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: Pots and Cloths

20150708-003-005_soy-paste-pots_drying-rags.jpg
Pots for fermenting foods, 2015.

My wife thought this photo was boring, but I like it for some reason. I suppose because it’s reasonably well composed and the light is pleasantly soft.
The pots are used to ferment bean paste and chilli paste. The modern lids allow more air flow than the traditional covers.
I’m pretty sure I made this photo with the Contax N1 and the Zeiss zoom lens that came with it, but I can’t remember the film.

Seongyojang

I cut my camera collection down to one digital camera and a zoom lens, but a few weeks ago I had the urge to use some film. I had a number of rolls sitting in the fridge just soaking up cosmic and background radiation but nothing to put them in. I didn’t want to buy anything expensive because I had just sold all my expensive film gear and I wanted something small. Which lead me to the Minolta X-700 and a 50mm F1.4 lens.
Or, I should say, a Samsung Minolta X-700 with a Samsung F1.4 lens. From the late seventies onwards, luxury items were not allowed to be imported into Korea. This included cameras, unless one of the big Korean companies like Samsung or Hyundai stuck their name on it. Then it was fine. My camera has the old Samsung symbol of three stars on the front (Samsung means ‘three stars’) and on the back where most Minolta cameras say “Japan” this camera has “Samsung Aerospace Industries Corporation” written in Chinese characters. I’m not sure if that means the camera was assembled in Korea or not. The lens has Korea written on the front, so possibly it was assembled here.

I put in a roll of Kodak Ultramax 400 and went to Seongyojang. Where I discovered that citizens of Gangneung can get free admission instead of paying the usual price of 5,000 Won. That was a nice surprise. I thought about bringing my digital camera to ensure proper exposure, but decided I wanted to see how good the Minolta’s light meter is. Very good, as it turns out. Later testing showed it to give the same results or near enough as damn it as my digital.

Manhole and Rice Straw, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching season at Seongyojang. The estate had piles of rice straw everywhere. I was worried that the rather loud mirror slap would give me blurred photos, but they were as sharp as you could expect from this film.
View of houses across pavement, Seongyojang.
I’ve made photos of this scene before, but never included the stones in the foreground. It’s amazing how you can visit a place dozens of times and see something new each time.
Man climbing ladder to thatch house, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching
Man thatching roof watches passing woman, Seongyojang.
Please pay attention to your work . . . .

I was pleased with the results I got from the camera, and I’m sure I will get better results with the Portra 400 and Ektar colour films I still have in the fridge. Soon I’ll post some black and white photos I made with the camera on the same day I made these.

Ektachrome at Gangmun

I keep film on hand for when the urge to use it comes over me. Last month I put a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 100 in my Nikon F6 and went to Gangmun.

Bicycle and Harbour

As I may have mentioned before, Gyeongpo Lake is drained by a very short river (a couple of hundred metres?) that empties into the sea. A couple of breakwaters turn the mouth of the river (‘Gangmun’ means ‘river gate’) into a small harbour. There is a dock for fishing boats and you can usually find anglers at one end of the dock trying to catch the little fish that live in harbour. This bicycle probably belongs to someone trying his luck with a pole.

Sotdae Bridge Arch

I’ve photographed this bridge a hundred times at least, but I think this was the first time I discovered this angle. It amazes me what a difference a tiny detail can make to a photograph. I probably wouldn’t be sharing this photo without the sliver of rail in the bottom left corner of the photo. It’s the support for the whole left side of the photo and I don’t think the picture would work without it. Opinions may differ. You may think nothing could save this photograph. 🙂

Pavilion for Maritime Shaman Rites

Korea’s coast is full of fishing villages and all those fishers need the help of the spirits to come home safely every day with a good catch. I don’t know how often rituals were held in the past, but once a year (every two years?) a big ritual is held here with lots of gongs and shouty singing by a shaman, who is almost always a woman in Korea. I went one year and it was a noisy affair. Maybe the cacophony scares the evil spirits away.

Convenience Store Chair

This chair is in front of the convenience store where I came to get a tin of drink when the air started to warm up. I’ve photographed this chair on a number of trips to Gangmun. The owner of the shop probably thinks I’m mental.

Pension and Coffee Shop

Many fishing villages are becoming coffee towns, and Gangmun is no exception. The lower two floors of this interesting building are a coffee shop and the upper two floors are a pension. I like the little bit of yellow in the corner balancing the larger area of the blue sky. You might be able to see little black specks throughout the frame. At first I thought the lab had screwed up or I had a dirty lens, but a close-up view on computer revealed that all those spots are dragonflies.

The pension was frame 34 on the roll of Ektachrome and the next two photos weren’t that good. The day was heating up so I put the camera in my bag and went home. But I went back the next week with some negative film. Photos coming soon . . . .

From the Archive: Standing Tall

The organising of my photo archive continues, and I’ve recently finished the 2009 folders. These two photos are similar in composition so I’m posting them at the same time.

Anmok, 2009.

This fellow paused in his walk along the river to stand on a hill and watch the river mouth.

Near Hapyeong Fields, Gangneung, 2009.

I’m not sure three pine trees constitute a copse or a bluff, but some years ago the city planted a number of these near the seaside where most of the tourists come.

I’m ready to start going through my 2010 folders, but the first folder contains hundreds of pictures I made at an English camp for children. It’s going to take hours . . . .

From the Archive: Experiments

I started taking photography classes soon after arriving in Gangneung, and my enthusiasm for photography led me to try out things at home. Usually they were failures, but the point of experimenting is to get the bad stuff behind you and learn what works.

My photo teacher thought that this photo was amateurish and didn’t like it much. Maybe, but I still like it eleven years on. I set up the camera in front of this triangle of light on the balcony wall and asked the missus to hold her hand in front of the camera. Then I held my hand so that its shadow fell across her hand. Hours of fun.

I’m not sure what this second photo is about. I titled it “Tomato Awaits its Fate” back in 2007, which is an admittedly dumb title. I might have been experimenting with lines and points at the time and came up with this. It’s not a great photo, but I think I kept it t remind me that I should keep trying new things. Especially important these days when I seem to keep going to the same locations over and over.

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

Portra 400 + FM3a

I would like to write that this is a photo essay about something something something, but it’s just a few photos from a roll of Portra 400 that I thought were good enough to share.
Sometimes the photo I make to remember the camera I used it at the end of the roll and sometimes it’s the first picture on the roll. In this case it was the first. As you can see (probably), this roll of film was in a Nikon FM3a and I used the Nikkor 45mm F2.8P for at least this photograph and probably more. Although the thin lens paired with the FM3a makes a compact camera kit, the lens can sometimes be a little awkward to use because the aperture and focus rings are so narrow. Also, the focus ring on this lens is quite stiff and it takes a while to focus. Maybe I should give it a second chance and hope it loosens up. Or only photograph stationary subjects. Anyway, it looks great. And that’s important to the people who collect end-of-an-era cameras like this.

Three of the five photos in this post were made on the way to, in, or on the way back from the town of Seongsan south of Gangneung. The town is not much to look at and its claim to fame is having some very good restaurants that people from Gangneung will drive to eat at. I don’t go to the restaurants on my bicycle rides to the town, but I usually stop at a convenience store at the far end of town. I thought this was a pleasant little scene and made the photo while having a tin of Coke. This Billingham bag was expensive, but it’s very good. I wanted the tan canvas version, but it wasn’t available. In fact, the canvas version doesn’t seem to be available in Korea at all. I don’t remember the name of the synthetic fibre this bag is made of, but it’s sturdy. The red and pink flowers in the background are oversaturated, but these colours seem to be difficult to reproduce well on both film and digital.
The first step of this stepping stone bridge is a long one. I wouldn’t try it with anything valuable in my hands. Like an FM3a.

On the way back home I took the short route over a hill and came across this curious three-wheeled motorcycle. Most three-wheelers I see are smaller than this and look like the pan was attached by “a friend of a friend who knows a guy whose middle school senior owns a welding shop now.” This one is quite long and it seems like it was designed to look like this from the beginning. Except for that seat, maybe. That’s quite a throne. Wait a minute, where’s the engine? In that box? That seems strange. Maybe it’s an electric vehicle?

Amice likes to attack my tripod legs when I move it. But when it stops he likes to lie down next to it. A cat I met at an historical site one time did the same thing.
That’s it for this post. The next film photos are a long way away, but I should have some digital photos to post in the near future. 

Thoughts on Carrying on with the Blog

I haven’t written or posted anything in over a month now. It’s another case of “No one is reading, so why bother?” That’s the question I want to mull over in this post. Should I write a blog for an audience of one?
While I consider some reasons to continue or not continue writing on this website, I will share some photos from the month of June. It’s just a random collection as I haven’t been out with the camera much because of the hot weather.

An old building in downtown Gangneung. A rare instance of a building with a colour exterior that isn’t advertising. 
This building is across the street from the colour tile building. It was once part of Gangneung City’s government complex and is called “The Pavilion of Seven Works”.  The seven works carried out were citizen registration, agriculture, military , education, taxation, legal court, and public morals/customs. It’s not a large building, so I imagine there were just a few civil servants in there run right off their feet. These days the grounds are open to the public and the building is used for the Dano Festival.
A model of a government building guard. The building behind him is a recent reconstruction.

I am not good at promoting myself. I even regularly forget or don’t bother to add tags to each post. I’m not sure how easily search engines can find this website without them. I rarely advertise new posts on Facebook because some co-workers and students are on my friends list. I don’t think I post anything offensive here, but I work at a Catholic university and who knows what might prompt a complaint against me.

Farm Buildings. There is a normally a cow living in the building on the right, but I didn’t see it on the day I was in the neighbourhood. Maybe it was sleeping.

If I can’t be arsed to advertise myself to the world then it’s my own fault if I have very few readers. So, if I’m not writing for an audience, why should I carry on writing?

Sandy’s Sandwich. The windscreen has stickers advertising steamed dumplings, and I suspect someone imported a food truck from the States and had a go at selling Korean food in it. The truck now sits in the countryside falling apart, so I guess that didn’t go so well.

One reason to write here is to improve my writing. Not just words and sentences, but coherent essays. I’ve been living in Korea for a long time and I haven’t needed to use much more English than what I use in the EFL classroom with low and intermediate level students. The truck in the photo above is a pretty good metaphor for the advanced English part of my brain. I would like to write short articles on things I photograph, but the gears grind badly in my mind.

Another metaphor for my brain? Old televisions up against a dyke. I can’t explain this.

Another reason to write without concern for an audience is to motivate myself to make more photos and to photograph a subject in more detail with a blog story in mind. Maybe no one will see the photo essay , but it focuses my mind and helps me see a subject from more than one perspective.

Sometimes I want to live like this lucky bastard

The third reason to continue writing here has to do with photo editing. Photos that look fine to me on my computer can suddenly reveal their faults when I consider showing them to the world. So posting photos on a blog is helpful in weeding out weak photos.

I made this photo two weeks ago. Yesterday the scooter was in the same spot. Abandoned? The man riding bicycle in the background was a nice bit of luck.
Another scooter on the same day.

Writing about whether or not to continue posting on Blogspot has helped to clear my mind a bit. I think I will continue to write here, but probably I should be more focused. Many of my posts are a bit random and general. “A walk downtown”, “Geumsan Village”, and so on. Perhaps future posts should be something like “Downtown Gangneung’s Pedestrian Bridges” or “Rice Farms in Geumsan Village”. Would it be helpful to think of each blog post as a mini-exhibition with explanations?
In conclusion, I think I will start writing here again, even if it’s just for myself. If I focus on specific subjects and refrain from posting random collections of photos then I’ll be helping my photography and my writing. And maybe even attract a few readers.

Having said that, here are a few more or less random photos of Geumsan Village, the last photos I made in June of 2019. 🙂

Delivery truck parked underneath an expressway overpass.
Hot weather means I am riding my electric bicycle these days.
First in a possible series? The Rice Fields of Geumsan Village.

Thank you for reading.