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.

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 . . . .

The Man in the Moon is . . . a Rabbit.

Bas-relief of rabbits pounding rice for rice cakes, Hoesan Mill

Across the road from my apartment complex is a mill that makes rice cakes. Above the door is this carving of two rabbits pounding rice into rice flour to make the traditional snack. Why rabbits? Westerners see a man in the moon, but East Asians see a rabbit using a pestle and mortar. In China the rabbit is making an elexir of life, but in Korea and Japan the rabbit is making flour for rice cakes.

View From the Kitchen Window

Hoesan Village in Winter

Each apartment in my complex has two views. Some apartments have a view of an apartment building in the same complex and a view of the apartment complex across the road. Some apartments have a view of a neighbouring apartment building and a view of a scene similar to the one above. The units in my location of the complex are the only ones where you can’t see any other apartment buildings (unles you stick your head out the window and look hard left or right). We have the view above, and we have a view of a dale and hills. We can only hope it’s not all bulldozed and replaced with coffee shops and convenience stores.