From the Archive: Moving Van

Moving Truck Going Over Namdae River

I was walking home one day when I stopped and framed the bridge and the apartments with my mobile phone. I made several photos of passing vehicles before this moving van came by and thematically completed the composition. I wasn’t waiting for a moving van to come by – any large truck would have done. It was just fortunate that a vehicle with a connection to the background appeared.

I’ve always like this photo, but now I wonder if it would be better if I had included another bridge support on the right. I have the sensation that the weight of the truck is going to tip over the bridge.

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 . . . .

Two Women Near Water

Nadae River Stepping Stone Bridge
Anmok Beach

I have a little bit of a pileup in the ‘Website Photos’ folder on my desktop, so I was thinking of ways to upload more than one photo at a time without seeming too random. Ta-da! Things that begin with W! Oh ho ho . . .

I made the first photo because I thought the woman’s pink jacket would make a nice contrast with and spot of interest in a bare landscape. Korean winters are visually bleak because everything is dead and brown but there’s no snow to cover it up. And most people wear black or dark jackets. So the bright pink jacket of this lady was a welcome sight.

The second photo was a compose and wait situation. I filled most of the frame with this dark brown building (a public washroom. Another W!) and waited for something interesting to fill the bit of space on the left. I didn’t have a tripod with me so my arms got quite tired. I missed a cyclist passing by when I brought the camera down for a second to rest my arms and cursed about it, but I think this young woman in a long black jacket is better suited for the scene because she matches the building. The building looks like something out of a drab dystopian future that creates and releases drably-dressed humans into the landscape. Her shoes are a bit fancy, though, so that image doesn’t really hold up . . . .

Stepping Stone Bridge

Namdae River, Gangneung. 2019.

There were some heavy rains last month and the stepping stone bridge across the Namdae River was underwater. This is normal flooding level for the river and there was no state of emergency. The sign on the gate says, “Danger. No entry when the river is flooded.” Duh.

For those who wonder about these things, the film was Kodak Ultramax 400 and the camera was a Nikon F6 (I’m 95% sure).

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.