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 8×10 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 . . . .

Morning in Downtown Gangneung

A slight aside before getting on with this week’s blog post. My editing process takes about a week and involves rating photos from one to five using stars in Adobe Bridge. Photos with one or two stars eventually get erased because they have some technical problem or they are of no interest to anyone, including myself. Three star photos are photos that might not be great, but have some interest and documentary value. Four stars is just a step towards deciding if I really like a photo or not. A five star photo is one that makes me happy and satisfied every time I see it. I decided to post only five-star photos when I started this blog, but this week’s post is something like a documentary so I’m allowing photos that are good but not great. Maybe none of them are great, but you know what I mean.
And now to the post . . . .

I managed to get up fairly early one cloudy morning and decided to go downtown to make some photographs. I was interested in getting some interesting photos, but I was also interested in testing out my Nikon D810’s Picture Controls. I’ve more or less settled on Standard with -0.5 saturation to get rid of the ‘digital glow’ that I dislike. The Vivid Picture Control with -0.5 saturation also seems to work nicely on cloudy days. Anyway, I got downtown in time for the morning sidewalk market (tolerated by City Hall, not official, I think) and then some street scenes before heading to the vet to buy some food for the kitty cat. Enough babble! On to the pictures!

 When I first came to Gangneung, the sidewalks on the main road were crowded with old women selling vegetables, fruit, and fish from sheets of plastic. It was difficult to get around and looked terrible so the city moved all these ladies into the Central Market where they are now underfoot in the middle of the already narrow aisles. If you go downtown early in the morning, you can see people selling things on the sidewalk of the market road. They pack up and leave before traffic gets going for the day. The woman pictured here is permanently bent over. There are lots of older people like this in Korea.

 The city recently tore down some very old market buildings and put up some nicer ones made of glass and steel. I situated myself between two of the buildings and waited for interesting people to pass by. First there was this woman in a traditional dress. Don’t look to closely – the focus is on the bags in front of her and she’s slightly out of focus. Damn. The photo has a technical problem but was sufficiently interesting to keep.

 Here we have a man on scooter going through the narrow market aisles. This is really a problem. Do you want exhaust fumes falling on your produce?

 Awww……. The city put in a park where the train tracks used to be. There are a few statues here and there. Quite nice.

 Another exercise in patience. I waited a while for this lady to make a gesture with her hand. The figure on the right is a bronze statue of a young woman.

 After leaving the market, I went to a section of downtown that is supposed to be vehicle free. Nobody cares early in the morning and sometimes not during the day. I photographed a number of passing people, bicycles, and scooters(!), but this was the closest I could get to a satisfying composition. I think this kind of photo requires a lot of practise and a willingness to endure dirty looks.

 Why do I like photographing buses so much? Another situation where I composed and waited and waited and waited. And screwed up the timing, and screwed up and screwed up. I finally got this one.

 Buses! A little bit more of the window on the front bus would have been nice.

 A few people (mostly older women) use this kind of tricycle to do their shopping. I wouldn’t mind having one if there was a model with lots of low gears. CGV is the name of the multiplex cinema in town.

 In addition to buses, I also like post boxes. The faded sign on the right says “Open for Business”. I like the contrast between the new post box and the faded paint of the sign and gate.

 I stood on tippy-toe to get the entire mouth of this clothes charity box into the frame.

The vet keeps a couple of cats at his clinic who roam free and terrorise little dogs that come in. They get along very well except when the vet gives them catnip. Then they have a go at each other for a while. No claws involved, so it’s nothing to worry about.

For the curious, all of these photos are JPEGs sraight from the camera with no post-processing at all. I used to fiddle, fiddle, fiddle with settings in camera and then with the RAW files later, but finally I decided that the Nikon engineers probably knew what they were doing when they programmed the Picture Controls. All I did was lower saturation a little bit so things aren’t so shiny. All photos were made with a 50mm lens.