Michael Turton is my hero. Not only does he run one of the hottest blogs on the comings and goings around Taiwan, he’s an avid cyclist AND he shoots tons of great pictures. Holy smokes, now you’re singing my tune!
First the blog. The View from Taiwan is a treasure trove of things everybody needs to know about Ilha Formosa, as the Portuguese first called this place in 1544. With posts dating to 2005, Michael charts the tides of Taiwan politics with an eagle eye and razor-sharp analysis. His daily rundown of links and comments is not to be missed.
Well, almost daily. Michael rides a lot. He is out there making the miles over hill and dale from his base in central Taiwan more than almost anybody I know. And he posts fantastic reports on his adventures. With plenty of pictures.
Which brings me to my story. This past weekend Michael made one of his periodic sojourns to the northern part of Taiwan – where I live – and organized an overnight bike trip over a route called the Northern Cross. This particular jaunt runs from the southern tip of the Taipei basin and cuts over the central mountains to the coast and the Pacific Ocean. It’s about 100 miles out and goes over a 3600 ft. pass on the way. The ride is glorious. I jumped at the chance to go.
Pedaling along on Saturday seemed like the perfect time to ask Michael about how he works with photos. Starting with his camera.
“I use the Canon Powershot S95. It has plenty of features, is easy to use and takes great photos. It’s the best out there among the high-end point and shoots.” The camera is actually pretty small. Michael slips it out of the back pocket of his cycling jersey with a practiced movement and snaps shots on the fly. One of the nice things about riding with Michael is lots of breaks to take pictures!
Michael went on to talk about his workflow. On a two-day ride he’ll take maybe 300 photos to create the story of the trip. He keeps an eye out for shots to go in the header his blog. “I’ll walk into a place, look around and say to myself header, header, header,” chuckling as he notes that he writes captions in his head for shots as he takes them.
After the ride, he reviews the photos in-camera and deletes the ones that don’t need to go further. From there, he transfers the keepers to his computer and makes a copy of the photos. So one set as archive and another to edit.
Editing centers around the basics. Cropping, especially when creating images for blog headers, is key. Next comes light adjustment and white balance. Sometimes a little straightening. Seldom sharpening, no red-eye and never “cute stuff” like sepia or soft focus.
The finished photos get sorted into two piles: one for Facebook and another to upload to Flickr for use on the blog. Facebook is more about people. That set is resized down to 1600×1200, Facebook’s largest photo size. Stunning, gorgeous scenery shots are reserved for the blog. Flickr photos get sized to a larger 2048×1536.
Aside from Facebook and his blog, Michael likes to print out the occasional photo at the local photo shop and put them up in his office. “It’s so cheap. Prints cost about NT$1 each.”
Video isn’t really part of his repertoire yet, “Not even really thinking about it.” But macro photograph is definitely in the mix, especially bugs. Panoramas are another place Michael likes to go.
When I asked Michael what he wants people to get out of his blog he was clear. “I want people to see things about Taiwan that are not normally shown. Mountain vistas. Everyday life. Bugs.” I pick up my camera and I see the stuff of life and that’s what I want to share.
Michael does indeed have a keen eye for the stuff of life. Check out his work at http://michaelturton.blogspot.com. You’ll learn tons. And you’ll see one more reason why making cool photo (and video) editing software is one of my favorite things.