Korean Cherry Blossoms of 2016

Colour and Contrast

Spring is always time for a feeling of renewal. With the changing of the weather, also comes a lighter feeling for me. It has been a great start to the year and I have achieved a lot in just the first few months. However, I started to really come around during this past week. Not sure if it was the fact that I have had my head down for the last little while trying to finish my assignments for my masters degree or if it was the just the hazy weather here in Ulsan.

At any rate, I felt a sense of freedom these last few days as projects for this term have all been handed in. I also taught my first ever workshop. The weather had a limiting factor as I had originally planned for the workshop to be on a Sunday but the the weather in Ulsan had other plans.

A beautiful spring site at Seongnam lake
A beautiful spring site at Seongnam lake

With a beautiful sunshine on the Seongnam Lake Park, two amazing students showed up. I was a little shocked that they were both great photographers to begin with. I was expecting more of a beginner group. This turned out great because I could focus on more of the vision behind the shots than simply the mechanics of photography.

Simple yet beautiful

With the following week having intermittent rain, I felt that I had to get out to Gyeongju before the blossoms were all gone. Gyeongju in the spring is insane and the Bomun Resort area is the epicentre. People from all over the country head there to see the blossoms. Heading there early one morning before work ensured that it would be busy but not over crazy.

My instincts were correct and I managed to get a number of shots from Bulguksa and Bomunji without a lot of people in them.

One of the top destinations in Gyeongju during the blossom season
One of the top destinations in Gyeongju during the blossom season

[box] Try to head to popular locations during off times. Chances are there will be less people.[/box]

Focus and Vision with Blossoms

There has been a running joke with my good friend and fellow photographer John Steele about the shallow depth of field shots that come out this time of year. That seems to be the only shot that people consistently get. I find myself drawn to them as well. This year however, I started thinking about why I take so many of these seemingly useless shots.

I was lucky enough to catch this guy as he took flight.
I was lucky enough to catch this guy as he took flight.

For myself, it is simply because they are easy to take and they turn out well. The problem is that they lack a story or a vision. Thus, I wanted to really focus my thoughts and even the content of my workshop on the topic of vision. This is something that the great David DuChemin wrote a lot about and I urge you to check out his stuff.

What makes this time of year so beautiful?

Over the past week I though a lot about what is the attraction to this time of year. There are flowers all year round. Why do people lose their minds during the spring? Is it the colour? Is it the way that the blossoms blanket the hills temples and cities like pink snow? Is it the fragility of the blossoms?

Blossoms at Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju
another of my favourite places to visit. Get there early as it is extremely popular with tourists and school groups.

I felt that it was a mix of the fact that this natural and yearly occurrence is like a transition fro the dead grass and empty trees of winter to the colourful summer. It marks a new beginning and for people like myself there is a bit of hope there too. There is also the fact that it such a grandiose spectacle that you almost can’t believe that they are real. Then, in an instant, they are all gone.

[box] Don’t just try to record the moment. try to capture the feeling or what attracts you to the scene. [/box]

Forget about the location and focus on where YOU are

I know that sounds a bit strange but too often I here people have to go to certain places for shots. “Kyoto is the best place for blossoms” is something that I hear a lot. However, for the most part it doesn’t matter if the composition of your photos is on the blossoms or their immediate surrounds. Yes, the backdrop of Kyoto or Gyeongju might add that “This is a famous place! and I went there!” appeal to your photo but really if you compose your shots well, you can add that “I took this beautiful shot at this beautiful time of year!” look to your photos which then makes it more appealing to a wider audience in my opinion.

A sign of spring, a bird in the blossoms

Being that I am in Ulsan, South Korea, a place not on the travel list of anyone that I know of, it is always a struggle but if you look at some of my shots you will see that I didn’t get out to Kyoto this your or even down to Jinhae. Too often people use their geographic location to limit or provide an excuse. Yes, I would have loved to travel around like Jimmy McIntyre is right now. However, for me it is not in the cards and I have to work with what I got.

Seongnam Lake Park in Ulsan makes for a great place to enjoy the spring blossoms.
Seongnam Lake Park in Ulsan makes for a great place to enjoy the spring.

Thoughts about this year

This year was interesting. I starting teaching workshops and plan on doing more throughout the year. The blossoms were a bit of a bust as the very day that I set the workshop for it rained. Rain is a blossom-killer as it rips down the blossoms. I held an emergency workshop the day before and 2 awesome people came out.

As for the rest of the time, I managed to avoid the crowds in Gyeongju and hit a spot that I have been trying to find for some time. That was about it. I stuck around Ulsan and visited Seonam Lake and Haksung Park, but soon enough and like this post it was finished.

Cherry Blossoms framed over a lake.
Framing is key for many shots this time of year.


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