Always look on the bright side

I have four straight hours of class on Friday mornings, but then I have the whole afternoon to do what I like. And what I like to do is go for photo rides.

Unfortunately, the only photo I made was this mobile phone snapshot. I stopped to take a rest in a small park after a disappointing ride. My objective was to ride through Jebi Village and then the Gujeong area to see if I could make some landscapes or agricultural photos. Alas, the countryside around Gangneung is becoming an industrial zone. Lots of ugly aluminium workshops, warehouses, construction sites, and huge trucks flying along narrow country roads.

But I should think positively. Now I know not to bother going that way again. And I did get a nice ride out of it. And a decent snapshot for sharing.

Fotography for Fun

I like making photos with my iPhone. It’s fun to just press the shutter button and not think much about exposure or post processing. The phone does a very good job of making scenes look good without me messing things up. I’ve thought about just using the iPhone for photography but the image quality isn’t quite good enough for most things yet. Adding a filter covers up a lot of problems.
Here are six photos I made the other day when I wanted to take a break from my camera woes. Despite getting rid of most of my equipment, I am back to wondering if I have the best cameras for my needs, blah blah blah. The problem lies with me, not the cameras, of course . . . .

Baskets in Winter Field
Persimmon Tree
Power Lines and Persimmon Tree
Apartment Employee’s Bicycle
Moving Day
Obligatory Cat Photo

For any iManiacs out there, the black and white filter is called Silvertone and the colour filter is called Dramatic. They come standard in Apple Photos.

I think I do best when using a square format. Is it time for a Hasselblad . . . . .? Oh, dear . . . . .

From the Archive: Woman Riding Bicycle Past Tents

Woman Riding Through Dano Festival Tents.
Dano Festival Grounds, 2016

I may have shared this photograph on my old blog some years ago, but I can’t remember so I’m sharing it again as I organise my old photos.

Dano has been celebrated in Korea for a couple of thousand years and then even earlier in China. It has a thousand year history here in Gangneung and this city’s festival was designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The main event of Dano is a shamanistic ritual thanking the sky deity once the fields have been sown in spring. Gangneung might be the only place where these rituals are still carried out. What mostly happens during Dano is a week-long market where people sell bed clothes, clothes, household goods, cheap trinkets, and food. Recently there have been tents set up by people from other countries selling things from their homelands.

I dislike festival crowds and so I avoided going there after I visited once or twice. Now and then I will visit very early in the morning to see if I can make some photos of the tents and empty spaces. I saw this lady coming from some distance so I composed and waited for her to come into frame. Click.

A Bicycle Trip to Sacheon

We are fortunate not to be locked down because of the corona virus in Korea, but it’s easy to feel a bit of cabin fever because there are many places it’s wise to avoid. Places like downtown or the market where I often went to make photographs. So to get a bit of exercise and get out somewhere, I cycled out to the seaside and then up the coast to the village of Sacheon. I had no specific photographic goals. I just wanted to go for a ride and make photos of whatever I saw on on the way.

The shortest route from my apartment to Sacheon is 14 kilometres, but there are a number of hills to get over and busy roads to cross. I chose to take the riverside exercise path out to Anmok Beach and then head north up the coast. That makes the trip 18 kilometres long, but there are no hills and it’s a much easier and relaxing ride. This photo was made just after I turned left from Anmok to go up the coast. I don’t know why there is a Dutch windmill on top of this shed, but at least it’s colourful.
Speaking of colour, I wanted my photos to have something of a cheap and cheerful holiday film look, so I chose the classic chrome simulation on the X-T3 and then added lots of contrast, sharpening, and some grain in Lightroom.

This is across the street from the windmill shed. Shamanistic rites are held in this building for a bountiful catch from the ocean. I saw it one year and it’s quite a noisy affair. Shamans singing and howling and gongs being struck. Some business has incongruously stored their clear plastic tourist canoes next to the place.

This person was either getting into or out of a wetsuit. I love the colour of the water.

This is where a stream runs into the sea. Or where it should run out. There is a military watchtower just off to the left and maybe they’ve done something to the strand for their purposes.

Someone put these blocks of stone here to keep some soil from washing away, but I couldn’t see anything that needed saving except for this little copse of pine trees. (Do four trees a copse make?)

I’m almost in Sacheon at this point, and I notice a large new building in the middle of some farm land. There is a sign saying ‘Chocolat’ on the top. Maybe it’s a chocolate café? There is a chocolate café in Gangneung, though not as impressive as this one. It may seem odd to have such a business in the middle of nowhere, but Sacheon is quickly being built up as a tourist area. I heard that Universal Studios is going to set up some sort of theme park here in the future. I had better make my photos of the area while I can . . . .

I once photographed this emergency box and rocks using Kodak Ektar film and it looked very similar to this. This is the beach at Sacheon.

And here is the entrance to Sacheon Harbour. I usually don’t go out with the camera when the sun is high and blazing, but I have to say I like the contrast and the colours. I shouldn’t let the bright sun keep me inside from now on. Or maybe I should. I got a sunburn on my face . . . .

Another truck. It looks like it’s for transporting nets and other fishing equipment. You can see that the salt water is unkind to the steel body of the vehicle.

I usually see a lot of cats on the docks, but only saw this one on this trip. Maybe they were all taking a nap somewhere out of the sun. I met this guy (or his twin) later at a nearby restaurant.

And here’s the place where I ate my dinner. It’s called the Donghae restaurant. Donghae means ‘east sea’ in Korean and is also what the Koreans call the Sea of Japan. This restaurant serves some fish soups, grilled fish, gimchi soup, grilled ribs, and so on. This server was giving me a hard look while I photographed her.

My meal. Yumm-o. I always order spicy pork stir-fry when I come here. I didn’t like most of the side dishes I was served, and only ate the stir-fry, the rice, the gimchi, and the potato in chilli sauce. I wish there was a system for being able to only buying the side dishes you want, like you can do in some places in Taiwan.

The breakwater was barred off because there was some wind, so I stuck the lens through the gate and made this photo.

A smallish fishing boat tied up at the wharf.

These are the rocks that were in the photo with the yellow emergency box. The half-buried pipes run from the sea to the tanks that hold live fish down on the docks.

After my dinner and a look around, I got back on my bicycle and headed back down the coast. This is one of many small streams that run into the sea after coming down off the mountains and across farm land.

The same scene, but horizontal. I think I like this version better.

What this container is doing here I don’t know, but it struck me as photo-worthy for some reason. Maybe because it looks so out of place with the sand and pines and blue sky.

I imagine this utility pole once had a lot more wires on it than it does now. I like the wasteland look of this whole photo.

I was possibly trespassing when I made this photo, but I was standing on an empty plot of land that looked like it hadn’t been used for years. Maybe it’s okay?

The same scene, but I got up on a stone block wall to get a higher point of view. I like all the zigzag lines.

This is probably the weakest photo of the day, but I couldn’t resist making a picture of this weirdness. And it gets weirder. El Camino is the name of a pension for pets. A pension for pets? Why? I don’t know. What does a rusted El Camine have to do with pets or pensions? No idea. But there it is on top of a tiny concrete building.

The roof is at street level because the road is built up and houses are down on the beach.

It can’t be easy to get anything to grow in this sandy soil right on the windy shore. People in the past must of had a hard existence fishing out on the sea and then trying to do a bit of subsistence farming on the side.

This guy is using his tractor to lay down long strips of plastic before planting seed. Every spring the whole country is completely covered in this plastic and every autumn huge piles of it are collected to go in the trash. And a certain percentage gets up in the trees and hangs around all winter like horrible Christmas decorations.

I like this scene, but I think I should try photographing it again if I go back up the coast. I think the brown plastic tub on the right saves this photo.

These are minbak, which are a kind of bed and breakfast without the breakfast. And they are usually very shabby with just a floor to sleep on. So, a bed and breakfast without bed or breakfast. Hmmm. They have the advantage of being very cheap and very close to the beach. On the beach, in fact. I would like to stay in one for a few days some winter. It might be nice to sit in a small room with a little cooking stove and watch the rough seas. With enough tea and books it could be quite cosy. For a few days . . . .

Here’s a place that didn’t make it. Both of the signs say ‘raw fish restaurant’, but the place on the right looks like it might still be in business.

Back to civilisation, such as it is. This huge seafood market/restaurant is on the first floor of a huge new hotel. The colours on the boat are not, as far as I know, traditional Korean colours or design. But look good on Instagram, I suppose.

The building in front is a health spa with hot springs. The building in the back is a new monstrosity hotel called St. John’s.

A new apartment complex in the northern part of the city. The box in the foreground looks like it came off the back of a truck. The small white sign on the box says, “For Rent”.

A view along the riverside on my way inland from Anmok.

Two chairs under a bridge. As if you couldn’t guess.

Clothes from charity collection boxes (I assume they are for charity) end up in overfilled trucks like this one. I would avoid this vehicle on the road, I can tell you.

That’s all the photos from my trip. Well, not all. I made 188 photos but only thought 30 or so were worth sharing. The others were cock-ups, variants on the photos here, or just too boring to share. I hope you enjoyed my little bicycle trip up the coast. Even if the photos are not that good, it might have been interesting to see scenes and oddities from another country. Unless you’re from Korea, in which case you’re probably thinking, “Why the hell did he make photos of those things?”

I would like to make more trips like this one once my arse recovers from the hours on an uncomfortable bicycle seat . . . .

Downtown Gangneung

The fronts of buildings often get makeovers to please tourists or attract customers, but the spaces and alleys between buildings are neglected forever. Unless a restaurant or coffee shop somewhere down the alley gets noticed on social media and becomes famous . . .

Bicycle Parked Under Electrical Meters, Gangneung.

All four sides of the Homeplus/CGV building downtown are nice and neat with hedges, tile paving, benches (if you don’t mind smokers), and lampposts.

Homeplus Lamppost, Gangneung.

I think this is where I’m supposed to say something insightful about the modern urban landscape. But nope, I’m just an ignoramus with a camera.

Keep on snappin’ away!

Kodak Colorplus 200

I don’t know what camera I used to make these photographs, but it was either the Nikon F6 or the FM3a. I think it was probably the FM3a because I seem to remember focusing manually. When I got the scans back I also remember thinking that although the FM3a’s viewfinder only shows 93% of what will appear on the film, the lab seemed to send back scans that were only about 90% of what was on the film. This happens now and then and is one of the aggravations of using film. It didn’t matter that much for these photographs (except the scooter photo, maybe) – it’s just an annoyance.
It was an overcast day when I went out with the camera, so the colours are muted. But this cheap-o film produces some very nice colours. It’s a shame the large amount of grain prevents large prints.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy these glimpses of what the streets of Korea look like.

Alley Bicycle
Delivery Scooter
The Road to Geumhak Noodles
Must Not Miss This Sale!
Something That Does a Thing Converted to a Parking Space Saver
Alley Sunflowers

Break Time

In early July I went downtown to make some photos early in the morning while the light was still good and most people were in their homes getting ready for work. Despite the uncrowded streets and the not-too-contrasty light, I wasn’t getting any photos that I liked. I decided to stop into a convenience store for a tin of sugary, milky coffee to cool off and think about where I wanted to go next.
From where I sat in the store I could see just the handlebars of my electric bicycle in the gap between the blinds and the counter. If it’s not art, it’s at least graphic, I thought to myself.

Electric Bicycle Handlebars

I chose to make the photo in black and white to make a simple composition even simpler. And, to tell the truth, the colours were nothing to gasp at anyway.

Encouraged by these results, I tried making several more ‘through-the-blinds’ photos. Most were failures, but with patience and timing I snapped this young woman walking past the store while looking at her phone.
Woman Walking with Phone
I did some dodging on the small shingle roof behind the woman’s head to make her hair stand out from the background. The woman is slightly blurry because of her movement but I think that might be forgivable in a street photograph? Let’s say it is. I think the timing makes up for it. A split second either way and her phone or her back would have been covered by the poster or the blind.

Bridges

On a ride down the Namdae River bicycle path, I made several photos of the undersides of bridges.

One of my favourite photographers, Sam Abell, learned the technique of ‘compose and wait’ from his father. I’m learning it from reading Mr. Abell’s books and listening to his lectures online. I spent a few minutes looking at the underside of this bridge and framing the supports and the concrete bicycle path. Then I waited. Several people walked by but their clothes were dark and blended in with the water in the background. A cyclist whizzed by but was moving too quickly for me to catch. Then this gentleman came by wearing light clothes, a light hat, and riding a light-coloured bicycle. Also, he wasn’t moving very quickly so I was able to press the shutter button before he exited the frame.

I didn’t have to wait in this case because the apartments weren’t going anywhere. I made one version of this photo without the ladder and catwalk on the left. It looked nice, but the underside of the bridge is so dark that it’s not obvious what is framing the apartments. And it’s slightly bland. So stepped to the left and included the metalwork. Now, I hope, the viewer can see that this must have been a bridge I was standing under. I like this photo, but I worry that there is too much visual weight on the left. It might be worth going back to this spot when the light is less harsh so I can leave out the catwalk and allow some details of the bridge to show. Stay tuned . . . .

As a side note, these photographs are straight out of the camera. If I don’t get it right in camera then the photo is a failure, as far as I’m concerned. I do admit to trimming a few pixels off the top photograph because the D810’s viewfinder is not perfectly accurate when using 5:4 crop mode. A tiny bit of sky appeared above the bridge that was distracting. Forgive me, O Saints of the Silver Salt.

P.S. Here is the other version of the apartment photo. If anyone is reading this, perhaps you could tell me your preference in the comments.