Too Many Photos

I was probably a “one roll, four seasons” snapshooter before I became seriously interested in photography about twenty years ago. When I got my first SLR I wasted a lot of film on the banal, and when I bought a Nikon D70 the zero cost of taking pictures set me on the path to my current collection of twenty-five thousand photos. Most of them are not even fit for documentary or fond memories.

What was this supposed to be about?

The first reason my hard drive is so full of pictures is a lack of skill. Especially in the early days, I made frame after frame of the same subject because I didn’t know how to compose or expose. I knew my photos weren’t good, but I didn’t know how to get a good one except by doing click after click and hoping that something would eventually work. Not being able to distinguish the decisive moment, I captured all moments. Monkeys and typewriters . . . .

Maybe a monkey made this while I was looking at something else.

The second reason I made so many useless photographs is that I was trying out a lot of things. Deliberate camera shake, different colour profiles, and so on. Experimentation is good, but I neglected to delete my failures. I couldn’t kill my darlings.

The last reason for the rat’s nest hiding under the Pictures folder is simply that I enjoyed making photos. I loved seeing images appear on the back of the camera or on prints back from the lab. Again, that’s a good thing, but I had no concept of editing. I didn’t know good from bad, so I kept everything. Just in case.

Hard to make a case for this.

Luckily, being a more skilled photographer now means that I am not pointing the camera at everything and hoping that I get lucky. I’m more selective about what I put in the frame. And I’m starting to realise that one photo of a friend from a lunch date is enough. No need to document everything she ate and drank. I’m also learning how to edit better once I have the day’s photos on my computer. Mistakes get marked for deletion right away. After a week or so I generally have a good sense of what photos might be worth showing others or keeping for my own enjoyment. Or deleting.

Not deleted. Yet.

That takes care of preventing a glut of pictures now and in the future, but there are still years and years of photographs from the past serving no purpose except to extend the time it takes to back up my hard drive. So I am using a combination of my sharpened editing skills and the objectivity of hindsight to cull photos from the present back twenty years and beyond. At the time of writing (2020) I’m only back as far as 2017, so I imagine it will take many more months to complete the project.

Although it’s a lot of work, editing my past photographs teaches me what mistakes to avoid in the future. It also gives me an idea of what sort of photography I do well and might concentrate on in the future. It also brings up memories of places and people past, for better and for worse. Sometimes I see people I had good times with and sometimes I see the faces of people I disappointed or parted on bad terms with. But I suppose there are lessons in those memories as well.

Things in life go one way or the other . . . .

Ladder on Wall, 5:4 Format, and Gods

Ladder Hung on Wall, Geumsan Village

There are a lot of run-down houses in the Korean countryside. They look a bit bad seen as a whole, but sometimes these old houses are good for photographing. The photo above is of a wall that serves as both part of the property ‘fence’ and a building. A shed, if I recall correctly. The original concrete wall has been repaired with tacked on siding. I was attracted to this scene by the homemade ladder and the crack on the left. Interestingly, although the wall needs a coat of paint, the ladder seems to be used for painting something, judging by the stains all over it.

I think the nail/bolt/rivet on the far left is important for the composition because it fills an empty space, but it was cut out of the basic scan I had done to see what was on the roll of film. The virtual drum scanner used by my lab in Seoul gets everything on the frame. Speaking of film, this photo was made with Fujifilm Superia Premium 400 in a Nikon F6. For those of you interested, that film is very nice for a 400 speed film, but I think Portra is nicer and for a better price.


I like the colours of my Fujifilm X-T3, but I really miss the 5:4 format option from the Nikon D810. But! Today I discovered a way to indirectly get 5:4 on the X-T3. You can choose to show framing guidelines in the viewfinder. The options are 3×3, 6×4, and HD framing. 6×4 is just one more that 5:4! So, if I ignore the outer half squares of the framing guidelines I get 5×4. Ta-da! A quick snip in Lightroom and I’ve got a nice 5:4 frame, just as Nature intended. I’ve only tried it at home this evening, but I’m looking forward to having a go at it when I’m outside. I could even, I think, put a bit of magic tape over the rear LCD to help me out a bit when framing. Well, let’s see how well I can manage by estimation before sticking things on the camera.

(Above I wrote “as Nature intended”. Which god would photographers worship, I wonder. Are there any gods of sunlight? The Celtic god Lugh seems a good candidate. He’s a god of light, craftsmanship, and the arts. Ask him to bless your light meter the next time you’re out with a camera.)

From the Archive: Self-Portrait

Hard at Work, 2006

Today was a national holiday celebrating the creation of the Korean alphabet in the middle of the 15th century by King Sejong the Great and his scholars. I suppose lots of children participated in writing activities (I have no idea, really), but I took the opportunity to go through photos on my hard drive and in my binders. I sorted photos from 2006 on my hard drive by subject instead of date, and I went through all my 8×10 prints to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I kept less than half of my prints. Some of you are probably crying, “You should never throw away prints!”, but, believe me, some prints are just begging to be in the bin. I seem to have gone through some phases where I was printing everything at 8×10.

For the above photo, I set my Nikon FM3a on a tripod or a chair, set the timer, and then pretended to be asleep on the job.


I like my Fujifilm X-T3 because of its size and the film simulations. I like my Nikon D810 because I can make 5:4 ratio photographs with it. If only I could get them together.

The Fujifilm GF-X cameras are almost the perfect solution. They have the great Fuji look and offer many aspect ratios, including 5:4. But they are bigger than the X-series cameras and, more importantly, I can’t afford one.

Oh, well. The X-T3’s square photos are kind of nice . . . .

Dinners at Work

The new semester starts soon and the problem of what to eat for dinner while at the university is coming up again. This is important because I’m trying to lose weight and eating proper meals at regular times is an important part of my diet.

There are five options for eating dinners during the semester, as far as I can see. I’m lucky enough this term to be able to eat at 12 or before on all days expect Fridays, when I finish at 1:00. I can go home then, so Friday is not a problem. Anyway, the options. I can eat at the faculty cafeteria, at an off-campus restaurant, at the restaurants in the student centre, bring something to eat from home, or come home each day for my dinner. There are problems with each of these options, which is why meals are such a hassle while working.

The university has a faculty cafeteria that is slightly cheaper than going to a restaurant and you can eat as much as you like, This sounds ideal, but the food quality has steadily been declining as the price has been increasing. Also, Koreans love seafood and it’s on the menu very often. I can’t stand seafood. The food at the cafeteria also tends to be on the oily side, so not good for people who are watching their waistline. Finally, there are too many suits in the cafeteria. Korea is a Confucian, hierarchical society and there is a lot of head bobbing to seniors and bosses. To me, as a Westerner, the cafeteria has a formal, stuffy atmosphere that it’s difficult to relax in. When I do eat there, I choose a table in the far corner where I can avoid having to be obsequious. To be fair though, as an outsider, nobody expects me to conform tightly to social norms. Neither am I seen as a part of society, but that’s another post . . . .

My second option is to eat at an off-campus restaurant. Something near school because I don’t have a car. There are restaurants near the university, but there are few ‘general’ restaurants, if you know what I mean. Places that serve common Korean meals such as soybean paste soup, gimchi stew, bibimbap, and so on. A lot of places near the university serve things like burritos (awful ones), or fast foods. Some places don’t even open until the evening. I had a favourite restaurant just outside the side gate whee I was a regular customer for years. The food was delicious, the servings were huge (bad for the diet!), the prices were cheap, and the place was a favourite of students so the atmosphere was relaxed. But when construction began on the university’s Olympic stadium a couple of years ago (the women’s ice hockey rink is on campus), construction workers started to show up at the restaurant. Why not? It was right next to the construction site, the food was cheap, and the large portions just right for people who work hard all day. But as the number of workers started to increase, the number of students dropped off. Prices went up and the food quality went down. The restaurant owners must have gotten filthy rich because of the Olympics, and maybe they didn’t bother to try hard any more. This is just a guess, of course. I went there a couple of days ago in the hopes that it had improved, but the stir-fry sauce was watery, it wasn’t cheap, and the place was full of noisy middle-aged men. So, I think off-campus restaurants are out for me this semester.

That was a lengthy paragraph. Where was I? Oh, yes. Option number three is to eat at the restaurants for students in the student centre. These are reasonably priced but, again, there are no regular meals to be found. There’s a fast food place, a terrible grilled sandwich place, a rice bowl restaurant that’s not too bad but I think it’s all instant ingredients, and there is a Korean snack place that’s fine but it’s hard to make a meal out of the selections. None of these places are very big and it’s difficult to find a table unless you show up very early or very late.

The next option is to bring something from home to eat at school like a sandwich. There are no staff break rooms at the university, so what I can bring is limited. Nothing I need to warm up, for sure. A lack of faculty lounges means that I have to eat at my desk, which health professionals say is not good for you. The university has some pleasant outdoor areas with trees and benches which would be lovely places to enjoy a sandwich in warm weather if they weren’t so poisoned with cigarette smoke. Every time the university creates a park-like area on campus it’s immediately taken over by hordes of smokers. I complained a couple of times to the university but their reaction was, “We can’t do anything about that.” Why do they bother to put up No Smoking signs, then?

The final option of going home for dinner is not very practical. It’s only a fifteen minute walk to my apartment, but that’s thirty minutes total and I would have to cook and eat as well. I would get to see the pussy-cat, though . . . .

So, those are my choices for the semester. I think what I’ll do is look around for some off-campus restaurants that maybe I didn’t notice before, turn off my computer and monitor and bring a book to read while I eat at my desk, and go to the faculty cafeteria when there’s no seafood on the menu. And be careful about how much food I pile on my plastic tray while going through the line . . . .

What’s the plan?

On Blogspot I posted photographs with a little write-up on a semi-regular basis. Blogspot is, not surprisingly, only for blogs, so I made a Flickr account to set up photo albums. Although I frequently checked my blog, I usually forgot that I have a Flickr account and eventually stopped updating the albums there. So, I thought, wouldn’t it be good to have my blog and my online albums in the same place? At an address that I can easily share. And so I registered to keep all my photo sharing in one place. On the blog I will post photos that I think might interest others without worrying too much about artistic merit. (“Cat Yawning on Chesterfield, 2019.”). In the galleries I will upload photos that I think might look good on a wall, in a book, or in an online slideshow.
But I might not just use this website to share my photos. From time to time I might write little essays about whatever has been on my mind recently. Things like teaching, living in Korea as a minority, something I saw online, or whatever. I’ll try not to rant and roar. If I’m feeling very brave I’ll post a poem or a story now and then.
So, that’s the tentative plan for this website. I want to fill it with content that people might want to see, but I’ll go at it slow and steady. Lots of proofreading and careful consideration before adding anything to the site. If you’re interested in following, you can click the subscribe button on the Home page. I also appreciate reader comments. Just enter them in the space below.