Best of 2016

 2016 is finally over!

My first shot of 2016 somewhere in the mountains in Hsinchu. 

I don't think I've ever anticipated a year to end as much as I have with this year. I'm pretty sure most people will agree, 2016 was one for the record books in terms of just how absolutely relentless the year was. The final countdown to 2017 seemed as if the world was about to collectively release a sigh of relief! 

Even though a lot of terrible stuff happened in 2016, I prefer to look at the positive!

In 2016, the world tiger population increased, pandas are no longer endangered, we are on the threshold of a cure for HIV, ISIS is on the run, the ozone is repairing itself and the social media ice bucket challenge proved to show that people power works by assisting in identifying the gene that is responsible for ALS! 

It is easy to focus on the negative, but there is so much positive going on behind the scenes that no matter how many memes we see on social media complaining about 2016 being one of the worst in history, it was also a pretty good year! .

On a personal note, the year wasn't so bad for me - I've continued working hard on improving my photography and blogging skills, completed quite a few projects, updated the design of my site and added new features like the blog map and made finding information on the site much more easier than the original design.

In November while driving home one night though, my scooter slipped on some paint on the wet road and I destroyed one of the ligaments in my knee. The injury has slowed me down a little bit and I haven't been able to climb any mountains or travel too far because of it, but the problem seems to be improving, so I look forward to an even busier year in 2017.

This year for my 'best of' round up, I'm going to keep it simple. I'll just be posting five of my personal favourite photos from this year as well as five of the most popular blog posts according to my website analytics.

I hope that 2016 wasn't terrible for you and that the coming year will be a lot better for everyone!

My favourite Photos of 2016

1. Victory, Sweet Victory.

The year started out with one of the most important elections in Taiwan in quite some time - The landslide election victory of President Tsai Ying-Wen (蔡英文) and her Democratic Progressive Party was a direct result of the poor performance of former President Ma Ying Jeou which gave the birth of the popular Sunflower Student movement. The protests crippled the government due to its policies and ushered in a new era of youth-led activism in Taiwan.

2. The Retrospective General

I had made plans for quite some time to get to the City God inspection, an annual temple festival that pretty much shuts down downtown Hsinchu. The weather on the day of the festival however was terrible and my camera and I got absolutely soaked. I was lucky however to get up close and personal with a few of the infernal generals who were taking a break and getting some respite from the rain and they ended up posing for me. My favourite shot however was a more candid shot with one of the generals deep in thought.

3. Shifen Waterfall

Shifen Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall, but unlike most of the waterfalls I visit, it is a major tourist attraction and you have to wade through large groups of tourists to get the kind of shots that I got. I had avoided posting about the waterfall for a while, but over the summer was visiting quite a few waterfalls, so I thought why not? The day I went to the waterfall was beautiful until I set up my tripod to get this shot. The skies opened up and in typical Pingxi fashion the rain that ensued was of Biblical proportions. Despite being a tourist trap, the waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the country and the photos turned out quite well.

4. The "Wilds" of Zhongli

There has been a long running joke with some friends and I that Zhongli, the city I live in is known as the "wilds" due to the fact that it is apparently not as civilized as Taipei. The joke is based on a condescending comment made by an expat living in Taipei who had to suffer through a visit to Zhongli for work. The shot however was taken from the roof of an old building next to the Zhongli Train Station. I set my tripod up on the corner of the building and took several long exposure shots to capture the motion of the traffic going around the rotary and the trains coming in and out of the station.

5. Taipei Sunset

By now these shots of Taipei 101 from the famous Elephant Mountain have become synonymous with pictures of the city. There are so many photos from this vantage point that it has pretty much become cliche - yet also one of the few shots of Taiwan that is always going to be bought by someone. I add this shot in my list because it will be the last time you'll see a shot of the Taipei skyline like thiswith Taipei 101 rising above the rest of the crowd. Why the last time? The Nanshan Plaza, a 272m tall 45F skyscraper is set to be complete in the next year or so and its height has already started to ruin people's shots.

Here are a few extra shots from this year that I'm also quite fond of:

Top Instagram Posts of 2016

Leading up to Taiwan's Presidential Election in January I posted a quick blog using old photos which I thought were representative of Taiwan's history and democracy with information about the development of democracy in Taiwan and why the election would be an important one. I followed up that post with coverage from Election Day and the victory celebration at the DPP headquarters of President-Elect Tsai Ying-Wen. The posts proved to be quite popular overseas with people who were trying to understand what was happening. Taking part in the victory celebration with thousands of cheering Taiwanese people around me was an experience that I'll never forget and hope that the new president makes good on her promises in the years to come. 

2. Teapot Mountain (茶壺山)

The Teapot Mountain hiking trail is one of the most beautiful scenic spots on Taiwan's North East Coast. The hike is quite easy to complete making it accessible to pretty much everyone but is one of those special hikes in Taiwan that pays off with exceptional scenery.

3. Huang Di Dian (皇帝殿)

The Huang Di Dian hike was another one of my most popular posts this year. I'm guessing that the interest in this post is due to the fact that there isn't much English information about the hike available online. The hike is a fun one and also a beautiful one, but is not for the faint of heart as you walk along a very steep ridge on more than a few occasions. It's now one of my favourite day hikes and I hope to get back in the near future!

4. Neiwan (內灣老街)

The historic village of Neiwan is one of my favourite places to visit when I have no other plans. The village acts as a gateway to the home of Hsinchu's aboriginal villages in Jianshi (尖石). The village has a popular Hakka "old street" that brings in thousands of tourists each and every weekend. The small village nestled in the mountains has a nostalgic feeling of "old Taiwan" and the rail line that brings people from Hsinchu into the village makes it an even more popular tourist spot for both domestic and foreign tourists!

5. Nanjichang Community (南機場社區) 

Early in the year I took part in a photography event held by a Taipei community that wanted both Taiwanese and foreign photographers to descend upon the historic military village to take photos which could help preserve the memory of the village and create awareness about the plight the community faces as it faces ultimate destruction. A few of the photos I took were donated to the community which used them in an Art Gallery and were published in a book that would be used to promote the community in an attempt to help it survive. The blog post I wrote about the village proved popular and I hope that I was able to help out in my capacity as a photographer and foreign blogger.