Seongyojang

I cut my camera collection down to one digital camera and a zoom lens, but a few weeks ago I had the urge to use some film. I had a number of rolls sitting in the fridge just soaking up cosmic and background radiation but nothing to put them in. I didn’t want to buy anything expensive because I had just sold all my expensive film gear and I wanted something small. Which lead me to the Minolta X-700 and a 50mm F1.4 lens.
Or, I should say, a Samsung Minolta X-700 with a Samsung F1.4 lens. From the late seventies onwards, luxury items were not allowed to be imported into Korea. This included cameras, unless one of the big Korean companies like Samsung or Hyundai stuck their name on it. Then it was fine. My camera has the old Samsung symbol of three stars on the front (Samsung means ‘three stars’) and on the back where most Minolta cameras say “Japan” this camera has “Samsung Aerospace Industries Corporation” written in Chinese characters. I’m not sure if that means the camera was assembled in Korea or not. The lens has Korea written on the front, so possibly it was assembled here.

I put in a roll of Kodak Ultramax 400 and went to Seongyojang. Where I discovered that citizens of Gangneung can get free admission instead of paying the usual price of 5,000 Won. That was a nice surprise. I thought about bringing my digital camera to ensure proper exposure, but decided I wanted to see how good the Minolta’s light meter is. Very good, as it turns out. Later testing showed it to give the same results or near enough as damn it as my digital.

Manhole and Rice Straw, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching season at Seongyojang. The estate had piles of rice straw everywhere. I was worried that the rather loud mirror slap would give me blurred photos, but they were as sharp as you could expect from this film.
View of houses across pavement, Seongyojang.
I’ve made photos of this scene before, but never included the stones in the foreground. It’s amazing how you can visit a place dozens of times and see something new each time.
Man climbing ladder to thatch house, Seongyojang.
Roof thatching
Man thatching roof watches passing woman, Seongyojang.
Please pay attention to your work . . . .

I was pleased with the results I got from the camera, and I’m sure I will get better results with the Portra 400 and Ektar colour films I still have in the fridge. Soon I’ll post some black and white photos I made with the camera on the same day I made these.

From the Archive: Green Tin Roof

Green Tin Roof
2016

In old hilly neighbourhoods the houses are all close together and from the paths on the hill you can look straight down into anyone’s property. The properties are not usually photogenic, but this bit of roof with its ‘rib’ showing attracted my attention.

I have a black and white film version of this photograph somewhere, and it may appear here in the near future.

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.