Poets talk about sunbeams as though they are something that make you feel like dancing in a glade with the faeries, but at this time of year in Korea all you get from the heavens are shards of sunlight tearing into your eyes and skin. Thoroughly unpleasant, especially with the humidity. The city has put up large parasols at zebra crossings so people can get out of the sun while waiting for the lights to change. Very nice.
The guy who parked here figured that the city set up shaded parking for motorcycles. He knows that the police do nothing about illegal parking so why obey laws that aren’t enforced? Social Contract be damned.
|VIP Parking. Downtown Gangneung. 2019.
There are no high places in Wanggok Village where I could get up and make a wide photo of the village as a whole. What’s more, most of the houses are surrounded by walls, which means mostly I could just get peeks and rooves. Here are a few of the acceptable photos I made that day.
Unlike more southern houses which have lots of paper doors and windows, northern houses have more wooden doors, smaller windows, and thicker walls to keep out the cold. Wanggok Village is about halfway up the Korean peninsula and it’s where the northern style of housing begins.
The tiles in the foreground belong to the outer wall and the rooves inside belong to the house. The thatched roof building is a shed of some sort, if I remember correctly.
The house is on the right and on the left is a thatched wall. In the centre is a chimney made of stone, clay mortar, and a clay pot for the top. I’ve never seen that anywhere else and it’s quite interesting.
Awwww, look at the puppy dog . . . . on a short chain, sadly. Most dogs here are on very short chains or in cages.
I would really like to go back to this village and make more photos, but it’s difficult to get to if you don’t have a private vehicle. There’s bus service, but very infrequent. Also, not too long ago I saw Wanggok Village featured in one of those television shows where they send TV celebrities/K-Pop stars/washed up actors to places around Korea to gush about places they would probably never visit on their own. That means the place was probably overrun by tourists right after the broadcast. And that usually means the local government spent money on making the place more tourist friendly. Which usually means ruining it. But maybe I’m wrong and the place retains its charm. When the weather cools down I must try to find a way to get there and make some photographs.
In my last post I wrote about the disappointment I felt with photos I remembered as excellent but, on seeing them again, turned out to be no longer impressive. Composition was the major flaw I noticed.
In the same year I visited the village of Wanggok up near the border. I was very proud of these photos and remembered them as some of the best work I had done. When I looked at the scans the other day I suddenly saw lots of problems. The compositions were generally good, but some were not perfectly in focus or the depth of field was too shallow. I probably used a warming filter because it was a heavily overcast day and I can’t seem to get the white balance correct in the scans. But this is probably just my lack of processing skill.
Anyway, here are some of the photos I made on that day. I liked the walls in the village and made quite a few photos of them.
I must have used my 140mm lens (Contax 645) for this photo because there is little depth of field. I used a tripod and I’m sure I used a narrow aperture, but only the plants are very sharp. The stone wall is slightly soft and the house wall is even softer. Well, it doesn’t look that bad if you don’t put your face too close.
This is the same wall, but photographed vertically and closer. Everything is sharp and I like the framing, but most of the plants are bunched up on the left, which annoys me a bit.
Another photo that suffers from a narrow depth of field. You’ll notice that this wall is topped with clay tiles rather than thatch. I guess someone had more money to spend on their home.
I like this photograph, but I think I focused on the flowers rather than the wall. The wall is acceptably(?) sharp, but what was I thinking? The Contax 645 is a wonderful camera but it was wasted in my hands.
In my next post I will share some photos of the houses in the village.
Seongyojang was once the largest non-royal residence in Korea, having 99 kan worth of building space. A kan is the length of space between two pillars and no residences not owned by the royal family could be 100 or more kan in size. The family that owns Seongyojang was once quite rich and influential, but now they have opened most of the grounds to the public (big government tax cuts for doing this) for a fee and live in a small courtyard near the back. I was there one day and made these photos of the gate to the family residence.
The top photo was made on Ilford XP2 Super film and the bottom photo was made on Kodak E100G slide film. The camera was a Contax 645.
I had a good print of the black and white film and I really liked it. It was on my office wall for quite a while. After that it was in an album out of sight for a long time, but it remained in my mind as one of my better photographs. The composition, the luck of finding snow on the roof, and so on. But, looking at the photos now, I’m less happy with them. I probably should have included more at the bottom of the frame. I think I cut it off because there was an ugly No Entry sign there. I guess I could go back and make the photo again, but it’s expensive to enter now and who knows when the snow will look like that again? Still, it’s been nine years since I made those photos and maybe I can do a better job even without the snow.
This film is dated July of 2007, but it doesn’t look like a summer photo to me. There aren’t many people, the lifeguard tower is tipped over, and the sky looks like a winter sky. But I guess the beach can’t always be crowded and maybe some drunks tipped the tower over in the night.
This is another photo I recently had scanned. Gangneung doesn’t usually get much snow, but every few years a relatively large amount will fall. I made this out by Anmok Harbour, along the side of the road. I may go back later and crop this to 5:4 format and get rid of the pipe in the upper left, but this is not bad. Thoughts?
I used Kodak Ektar 100 and some camera for this photograph. I don’t often use Ektar because I rarely get colours I like, but this one worked out fine. Maybe the film just needs the proper light and exposure. I used cheap ‘vacation’ film on a recent trip to Seoul and got 50MB scans done of a few photos that I really liked. But cheap film is cheap film and not even a high-end professional scanner can make it look really good. This Ektar, however, has very detail and fine grain. You get what you pay for . . . .
|Trees and Shadows. 2007
I made this photograph one morning while waiting for the bus to work. I was impressed by the long, dark shadows of the trees on the winter grass. I always keep a camera hanging off my shoulder or in my bag just in case I come across an interesting scene. I always have the iPhone camera in my pocket, of course, but, well, you know . . . it’s nice, but a proper camera beats it every time.