John Soong (宋宜璋), a software programmer-turned-photographer, has uploaded more than 700 photos featuring local birds, their nests and their natural environs on the photo-sharing Web site Flickr since 2006.
The images have attracted more than 3 million hits from bird fans around the world in the past six years and many international news media outlets, including the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail in Britain, have on many occasions used his works.
A number of foreign Internet users have left messages on the Web site, saying they look forward to visiting Taiwan to see for themselves the beautiful bird species and their living environments.
“John, your country is like a garden,” one Danish visitor wrote.
“Amazing” is the word most commonly used by overseas visitors to the site to describe their feelings about seeing Soong’s wonderful images.
Pundits say the enthusiastic response to Soong’s photos can be seen as an alternative way of promoting Taiwan.
A collection of 108 bird images, titled Flying Feathers of Formosa, has recently been published by Commonwealth Publishing Group. All the pictures in the book come with both Chinese and English captions.
An avid birdwatcher, Soong said in a recent interview that he originally took up bird watching as a hobby to help reduce the stress of work. The hobby unexpectedly gave him enormous inspiration, he said.
“When I stay hidden in a bush watching birds feeding, I feel that birds lead a humble life in a down-to-earth manner. In contrast, human beings have depleted a large quantity of natural resources, but they have failed to bring the world hope and happiness,” Soong said, adding that he feels that mankind should learn from nature and not make the world too complicated a place.
Soong, 49, studied violin in his childhood and his family originally planned to send him to Vienna to study music, but he rejected that arrangement and he ended up graduating from Soochow University’s computer science department.
He ran a computer software company for almost two decades, but he also had an interest in literature, the arts and photography. Six years ago, he decided to dedicate himself to birdwatching and bird photography.
“The work usually requires a long wait. I have learned to stop thinking ... I just regard myself as a devoted farmer, who respects nature and mingles with nature,” Soong said.
In his view, each photograph is a glimpse into the tiny world of a creature constantly on the move, Soong said.
“I have always tried hard to embrace the bird’s feelings and reflect such experiences in the photos,” Soong said, adding that every picture tells a story.
Soong has engaged in “bird watching” diplomacy with Web users all over the globe with his photographs of Taiwan’s birds.
As he has taken his pictures from an artistic perspective, he has helped the world understand what a beautiful country Taiwan is, local art critics say.