From the Archive: The Rest of 2015

I only have a few photos from the last two months of 2015. Two from a hillside neighbourhood in the town of Juminjin and three from downtown Gangneung.

The neighbourhood in Jumunjin is built on a very steep slope indeed, and the area is full of walls like this. It’s almost like a fortress. This photo was made on Provia 100F slide film, which performed quite well on this bright and sunny day.

This was scanned too brightly. This wall and cart are gone now. One of my favourite photographs and I have a print that looks good.

A bridge that used to carry train tracks over the Namdae River. The tracks are gone now, but the bridge has been turned into part of a park and you can walk across it. 

This mannequin was gone the last time I passed this seamstress shop. 

Fish drying on the Underwater Bridge that crosses Namdae River. It’s a pedestrian bridge (except for the scooter drivers who fly back and forth across it. Where are the police?) and it’s called the Underwater Bridge because it’s lower than the dyke walls and gets submerged in times of flooding. 

 That’s it for 2015. See you in 2014!

From the Archive: The Rest of October 2015

Here are a few photos from the end of October 2015. 
 Restaurant Vents.iPhone 4 Hipstamatic Application. 2015
A restaurant worker came out while I was making this photo, lit up a fag, and gruffly asked “What are you taking a photo of?” I pointed at the vents. While he was sucking on his cigarette and looking at the vents to see what I could possibly be pointing at, I bid him good day and left. 
Central Market. Fishmonger. Contax N1, Portra 400. 2015

Central Market. Fishmonger. Contax N1, Portra 400. 2015

A few months ago I saw a tourist pointing his camera at these ladies and making photos. “Rather rude,” I thought, and then remembered I had made more or less the same photos in 2015. 

Downtown Bus Stop. Contax N1, Portra 400. 2015

You might notice that there is a black bar at the top of each film scan in this post. This is a result of my local lab not much caring about the quality of film scans. Stick the machine on auto, zip zip zip. Lined up correctly? Close enough, what? It happened a number of times and it’s the reason I started sending film away to Seoul for development and scans. The Seoul lab is faster as well.
   I like the composition of the bus station photo, but the front of the bus is overexposed and there are some very black areas. I wonder if sending the film to Seoul could get me better results. I like these three film photos enough to pay a bit of money for good scans.

From the Archive: 20151007-001 Contax N1 Portra 400

20151007-001-013 Anmok. Snack Truck Dog

I don’t feel like going out so this weekend I am continuing my archive organisation. It’s mostly awful stuff and a lot of photos are getting deleted, but I’m finding a few that I like. This cute dog tied to a snack truck at Anmok Harbour makes me smile.

20151007-001-020 Gangneung. Apartments and Wires

Tourists don’t visit this neighbourhood so it hasn’t been prettied up with nice sidewalks and buried power lines.

20151007-001-028 Gangneung, Namdae River. Self-Portrait and Cyclist

Who’s the handsome fellow in the shadow?

The scans are what the local lab-guy gave me after printing at 4×6. The scans tend to come out a bit bright (do lab scanners expose to the right?), but Auto Contrast in Capture NX-D did a decent job of making the photos look good. It does contrast for Red, Green, and Blue channels separately, so white balance gets fixed at the same time. One-click photo editing makes me happy.

The Scenic Route to Work

Sometimes I take the forty minute route to work because I get to walk past lots of trees and fields.

Jebi-ri (Swallow Village)
Gagneung. Computer Chair

This chair is at the edge of a field, so maybe a farmer uses it to take a rest now and then. I can’t explain the concrete tiles piled up next to it.

River(bed) and Apartments

Gangneung, Namdae River. Riverbed and Buildings. 2019

I made the long walk to university today and brought my X-T3 in case I saw something interesting. When I transferred today’s photos to my computer, I noticed that there was a photo from last week on the SD card. I made this on the way downtown and I like it enough to share.
   There is very little precipitation in Korea during the winter, and most small rivers look like this one. There’s only a little stream running down the riverbed, which you can see as a thin dark line in this photo.

To Pod or Not to Pod

On Sunday I took my tripod and a bag of lenses up Rock Island Valley again to make some black and white photos in peace. I didn’t feel like going up the same road again, so I crossed the footbridge seen in my previous post and went up into the hills.
   I tried making photos of the bridge and path before moving on, but it was a tripod-unfriendly environment. The ground was very uneven and to either side of the path was thick foliage and many thorny bushes. They frustrated my attempts to get the composition I wanted so I gave up and climbed the hill.

Tomb Steles

About fifty metres or so from the bridge is a grave site. There is a single tomb and then a line of these stelae along the side of the grounds.  There was no problem setting up the tripod, but I didn’t get a satisfactory composition. In this photo I could use the hill as a dark background, but from any other angle the sky showed up as a bright distraction between the trees. Maybe I’ll go back later with more patience and try to work the busy background into the composition.

Tombs

A hundred or more metres on from the first tomb is a group of three graves. There was a bit of muttering and cursing about the tripod because I had to stand on sloped earth to make this photo and the legs were not cooperating. I’ve made good photos of these tombs in the past, but I couldn’t seem to do anything with the place on Sunday’s trip.

Saranggol Walking Trail

As an aside, I hope you are looking at these photos on a decent monitor. They have lots of contrast on my home computer, but appear very washed out on the old monitor I have on my office desk.
   The sign says, “Saranggol Walking Trail”. (‘Saranggol’ means ‘Love Valley”). This is odd, because Rock Island Valley is on the maps but Love Valley is not. The Love Valley Walking Trail is not even in a valley. It goes along the tops of hills. The only mention of the walking path I could find on the Internet was on an old website that said the walking trail is named after the many ‘couple graves’ to be found on the hills. I’ve been all around the valley and the hills and I don’t recall any ‘couple’ graves at all. Many of them are on their own or in groups of three and four. Maybe there is information in the Chinese character grave inscriptions that I’m missing. In any case, Love Valley is not an official name for the area.

Path and Fields

On my way back home I made this photo, which I had failed to do earlier because of the tripod and maybe my lack of patience. I didn’t want to use the tripod, but I did want a wide depth of field, so I set the aperture to f16 and turned the ISO up to 1600. This high setting also gave me a high enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake. It only took me a minute or two to make this photo and be on my way.

Never Looked Better

Some people look better behind cameras rather than in front of them. Making a picture of myself in the apartment elevator is a habit from film photography. It uses up the last or second last frame on the roll and records which camera the film was in. Not necessary with a digital camera, but a habit is a habit.

I learned several things on my little walk along the hills. One, I need to practise being more patient. Photography is supposed to be my way of neatly organising a chaotic world and relaxing, not cursing aluminium legs and bushes. Two, landscape photography is difficult and I need much practice and study. I thought that black and white landscapes would be easier than colour landscapes because there are fewer things like white balance to worry about, but this is not the case. Brown leaves and grey tree trunks can be easily distinguished in colour, but in black and white they look more or less the same. Filters help, but only for some things. I need to practise seeing in black and white again. Three, image quality on the D810 is very impressive even at high ISO settings. I did some quick tests on my walk at ISO 64, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 12800. High ISO noise can be quite awful in colour photographs, but in black and white it’s not objectionable and looks like film grain. Sort of. I haven’t tried more rigorous tests or printed any results, but at the moment I think that going up to 1600 or 3200 is no problem at all. 6400 is not bad in a pinch and 12800 would be fine for snapshots.  On my next walkabout I might save myself a bit of weight and hassle by leaving the tripod at home. Or leaving it in my bag until absolutely necessary. But perhaps I should do some print tests of the high ISOs first . . . .

Despite a bit of annoyance with the tripod now and then, I had a pleasant couple of hours in the woods. I met a few hikers who said hello and a little old lady with a walking stick who seemed to get up the slopes more easily than I did. I should follow her around to get in shape.

Rock Island Valley

I was inspired by a few photographers I follow (here, here, and here) to try my hand at black and white landscape photography. The closest place for me to practise landscape photography is the valley just behind my apartment complex, called Rock Island Valley. I just wanted to walk up and down the valley and make a few test pictures at first, so I left the tripod at home, stuck a 50mm lens on the D810, and set the ISO to 1600 because it was quite an overcast day. In just an hour I had forty-odd photos on the SD card and I hadn’t even gone up into the hills. I am pleased that there are so many things to photograph just a few minutes’ walk from the apartment. I didn’t meet any people at all while on my walk, which suits me just fine.

Rock Island Valley. Bridge and Path. 2019

This path will take you up into a hill where there are some lovely woods, tombs, and even deer. This was a low contrast scene so I did some dodging and burning to make the bridge and path stand out more. I made this on a heavily overcast day, and I think it’ll be better if I return on a brighter overcast day. I’ll bring more lenses and a tripod to see if I can’t find a nicer angle.

Rock Island Valley. Trees. 2019

I used a green filter effect on the camera to lighten up the foliage in contrast to the brown tree trunk and branches. Again, I think that returning to this spot with a tripod and some more concentration will get me some good photos of this tree. I should have lightened up that little background patch in the upper left hand corner. Next time!

Rock Island Valley. Crockery. 2019

I found these bowls and pots at the edge of an orchard. I have no idea why they might be there.

Although these photos were all made at ISO 1600, they are quite clean. You can see noise/’grain’ if you look carefully in the out-of-focus areas of the photos, but it’s not more than you’d find in ISO 50 or ISO 100 black and white film. And it’s possible that the high ISO gives the photos some nice character. I’ll have to compare with ISO 64 when I go up the valley again. Which I hope is soon!

Long Post, Complaint, A Resolution, and Many Photos

I enjoy making photos of city streets, alleys, and the odd things and little spots of beauty you sometimes find, but I will have to give it up. People sometimes give me suspicious looks and I’ve even been followed by middle-aged and older men so they can see what I’m up to, but the worst experience came a few days ago in front of a convenience store. I was sitting at a picnic table in front of the store to drink a tin of coffee when the fifty-something year old man sitting at the next table stuck a fag in his mouth and pulled out his lighter. I pointed out the clearly visible No Smoking sign and asked him not to smoke, especially since there was a non-smoker next to him. He started cursing and shouting at me and he stood up and started to come towards me threateningly. I pulled out my phone and entered the police number, keeping my thumb above the call button in case he actually tried something. Luckily, a younger man (who was also pulling some cigarettes out of his pocket) tried to calm him down and led him away to an alley where he could smoke. That was the worst case ever, but people often react angrily when you ask them not to smoke next to you in a non-smoking area. And it’s not just the psychotic smokers and suspicious looks that have put me off doing city photography. It’s the sociopath drivers who come up on the sidewalks where you are standing or walking and get angry when you protest. That sort of thing happens all the time, and if it still bothers me after twenty-odd years of being in the country then I think I need to avoid spending time on the city streets. If you can’t beat them, avoid them.
   I won’t have to give up all photography, of course. My apartment building is on the edge of the city and from my window I can see a valley, hills, and fields. From my building to a small valley surrounded by peaceful hills takes just a minute or two of walking. And there are quiet villages and country roads within easy biking distance. In addition to the opportunities for landscape photography, there are many historical sites around the city where I can go to make photos. Depending on the day, these places are more or less people-free and quiet.
   I’m going to ‘dump’ my remaining photos in this post and then start fresh with photos from the valleys, the hills, the fields, and the historical places around the city. It is, after all, quite a nice city if you can get over the behaviour of some of the people living in it.

This was the only keeper from a bicycle ride around a reservoir. The tree is interesting but I couldn’t do anything with it.

An aisle in Gangneung’s Central Market. The sign says motorcycles are not allowed to drive down the aisle.

The Heo Estate. I like how the doors get smaller from right to left.

More doors from the same building. 

A rural scene made through a tourist information sign.

The Heo Estate again. 

Amice looking out the window, as usual.

The peak of a little rock island at Sacheon Beach.

Very large boulders on Sacheon Beach. 

A memorial to someone or other in the village at Sacheon Harbour.

More Sacheon Beach

The entrance to a jazz bar in a Gangneung alley.

This scooter is always parked at the entrance to the park surrounding the one thousand year old gingko tree.

Another downtown alley.

Market Area.

Car and concrete wall. I rather like this and planned to make more like this before I decided to pack it in.

Post box.

An alley in the village of Anmok. 

An historical site in downtown Gangneung guarded by model guards.

A side entrance to an historical site. 

A side street in downtown Gangneung.

Looks familiar . . . . 

A water trough at the Heo Estate, day after rain.

Statue of Ms. Heo, whose name I can never remember.

Zzzzzzzzz

Two fish statues at Sacheon Harbour.

Rock island and water pipes leading from fish restaurants to the sea.

Tsunami warning equipment. Probably. Sacheon Beach.

The same rock island from just above but from a different view.

Old signs advertising a noodle restaurant in downtown Gangneung.
A new post with new photos and a new focus is coming soon. Until then, stay off the sidewalks!

Anmok

Around the ides of March I made a trip to Anmok Harbour. It’s an easy place to visit as the bicycle path follows the river from my apartment to the harbour and almost all city buses end up at the bus depot there. There is a danger of going there too often and becoming bored of it, but I usually manage to see something in a way I haven’t before. I used my lightweight and convenient X-T3 camera for the day’s photos. The film simulation was set to Classic Chrome, as usual.

Gangneung, Anmok Beach. Covered Swing Bench. 2019

The only difference between my photo of this swing and ten thousand tourist photos of this swing is that I don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend sitting in it doing the V sign and a cutesy pose. This is an unoriginal view of the swing, but I rather like it anyway.

Gangneung, Anmok Beach. Do Not Approach. 2019

I don’t know if this lifeguard tower is roped off because it’s broken and/or tilted, or if because the city doesn’t want Instagrammers climbing all over it, falling off, and then suing the council. The small sign on the right says, “Do Not Approach”.

Gangneung, Bamboo Island. Military Watchtower Turned Zipline Anchor. 2019

This is an illegal photograph. Signs on the tower and just below the tower say that you may not enter or make photographs of the tower. You may not even have the tower in the background of your photos. Which seems like an unreasonable demand considering it’s right in the centre of a tourist area and a zipline company has a starting point installed on the top. The rules are obviously not enforced, because a police car passed me as I was making this photo.

Gangneung, Anmok Harbour. Fishing Boats and Marina. 2019

I made this photo from the top of one of two harbour breakwaters. There are some nice lines in this photo, and the two boats and the marina make a triangle. This was originally called Anmok Harbour but had the name officially changed to Gangneung Harbour. Everyone calls it Anmok Harbour.

Gangneung, Anmok Harbour. White Lighthouse. 2019

At the end of the breakwater is a white lighthouse. I tried a dozen different angles and focal lengths, but this was the only decent photograph I came away with. I like the colour and the contrast, but the lighthouse sits too thickly in the corner of the photo. I’m going to keep it, but I don’t think it will get printed.

The sun was bright and the golden hour was long gone, but I think the direct light worked well for these photographs. Unlike landscapes where subtlety is important, these photos benefitted from strong contrast to emphasis lines and shapes. And anyway, I can never get up in time for a sunrise . . . .