On Assignment in China for Nat Geo Traveller UK.

On Assignment in China for Nat Geo Traveller UK.




 The first time I went to China was at the start of this year for a commercial shoot. It involved a lot of portraits, fifty eight or so, and some other photography, you can see the shots here: http://www.runfutang.com/. I was there with my assistant for four night only, one day in Shanghai and then a couple in Beijing. It was my first taste of China and was a bitterly cold, -14°C when we landed with a razor sharp wind. Shanghai seemed like a place I could hang out, but Beijing was grimy, dusty and gritty, by the end of the day I felt like I had been licking cement, that isn't really my ideal location. After a very busy few days we flew out of Beijing, I peered through the gloom, the Sun was low and just a faint orange glow through the haze like something from another world. I was not sad to leave Beijing, but a little sad I hadn't had more time to explore.

Obviously China is absolutely huge and has many many beautiful places, like I said, I liked Shanghai. So when National Geographic Traveller UK (NGTUK) got in touch and asked me to illustrate an article in the Szechuan province, obviously I was excited as I knew this area is very beautiful indeed. Like I said China is huge, as are many of it's provinces including Szechuan. My work and exploration was going to be focused in and around Dujiangyan, near Chengdu. 

Being British, I need a visa to travel in China, these are not cheap in Taiwan, but easy and more affordable in Hong Kong (HK). Fortunately I was already heading to HK, so just booked my trip to fit in the visa process and then fly from HK to Chengdu, one night in Chengdu, then a train ride to Dujiangyan and on to The Six Senses Qingchenshan resort and spa.

Although it isn't the beginning and I will come back to it later as it is well worth it, The Six Senses is an amazing place... 


The Six Senses Qingchenshan.

I landed in the early afternoon in Chengdu and spent an evening wandering around with my Fujifilm X-Pro2 making street photography.


Afternoon Nap.


Off to get dinner.


Finding out the future.


The hunt for knowledge.


Getting ready to set up to trade.


Fresh, hot and spicy potatoes 


Welcome to the peoples restaurant.


Street Barber

As you can see there are plenty of characters and lots going on in the evening in Chengdu. I wandered around for a while, drank a couple of beers and enjoyed the open air Karaoke in the park. Gentleman fished the fast flowing, and rather pungent river while groups of ladies did dance exercise around the park. After a long walk I was happy enough to get back to my hotel, and looking forward to getting to the mountains and my assignment to begin properly.

I have decided to make this NGTUK assignment story in instalments, they won't be spread far apart, every other day or so. Keep watching for the next one, I will cover The Six Senses Resort, Qingchenshan (birth place of Taoism), Panda Valley, The Earthquake Memorial, an ancient Qing Township, Puzhao Temple and if that isn't enough, hugging Sturgeon!

Until then, check out my WebsiteInstagram , TumblrTwitter and Linkedin. Remember to LIKE COMMENT and FOLLOW.

Feel free to get in touch, if you have a questions, bookings, assignments etc..


Love to all...



Going Back to Move Forward...


Going Back to Move Forward.


A long long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth....well, not quite, but we were all still shooting on film, Adobe had just given birth to Photoshop and I had no real desire to be a Photographer. That's right, no real desire to be a Photographer. I wanted to make special effects for film, as a result, I studied Film and Media, what I should have realised was Adobe had just given birth to Photoshop and this world was about to change. Anyway, to cut the story short I moved into photography, away from film and photography, and then back into photography again full time, and that brings us almost up to date.

I say almost as there has been a development. We all watch and view images on our phones, tablets and computers these days, print media, although some of it is still lovely, is mostly falling behind now. Soon I believe there will be animated paper and magazines will live again, but this time with moving images on the pages. I don't think for one second that photography has had it's day, it is evolving and continuing to grow, but I am adding film making to my skill set, something more to offer my clients, and something I have been asked for.

So a while back we made a fashion shoot I asked my then assistant if he would shoot some video, he is an award winning DP and so I figured he would be the guy. The other thing is that he is familiar with my work, I thought he would shoot close to my style. I learned two things, number one concentrate on either making a photo shoot or a video shoot. Number two, if you want a shot composed a certain way, you have to do it yourself or direct it more closely and make sure you get exactly what you are thinking. I could say a third lesson, but it is knowledge I already understand, people don't see through your eyes. This last point is why I get picked to shoot certain things and another photographer gets chosen for something else. We are unique and that is what makes a photographer worth hiring, create and develop your own style.

First of all have a look at my photographs from the days shooting...














The shoot was fun, and the results made me fairly happy. A couple of blogs back I posted a before and after, so you can see the amount of work I put in on these.

I was given the RAW rushes of the video and they had been sitting on my desktop ever since. In the meantime I have practised a bit with video editing in Photoshop, no I don't have premiere pro yet, but I am sure it will come soon enough. 

I went through the rushes, embarked on a very steep learning curve and finally produced something half passable. I know it isn't perfect and I know where I went wrong, next time I need to direct closely, if not film it myself. I have to story board it and employ the techniques I learned at college between dodging Raptors and the occasional T-Rex. I know my image making voice more now and am confident to apply this to film, with that I feel I have grown from just a Photographer and can refer to myself, should anyone ask, as "Image Maker" now.

Here it is, my first real effort at a fashion film, there will be more and they can only really get better. I hope you enjoy this, let me know either way, comments and criticism are all welcome.




Next time I am hoping the November issue of Nat Geo Traveller UK will be in the shops, inside is an eleven page article featuring my photography, and I can tell you more about my wonderful China assignment for them.

Until then, check out my WebsiteInstagram , TumblrTwitter and Linkedin. Remember to LIKE COMMENT and FOLLOW.

Feel free to get in touch, if you have a questions, bookings, assignments etc..


Love to all...


What I said at the end of the last one...

What I said at the end of the last one...


Hello again, I hope you are well and all that good stuff. If you read my last blog (I hope you did, and if you didn't, well off you go, read it and we will see you back here in a minute or two, it's short don't stress.), you will be kind of up to speed with my move toward the fashion world. You'll have seen I got experimental and enjoyed myself exploring my capabilities and understanding of image making. Basically I had been having fun and pushing myself, my team and my learning curve close to the max. Then Mrs. L said something to me, and she was right (as is often the case). She said, "your work was better before you started this course.". She didn't mean technically, more aesthetically, I had veered somewhat. Although I felt my skills with lighting, my cameras, and directing my team were better, I had drifted off down some path of incoherent experimentation. In itself, this is no bad thing, but it doesn't bring the bread in, and I am a professional after all. So, yes I had grown as a photographer, but I had also been over complicating things, and loosing direction. 

Having decided I want to shoot more commercial fashion, I know I must think about the product, the fashion. Of course I will continue with my love of portraiture, I guess I like to work with and photograph people. It is also good to shoot more experimental creative work, but on my time, or when a more creative publication allows me to really go for it.

Well, make it more simple I thought...


Fe Dolly (a designer from Taipei) created some outfits and we booked a couple of models for the shoot....









Now it looks more simple, and I guess it was, but I had made an error again. My focused was too much on the location and not enough on the clothes, they are fighting each other in the shots. I had also thought it was a good idea to shoot video at the same time. I am moving toward adding video making to my arsenal, shooting and produce fashion video is a very interesting area, more on that in another blog. Overall I am happy enough with this shoot, but I do feel it could have been better, I learned a lot from it, saw that I have come along way and am more mature and aware as a fashion photographer now, a lot more mature.

We got ready for this shoot in a poorly lit place, that didn't help. Basically, Make Up Artists (MUA) need light. The closer to the light we will be shooting in, the better. An LED torch, although diffused nicely and even is not the best. My poor MUA struggled and I had a hell of a lot of work to do. Now I don't make my models thinner, but I will work on their skin and make up if I have to. So here is a after and before example, you get an idea of the work I have to put in...


As you can see quite a lot of work, and I ended up with about 12 frames of each model, it was a lot of late nights. To get to the finished image was taking 1-4 hours depending, not much fun, but lots of time to think.

My conclusion was to remember it's about the fashion, the outfits, the look, the bags, shoes, hats and accessories. Yes the location is important, of course it is, but it can't be more important than the clothes. Also I need to buy an LED light panel that is battery powered, this will help in poorly lit prep areas and also with my video making.

Time to get another shoot organised, getting a team together and keeping it simple is a plan I stuck too. Rong Chen was our wonderful model and perfect for this shoot, we titled it "White Hot on the Rocks"...







We called it "White Hot on the Rocks" (WHR), because, well it was really bloody hot, Rong is wearing white, and I think you can guess the rest. I was finally pleased with where I was heading and over the moon with the team on this one. It was simple, straight forward, Rong worked well with us (She is in Milan currently, book her and work with her if you can. I can't wait for her to be back so we can shoot again.), within a few hours we were done. I was really happy, and still am, I feel confident I know I am heading in the right direction, the direction I want to head in. Keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it about the clothes, the fashion.

That about wraps up this blog, before you go though here are a couple of extra shots from the WHR shoot, see how much fun we have....


Sadly my assistant for the day Michael Geier had buggered off to find a sunset photograph up a mountain, or he would have been in this, which is my favourite post shoot team shot ever. Wearing the glasses Hair and MUA, Anna Tian, on Fujifilm X-Pro2, Me and looking gorgeous, Model Rong.


Yep, found a river, it's hot, lets paddle..... 


Who needs to go up a mountain to get a dramatic shot, the light came to us, and we loved it, don't you. I really adore it when Taiwan gives us a view like this.

Next time I am going to address the issue of a Tripod, and some technique advice, maybe some other bits too.

Until then, check out my WebsiteInstagram , TumblrTwitter and Linkedin. Remember to LIKE COMMENT and FOLLOW.

Feel free to get in touch, if you have a questions, bookings, assignments etc..

Love to all...











Where did that go....?

Where did that go?


The view of Hong Kong from our Air BnB apartment in Sai Ying Pun.

 It is hard to believe, but a whole year has slipped by since I managed to get my butt in front of my machine, take a few minutes away from processing and write to you all. It started with this photograph I made in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, that's when I realised it had been a year since I last wrote my blog. If you look at my previous blog you will see images of Hong Kong as that was where I was when I last wrote.

Over the last year I have been all around Taiwan on a scooter tour for National Geographic Traveller; I have flown to Shanghai and Beijing on commercial photography shoots; touched Singapore for a blink again on assignment for National Geographic Traveller; Shot a look book for a shoe company; landed an image on the cover of Harper's Bazaar Taiwan for Taipei in Style (Taipei's fashion week); completed (sort of) the Nick Knight Mastered course and pushed super hard to build my fashion photography work. I shot a campaign for SanYang Motor Company for their Jet S Scooter; returned to China to shoot a piece for National Geographic Traveller; became a Fujifilm X Photographer; began to work with Cactus Imaging to help develop new photographic equipment, and I even managed to take some time off and have a holiday in Bali. Writing it all out it does appear it has been a good year, and it is only getting better with new clients coming and my business getting stronger.

There is a lot to cover so where to begin, and should I fit it all one blog? Hmm I think that would be too long, so for now I think I will just talk about the Nick Knight Mastered Program. I will blog more and get you up to speed with experiences and photographs from all the other projects, for now though, let's talk fashion photography.





The course was intense to say the least, I had been shooting editorial portraiture almost constantly and so was a little rusty. A fashion shoot I had landed had re-ignited my passion for fashion photography, and so I stepped up to the challenge and got very busy. Now I am the only (or was) member of the Mastered Alumni in Taiwan, this means I have no other members to call on for collaborative teams. I had to find my own, trawling facebook, looking at fashion blogs and generally applying every last bit of charm I could muster, soon enough I had one. Stylist, Hair Stylist, Make Up Artist and Assistants. We were poised and ready for the first project, then bang it landed; "look at a collection from a fashion house and base a shoot on that.", we chose Moschino. If I am honest I never took any notice of Moschino, I always thought it was a bit tacky. The thing is, and what I learned was, I wasn't getting it, it highlighted that I needed to learn more about fashion as a whole. What I hadn't understood was that Moschino is the transient nature of fashion personified, and their heavy leaning toward Pop Art won me over in a big way. So we had a Pop Art feel, style and substance in everyday design, bright colours and plenty of, well...POP! 

Yilan is on the east coast of Taiwan and has an amazing black volcanic sand beach, I wanted a grey day, a grey ocean and the black/gray sand so that the fashion really leaped out. It was good fun, a good first shoot, and the start of a steep and experimental learning curve.

The next project we worked on was about working with a team. My inspiration came from a film called  Perdita Durango. A great film staring Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem with a twisted love story narrative that includes a lot of reference to Santeria, a voodoo religion practiced in Mexico. I took the idea some of the beliefs, becoming a warrior, the five Saints and the Nagual. The Nagual is one with the ability to transform into a Jaguar to escape their enemies. 

Again we found ourselves in Yilan, the shoot was interesting, I am really happy with some of the shots, ultimately it drifted off track a little, we were learning, and I was pushing the team hard. Hell at one point I made my stylist make clothes out of a strip of red material on set for our model, and burned the actual clothes we had been using...




The good thing about the Nick Knight Mastered program is that now I am a member of the Alumni, I am able to go back and look at all the material as much as I like. I am also able to contact people all around the world and work with them. I learned a great deal already and will talk about that more in the next blog.

I bet from the start you thought this was going to be a long blog, I did too, but that is no fun as we are all busy. To sum this one up, Mastered with Nick Knight was ok, I learned about working with a team, about me, about organisation and about fashion. I also had a long conversation with the director of the Mastered group as there were a few things that I just wasn't happy with. Overall it has been a good thing to do and as my career in fashion photography grows, being part of the Mastered Alumni will come in handy I am sure.

One thing is for sure, I absolutely bloody love working with a big team and making fashion photography, being surrounded by creativity is a privilege I am lucky to enjoy. 

Next time I will talk more about fashion and you will see and hear how my direction has developed, I will show you a before and after photograph so you can get an idea about the post production I do, and the level I work to.

Until then, check out my WebsiteInstagram , Tumblr, Twitter and Linkedin. Remember to LIKE COMMENT and FOLLOW.

Feel free to get in touch, if you have a question, booking, assignment etc..

Love to all.






Hong Kong again, and Nick Knight Mastered.

Well July has been and gone, but while it was here Mrs. L and I were in Hong Kong. She was there for two weeks running around like a headless chicken with work, so to try and keep her from going completely mad I tagged along too.

Not being one for sitting around and twiddling my thumbs, I made the most of the time I had while I was there, setting up meetings with Agents and Editors, making a portrait and of course catching up with all my friends in this crazy city.

AirBNB provided us once again with a great apartment, this time smack bang in the middle of Mid-Levels, just off the escalator. If you haven't been to Hong Kong, there is a thing called the Mid-Levels Escalator, which claims to be the longest escalator in the world. In reality it is a series of escalators that take you all the way up from Queens Road, Central to Conduit Road, Mid-Levels. To be accurate (I bet there are some out there huffing), it is the longest series of covered escalators in the world.

The view from the apartment we stayed in was simply breathtaking, I just would never get bored of it, making plenty of photographs as you can see. Even though some were made only minutes apart they are all different. Well, the weather and light conditions are never the same twice are they... 

Created using my Fujifilm X-E2 and it's in-built Pano feature.

I wanted to make a comparison between my little Fujifilm X-E2 and my Nikon D800e, the above image is from the Fuji and the below from the Nikon. They were made about 3 minutes apart from each other, which do you prefer?

Shot on my Nikon D800e using a 14-24mm 2.8 Nikon ultrawide.

While in HK I always take the opportunity to meet up with friends and clients, some of which I am happy to say are both. It was during an evening catching up and having a drink that I was told a magazine was looking for a shot of HK that made you feel how densely populated it is, and give a feeling of claustrophobia. There is a famous shot looking up from the ground in the old walled city which was offered as an example. The walled city is long gone but it's still fairly easy, if you are brave enough to venture into the little back alleys between the towering, stretching apartment buildings to find shots that give this feeling. The brief called for shots without the usual HK buildings in, so sadly the skylines I had been shooting all week were not what was wanted. I had the perfect shot of course, but it was on my hard drive back in Taiwan (bugger) and the two shots below didn't quite meet the brief either, not to worry. Sadly after a week of glorious sunshine, the weather had decided to throw down torrential rain for the second week, and boy did it. I was lucky to grab these two images in a 10 minute break in the weather. If you think photography is glamorous, try standing in a big puddle, at the backside of an apartment block, with unspeakable human detritus all around you in flamin' flipflops, I was on the verge of bringing up my lunch. Still even though the shots weren't used, I really like them, so I guess it was worth it, right?

Braving the nasty, filthy, stinking and flooded alley to get this. 

Thankfully a less unpleasant place to pitch my tripod, right by the mid-levels escalator for this one.

A fairly typical view from the Mid-Levels Escalator as I head up from Queens Road, Central.

The above shot was a kind of taste of street life. I feel I have been neglecting my street photography a little so will try and bring you a street photography special soon. Back to the Cityscapes...... 

Hong Kong is the most vertical city in the world, so it makes sense to throw a portrait orientated shot of it in.

Just waiting for that moment for the sun to set and the city light up, this was always going to be a winner. My favourite.

With my usual peculiar sleep pattern in full effect, I discovered that my friend had posted a thing on Facebook about the Nick Knight Mastered Program. Ever since I first started on this long road of photography, right at the beginning, back in the early 90's before I walked away from it all I fell in love with the work of Nick Knight. His lighting ability has always been the biggest inspiration to me, so naturally now that I am back in the game I was intrigued to find out more about this opportunity.

I guess it was somewhere between 3 and 4 in the morning, I had woken up, seen the facebook link and decided why not, nothing to loose. I filled out the application all the time thinking; "hell I'll never get selected for this course." 

Blow me down with a feather, I only went and did get selected, and now I am on it and both excited and nervous in almost equal measure. It is a great opportunity, the energy from my course mates is wonderful and the build up to it all starting is gathering momentum. The actual start date is at the end of September, at the moment we are getting daily news about who we will be working for/with, setting the projects, mentoring our progressing and guiding our paths to become more focused photographers. We not only have Nick (which is fantastic on it's own), but also 10 and Oyster magazines, the Editor in Chief of Lula and now Vox Populi are also lined up for us to submit our work to and learn from, it seems a new announcement of who is joining occurs daily.

It is all amazing to be part of, I am sure it will be a challenging 4 months of hard work, I will try and keep my blog up to speed with what is going on and how I am progressing, wish me luck, and enough energy...haha. 

This photograph made by Nick Knight is one of the reasons I strive with my work.

Never a truer word spoke.

 I'll leave at this, I have to go to the gym, it is taking some effort to address the beer and burger fest' that was Hong Kong. I need to be in shape and fighting fit to perform at my best over the coming months. We have friends coming from Austria and the UK, they will be getting a tour of Taiwan, fingers crossed I will be able to see them as well as work, I am sure I will manage one way or another as am really looking forward to seeing them and showing them the wonderful country we get to live in, I expect I may even make some photographs you lovely peeps will see on here in the future.

As ever, thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask any questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer, feel free to get in touch 

anytime

, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: 

www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on 

Instagram

 (my following is growing, but I want it to really fly), 

Tumblr

 and 

Twitter

 for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

Take care, talk of what you love, not what you don't.

Cheers,

Duncan.

BRAND NEW WEBSITE......

 

Brand New Website.

Hello.

Yep, it has finally arrived, my brand new website. The couple of busy months I had put it on a back burner, however I was forced into addressing the situation as my time with Behance ProSite was due to come to an end. Of course had spent some time looking around researching the best options for me. Basically easy to use, with a clean and simple interface for all involved, eventually I have settled on a site from Squarespace, hopefully you will agree with my choice, feel free to let me know.



Click here: www.duncanlongden.photography and this is where you will end up, you can see all my latest work, in both portraits and fashion plus a few examples of my product work. You can also find links to my Instagram feed and my Twitter feed, follow me on either to keep up to speed on where I am, and what I'm doing on a daily, if you're interested.

As you can see there is some more emphasis on my fashion work, I have been really enjoying being back in the fashion scene and making shoots with other talented creative people. I had forgotten how much I love the process and the results. You can see the final shots from my latest project "The Wanderling" on my site, I'll post a couple of extra shots from that shoot on this blog too, be a little patient and read the words, or just scroll down and have a look, after all I'm not a writer, I'm a photographer.

Prior to "The Wanderling", we made a shoot with the delightful Julia on a rather windy north coast beach. Julia secured designs from James Ma for the shoot, we had the pleasure of Vera Chien working brushes for hair and make up, and my wonderful assistant Choncy is back after being poached by Martin Scorsese (can you believe the bloody cheek of that?). My gosh it was certainly windy and that pesky sand gets everywhere, it even found a way into my Bowens battery pack, it's now at the repair shop. Here are a few from the beach...






Currently I find myself back in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks, this was part of the reason I was working so hard on fresh fashion work recently. The Plan is to try and make meetings with more editors and also photographers agents during this visit. Hopefully they will like what they see and it will lead to more work, I am never happier than when I am busy as regular readers already know. Photography for me is like a drug, I am always looking for the next hit, and want something bigger than the last, which lead me to "The Wanderling". This project had been in my mind for months, I had tried to assemble a team, only for it not to work out. Finally, just a couple of weeks before I was due to head to HK it all came together and it was shoot day. I had arranged to work with 追梦人  (Mong Ren), a great model with a unique look, especially for Taiwan. After our original stylist fell through, she suggested we work with Raymond Chiu, he turned out to be a perfect fit for my team. Raymond is a very talented hairstylist with great vision which extends to styling for clothing too, top dude. As ever having the vivacious Anna Tian on brushes to produce amazing makeup work was an absolute pleasure. Rounding my team up once again was Choncy, Assisting and also shooting some video. Yes you heard that right, some video, a little side project while in HK so watch out for that soon. 

I would like to say a huge thank you to all the team that came together from around Taiwan to make this shoot possible, you guys rocked, made the day fun and helped create some stunning photographs, I could not have done it without you.

The concept for "The Wanderling" was inspired by cinematography, from a feel of being out in the world, I wanted to create photography that reflected road movies, drifting through small towns, dinners and truck stops. The feeling, of freedom without connections, a phrase kept running through my mind "alone, but not lonely". Like I said, head over to my new site for the final selection and also to see lots of new portraits and some product work (more will come). Below are some of the out takes from this fabulous project....









As ever, thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask any questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer, feel free to get in touch anytime, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on Instagram (my following is growing, but I want it to really fly), Tumblr and Twitter for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

Take care, talk of what you love, not what you don't.

Cheers,

Duncan.

Summer begins and I am teaching in the street....

Summer begins and I am teaching in the street....


I have been non stop for a couple of months now, and boy am I loving it. Yes I am working long hours, processing lots of shots and driving up and down the island a fair bit, and yes, long may it continue.

We have had a funny bit of weather over here (hey look you can take the man out of England but he will still talk about the weather), it was Winter, and then in like a blink the sun came out and stayed out. The island had a draught, up here in Linkou the pool closed, and the water supply was rationed. For two days a week we had to use water stored in a bath to wash, fill the cistern, etc etc. 

Over the last few weeks though it has more than made up for that, 181mm in Taichung in one night and it didn't stop there. Where the rivers were dry, they are now flowing torrents, driving back to Taipei after an event last week was an experience which demanded my utmost concentration at times, as visibility diminished in the heavy weather. We were a couple of weeks into this rain when I got the call from the guys at Frog in a Sock asking if I was interested in hitting up the pool again this summer. Well, what can a busy photographer do but grab an opportunity to get to hang out on a Saturday afternoon, listening to great DJ's spin the best vibes, surrounded by Taiwan's greatest party crowd. 

And would you believe it, the sun came out, the temperature got up into the mid 30 degrees (No I will not give that in Fahrenheit, I am British.), and global revellers poured in from all around the island to make the fun, and welcome in the start of, judging by this crowd, an epic summer.

If you're in Taiwan then bet along to the Roadcastle Waterpark and bust a move...



Vicar, the infamous crate digger played a cracking set in the heat of the afternoon.


Dj Cross Cutz got the crowd bouncing as the sun began to sink low in the sky.

Always on a good vibe with a tasty, ice cold, Frog in a Sock bucket of punch.

It's arrived, the new flag of Havana Land, all hail.

Winner of this years Taipei round of the Redbull 3Style DJ Championships, DJ Marcus Aurelius - 馬克思 Plays the closing set.
Full to the rafters and beyond, DJ Marcus Aurelius - 馬克思 rocks the crowd with his eclectic funky sounds, keeping the packed dance floor and beyond hungry for more and more.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any hotter...boom in comes the gorgeous Sam Smile and.....
....raises the roof....Literally!

In total contrast to the heady day poolside, part of what I have been doing over the last few weeks is teaching street photography using Fujifilm X100 series cameras. My student is a lovely lady named Mira, she has got herself a Fujifilm X100T, an excellent, and as ever with Fujifilm, inovative camera.

Recently I updated the firmware on my X100, it's like a different camera, thank you Fuji for the updates. I really like the focus peaking function, I am trying to practice using manual focusing as much as I can on my Fuji cameras. The X100T has a little pop up screen which helps even more with focusing, offering a magnified view  of the area in the focus point, within the main viewfinder, brilliant.

Admittedly I had been neglecting my X100 since I got the X-E2, however hitting the streets with it again reminded me what a perfectly designed bit of kit it is for street work. For me, teaching is a great thing to do, I never thought I would do it, or could do it even. Admittedly I may not be the most organised when it comes to class structure, I am very much into practical work and then discussing the shots made in the last part of each session. I enjoy very much the process of looking, and explaining how I see things and get my head and eye tuned in to the world around me. As pretentious as I may sound, I enter an almost meditative state.

It is actually lovely to be out with Mira, she has a great eye and with a little practice and familiarity with her camera it will be second nature to enter the settings to create the shots she sees. Like most things in life, it is about putting the hours in if you want to reap the rewards.

Directions.

The great strength of the X100, spot a shot, make the shot.

Encouraging Mira to explore the scene and look at more varied angles.


Heading out for our first walk around the streets, I pointed out this shop and said to Mira, "Now what we need is an older couple wearing something typical for the everyday to walk past." Sometimes you see the shot, you just have to wait a little for the right moment to catch up with your vision.

Smoking.


It was very hot around Longshan Temple on this morning.





Naked Birds.

So that has bought us to the end of this blog episode, I do hope that you enjoyed it. I will talk to you a bit more about all the editorial work I have been shooting over the last couple of months soon. I have already updated my website with a few of the portraits if you want to take a look.

I am gradually getting around to putting my site through a diet and work out to make it nice and trim, much like myself. Thankfully Mrs. L and I have a fitness centre a short walk from us with a really lovely pool and weight room. I have been trying to make the most of it, photography can be fairly physical work sometimes believe it or not. I wouldn't want to pull a muscle stretching to get the right angle for the shot I want, or even worse, not be able to get to that angle at all.

As ever, thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask any questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer feel free to get in touch anytime, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on Instagram (my following is growing, but I want it to really fly), Tumblr and Twitter for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

Take care, talk of what you love, not what you don't.

Cheers,

Duncan.






Judging The National Geographic Traveller UK Photography Competition....

Judging The National Geographic Traveller UK Photography Competition....


Many of you who have been reading my blogs will already know that I had the honour of being asked to judge The National Geographic Traveller UK (NGTUK) Photography Competition. The more I think about this, the more proud I am that I had this experience, that my level of photography and skill as a photographer is considered high enough to be able to judge other peoples work and in such a highly regarded publication. I would like to say a big thank you to all at NGTUK for this opportunity, all those who have supported me along this path, and a special recognition to Roger Hickman who is sadly no longer with us, but influences me still, he was a great Tutor.






The standard of work, as you would expect was excellent and the judging tricky. There were however a couple of shots that I really loved, especially Chris Miller's excellent Vietnamese Cave shot which is now on my list of places to see, doesn't it look epic.

My congratulations to all the finalists and winners of this years competition, well done to Alecsandra Reluca Dragoi for snatching the Grand Prize, I look forward to seeing more from you in the future. Hopefully I will be invited to join the judges panel again as it was good fun and a privilege to be a part of this. 

I hope that you enjoyed this little blog supplement.

 As ever, thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask any questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer feel free to get in touch anytime, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on InstagramTumblr and Twitter for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

Cheers,

Duncan.


Fujifilm, Fo Guan Shan and a Mud Volcano..

Fujifilm, Fo Guan Shan and a Mud Volcano.....


As much as I love my Nikon kit I have been looking for something lighter to use on travel assignments. As you may know if you have read my blog before I really enjoy my little Fujifilm X100, however there are a couple of niggles with it. I have the first generation X100 and it is slow to focus, sometimes painfully so, using it purely as a rangefinder is great, set the focal distance and learn to mentally measure the correct distance. Sounds hard but becomes second nature with practice. Although the glass is a delight on the X100, being fixed 35mm has run me into a few issues, Looking at how much I love the feel from the X-Trans sensor I figured Fujifilm was probably the way for me to go for my new travel outfit.

I got my hands on the Sony A7, undeniably a very capable camera, but I can't get over how lovely the images from the X-Trans sensor are. There is something that is just different and almost organic feeling about them, a bit like film. I also wanted to move away from an SLR feeling camera and keep it small, along the lines of my X100. The obvious choice in the Fujifilm range which offers me all I need and more is the Fujifilm X-E2. Having made up my mind I set about getting one and am happy to announce to all, that haven't figured this out from my Instagram posts and Tweets, I now have one and it is bloody awesome!

Every shot in this blog (except the photograph of my X-E2 which I snapped on my iPhone in a cafe) is made with my Fujifilm X-E2, it is with me all the time now. I have found only one draw, if I use the camera in a studio situation with flash then the live EVF (Electronic View Finder) is basically black. One drawback, which I can work around is nothing as everything else about the camera is all positive, and I have lots more to learn about it too.

I found myself heading to Kaohsiung and decided the best test would be to only take my Fujifilm X-E2. It is a good practice to enforce your restriction, what became apparent by doing this was that there are very few restrictions with the X-E2 and the 18-55mm kit lens as you will see.

Enjoy these......


First of course, the new tool. Say hello to my fantastic X-E2, pretty little thing isn't it.

Only taking this little Fuji, I felt the freedom to move. No more trappings of lens choices, speedlights and heavy bags full of kit, just me the available light this little camera. I felt a sense of purity, and also a bit odd leaving everything behind in the north.

Arriving in Kaohsiung and meeting Mrs. L at the hotel, I dropped my bag off and we headed out to our favourite Japanese beer house in Kaohsiung.. 



Ever since my old days of shooting 35mm film I was never the biggest fan of grain. I used Agfa 50iso film and Provia 100 mostly. I still shoot on Provia now, I guess I have been a loyal Fuji man for all my photographic life. My Nikons do ok at higher ISO settings but I still feel the noise is too much sometimes. The X-E2 is a revelation for me. I am happy to crank it right up and am not worried at all, it is amazing. In the cab here shooting at 2500iso hand held at 1/20th the Fuji takes the conditions in it's stride.


Scooters are the most common choice of transport here in Taiwan, it is mind boggling during rush hour as they stream along the roads, pavement, pathways, hell anywhere they feel they want to go, they just go. I had seen a few custom and trick scooters but this was the first slammed Rukkus I have seen here. With an 18-55mm lens I could open up the zoom and fit this all in, that would have been an issue with my X100 and it's 35mm fixed focal range.


The skilled Chefs, prep the tasty treats on the menu ready for a busy night.


Cold and refreshing, Orion on tap is the perfect choice to accompany the Tapas like grilled assortments on offer.


Good Sushi in Kaohsiung, but you'd expect nothing less in a Japanese restaurant in Taiwan's largest port town. Some places are better than others, this seared tuna salad was every bit as delicious as it looks.


Kaohsiung is beginning to remind me a bit of Brighton. The younger folk displaying a sense of their own fashion and style as an arty community grows in the town. I get the sense it is experiencing somewhat of a regeneration. Having enjoyed their meal, these Taiwan hipsters turn to their phones to socialise, a bit too typical a scene at the dinner table for my liking, maybe I am just getting old. One thing I really love about the X100 is how unobtrusive it is, the X-E2 follows in the same footsteps. It is subtle, quiet and allows you to go about getting shots without being too blatant or disruptive.


One last shot before before bed, and totally different conditions. The view from the 35th floor of the Grand Hi-Lai Hotel looking out over Kaohsiung.

The next day I decided I wanted to head out, having sorted my driving license and the sun being in the sky, it made sense to hire a scooter. The last time I was on two wheels was before I left the UK to move to Taiwan. However it was, as the say, just like riding a bike. Having had a little look about onine, I made my way to the Fo Guan Shan Temple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fo_Guang_Shan). Having the freedom of the scooter meant that if I saw a sign or got curious then, as is my way I would just turn and head off along that road. I found myself very happily riding along next to the river without a care in the world.


My ride for the weekend, not quite the bike I am used to but it was a total joy just to be out on two wheels again. I hired this from Louis's Scooter Rental in Kaohsiung 24hrs for NT700 (http://www.scooters-kaohsiung.tw/). Louis is a nice bloke, he speaks English well and the scooter was in good order, i.e it did going and stopping both quite well.

About and hour after setting out from the shop I reached my destination, the huge and impressive Buddhist Temple.



Although it was a Saturday, and there were already buses arriving the Temple was still fairly empty. This had changed by midday as I was leaving. It seems that in Taiwan, if you want to avoid the crowds, arrive early and be heading away around lunchtime. 

In the UK I never much enjoyed going to church, I always felt uncomfortable in those places, however I am quite happy in a Buddhist Temple. The atmosphere is tranquil and welcoming, here there was a constant soundtrack of chanting punctuated with announcements over the tannoy, but it wasn't overly intrusive. I am not a religious man, however if I were I know I would prefer progression to oppression any day of the week, for now though I will forge my own path.


There was a fun instillation of these fellows on both sides of the almost symmetrical approach to the temple itself. Hopefully you can get an idea of how huge the statue of Buddha on top of the temple really is.


He really is a big lad.


Remember to look up when you are visiting these places, the ceilings often hold impressive features like this glorious lotus flower centre piece light.




I can only wonder at the amount of hours/years of work that went into this amazing carving made in one piece of tree.



Zooming in with the Fuji 18-55mm lens I can show you a better impression of the detail in this carving, stunning isn't it.


Having spent a couple of hours or so it was time for lunch and so I made my way back to the scooter. On the way I passed a display of lanterns. They took their inspiration from modern and traditional themes. Above a scene from "Finding Nemo" and below the more traditional influences.


Confucius. 


"Humanistic Buddha Land".


"A thousand prayers voiced. A thousand prayers answered."


Grilled Sailfish at Pasadena Bouchon.

Mrs. L and I both enjoy eating out when we can and discovering new places is always good. On the cards this evening, Pasadena Bouchon, a French influenced restaurant. The food was good, as was the wine and service, however the seating was a little more lounge than restaurant. I'd say it is worth checking out though if you are down this way and fancy something a bit posh.

A good travel camera has to be versatile, you can see from the shots above I have already used the X-E2 in a multitude of different and challenging conditions. Food photography is one of the most challenging. Obviously I didn't have a chance to set up a studio to make this and had to rely on my knowledge of settings and the camera's capability to create the shot I wanted. One of the most important things with food is to get the colours correct, the auto whiteblalnce performed well in tricky, mixed lighting conditions to produce a pleasant food photograph. Again having confidence to raise the ISO (2000 here) really helped in the dimly lit environment of this stylish restaurant.

Obviously wanting to get the most out of my NT700 scooter I was up early the next day and ready for an adventure. My friend Michael had suggested I make the trip to the "Wushanding Mud Volcano" as it isn't too far from Kaohsiung.  What fantastic visions the thought of this place created, hot bubbling mud spewing from giant open craters like huge open wounds to the Earths core, clouds of rising steam creating an atmosphere of the land that time forgot...(cough) we'll come to that.

Don't forget I am running my new camera through it's paces here, so first thing first. What good is a travel camera if you can't grab shots quickly as they present themselves? Street photography is a huge part of travel work, well for me anyway. 


If you enjoy making street photography then do yourself a favour and get a camera from the Fuji X range. My X100 rangefinder performed well, as I said the autofocus is painfully slow. The newer generation X100 cameras, the X100S and X100T have addressed this and are fast and accurate. I wanted greater lens options, other than when using flash I have become a fan of the live EVF. It is really good to see exactly what you will get when you press the shutter release and the exposure compensation dial makes adjustments instant and easy. I am so impressed that I expect sometime down the line I will invest in an X-Pro (sharing lenses with the X-E2 is a bonus) and maybe even the XT range from Fuji too. 

"Ok ok we get it, you love the Fuji gear, but what about this incredible eighth wonder of the world, the mud volcano?" I hear you ask, well......


I had got into the scooter, having had it for a day or so and I can tell you the road to this place was brilliant fun to whizz up with the throttle pinned. How you ride is your choice, I am not in anyway responsible for anyone else's actions. That is my disclaimer made, to enter the volcano zone, you too will have to sign a waver on the way in. Having signed my life away it was with some trepidation I walked past the sign above and onwards to the prehistoric landscape ahead of me, what monsters laid in wait at the end of the path?


Bravely I peered at the active monster towering above me, mud flowing freely from the crater at the summit


What lay beneath...a giant mud octopus perhaps...




Or just a lot of hot air, gently bubbling up in a really placid and laid back manor.

(I am not a videographer, this is filmed on my X-E2 using the built in mic and cobbled together roughly on Windows Movie Maker...I may make more videos though, I am thinking about a fashion thing somewhere along the line.)

OK, so it wasn't the violent expulsion I had imagined, it turned out to be a bit of a hillock with some very relaxing bubbling gurgles, more a meditative experience than a shock and awe one. Am I complaining, not in the least bit. If you are in the area, go and check it out. If you are on two wheels, then this is the perfect contrast to the maniacal road up to it which is worth the trip in itself.

Off this road lead a few slightly less well manicured affairs (dirt tracks), like a moth to a flame off I set. Hell, I am on a rental so as you know, you gotta ride it like you robbed it. Don't tell Louis, but I got air haha..


This panoramic from up on top of the hill near the Mud Volcano was made in camera using the stitched panoramic mode, pretty impressive. There are many great features built in this panoramic mode is not new to me, it is also in the X100, it has been refined as you'd expect. What is new to me is the wifi connection and in-camera processing you can do. It is perfect for behind the scenes captures and direct posting to instagram (obviously via my phone), I love this.


Finally I will leave you with this, a beautifully painted old single story house in Kaohsiung. I spotted walking to the station to head back up north to Taipei. With my X100 this would not have been possible to make, using the 18-55mm on my X-E2 it was a breeze. This is exactly what I wanted it for. Little did I realise that I would be able to use it for so much more. I had planned on writing about a few other things my new partner and I have been up too, I think this is a long enough blog for now though so I'll leave it until next time. Lots of very interesting things have been going on, I have been super busy, the busiest I have ever been and hopefully that will continue.

As ever, thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask a questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer feel free to get in touch anytime, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on InstagramTumblr and Twitter for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

The next blog will be in a couple of weeks, so until then, have fun and don't be a stranger.

Cheers,

Duncan.













It's cold outside....


It's Cold Outside.


As I mentioned in my last blog, it was snowing in the UK while I was there for a few weeks over Christmas and New Year. I love the snow, it always creates such a beautiful change in the landscape, plus we get to go sledging, there are few more enjoyable simple pleasures. The Snow didn't last too long but Mrs.L and I made the most of it whilst we could.


My Fujifilm X100 is a constant companion for me, it may be the first generation from Fujifilm but it really is an excellent piece of kit still. I am hoping to get some more kit from Fujifilm and develop my relationship with them over the coming year, I hope my Nikons don't get upset with me. There is a mind boggling amount of photographic equipment available these days, but as I am asked fairly regularly what I choose to shoot on and why I keep my research and knowledge up to speed as best I can. We all know photography hardware is a fast moving area, more megapixels, faster processors, better focus systems etc. The reason I have chosen Fujifilm is for their sensor development, it is unique and different, I come from a film background, it seems to me that Fujifilm and the X-Trans sensor are the closest to the feel from film, I don't mean it is emulating film perfectly, but the feeling I get from the images is similar. It's a bit like the difference between vinyl records and cd's, for me one is warm and embracing whilst the other is clinical and cold. Their lenses are solid and the optics are clean and sharp, so it seems the sensible way to go. (you can check out their range here: http://www.fujifilm.com/)

The above shot is from my X100, just a little in camera adjustment for colour temperature to make a lovely warm photograph of the low winter sun over the snow. The little Fuji handles the contrast in the scene very well.



Another from my Fujifilm, I had never been here before, I will be returning though. It looks like a scene from Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. Really beautiful colours among these gnarly and atmospheric twisted trees on this flat white day in Bradgate Park.


One of my favorite places, and a regular visit with my camera when I am home in the UK is Beacon Hill in Leicestershire, I never tire of making photographs here. The light is never the same, there is always something new as the seasons change, so be sure to take your camera back to the same place from time to time.

Having received requests about availability of my photographs for purchase (very flattering I must say, so thank you), I have opened an account on Fine Art America. They have created a very user friendly place to buy art from. If you are not familiar go and check it out: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/duncan-longden.html?tab=artworkgalleries. I am posting more work regularly on there, I have plenty to add so am gradually working through my archives. You can really tailor your order to fit what you want, size, finish, frame etc. It is well worth checking out, there are some great artists selling their work there, and it is affordable too, especially when you are getting something well made to have and enjoy forever.


Travelling sends your body clock haywire, I have learned not to fight it. If I wake up, I get up, so I am often out as the sun rises, a perfect time to get those deserted shots and lovely dawn light. This photograph of a playground may not be for everyone, I like the stillness of what is usually a noisy, busy place. I am also influenced by Bill Brandt, although I don't embrace his love of grain and high contrast, well not all the time anyway.


I have become fascinated by this tree up on the Beacon Hill after photographing it for the first time a year ago. I just love its windswept shape, even on a still day it is so animated. As I said above, I am a strong believer in revisiting the same place to make photographs time and time again, never say "I photographed that already." it is a new photograph everytime you press the shutter. Remember that that exact moment in time you just captured will never happen again. 

My friends in the UK seem to have difficulty believing that it gets cold in Taiwan, but believe me it does. Not wanting to go out and feeling like I needed some studio time I set about making some shots of liquids.

First up, plain water. I don't have fancy timing triggers so it was trial and error. It is tempting to over complicate shots like this, but it isn't needed. Like the water, keep it simple. If you're wondering, no it is not a composite, it is a one shot photograph pretty much straight out of camera.


Milk was fun, a little more complicated with the lighting and certainly a bit more messy. I am very pleased with this results I made.


Continuing with liquids, it was time to get a little more complicated with my lights. I am not a Whisky drinker, I prefer Rum, however my father in law is, so I grabbed a couple of interesting bottles and began to build the set and lighting rig. I wanted to make a different feel for each so chose to place one on a gray background and the next shot on a white. The decision to shoot on white was to emphasize the blue tone in the glass, again keeping my shots simple looking, uncluttered and focused on the product. 


This is not all I have been doing since I got back. I made a couple of fashion tests and have organised a full on, full team fashion shoot this coming Friday (the 27th). Looking out of my window at the fog though this may take on a different aesthetic than I had anticipated. All part of being a good photographer, work with what you have. Thinking about it, fog would work really well actually for the amazing outfits we have lined up. Living on a relatively small island always results in changing conditions. I will be off to have a real scout around the location I have picked on tomorrow, as ever though, there is a back up just incase. 

I am looking forward to getting started shooting a range for a new client, their concepts should be heading my way toward the second half of March, I love the products so that should be lots of fun.

I have sorted out my driving license, the first photographic outing was made a couple of days ago and resulted in two stunning seascapes, even if I do say so myself. 

I also had an wonderful weekend in a small village called Dabang which is in the Alishan area of Taiwan. This area is known for its beauty, if you ever visit Taiwan, you have to make a stop in Alishan. I was there for a Warrior Festival, what a fantastic experience. Since getting back to Linkou, I have made the first steps towards heading back to make proper portraits of the Tribes people in the village and hopefully some from the surrounding area too. Taiwan is friendly, Taiwanese indigenous people are the most friendly in my experience, generous, caring and always great fun. I am really looking forward to a return visit.

In future blogs I will post photographs from the warrior weekend, the fashion tests and shoot, bring you news from the National Geographic Photography competition I was a judge for (the magazine should be out soon.), and hopefully lots lots more.

As I mentioned above, head over to my Fine Art America page, there is also link in the sidebar somewhere I think.

Thank you for taking the time to look at my work, please go ahead and share it, leave a comment or ask a questions you may have.

Should you need a photographer feel free to get in touch anytime, I am always happy to hear from people around the world regarding any work they would like to talk about. You can reach me here or through my website: www.duncanlongden.photography

Hit me up on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter for all the most up to date news and exclusive photographs.

The next blog will be in a couple of weeks, so until then, have fun and don't be a stranger.

Cheers,

Duncan.



Back in Taiwan again...


Back in Taiwan


Christmas and New Year was spent in the UK, I will write more on that in a week or so as I am working through the landscapes I made whilst there. We had lovely crisp winter light and even a bit of snow, it's been a while since I was braving the cold to make a shot but it was well worth it.

I am happy to be back in Taiwan now, four weeks away is enough. Thankfully there are a few things in the pipeline, it looks as though the start of the year is going to be a busy one. The busier I am the better, I am looking forward to working with new clients and continuing to grow my relationship with existing ones. 

Being back it was good fun to hit the streets of Taipei with my trusty Fujifilm X100, it really is a great camera to have slung on your shoulder to grab those moments on the streets, enjoy these shots, all from the last seven days.


Punters queue for (in my opinion) the best Guabao (割包) in Taipei. It's funny but boy I missed some of the food while I was away...


Guabao is a delicious pocket of steamed bread filled with braised pork belly, fried greens, coriander and shaved peanut.... 


This fabulous street delicacy is one of my favorite Taiwanese foods, for those in the UK, don't be mislead by Jamie Oliver's foodie faux pas when he stated Guabao is Korean, it is Taiwanese and no messing.



Living just outside Taipei I am often on the bus into town, obviously it depends which part of town I am going to as to where I get off. I couldn't resist grabbing this shot at Songshan Airport, it presented itself to me as soon as I stepped of the bus, I guess it pays to always be ready.


I think this is one of the most popular shots taken in Taipei. I have shot this view a few times and I will shoot it plenty more I expect, after all it always looks different as the weather changes. If you want to make it for yourself, head on over to Nanjing North Road MRT station.


The weather is beginning to pick up in Taiwan, although it is still a little chilly in the morning, come midday it is quite pleasant. I love this sun worshiper, he was making the most of it with his tea on the decking at The Breeze Center Mall.


Sadly the view is not that fantastic from The Breeze. This is a fairly standard look for apartments in Taiwan, it isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I find them quite charming.


Betelnut is everywhere in Taiwan, you may have heard of the famous "Betelnut Beauties". Although it is a curiosity to see pretty young girls in skimpy outfits selling this stuff to punters from booths at the roadside. I'll leave the photographing of "Betelnut Beauties" to everyone else, I have started to make some shots documenting the variety of premises Betelnut is sold from, I am going to call it "Betel Huts".


It was lunchtime, the stores lining Lane 312, Bade Road, Sec 2 were all doing well. This guy was certainly enjoying his noodles.


Want something to drink, look about and a you may find a vending machine, these were tucked behind a logistics company in Neihu. Loving the improvised dumpster weather protection. I think I will stick to 7-11 though thanks.


Preferring something natural smelling to freshen their cars you often get people walking among the traffic waiting at the lights selling Yulan flowers (玉蘭花). More often than not the people selling are older generations and female, this lady takes a well deserved rest as the traffic flows.


My day in Taipei done, I was soon back on the bus and heading home. I had looked at this "Betel Hut" before, the bus stopped right by it so I grabbed the shot while I had a few seconds. This is a perfect example of why I find the huts so interesting, they are run down, pealing, colourful and in someways dangerous looking. 

One last thing before I finish up, if you have read my previous blogs (if you haven't go back and check them out, you may enjoy them), you will know that I have been involved with National Geographic Traveller UK's photography competition as a judge. I spent time over Christmas and New Year looking at the entries and making my decisions, needless to say it was not easy. I was also interviewed by the magazine (it was edited a little but not to worry), which appeared in the last issue, if you didn't see it have a read here...


As ever, thank you for taking the time to take a look at my work, feel free to share it, leave a comment or ask a question.

Should you need a photographer based in Asia, get in touch for a chat, I am always very happy to hear from people regarding work. I am also very happy to travel anywhere in the world I am required. 

I added a link to my Instagram account, look there it is at the top of the page. Don't be shy come along and follow me on there you will see shots that won't appear anywhere else.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr.


Like I said at the start, I will be following this up with a more news filled blog with what is coming up, and some lovely landscapes from the UK.

Cheers for now,

Duncan.





  



One Year in Asia.....

One Year in Asia.


One year in Asia and what a huge change in my life. Taiwan certainly is, different to the UK but I have grown to love it here very quickly. My life has changed so much in one year, it is actually quite dizzying writing this and thinking about where I was a year ago compared to where I am now.

The wooden panel closing on the box crate with all our stuff in it and being towed away not to be seen again for three months. Saying farewell to friends and family, getting on the plane, nervous and excited about what the future held and if I could make it as a photographer in Taiwan, seems both like yesterday and a million miles away.

Arriving in Taiwan, I found the realisation this is home now, settled quite easily. I set about putting feelers out to find the lay of the land and discovered one of Taiwan's greatest assets, how friendly the people are, this friendliness continues to impress me. What a beautiful place filled with, in the majority of my experience so far, really lovely people. Making contact with the photographic community here was a breath of fresh air after the often hostile London experience. Unsurprisingly some of my best friends are photographers in the UK, but these guys I have known for years. A lot of the newer photographers I met (new to me anyway) in London, held a certain degree of animosity toward other photographers, I will honestly hold my hands up to being guilty of this from time to time, here though it seems to be somewhat different. Perhaps some of the animosity in London is because 37% of all UK based photographers are there gunning for the work. From what I have learned this year, I know if I were to return to the UK and apply my new knowledge, life would be very different. This year really has been a great experience, not only culturally but vocationally also, as you will see by the end of this blog, I have learned a lot and come along way. There is still along way to go, but with all the support I have received from all of you, even if this is the first time you have looked at my blog (I hope it won't be the last), I am so grateful, it really is appreciated. I get very excited if I get 100 page views, if you guys all shared my blogs, and it started to really grow I think I may burst. Don't let that put you off though ok, get sharing, make comments, ask questions and engage with me. I make my photographs and write these blogs to reach out and engage with all of you, so a little return is very welcome.

After a couple of months in Taiwan I had met a few people and got my first shoot. It was for Travel in Taiwan (click to see issue), I had made a meeting and shown what work I had. When I got the call to ask if I wanted to shoot I was very pleased, better still, they wanted me to shoot for two features. The first was of an organic Kumquat farmer on his plantation in Yilan. and the second was a portrait of an Indigenous artist named Demedeman.






Around the same time, I found myself getting involved with a project called Tap Root. The project was bringing together Maori people from New Zealand, and Indigenous Taiwanese people, as they share a common history. Happily I found myself enjoying my first train journey in Taiwan as I headed down to Taichung . Here I was to meet up with the group and hang with them to document their visit for a couple of days. What a great bunch the Maori's were, it took a minute for me to ingratiate myself with them, but by the time we got off the bus to the night market they clocked I was very relaxed, positive about Taiwan and all about joining in the fun with them. I am happy and proud to call these warm-hearted people I met and photographed friends. Although we only spent a couple of days together it was a great experience, and one I found at times very moving, especially being there when they performed the Haka infront of the Indigenous Taiwanese. Thanks to links such as Facebook we stay in touch, and continue to joke with each other. I received a new nickname, "Duncle". I am told that uncle is a term of endearment, however I am not totally convinced that they're not making a little joke at my expense. If they are, I think it's cool they are relaxed enough with me to do so, what a compliment. 






English is most certainly not the first language in Taiwan, it is Mandarin, there is also definite distinction between the way Chinese speak Mandarin and Taiwanese speak Mandarin. Of course there are older dialects spoken in Taiwan, one thing at a time though, alright? I had started school to learn the language fairly quickly after I got here, other than the couple of days shooting the above projects I was making the journey on a daily basis to school. I was being taught BoPoMoFo, a phonic learning system here in Taiwan to begin the process of learning Mandarin. I want to learn enough of the language to communicate, ideally I will be able to converse properly in a few years. For now though a basic level as a foundation is better than nothing at all. I enjoyed the first month of classes, the teachers were lovely and the class was fun, it seemed I was moving forward. After the month in class it was time to head back to the UK for a couple of weeks visit, school was on hold so I would just have to practice on my own for a bit.

Prior to leaving Taiwan for the UK, I had designed a 7 inch promo book from my on going portrait series. I had had it printed and mailed it out to editors with a plan to contact them once back in the UK to follow up. Hitting the phone I managed to make arrangements to head down to London and meet some editors. It was a very positive experience, boosted my confidence and reassured me that I was moving in the right direction. I am a big fan of actual printed work, I take great pride in my portfolio. Given the choice between being handed an iPad (other devices are available), or a leather bound book, with beautifully printed images on high quality paper, which would you prefer and be more impressed with? I want my book to reflect that I appreciate quality, I aspire to create quality photographs consistently and want to show this to the best of my ability. Judging from the reactions I got this is what I had begun to achieve. The phone wasn't suddenly ringing off the hook, but the meetings had boosted my confidence and that was just what I needed.

The trip to the UK was short but sweet and soon enough I was back in Taiwan, deciding I should concentrate on school again I booked myself on to the next level course. Having enjoyed the teaching styles of the two teachers my class had for the first month I had hoped for the same teachers again for this months course. Sadly this did not happen, the course was split into spoken language and written characters. I was very happy to discover on of my previous teachers would be taking the character class, but the language teacher was new. Honestly, I struggled. I could not really understand my new teacher at all.  I was the only person in the class coming from a western country with a Germanic based language, the rest were all from Asian countries. I am not suggesting that all Asian languages are the same, of course they aren't. I know that they are not all tonal languages also, however some of the structure is similar and also some of the sounds and rhythm. My ears had tuned in to my previous teachers, but I could not for the life of me tune in to the new one or understand a word of what she was saying. It was depressing, I found myself stressed about going to school, we do not learn well in a stressed environment. What I should have done was get a refund and looked elsewhere, but I pressed on, it wasn't to last. The final straw came when the one teacher that I could understand from my previous class was replaced by a lady whose voice just sounded like a squeaky door. To the surprise of my predominantly female, and mostly Japanese classmates, I stood up, put my books in my bag, apologised, and walked out of the class. Have I given up on the language, of course not, I am learning by myself, my listening comprehension has improved, my vocabulary is growing and I am doing ok. I can't have a conversation just yet, it is going to take a while but I can manage to get about and do what I need to. I even managed to open a bank account all on my own the other day, check me out. My goal is three years, I think that is realistic if I continue to practice. My Taiwanese friends and family are helping me too, like I said they are very friendly, nice and above all patient with me.

Freed up from the three hour commute and two hours in class it was back to concentrating on work. My wife's old boss got in touch, two of her daughters wanted to know if I would teach them photography. I wasn't sure if I could but I thought why not give it ago, and so began a month of lessons. Amanda and Alisha were good students, they were keen and I think would have been with me everyday given the chance. I tried to keep some structure, starting with camera basics, exposure, depth of field, different types of lenses etc... I wanted to make it fun too, I know I learn better from practical lessons and so we would set up lights, make product shots, portraits, balance and overpower sunlight. I would set them projects, they would mostly fail to do them, but it didn't really matter as long as it gave them something to think about. The feedback was good, I hope they learned something and will put that into practice in the future. Actually, having recently spoken with Amanda, I am sure that they will. 

I organised a photoshoot for my students so they could put into practice what they had learned and really experience what it was like on set for real. As a result of the annual tomb sweeping ceremony here in Taiwan the girls had to pull out of the shoot which was a real shame. Not wanting to cancel and let down the model and make-up artist (mua), I quickly found an assistant and continued with the shoot. The shoot itself was ok, I learned a lesson about how fast we can loose the light in Taipei, and also that common sense and logic is not something everyone is blessed with. I came away from the shoot not one, but two umbrellas lighter than when it started. On a very positive note though, I met Crystal for the first time. She was our hair and mua, this was a meeting that has gone on to prove rather fortuitous. Crystal is not only a hair and mua, she is a stylist with a fantastic eye. If that is not enough, she is a talented musician and one half of Dronetonics. Dronetonics are a band based here in Taipei, they have just recently released their first album, and are well worth checking out. A month or so later we made a shoot together and not long after this I was making promo photographs Dronetonics. We are working on making a couple of fashion concept shoots which I am buzzing about, these will be shot before I leave in a few weeks to spend Christmas in the UK.



I guess we are about 6 months in now and as you can gather I'd been getting along ok, I had had a couple of magazine shoots, a project which raised my profile, a few good meetings in the UK a month of teaching photography and found someone who is great to work with. It was at about this time I got a call from Marcus. I had met Marcus to get tickets for a Grandmaster Flash gig, which was excellent by the way. Marcus is a DJ, promoter and creates events in Taiwan with two other guys, together they make up Frog in a Sock. Each summer they hold weekly pool parties, I was approached and asked if I was interested in shooting the parties for them. It sounded like fun, there was a tickle in it, although not huge, it would also provide a good opportunity to build my reputation. The pool parties gave me a chance to meet a lot of people and get my work seen and also give people the chance to see how I go about my business. The first party was a challenge to say the least, the whole six hours I was at the pool it rained torrentially. I worked hard that day and no messing, not to mention the efforts in post. These efforts paid off, the guys were pleased and the feedback from the girls at the party was good, I was booked again, not just for one, but for every party I could make it to. Thankfully the weather for the rest of the summer was glorious, the reputation for the party grew, in no small part as a result of my photographs. My ethos for the party is to get into the scene, I shoot on a wide angle for the party so I can get close to create a sense of involvement for the viewer, I want them to feel part of it. My shots clearly reflected the fun people are having and by engaging with my subject and having fun while I was making the shots I soon became known around the pool. The people knew I would make them look good in my shots, my reputation was definitely growing, as was my friend base. The numbers grew at the pool, the last party I could do was attended by over eight hundred, and the poolside was full up by 15:00. I have to say that I felt proud of that, obviously it wasn't all down to me, but I felt part of something, it felt good and was fun too. As a result of the pool parties growing reputation and success the season was extended by two weeks, the grand finale saw the pool side heaving with over one thousand revelers enjoying the last throngs of the Taipei summer. 






Along with everything else I have continued shooting my portrait series, having made a couple more by the second third of the year. Joe Henley a writer I met whilst shooting for Travel in Tawian was the first, he is also a musician, singing in several bands, one of which is Revilement. I spoke about Joe in my last blog as he commissioned me to make his portrait for the jacket of his novel. The second portrait was of a Peruvian DJ, living in Taichung who was/is studying vinyl art, as in record sleeve design I think this is part of what he does, I wasn't quite sure to be honest, it had been a rushed morning getting down to see him for this portrait. One thing I can tell you for sure is that he was a Red Bull freestyle finalist in Taiwan this year, has started producing his own tunes, and is also a polyglot, very impressive. His name is Zynko.



I can hear you all wondering why I didn't stay and shoot the last few parties at the pool, after all it sounds like so much fun right? It is simple, something very exciting happened. It was the most exciting thing all year so far, and very exciting for my career too. I got a shout from National Geographic Traveller UK (NGTUK) with an assignment for me. They wanted me to go to Japan for them to make photographs to illustrate an article. I was to go to Tokyo to photograph street food and the Tsukiji Fish Market, then off to document Hakone and Ryoken (traditional inns and hot spring spas). I wrote about this a couple of blogs back, so go and check that for a full story. The article appeared in the October edition of the magazine, both in print and on the digital version. As a result of this work and connection with National Geographic I have been interviewed by the WPO (World Photography Organisation) and featured on their site (click the link to see this), I have also recently been interviewed by NGTUK, I'm to be featured in the January/February issue. To top all that of I have had the great honor of being selected as a judge for the NGTUK photography competition. These interviews have only happened in the last few weeks, along with being asked to judge such a prestigious competition I am buzzed from it for sure and it feels great.




I covered the nightmare I came back from Japan previously too. The nightmare of hard drive faliure and the massive re-organisation of all my files. I am doing my best to stay up to date with it now, so far so good, and Backblaze seems to be running well and doing it's job, it was a hard lesson learned, and I was lucky to have already backed up the originals. The only thing really lost was hours of post processing work, it could have been so much worse. 

During one of my visits to Hong Kong I had made some contacts and shown my work, from these I received a commission to shoot a portrait. The portrait was of a very successful Taiwanese artist and the man behind Franz Porcelain. I went along to the location and scouted out where I wanted to make the shots, I was going to be pressured for time so the more preparation I could do the better. The morning of the shoot arrived, the shot list was fairly straight forward. The aim was to make three portraits in different locations in the building, we had been told we had an hour for this. After that the client wanted some product shots. Finally, if we could, I wanted to get into the design room to photograph the craftsmen and women at work. It was lucky I had gone along to scout the location, as soon as we got into the building and up to where we needed to start setting up, we were informed that our shoot time had been cut dramatically. It would seem that we were feeling the fallout from a previous photography crew taking all day, and too much of Mr. Chen's time a week earlier. So now we had 30 minutes to set up the lights in three locations and make the portraits. The rest of the shots needed to be done and in the bag by lunchtime before the staff went out to eat.. We were up against it for sure, so without further a do it was all hands on deck. Needless to say we got it done, it wasn't perfect but we made it, Mr Chen's comment was that we were very efficient, sometimes there is just no time for faffing. A few months later I received the copy, it turned out looking pretty good. I would like to say thank you to Michael Geier for stepping up to assist on this shoot, he will say he didn't do anything, but this was not true, it was a difficult shoot and he proved himself invaluable. 



Shortly after this shoot for Silkroad, I was back in Hong Kong again. It was a longer visit this time, three weeks in Hong Kong followed by three weeks in the UK. Knowing I was going to be visiting for a while it seemed prudent to make sure I wasn't idle. Arrangements had been made to shoot several portraits for "The Collectors" while I was there. In total I managed to shoot six, I could post them here, but I am planning a new gallery on my website for all the fresh portraits I have made this year for the series. They are a whole different blog anyway which will appear in the future. Making all the new friends and contacts in Hong Kong was really cool, in keeping with all the other people this project has lead me to meet, they were all lovely, warm and friendly. I very much am looking for to my future trips to Hong Kong, no longer will they be predominantly solitary affairs, but a great opportunity to catch up with people, hang out and experience more of  Hong Kong. I did end up on a nightbus adventure after having a drink with one of the people that I photographed. I went on a three hour excursion to the New Territories, it wasn't that I got on the wrong bus, it just happened to be going the wrong way!

Of course I made other photographs in Hong Kong/Kowloon it is an interesting place to photograph as you will have seen from my work previously. I even started playing around with some time-lapse experiments, I have bit to learn but it is fun to play around with and will get around to finishing them up at somepoint. For now though I will post a couple of shots of our view from the apartment in Kowloon.




After Hong Kong it was back to the UK, I didn't do too much other than pop in to Conde Nast Traveller which was cool. I had had a meeting in Hong Kong which was great, in this meeting I received advice about who to approach with my portrait work once back in Taiwan, to some degree this was repeated during my meeting at Conde Nast. It is very satisfying that my portrait work is rated by some top editors around the world, my favorite subject to photograph is people, and above all their portraits. On this trip to London I didn't have time to organise a meeting with the Conde Nast suggestion, I am back next month and into the new year so will try then. However as soon as I got back to Taiwan I was on the phone and the next day in for a meeting. It was one of the best meetings I have ever had. My work really impressed, a week later I was getting a commission for my first shoot for my latest client. The client is GQ Taiwan, prior to the actual shoot we met up a couple of times to discuss and scout locations. I got in touch with Choncy, she had wanted to assist on my Silkroad shoot and I'd said I would be in touch for the next one and so I was. We met and went through the lights and what was going to happen, I got an immediate good feeling about Choncy, she knows lighting having worked in film making for a while, but she isn't experienced with flash. She is attentive, keen and fun, so I knew I needn't worry about her during the shoot. The day of the shoot arrived and we all met up. Our model for the day was Taiwanese artist Huang Po-Chih, we were introduced and then all jumped in the van to hit the first spot. I don't think there is anything nicer for a photographer to hear from his/her client than "I love it" from the very first frame. The day continued at pace, not all the shots were so easy, by the end we were all tired, we made some really beautiful photographs and everyone was happy. The feature is in the current issue of GQ Taiwan and looks great. I am really looking forward to a continued and growing relationship with GQ as well as lots more shoots. Last week I popped in to pick up a couple of copies of the magazine and say hi, I was delighted to received an invite to attend this years GQ Taiwan Men of the Year Award, it will be great fun, and a chance to make new contacts, can't wait.




 Prior to the GQ shoot I had photographed an event, it was a good job and the clients were very happy with my work. I am never really more happy than when a client tells me I have done a good job and says thank you, oh and when the cheques come in ofcourse. They where so impressed with my work that I have been invited to go to a British Chamber of Commerce Taiwan (BCCT) meeting where I will get a chance to meet a good amount of possible new clients, this is a great opportunity, one I am looking forward to very much. Next week is set to be busy, interesting and good fun, with the GQ awards at the start and the BCCT meeting at then end, it is all good.

The weekend approaching I am away with the family to Sun Moon Lake and Alishan, two of Taiwan's most famous and beautiful locations. It will be lovely to get out and into the countryside for a couple of days, I have been to Sun Moon Lake a few times, as far as I know though, Alishan will be a new experience. I have looked at it before on line and know it is very beautiful, I just hope the weather is doing something that helps me make a good photograph.

I shot a few rolls of film (Fujifilm Provia 120) last week making Crystal's portrait and spent all day yesterday scanning the shots. There is something really satisfying about shooting on film, the feel still can't be replicated fully on digital cameras I think, perhaps I am just a romantic, but I will not apologise for that. The shots look gorgeous, I will definitely be running  rolls through my Mamiya RZ more regularly.

So as things continue to tick along nicely it has been great to look back over this, my first year in Asia. It has been a fantastic year. I feel like I have come quite a long way since packing that crate and stepping on the plane. I am extremely proud to count National Geographic, GQ, Bauer Media, plus a few others among my client list now. Being interviewed and featured by the WPO, and the upcoming feature in NGTUK is wonderful, all my hard work is getting recognised and is paying off, it feels great. I will try to keep my feet firmly on the ground, Mrs. L and my friends will no doubt give me a slap back to reality if I don't stay in check. I will continue to push myself as hard as I can and keep working to make the best photographs I can and be the best I can be for my clients, current and future. When this time comes again next year I hope that I have as many interesting experiences to tell you about, that I continue to shoot the editorial work and also start to build my commercial client base. That sounds like a good plan wouldn't you agree?

Without the appreciation and support I get from all my family, friends and people around the world who so kindly take the time to engage with me about my work, whether that is a "like"/"share" on facebook, a "+1" on Google+, "likes" and "follows" on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter or actually writing to me and having a chat, it always feels wonderful, respect to all of you, thank you.

I will ask as I always do, please share my blog around as much as you can. I love to make photographs, I think the passion I have for my work is obvious to see. I do still need to make it work though so the more who see my work and my passion the better, hit the share buttons at the foot of this page..

If you have any questions or comments, there is a box bellow as are all the links you need to keep up to speed with what I am doing and the photographs I am making.

It goes without saying that I am always very interested in any work you may have for me, if you do have a shoot you want me to make for you don't hesitate to get in touch to discus what you need.

I really hope you all enjoyed this blog, I haven't written so much for a good while, it wasn't boring was it?

Until the next time....

Cheers,

Duncan.


Macau, Hong Kong, a Portrait and a Holiday...


Macau, Hong Kong, a Portrait, and a Holiday!


Yes I know, it has been too long since my last blog. I do try I assure you but somehow or other I just get caught up with work and travel (which is often to do with work), so work then really. I thought I would make up for it with a photo heavy blog which covers pretty much what I did in the summer. I'll talk about little break to Wales with Mrs. L, on which we were joined by a couple of good friends for the first few days which was lovely. I had my first visit to Macau, and was once again back in Hong Kong where I made so me good contacts. These contacts led to work and more portraits for my series "The Collectors". I have already laid the foundation for my next blog, which takes a look back over my first year in Asia. I must say it is a good practice to do that as it would appear that I have done pretty well and hope very much to keep pushing on. However I am not going to talk more about that now, this blog is, as the title would suggest about Macau, Hong Kong, a portrait and a holiday, enjoy this...

Mrs L and I have a little game going on, it is to do with who has been to the most countries. My trip to Japan for National Geographic Traveller UK saw me take the lead by one country. When she asked would I like to go to Macau it was a no brainer. Firstly I had never been there before and secondly it would increase my lead...it'd be silly not too right? So off we went....

Man this place reminded me of Vegas at first, you could so easily get to one of the larger hotels and never have to leave for your entire visit. We stayed an the Sheraton, it had everything you could ask for. A connection to a shopping mall with food hall, a gym, two areas of pool facilities, each with multiple pools, multiple restaurants and of course a large gaming floor. The main game in Macau is baccarat, it is fast, fairly simple and makes the house a fortune from the millions of punters that flock in from mainland China and around the world every year. We looked, but I know better than to sit and play, plus I am no where near a position to throw my money at the turn of a card, not yet anyway.


The view from the one of the pools, ok I was in an area I shouldn't have been, and climbed out onto a glass roof, but if that's what it takes to get the shot, then I am going there.

Not really feeling the need to just hang around the hotel and lounge (I rarely do), I decided to make a walk to a beach. In all I walked about 20km as the sun rose, it was humid, I was hot and with all my kit to carry it was hard work. I am always glad to make the effort, yes the dawn could have been nicer and the beach more beautiful, but it was just lovely to hear the jungle waking up, the waves splashing and see the sand with no foot prints.



I say no footprints, there were these....


As I walked along the beach, I saw a pile of rocks and concrete blocks, it was only when I was on top of these I became aware that I was being watched. At first it was just a couple, but soon I realised I was standing on the local stray dogs den. There were a lot of them, and I was in their territory and no messing, it was tense. I had my tripod in my hand and was about ready to go if they attacked, the barking and growling had started as the pack woke up and became alert to my presence. I guess there were probably 10-15 of them, enough to make me concentrate at least. I thought, I have to do something, so I went on the offensive. They growled and but shouted louder and advanced on them. To my relief it worked and they backed off, most went back into the gaps under the rocks, with just a couple standing guard and keeping an eye on me. I had made it clear not to mess with me and after a while they realised I wasn't there to bother them and began to ignore me completely....Phew.


The dogs weren't the only strays on the beach, still at least there are facilities...

In the evening, I suggested that Mrs. L and I head into the older part of town. I wanted to see the old lighthouse and we had been told by a very helpful concierge of a good Portuguese restaurant. The Portuguese had occupied Macau, and the influence is all around in the older parts. The evening sees all sorts of people taking exercise around the old light house, there aren't too many hills around Macau so the view from this one is well worth the little effort to walk up to it.  


View from the lighthouse hill over Macau...

We walked around to try and find out how to get into the Lighthouse, it appeared to be closed. I saw a security guard and asked him how to get in, he confirmed it was closed. To our surprise he then said "hold on" and came down to the door. He was about to go to get his dinner and to our delight said we could come in and hang around for a bit while he ate. What a great security guard, we were over the moon to have the place to ourselves, what a top lad.


The Old Lighthouse... 


View over Macau with the Lisboa standing golden and to the left the A.J.Hackett Macau Tower, home of the worlds highest bungee jump, and yes I am going to have a go next time I am there.


The Old Lighthouse, and below another view over Macau, this time showing some of the older areas...


Dinner was lovely, the advice was good. The restaurant is owned and run by an ex Portuguese Naval Chef. There is a good wine selection, the food is well cooked and honest. No it isn't a Michelin stared experience, but I assure you it is worth a visit. Oh yeah, almost forgot the place is; O Santos, on Rua de Cunha, No. 20, Taipa Island.

The evening was warm, so we chose to walk back to the hotel, it was a lovely way to spend the last night in Macau, I look forward to seeing more of it soon.



And so back to Hong Kong, and oh my gosh it was hot. I will be honest and say that on this trip to Hong Kong, I found it pretty heavy going. The heat was intense, teamed with the busy streets, it was hard work. I had picked up a copy of a magazine and made an appointment for a meeting with the publishers, it went well and has already led to one job, a portrait shoot. Hopefully there will be more to come, but again I am not going to write about that this time. For now I will just caption these and let you enjoy them....


Out on the streets in Hong Kong.


Locals lunch just off Stanley Street.


Stall holders near Stanley Street.



When the sun is fierce, it's is wise to bring your own shade.


I don't think I will ever get bored of the views over Kowloon and Hong Kong.


Feeling nosy whilst staying at a friends apartment on Hollywood Road. 




Hong Kong can feel like a labyrinthine from time to time. 


Dawn over Mongkok.


The view from Cathay Pacific lounge of Hong Kong airport whilst waiting for my plane home.

Not long after I moved to Taiwan, I met a writer named Joe Henley. Not only is Joe a writer, he is a talented musician, and sings with a few punk bands, one of which is called Revilement. Joe is a cool guy and pretty driven, he recently released his first novel, "Sons of the Republic". I had previously photographed Joe for my Collectors Series as he has a love of vinyl, not surprising really with his musical links. I was more than happy when Joe contacted me and commissioned a portrait shoot for his book jacket. The book is a good read, he is already well on the way to completing his second novel and is currently writing for a T.V series, among other things. You can get your hands on a copy of his first book here: Sons of the Republic by J.W. Henley, I have been reading it, and can say it is pretty good, so check it out.


It had been a pretty busy spell, what with the pool parties, shooting portraits both commissioned and personal. Making promotional photographs for bands and all the usual running around I have to do. It was music to my ears when Mrs. L suggested we take a week off in Wales. It's a bit odd if you think about it, when I was in the UK all the time, I wanted to go somewhere warm and exotic. Now I want to go to somewhere remote, possibly cold and wet and in the UK. I am actually not sure how Wales has got the reputation for being wet, I have been many times and can say, in my experience it hasn't really rained much, if at all while I have been there.

We had a wonderful week, great food, good walks, log fires, country darkness and plenty of fresh air. Mrs. L caught her first trout, a wild brown on the Usk. Our guide Kim Tribe, was excellent, he supplied us with all the gear and plenty of patience (Find Kim here: Fly Fishing Wales). I said to him that it was more important to me that the wife caught her first trout than it was for me to catch. I was gutted when I missed my only real take of the day, but over the moon for Mrs. L when she managed to hook into a fine fish all on her own, and land it. It had been a warm summer with little rain and the river was on it's bones, tough conditions indeed. They do say that the ladies make the better fly fishermen, or should that be fisherwomen? ether way, she rocked it, and looked great in waders too.

I also managed to get her out pre-dawn and off into the chill morning as the sun rose over the Wye Valley. I will leave you with the shots from that morning, just before I go though don't foget your comments are important to me and welcomed. It would be great if you can take a second and share this far and wide, I want everyone to see it. Next time, as mentioned at the start I will be looking back over my first year, it will be a good one I promise, so until then, contact and follow me via the links. Thank you as ever for all the support, for taking the time to look at my work and read my waffle if you do. 

Respect and love.

Cheers,

Duncan.

If you want to commission me, don't hesitate to get in touch: duncan@duncan-photo.com 

Check out my website: http://duncanlongden.photography/

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Twitter: @DuncanLongden

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Sunrise over the Wye Valley.





Japan for National Geographic and Hard Drive Horror!

Japan for National Geographic and Hard Drive Horror!

A few months ago when I was last in the UK, one of the magazines I contacted was National Geographic Traveller (Nat Geo). You will already be aware of this if you have read my blog before, but for those who haven't here is the catch up.

I left the UK last year for a new life in Taiwan, almost a year ago in fact. In the UK I specialised ed in editorial portraiture, and although I still love to meet people and shoot portraits (I just shot 6 portraits in Hong Kong, more about that next time), I realise there is an opportunity to branch out toward travel work too. With Travel photography I not only get to meet and photograph wonderful people it offers new experiences and adventures around the world and is so much fun. If you are familiar with my work then you know I enjoy getting in amongst it wherever I am, be it on the street or up in the hills and mountains, I just love it. Even better when there are chances to meet the locals and hang out, no matter if we can't speak the same language verbally, body language and a big smile is the best way as everyone understands that.

You can imagine then that I was over the moon when I got a call from Nat Geo requesting me to head over to Japan (somewhere I had not been before and always wanted to go.) on assignment. I was to make shots of Tsukiji Fish Market, shots around Tokyo's street food scene and then head off to the picturesque Hakone. Hakone is an area about 90 minutes from Tokyo, it is famous for the traditional Ryokan (Japanese hot spring pools), it is also a stunning area with wonderful views of Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi close by.

I got confirmation of the job, time was tight so I got busy booking hotels and flights. I asked Eva Air if they could do me a deal, they tried but it wasn't to be this time. The best option was Cathay Pacific, I fly Cathay almost all the time so was very happy  to be flying with them again. I managed to find a couple of nights very cheap in a tiny room near Tsukiji, it was about as basic as it gets but I was on a tight budget,  needing to be up super early to get the market shots and not wanting to travel halfway across Tokyo I was happy to accept a simple room with a bed and bathroom. So it was 2 nights in Tokyo then off to Hakone where I stayed in a reasonable hotel on the first night, and then had an amazing experience with the Hotel Kai Hakone. The hotel Kai Hakone is part of the Hoshino Resorts group hotels (http://global.hoshinoresort.com/), they were very generous, apologising that they could only accommodate me for one night. The hotel was so beautiful, the food was amazing and topping it off I was guided through the whole experience by the most wonderful Mami Sato, she could not have been more helpful, friendly and fun to work with whilst photographing the Hotel and the food. Big thank you to Mami, all at the Kai and Ms Izutani for your generosity and hospitality. 

The article appears in the current (October 2014) edition of National Geographic Traveller, I was fortunate enough to catch the folks from the magazine during this trip to the UK, and am looking forward to many more assignments from them over the coming year and beyond. Here are a few of the photographs I made during that trip. As soon as I am back in Taiwan I will be posting a Japan gallery on my website, keep your eyes out for those, for now though enjoy these...

The view over Tokyo from the Metropolitan Government Building.

Tuna is cut and graded at the bustling Tsukiji Fish Market. 

Having flown in the day before, spent the night shooting the street food scene and then up at 3:30am to get to the market. I was glad to get out without being run over by one of the crazy trolley drivers, believe me, that place is frantic. I really had to have my wits about me, I was there to make photographs, these guys are there to do their daily job and could not care less for little old me.

It looked like madness but it works for them, trolley drivers at Tsukiji Fish Market.

I had read that you needed to get up early to get a ticket and be guided around the market. Heading there for 4am, I thought it would be obvious and I'd see the queue to get on the tour. Before I knew it though I was into the market having missed the ticket office completely. I only spotted it on the way out, for your information should you wish to visit, it is on the left as you cross the bridge into the market. I would recommend getting a ticket and taking the tour, I am sure it would be much safer. Finding myself in the market I figured I best just get to work. I spent two hours in the market making photographs before I got spotted by security and asked to leave. No bother, I had the shots and then some, the only thing left to do at 6am in Tsukiji is go and get the best Sushi available anywhere for breakfast...yum and what a way to make Mrs. L jealous, sushi just ain't the same anywhere else.

The Itamae of Sushi creates the freshest, tastiest sushi available at Tsukiji Fish Market, great for a hard working photographer's breakfast.

Back to bed for a few hours and then in the afternoon I took a walk around Yoyogi Park near Tokyo's famous Harajuku area. The park is on the site of Japan's first powered flight, consists of extensive grounds which are lovely to walk around and also holds the Meiji Shrine. The shrine, constructed of Japanese Cyprus wood was constructed to commemorate the Emperor's role in the Meiji restoration and was built in an iris garden that Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken had been known to visit.

The Iris gardens stretch on in the wonderfully tranquil grounds around the Meiji Shrine.

Yoyogi park provides a lovely restful place to wander and relax whilst in Tokyo, although Tokyo is one of the most populace capitals in the world, it seemed very relaxed and open to me. The chance to really slow down and enjoy the manicured garden around the traditional tea house, make a prayer at the Meiji Shrine and see traditional tea ceremonies being taught to a whole new generation was a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. A real contrast to the maniacal action at the fish market. 

Landscaped gardens display topiary work which leads you up to the Tea House.

After a morning learning the fine art of the Japanese tea ceremony, traditionally dressed girls giggle as they walk past the Meiji Shrine.

I was back to the streets that evening and once again the delights of street food. When we are in Taiwan, you will often find Mrs. L and I out for dinner in one of the excellent Japanese Beer Houses in Taipei. Freshly grilled mouthfuls of fantastic variety served along with cold draft beer, what could be better. If you aren't familiar with this style of eating I guess you could compare it to Spanish Tapas. Heading to the beer house is fun whether on your own, on a date or with a group of friends.

It was around Shinjuku and Shambashi that I wandered into this smokey fragrant tunnel under the railway. Beer houses on either side and a lively custom, I was more than happy to be seated opposite a local on a small table. The food was good and the beer cold and refreshing, what a cool place to enjoy a bite and watch the nightly flow of office workers out to unwind, I'll certainly hand it to the residents of Tokyo, they know how to enjoy a drink.

Under the arches, smoke from the grill fills the tunnel beneath the railway with smells guaranteed to make you salivate.

Hot, smokey and hectic, the grill chef works flat out to get the orders made and out to the hungry mouths.

Leaving Tokyo behind on the super smooth direct train to Hakone Machi, wistfully named "The Romancecar", it wasn't long until I found myself pulling my bag through the small, pretty town up to my hotel for the night. There was a business function, and the hotel was pretty full. Being a Ryokan, there were a selection of naturally fed hot spring pools. The hotel had alot of rooms, but sadly not enough lifts, dinner is served in your room and I was concerned that I was going to miss it as I had been out for a short walk. Myself, and a group of lively Japanese ladies were patiently waiting for the lift in the lobby which was taking an inordinate amount of time to arrive. There was a member of hotel staff calling the lift and also announcing it's arrival, seems a bit unnecessary I thought, but not unusual in Japan. The lift arrived and the doors opened, the lift lady launched into her patter welcoming us to the lift, the response she got from myself an the lively ladies was not what she expected, we all started having a fit of the giggles. Wondering what we were laughing at she looked at what the opening doors had revealed and was presented with a wall of elderly Japanese men, all wearing Yukata (traditional Japanese robe worn when relaxing.). Clearly they had meant to go to the 8th floor and the hot spring pools, I was laughing at the site of a lift full of old men in dressing gowns looking confused, I suspect the Japanese ladies found the fact that these men were incapable of reading the floors and pressing the correct button more amusing. Having spent time on the train next to a group of mature Japanese ladies who gossipped and giggle whilst eating their delightful looking home prepared lunches and now sharing this giggly moment with some more I have fallen in love a little with their fun attitude toward life and us less capable of genders.

After a full day travel and knowing that I was in for an early start (taxi booked for 3:30 am), I was only too happy to find my dinner waiting for me in my room and then enough time to head to the open air hot spring pools for a relaxing soak beneath the stars.

With typical Japanese punctuality, I found the taxi waiting for me and headed off as the first light started to creep over the horizon. I wanted to get to Onshihakone Park, from my research it appeared this would offer the best views for the sunrise photograph I was keen to make. To my dismay the concerns I had about the strong UV haze I had seen on the way to Hakone the day before proved true. The UV was very strong, causing a real problem but I only had this one chance to get the shot. This is the down side of a tight schedule, no choice but to do what I could. In the days of film a UV filter popped onto the lens would help but they are less effective in the digital age, so I don't carry them.

The shots are far from great, however for me it was a lovely place to stand, all alone and watch the sun rise and light the top of Mount Fuji over the rolling hills and lake. Sorry the shots aren't perfect, with more time comes extra opportunities, if you live near a beautiful spot then it pays to visit again and again as I have mentioned before.

Mount Fuji is illuminated through the haze by the dawn sun.

Thankfully the haze did improve but it was too late for the dawn golden hour, however I did envy this lone fisherman casting his line, there were plenty of fish rising, next time I am there my fly rods are coming for sure.


Hoping for an early bite on Lake Ashi, Hakone.

Check out was set for 10am, I asked for an extension and was told that I would be charged. Although Hotel Okada was a nice, if somewhat dated hotel, the staff and service were not great. When I first arrived at the hotel for check in it was 11:45, check is not until 12:00. I travel a lot and stay in many hotels, every time I have arrived early, if the room is unavailable they at least take my details and offer to hold my baggage for me so I can find somewhere to relax. Not the case with Hotel Okada, they told me to wait along with a large group of other people experiencing the same thing whilst the check in staff just stood doing nothing until 12:00. 15 minutes is not a hardship by any means, but I thought it would be obvious that checking people in and then asking them to wait is preferable, as opposed to asking them to wait and then having a very busy period and a queue, but who am I to question other folks logic?  

Thankfully I was heading on to the Kai Hakone, I had been excited by this prospect since it was offered to me and glad to be having it at the end of my trip. Who wouldn't enjoy a bit of luxury at the end of 4 very busy days. I asked the Okada desk staff which was the best way to get to the hotel, with their consummate efficiency then sent me off into town armed with the incorrect bus information. To really add insult to injury, once I had managed to get the correct bus and travel to the Kai Hakone, it turned out I could have walked there in about 5 minutes from Hotel Okada.

Walking down the drive to the Kai Hakone entrance was all I needed to do to begin to feel it's charms taking hold of me. The hotel is set back from the road down into the river valley and surrounded by lush green forest. In total contrast to the staff at Okada, the staff at Kai Hakone could not be more welcoming. They knew I was there for Nat Geo, however I don't think this made any difference as all the staff seemed to really love their work and working at the hotel. 

I was a little early, having confirmed it was ok I began to make my photographs of the reception area, as you can see it is a bright, airy and spacious entrance lobby. With excellent coffee on tap, a display of Yosegi-zaiku (traditional Japanese woodwork) which is available to try to produce for yourself in the evenings and a small library, I had no trouble relaxing as I awaited my meeting and the agreed photographic schedule to commence.

The reception lobby at the Hotel Kai Hakone.

Mami Sato was to be my guide and assistant for the day around the hotel, I don't think anyone could have been nicer and more helpful than her. We had good fun all day shooting everything from hotel interiors, hot spring pools and the exquisitely delicate Kaiseki. I can assure you it not only looked good as I was honoured to be served this dinner by Mami Sato that evening, it was delicious.

Beautiful Kaiseki dinner, Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, consisting of about 13 different small delights.

After making the photographs and before dinner I took advantage of the hot spring pool, having the pool to myself was an added bonus, Whilst soaking in the mineral rich water I was able to reflect on my trip to Japan. It had been a whirlwind of crazy messed up sleep pattern and non stop photography, it is often the case as a travel photographer that you don't really get to enjoy the places you are in as you are concentrating on making photographs. Yes of course you have to look and be in touch with what is going on around you, you have to be in that moment. However in the back of your head is always thoughts of camera settings, angles and compositions, is the background clear...blah blah blah. So enjoying the travel as a tourist may, is not so easy. For this hour though as I lay there I was able to think about all I had seen and experienced. The crazy fish market, hitting the streets of Tokyo, chatting with the touts offering late night fun in the lively streets near Shinjuku, having a few drinks with locals who spoke no English in a little beer house. It had been a wonderful experience, I decided that I would come back on a non work trip (as if I never travel without my camera.), and hopefully Mrs. L will join me.

Baskets for your belongings by the lady's hot spring pool. (Hotel Kai Hakone)

Looking back in to the lady's hot spring pool from the open front which offers forest views. (Hotel Kai Hakone)

A wonderful view from the men's hot spring pool. (Hotel Kai Hakone)

Needless to say I had a wonderful nights sleep, I did feel a bit embarrassed having to be woken up for my breakfast. I had quite forgotten I was getting a lovely breakfast too, to add to this Mami Sato had gone to the effort to get me some Natto. Natto is the Marmite of Japan, you either love it or you hate it. It is made from fermented soya beans, and for me I am afraid not something I could really take to, the flavor is nice, but the texture, uh ah, not my cup of tea. Still don't be put off, we should always try things, you never know you may love it.

Waving farewell to Mami and heading to the train station, I was a little sad to be leaving Japan. My schedule was tight but well planned, I felt confident I would make the flight ok. It was only when I got the the train station that this all went a little topsy turvy. A very rare occurrence in Japan had happened, a derailment. I had to change my plan completely, getting into Tokyo on the slower train I was a little stressed, only to find that to get to the airport meant a slightly more complicated trip on two more trains. I was off my map and not sure if I would get off at the correct stop. My faith in human nature came to fruition once again however as a lovely Japanese man, seeing my predicament wrote out my entire journey , including exact times of arrival at each station all the way to the airport, what a total gentleman, so big thank you to him, give than man a suit of armour.

Having dragged my suitcase with my heavy camera bag on my back for hours, I was a little dishevelled when I arrived at the Cathay Pacific check in desk. I was greeted with an apology, "I am sorry Mr. Longden but due to economy being over booked we have had to move you into business class, is that ok?",  Errrr yes! Thank you very much indeed Cathay Pacific, once again you prove yourselves to be a great airline. Hitting the showers in the business lounge was just what I needed, it wasn't long until I was on the flight and we were heading away from Japan., but we were gifted with one last joy as we left. Over the tannoy came an announcement from the captain, "Ladies and Gentleman, if you look out of the right hand windows you will see a lovely view of Mount Fuji, I have to agree, it certainly was a beautiful sight.

Mount Fuji as I left Japan, happily seated in business class thanks to Cathay Pacific.

Thank you National Geographic Traveller for sending me on this assignment, and thank you Japan for being everything I expected and more, I look forward to returning and seeing much much more time and time again. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people.

The title of this blog suggests there was a horror awaiting me, this horror slapped me back to reality pretty hard. I got home, fired up my PC and discovered my primary hard drive had crashed. None of the photographs I had been working on over the last 6 months were there any more, it was empty, a void where once had been the spoils of hours and hours of work. This has been a nightmare of mine for a long time and now it was a reality.

When I turned pro a few years ago I invested in a 3tb external hard drive and had thankfully been importing duplicate copies of my RAW files. I am not always the most organised and some files had gone into folders of the wrong name, but at least they were there somewhere. That real kick between the legs was that I had not backed up the post production I had done, this means that I am now looking at hours and hours doing it all again.

I don't like to dwell on the negatives, so embrace the lesson learnt. I now have unlimited online storage, this backs up as files change so all my work is safe on there. I invested in a second 3tb external hard drive, spent a week working through the first one, re-organising and renaming all the folders, I now have mirrored 3tb hard drives. It was a hard lesson, but it could have been a lot worse so I am thankful for that. I get to practice my Photoshop and Lightroom processing more, although it can be laborious, practice makes perfect. Most importantly I learnt to be rigorously thorough when importing files, and also backing up any post work I have done. Anyone starting out in this world take note and learn from other people's mistakes before you make your own.

My work from Japan is in the current issue (October 2014) of National Geographic Traveller, the app version should be out soon and has more photographs.

If you are heading out to Japan and are wanting a wonderful relaxing place to stay during your trip I would highly recommend The Hotel Kai Hakone. Follow this link to make your booking: 
http://global.hoshinoresort.com/kai_hakone/ If you do stay there please send Mami Sato my regards.

If you like my blog please share it to all you know. If you want to discuss anything, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Should you want to book me then get in touch via my website: www.duncanlongden.photography  all my contact details can be found there.

For regular shots from where I am in the world check me out on Instagram: http://instagram.com/duncan_photo 

Thank you all for your interest and ongoing support for my work, it really means a lot to me. Once again as ever I will try and blog again soon, on the cards for subjects are a recent trip to Maccau, back again in Hong Kong where I made 6 portraits for the ongoing and ever enjoyable Collectors series, my series based on vinyl enthusiasts and an actual holiday in the stunning Brecon Beacons in Wales. Not to mention more meetings with editors (hopefully more work will come my way soon), a portrait shoot for Silksroad, the Dragon Air in flight magazine, and another one for a great writer friend for his first novel. That should be enough to keep these interesting, which I hope they are.

Until the next time, take it easy, have fun and remember wherever we come from, we are all the essentially the same. 

  






The South, Tests, Pool Parties and National Geographic Traveler.

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?

The South:

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.

Tests:

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.

Pool Parties:

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....






I even got a little credit in the local paper: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2014/07/04/2003594294






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.


     










Look Both Ways.

Once again Mrs L and I found ourselves flying back to the UK for 12 days and then on to Hong Kong. It didn't seem too long since we were there last, this time though my portfolio book was printed and ready to show. First thing first though, down to Devon to see our wonderful friends, The Spettigues. It was great to spend time with James, Emma, their little girl Isabella and the new addition, the not so little baby Sam. I hadn't had much experience of kids until I moved to Taiwan, where I now live in the same house as my twin nephews who are 6. I may not be up for nappy changing but I felt privileged and relaxed to have Sam strapped in his harness to me for a walk around the park on a glorious sunny afternoon. It was a bit nerve-wracking heading down the slippery steps, a terrifying drop plunging to certain doom into a raging river only half a mistake away to go and see "The Devils Cauldron". I think Sam picked up a bit on my raised heart beat, James did well to trust me and only after we were safely back to the car said, "I had to fight it not to say anything about taking care down there". Looks like I can handle these responsibilities now, maybe in a year Mrs L and I may be ready to start our own family.

We were lucky to have good weather most of the time we were in the UK, but it is the UK so only right that on the day we went for a walk up to Dartmoor it was blowing a gale with a threatening sky. We only just got to the car before the clouds burst and ice cold rain pelted down, glad to be in the car and not on a motorcycle.

The more I use my Fujifilm X100 the more I like it, this is from the X100 in panoramic mode, does a great job of stitching the frames together don't you think?



Back up to Leicester and time to get on the phone to see if I can arrange some meetings. First on the list, the Editor of Photography at The Independent. I have never really liked the phone, I get a bit nervous making calls, just silly really. I got to speak to the Editor, what a lovely person she is. I told her who I was and that I had sent her a copy of my promo book. She remembered it straight away, this was a really nice surprise as she must get a lot of photographs and mail shots. Turns out not only did she remember it, she really liked it telling me, "a lot of people don't get it, but you have got it spot on, really good.". I was thinking "wow that's really amazing that she likes it so much". My joy was a little tarnished however when she told me "I can't remember us ever needing a photographer in Taiwan in 20 years.". Ever the optimist we both laughed when I said "well, there's always hope",  to which she replied "if ever we need a photographer out there you are my go to guy.".

To me it was just great to hear that someone with a lot of experience on a picture desk liked and rated my work. Bolstered by this I got straight on to The Guardian and within 10 minutes I had arranged a meeting in London with the Director of photography, fantastic. The meeting with went well, it was really good to meet him. He too liked my work and told me to stay in touch, forwarding my details to weekend supplement photo Editor too. I felt pretty good about all of that on the train back north, but there was more to come.

We had to return to London for a couple of days and stayed with another good friend, Gemma. One day spent in Croydon followed by a few pints, the next day I was back on the phone and had a long conversation with the newish Picture Editor at GQ. Although he didn't need a portrait photographer, he did give me a lead to Q Magazine. I followed this and the next day had a very positive chat over coffee with the photo editor at Q. He really liked my project "The Collectors" and also the rest of the work in my book. Once again, a request to stay in touch, and a good possibility for some work. All in all it was a good experience and has really given me more belief in what I can do, and an increasingly better attitude about the phone.

As any of you who have read my waffle before you will know I like to walk a bit when possible. It was on on of these little walks from Battersea to Vauxhall that I found myself with a slight case of the giggles. I am getting more accustomed to living in Taiwan, but some old habits die hard. One of these is which way to look first when crossing the road. The case of the giggles I got was when I realised now I was back in England, I was now getting this wrong here, revert to mild panic mode and look like a demented chicken at a Wimbledon final, hence the title of this blog; Look Both Ways.


Being in the UK for Spring made me a little sentimental about long summer evenings, pints of ice cold and often ice filled cider. Barbecues and fresh dawn motorcycle rides with friends. There is something wonderful about spring in the UK, the countryside is getting greener, it seems to simply open its arms with joy, blossoming with reproduction. 




I am yet to get used to the seasons in Taiwan, it may take a while. One thing though, the light in the UK on a good day is amazing, it can be so clear in the morning you can see all the way across London. Literally for miles, this is the view from the back of our friends house in Battersea.



I have seen nice light in Taipei but it's mostly hazy and a bit grey, well has been so far. We had a trip to the south of the island, I will write more about this little weekend away in my next blog, one thing though the light in the south of the island is noticeably better. The panoramic above of London was shot in a traditional one frame at a time style, then stitched manually on Adobe Photoshop CC, Can you name all the skyscrapers?

Back up in the Midlands, and the evening light was doing its thing. I grabbed my camera, nabbed my Dad's tripod and headed up to Beacon Hill just outside Loughborough with Mrs L in tow. I was a bit rushed and at the time didn't really feel like I had got the shot I would have liked. Processing it yesterday for this blog I realised I had made a beautiful photograph. A photograph which I know I will find pleasure in for a long time. It just shouts England to me, clear air, cows grazing, a patchwork of fields to the horizon and a lovely sunset. Thank you British countryside, I now which way to look when I am with you.


Next time it will be back to Hong Kong, down south in Taiwan, news of connections with the AFP, hopefully I can tell you about a job or two that are in the pipeline and more exciting stuff. 

As ever please share my blog, it is for everyone so don't be selfish, it is easy to share. Feedback is appreciated and noted so if you wish to let me know something, ask me a question or want to offer me some work then please get in touch.

Until the next time.........Take it easy.....

At last Hong Kong, and just before another visit..

I have been promising since February that I would write about my first proper, get out of the airport trip to Hong Kong and so here it is.



What can I say about Hong Kong other than I liked it and felt relaxed and comfortable there. Maybe it is just a little more familiar as I am used to Taipei, and Hong Kong is like a condensed version. Yes it is crowded, the streets are busy and the MRT is packed most of the time. However, if like me you prefer to stay above ground and walk when you have time quiet corners can be found.



I really enjoyed the Star Ferry, what a nice way to get from Hong Kong to Kowloon, super cheap too. That is the one thing that is cheap in Hong Kong, transport. It is so easy to get around, buses, trams, MRT, ferries and of course no shortage of cabs, as you know though I like to walk, even cheaper!


Heading over to make the obvious photographs of the Hong Kong sky line in the morning as the sun came up afforded me an opportunity to wander back along the marina front at causeway bay. There isn't much going on down here, fishermen sleeping in their cabins during the late morning after a nights fishing and later on men gather to play cards and have a drink in the evening sun. This scene seems miles away of the crowded streets just a few hundred feet away.


Wanting to get even further away I took the MRT all the way to Lantau Island to go and see The Big Buddha, or Tian Tan Buddha to give it it's correct name. The statue is bronze and stands 85ft (26m) high. Sitting it it's plinth at the top of a long flight of steps, which left many wheezing as the laboured up it looks back over the beautiful parkland of the Island towards Hong Kong. Yes it is touristy and yes I got corralled by Chinese tourists so they could have their picture taken with the western man, I find that simply good fun. Somewhere when they get home and are showing their photographs to their family and friends, their will be me an unknown white guy they thought it fun to put their arm around for a picture. Somehow that makes the world seem like a big place still, it just makes me want to grab opportunities to travel and see more and more.





I will be back in Hong Kong in a few weeks time, I am not sure how many pictures I will be making, I hope to have a few meetings and also spend a few days by the water's side fishing and relaxing, it has been along time since I have done that.





I have told myself that Monday's should be blog days and I will try to stick to this. Sadly I have a PC issue and it is at the menders while I write this on my iPad. Since my last blog I spent a month teaching for the first time, I had two great students and, bright and eager to learn all they could about photography and post processing techniques in the limited time we had. They told me they enjoyed the lessons and I certainly had fun teaching them what I could.that will be in a future blog. For now though I have to go and get into Taipei, I am looking at a studio space for Wednesday's portrait shoot, picking up a light from the repair shop and then heading to the protest that is now in its fourth week at the Legislative Yuan to make a portrait with the occupation as the background, who knows what will happen there. Finally at the end of the week I am off to a wedding fair with a make up artist friend to shoot, I am hoping to get some great shots by the pool and see what else I can make, fingers crossed the weather will be on our side and we can create something beautiful.

So until next time, I hope you enjoyed this, remember to share this and all my blogs, that is what I write them for. Most importantly if you need a photographer here in Taiwan or anywhere around the world then please feel free to contact me with whatever you may need photographing.


Tales of woe, frustration and drama.......The Flake Files

This letter was posted by Reasource Magazine on their facebook page http://bit.ly/1fxgqnQ. It got me thinking about all the times this happened when I was concentrating on building my portfolio and the excuses I have heard.

The photographic world is a fun place most of the time. I love to work, meet clients and produce work for their requirements. I take what I do seriously, I am organised about my work. However this doesn't mean I don't like to have fun and make working fun, if it wasn't I wouldn't do it. It shouldn't be fun just for me, but for everyone I am working with. Deadlines are stressful, things happen on set that are stressful, that is the challenge right?

We all have to start somewhere. I understand that as a model it can be nerve-racking, meeting some strange guy/girl you never met, often in a strange place and be expected to be relaxed about that. When you start out there is no work in your book, no references you can show, and sadly there are stories of unscrupulous people calling themselves "photographer" who expect more from models. It angers me the most when people take advantage of another's dreams and promise all sorts in return for....we, all sorts. As a community we should not put up with this behaviour, it simply is not cool, and it ruins it for those of us who are serious about making great photography.

At the time when the following events happened I was angry, I was frustrated as I had worked hard to organise everything. Now I just find them hilarious, what if they were real excuses though? Should they be less amusing, no I don't think so. Like the guy who wrote the open letter in the link above, it is a pain, it is frustrating and it lets down a whole team of people. I couldn't help feeling it was all my responsibility if it happened and I had organised everything. It wasn't, and I am over that now. I am a bit more established and the flakes don't occur (or haven't) for a good while.

I am in a new country though and have new challenges, language being the main one. I am learning (slowly) mandarin, I expect in a year or two I will be confident whilst conversing, I am better now than 6 months ago and that is for sure. My greatest strength though is my personality and attitude, I smile a lot, I don't mind being a bit silly if it gets the reaction or understanding I need. I put people at ease by not taking myself too seriously, so now where I once got annoyed I now have a chuckle and get on, I hoe these make you giggle too.

Just before I start on the "I can't make the shoot because...", I will tell you a classic from when I was a retail manager. One of my members of staff actually phoned in and said "I can't come to work as I tripped over a slug and have hurt my knee". I had to put the phone down as I laughed too hard. Google "garden slug" if you don't know what one is.

I was told by a model, on the morning of a shoot, "I can't make the shoot today, my brother got involved with a gang and the police came and made us move house last night."

Brilliant, I hope they are all ok and she has gone on to a fruitful career in creative writing.

I put out a casting for a beach shoot and got a good response. I spoke to a couple of the models I felt had the right look and it all seemed positive for the shoot. One of the models suddenly added some really bad beach shots made in the murky waters off Southend in Essex to her page and said she didn't want to shoot another beach set as she had some in her portfolio. I don't think they would have brought her work, but who know's I am constantly surprised by what turns some folks on.

The second model could not have been funnier. Her portfolio page stated she lived in London, 2 days before the shoot she called and said she couldn't get a flight. "Why do you need to get a flight" I asked, "because I live in Guernsey." was the reply. "Why did you apply for a shoot that was clearly advertised as taking place on the south coast of England then?", to which she replied, "I need to build my portfolio and there aren't any shoots in Guernsey.".

Brilliant!  

Fortunately for me my friend and wonderful model Amee could see my frustration and stepped up at the last minute, what a super star, I hope I can find good reliable models here with that attitude in Taiwan. This being a photo blog I should put some pictures in right, so before my final tale of woe and drama enjoy these shots from the beach shoot that almost never was....




Finally I come to my favourite most drama filled flake I have ever had, and I bring this story to you for your amusement. I had a concept for a shoot, I needed a lavish house. I found one, unique in it's architecture with floating Esher like staircases, concertina glass doors along two walls, a wonderful kitchen, cinema room and garden, well you get the idea. Not easy to get hold of and not too cheap either. Ok I had the location, I put up a casting for a model and got a few replies, one was perfect. I contacted her and she seemed professional, on the level and understood the concept. Next for the rest of the team, Make up artist, hair stylist, stylist and assistant all came on board and we were lined up and ready to go. 

Come the morning of the shoot though it all went wrong, the member of the team we needed was missing, the model. Eventually she answered her phone but was in a terrible state (apparently). It was mid morning on a Saturday and she hadn't slept all night because her dog had swallowed a chicken bone and it had upset it's tummy. "Have you taken it to the vets?" I asked, obviously this is the thing to do if it is causing the animal discomfort and they had been open for a few hours already. "No" she replied I am about to. Hhhmmmm I thought, but played along hoping to still make the shoot. I said "no worries, take it to the vets and see what they see, I can delay the shoot for a few hours and we can make it this afternoon, is that ok?". She said she would make the afternoon and thanked me. So I called everyone and told them, they were all cool and professional about this, saying "ahh poor thing" and I hope it is ok" when no doubt they were thinking the same thing I was. 

A couple of hours later I reached her again, apparently the dog had to have surgery and was being kept at the vets. I said "ok, then it is in the best place. The team are still all up for the shoot, we just need to get going, it'll only be 3/4 hours and we will be finished, it'll take your mind of it." "Ok, I'll get ready and give you a call" she replied. An hour late I still hadn't heard anything and as she told me the vets was on her road I didn't think getting her bag would take so long. After all, she knew a hair stylist, make up artist and outfits were all waiting for her. I called again and this time it just got better. "How are you getting on?" I enquired, to which I got the reply, "my bitch neighbour heard my dog crying in the night and has called my landlady. I wasn't supposed to have a dog and she has given me till the end of the day to move out. I'm homeless!".

Fucking helpless more like. Sorry to swear but really. She had told me that she'd lived at this place for 2 years, it was actually not far from my house. All this time she had had a dog and on this morning her neighbour had become aware of it and reported her to her landlady who had decided to simply kick her out. Yeah right, pull the other one. 

Like I said, I can laugh about it now. I have worked with the team again on a different shoot and we all laugh about that epic tale. I have even done a shoot at the location, and may do more in the future, who knows. But as for the models in these stories, they won't be on my set. As my work got better and I got more interest, a couple of the models who flaked have approached me to ask for a shoot, I just ask them "don't you remember the last time?", chuckle and put the phone down.  

So for everyone out there reading this, and I hope you read the open letter from the link too, please don't flake. I would like to say if you are going to, just be honest, but in actual reality I would prefer you to create the best story you can, one filled with adventure, thrills and spills to rival any Hollywood blockbuster, at least it will give us all a laugh, one day.

Next time......Hong Kong (honest, unless something else suddenly pops into my head to write about). 

As ever, hit share, spread the love. leave me comments or questions, they are welcome. 


Tear Sheets....

Back in the UK I used to spend some time shooting fashion stories, it was something I did for fun. Although it can be a full on busy day, it is great working with a full team. I enjoy the creative process, getting everything organised, wondering if everyone will turn up and all the energy on set.

Situations can vary so much with so many people, having to think on your feet, adapt to the situation, changing light, wet dogs jumping around you lights and models, it all makes for an action packed shoot.

My shoots have featured in the last 2 issues of Zélé Magazine, they recently sent me the tear sheets from the latest issue.....






Huge thanks to the team that worked so hard together on this shoot, it was a fun day. Wimbledon common was drenched in 2 stroke exhaust fumes from the generator powering the hair-dryer and smoke machine.   
To Laura and Luna the models, thank you, Candice on Make Up, thank you, Naoki on Hair, thank you and Tizianna on styling, thank you.

I am in the midst of organising a fashion shoot here in Taipei, I want my students to experience what it is like and also have some fun making a shoot. I have some great models on the team and hopefully some great outfits, we will see what fun ensues.

So just a quick extra bonus blog for all you lovely people out there. As ever it's good to share, leave a comment. If you haven't looked, check out my new site www.duncanlongden.photography, be sure to forward the link and spread the word. Of course feel free to hit the contact button on my site and get in touch whatever your photographic needs, I am always happy to chat about your project.

Singapore...

Those of you who have read my previous blogs will know that January was a bit of a mad month. I returned to Taiwan from the UK and then went straight to Singapore. After Singapore it was back to Taiwan for a few days and then off to Hong Kong (Hong Kong in the next blog).

I had heard mixed reviews of Singapore, I try and keep an open mind and see what I find when I get somewhere. One man's idea of heaven is another's idea of hell after all.

You would have thought by now having flown about a bit that I would have got used to it. Not every airport demands you be there 3 hours early, I guess I have been conditioned by travelling from Heathrow too often in the past. That and having missed flights, not to mention the odd ferry.

On this occasion I got to Touyuan airport so early I was offered a seat on an earlier flight, this would have meant that I would be in Hong Kong airport waiting longer for my transfer. Having been delayed in Hong Kong airport twice in 2 weeks I was a bit bored of the place so decided I would get a coffee then go and snooze at the boarding gate.


When I stepped on the plane I wished I'd taken the earlier flight, a real sense of terror washed over me. I don't normally get nervous flying, but then I don't normally find myself on a plane wondering where the pedals are. The seats were wobbling around and the whole plane twisted and creaked as it flexed it's way to the runway for take off. It was vibrating so much that I could only imagine it was beating it's wings like an ungainly swan as it built up enough momentum for a truly epic crash. They didn't even have an entertainment system as a distraction, it was white knuckles all the way.

I had an inkling from my research and it's reputation that Singapore would be efficient. I wasn't wrong, after a brief (efficient) chat with a German visitor I was in the cab and on the way to the hotel.


Have I told you that my wife has a fabulous ability to get a great deal at a hotel? She had surpassed herself, we were in a very pleasant suite on the 24th floor, it wasn't huge but it was well appointed. Most importantly it gave us access to the club floor on the 22nd.

The 22nd floor was home to an outdoor pool and jacuzzi, with spectacular views across the city. I'll give Singapore it's due, there is some great architecture. Also on the 22nd was a dinning area and kitchen which served breakfast, but more importantly between 18:00 and 20:00 happy hour. How happy can happy hour be, how about free drinks and nibbles, including a great cheese board, I would say pretty happy thank you.






I had done a bit of research (I always do), about interesting places in Singapore. Any travel photographer will have a look at what other photographers have done previously, have a think about what they want to shoot, and when would be the best time to be there to photograph it. I wanted to get up early and head to the botanical gardens to photograph it in the early sunshine before any crowds filled the reportedly beautiful location. Morning sunshine, ha, don't make me laugh, I didn't see any blue sky the whole time I was there. Every morning I would set my alarm, wake up and peer out of the window only to see a thick layer of cloud. Bugger!

So what. I will find other subjects to photograph, there is bound to be lots of interesting life to see around, we are in Asia after all. It turned out Singapore is not like the Asia I have experienced. 

I got to go to the botanical gardens as we met friends for lunch there. Afterwards, Camille went off to meetings and I did one of my favourite things in a new city, I went for a walk about.



In Taiwan, I love to just wander around and head down lanes and alleyways looking for the curiosities and life within. I had done the same in Yangon and Bangkok. Each time meeting smiling faces, seeing interesting buildings and feeling a real sense of life. In Singapore I got a bit bored, it seemed a little lacking in something, I think the only word I can think of is soul. It seems a bit manufactured to me.



Don't for a second think that Singapore is not a nice place, it is, it is just that, nice.

Back at the hotel, for a bit of wine and cheese, before heading out to take the classic evening shot looking across the river to "Gardens by the Bay" and the Marina Bay Hotel.


Having taken the MRT to the financial district I had to then make my way to the bus stop to head to the spot I wanted to set up for the above photograph. I realise that people need to get to and from work, and I used to get annoyed sometimes with tourists in London, however the rudeness of the people as I walked for the bus was unsurpassed. One paved area and they had to walk 5 wide to fill it up, blocking the way for anybody heading in the other direction. One woman walked directly at me, barged straight in to me as if I weren't even there. Well, I weigh around 90kg and swinging around as if to move out of her way caught her with perfect timing. My 20kg fully loaded camera bag sent her barrelling off into the throngs of zombie like workers marching toward the MRT entrance. I had a little chuckle to myself before promptly boarding the wrong bus. Instant karma, but worth it non the less.

Whilst making the shot above I had a little chat with a security guard. He had asked me to move up the bank from the waters edge as it was slippery and I was his responsibility. I asked him if I could be responsible for myself, I think this put him off balance a little, he paused, thought for a second whilst looking at me. He then said, "yep I will tell my supervisor you are responsible for yourself", smiled and went on his way. That is the correct attitude, security guards everywhere take note, as long as someone is not endangering others, leave them alone.

Having made the shot I headed back over the bridge and along the river bank. The atmosphere was relaxed, so I took my time and made a few shots on the way back to the MRT.
 



A new day and Sentosa was on the cards. This is an island which is like a giant theme resort, a sort of family friendly Vegas attached to Singapore. I think maybe if Sentosa was a bit more like the den of iniquity Vegas is it may be a bit of light relief, and a better place for it.

I walked across to the island, there is a cable car if you want to enjoy a view of the island from above before being deposited in the middle of it all. The boardwalk doesn't take too long, and if you are lazy there is a travelator to carry you the 500 meters or so. Once you are on the island transport is free, there is a monorail (I always hear the monorail song from the Simpsons at this point https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZBPoRwog00), and buses that ferry you around from one attraction to the next. 


Universal studios has a park there, there is a zip line that according to the hotel tourists channel reaches 250mph, it would be amazing if it did and I would definitely be on that, the reality is though it might reach 25mph with a tail wind. If you don't fancy approaching the speed of light on a zipwire, you can take a chair lift up and enjoy a luge ride back down instead, this did look like fun.

After all that excitement why not stroll the man made beaches, enjoy the music which is piped everywhere you go from speakers in the bushes, as opposed to the sounds of what jungle and wildlife is left. If you walk or cycle you do get breaks from the music and the jungle jingle takes over. It is so much nicer to hear, even if it does sound like listening to a drunk parrot band whilst suffering a severe tinnitus attack.

I was in search of the iconic white sand, blue sky shot. The sky being devoid of blue, or sun for that matter, I settled for an interesting spider I spotted above a drainage ditch, and a shot with a bit of a moody cloud hanging around in it. I am sure had the sun been out and the sky been blue it all would have looked perfectly beautiful. I love the view of the group of container ships and tankers too. Even without the sun beating down I managed to get sun burnt. Paddling along the waters edge shoes in hand watching the families enjoy themselves was pleasant enough, £20 for a Manhattan was definitely not. 


Hotel, wine and cheese....

Looking like a redneck farm hand, the following afternoon I headed in to Chinatown. It was heaving as Chinese new year was approaching and everyone was getting geared up (see previous blog for Chinese new year). I had heard about a house in Chinatown that showed what the architecture and layouts used to be like. It turns out to be a museum, and interesting. Not many people had bothered to go in resulting in it being a very nice relaxing place to be, and a relief from the madness on the bustling streets outside.


Don't you love the old magazines pegged up, the styles were great and a total contrast to the living conditions as you can see.

It was our last day, Camille had not been very well for a few days but was feeling better, I wanted to go and eat laksa. Laksa is a Malaysian dish so I figured Singapore should have top quality bowls available. The cab driver took us to the famous area for laksa and said that I should try from different stalls as the portions were small. One bowl was plenty,  this totally explained why the cab had learnt toward the drivers side somewhat on the ride from the hotel.

I had been shooting all week, lugging my camera bag and tripod around everywhere, I wanted a night off and just spend it with Mrs L. Typically this is when we ended up in a place with a bit of a beat to it. There was a gorgeous Hindu temple with a wedding going on, life on the streets was real, this is where the actual everyday people where. Colonial architecture served wonderfully as the backdrop and reminded us of days gone by. Days when the evenings would have all been filled with the sounds of people chatting over bowls of food and cold glasses of long drinks. It was a world away from the mansions I had been surrounded by earlier that week walking back from the botanical gardens, I was finally seeing more of the life I would expect from Asia. 

Across the street from where we ate was a bar, it actually had ale on draught. I guess this is part of Singapore, a mix of cultures all smashed together in a relatively tiny place. A lot of it is geared up purely for the tourists and corporate staff. Being young and working in Singapore I can imagine the lifestyle could be fun, hanging with your mates around Clarke Quay, earning good money in the sunshine, it's got to be better than drudging to work through the rain and wind right. That isn't for me though, it doesn't seem real enough, like Sentosa it is manufactured. The little pocket on the last night was more my scene, I enjoyed the atmosphere on the street, the food I ate and the beer I drank. 

Overall I found Singapore to be a bit rigid. It has compartmentalised itself it seems, work area, shopping area, drinking area, beauty area. I found no surprises, nothing to make me think "wow, that is so cool". I found nothing offensive, apart from the prices, £7 for a can of beer from a shop! but I didn't find anything particularly exciting either. 

I am sure that I will be back in Singapore from time to time, I won't avoid it, I hope there is plenty more to see and experience. If I have to sum it up though, there is only one word, nice.

I hope that you all enjoyed this episode and look forward to the next one. There has been so much going on as ever. I have built my new website, it is up for all to see at www.duncanlongden.photography, I have 2 great students I am teaching photography too. I have been exploring abandoned places in Taiwan plus much much more....

Be sure to follow my blog, don't forget to share it and be sure to call if you need a photographer in Asia, I am always keen for work.

Until next time, Cheers.....