Downtown Across the River

Downtown Gangneung seen across the Namdae River

This is the same river that was in a previous post about Seongsan. It’s getting closer to the sea so it’s wider, but not much deeper. There is little precipitation in winter, so the rivers are just about dried up until the rains of spring and the monsoon season in summer.
The composition of this photo is very similar to the photos in the post about Seongsan, so I should starting doing something different.

In and to the sides of Wolhwa Park

Wolhwa Park was built on the land once occupied by a train line. It’s about two kilometres long and generally fifteen metres wide. I go there now and then to make photos, but I can’t seem to do much with it.
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Side Street.

Because the tracks were elevated to go over the river, some of the park is also elevated. From up on high I can look down this side street to the fortune teller part of downtown. I don’t have any tilt-shift lenses, so I straightened the verticals in Lightroom.
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Old residential area.

Directly on the other side of the park is a residential area. Older buildings are constantly being torn down in this part of the city, so it’s probably only a matter of time before this little neighbourhood is gone. I won’t be sorry to see it gone, but it would be nice if the poverty-era buildings were replaced with traditional Korean homes. More than likely they’ll be replaced by coffee shops.
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Wolhwa Pavilion

This pavilion seems to be poorly visited, except for old men smoking at its base. Maybe that’s why it’s poorly visited . . . . .
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Ancestral Shrine (probably)

I thought this building was a part of the park because of the landscaping leading up to the entrance. But I was informed by some litter cleaners that it’s part of a private residence. Oops. This is one of the photos I made before scurrying off.
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Train Tunnel, Wolhwa Park.

It took me a while to find a framing I was happy with and then the timing to get someone to complete the composition.
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Litter Cleaner

In spring the city employs hordes of senior citizens to pick up litter around the city. They go by the names of “Seniors’ Club” or “Volunteer Group” and they get paid a bit of money every week.
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I’m more comfortable making photos on a tripod at historical sites than I am wandering the streets of a city, but with some practice maybe I can produce some decent photos to show people what Gangneung looks like.

How I became an international booze model

In early 2004 I was just starting to become seriously interested in photography and was desperate for some instruction. I was working in a small town up by the border at the time and there was nothing like a continuing education photography course to be found. So imagine my delight when one of the local photo labs put up a banner over the door advertising free photo lessons when you got film developed and printed there.

So I got some prints and asked for my free lesson. He looked surprised and annoyed by my request. Maybe ‘free lesson’ just meant pointing out mistakes you had made like leaving on the lens cap or an orange filter? Anyway, he looked over my prints and pointed out a few things I could have done better. He also suggested I use slide film instead of negative film for better colour accuracy.

I didn’t go back for any more free lessons, but I did show up now and then to get prints made and chat. Then I left my job and the town. A few months later I was surprised by a phone call from him asking me to work on a photo shoot. I thought he meant “you can carry my tripod”, but he wanted to use me as a model. A model?

A fellow he knew had started up a business making mushroom liquor and he was looking to do some advertising. He was hoping to give the product some international appeal by including a foreigner in his marketing materials. So I found myself in the photographer’s studio one day with a young woman and the owner of the distillery. We did some shoots in the studio and also a few at a local bar where the woman and I were supposed to look romantically involved while enjoying a bottle of pine mushroom spirits. (I never saw the bar photos so I guess I was too broad and hairy to pull off Romantic). The photographer used a digital camera to judge exposure and then photographed everything using a 6×7 or 6×8 camera.

Later the photographer sent me a few of the test photos from the shoot and from a trade show in Japan.

I wouldn’t drink anything this guy recommends.
Could the mushroom photo on the far right be any more suggestive?

As you might be able to see, each bottle comes with a slice of pine mushroom at the bottom. Pine mushrooms are thought to be “good for man’s symbol” (as it was once explained to me) and probably that’s the marketing angle. Alas, I just did a search for this product and couldn’t find it. Nothing to do with me, I hope . . . .

That was my only experience of being a model, though I once allowed a chicken restaurant owner to take photos of me for his new restaurant in exchange for a free chicken burger. I have no shame.

(These photos weren’t made by me, and it’s probably illegal to be sharing them. But I can’t remember the photographer’s name. Let’s say permission to share these on my blog was part of my compensation for being in them . . . .)

Becoming a Chore

Bridge and Mountains, Seongsan.

In addition to not knowing what to photograph lately, I’m also getting a bit frustrated with working on the photos I do make. I can adjust contrast, clarity, and a dozen other sliders and settings, but then the photos look like every other over-processed picture you see on Instagram or photo forums.

I think I’m just making it more complicated that it needs to be. A couple of days ago I found myself using raw convertors to make 16 bit TIFF black and white files and then importing them into Lightroom and doing more adjustments there. And still not being happy with the final photos. Frankly, it just felt like a chore from start to finish. And that’s not good for a hobby.

Today I revisited those raw files and used just basic camera settings. They look much better and it was much less work and stress.

Today I brought a camera out for a bicycle ride and set it to record jpg only. No tripod, and no frigging around with settings. The light was warm, the experience was pleasurable, and the photos looked good. And then I accidentally erased them all . . . . It doesn’t matter. They were just photos from around my neighbourhood and I could make the same ones tomorrow. Most of them would have eventually been deleted anyway.

I tell you what, I’m tempted to just buy some rolls of Kodak Ultramax and let the lab worry about everything.

The 1994 Blasphemy Hour

I attended the University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus for the 94/95 school year. I was preparing to enter graduate school but gave it up to come to Korea. The basement room I rented was just large enough for a bed, a desk, an armchair, and a chest of drawers. And the occasional bit of blasphemy.

My flatmate John took these photos with my compact camera. I have no idea what led to me dressing up as an antipope, but it was good for a few laughs. But also raises some questions now that I look at the photos again. Where did I get a Diet Coke box? I never drank Diet Coke. What was the stick in my hand? How old were those curtains? Why did I have a bottle of Newfie Screech when I didn’t drink? How dirty was that towel?

Always look on the bright side

I have four straight hours of class on Friday mornings, but then I have the whole afternoon to do what I like. And what I like to do is go for photo rides.

Unfortunately, the only photo I made was this mobile phone snapshot. I stopped to take a rest in a small park after a disappointing ride. My objective was to ride through Jebi Village and then the Gujeong area to see if I could make some landscapes or agricultural photos. Alas, the countryside around Gangneung is becoming an industrial zone. Lots of ugly aluminium workshops, warehouses, construction sites, and huge trucks flying along narrow country roads.

But I should think positively. Now I know not to bother going that way again. And I did get a nice ride out of it. And a decent snapshot for sharing.