Frequently Asked Questions
How often do you travel?
On average, I spend twenty days each year abroad (i.e., outside the United States) to create content for this travelogue, not counting business trips or weekend cross-border excursions. I try to make two major trips out of these days, one in late spring and another in late autumn.
Are you limiting your destinations to North America and Europe? Why not South America, Africa or Southeast Asia?
Given the means, I'd love to see every country on the map with my own eyes. Adventuring on a budget does have its limits, though, and so I'll have to defer my grander plans until a bit later in life. Admittedly, my aversion to the tropics (due in part to my delicate digestive tract) does not often lead me into, say, the rain forests of Brazil or Thailand. Conversely, I suspect I might have been a Viking in a previous life: Tall, green and cool coastlines bring me comfort and joy to no end, as attested by my frequent visits of Britain, Scandinavia and New Zealand in the past five years.
How do you plan your trips?
Please see the section in this site that discusses my modus operandi. In summary, I set my itinerary around long weekends to lengthen my leave, while researching exhaustively to minimize my costs, which rarely exceed the double of the airfare and car rental. The latter is especially important, given my penchant for long solo drives in a spry Volvo or VW.
Do you prefer traveling alone?
Yes, that is one reason for my remaining contentedly single. I do, at times, impose my manic wanderlust upon hapless family members and friends. Amongst my most stalwart travel companions have been Alicia, my sister and Ken, my college classmate.
Aren't you at all concerned with such deterrents to travel as war, terrorism, disease and whatnot?
I accept these and many other hazards -- my far-from-perfect driving skills amongst them -- as necessary risks in the pursuit of happiness. That said, my attitude towards alarming world events is hardly cavalier. Impressions of Oklahoma City, 9-11, Bali and Madrid are indelibly etched into my mind, and my parents in Taipei have borne witness to the SARS outbreak. As vague as the travel advisories from the U.S. State Department or the British Foreign Office are, I do heed them before every departure.
If you love to travel so much, why aren't you a full-time travel journalist?
If I were, I might not love it as much. After creating and fulfilling my own itineraries for so long, it would be unsettling for me to submit to orders, deadlines and budgets from another editor. Then again, if the pay is sufficiently lucrative, I may seriously consider it as an alternate career choice, at the cost of selling a piece of my soul. Scorn my naïveté if you must; it's but a tired old argument.
So, do you prefer film or digital?
The question may well be this: steam, diesel or fuel cell? Film and digital cameras are but logical manifestations of technological progress, from the ancient "camera obscura" (a sketcher hiding inside a box with a peephole) to the holographic imagers of the not-so-distant future.
The short answer, of course, is digital, given its greater versatility and control of input. Yet the better question to be asked of a photographer is this: What works better for you? If you own a collection of impeccable Leica M lenses, then by all means work with film for as long as you can. Also, no one will think less of your art for using both film and digital cameras simultaneously. My Nikon D lenses fit just as well on a F100 as they do on a D100.
What cameras do you use?
Please see the section on my cameras. They aren't necessarily the best gear for the money, but I find them more than satisfactory.
Enough of your $2K optics. How does a poor starving student get started?
Find a decent used camera, typically a solid, manual single-lens-reflex 35mm film camera, at your local dedicated camera shop. While you may be able to buy a new point-and-shoot (film or digital) for the same price, acquiring a substantial piece of old-school optics is a way of taking yourself seriously as a photographer.
That said, you should also have a digital camera of some kind, just for the instant feedback on your emerging compositional skills, and the instant gratification of a picture at hand to encourage you along. Great things start with simple kid projects, like creating custom icons on your computer desktop. See if you can "inherit" an obsolete model from someone for a pittance.
You should also have access to a computer, image processing software (an old version of Photoshop LE will do), printer, and scanner if you shoot on film.
Have you always been a photographer?
During my first trip to Europe, I conceitedly carried not a camera, but a sketchbook. In fact, my first media were oils and computer graphics: I was "painting" in Photoshop well before owning my first camera in 1990.
How do you take decent -- even salable -- travel photos?
(1) Understand the basics of manipulating shutter speed, aperture size and focal length in any camera. (2) Know and practice on the specific operations of your camera. If it uses film, pick the right kind for the occasion. (3) Hone your composition techniques. (4) Perfect your Photoshop skills to correct or enhance your pictures: see here for a demonstration.
One can't possibly take good pictures in the rain...or can I?
You'd be surprised. Take a look at some of my wet shots.
Why do you post commentaries on current events in this travelogue?
It is but moot to say that travelers need to be better informed of the world in which they roam. While my opinions are only as such, they do reflect my understanding of the world at large, stemming from a deep desire to call every little corner of the planet that I've been to as a place of my own. Thus I feel I have a stake, and henceforth a say, in what's happening all around us.
Why do you present your content as a travelogue, when it is but your private website and you can say, or show, just about whatever you want (within bounds of legality and common decency)?
When effectively presented, the deeper meanings -- happiness, empowerment, a realization of truth, goodness, beauty and other nice things -- in any given instance of free expression shall indeed prevail themselves, transcending all manner of delivery. Yet, without the initial constraint of form, free expression often loses its focus and impact. Were this web site merely about vanity, no one, not even myself, will find the proper context to appreciate what I have to show to the world as a traveler and photographer.
You're a bloody left-winger, aren't you?
Yes, I am a liberal. Do let my various positions on specific issues override that simplistic label, though: not all of them are to the left of center, and to the same extent. Because I do not ever see myself running for public office, I have the luxury of making a political stand with nuance and complexity. Also, as a Roman Catholic convert, I must openly support certain social causes for the greater good of the general public, while privately observe my own code of moral conduct.
Here, then, is a mini manifesto.
ENVIRONMENT: Preserve old-growth forests and virgin wetlands. Divert effort of fossil fuel exploitation to the development of renewable alternative energy resources. Curb greenhouse gases. Uphold and strengthen the Kyoto Accord and other green international treaties.
ISRAEL AND PALESTINE: Pressure Israel to compensate its settlers for evacuating all occupied territories, return the Golan to Syria, dismantle its West Bank barrier, allow the Palestinians to build a state seated in East Jerusalem, and relinquish nuclear arms a la Libya and South Africa. Pressure the Palestinians to disarm, then disband, its fractious militias to create a true police force, and form a true democratic government.
WARS OF AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ: Pressure Washington to transfer all authority of foreign troops to either NATO, the UN or a new international body, and reduce its military presence to levels proportionate with other participating peacekeepers. Pressure Washington to close down Guantanamo Bay and repatriate all its detainees.
NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT: Cease and desist all development of new nuclear arms. Continue to reduce stockpile of current nuclear arsenal.
WORLD TRADE: Abolish policies that protect commodities sold by rich nations. Allow goods from poor nations more access to world markets.
CIVIL AND INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE: Abolish the death penalty in the US at the federal level, and allow individual states to determine whether to uphold capital punishment. Recognize the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands.
REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Remove gag orders on contraception and abortion for publicly-funded counseling. Uphold Roe v. Wade, but in the event of its reversal at the Supreme Court, transfer all legal authority on abortion to state governments and courts. Promote embryonic stem cell research. In private, I vow I would never conceive an unwanted child; should that indeed come to be, I will avail the woman of all options, while not compelling her to take one action or another.
GAY MARRIAGE: Allow state governments and courts to determine the legal status of gay civil unions within their borders. In private, I will reserve my own judgment on who should marry whom on the basis of their individual merits as spouses, breadwinners and parents, rather than just their sexual orientation. (I'm heterosexual, by the way.)
Are your photographs for sale, lease, or licensing?
How can you be so protective of your content? I can easily copy everything from my browser. My computer stores all graphic files of the sites I recently visit, anyway.
There is nothing I can do to prevent you from copying and pasting items from the Net. I can only appeal to your sense of fairness (and respect for international copyright laws, however difficult it is to enforce them) to refrain from doing so without the author's permission. The photographs you see in this site are private works, exhibited here at considerable effort, expense and conviction on my part. They would not be as interesting, meaningful or valuable to you as they are to me.
How may I use your photos legitimately?
Please contact me for permission. With the proper accreditation, I am happy to oblige the many teachers, students, and tourism-industry professionals who regularly request for content usage.
I see some photos here from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse and the BBC. Are you not violating their copyrights?
The names of photographers and their respective press agencies are cited wherever possible to give proper accreditation. The photographs are used for their original intent in conveying their news content, and are not manipulated to serve a contrary purpose. Unless clearly stated to be of public domain, the accredited works remain the properties of their respective creators.
Yes. You can read it in the disclaimers and privacy statement page.
Are the visitors of your site completely anonymous?
Yes. Notice I do not have a forum or chat room. There are many other places, such as web rings, to make yourself heard publicly; this site simply is not one of them. I do welcome (and personally reply to) your email, of course, but I will not post your words openly or forward them to any third party.
Since this is a private, commercial-free and non-profit website, why is it a "dot-com"?
I did initially entertain notions of making c-weng.com a revenue-earning endeavor, but have subsequently decided against it. I do have the prerogative to change my mind again, however.
Again, are your photographs for sale, lease, or licensing?
Once more, no.
You say you do not carry advertisement. Why do I still see them?
This site itself does not display any adverts. However, if you are here from other sites or via some Webring links, the ads from those other sources may persist.
How is this website funded, if it is not collecting any revenue?
World travel and landscape photography are very expensive enterprises indeed, far exceeding the actual costs for maintaining domain names and web hosting. I will maintain this site with my personal funds so long as I am able.
You frequently name-drop such companies as Yahoo!, Nikon and Volvo. Are you promoting their products and services?
No, not formally. It is true that I do enjoy Yahoo!'s online services, Nikon cameras, Volvo automobiles and the like, as these things do play significant parts in the creation of this site's content. I do not maintain ties, formal or otherwise, with any of these corporations.
I'm an online marketer. May I ask you to place ads, collect demographic data, or distribute "free" software on your site to monitor web traffic?
Absolutely not. Please find another sap to do your bidding.
Write to email@example.com. Include a concise subject line that contains the word c-weng.com. Example: "A comment on your NZ pictures in c-weng.com." No attachments, please.
Why all this fuss -- and no email links, either?
I do take my time to answer all legitimate email personally, and I want to make my time worth the while of someone who really wants to talk to me.
You see, I'm just as frustrated as you are with all the unsolicited adverts for cheap drugs, male organ augmentation, pornography and whatnot. I also refuse to fix my computer or cope with data loss for every virus that comes my way. Lamentably, there's a worldwide industry out there where "robot" programs glean every automated e-mail links in all the web sites they randomly encounter, thus amassing mailing lists for spam. Let's not give them any more help.
Should I adjust my computer monitor to view this site?
Yes, and it isn't difficult. Set your monitor's color temperature to 9300 degrees Kelvin, pixel resolution to 800 x 600 (higher pixel resolutions may distort some web page layouts), and color resolution to 32 bits (the highest). If necessary, go to the front page of this site, and adjust your brightness and contrast settings according to a grayscale calibration scale.
Which is the best browser for viewing this site?
This site is best viewed via the latest version of either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple Safari -- on a Mac running OS X or later. Even though this site's content is created and previewed on an Intel Pentium 4 PC running Windows XP, Mac OS X produces a superior text display onscreen, resembling more closely to an actual printed page. Your Mac's CPU needs to be at least a G3 complemented by a minimum RAM of 128Mb to run OS X.
Why do weird Chinese characters sometimes appear in the text?
The text here uses European accent marks and copyright marks, which appear normally on machines set to display European languages in the roman alphabet. This poses problems for operating systems based in Chinese.
What hardware and software are you using to create this site?
Hardware: Image processing, web page layout and file archival are done at home with an Intel Pentium 4 1.9Ghz CPU (256Mb L2 cache), 512Mb Kingston Rambus memory, Verto nVidia GeForce 3 AGP video (upgraded to the 128Mb ATI Radeon 9600XT in July 2004), two hard drives adding up to 76 Gb, and a DVD recorder. (Click here to see more details of this system I built between 2001 and 2002.) In the field, I sometimes use an Apple 12" iBook (600Mhz G3 CPU, 256Mb RAM, 20Gb hard drive) to process my photographs.
Operating system: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition (home); Mac OS X "Panther" (away)
Web authoring: Microsoft FrontPage 2000 for Windows
Image processing: Adobe Photoshop CS (for both Windows XP and Mac OS X)
FTP access: CuteFTP 4.0 (Windows), Transmit 2.0 (Mac OS X)
Who hosts this site?