Faceless Buddha

Who knows how this Buddha lost his face? Accident, overzealous Confucians, a natural crack in the stone that finally came apart after a thousand years, or just ordinary vandalism. Some stone statues of Buddha have no noses because it was once believed that scratching off a bit and eating it would give you a son. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, since the face appears to have come off at once.

A large temple once stood at this site but all that remains now are this statue, banner poles, and a few small pagodas. I sometimes wonder what relics will remain of our time after a thousand or more years. Maybe the shells of high-rise apartment buildings, though I don’t know how long concrete lasts.

Nikon F6, Provia 100F film



It’s been a month since I wrote or posted anything here. All my photos seemed very dull and I had nothing to say about them or anything else . . . .

But it’s a good idea to practise my writing, and showing my words to the public will force me to be more careful than I am when writing for myself in a journal. Also, when I look through folders of photos on my computer trying to decide what to share, the boring photos suddenly look extremely boring, and it’s a bit easier to choose the good ones. Amazing what the threat of public shame can do.

Anyway, here a couple of photos I made last month at the birthplace of Heogyun. These are photos of one building’s interior, carefully composed with tripod, some patience, and a little bit of cursing when I couldn’t get the tripod legs set up just right.

A closet. Based on the traditional houses I’ve seen in other places, the closet and hooks seem like a more modern addition to a very old house. But I could very well be wrong.
You can see the closet again on the left edge of this photo. 

I’ve been visiting the buildings at this site for quite a few years, but every time I go I still see things in a different way. Creating beautiful pictures is nice, but one of the nicest things about photography is how it teaches you to see the world and its details from so many perspectives.

Towering Inferno

I live in a part of Gangneung that is still mostly farmland, but the city is expanding deeper and deeper into rural areas. Apartment buildings are going up at an incredible rate, even though the population is shrinking. Second homes for Seoulites and investments for speculators, perhaps. I make photos of the construction now and then, just because I pass the sites every day and I always have a camera in my hand. It’s decent composition practice as well. Getting the tower cranes aligned well is a challenge.


The tower cranes were nicely aligned one day when I was coming home from a walk.


The exterior of this complex is done and the cranes removed. You can see yellow elevators attached to the outside of the buildings. In the foreground are a dilapidated traditional home and some hothouses. These will probably be replaced by the usual convenience store, math/English/Korean cram school, and restaurant that sit in front of every apartment complex.


Building tops. The weird colours are from Kodak Ektar film, which I can’t seem to do anything with. Or the lab scanner can’t. I’ll just tell people it’s art and I laboured for hours to get those colours.


The same buildings a few days ago. Something caught on fire at the construction site and the neighbourhood was full of nasty black smoke for an hour or so. My wife saw this on her way to work and texted me. I ran out with my Canon compact and a film camera to make a few photos. The film photos are not developed yet. They probably look about the same.

Despite this awful fire being just across the road from my apartment complex, people here are still parking in the fire lanes.

Let me know if you have a fascination for apartment construction photos and I’ll get you some more. 🙂

Happy Lunar New Year.







The Olympics are in town. Or two towns, rather. Officially, the Olympics are in the tiny town of Pyeongchang up in the mountains. A nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Actually, you probably can’t live there because rich speculators bought up every bit of land they could find when the Olympics were announced and the prices have gone mad. Snow events like skiing are being held in Pyeongchang (which already had some ski resorts), but ice events such as hockey and curling are being held in Gangneung, where I live. The Olympic Village and other important infrastructure are here in the city as well.
As far as I can tell, the city has done a good job of preparing for the games and everything is very organised. The city has spent some money on Olympic themed decorations for the streets, including these Olympic circles above Culture Street in the central Gangneung area.


Nikon F6, Fujifilm C200 film. I don’t remember the lens.

This probably looks very impressive at night when the circles are lit up, but I’m not interested enough to go downtown with camera and tripod in freezing weather.

Some local businesses are also doing their bit to welcome the world to Gangneung for the games. A café on Culture Street put this lettering in their door:


Nikon F6, Fujicolor C200 film. A lens.

The name of the café is “Welcoming” but it looks odd to say ‘Welcome to Welcoming’. A ‘fereigner’ might be someone from another country who doesn’t speak English well. Gangneung, which shouldn’t be two words, is capitalised for some reason. ‘Jok-Bal’ is ham hock. ‘Horid’? Maybe it’s not that good here? ‘Pok Cops’ might be pork chops. Or a chance to jab law-enforcement officials. Oh ho ho.

Good luck to the athletes, the organisers, and local businesses getting some extra custom during the games. As for me, I’m going to avoid any Olympic areas for the next few weeks. It’s all a bit too hectic for me. I’ll just stay home and cook up some pok cops for myself.




Black and White. And Colour

One fine day in January I decided to make some black and white photographs with my digital camera. I was frustrated with using film because of the expense, the difficulty, and what I thought would be poor results. Rolls of film were piling up on my shelf and I didn’t want to send them off for development for fear of disappointment. So I took the 50mm off my F6, attached it to the D810, and headed downtown.


I have made photos of this truck parked by the riverside before but from the other side and including most of the vehicle. The strong line of the shadow attracted me on this day and I shifted about until I came up with this minimalist (?) composition.


I think I can call this another minimalist composition. The top of a building, the tips of some trees, and a few wisps of cloud.


And my third simple composition. The poem has nothing to do with the scooter. It’s something like, “While rambling across the winter field, I decided not to thoughtlessly say that I had not gained a thing.” Once a month or so the building management puts up a new poetry quote on the outside wall. Quite nice, I think.


The camera was in black and white mode when I made this photo but I switched it to colour after I got home. The green bus is barely visible in the monochrome version but it’s supposed to be the main point of the photo.

I eventually sent off the film for developing and got the slides back a couple of days ago. Not quite the disaster I was expecting . . . .


Gyeongju Trip, Part 3

I got up at 9:30 in the morning on Wednesday and drank some of the complementary 3-in-1 instant coffee in the room. Then I went out to look for a new pair of shoes because mine developed leaks in the soles. By the time I found a shoe shop my socks were wet so I gave up.

Strangely, I couldn’t see any tall apartment buildings anywhere. Maybe the main tourist area is a no-development zone? In most cities and even small towns you can see high-rise apartments all over the place. It’s quite nice not to see them, actually.

I headed to the famous royal tomb park and made some photos there, despite the constant and slightly heavy rain. The park is quite nice, and I wish I could have visited in better weather.


Just outside the park is a replica of the Great Bell of Shilla. I don’t know where the original is. Maybe Seoul?


Public parking lot. It’s interesting how modern life and ancient remains exist side by side in the city. I wonder how the ancient Korean royalty would feel about ‘peasants’ parking by their final resting places.


More modern and ancient in the same scene.




An impressive root.


This might be the obvious way to make a photo of this tree and tomb, but I rather like it. I think the tree on the right and the tomb to the left make the photo.


iPhone panorama of a path and trees. Red leaves in winter! Beautiful.


This display consisted of bits and pieces of ancient building that were dug up around the city. Archaeological ‘spare parts’, I suppose.


Artsy-fartsy tomb photo


Do Not Enter


A couple of the few people I saw in the park.


One of my favourite photos of the trip.


More lovely curves.



I really enjoyed my time in this park and I think with a spot of good weather and a full set of photo equipment I could be happy for a whole week just photographing this one park.

It was getting close to dinnertime when I exited the park but it was hard to see anything except shops selling Gyeongju Bread. But off to the left was this small restaurant that sells traditional Korean meals. The sign says it’s been in business for seventy years.


Country Wrapped-Rice


The restaurant looks very large because this is a wide-angle panorama photograph, but it was fairly small and cosy.

A lot of the menu items had seafood but I was able to order a set menu featuring a kind of hamburger patty. I told the employees I can’t eat fish but they gave me five seafood dishes anyway.


The soup at the bottom is made from fermented soybean paste and was delicious. The beef patty is to the right. On the far right is a number of leafy vegetables. The idea is to wrap up bits of meat, rice, and veg and pop it in your mouth. Yum. I ate as much as I could but there was a lot leftover. 


I think I mentioned this is Part 2, but I wish that more buildings were like this one. Fantastic.


Tombs in another park.


Most visitors to Gyeongju come to see this 7th-century astronomical observatory. I guess it’s interesting, but I prefer the tombs and temples.


A parking attendant’s bicycle. He put an umbrella over the seat to keep it dry, but it kept blowing off.


City trees are often wrapped in rice straw during the winter. Someone once explained that insects make their homes in the straw rather than burrowing into the tree.


I was tired of walking and I wanted to write in my journal so I stopped into this coffee shop.


Its claim to fame(?) is a birch tree with memos attached. I guess people write their wishes on the memos and stick them to the tree. I wished that the owner would stop giving paper and plastic cups to customers who are drinking in the shop.

On the tourist map there was a village made of traditional Korean houses and I wanted to see that. It wasn’t far from the coffee shop so I set off after finishing my jasmine tea. I found the village easily enough and I was hoping to make a lot of photographs, but I was quite disappointed. All the houses had high walls around them and the houses that were open were converted to restaurants and coffee shops. I didn’t stay there long.


village/commercial area


This beautiful building is now a snack shop.


I guess a lot of selfies are done here.


The final disappointment of the village was this car blocking the sidewalk. The writing on the street says, “No Parking or Stopping.” To avoid getting a ticket, this guy just parked up on the sidewalk. Amazing . . . .

I felt knackered after walking so much, so I jumped in a taxi and went back to the hotel, even though it was just 2:30. I bought a convenience store lunch box to have for supper because I didn’t want to go out any more that day. I showered, took a nap, and spent the rest of the day in my hotel room reading, writing, and watching TV and movies until late at night. That was quite relaxing.

The next day I left Gyeongju and went to Daegu to visit a friend. I enjoyed my trip to Gyeongu, but two full days in bad weather was enough. I would really like to go back again some spring or autumn to photograph those tombs and maybe some temples.

I hope you enjoyed my little travel diary, and if you ever come to Korea I highly recommend Gyeongju. Bring an umbrella and some good shoes . . . .