Taiwan Blog Awards Winners - A Taiwanderful interview with photographer Neil Wade

 2010 Taiwan blog awards

Neil Wade

Neil Wade won the peer-judged vote for best overall blog and best photography blog in the 2010 Taiwan Best Blog Awards. His blog features his photography as well as reports on travel in Taiwan and elsewhere. Neil also won the best photography blog in the  2009 Taiwan Blog Awards. You can read Taiwanderful's previous interview with Neil here

Blogs – Neil Wade’s Photography Blog and NeilWade.com

Years in Taiwan – 5.5

Years blogging - 2

Blogging platform –WordPress.com

Country of Origin - USA

Age – Older than I feel! :D

Twitter @neilwade (I think, read below)

Your blog includes a lot of photos of hiking trips in Taiwan. What are some of your favorite hikes?

That’s a tough one because they all seem to have their merits. I think it would be best to break it down into three categories: overnighters, day-trippers, and exercisers.

My favorite overnighter is a fairly easy one called Jialuo Hu 加羅湖, near Yilan 宜蘭. It’s a steep three-hour hike through a fantasy-like forest, filled with ferns and mossy thousand-year-old trees. The camping site is a grassy field next to a small mountain lake, under an unbelievably starry sky.

My favorite day-tripper would probably be any of the short hikes around Pingxi 平溪. All the trails there are well marked and the trailheads are relatively easy to find, so it’s a good area for people to start exploring the mountains of Taiwan. They will be rewarded with luscious fern and bamboo forests in a unique geological setting.

The “exerciser” I was talking about is my beloved Four Beast Mountains 四獸山. They are a trail system found within Taipei city limits, just to the southeast of Taipei 101. They are lit 24 hours a day so I often go hiking around them at night to beat the heat of the city and get some exercise in the fresh air.

Is it a hassle to take your camera gear on long hikes? Do you have any advice about the best way to manage your equipment in the cold and or wet conditions you encounter?

Truthfully, it can be a hassle. I’m often jealous of my hiking partners who get to carry 15kg less gear than me! But of course, it’s always usually worth the extra effort. We’ve also found that it can keep you from getting bored after the sun sets. We’ll practice different kinds of light painting and star exposures until late in the night.

The weather in Taiwan doesn’t get anywhere near cold enough to effect camera gear, even at high altitudes, but the wet weather can be a big problem. I always carry rain covers for all my bags and put anything particularly sensitive in a waterproof dry-bag. That said, my camera gear doesn’t get put away unless it’s really a torrential downpour. The professional equipment that I use can get quite wet without having a problem. The most important thing to remember is to get it dry when I get back home. I’ll wipe everything down with a clean cloth then put it all in a dehumidifying cabinet. The best advice I can give anyone living in Taiwan is to keep their photo gear in one of those cabinets, whether they are hiking or not, all the humidity in Taiwan will cause fungus or mold to grow in your equipment sooner or later.

I have also noticed that you often take photos of skateboarding and BMX. Do you practice these sports yourself or is your involvement just on the photography side?

I’ve been a skateboarder for almost 25 years! I still skate once a week month or so. Actually, the first photo I ever had published was in a skateboarding magazine called “Thrasher” when I was 16. I spent many years doing freelance work for several skateboarding magazines when I was in the states, and now just take photos of my friends when they’re feeling inspired.

What kind of opportunities have you had to photograph professionally in Taiwan?

Taiwan is a tough place to be a photographer… Actually, everywhere is a tough place to be a photographer, but being a foreigner in a foreign land makes it even harder. When I first came here, I had quite a few opportunities to do travel assignments for various magazines, but those assignments are now being filled with stock images from the big agencies or being done by “semi-pro” photographers for almost no money at all. My work has expanded into corporate photography, centered mostly around corporate portraiture. I still love to do travel photography, but now it’s usually just to promote the things that I love to do in Taiwan on my blog.

Do you think using Facebook and Twitter complements your blogging?

I haven’t looked at Twitter in over a year. I just don’t get it. I think I still have automatic posts there, but I honestly couldn’t care less. Facebook… I like. It’s a great tool for organizing hiking trips (or anything else) with my friends and seeing interesting links that people have found. I have a “Neil Wade Photography Fan Page” that I use as a sub-blog to post photos that I don’t quite think are blog or portfolio worthy, or I want get feedback from peers. I have an album there called “Critique Me” that I’ve gotten great advice from viewers about images that I’m unsure of (haven’t posted one in a while but I want to make it more active soon.)

What are some of your favorite Taiwan blogs?

Two of my hiking partners have fantastic blogs with lots of information on Taiwan: Hiking Taiwan and Taiwan Stories.

I also really like:

Wandering Taiwan
The Daily Bubble Tea
David on Formosa