Saturday, 8 December 2018

Bicycle and Broom

 While I was wandering through the maze of alleys in downtown Gangneung, I noticed an elderly gentleman park his bicycle and go into his house. As I approached the bicycle I noticed this broom stuck into the grating of his house's window. I say 'window', but the glass has been covered with plastic or something. I didn't go into his yard to make this photo, as you might think. Korean alleys are often formed by garden walls or house walls. Thus, many windows have bars or are covered over to protect privacy. I had to use a wide angle lens to make this photo because the alley is so narrow. I squat down a bit with my back pressed up against the opposite wall to get this framing. Suffering for art . . . .

Saturday, 1 December 2018


Jumunjin is an interesting town to visit for photography. There's the sea, the sandy and rocky beaches, the fish markets (if you can stand the sight of fish, which I can't), dilapidated neighbourhoods, and a hill neighbourhood that has some interesting views. On a trip last October I stuck mostly to the road that runs along the shore.

To get to the shore from the bus stop, I crossed the hill neighbourhood and made this photo on the way. I was attracted by the odd green bricks and the flower pots perched on top of the wall. Something was attached to the wall before this mail box because there is a paintless patch above it. This mailbox is rusting, so it must have been quite a while ago. Or maybe things rust quickly in the salt air.

Drying fish above drying persimmons. Drying fish are a permanent part of the landscape but the drying fruit only happens in the autumn.

The sign on the far right says, "No Swimming Sign" at top. Below that is a warning about not swimming because it's not a 'water play' area. The smaller sign next to it says it's illegal to catch or harvest various kinds of sea life. Mostly things that scuba divers like to carry away. The breeze bloack structure is/was a military watch post, though it doesn't seem to be in use. I looked around for No Photography signs before I made this photo but I didn't see any. The pole to the left of the watch post gives the name of the walking path, the next tourist destination, and the coordinates of this spot. To the left of the pole is a car parked illegally on the sidewalk.

While waiting for the bus home I noticed this phone booth and the sign behind it. The sign is mostly faded now. The red letters say 'report'. The full sign says, "If in doubt, look again. If it looks suspicious, report it." Possibly they mean crime, but it could also mean North Korean spies or infiltrators.

After Thought

The photos in this post were made using my new Fujifilm X-T3. It's a very complicated camera, and out of the box there is so much information in the viewfinder. A histogram, artificial horizon, film simulation, battery level, photos remaining, metering mode, and so on, and so on, and so on. It's quite cluttered. It's a bit of a shock for someone used to a basic film camera like the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder or even a Nikon SLR or DSLR.  All that information is very distracting so I decided to reduce the complexity of my new digital camera to the simplicity of an older camera.
   The first thing I did was to turn off all indicators in the display except shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. I turned on highlight overeposure blinkies because it's extremely useful and takes up no room in the display. And that's it. That's everything I need to make a photograph. To the function buttons on the camera body I assigned frame ratio (3:2, 16:9, 1:1), artifical horizon, film simulation, AF mode, Grain Effect (On for colour, Off for the Acros simulation which seems to have grain already built in), and Face/Eye Detection. That's it. I rarely use the function buttons because I stick to Classic Chrome and Acros for my film simulations. Sometimes I change the frame ratio to suit my mood or the subject. Other things I mostly leave alone.
   After about a month or so of using this camera, I finally have it simplified enough to really enjoy it. I don't have to think about the camera anymore when I'm making photos. It's a great camera with great colours and beautiful black and white, and I'm glad I shelled out a month's salary to get it.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Irrigation Channel

Between the densely populated neighbourhood of Ponam and the busy tourist village of Anmok is a large area of farmland called Hapyeong Fields. A lot of the land is for growing rice, but some of the fields grow potatoes, chillies, radish, and cabbage. Most of the irrigation ditches are less than a metre wide and made of plain concrete, but the one pictured below is several metres wide and made out of stepped red brick. It was built several years ago and I wonder if it was built so nicely because it's close to the road that tourists use. You can see tourist hotels in the far background of this photo. All the brick was overgrown this summer, but you can see the sloping sides. To make this photo, I stood in a pavilion overlooking the channel (seems too nice to be called 'ditch').
   I set the camera picture contol to Vivid because of the wonderful greens. I usually use a more neutral setting but I wanted to show the vibrancy of this fertile spot. I don't think the photo would work without the two rocks at the bottom of the frame. They keep the eye from falling out of the bottom of the photo and they provide a nice counterpoint to the tall pines near the top.

After Thought
This photo makes me feel calm now, but I was upset when I made it. I noticed this scene whilst cycling down a tractor road so I pulled over and parked my bicycle near the pavilion. Sitting on the edge of the pavilion were a father and son. The son was playing a phone game and the father was looking around. When he noticed me, the father stared a bit and then tapped his son on the leg. When the son looked up the father pointed at me and said, "Look, a foreigner." I felt like something escaped from a circus. The son, to his credit, just ignored me and went back to his phone. The father continued to stare at me until I stared back at him and then he seemed to understand that staring is not too polite. The incident ruined my afternoon, but at least I didn't let it ruin the chance to photograph this scene. 

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Same Wine, New Bottles

I'm not sure how appropriate that title is, but what you're getting today are new and better versions of photos I've already posted here. (New stuff next week)

The first version of this photo was done on film and the right edge of the petrol station was cut off. I passed by there some time later and tried again with a digital camera. I would like to go a bit wider for this photograph, but there are too many distracting things to either side of the frame. Diesel pumps, fuel trucks, cars, and so on. I prefer this simple composition.

It's the fighting cats again! Out of a number of photos, I finally decided that this was the best one. The composition is good and they are punching each other in the face at the same time. Will they never learn that fighting just hurts everybody? :)

After Thought

 Too often I go out with a camera and no destination in mind. That's not a bad thing, but it means that I leave the apartment without focus. This leads to wasted film or time wasted in front of the computer deleting photos. I had the idea that I should wander and record Gangneung for posterity, so that in twenty or thirty years people can remember what it was like in the past. But, after thinking about it, I don't think that's something I want to do with photography except incidentally. And maybe it's already being done by the thousands of people who take photos on their mobile phones every day. Though, that said, future generations might think the past was nothing more than 'sparrow-faces', coffees, and lunches. Anyway, I'm not very good at documentary photography so I will stick to the kind of narrow-view photography that I do best. A gate instead of a whole house, the front of a bus approaching a bush instead of a bus driving through downtown, a charity box against a background of concrete instead of a charity box dwarfed by an expressway. Also, I've decided that when I leave the house with a camera, I should have a goal in mind. "Today I'm going to visit the Confucian school on the hill and photograph the tree outside the gate." Once I finish photographing the tree I can and should wander around looking for different things in the area. But I think that having a specific goal will help my photography. Naturally, I will carry a camera everywhere I go (That's why I recently bought the light Fujifilm X-T3) because I never know when something interesting will happen or when I'll notice something new on an old walk.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Birthplace of Heo Gyun and Heo Nanseolheon

I've been to this estate many times in the past, but I enjoy going there every couple of months to see what I might have missed or to experience the buildings in different light. I usually see something in a new way every time I visit, which is one of the pleasures of photography.

I usually photograph this gate from farther back to get the long earthen walls and an impressive tree off to the right. But this time I walked closer and stayed to the right. That's when this scene fell into place. I've walked up to this gate a hundred times before but never seen this particular view. Visit and re-visit is the lesson here.

This is one window/door of the sarangchae, the men's residence. (Women in the past had to be in the anchae out back, where the kitchen is). This photo was an exercise in lining things up and keeping an eye on the viewfinder's electronic level.

Looking at these two photos of the Heo estate makes me pretty happy. Time for another trip, I think. The best photo of my life could be waiting for me.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Cranes and Tractor

It turns out there is no more need for me to use photographs of my childhood as filler. I have enough decent pictures from September to last a month of posting.

The cranes are on the other side of the Namedae River where an apartment complex is going up. This patch of land in the foreground is usually used by fishers who use the place to sort out their nets. I don't know who might own the tractor. There is no farm land nearby.
I thought that this photo makes a little story that is not exactly true. A tractor sits rusting because land is being used for putting up high-rises. The mucky bit of real estate in the foreground is not being plowed by the tractor because it's been bought by a developer for building. As I say, it's not true, but it's a story that could be constructed using the elements in the photo. This mucky piece of dirt is actually city land and an unutilised part of the riverside park. There might be tennis courts or something here in a year or so.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Christmas, 1975

I don't want to share photos on this website too soon after I've made them. Photos that look great on the day I make them later turn out to be mediocre or have mistakes I didn't notice before. That's why I spend a week adding stars to a batch of photos until some have (or haven't) gotten from three to five stars. A three star photo is something that has personal or documentary interest and a five star photo is one that I would like to have on my wall. A four star photo is one that didn't make the 'leap to greatness' from three to five.
   At the end of the month I bring my five star photos to a local lab to have them printed on 8x10 paper. I then put them on the wall over my desk so I can look at them all the time. I leave them there for a month so that I can choose the really good ones. Once the month's photos have gone through this editing process, I send the digital files or film to a lab in Seoul to get printed on matte paper. Then they get placed in an archival photo box.
   That's when I would ideally start sharing the month's photos here, so that people only get to see what I think are my best photos. I say 'ideally', because sometimes I get excited about a photo and want to share right away. Also, this system of editing is rather new and I've already shared a lot of September's photos on this site. Even though I shouldn't be sharing September's photos until the beginning of November. So, I'm going back through my photo folders to find photos that I haven't shared here or on my previous website before. Not easy.
   Therefore, I'm going to share a number of photos from my childhood. When I visited my parents last summer I scanned a lot of photos from my parents' albums so I could have those memories in my home as well. Here's the first one . . . .

This is Christmas morning, possibly 1975 or 1976. I think I was likely five years old because this looks like the basement apartment we lived in when I was in kindergarten. I don't remember owning the Flintstones' Penny Aarcade but I remember my father's stereo in the background. It was a good one he bought in Labrador and it had good sound. My father had some K-Tel albums and I had a couple of albums with children's songs. "Big Rock Candy Mountain" was on one of my albums. I think I also had a Sesame Street album with a song on it called "Everyone Makes Mistakes." I still remember some of the lyrics! "If everyone makes mistakes, then why can't you? Your sister and your brother and your dad and mother, too. Big people! Small people! Matter of fact, ALL people! If everyone in the whole wide world makes mistakes then why can't you?" Maybe I remember the lyrics because I keep screwing things up and need some consolation . . . .