2017 in Review

In preparation for this blog post, I went back to the previous years post to see how I was feeling at the end of 2016 - Interestingly quite a few of us it seems were screaming for the year to end hoping that 2017 would bring better fortune. We however we pretty much screwed on that one though. This year turned out to be one for the record books in terms of just how horrible it was for everyone.

Between all of the abhorrent stupidity coming out of the White House, mass shootings, bombings, natural disasters, celebrity deaths, etc. It’s been a year that people will probably look back on and hope to forget as soon as possible.

Living here in Taiwan can be a bit difficult sometimes when I think of all the stuff happening back home in North America. Something that most people don’t realize is that whenever anything happens, be it a mass shooting, a concert bombing, or whatever the massacre of the day is, it is always the first thing I wake up to.

Constantly waking up to bad news is a bit hard on the old heart, so I’ve started to change my habits. Something I’ve had to change in 2017 is that I no longer reach for my phone when I wake up in the morning. I make sure to wake up, have breakfast, play with my dog and drink some tea before even looking at anything happening in the world.

Another thing I’ve learned this year is that while social media is extremely helpful for what I do as a photographer and blogger, its certainly turned into a different kind of monster. People are constantly arguing, they get offended over every little thing and they even sue each other over frivolous little things. It’s tiresome. After having my first experience with a troll and being constantly harassed, I decided it was time to rethink how I approach social media and that has resulted in me pretty much removing myself from it in quite a few ways.

I usually don’t talk very much about my personal life, but its been a weird year for me with a lot of changes that I wasn’t really expecting to happen. The last few months too have been a bit trying with a bunch of stupid uncontrollable things happening. I’m starting the new year out however with a nice month-long trip to Europe where I’ll be visiting several countries and reacquainting myself with being fully immersed in an English environment!

On a positive note, not everything has been terrible - I’ve kept up my productivity travelling all around the country taking photos. As a photographer it was another successful one with a couple of successful Photo Exhibitions (Taoyuan, Taipei), lots of sales and a dream come true - selling a photo to National Geographic!

One of my personal projects this year was to visit as many buildings left over from Taiwan’s Japanese Colonial Era and take photos and write about them. This project had me travelling all over the place and has allowed me to learn so much about Taiwan’s modern history. I’ll continue the project in the new year as I still have quite a few places on my list to visit.

As for 2018, I plan to spend more time on the road - My January trip to London and Rome is the first of what I hope to be a year of travelling as I plan to make it back to Canada and also to Scotland and Iceland as well. I’m staying positive and hoping that 2018 will turn out to be a much better year and that the world will get out of this slump that its currently in.

Let’s get back to using our brains and our hearts. Respect and have compassion for one another. Let’s not keep going down this destructive path with identity politics and taking offence to every little thing. 

 Favourite Photos of 2017

1. Taipei flanked by Mountains

This shot of Taipei’s Hsinyi District (信義區) is one of my favourite shots of the year. There are many mountain vistas in Taipei where you can take beautiful photos of Taipei but this one from Jinmian Mountain in Neihu (內湖) is one of my favourite thanks to the layers of mountains flanking beautiful Taipei City. 

2. Birds flying at Huguo Rinzai Temple

This shot was a bit of an accidental one but turned out to be one of my favourite shots of the year. I was at the Huguo Rinzai Temple trying to take photos of the Bell Tower but my shots kept getting messed up by all the pigeons which were hanging out on the roof. A friend I was with clapped really loud and the birds automatically reacted and this was the result.

3. Flags in Longgang

Longgang (龍岡) is a culturally and historically important area here in Zhongli where I live. The area is full of army bases and is quite patriotic as things go. This shot was taken before the National Day celebrations when the community put thousands of ROC flags on display. I’ll be posting a series of blogs about the area in the new year which should be quite interesting!

4. Lee Teng-Fang Courtyard

This shot isn’t really that special and there is a lot that I could have done to fix it, I enjoy shots like this with specific lines and shapes which is why it won me over. The Lee Teng-Fang Mansion re-opened to the public earlier this year after what seemed liked years of being closed. The historic mansion near Daxi Old Street is a beautiful example of traditional Hakka architecture and its restoration project is a testament to the local Taoyuan government’s dedication in restoring many of Taoyuan’s historic properties.

5. Sunset at Dadaocheng

I spent quite a bit of time in Taipei’s historic Dadaocheng area over the summer preparing for the Dadaocheng Photo Exhibition that I collaborated in. On one of the days that I was in the area taking photos I decided to stop over at the wharf to take photos of the sunset and was lucky enough to experience one of the most colourful sunsets I’ve seen in quite a while.

 Top Instagram Posts of 2017


Top Blog Posts of 2017

1. Sakura Guide / Sakura at Tian Yuan Temple

Something I did this year was put together a map of places where people could find sakura cherry blossoms blooming around Taiwan. I spent quite a few hours compiling information and adding pins to the map to achieve the results I wanted. The completed map was used extensively by locals and foreigners-alike and even made it into the news. In conjunction with my post about the cherry blossoms at Tian Yuan Temple in Taipei, these two posts ended up being the most highly visited of the year.

2. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂)

My post about the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall featured photos of the highly visited Memorial Hall but I couldn’t really write a typical ‘travel article’ when it came to this place. Most articles you’ll see online glaze over the troubled history of what happened here in Taiwan over the past half century and focus more on the immense scale and beauty of the park. I feel that I offered visitors a more balanced approach with the good and the bad and gave hope for a future where transitional justice will turn this beautiful park into something more representative of the Taiwan of today!

3. Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖)

My post about the beautiful Qingshui Cliffs wasn’t actually even posted in 2017, but this post continues to be one of the most highly visited posts on my website. I hope that I can make a return visit sometime this year to get some new photos of the new pathway that was recently completed!

4. Jinmian Mountain (金面山)

Normally my mountain posts don’t get that much traffic, but this one turned out to be a bit different thanks to the power of social media. This mountain went a bit viral on Instagram earlier this year and posting this blog when I did ensured that all the people wanting to know how to get there had the proper information. Some of my favourite shots of the year came from this beautiful little hike, so if you haven’t tried it, make sure to visit.

5. Mugumuyu (慕谷慕魚)

One of my most popular posts continues to be my post about Hualien’s serene Mugumuyu. This post is not only one that attracts a lot of traffic but also quite a few inquiries from viewers. The beautiful area has been closed to the public for quite a while due to typhoon and environmental damage but hopefully it’ll open up again soon. I didn’t post this blog in 2017, but it continues to gain more and more attention due to the fact that there are very few resources online in English that help travellers.