What Next?

Amice sitting with his back to me in the kitchen.
Amice with his back to me in the kitchen.

Judging by his pose, he was in the middle of thinking about what to do next. Get a drink from the kitchen tap? Run into the laundry room? Grumble and leave the kitchen?

Ojukheon

I don’t often visit Ojukheon because there are usually hundreds of tourists there getting in the way of slow, considered photography. But the pandemic has cut down on the number of tourists and I went on a weekday when there are usually fewer visitors. Going in the morning helps as well.

I didn’t expect to get much worth keeping because I haven’t had much success at the location in the past. Tourist places tend to be, what’s the word, bland. I mostly went to practise composition, exposure, and different film simulations on my camera. I naturally deleted a large number of photos when I got home because I was mostly just screwing around, but I did keep seven that I think are worth sharing here. I hope you think so as well.

Stone Benches, Ojukheon

Ojukheon has large empty areas done in brick because of the large number of tourists that are visiting the historic site at any one time. Families come in their cars, but there are also bus loads and bus loads of students and senior citizens. Until about eleven o’clock or so the grounds looked much as they appear in the photo above.

Wall and Hedge, Ojukheon

Ojukheon has a lot of hedges and flowers, so it’s quite a pleasant place to walk around, even if you have no interest in things historical.

Kitchen, Ojukheon

The kitchen for the original group of buildings. If you want to know about who lived here, you can get some information and general photographs at this website: http://www.gangneungtours.com/ojukheon-house.html

Tomb Stone, Ojukheon

There is an outdoor display of grave markers and stelae along with some flowers. Grave inscriptions were usually done in Chinese characters. Korean writing is often used these days.

Flower Pots, Ojukheon

There is a large statue of Shin Saimdang on the grounds, but I wasn’t much interested in making a photo of that. And anyway, there was a constant stream of people taking photos of each other in front of the statue. I found the curves of these stone tiles around the statue and the touch of colour provided by the flowers to be much more attractive.

Tiled Area, Ojukheon

Although I like this semicircle of stone bricks, I don’t know what the area is for. There’s no statue or anything there. A space for group photos?

Tree Trunks and Wall, Ojukheon.

I made this one on my way out of the historical site. On the other side of the wall are a number of unattractive restaurants and gift shops. Judging by the confused looks on the people walking past me, they must have thought I was making photos of those. One middle-aged man didn’t seem to know what sort of photo I was making, but he lifted his phone and made a snapshot of the scene before walking away. This happens now and then, especially if I’m using a tripod and appear to know what I’m doing.

I think I’ll make the effort to get on a bus and go to Ojukheon again soon. I usually avoid it because of the crowds, but I’m happy with the photos I’ve shared here and maybe I can find some scenes that I missed.

Fishing Boat

Fishing Boat Tied Up at Floating Wharf, Gangmun.

There might be a proper name for what I’ve called a floating wharf. The boat’s name is Dream. If you can afford to stay in the hotel in the background, you’re probably living the dream.

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 . . . .

Moving Pictures

Scenes from the seaside

I have to make video classes for my students because they aren’t yet allowed to come to university. It’s easily three times as much work as preparing for regular classes and I hate looking at myself in the monitor for hours on end.(1) I think I once read that you can drive yourself mad by staring at yourself in a mirror. I can tell you that looking at yourself on a video screen has the same effect. Ugh.

So, to take a break from making videos I went out to the seaside the other day and . . . made a video. I’m not in it, so it’s not too bad. I’m pleased with this first attempt, though it’s not very exciting. I basically made my usual photographs but timed the video so that things came into and out of the frame. I haven’t attempted any camera movements yet so the scenes are a bit static. Still, it’s good fun to make and I want to try again. I hope you enjoy my first go at moving pictures.

(1) I shouldn’t complain. Lots of people around the world aren’t working right now and can’t leave their homes.

A Walk

One of the walks I like to take near my apartment brings me to the riverside. There’s almost no water in the river during the dry winter months, but there is never a shortage of vehicles parked next to it.

Namdae River Parking Lot, Gangneung.

The car in the foreground is quite an old model, but the driver must take good care of it because there are no rust spots that I can see. The digger on the flatbed truck isn’t tied down in any way. Maybe it’s not required by law. In the weeks before the start of the Olympics I remember seeing a group of foreign engineers walking past a similar truck and being shocked that the digger in the back wasn’t secured.
On the other side of the river there is a shrine dedicated to, if I remember correctly, a local goddess, though I can’t remember who or what she is the goddess of. I should walk over there some day and see if there is anything worth photographing.

Namdae River Parking Lot, Gangneung.

I think the slang term for this sort of vehicle is ‘honey truck’. When I lived in a house, one of these would come around twice a year to clean out the septic tank. I remember the guy who did the work was quite jolly. Well, he probably makes a fortune doing the work no one else wants to.

Hillstate Apartments, Gangneung.

On the way home I made this photo because I liked the clouds above the apartments. These buildings were completed about one year ago, replacing fields. They look like something you would build out of a basic Lego set.

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.