These days it is tough to find a decent vantage point around any worthwhile place in Korea where you are not shooting through glass. Cities like Busan, offer a few places that are actually designed to give youa clear view of the city and Hwangnyeongsan Mountain is probably one of the best.
If you don’t have a car, the best way to get up the mountain is to hike up. It can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour depending on your pace. I would highly recommend taking a taxi down if you are there for the sunset. This goes especially for the winter season as it tends to get really cold, really fast up on the mountain.
This is where an app like Kakao Taxi can come in handy. It will allow you to call a taxi from your location rather than waiting for a taxi to come up the mountain. Trust me when I say that they don’t want to go up there. However, you will have an easier time getting a taxi using the app.
There are a number of spots along the way that offer views in different locations. The first being the lookout over the Gwangali Bridge. This will be right before the cafe as you go up the mountain. It is indicated only by a wooden platform along the righthand side of the road. So keep your eye peeled as you go up the mountain. Usually there are a number of cars parked there, so it is not too difficult to find.
From here, follow the road all the way around until you get to the parking lot. Use the large antenna as a landmark. That is where you are heading. From the parking lot on your left, you can follow the road up to the buildings or take the hiking trail behind.
There are 2 locations here to choose from. The first being on your immediate left as you come from the parking and reach the building. This gives you more of a view of the city and a lot more of the harbour. However, more people head straight to the big show which is just around the corner.
If you follow the path, keep looking to your right and just follow the groups of people because there is nowhere else really to go up there. You will eventually get the a viewing area.
This place gets super busy during the peak hours around sunset. So, I would recommend getting there a bit early to set up. For these shots, I found a spot up at the front along the railing. I was really hoping that I was not hit by the paraglider that was attempting to take off. It would have made a nice element in the frame but for some reason he failed to lift off.
For this location, I chose to go around sunset. Due to the direction of the observation platform. If you are looking for a sunrise shot, partway up the mountain on the side of the road, there is an area to view the Gwangali Bridge. From there, you can get a decent sunrise shot depending on the time of year and weather conditions.
So for these shots, I wanted the sunset. I felt that with the city in front, then the sunset colors would be a great addition to the image. I also felt that that it would add a touch more interest as well.
It should be noted that this is a peak time for both tourists and photographers alike. Therefore, you should plan to get up there a little early, and wait around a bit. The reason being is that if you get there right at sunset there will not be a place to set up.
What I wanted to show was the flow of the city around the mountains. Also I wanted to use the mountains as compositional elements that helped direct the eye to the buildings and the colours as well.
This basically takes the photograph away from just a “shot of Busan” to something a bit more artistic in a way. This could be anywhere. Now, this could also be a bad thing as I will explain later. For now, I just wanted to highlight the thought process that went into the shots.
The reason why is could be a bad things is that if you are looking for something that screams “this is Busan! This is Korea” then, this probably is not it. These shots have no real defining feature that tells the viewer where the shot is taken from. Therefor, if the viewer is not familiar with the area then it is hard for them to relate to the picture and harder for them to connect with it.
The bottomline here is that Hwangnyeongsan Mountain is a relatively easy place to get a number of great views of Busan. It is an outdoor location and that is great for shooting at all hours. Just be mindful of the crowds and whether or not you can get down the mountain again if you don’t have your own mode of transportation.