Poetic divination in Bailong’an

Frequently Asked Questions

This page features answers to frequently asked questions, an age-old internet tradition that continues to have value in the present day. I’m not making these up either—people really do ask me these questions often enough to warrant writing out a bunch of boilerplate responses!

How do you find all these places?
In short: boundless curiosity, hard work, and dumb luck. When I was new in Taiwan 台灣 I found many interesting places simply by riding my bike around and chancing upon something at random. As I grew more familiar with local culture and history I began to appreciate the variety of places I might encounter, sharpening my powers of observation while in the field. Writing this blog has also been very educational; I’ve had to become proficient in conducting research across a language barrier, and there’s always more to learn once you get started. Ask a simple question like “why is this old bridge here” and the answer probably leads to more avenues of research to pursue. I’ve also ransacked blogs, government web sites, Facebook groups, and message forums for leads, often while chasing some oblique reference that piqued my curiosity. Finally, I receive tips from friends and readers of the blog, which are always appreciated (please feel free to drop me a line if you know something I don’t). All relevant information is gathered into a treasure map for future reference in planning expeditions and publishing my findings.

Why movie theaters?
I stumbled into documenting the many old movie theaters of Taiwan after writing up my exploration of Datong Theater in Taitung City 台東市. An article I referenced in that post mentioned that it was the last of approximately 36 theaters in the county—and I was struck by the idea that it would be interesting to figure out what happened to all the others. Soon I learned that Taiwan was once home to approximately a thousand standalone cinemas, with one in almost every settlement of more than 10,000 people, and almost all of those shut down by the 1990s or early 2000s. Thus it became a game, one that could be played by scanning satellite maps for buildings of the appropriate dimensions, methodically entering a variety of search terms into Google, or simply showing up in some small town and wandering around historic old streets.

What’s with all the tigers?
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll probably notice many images of Hǔ Yé 虎爺, the “tiger general” of Taiwanese folk religion, part of an ongoing project to document the many ways in which this deity is venerated in Taiwan. I became especially interested in Hu Ye after living in Taiwan for several years and never noticing how prevalent he is. The reason? Hu Ye is almost always located at ground level, beneath altars or tables, and is sometimes difficult to find if you don’t know to look for him. Naturally the idea of a hidden god appeals to me—and it’s also fascinating to see how he manifests. Sometimes Hu Ye is fierce, but often he’s absolutely adorable, with green eyes, buck teeth, and a disarming smile.

What camera do you use?
The short answer is “nothing special”. Most photos featured on this site were shot on a battered old Nikon D3100 with the kit lens, an entry level DSLR, but I’ve borrowed better gear for some expeditions and occasionally post images captured on a smartphone. Image metadata is available if you’re curious about how a specific photograph was shot—just click or tap on a photo in the body of a post for more information.

What is your post-production workflow like?
I use Adobe Lightroom to process my photos. Years ago I was applying elaborate treatments to achieve vintage effects and the like, but more recently I’m just touching things up a little and trying to keep my images closer to the source. After a shoot I import photos and manually geotag everything from memory, while it’s fresh. I also organize everything into place-based folders, the raw material of future blog posts. Usually when I am drafting up something new I bounce back and forth between Lightroom and a web browser to conduct preliminary research and identify the formal names of whatever I captured.

What technology powers this blog?
I’m running WordPress with a highly-optimized theme I designed myself. I write posts in Markdown and sparingly use plugins like EWWW Image Optimizer and The SEO Framework.

Can you recommend some places to visit in Taiwan?
This blog is basically one big index of places I might recommend. Browse around!

Can you suggest locations for my photo/video shoot?
Yes, if you’re willing to hire me as a location consultant. This blog already contains an incredible wealth of free information, beyond that you’re going to have to pay for my time and travel expenses. My rates start at 2,000 NT (approximately USD$65) per hour; use the contact form and describe your project for a quote.

Can I use your photos for my project?
All my photos are under copyright control so don’t even think about using them without permission—read the terms of use for more about that. My work is available for licensing; use the contact form and let me know about your project.

Have you thought about writing a book?
Yes, but my medium of choice is blogging, and this is just something I work on in my spare time. A book sounds like a real commitment, and also somewhat contrary to my affinity for digital media. Maybe I’ll get around to it someday but I don’t have any specific plans to do so.

How can I support your work?
You’re welcome to make a contribution to my Patreon page if you’d like to support what I do around here.

Do you have a question?
Please feel welcome to drop me a line on Facebook or through the contact form.