Best of 2015

It's that time of year again, time for a round up of the best of 2015!

Before I start though, I hope every one had a great New Year celebration! Here is my very first shot of 2016 with some beautiful 2016 light! It's not a great shot, but its the first click of my shutter this year! 

The first shot of 2016!

I don't know if I'm the only one who feels like this but the strange thing about 2015 is how it seemed to fly by - I've been extremely busy all year working, travelling and having fun. We’ve had a pretty good year here in Taiwan weather-wise (save for a couple super-typhoons) and that helped out a lot with a lot of what I do as a photographer.

It's been a successful year as far as work goes but what I'm most proud of is how I've kept busy and continued getting my name out there. One of the things I wrote last year during my  round up was that I hoped I could do a better job promoting myself. I've been more successful in that area and I've received quite a few contracts and a lot of attention thanks to this site and I hope that I’ll be able to continue that in 2016! 

When I did my roundup for 2014, my website was only a few months old and didn't have the following that it has now - I was new to the whole experience of blogging and promoting myself in this way. I’ve changed quite a bit about how I blog over the past year and have been refining things in an attempt to find the best way to present information to people.

One of the things I've been proud of this year is how I've been able to use my blog to not only show off new work, but also show off Taiwan to the world. When I look at website metrics I'm happy to see that while I have a regular following among people in Taiwan, I get just as many hits from Singapore, North America and European countries. The reason that I am proud of this is because I can see my website is being used by people who don't always have proper English language resources to learn about Taiwan. 

This year I'm going to do my round up a bit different than last year. I'm going to focus on website metrics for the entire year, social media interaction and end it with some of my personal favourites. I'm also going to provide links for everything so that you can see the blogs where the photos came from and see some of the activity on them.

Before I start, I should mention that I was interviewed a few weeks ago by Steven Crook, a popular Taiwan blogger and the author of the Taiwan Bradt Travel Guide, if you're interested check it out here: Part 1 / Part 2.  

1. Sakura at Tian Yuan Temple

The first shots I'm going to share are of cherry blossoms at Danshui’s Tian-Yuan Temple (天元宮.) I hadn't gone up to see the sakura at the temple for a year or two but I was really happy with the experience and the shots I came home with were really nice. One of the shots was quickly sold to a private buyer, another won a photo competition with the Taiwan Tourism Authority and another earned over 1000 likes on Google+ alone.

Blog | Flickr Set | Google+

2. People of the Night Market

Early in the year I planned a photo project that would have me shooting street photography shots of local vendors at night markets around the country. The idea was simple and some people thought that shooting this kind of thing at a night market was a mediocre idea but I used the photos to tell a story and explain things in detail which was very well received. I covered quite a few night markets while working on the project and even travelled to some places I hadn't been before. The project was successful and I had fun doing it but I eventually felt that there was a bit of overload and decided to take a break. I still haven't finished posting completed work and I will probably post a few more night markets in the new year.

Blog | Flickr Set

3. Qingshui Cliffs

I visited the beautiful Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖) early in the summer and the blog post that went with the shots was quite popular on social media. The cliffs are one of Taiwan's most iconic landscapes and any time someone posts a shot there is some awe involved. The cliffs are absolutely beautiful and the east coast as a whole is a place that I need to spend much more time exploring! (Plans for the New Year!)

Blog | Flickr Set

4. Tbsagan Mgmgi or Mugumuyu?

On my second trip to Hualien I made my way to Mugumuyu (慕谷慕魚) a place that I had wanted to visit for a long time. I lugged a bunch of camera gear up into the mountains and planned some long-exposure shots of the beautiful scenery. The post was relatively popular but I made a debatable mistake by honouring Taiwan's Indigenous people and naming my post “Tbsagan Mgmgi” (Atayal language) rather than the more recognizable “Mugumuyu.” The individual shots however were quite popular on social media and I fell in love with the place! 

Blog | Flickr Set

5. Tiger Lilies at Chi ke Mountain

The most surprising thing that happened all year was my post about the Tiger Lilies in southern Hualien county. I made a short (somewhat frustrated) post on my blog with a few shots of a mountain filled with tiger lilies. I expected my mom to love the shots and everybody else to ignore it. For the most part my prediction was spot on until the post exploded on Tumblr and was reblogged and re-shared over six hundred times. I'm still getting several notifications about the post today and it's months later.

Blog | Flickr Set | Tumblr

6. Pigs of God

I covered a few temple festivals this year and was quite busy running back and forth during ghost month – Living in a predominantly Hakka area of the country I was lucky to be able to easily attend the controversial “Pigs of God” ritual. The ritual put on during Ghost Month is a bit different in scale than the annual one that happened at the Qingshui Zushi Temple in Sanxia but the basic premise of having giant pigs slaughtered and put on display remains the same. The post was popular and the shots were a bit of an eye-opener for people who didn’t know much about this cultural tradition apart from the controversy. 

Blog | Flickr Set

7. Papa's Secret Lover

One of my most popular blog posts of the year was a one about a local Hakka restaurant that has been the favourite of the expat community in the area for decades. I planned the post simply as an ode to those people who I've known during my decade of living in this country and to offer a bit of nostalgia for their days in Taiwan. I could never have imagined that the post would become so popular nor did I realize just how special that restaurant has been to the people who have come and gone. I was happy to give a little back to the people who made my Taiwan experience more interesting and I'm glad it was so well received.

Blog | Flickr Set

8. Some of my favourites

2016 is going to be a big year for Taiwan - On January 16th the country will hold both its Presidential and Legislative elections in what polling is looking to be a complete and utter defeat for the ruling Kuomintang Nationalist Party, which has ruled the country for the past eight years. Things are looking like they are going to change pretty drastically over the next few months and hopefully they will be changing for the better. Taiwan looks like it will elect its first female president and it looks like legislation to change the definition of marriage is on the books! Things are looking up, but it is important to remember the political polarization that is always on display in this county and that is the reason I took this photo as politics in Taiwan is either blue or green. 

Above are a few photos from the year that I was personally quite fond of. I think this post is running a bit long, so I won't go in detail about why I like them so much. I'll just leave them there and hope you appreciate them as well! 

Happy New Year and I hope 2016 will be a good one for everyone!