This might all be a little confusing at first. You should definitely read the Foundation first.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

First Day Haze


Cats and dogs: never understood why that mean heavy rain but it’s been raining today. At least the weather isn’t too hot and humid [for now]. So first a general thing I wonder; am I the only one who feels bad when a relative treats you to food and you can’t finish so you stuff yourself to be ‘appreciative’ of the food? After only a few meals here, I realized that the culture is extremely big on eating out [or ordering out but eating in]. Hopefully this trend doesn’t last or I might be finding a dent in my sad little wallet very soon, but the pricing isn’t bad for the quality and quantity of food delivered.

Sometimes visiting relatives who are from a close-nit neighborhood, I feel like a caged animal; some type of proud trophy oh an extended family legacy. As we went out to the market during the morning to buy the next few days of fruits, I was paraded around and introduced to the vendors as the some sort of photography professional [I wish]. But it’s nice they think so much of me.

Still suffering from jetlag (it’s a serious illness, trust me), I feel the need to move and do something at odd hours. I want to head out at night but I don’t have a map; a pen and paper is what I usually use so maybe I’ll do that. I’m excited to bounce between relatives and can’t wait until I meet up with my cousin again. He recently acquired a Leica MP Custom and he says I can borrow it a few times for some black and white shooting; the presence of the camera makes me feel like I’m in some sort of camera porno. But due to the cost, I’ll be sticking with my tiny rangefinder for now. He also develops his own negatives, something I didn’t get a chance to do in college. Before all you film geeks go ape-shit about how developing is curial to know, I just started shooting film again about 2 weeks ago.

This is about it for today, haven’t been able to keep my head on straight all day due to jetlag. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Epic Flight


Hey guys. So after a long 33 hours after take-off from SFO [a good 16 hours longer than expected], I’ve finally landed in Taiwan. Now, I was a little peeved at first at how long it took it get to where I wanted to be, but in the end it was an interesting detour; I can now say that a night was spent in Japan [without losing a considerable amount of money]. So, let’s recap what happened in these 33 hours.

Place taxied out of the gate and got in line to take off; then a fleet of asshole private jets decided they didn’t need to wait in line, putting us from position 3 to something like 9. Then after that we were told we lost our spot (you don’t say??) and had to make another loop around the runway for take-off. That set us back about one hour [which is better than I expected since last time I flew direct we were late by 2 hours]. After about 3 hours in, the captain told us that there was a window issue in the cockpit [not properly sealed = loud high pitch noise] and that it was a danger psychologically to the crew for a long 9-hour flight. We took a detour to land and switch planes (and pilots) in Seattle. I couldn’t really complain about this since I rather them land with a sound mind in Seattle than suffer through a chaotic breakdown as they decide to see if they can barrel-roll a 767 onto a runway.

So this unintentional setback meant missing my connecting flight in Japan. But Delta, trying to keep their customers’ happy, rebooked my flight for the next day and paid for my room in a nearby hotel along with dinner and breakfast. Sadly, the meals were both set and I couldn’t be a dick and order the most expensive things on a menu (not even beer was included, bummer). After dinner it was about 3-4 hours of sleep, breakfast, and back on a bus to the airport; breakfast was really good, a buffet of Japanese cuisine was a welcome relief to the American food stuffed down my gullet during my flight. I’ll post up a picture of the buffet with a link some later since I’m trying to only do this one photo a post thing. In the end, I’m a little glad for the longer layover; gave me time to adjust my jetlag beforehand (Taiwan and Japan only share a 1 hour difference), walk around the airport, and buy some interesting things.

So here’s a cute little picture of what I bought; good chocolate, small beer, and some social cigs. Cheers and hope this isn’t an omen to the rest of the trip.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lucky Hand


Now I may be slightly intoxicated at this moment but I just realized how damn lucky I am. My family of course has been such a great support; but my friends are another huge driving force behind what I do. I know that I may have mentioned this many times, but I’ve been dealt a lucky hand of cards. I have friends that support what I do and really want me to succeed. I’ve held jobs where my managers and co-workers are the funny bunch of people. Just coming back from two dinners (yes, I’m a hippo, leave me alone) with two sets of friends made me realize this. Although I do become more ‘loving’ and ‘emotional’ when I drink, I strongly believe that what I write now is something that is hard to express when I’m sober.

The first dinner I had was with my ex-co-worker (Brian) and ex-manger (Baker). Talking with them made me realize that I have it pretty well; already let go from my job but without regrets I can cook a nice meal and enjoy it with them over a few glasses of wine and a few [although maybe a little too much] captains and coke’s. We talked about everything and anything; what I’ve learned from this conversation was that determination is the best motivation for anything. What we want to achieve can always be done, in time of course. All the awkward stories we shared and loud laughs we enjoyed really makes me wish that I had much more time to connect and get to know them better. It kind of has me wishing that I either got hired a lot sooner [or at least hung out with them earlier] or that I wasn’t heading off to Taiwan so soon. I really hope that when I get back that I’ll be seeing them soon.

My second dinner was with the crew we called the ‘Disneyland seven’ [the same hotpot group from an earlier post]. This group is like my family away from home. We share amazing memories together but unfortunately, I’m a year older than them. I just wish that we formed this group a lot sooner than the beginning of this year. What I really hate is that when we all say ‘we’ll keep in touch’ that rarely happens. What are the chances that you still keep in touch with the people you meet a long time ago? Anyway, I really do hope that after I get back from Taiwan that we will reconnect and remain friends for a long time.

Unfortunately, there’s no picture today either. When things become blurry, it’s best not to carry a heavy camera. But use your imagination: think of a beautiful family scene, add a bright sun, add some unicorns, and maybe a tree. That’s my picture.

Friday, March 23, 2012

35mm Film Lives!


Today I decided to really put the film camera to the test. I’ve already run about 3 rolls of film through the Canon Canonet 28. These were done without a battery meaning that I didn’t have a meter. Because I wasn’t too sure about how they’d turn out, I only wanted to develop the negatives without printing (much cheaper option). But I realized that there were a few photos that I did want to develop. So I went out today and bought a few Zinc Air batteries to replace the banned mercury type batteries; a little DIY with some tin foil allowed me to make things work.

After shooting a roll around my apartments, I sent them straight to developing. Now I know all the ‘pros’ generally do it themselves or may send them out to better companies but a local RiteAid worked fine for me. The pictures that turned out were completely awesome with bright colors [although I really wish I was shooting some things in black and white]. The rangefinder is an amazing camera with sharp focus if done right. It’s just so fun to use! It’s semi-lightweight [well, it is compared to the monster 5D] and has a quiet shutter; it’s something that doesn’t draw too much unwanted attention to me as I find interesting subjects to photograph. Hopefully I’ll get a scanner in the near future to show you all some photos, but I just hope there are amazing things that Taiwan can show me. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

One New Entry


Hello world! It’s been awhile and I wanted to assure you that I am not dead (nor in prison) and have just been busy working on some personal stuff (and by personal stuff I mean cramming in computer games before I leave for my trip). So today I started to become more active in my ‘studies’ and read up on more photography blogs and researching equipment. On that note, I finally got my new Manfrotto MK394-PQ tripod. This is a great and sturdy tripod; the attached ball-head mount gives me so much freedom that a video tripod restricted for me. With only one easy knob, I can control 3-planes of movement at once. TRUST ME, an [decently] expensive tripod is a much between investments than buying a couple of cheapo tripods. But I digress, here’s what I came to talk about.

THE FLOOD! [Well, not literally but figuratively…I think] Today’s studies were based on the act of ‘editing’ as I have learned again from Eric Kim. As he stated, a lot of ‘editing’ is referred to the post-processing of photographs, but it really does start much, much, MUCH sooner than that. Editing is done right after you stick in your memory card into your computer (and even sometimes before); we use our eyes and mind to select the photos that stand out the most. A lot of ‘photographers’ now are zombies that ‘flood’ the net with ALL their photos. Now I admit it, sometimes I adopt a ‘too-tired-to-give-a-fuck’ attitude and upload most of my photos. But I think limiting what we show DOES make a stronger statement. Before when 35mm/analog film was the industry, everyone had to be picky; with digital people just shoot almost everything without filtering their shots. So let’s try something interesting (and see how long I’ll last). For each post I’m only allow to post up to THREE photos, although I’ll be aiming to only post ONE. We’ll see how that works out. [Is it cheating if I link an album with a few more photos in a post?]

So here’s the ONE photo to start it and sum it up. The new tripod, a newly pre-owned rangefinder, and my little dude representing the power of ONE.

P.S. As I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now, I have no clue what the differences are between using ‘()’ or ‘[]’. I’m just going to use them interchangeably for now, so it doesn’t get boring for you. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012



This post is covers two days (more or less) because most my new toys arrived by then and I didn’t want to make two separate posts.

The first to arrive was my 32GB compact flash card. This was a surprise since I didn’t expect to get it until after the camera. My next arrival is my Acme Made Photo Messenger Bag. Both weren’t a big whoop until my camera came in. The Canon 5D MKII, what a beauty! This heavy set camera weights in at almost 4lbs with the 24-105mm f/4 L attached. Something about the sheer weight and size just feels right attached to the 5D. The next step (after waiting ages for the damn battery to charge fully) was to take test shots testing out all the features, modes, and video quality. I cannot believe how dumb I felt using this new camera; the learning curve for this monster is super steep.

I know I have the misconception (along with many others) that only amateurs shoot with auto while all the pro-photographers (protogs for short created by other icons) shot in manual. Controlling the ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed to gain the perfect shot was something that I was NOT ready for at the time. But hopefully the next week I’ll be able to get better at it. I’m already developing an eye to what ISO should be used depending on the weather.

After this, I started to play with my bag and the many ways to fit the camera into the bag for easy access. After about 30-40 minutes of playing Tetris with the bag and camera, I found a way to fit the set along with an extra 20-35mm lens for landscape photography. Style combined with stealth was the first thing that came to my mind. However, carrying the bag around me the whole day while I worked and walked around I realized that one thing was compromised in the design: comfort. A fitted shoulder pad would be a much welcomed relief when you plan on doing some photography all day (I was about to say street photography but using a 24-105 might be too up-in-your-face for that). Weight and comfort aside, this should make a splendid pair during my walk through Taiwan.

Well, now that I’ve shared this with the empty world of blogspot, I feel no different. Despite all the excitement and passion that I try to put into my work, it feels like a fucking waste. Just need someone to clap me on the shoulder and say ‘good on ya, mate.’  

(decided to try some long exposures. not bad for a first try)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Toys


Work has finally started to die down and with the trip soon approaching, I’m starting to get anxious about the purchases of two new babies (my aforementioned 5D MKII and my new pre-owned Canon Canonet 28). I tried to share my interest with some close friends but it seems like the overbearing concern was why work backwards? That’s interesting that someone would ask something like that; I’ve never really thought of it either. It’s always been in the back of my mind to get into some 35mm shooting (since I started in digital and was self-taught for the most part) and the entire rangefinder concept has been sparked by DigitalRev and EricKim with their street photography (and many other) videos.

Watching Eric’s vBlogs made me want to jump back into video again (it was my main area of study in college). What if I made review videos and hope that it’d get some crazy response and I’ll get a sponsor? My brain really needs to stop getting my hopes up just to shatter them a little bit later. But I’ll keep all my (few) viewers out there updated as my new toys come in. Aside from that, I ended up getting that bag I was considering early. Maybe I’ll write a review about it and see where that goes.

My blog is pretty empty don’t you think? Maybe you should leave some comments. And maybe I’ll give you a cookie. 

Friday, March 9, 2012



What crazy idea has stemmed from drinking too much last night? In my previous post, I asked my waitress if I was more cute or handsome. Could this become a game? There have been a series of posts about these types of interesting things; the most popular (and controversial) in Taiwan as far as I know is the Taiwanese student in France who decided to kiss 100 strangers. Well, I obviously can’t do something like that; when a guy asks strangers for kisses it will be borderline rapist but when a girl does it, they’ll think it’s acceptable. Well, I’d like to keep count to see if they think I’m cute or handsome. If it they’d like to give me a kiss, I won’t be the one to deny it.

Her name is Summer. Works at Bistro 33. That much I know (or at least can remember). My only regret was not being able to capture a picture in the very beginning. The one who answered a question, to solve a debate, to start another poll. What interesting things may unfold with this?

Adventure time! Count as of now? Cute 1 / Handsome 0

'Cute/Handsome?' and other Controversial Topics


So I’ve just gotten back from a night of heart-to-heart and drinking with my aforementioned to be best-friend [the half-German and half-Korean one for those missed out]. What I’ve realized is that I’m much more fun and have no shame. I asked our waitress tonight whether I was more handsome or cute [at this point most waitresses will say that I’m handsome to ‘establish a connection’ and get a higher tip] but of course, she replied with ‘cute’ which surprised me. Now I’m all for being cute and wanted, but I’m not a child anymore; I’m an adult with adult ambitions. But it seems okay, she was cute and beautiful all at once; a 20% tip she did receive.

Another topic of our conversations was what I hope to achieve in the bigger picture of things while I’m in Taiwan (at this point we’ve have a few to drink). In all honesty, I told him exactly what I wanted to experience and what my parents said. While my parents were in Taiwan last, they were walking on the street while there was a near typhoon rainstorm going on. They encountered a somewhat elderly man on the street who was selling veggies; in this torrential downpour, the man asked my parents if they would like to buy something. They politely declined and this man [who was in a wife-beater and pants with only a moped helmet as protection from the rain] told them to ‘stay warm and be careful in this weather’. Now what in the hell happened to this man and who does he need to support to be selling things in this type of weather? I wish I knew and was able to help this man. No wonder people think that a lot of Asians are considered ‘humble’ and nice. This is what I want to see when I go back; four times a year in four different seasons to find the true story behind Taiwan. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012



It’s done. Ordering a new camera at such a high cost is one of the scariest things I’ve done. Before ordering it was a few days worth of stress and crunching numbers and now that it’s done, I feel like an anxious father expecting a new child [although getting a new camera to baby is just like a child, without all the noise]. Now I play the waiting game, thinking about the names I can give it or what color bag would be best suited. A father’s got to do what he has got to do, right?

On another note, I think the stress of getting sponsors and donations has finally caught up with me.  Sure, I’ve had a few drinks to ponder it over, but I need these donations and sponsorships. Heck, companies have even denied my requests in my dream and in your own damn dream you have every right to be Morgan Freeman. Traveling on such a restricted budget means that some of the places that were suggested cannot be reached. However, there is a possibility of resuming my college diet of cup ramen (each with a full serving of dried and sad looking veggies) to see how much money I can save. But honestly, I’m a foodie at heart to and this blog is about culture, not only travel. I guess I’ll have to embrace those high-school drama classes and learn to get out of my shell; time to talk to strangers [kids, don’t try this at home] and see what interesting things unfold.
Time to make my father’s worst nightmares come true; time to make a fool of myself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Financial Security


Frustrated. In trying to secure any kind of funding for this project of mine, I’ve only figured out that most companies aren’t too interested in funding an independent project like this. The companies that would potentially fund such a project require a body of work that gives an example of what is to be achieved. Well great, I don’t have squat when it comes to a coherent body of work; the main point was to get funding so I can work on this concept. It seems like this trip will solely be out-of-pocket for now and when I’m there I will work on this other Taiwan project. It’s going to be a lot larger of a project so I’ll need to spend my few months in Taiwan wisely to achieve a solid concept and treatment for the larger project to achieve funding. I hope you’re ready for round 2 Taiwan, cause I’ll be back after this trip.

Even with all that in mind, I guess I need to appreciate the fact that I can spend money on the ‘luxury’ of travel. Some people may not be so fortunate to travel overseas to try and accomplish dreams and of those who can, they generally save for ages before being able to afford such a trip. I was lucky enough to hold jobs throughout both my high school and college careers to save enough for the things I want. I just hope that being able to explore and share the world (well, Taiwan in this case) with the public will encourage others to do the same. And who knows, maybe I will be able to explore the world someday [before becoming an old fart]. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Rock


Now I know that it’s childish for me to believe that I can take credit for everything right now. My friends have given me a ton of support and told me what an interesting idea this is; the aforementioned German/Korean friend was even bold enough to tell me that some of this may become ‘book-worthy’ at some point, although the thought of a publisher wanting to print my work is light-years away. But it still feels nice. And of course I have the support of my family. My younger brother and sister both think it’s an interesting concept; they both even said my writing has improved quite a bit (they are both very good at English) so that was a nice encouragement. My sister even has her own blog. And of course my parents who have a very nice rule about funding my dreams: if I can come up with %70 of what I need, they’ll pay for the difference.

I’m not sure if it’s a man thing, an ego thing, or just my thing but even if they offer this I still want to fund it through my own powers. This means I’m not making any more hardships for them; because, you know, I owe them my life (literally). With some photos circulating the web, I feel a strong urge to want to make them proud. Of course they are proud when they tell others I graduated in just three years, but stops short when they gets asked ‘but with what GPA?’ So it’s time to stop fooling around; making something of myself…! 

Oh look. A guitar and a slab of rock. Foundation. 

SI [What Matters] DE


Doing more research [like the good boy I am] I decided that I’m in the need of a good street camera bag. On a side note as well, the support shown by my friends and family is a great booster to my almost non-existent self-esteem. But little do they know [actually, they are all quite smarter than me, so they must know] I’m using them to gain a cult following on my blog. KoolAid! Also Taiwan Photographer Craig Ferguson has asked me to write a short write-up that he can feature on the blog of his where I may receive some exposure. I love the fact that there are people out there who are open to helping a [more or less] complete stranger.

Now I’m sitting here, stuck with all these questions buzzing in my head. What can I write about that would be interesting enough to pull people into my blog? What is the first impression I want to give off to new readers? At least the second question is rather easy, since I don’t have any readers right now. But this is my first exposure into this world of blogging and ‘getting out there’.  So this is as good as any of a time to expand more on who I am and why I’m doing what I want to do. I know what I want to talk about. I know how I want to write. I know what pictures I want to use. So hopefully this turns out as well as it seems in my head.

‘SI[What Matters]DE’ Does anyone even know what the hell that was about? I’m not sure now if it’s the fact that I’m too ‘artsy’ for the main population of readers or if my brain wants me to believe that I’m smart and funny. Let’s clear that up a little. ‘What matters inside’ is the title (get it? Eh? Eh?). Yep, the latter of the two opinions seems to be likely, my own brain is making me feel like an idiot. But no matter, onto the guest post.

“Taiwan. That’s still my iffy ‘homeland’ if I can call it that; but I miss it. Being Taiwanese only matters what is inside [...This may not be the best first impression but it’s my style. Write, work, and worry. But at this point, the important thing is that you know I exist and that my project is real."

Here are the photos that go with the post (couldn't get it onto that post for the life of me):

EDIT: Now unfortunately, my style didn't really fit into Craig's blog, so he asked me to host it on another good site where he can then spread it. So don't sit there and think  'oh he's so lucky to have people helping him', go out and find people who may be interested.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Start of March


I want the Canon 5D MKII, despite all the complaints of slow focus. Actually, I need this full frame camera. I explained this need to a coworker today that has no background in photography at all. First he asked me what research I did on this set. Most of this was online research along with a few reviews from trusted sources like DigitalRev, Ken Rockwell, and friends. In the end, it just blew over his head and seemed to be a waste of effort on my part. But in the end, he said something that made sense.

‘If you can explain why you want it and back it up, it means you want it.’

End of Feb


I’ve given it some thought lately. My entire college career was more or less wasted. Sure, I’ve dabbled in many different forms of art, held odd jobs from working with the government to considering odd photographic jobs (borderline between erotica and pornography) to having the pleasure of working with a well known architectural photographer Ed Asmus. What I lacked in depth I made up for in breadth. But this leads to a dead end; where the breadth must turn into a more in depth study.

Thinking that my plans were set – I knew I wanted to do art in the medium of cinematography and photography – didn't help me at all. My major here was crap and too relaxed that there was no urgency to study or stay awake in lectures; other areas of interests were so constricted by college pre-requisites that it left every student standing alone who couldn't get into those lectures. Everyone thinks I excelled in college, graduating with a 4-year degree in just three years.

Who gives a shit how fast I graduated when my brain stayed an impenetrable bunker to the onslaught of
potential knowledge?

This must be changed. I need to be challenged. About half a year now since I’ve graduated and I've basically got nothing to show but a few odd jobs. But all this free time has allowed me to think of ideas and concepts that I want to try.

I’m taking two months off to travel to Taiwan, my ‘homeland’ in a sense (if being born in America as a Taiwanese child could make it my homeland). Some consider this a time to ‘find myself’ or some other crap. For me, I plan for something much more humble; show up, walk around with my camera, drink without control and document my trip, all of it. Some days won’t be exciting and others may be insane. Regardless of funding I hope to follow this project through until the end. This will be treated like an electronic journal/diary, updated (hopefully) every night, and without limits and restrictions. [And to be clear, this every night rule only applies to when I’m actually off United States soil. Until then I have every right to be a lazy in updates.]

And tonight, it will be a decent entry as I have so much to catch you up on. First off, I’ve decided to share with you what my equipment is now. I’m using a Canon T2i and a few cheapo lenses including a 50mm prime, 20-35mm, and 35-135mm. All of which I now consider old. Looking to upgrade I've decided to crunch numbers, give myself a brain hemorrhage, and try to work it out. With the release of the Canon 5D MKIII around the corner, my prospective upgrade of the 5D MKII may just lower in cost (kit with a 24-105L IS F4 around $3300). To help with all these extra costs, I’m trying to do research on any companies that may be interested helping me in any way, shape, or form (although money in my hands is my favorite) to help me achieve something I can be proud of before I enter the ‘real world’. I also hope that any funding will push me to do better knowing that I have people – and companies – that may be let down. Help me make something of myself.


CONCEPT: My parents are from Taiwan. I was born here in the states and have only visited a few times, always with family. I want to explore it for myself to see what it means as an Asian American finding a new home overseas. My own pace; my own decisions; my own consequences. I want to discover what Taiwan means to me and see how it holds up to my parents’ childhood. What has changed and what has stayed the same. This is my version of exploring the ‘homeland’.


Hello. My name is Thomas Chang and I’m here to write to you, my readers, my views on an interesting concept I thought of. Now I’m sure that everyone has – at one point – thought of doing something similar to this. But sometimes the best ideas are ones that people see and think to themselves ‘I knew I should have done that’. My concept is stated as clearly as it gets up top.

I want to be real here. I’m here to address my ideas and findings of my ‘homeland’ in the most informal way possible and using the only English I know – bad English. Proud to be an A.B.T. -a play on the popular ABC- or American Born Taiwanese who failed miserably in anything to do with English. Maybe an after-thought will be to send this to an editor, but those won’t be my words exactly. Maybe I’ll release this one to the world first and then release a ‘Discovering A.B.T. v2.0’ for all those grammar freaks out there. I’m stuck in-between with decent English and Mandarin Chinese, without excelling in either.

Read it if you’d like. Use this as a way to put you asleep. If it turns out to be a book it will do wonders as a coaster for your drink. But if anything [if you’ve even read this far] take time to understand your roots.