Seongyojang

It’s about a fifteen minute drive to Seongyojang from my apartment if you have your own vehicle, but takes almost two hours by bus. There are few buses to that part of town, even though it’s a tourist area. Tourists have their own cars, I guess.

It’s probably best it’s inconvenient to get to Seongyojang because the entrance fee is expensive. Lots of public historical sites are free or cheap, but this private residence has to make money with much aid from the government.

I’m sad to say this photo is heavily cropped because I didn’t think of a vertical composition until I got home and saw the photo on my computer. The structure in the middle is a chimney. Korean chimneys come up from ground level because the smoke and hot air goes from the kitchen at one of the house to a chimney at the other end of the house, warming the rooms as it passes under them. Much like a Roman hypocaust.

Here is the other end of the hypocaust system. The fire under this pot is what heats the building. Great in winter, but not so good in summer. Some rooms in a traditional Korean house didn’t have underfloor heating so that you could avoid being boiled at the same time as the supper.

A more modern addition to one of the buildings on this housing estate. The owners of this estate were (are?) extremely rich and connected, so they were probably one of the first in Korea to have electricity. Compare to the owner of the convenience store near my house. He is the same age as me and didn’t have electricity until after he entered primary school.

The lack of straight lines in a traditional Korea home seems to be a point of pride for people who tell me about historical architecture. As a photographer who likes rather formal photos, it sometimes drives me batty.

This window has no glass in it, possibly to let out the heat of cooking in the hot Korean summer. I’m not sure what happens during the cold Korean winter.

The scene is slightly spoiled by the Ladies/Gents sign over the left building.

Self-portrait in well. There’s no bucket or anything to draw water, and I think it’s just being used as a nursery for mosquitoes.

These stairs are the beginning of a path that brings you around the circumference of the estate and offers some nice views. Also, a lot of people seem to miss seeing the stairs so the path is quiet and uncrowded.

I was satisfied with some of the photos I made that day at Seongyojang, so I think I’ll go back again when the weather is suitable. There’s also a nice coffee shop that sells tea and cool drinks. It’s done in a traditional Korean style and was empty when I went in. One of the benefits of going to tourist places on weekday mornings.

Pavilion Roof

Tired of visiting the same places all the time and having no car to find more distant and interesting places, I spent a bit of time on Naver Map looking over Gangneung to see if I had missed any photogenic locations in the area. I came across Namsan (South Mountain) Park which has a pavilion at the top of the hill. I’d been there one spring to see the cherry blossoms, but it’s a bad time to go for photography because there are hundreds of people there also making photographs. Some are middle-aged men with Serious Equipment looking the place over with Serious Expressions trying to get the perfect shot. Most were couples or families taking selfies with mobile phones.

After looking at the map and remembering the pavilion’s existence, I put my camera and tripod in a bag and rode my bicycle there. The park is only about three kilometres from my apartment so I arrived after ten minutes or so. It was November when I visited this time, so instead of pink blossoms on the trees, there were red, yellow, and orange leaves all over the ground. Very nice, but I was interested in making some photos of the pavilion there called Oseong Pavilion. ‘Oseong’ means ‘Five Star’, but I don’t know what the significance of that might be. The pavilion was built in 1927 by a group of men to commemorate their 60th birthdays. I couldn’t find any information about who did the calligraphy hung up around the ceiling. Maybe the fellows who had the pavilion built?

Interestingly, traditional Korean buildings don’t have nails in them. Everything fits together using grooves and joints. The weight of all that timber probably guarantees the roof won’t blow away. I like the red and green colours of Korean buildings called dancheong. You’ll find this colour scheme in pavilions, Confucian buildings, and Buddhist temples. The painting in Oseong Pavilion is quite basic, but the painting at some Buddhist temples can be very elaborate.

I thought I might be alone at the pavilion on a cool November day, but there was an older man there with a camera and a young woman looking for nice leaves on the ground. There are exercise paths on the hill and people in sports clothes were coming and going. I got a bit of exercise myself because I came up the 190 stairs on the north side of the hill. Hats off to the builders who carried all that timber up the hill in 1927.

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.

Yongbong Petrol Station

I recently watched an interview with Wim Wenders and a number of his photographs were featured. I was so impressed that I ordered his book (on the way now) and went out with a camera (Nikon F80, I think) to try and make some similar photos. My attempts don’t match his results, but I did learn a new way of looking at the world around me. And that was worth the cost of film, developing, and printing.