Some years ago I made photos of Seongyojang using the Hipstamatic application on an iPhone 4. The iPhone/Hipstamatic combination was very limiting – there was only one focal length, the rendering of the scene by the application was a bit random, and the iPhone 4 didn’t produce raw files I could adjust later. What I got when I pressed the shutter button was what I got, but it was challenging and fun. I sometimes thought about doing the same kind of photography again with a ‘proper’ camera, keeping the square format but using different focal lengths and possibly doing the whole project in black and white. On the way to Seongyojang the other day I thought it was a good time to start.

Blurred Calligraphy Sign.

If you go right after entering the grounds, you come to a pavilion called Hwallaejong. It’s a nice place to sit and look at the lotus pond and you can pay to have tea there on certain occasions. It’s been photographed from the front by thousands of people in more or less the same way, including myself. This time I decided to do something a bit different by purposely blurring the calligraphy sign and papered windows around the back of the pavilion.

Lawn and Buildings.

There is a large lawn on the estate that doesn’t seem to be used for anything. I’ve never seen picnickers on it or even children running around on it. Maybe it’s for special events? Although I’ve been to Seongyojang dozens of times, I don’t think I noticed this perspective before. One of the joys of photography is continually seeing things in new ways.

Stepping Stones.

I used my Fujifilm X-T3 because it has in-camera square format and because it’s light. No need for awkward tripods. This is especially important at historical sites and festivals where many people can be moving around. This requires a fairly high ISO setting at times , but, interestingly, the X-T3’s Acros simulation looks better at higher ISOs than it does at lower ISOs. I generally set the camera to auto ISO and aperture priority mode to make life simple.

In traditional Korean houses, especially those in the south, there is no real distinction between doors and windows, since the whole wall is basically removable and a can enter anywhere.
These stairs lead up to an empty plot of land. Possibly they are for the gardener.
Stairs and wall made of stone blocks.

Because I photographed Seongyojang in square format for the iPhone exhibition, I was worried about this new project being more or less the same except in black and white. But I have (I hope) learned more about photography in the past five years and I think that using different focal lengths will give me some new perspectives.

A moderate telephoto lens compressed this chimney nicely against the clay tile roof.
These 18th and later century buildings have been fitted with electricity for interior and exterior lights.
This photo was made in winter, so I’m not sure if the trees in the background are dead or have just lost their leaves for the season.

I’m going to make the rounds of the historical sites in Gangneung and keep an eye out for traditional festivals, but I also want to get out of Gangneung and look for some traditional buildings, etc in other towns and locations. Maybe it’s time to just off my driving license and rent a car.

14 thoughts on “Seongyojang

  1. These are really interesting to see. The square format is a really good choice. And I really love that Acros simulation! A really strong set of pictures.

    I have (had) an X100T, which was a gift from my company when I hit 10 years service. I wasn’t particularly interested in having a digital camera at the time, but eventually, I started to use it and I loved it, partly because I didn’t need to spend time editing pictures. Sadly it died just before Xmas, and although it hurt to spend the money, I replaced it with a second-hand X100F. This one has the Acros simulation, although I haven’t taken many pictures yet. But I’m really impressed with how Acros looks in your photos.


    1. Thanks very much. Very encouraging comments.
      Do you set the camera to jpg only? Or use raf files and convert in the camera? I use raf files and convert using Fujifilm’s X Raw Studio, but, unfortunately, it’s not compatible with Apple’s latest OS update. I hope the problem gets sorted soon.


      1. I shoot JPEG and RAW. But I only shoot RAW on the off chance I want to change the film simulation in-camera after taking the picture. I just edit the JPGs, and I tend to do just the same simple edits I’d do with my film photos, such as small changes to exposure and contrast if required. One of the reasons I didn’t want a digital camera was because of all the editing. And yet as it turns out, the real joy of the Fuji X cameras is that for me the pics require hardly any editing. Having the analogue controls and not having to make decisions about lenses means I can use it just like one of my film cameras. Which is great for a dinosaur like me that doesn’t like change. We fear change


      2. Haha. I haven’t seen that for a long time. Film simulation is the main reason I use raw on the camera. And sometimes to adjust Highlights and Shadows. I wish there was just a Contrast setting, to be honest. I’m generally very happy with the photos as they come out of the camera. Especially Acros and Classic Chrome.


    1. Thank you for the compliments. Funny, I was thinking that you have some interesting places near you. The places around me are interesting, but I would like to find some new places. Not having a car limits me.


      1. I guess that’s why we like blogs from people living in different places…other places are interesting to us. The challenge is to go out of our own front doors every day with fresh eyes.


  2. I’m glad I found your old comment and you replied, because I wondered what became of you and I find now that you’re here! I’ve added you to my RSS reader and will resume following your work.


  3. You should really try and find an old TLR and try it with film – cost goes up without a darkroom though, but all the same a 6x6cm negative is a satisfying thing.


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