Lin Chong-Pin (林中斌) describes his hobby of photography as heaven.
The cross-strait affairs analyst, a professor at National Sun Yat-sen University and an adviser to the National Security Council, is well-known for his calm demeanor and his ability to predict China's internal changes and developments in cross-strait relations. His in-depth study of the People's Liberation Army also earned him recognition.
But such serious pursuits are not necessarily incompatible with soft and tender hobbies.
He turned one of his photographs into a New Year's greeting card for friends. The card reads, "The 500-year-old Zen-inspired rock garden at the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto offered us a precious moment of peace in an otherwise unsettling world and time ? which would have been spoiled by the faces of us mortals in the photo."
Lin said his friends appreciate the picture, which he believes shows his "inner self."
Lin's work photography began in the 1960s when, as a geology student, he had to take pictures of geological formations.
The work required being able to show the precise texture of rocks and minerals and using a hammer in the picture to demonstrate scale. Such a rigid system seems at odds with Lin's artistic side.
Lin furthered his photographic abilities by joining his company's camera club when he was a geologist in the US in the 1970s.
This Old Man!, an iconic picture Lin took in 1970, was a "lucky shot [taken] without thinking twice," Lin said. The photo, taken in a park in Tainan, earned him first prize in the human category of a competition held by the National Industrial Recreation Association in the US in 1977.
The picture demonstrated his potential to his colleagues and friends. Since then, photography has been an inseparable part of Lin's life.
"I never intended for this picture to become anything. ?But the way he sat there showed me his sadness and loneliness ? he lives in another world. ? I took the picture without thinking twice," Lin said.
His success didn't end with that one photo. Daybreak, taken in 1976 in Glacier National Park in Montana, won him first prize in a competition held by the Colorado Council of Camera Clubs.
The long time Lin spent waiting in the cold that windy morning became an unforgettable part of that picture, he said.
"The scene disappeared in an instant," he said.
Lin added that he went back to the site, as he promised he would do, 19 years later with his new bride hoping to catch the same scene. But the couple weren't able to experience the same spectacular sunrise.
According to Lin, instinct is a photographer's most valuable asset, adding that the pictures he is most satisfied with stemmed from his original thoughts.
Inspired by his favorite photographer, Ansel Adams, Lin took the Lone Pine in Yosemite National Park in 1985 while he was a student in the US.
"I was lost in time," describing his feeling while shooting the picture.
"I prefer the surreal, dream-like atmosphere of a picture," he said.
Lin, a classical music fan, found a deeper reason for his love of Adams' pictures when he learned that Adams once played the piano.
"Because there's music in those pictures," Lin said.
Lin's photographs often mimicked his personal life.
Festive fruits, taken in his brother's home in San Jose, California, in 1991, told of good things to come. Lin saw it as a sign as his wife, Alice Chang (