Photographing The Canadian Prairies and Korean Cityscapes Takes a Different Mindset

As you may know, I recently had to return home Canada due to the sudden passing of my Father, Don Teale. It was an difficult and unexpected journey home. Like most international travel these days, I was required to spend 14 days at home in quarantine. It was another difficult time because I could not see my family at all or even leave the house.

So by the time that I was finished with the quarantine and made sure that my Mother and family were ok, I needed some time to myself to just digest it all and come to terms with everything that happened. I also needed to spend some time exploring Brandon and using my photography as a way to help heal.

I mentioned this before when I lost my best friend in 2015 to a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Due to the connection that we had with photography, I found a way to heal through taking pictures. However, with the passing of my Father, this was a difficult task.

It was such a sudden shock to my system that I am not even sure that my brain full comprehended what had actually happened. For the longest time, I was still expecting Dad to just drive into the driveway and give me a hug. That never happened. So, I had to take it slow and let my brain adjust to it.

Prairie Life

As I slowing grew accustomed to being home, I needed to explore and go to the places where I had fond memories with my father. Much of those memories were driving around the city of Brandon. In the mornings, it was quiet and slow. The sun even woke up late but did so with such grandeur that I was often awestruck by the colours.

It was such a stark contrast to how I photograph the cityscapes in Korea. I almost didn’t know how to shoot such scenes. A couple of times I was so put back that I even forgot to use a tripod. I would take a few blurry shots until my brain kicked in and said “What the hell are you doing!!??” Then I would run back to the truck and get my Dad’s old tripod.

I didn’t take my usual tripod with me this time as I had mistakenly thought that I would not be in the right mindset to need it. I brought the camera as I wanted to get some more recent pictures of my family. However, my dad still kept his tripod from the 70’s out in the garage.

The biggest different was that I found that the prairies are an open canvas of sorts. It was really hard to nail down what it was that I wanted to express and even harder to photograph it. The vast openness of everything made me really think about the best way to compose a shot.

Sunrises over the Fields

I naturally gravitated to the fields as I felt for Brandon anyway, this was a defining feature. The entire city is surrounded by fields and this was something that my wife always commented on when we would come home. It was just a vast open prairie only a few minutes from my parent’s house. This is something that is very hard to find in Korea.

As I drove around out in the country, I also became aware of the wildlife. One morning, I went past the Brandon Wildlife Range. This was a shooting range that I pretty much grew up in. My Father was the president there and helped build much of the range that people see today.

At any rate, when I drove past it, I saw a huge herd of deer. After living in Korea for so long, I was put back by just how beautiful this scene was. Not to mention how fragile it was. One wrong step and all the deer would be gone in an instant. This too reminded me of the times my Dad would take us out to see where the deer were.

Culture Shock

One of the biggest differences that I noticed was just the isolation. When I photograph landscapes in Korea, you are never really isolated or away from people. Just before I left, I had a good chuckle as I was photographing the falling leaves. People saw my car and tried to figure out where I was as they assumed that if someone was there, something interesting must be there as well.

During my time back home, I was often a little freaked out because there not a lot of people around especially where I was taking photos. I subconsciously always expected someone to drive past or pop up out of nowhere. Rarely did I ever see anyone.

That also brings me to my next point which was the noise. Especially for cityscapes, Korea never sleeps. There are always people doing something anywhere at anytime. Back home, it was silent in the mornings. Maybe the odd car or truck but the silence was strange for me to hear (or not hear??) after getting used to the hum of city life in Korea.

The Return

Coming home to Korea was a bit of a challenge to say the least. The steps taken to prevent the spread of covid are no laughing matter. I even got stuck at the airport because the special “doctor’s note” that only long-term residents need ( the thousands of Koreans returning from trips abroad do not need one) did not have a date on it to prove that I got with within 48 hours of travel. Thankfully, I was able to prove that and get only way in a short amount of time.

I could only really look out the window. It was tough but what was worse was that during all this down time, I got out of the habit of exploring places around the region. When my quarantine was over, I had little interest in heading out to photograph places. I felt and still feel stuck.

After getting home, I spent another 14-days in quarantine and it was no joke. I had a tracking app put on my phone and between that and the calls from the health office, they kept close tabs on me. The sad part as a photographer was the fact that at this time, many people were out shooting the snow that had fallen over Seoul and other regions of Korea.

The bottomline here is that when photographing different areas as vastly different like the Canadian Prairies and the Korean Cityscapes, it takes a completely different mindset. One that needs a bit of time to come into fruition.

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