I was probably a “one roll, four seasons” snapshooter before I became seriously interested in photography about twenty years ago. When I got my first SLR I wasted a lot of film on the banal, and when I bought a Nikon D70 the zero cost of taking pictures set me on the path to my current collection of twenty-five thousand photos. Most of them are not even fit for documentary or fond memories.
The first reason my hard drive is so full of pictures is a lack of skill. Especially in the early days, I made frame after frame of the same subject because I didn’t know how to compose or expose. I knew my photos weren’t good, but I didn’t know how to get a good one except by doing click after click and hoping that something would eventually work. Not being able to distinguish the decisive moment, I captured all moments. Monkeys and typewriters . . . .
The second reason I made so many useless photographs is that I was trying out a lot of things. Deliberate camera shake, different colour profiles, and so on. Experimentation is good, but I neglected to delete my failures. I couldn’t kill my darlings.
The last reason for the rat’s nest hiding under the Pictures folder is simply that I enjoyed making photos. I loved seeing images appear on the back of the camera or on prints back from the lab. Again, that’s a good thing, but I had no concept of editing. I didn’t know good from bad, so I kept everything. Just in case.
Luckily, being a more skilled photographer now means that I am not pointing the camera at everything and hoping that I get lucky. I’m more selective about what I put in the frame. And I’m starting to realise that one photo of a friend from a lunch date is enough. No need to document everything she ate and drank. I’m also learning how to edit better once I have the day’s photos on my computer. Mistakes get marked for deletion right away. After a week or so I generally have a good sense of what photos might be worth showing others or keeping for my own enjoyment. Or deleting.
That takes care of preventing a glut of pictures now and in the future, but there are still years and years of photographs from the past serving no purpose except to extend the time it takes to back up my hard drive. So I am using a combination of my sharpened editing skills and the objectivity of hindsight to cull photos from the present back twenty years and beyond. At the time of writing (2020) I’m only back as far as 2017, so I imagine it will take many more months to complete the project.
Although it’s a lot of work, editing my past photographs teaches me what mistakes to avoid in the future. It also gives me an idea of what sort of photography I do well and might concentrate on in the future. It also brings up memories of places and people past, for better and for worse. Sometimes I see people I had good times with and sometimes I see the faces of people I disappointed or parted on bad terms with. But I suppose there are lessons in those memories as well.
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 . . . .
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.
I’m not sure how appropriate that title is, but what you’re getting today are new and better versions of photos I’ve already posted here. (New stuff next week)
The first version of this photo was done on film and the right edge of the petrol station was cut off. I passed by there some time later and tried again with a digital camera. I would like to go a bit wider for this photograph, but there are too many distracting things to either side of the frame. Diesel pumps, fuel trucks, cars, and so on. I prefer this simple composition.
It’s the fighting cats again! Out of a number of photos, I finally decided that this was the best one. The composition is good and they are punching each other in the face at the same time. Will they never learn that fighting just hurts everybody? 🙂
Too often I go out with a camera and no destination in mind. That’s not a bad thing, but it means that I leave the apartment without focus. This leads to wasted film or time wasted in front of the computer deleting photos. I had the idea that I should wander and record Gangneung for posterity, so that in twenty or thirty years people can remember what it was like in the past. But, after thinking about it, I don’t think that’s something I want to do with photography except incidentally. And maybe it’s already being done by the thousands of people who take photos on their mobile phones every day. Though, that said, future generations might think the past was nothing more than ‘sparrow-faces’, coffees, and lunches. Anyway, I’m not very good at documentary photography so I will stick to the kind of narrow-view photography that I do best. A gate instead of a whole house, the front of a bus approaching a bush instead of a bus driving through downtown, a charity box against a background of concrete instead of a charity box dwarfed by an expressway. Also, I’ve decided that when I leave the house with a camera, I should have a goal in mind. “Today I’m going to visit the Confucian school on the hill and photograph the tree outside the gate.” Once I finish photographing the tree I can and should wander around looking for different things in the area. But I think that having a specific goal will help my photography. Naturally, I will carry a camera everywhere I go (That’s why I recently bought the light Fujifilm X-T3) because I never know when something interesting will happen or when I’ll notice something new on an old walk.