Recently my work on this blog was featured in an article by Nien Ping Yu 于念平 for the Chinese language web magazine BIOS Monthly. The article, loosely translated as Canadian Cultural Blogger: Even Unremarkable Places Have History (加拿大文化部落客: 再平凡的地方都有歷史), was based on a sprawling conversation we had in person rather than an email questionnaire. Mostly we spoke about themes and practices commonly seen on this blog: discovering history through the exploration of lost and neglected places, revealing intriguing connections through observations of synchronicity, and using photography as a documentarian medium rather than focusing solely on aesthetic appeal.
Several of my original photographs are featured in the article, some of which have already appeared on this blog (for example Fugang Old Street 富岡老街 and Changhua Roundhouse 彰化扇形車庫) along with others yet to be published (mostly from the infamous Fuhe Grand Theater 福和大戲院 in Yǒnghé 永和). Other adventures referenced in the text include forthcoming material about Dadong Theater 大東戲院 in Zhōnglì 中壢 and the Liuzhangli Muslim Cemetery 六張犁的回教公墓 here in Taipei 台北.
People often ask me what camera I use, presumably because they like my photography and figure I must have a bunch of high-end equipment. Usually I laugh, somewhat awkwardly, as nothing could be further from the truth, and provide a sheepish answer. My gear isn’t anything special—in fact, it’s about as shabby as can be.
Most of the photos I’ve posted on this site from around 2011 until now were shot on a Nikon D3100 with the same 18–55mm lens it came with (pictured here). Over the years this camera has seen a great deal of use and is now bruised and battered, missing a few pieces, and completely without labels on any of the controls (as they’ve all worn off long ago). The lens is in even worse shape—not only is it held together with electrical tape that doesn’t entirely prevent light seeping in from seeping the bottom edge (spoiling most low-light and night-time shots) it also has a loose connection that inhibits auto-focus from working as it should most of the time.
Not exactly professional, is it? But I haven’t been able to justify (let alone afford) an upgrade. Photography is just a hobby, not something I do for money, and I’ve been living on quite a budget these years. I would love to be able to get a much better camera for daily use and will no doubt make a new post whenever I get around to doing so.
A few of the photos on this site from late 2013 to early 2015 were shot with a borrowed Nikon D5100, a slightly newer and better version of the D3100. I have also posted many photos shot on smartphone—first an iPhone 3GS (pre-2011; good luck finding any of those, there aren’t many), then a Samsung Galaxy Note 1 (SGH-I717R; which is what I used to shoot the photo for this piece), and more recently a Samsung S6 (SM-G9208), which is finally good enough to support entire blog posts.
Incidentally, every photo on this blog has its own canonical URL that lists what gear was used. To access this information simply click on any image that interests you. If a slideshow pops up (which happens on posts with more than one image) just click on the photo again. Below the image you will see the camera listed among the metadata extracted and displayed using a custom WordPress plugin I wrote.
Anyhow, the gist of this particular post is that it isn’t what equipment you use but how you use it that matters. (But I really would like better equipment one of these days!)
By chance I found myself back in Lukang 鹿港 a few days into the new year. I was, at the time, still drafting the blog entry about my first visit to this historic Taiwanese town, and I took perverse pleasure in setting up to get some work done in the same cafe I had patronized several months previously.