What’s Missing?

Bus Parked Under Ponam Bridge

There are things to like about this photograph. The layers of light and shadow from top to bottom, the brake lights of the bus peeking out of the darkness like a cat under a blanket, the relative simplicity of the composition, and, um, it’s level.

But it’s boring. Flat. Static. There’s something missing that would turn this decent photo into a good or very good photo. But I couldn’t see it when I was there pressing the shutter button. I saw a bus, a bridge, the light and shadows, the apartments in the background, and the brake lights in the patch of light. There was something there, I’m sure, that I could have included or excluded to transform this bit of documetary into art. But I’m not skilled enough to find it.

How do I get to that level? Keep looking at great photographs, I guess. And maybe I need to spend more time looking at a scene before photographing it. When I was younger I could sometimes get a good poem to appear by staring at a blank sheet of paper for half an hour. (Being hopped up on many mugs of sugary tea probably helped as well). I just need to stare at things more.

The next time I go out I’ll make a point of choosing just one subject and working on it for more than a minute like I usually do. And bring some tea . . . .

Geumsan Village Rice Straw Bales

The only two surviving photographs from a bicycle ride through Geumsan Village. It would probably be better to walk through the hamlet so I can find interesting subjects more easily.

This photo looks very low resolution on WordPress but fine in Lightroom. Maybe I made a mistake when converting it.

The same bales of rice straw from a different angle and a bus flying down the highway.

Some time ago I wrote about choosing the Nikon D810 as my main camera but mentioned that I was very wishy-washy about the cameras I use. Well, that proved to be true because I’m back to using the X-T3. The photos above are from the X-T3. That said, my next post will have a photo from the D810. Probably I should just stop talking about cameras . . . .

Seongyojang

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.

A day at the beach

You may notice a distinct lack of beach in these photographs. I am usually more interested in the things you find around the beach rather than the beach itself. I don’t think I went out to Anmok Beach with any photographic goal in mind, which is why there’s no connection between these two photos. Other than the fact they are both black and white.

Coffee Bean Statue, Anmok.

This is the top section of a statue built from metal strips. The bottom is a white coffee cup and stacked on top of that are three giant coffee beans. The statue is about twice my height. There is a steady stream of tourists who come to stand in front of it for pictures.

Pine Tree, Anmok.

This is a photo Edward Weston might have done if he were much less talented. I like it. I can’t find any glaring errors in composition and the twisted branches are attractive. Bystanders kept looking from me to the tree while I was making this, trying to figure out what I might be photographing.

Gas Tanks Outside House Window

Residential Propane Tanks, Gangneung

Rubber hoses feed the propane/butane from the two tanks through a selector valve through a steel pipe into what is most likely the kitchen of a house near downtown Gangneung.

This is the sort of setup that I feel nervous walking past, but, on the other hand, provides such an interesting photo opportunity.