So back to the trip in Taiwan.
With three weeks to travel, there really wasn’t anywhere I couldn’t get to. To this end, I somehow managed to drive 3800km around the island. When most roads (non freeway) are limited to 60km/h or less, that’s quite a bit of time spent in the car. Since I’ve been to Taiwan before, I already knew some of the places I wanted to visit – there was the view over Taipei showing the iconic Taipei 101, the beaches of Hualien county, the rock formations of the North East Coast and the mountainous region all along the East Coast.
I started my journey by heading South. Jinglongshan, a little north of Sun Moon Lake was my first stop. I’d been here before and knew it offered a good possibility of sunrise from the top viewpoint. I pitched my tent at the top viewpoint and bedded down for the night. At around 3am the alarm sounded and I lazily dragged myself out of my slumber – jet lag should have made it easy to get up at that time, but I think the heat and the long drive hadn’t helped and I was wiped out. I started to setup but quickly realized that actually it wasn’t going to be such a great sunrise looking into the sun and instead I’d be better heading to the other side of the hill and waiting for the sun to rise across the tea plantation. This is one of the important things in photography – you have a plan, but you shouldn’t be afraid to modify the plan if you can see it’s not going to work out.
After Jinlongshan I continued south and over the following days found myself traveling around Kaohsiung and Kenting down in the deep south of the Island. The south is characterized by beaches around the fringe and forests in the middle, so a nicely varied environment to explore.
On the south west I found it was really quite busy – it’s a popular tourist destination for Tawianese because of the good weather and sandy beaches. But that’s not what I primarily look for – I prefer the less populated, less visited areas. Heading to the east coast, indeed it was much quieter. I stopped at Longpan for sunrise one morning, having scouted it out the evening before. It’s not a long drive from Kenting so I assumed it would be busy – it’s such a beautiful view that many flock there to watch the sun bring in the day by cresting the horizon. I therefore planned to get there nice and early. I usually aim to be on location and mostly ready to shoot an hour before the sun is due up. This gives time to capture the, often more interesting, pre-dawn colors in the sky. My prior planning proved a wise move – I was all set up and then gradually as sunrise approached people started appearing from all directions. What amazed me though, was that as soon as the sun had crested the horizon they began to drift away, firstly in ones and twos and almost like a great exodus. And I was left alone, staring out to the ocean, wondering why they’d left when there was still so much beauty to be seen…and captured.
Gradually I worked my way back up the North, traveling along the East Coast road, right next to the Pacific Ocean, crossing the tropic of Cancer as I went. The following weeks saw me take in the beaches of Hualien, the majestic splendor of Taroko gorge and the thin air of Hehuanshan, where I camped for a night to shoot sunrise over the mountains.
Hiking up to 3422m to camp, in air that only has around 67% of the oxygen content at sea level, is certainly a challenge, especially carrying all your own sleeping kit. But the views at sunrise make the struggle and strain worth it.
In all the travel, in the tropics, up the top of mountains, in a hot air balloon and despite a major typhoon, the HTC 10 never skipped a beat. I have been highly impressed with the image quality and having now seen some of the images printed really quite large, they hold up very well – just like having a high end compact camera with you at all times. The combination of internal SanDisk iNAND and a removable 200GB microSD card was a potent combination too. Performance, capacity, durability and convenience makes for a pleasant user experience and frees you up to capture the scene rather than worry about technology.
All in all, it was a truly EPIC adventure around a country that more westerners really should put on their travel planner, accompanied by a smartphone that allowed me to capture the beauty of the island.