Before I get into the discussion about my images, I want to share a little exercise to help you in 2020. First, make one of these images here and see which images people liked. Look for any trends that you can see. What patterns can you find? What style of images connected with people last year? I am not an instagram influencer by any stretch of the imagination, so that is exactly why I am doing this little exercise as well.
Moving on, you will see a lot of these posts floating around instagram and facebook right now. However, I thought it would be best to go through each of the photos and tell you a little bit about them. Hopefully, they can give you a bit of inspiration or a location to go to in 2020. If you want to make your own grid you can download the app “Best 9” or visit their webpage and go from there.
The first shot in the grid is the Jukseong Dream Cathedral. This is a very popular location for Korean photographers and foreign tourists. This shot is all about colour and contrast. Basically, I like the church in the background but what makes this photo pop is the fact that it goes from dark ( on the bottom) to light (on the top). The colours gradually go from purple to yellow which makes this more pleasing than if it was just a single colour. There is not a lot of detail here and I purposely made it that way to bring out the colour more.
Location: Jukseong Dream Cathedral, located near the town of Gijang just outside of Busan, South Korea. This building was built for the Korean Drama “Dream” and has since become a tourist attraction. The best time to go there is at sunrise. Then spend the rest of your day exploring the coastline back towards Busan.
This photo I was very surprised with. I went to Gyeongju not really expecting much. I actually wanted to catch the sunset at Weolji (Anapji) Pond and ended up getting a ton of shots of the lily pond out front. I really wanted to capture the sense of calm muted beauty and also convey a feeling of isolation in this image. I used one of Peter Mckinnon’s presets for the muted tones and then added a bit more of a vignette to really emphasise the “light in the darkness” sort of feel.
Location: This image was taken in front of Weolji Pond, which was formerly known as Anapji pond. There are lily ponds in front of the main gates and a larger set behind the pond. The shot was taken in July during the height of summer and typically this is when the area is overrun with tourists. This was also taken just before golden hour as people started to gather at the pond for the famous blue hour “Anapji Shot” which was one I managed to get printed by National Geographic a number of years ago.
This was one that I took a while ago and reposted. It is one of my favourite shots because it is taken on the other side of this impressive temple. Most photographers head to the main temple building in the background of this shot. However, I wanted to get more of the lanterns and just show the grand spectacle that this place really is. I wanted to show the colour and the sea of lanterns flowing from all sides of the image.
Location: This was taken at Samgwangsa in Busan, South Korea. It is arguably the most popular location for viewing the lanterns on Buddha’s Birthday. This event usually takes place around the beginning of May to Mid-May depending on the Lunar Calendar each year. It is a magical time to visit the temples in Korea. This location gets very busy during this time of year and I have seen photographers get a little pushy especially in the popular spots overlooking the temple.
I took this shot out my back window. If you follow my work then you know that I take A LOT of photos out my back window. To be honest, when we were first looking at this apartment, I was most impressed with this view. What makes this image work for me is similar the Dream Cathedral shot. Colour and contrast. Here, it also has to do with the movement in the clouds and the leading lines. The bright reflection of the Taehwa River cuts through the darker buildings and diagonal movement of the clouds draws your eye to a similar point of the horizon.
Location: Ulsan is a great city and one that has many views like this. Thanks to the moronic efforts of some local photographers… perhaps even myself. Many of the rooftops are now locked. You could try and get permission but typically you will be turned away as they really don’t want to deal with you. This is why I shoot from my window more and more these days. It beats getting kicked off a roof or having the police escort me out of the building.
As I mentioned earlier about getting kicked off the roof, well I had it happen when taking this shot. Typically, you can get into most buildings without a hassle. However, being a foreigner in Korea also means that you stick out like a sore thumb in many cases. Here, it was the fact that they now have CCTV everywhere. When the security guard found me, I just asked if I could say a little longer and he agreed saying that he’d come back in a bit to get me. What makes this image work is the balance. Light and dark, man vs nature. It was shot during golden hour which means that I didn’t want the sun to overpower the frame because I wanted to keep the detail in the buildings below. That pattern to me is very important.
Location: This image was taken on top of Ulsan’s many tall apartment buildings. Due to the popularity of rooftop photography, many of the places now have CCTV cameras pointed exactly at the popular photo spots. This tells me that a combination of popularity and poor manners resulted in the installation of the cameras. When accessing rooftops, please either ask for permission or failing that, keep a low profile. In my time, I have seen groups of people on helipads drinking and whatnot and that is the whole reason why they have taken steps to prevent people from going up there.
It’s not too often that we get snow in this part of South Korea. So when we do, you have to take advantage of it. This day I went to a number of different locations and lucked out with Bulgulksa Temple. I have been waiting for a shot like this for a long, long time. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a snow-covered temple. However, this particular shot was taken simply because it is a popular angle. Out of all of the photos taken at this spot, I wanted this one to stand out because of the bright blue sky and the snow on the ground. The rest of the shots that I took that day focused on the snow and icicles contrasting with the temple architecture.
Location: Bulguksa Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Gyeongju. This is one of the area’s top spots and gets a lot of tourists, both domestic and foreign. It is really worth the trip out to see it because the temple itself is beautiful but also the grounds surrounding the temple are also wonderful as well.
This was a great day, when I took this shot. I just decided to head out to Bulguksa as I have not been there in a long time for their Buddha’s Birthday celebrations in many years. I ended up running into a number of great photographers there including Lee Kelly (check out his site!). The funny part about this shoot was that I had failed to check my batteries. So just has blue hour was finishing, both my camera and phone died. Basically, I just had to suck it up and enjoy the moment.
What I like about this shot are the lines. The lanterns create a very colourful and striking image but it is the lines that make this shot what it is. Also using a very wide angle lens will help show how impressive this display is. I shot this at 16mm at F2.8 which was intentional as I wanted the shallow depth of field to direct the eye to the lanterns and not the people or whatever in the lower part of the frame.
Location: This was again at Bulguksa in Gyeongju. It was taken during the Buddha’s Birthday celebration which was around Mid-May this past year. It was a great experience and I believe that the entrance fee was free and they kept the temple open later as it normally closes around 5 or 6 pm.
This is another shot that I have wanted to take for a while. The Weoljeong Bridge in Gyeongju is now finally completed and they turn on the lights at night. For whatever reason, not many people were there and I loved the pattern that that the bridge makes when framed like this. What makes this image work is the compression from the telephoto lens. I shot this at 105mm, so I had zoomed right in using my trusty 24-105mm L lens.
Location: This is another favourite location on mine. Located near the Kyocheong traditional village in Gyeongju, the Weoljeong Bridge has taken a number of years to comeple but it was worth it. It is simply an amazing structure. The best times to photograph this bridge in my opinion are around blue hour or sunrise. This shot was taken at blue hour and is my favourite time to shoot it.
This was an image that I almost scraped. However, I was experimenting with Skylum’s Luminar program when they added their famous “sunrays filter” which you can see has added a few long rays in the image. Compositionally this image works because of the rocks going right to left and getting smaller as they move upwards across the frame. The sunrays were added because overall this is somewhat of a boring image. Had the water been rough that day, I would have used a 10-stop filter and blurred the water. However, I had to make do with what I was given that day.
Location: This is one of my special hidden spots that I found simply by scouting out new lighthouses. Located near Jeongja Beach in Ulsan, this spot sits right by a little village around the corner from the famous whale lighthouses. It is just a small pile of volcanic rocks but for some reason they speak to me. Perhaps it is because you can drive up and walk right out to them. Maybe it is just because it is a quiet peaceful place where you can go and just take the view in as well.
The bottom line here is that I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about these shots and locations. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you want to know a little more about how to get to these places or how I shot them. I would be more than happy to take a group of you out and show you how I got these shots.