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Taiwan Through the Lense
Long forgotten, the tiny island of Taiwan is a photographic paradise just waiting to be experienced through the lens. One of the world's most densely populated "countries", yet nearly 60% forested, ultra-modern, but steeped in tradition, Taiwan presents contrasts at every turn. On the west coast Chinese cultural traditions and architecture still seem oddly comfortable in an ultra-modern world, but the remaining two-thirds of the island remain largely untouched, home to less than 10% of the population. In the center of the island mountains soar to nearly 4000m and then to the east, towering cliffs drop down through gaping gorges to beautiful beaches and the tumultuous deep-blue swell of the Pacific. Scenic splendors aside, it is the diverse people of this island who add vibrant life and color to our journey and we will have ample opportunity to interact with locals, from temple fortune-tellers to Hakka farmers and aboriginal tribespeople.
Our photographic odyssey will be accompanied by acclaimed author and photographer Alex Robinson (www.alexrobinsonphotography.co.uk). Alex is a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers and Photographers and was recently voted a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and his work has featured in the New York Times, the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Wanderlust, Marie Claire, and Cadogan, Dorling Kindersley, Footprints and Rough Guides guidebooks to name but a few! Alex is as passionate about Taiwan as he is about photography and during the course of the trip he will instruct on a series of themes to help you get the most from your camera in this diverse destination. He'll also be on hand to help you with one to one tuition throughout and no matter what your start-up level you will return home with some fabulous images. Plus you will have the know-how to take great travel shots the next time you go away. An experienced Bamboo Trails tour leader will ensure that we get to the best spots at the right time, and facilitate in communicating with the locals.
Days 1-3 – Taipei
We begin our journey in the cosmopolitan capital of Taiwan where we will meet and get to know each other over dinner. Rising early to capture Taipei's in its best light, we will explore both the old and the new in a city that is ever changing, from the magnificent Taipei 101 to intriguing temples and bustling night markets. We will also venture to Taipei's outer districts, rich with otherworldly geological formations and steaming fumeroles.
- Basics of Photography – composition, aperture, exposure and film speed,
- Every picture tells a story (street photography – how to capture the perfect moment)
- Buildings – how to take dramatic exteriors and interiors
- The Golden Hour (how to take fabulous cityscapes at night)
Day 4 – Alishan
Today we will take the high-speed-rail from Taipei to Chiayi from where will drive up into the Central Mountains to the beautiful village of Alishan, set amidst scenery fresh from a Chinese landscape painting. Mist swirls between giant cypresses and craggy peaks, affording photographic opportunities at every turn.
- Landscapes and Depth (creating depth using leading lines and vanishing points)
Day 5 – Sun Moon Lake
We'll be up early this morning for a sunrise train journey to (hopefully) capture the stunning sea of clouds for which Alishan is famous. Then it's a gorgeous drive across the mountains to alpine Sun Moon Lake, a glistening jewel surrounded by teafields, betel nut palms, temples and pagodas. In the afternoon we'll take a boat ride on the lake to shoot the scenery from the water.
- Landscapes and Light 1 (taking wonderful landscapes, with specific focus on the soft pre-dawn light and evening light, the golden dawn and sunset and on composition using the golden section and the rule of three)
Days 6 - 7 – Taroko
After a sunrise trip to Wenwu Temple overlooking the lake we'll drive one of Asia's most thrilling roads, the awe inspiring Central Cross Island Highway, which rises to over 3000m on its route to Taroko and the world's deepest marble gorge. Taroko lives up to the hype and the sheer scale of the gorge, and the contrasts of light present photographic challenges aplenty. We'll have ample opportunity to capture the gorge from all angles during our time here.
- Landscapes and Light 2 (how to get fabulous landscapes under any conditions, with specific focus on depth of field and on context and contrast in composition, and the creative use of exposure)
Day 8 – Guangfu
Today we'll take one last drive through the gorge on our way south into the spectacular East Rift Valley, a land of lush rice paddies dotted with small aboriginal farming communities. We'll spend the night in simple surrounds at a picturesque Ami village near Guangfu, and will have the chance to experience and photograph rural life up close and personal.
- People and Portraits 1 (how to take great spontaneous portraits in context and close-up)
Day 9 – Zhiben
Taiwan's tectonic past gives rise to over a hundred hot springs scattered throughout the island and Zhiben, established by the Japanese, is deservedly the most famous. Our beautiful resort affords the perfect backdrop for some great hot spring photography, and when it all gets too much you can take a well-earned therapeutic soak. We'll also take a forest hike in Zhiben National Park, home to magnificent banyans, tempestuous waterfalls, a huge variety of multi-colored insects and boisterous troupes of Taiwanese macaques.
- People and Portraits 2 (how to conceive and create your own shot using a model)
- Nature in Context (Photographing Wildlife)
Day 10 – Meinong
Today we get one last look at the east coast's magnificent oceanscapes before crossing the southern mountains to emerge at the bustling west coast fishing town of Donggang. Here we'll explore one of Taiwan's liveliest fish markets and have the chance to sample and shoot super-fresh sashimi. The day ends in the Hakka settlement of Meinong, where we will take a short bike ride to capture the pristine pastoral environment, passing centuries-old Hakka farm dwellings nestled beneath towering hillsides of gently swaying bamboo.
- Seascapes (how to take fabulous shots of water)
- Food Photography
Days 11 - 12 – Tainan
Our final destination, Tainan, is perfectly suited to honing the skills developed on our photographic journey. The former capital's lively temples and markets, colonial architecture and traditional artisans all vie for your attention, but it may well be that Tainan's delicious streetsnacks end up stealing the show! We'll have a full day to explore the city's manifold treasures, and then on our last night together we'll enjoy a banquet of local specialties.
• Architecture (exteriors and interiors)
• Review (looking at what we've learnt and seeing how our pictures have improved)
Day 13 – Tour ends
The tour ends after breakfast. Tainan is only 90 minutes from Taipei by high-speed-rail, or 1 hour from Kaohsiung International Airport.