Much can be said about the first quarter of 2020. The sad part is that much of what people are saying is not good. The same goes for photography. With many places under lockdown and social distancing in effect, it made for a very difficult time for many of us to get out and enjoy this beautiful time of year.
Korea is amazing in the spring and it is one of my favorite times to photograph. This year, with all that was going on, I stayed in for the most part. I only ventured out a couple of times but when I saw more people and crowds forming, I beat a hasty retreat.
Around the Apartment
Crowds have started to line the river as people have started to get a little restless and want to get out and see the spring flowers. In Korea, spring means cherry blossoms and canola flowers. This has prompted a number of places to actually go so far as to mow down the fields of canola that are a yearly tourist attraction.
Around my apartment in Ulsan, I am lucky to have both cherry blossoms and canola. While I am not sure why people love the canola so much, the cherry blossoms were a brief glimmer of hope that things will get back to normal soon.
On one afternoon, I took a long walk across the river to check out Haksung Park. This is one place that really tells you that spring is here in Ulsan. It is a small park consisting of a hill and a historic site. The steep sides of the hill were used to fend off invading Japanese forces. Now, the hill pops with colour every spring.
The MBC Area
After walking to the Haksung Park, I decided to stretch my luck and head over to the MBC area. This is a famous area in Ulsan for blossoms and it sits just behind the MBC broadcasting studios. It is an interesting area as there is a temple just on the other side of the hill and the cherry blossoms fill the valley in between.
This area was when I realized that I had gone to far and decided to turn around and go home. As I approached, there was already a drone in the air operated by two young men without masks. This is not a good sign in Korea as pretty much everyone is requested to wear a mask if they are outside. As I made my way past them, I ran into a small class of of kindergarten kids. Again, not a good sign. So, I made a quick loop around and then grabbed a Kakao Bike and took off home.
Just a side note and nothing related to photography, I love the Kakao bikes. These have been placed around the city since last summer and are pretty cool. For 1,000 won you get 15 minutes and the bikes are electric too. So you get a little boost as you ride. Such a great feature to have in a city like Ulsan that does not have a subway system.
The Seonam Lake Park
One of my biggest mistakes this season was to head to Seonam Lake Park to check out the blossoms one morning. The reason that this was a mistake was the fact that everyone else in the city seemed to have the same idea too. The place was packed despite the warnings for social distancing.
Several times during the morning my phone and everyone else’s would buzz with the latest warnings telling people to stay 2 metres away from each other and whatnot. Yet, once they see the blossoms, COVID-19 was no longer important. I was not amused and made a brief circle around the park before retreating back to my car.
While I wanted to get some good shots, there were just too many people getting way too close for comfort. These also were the type of people that would see that you were taking a picture and come and stand next to you. This normally happens quite a bit to me but with the virus around, I wan’t in the mood to be chatty to someone standing between me and a giant banner that read “please stay 2 metres apart at all times!”
The bottomline here is that while I may not have gotten out to all the great places this year, the blossoms will be back next year. It is not worth it to risk my health for a flower that blooms every year. That also goes for the canola. People were out in droves and there were even mascots from the city at one point.