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.

Ladder on Wall, 5:4 Format, and Gods

Ladder Hung on Wall, Geumsan Village

There are a lot of run-down houses in the Korean countryside. They look a bit bad seen as a whole, but sometimes these old houses are good for photographing. The photo above is of a wall that serves as both part of the property ‘fence’ and a building. A shed, if I recall correctly. The original concrete wall has been repaired with tacked on siding. I was attracted to this scene by the homemade ladder and the crack on the left. Interestingly, although the wall needs a coat of paint, the ladder seems to be used for painting something, judging by the stains all over it.

I think the nail/bolt/rivet on the far left is important for the composition because it fills an empty space, but it was cut out of the basic scan I had done to see what was on the roll of film. The virtual drum scanner used by my lab in Seoul gets everything on the frame. Speaking of film, this photo was made with Fujifilm Superia Premium 400 in a Nikon F6. For those of you interested, that film is very nice for a 400 speed film, but I think Portra is nicer and for a better price.

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I like the colours of my Fujifilm X-T3, but I really miss the 5:4 format option from the Nikon D810. But! Today I discovered a way to indirectly get 5:4 on the X-T3. You can choose to show framing guidelines in the viewfinder. The options are 3×3, 6×4, and HD framing. 6×4 is just one more that 5:4! So, if I ignore the outer half squares of the framing guidelines I get 5×4. Ta-da! A quick snip in Lightroom and I’ve got a nice 5:4 frame, just as Nature intended. I’ve only tried it at home this evening, but I’m looking forward to having a go at it when I’m outside. I could even, I think, put a bit of magic tape over the rear LCD to help me out a bit when framing. Well, let’s see how well I can manage by estimation before sticking things on the camera.

(Above I wrote “as Nature intended”. Which god would photographers worship, I wonder. Are there any gods of sunlight? The Celtic god Lugh seems a good candidate. He’s a god of light, craftsmanship, and the arts. Ask him to bless your light meter the next time you’re out with a camera.)

Horizons

Some time ago I decided in the name of minimalism to not print any more photos and to only look at them on digital devices. But I quickly discarded that decision after decluttering my binders and gathering together my favourite photograph prints. There is really no comparison between a photograph seen on a screen and one held in the hand. A well-exposed photograph looks very good on a website or a tablet, but a photograph printed on good paper by an expert lab loses some of the harshness of the backlit pixel and bring out a photo’s beauty. Is it because pixels on a display are discrete units but dots from a printer run into each other a bit, resulting in a more organic look? I don’t know, and I’m sure others have written about this more knowledgeably than me.

In the interest of maybe showing better photographs here, I recently made it a rule not to post new photographs until I had prints in hand to see which of my pictures really make me happy after going through the complete editing process from camera-to-computer transfer to selecting in an image viewer to getting the prints back from the lab and looking them over again.

But enough about that. Here are four photographs I made at Anmok Beach last month. I used a 16:9 aspect ratio because I thought it matched the wide scenes of the beach. The prints, of course, look nicer than what you see here, but enjoy.

Orange Umbrella, Anmok Beach.
Green Bench, Anmok Beach
Yellow Digger, Anmok Beach
Red Trailer, Anmok Beach

Leap Frog

This statue is in Wolhwa Park and I’ve attempted a number of times to photograph it but always been defeated by the messy surroundings. The city seems to be cleaning up the area now, but the little park with the giant gingko tree was surrounded by prefab shops (gone as of two weeks ago), an ugly green wire fence, and drunks. I finally hit upon the idea of using a short telephoto focal length to isolate some details.

Fire Hydrant Amongst the Waters

Central Market, Gangneung

Each shop and stall in Gangneung’s Central Market has a painted yellow line on the floor that vendors are supposed to keep their goods inside of. I guess no one from City Hall checks this, because many shops, especially at the ends of streets, use up as much space as they can.
The plastic tubs of this shop selling shoots and sprouts have engulfed a fire hydrant. The market’s safety code seems to be “Ah, It’ll be all right”.