lanes between the buildings. I love that these communities quietly exist seconds away from the main streets, this somewhat ramshackle but traditional little house sums it up perfectly.
The old port-side buildings are gradually being developed, this one was currently empty and a bit run down. It was a great space, this bit of graffiti was really beautiful. Should there be someone out there reading this who is feeling generous and wanting to invest in me then get in touch, I would love to develop one of these units (if this one then this piece of art would be preserved). It would make a great studio with gallery and coffee shop to boot. The area is growing as a creative area, I am sure it would work and be successful, so seriously if you or anyone you know want to make an investment then lets talk.
I was lucky enough to get entered into a photographic scavenger hunt organised by one Crysta Rae. Crysta is a mover and shaker on G+ and keen photographer. The scavenger hunt is basically a fun contest in which you receive a list of words to be interpreted photographically. It is open to everyone on a first come first served bases. The first 500 applicants are entered, given the list under strict conditions and allowed about 3 months to collect your photographs and submit them. It was my first time, I hope to enter more hunts as they are good fun. Although I didn't win any of the 4 categories I entered, I am happy to say that the above image received an honorable mention from the judges in the category "Square, straight out of the camera". I also received an honorable mention for my entry to the category "Colourful". The photograph for "Colourful" was planned and executed perched on a central reservation, in heavy rain, on a busy road. The shot above was spotted hours before the final deadline whilst walking around the old docks in Kaohsiung. At the time of writing this I am in a hotel room in Hong Kong and sadly do not have the the "Colourful" shot to hand, if you wish to see it click this link https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/yourphotos?pid=6013215674773876610&oid=117833274868607645375&authkey=CO_i46GVhsu-uAE
Part of the redevelopment of the old docks area consists of art installations, along with the fantastic walkway photographed for "Square" there were multiple sculptures and artworks around the area. This large red demon dog was among them, That is not a tail by the way and caused many a giggle as passers by noticed it, even more so when they saw it had a human head, as a head if you get my meaning.
For me one of the biggest attractions of Kaohsiung other than the wide roads with little traffic, laid back feel and friendly locals, is the gorgeous evening light. It really was lovely looking across at the financial side of the city, just to my right as I made this shot was a couple having their pre-wedding photos made. I would be very happy photographing loved up couples in this light, it really was rich and warm.
After only a couple of days in Kaohsiung it was back on the train and off to Tainan. Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, it's name translates as "Southern Taiwan", the city was established by the Dutch East India Company and boasts the highest number of Buddhist and Taoist temples in Taiwan.
We arrived at the Hotel Shangi-la and were told we would be in a twin room. We looked a little dejected, the receptionist had a quick chat and we were upgraded. This is an example of great Taiwanese customer service, I am not saying expect an upgrade everywhere but in my experience they will do everything they can to help you out.
Like before it was interiors time....
As you can see the suite was fantastic and the bed was huge. To really demonstrate the size, there was only one thing for it...
I am sure you understand this is actually a certified scientific hotel bed test.
The rest of the hotel was none too shabby either, a moonlight swim, as ever, was lovely and refreshing after a busy day around the city.
Camille recognised this little eatery which is pretty famous for a gluten rice cake, it wasn't what I ordered but I am assured it is very good. Just up the road from the eatery is the Chihkan Tower. The original building was known as Fort Provinitia, it was a Dutch outpost built in 1653. Fort Provinitia was destroyed in an earthquake in the 19th century, and rebuilt as the Chihkan Tower you see here. The building contains a library of dictionaries, and documents the Siraya language spoken by the native inhabitants of the region during the Dutch rule.
All the history aside, the Chihkan Tower is typically beautiful, tranquil and elegant, a great place to check out in the afternoon sun.
Wanting to explore the area a bit we hired a car and hit the road. Tainan farms and produces sea salt, I wanted to have a look at the salt farms. We didn't end up in the area I had researched but in a place with a huge mountain of salt instead, it was like the Disney world of salt, if that was just a big pile of salt with a bunch of people standing on top of it. Not really my thing, so I headed off and over a fence to have a look to see what I could find.
Other than this little fellow, I found a very shallow estuary, partially man made and obviously once used in the production of salt. It was teaming with fish and we watched them leap and feed as I made my shots.
Hanging out and watching sunsets is undeniably a romantic part of being a photographer. You aren't always rewarded with a glorious fire like sky, however these times do offer an opportunity to meditate a little, relax and enjoy the moments we are often in too much of rush to experience, they are also a great contrast to making portraits and photographing people. I find that practicing contrasting areas of my craft keeps me learning and in love with what I do, I think if you don't strive to keep this passion then it will reflect in your work. So whatever you do, be sure to do things to keep it fresh and alive when you can.
Leaving the car at the hotel, it was time to explore the area and find a bite to eat. Just along the street there was a thriving row of second hand shops. I wish I had had more time and more space in my luggage to really check them out, there were a few rare looking pieces of vinyl on the shelves in one of the stores. These guys though, were busy hunting through a dense pile of books and magazines for a good read.
We had a little walk around but there wasn't much that really caught our eye and we ended near the hotel at this small place which seemed to be full of farmers and their families. After a bit of a wait and generously feeding the local mosquitoes for a while we picked up our food and headed back to our room.
Camille suggested the next day that we head out to this old town and have a look at the traditional buildings. It reminded her of being a kid and getting a treat of sweets on her way home from school. For me it was just interesting to witness a taste of a time gone by. I could see by Camille's face she was enjoying happy memories and this made it a special experience for me too, not to mention how cool the old apothecary was. Check out the old draws and pots, they obviously still use their trusty abacus to add all the orders up too.
It isn't just the shops that continue in their traditional ways, this lady was quietly sitting on her porch and making vine-leaf rice pouches, tasty, full of goodness and easy to carry. Noodles are also hand produced in Tainan, hung in the air to dry before folding and packing for the shops. We made sure we went home with enough to last a while.
Making the most of the day and the car, next stop was the Tree House. As you can see in the shot below, there is a lot of European influence in the architecture which reflects the Dutch history. I expect you are wondering why it is called the tree house, this refers to the building at the rear. It has been completely overgrown by a tree, the roots, branches and vines of the tree have wrapped, enveloped and replaced the walls, roof and even some of the floor. It is an impressive example that nature will outgrow and reclaim what man tries to place on the earth.
Amazingly we still had time to stop by the Chi Mei Museum before having to return the car. What an impressive building, it was constructed by the Chi Mei corporation's founder Shi Wen-Long. Not only is Mr. Shi very good at running his business, he is also a keen and talented Violinist, this explains why part of the collection in the museum holds several Stradivaris' alongside other classical instruments. The wider collection held by the museum consists of European art, weapons collections and and exhibit of industrial techniques amongst other priceless collections.
The museum is in the process of being taken on and run by the local authority so was not open during our visit, however as I think you will agree it is a very impressive building and well worth a visit just to walk around the grounds and enjoy it's grandeur.
National Geographic Traveler:
The title of this blog episode promises more than just "The South", it mentions "Tests", Pool Parties and "National Geographic Traveler" too. I will continue with the later, National Geographic Traveler (NatGeo).
When I was in the UK last I had several meetings as I mentioned in my last blog (if you haven't read my previous blogs, then please go and have a look). One of the people I was trying to reach was the editor of NatGeo Traveler. Although I didn't get a meeting with him I was only too happy to hear that they wanted me to go to Japan and make photographs to illustrate an article due for publication in the October issue. Living in Taiwan it is an easy journey to Japan, much like the rest of Asia it is only a short flight away. Think of it like flying to Spain from the UK, or to Washington DC from New York.
I have always wanted to go to Japan, yes I have a little concern over the Fukushima situation but I was heading to Tokyo, well away from that end of Japan.
I find myself increasingly curious about the area affected by the disaster. This is a fascinating and moving short documentary about living in the affected zone, if you have a 20 minutes then it's worth the watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llM9MIM_9U4
As I said though I would be heading to Tokyo and then on to Hakone. Sadly this is all I can tell you at the moment, other than I had a great time and met some lovely people. I will be able to write more and share the pictures once the article has been published. I hope you can wait until then, I can assure you it will be worth it. I did tweet about my trip while I was there, you can always follow me on Twitter too https://twitter.com/DuncanLongden
or, if it is only pictures you want then hit me up on Instagram http://instagram.com/duncan_photo
I did a little shoot which I set up for my photography students a while back, the make up artist for that shoot was the very talented Crystal Shien. Not only is Crystal talented with the brushes, she is also a great stylist, not a bad model and half of the fantastic synth' based electronica duo Dronetonic. I will tell you more about Dronetonic next time as I have been shooting for their promotional material in preparation for their forthcoming album release.
I had a couple of ideas I wanted to work through and Crystal was up for helping out, she is fun to work with so we have been making a few shoots together, I hope and am sure there will be many more to come.
These two weren't really planned, after shooting what I had thought about we had a little walk and found this small decked area, quickly setting up my lights we threw these shots together.
This was the location I planned to use and had made my sketches for the shots I wanted. However you can't plan for the reactions of the random passer by you get on location, you've got to be ready to make the shots when they present themselves though, I just love this guy...classic!
I had seen something similar to this shot with the umbrella. I have always been a fan of the surreal, growing up watching productions by David Lynch and David Cronenberg along with many other off the wall films. Cinema has and continues to be huge influence on me, and my work.
It was actually going to meet Crystal for a coffee and a chat about collaborating when I found myself in this lane not far from Guting MRT, I immediately felt there was potential for a shoot here. I expect it will not be the last time I use the location, however there were and inordinate amount of incessant biting flies, so next time I will be liberally drenched in repellent.
I was so badly bitten on my legs that the pharmacist found it hard to believe I had only been in Taipei and not in the jungle. I was to head to the jungle later, but I will have to tell you about this epic trek in another episode.
My legs were in such an unsightly state that when my friend asked me if I shot events and would I be interested in photographing his pool party, I realised I would be the typical English man wearing long trousers at the poolside, but of course I said yes.
I spent most of the second year whilst studying photography photographing in clubs. It afforded me free entry and I really like to get to hang out with, and hear great DJ's and Musicians, I have had many a wonderful experience shared as a result. It had been a while since I shot anything like this, to be honest, the last time I photographed in a club was on my old Nikon F4s on film. I remember being on stage at the O2 Arena photographing the crowd, listening to DJ Rap, and bringing in the New Year. That was a special moment.
On the line up for the first party I would be covering was DJ Rasp, Rasp is the current UK DMC Champion, not someone to miss if given an opportunity to see and enjoy. It rained heavily from the get go, but the people that were there paid it no mind and made it great. DJ Rasp played a great set, as did the other DJ's on the line up, NekBrace, Marcus Aurelius and Robi Roka. Pool Parties are always good, the tunes are varied and not so much simple four to the floor, these are fun times. times to let your hair down and just have a laugh without any pretense. I was very happy to hear that they liked my work and be asked to continue to shoot for them as and when I was available, no problem at all. I mean, wouldn't you like to be here....
As the party runs through the day from midday to eight, they are friendly for all ages and more like a mini carnival.
DJ Chamber fills the dance floor with his unique cuts and breaks, just like DJ Rasp, Chamber is a super cool guy, after the party we jumped on the MRT together as he was heading to get his ride back to "The South", where we started this episode to Koahsiung, and I was heading home too.
I hope that you all enjoyed this lengthy Blog. As I said at the start, please feel free to comment, feedback is welcome, sharing is a must and I request wholeheartedly that you do share this blog for me. The more that see it, read it and enjoy it and share it the better.
If you need a photographer in Asia, or anywhere in the world, I am more than happy to travel to photograph what you need. Simply drop me a line via my website www.duncanlongden.photography
and I will gladly chat with you about what you need and hopefully make photographs for you.
Coming up for me over the next few months, I have a couple of meetings here in Hong Kong, then back to Taiwan where I have a portrait to shoot, and more at the poolside. At the start of August I am back in Hong Kong, if you are in town let me know we can grab a drink. After Hong Kong I will be heading back to the UK for September and then back to Taiwan for a bit. I am still shooting portraits for "The Collectors", if you missed it I got featured on DJBROADCAST.NET http://www.djbroadcast.net/features/featureitem_id=307/Gallery_Duncan_Longdens_Collector_Series.html
, there are two more in the bag, two lined up needing to be shot and I have a few to organise when I am in the UK.
Hopefully I will stay busy, I want to pick up more travel work as I love to experience new things and places. Honestly I couldn't do it with out you guys, opportunities don't come on their own too often so please spread the word about my work.
Until the next blog, and as ever I will try and do it sooner rather than later. Take it easy, spread the love, don't perpetrate the hate and remember to look up, smile and have fun.