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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.