Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My 28mm Journey of Taiwan

Recently, I rewarded myself with a trip to Taiwan – a land full of nice scenery, food, and people. There is nothing better than travelling with your love one. 

The Gears

First I would like to talk a little bit about my gears. For those who only interested with the photos, you may skip this section. In summary to my setup, all my videos and photos were 28mm!
That's all I bring to the trip. + Fuji Instax as well!
I would like to carry my DSLR with couple lenses together with my tripod because I have plan to capture long exposure landscapes, portraits and some nice street photography. However, all these gears for me to bring would weight me down, like a lot! So, by just bringing the X100S is the answer? Yes and No. The last time I was in Bangkok I’m travelling with the same setup. Although it gave me great images, but at a certain point I wish it was wider. You don’t always have few more step backwards flexibility. As a result, the composition only consist of the person face, without the background to tell the place.

Long before the trip I was researching on the X100 series add-on, the WCL-X100 wide angle converter. It convert the X100s 35mm field of view to 28mm. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but in practice, it really matter. I get a used unit for about RM600 and now it is permanently on my X100S body.
However, here come the new problem. The on-camera flash would get obscure due to the additional section of the wide angle converter in front of it. I could have get the Fuji flash for ttl and better looks but they are too expensive, and less powerful too. So, I just bring along my YongNuo 560 flash that works well with X100S (but only in manual mode). Although it looks funny and the weight ratio is top heavy, but I don’t really have a choice for some fill-flash scenario. I only pop the flash on when only necessary.

Next is extra batteries and memory cards. All of it! I shoot only jpeg because I’m lazy to process the photos and I can fill more photos in each card compared to just RAW. Oh, the bag fits one Fuji Instax as well!

The Trip

Once we arrived at the airport, we get the sim pack from their service centre. Only at here, you get the bonus NT100 credits! Then we depart to TaiChung, via their high speed train. The train ride only takes about 40 minutes! Then our adventure begins~
Departing from Taoyuan to Taichung

逢甲夜市 (Feng Jia Night Market)
The happening night market (even in weekdays) is flooded with foods and people. Even though it is difficult to find rubbish bin, the streets are free from it. The cars and motorbikes will gives priority to pedestrian crossing.
The street is busy even on weekdays
Another culture I notice is their passion to keep dogs as pet. You can see many dogs accompany their master to the streets.
Nicely groom dog accompany the owner to the street

彩虹眷村 (The Rainbow Village)
This place used to be an army residence that were meant to be demolished. There was one man, also known as 彩虹爷爷 – 93 years old, decided to paint the whole village with colorful paintings in order to raise awareness for historical site preservation and prevent the government from demolish the place.
The whole village was hand painted by one man
Drawing such as artists, politician, and even sportsman are all over the walls on the surviving house which is still lives by 12 families.  Obviously, this strategy works. Right now, he wakes up 3am every morning to maintain the paintings and it has become one of the must visit place around Tai Chung area.
The rainbow grandpa - 93 years old
There are still 12 families live in the village
Besides selling some merchandise such as postcards, key chain, t-shirt, there are also one man with Iron-Man mask distributing postcards for free and you are allowed to take photos with him! “Don’t give up your dream!” He said that after taking photo together with me.
"I got the power..."
The walls always have to be repainted, all done alone by the old man
From the entrance
The view is simply stunning...
The garden is planting different flowers according to season. Right now, the garden is full of red tulip. Colorful flower combine with nice decoration offer plenty of photo opportunity. I was never been so overwhelmed by flowers before. Being there is simply breath taking.
Red tulips blooming
Immersed in a sea of flowers
Close Up
薰衣草森林 (Lavender Garden)
Lavender fields
Taking photos in front of a giant mirror while having lavender ice-cream
The place is hidden away from the city, you should hired a driver to get there. The place is nicely decorated, equipped with restaurant, café and even market that sells lavender related products such as soups, aroma therapy essence and even lavender ice cream. It has a carousel even adult can ride to bring back your childhood memories. At the end, we wrote a postcard which was the entrance ticket and they will post it back to us.
They post the postcard for free
Carousal in action... 
The colorful wonderland
The child is curious about the giant color pencils!

日月潭 (Sun Moon Lake)

The fishing net boat
Sun Moon Lake is a fresh water lake that is more than 2,000 ft. from sea level. The weather here is windy and cooling throughout the season. The 2 main town around the lake are 水社 and 伊達邵. There are plenty of home stay around the area. We only managed to go for the boat tour.
Town of Shueishe
The taiwanese sausage is a common street food
There are cable cars connecting the lake with Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village theme park area. The view here is nice but is more for relax area as the place is quiet after dark.
The street went quiet as the sun goes down
Trying the "pigs blood cake"
小瑞士花园 (Swiss Garden)
Overall view on the Swiss Garden
High up in the mountain, the garden also offer plenty of decorations for photo opportunity. However, the garden is quite small, and going once is more than enough.
nice ambient
wooden giraffe
Into the woods
清境农场(CingJing Veterans Farm)
The show begin
This place is so overrated and can be considered as one of the most visited place in Taiwan. Since we are in winter season, the farm grass is not green and the place is pack with tourist. The sheep show is talking more than the sheep itself. At the end, we don’t bother to went to the Horse/cowboy show. Regardless, I can imagine how the place used to be beautiful and peaceful serenity.
The blossom plant is everywhere
wooden windmill

合欢山 (武嶺)
panoramic view
While on our way to Hualien, we pass by the peak know as 合欢山 (武嶺). 3275 ft. above sea level, if you are lucky you can see snow at this area. We only can see icicle there. Temperature there is 4 degree Celsius and it was seriously cold as we are under-dress.
icicle sword
It's really cold for me and the x100s too I guess

太鲁阁国家公园 (Taruko National Park)
The iconic tourist shot
After that, we slowly descend to the Taruko National Park area which consists of several spot such as 燕子口, 白陽, 宁安桥 and others.
huge bedrock
The bridge over the Tianxiang town
While this place is famous for the beach (七星潭), we could not have chance to be there. First the weather is against us. We start experiencing rain during our trip. As we no longer hired driver for the rest of our trip, it make sense that we stay near the train station where we will travel to Taipei the next morning. The homestay do provide the bicycles for us but the seats were not comfortable. Since the beach is 6km away from the homestay, we only manage to hang around the town and the night market there for dinner. The next morning, we pack and leave for Taipei, a 2 hours journey on their fastest train – The Puyuma Train type.
The streets of Hualien
queueing for the famous bun
The Puyuma train type
十分 (ShiFen)
Shifen train station
This place become popular after the movie 那些年 (You are the apple of my eye). It’s the place where you write you wishes on KongMing Lantern and let it fly to the sky. There is a waterfall about 25-30 mins walking distance from the train station. After the tiring walk, the view of the waterfall is magnificent. We were there after the rain, so the waterfall flow vigorously. The sky is raining lightly and the water vapor from the waterfall constantly covered my camera and I have to wipe and cover it while shooting and holding umbrella at the same time! I would say this is the best landscape shot I have made on this trip.
Heavily decorated signboard
1,2,3, and let it go~
posing on the railway
The famous Shifen waterfall
Thigh streets and nice decor
This place is high up on the hill overseeing the Shenao Port. The streets around there are narrow and full of tourist. Not to mention the rain is getting heavier and navigating through the streets has become an issue. At this very moment, I get to know from the TV that TransAsia airplane has crashed. The vendors around that area start having discussion while watching the news.
Having a hot dessert in rainy weather
The iconic street view

The mighty 101
As the capitol of the country, it is nothing other than any place. The city is very organize and clean. They have very complete public transport infrastructure for metro and buses for instance. We get to places such as 九份 and 十分easily. The iconic building of the city is the Taipei 101. Being the second tallest building now, it’s the cliché that you cannot missed.
blossom close-up
After the trip ...

I have to point out few things about the camera equipment that I have brought with me. The lightweight X100S did not weight me down. However, the camera has its limitation. First, the autofocus is not consistent. Most of the time during backlit situation, where you just have to give up. Next, with the absence of optical low pass filter, I do see moiré in some of the images, but more on the video. The rolling shutter effect is even worst. However, this is not a do-it-all camera. I did not expect it to perform on the video aspect. Just point it out for those who considering this to be a perfect camera. The rewarding part of it is I don’t have to think about changing lens, focal length, setting up tripod, or choosing ISO (I use auto-iso quite often). You just need to focus more on composition, lighting that all matters. Being in the trip, the worst thing you can have is to fiddling too much on the camera where you should have been enjoying the moments. Sometime, you just have to hide the camera side of you.

The most important part is I enjoyed every bit of the moment there. The purpose of travelling is to being there, to learn and experience their culture and ambient. Lastly, enjoy a simple montage that I have prepared. Thank you for reading.