Slump

Summer is never a good season for me because of the heat and the humidity. Sweat runs down my arms and gets on my cameras and it’s hard to think straight about a composition when my body feels like it’s being steamed like a dumpling. But this year the situation is worse because I feel like I’ve reached the limits of my technique and creativity while still wanting to be a better photographer. It’s very frustrating.

I recently started looking and thinking more seriously about my photographs because I want to know how I might break out of this slump and become a better photographer. I tried to think about what makes a good photograph. Technique, including composition and lighting, is a big one. A good photo should also say something, even if it’s as simple as ‘people park motorcycles on sidewalks in Korea’. A great photo will get people to think differently about a subject by what’s included in the frame and how it’s arranged. A third way to make a ‘keeper’ is to record something for the future. Documentary. I think I am good at composition and design but not that great at saying something by using design in a thoughtful way. Perhaps I should go through my photo albums to see if I have any photos like that and try to make more.

I also wonder if something other than a lack of talent is preventing me from making good photographs. I sometimes feel stuck because I have no car and I end up going to the same places all the time. Downtown, Anmok beach, the river mouth, and occasionally a couple of historical sites that are within the city but not on frequent bus routes. Maybe that’s an excuse. I could probably make more interesting photos at the beach and downtown if I weren’t so shy of people. But there are lots of great photos without people in them so that’s possibly just another excuse.

Should I just take a long break from making pictures? If I’m not doing photography, maybe my mind will work on some ideas in the background and I can use these when I pick up the camera again. Maybe. But more than likely I’ll just get out of practice and lose my skills. So not a rest, then. But a change is as good as a rest, no? I’ve been using my D810 with a 50mm lens for just about everything so maybe I need to put those aside and use something else. A couple of my favourite photos were made using a point and shoot camera and the very cheap C200 negative film produced by Fuji. The film has very bright colours and it’s difficult to get a bad exposure with it. The camera had a 28mm lens in it for a wide view and good depth of field. I think I’ll order some of that film and stick a 28mm lens on my Nikon F6. Or buy a cheap point and shoot? The one I had broke, unfortunately. It was a great Ricoh camera.

Here are the two photos I mentioned made on C200 film:

Gangneung-presentation-020

Gangneung-presentation-003

They almost look like paintings because of the grain and colours. I’m definitely going to order some C200 film and see if I can’t make some photos like this again.

Well, I feel better after writing this . . . .

 

Another Bit of Film, Part 1

I’ve recently edited seven rolls of film, and out of those many, many photos, there are about thirty that I feel comfortable sharing. Thirty is probably too many for one blog post, so I’ll post about half today and half next week. Never say I’m not kind.

There’s no special theme to these posts. They are mostly just photos of things I came across while out on walks.

20170613-001-006
Happy life through building

I don’t remember where I saw this bus. Downtown? I guess it must be, since that’s where all the tallish buildings are.

20170613-001-012
Needs new tyres

I have a nice Italian bicycle with racing wheels on it. But Gangneung’s sidewalks can be rough and I sometimes wish I had a mountain bike with front and back shocks. This was made, I think, on a riverside cycling path.

20170613-002-006
Flower shop dog

This dog came out to say hello when I passed by a greenhouse / flower shop not too far from my apartment building. The owners of the flower shop dump their empty boxes and other garbage in front of the property instead of behind the greenhouse where it might not be seen by customers.

20170613-002-008
City Hall Bell Pavilion

Sadly, I didn’t get any good photos of the bell, so here’s the pavilion.

20170613-002-009
Inside City Hall Bell Pavilion

Looking towards Hillstate Apartments. This was made with Kodak Portra 800 and it’s amazing how much highlight and shadow detail I was able to get from the film. Good stuff.

20170613-002-018
Tourism Sign

This sign hangs over one of the main roads into Gangneung, and it shows Gyeongpo Beach.

20170613-002-022
Between two buildings

Like this cloud, I wandered lonely through the streets making photos of the neighbourhood where I used to live.

20170613-002-030
Wood pile

Also in the neighbourhood where I used to live.

20170613-003-001
Boat on Gyeongpo Wetlands.

Several years ago, the city converted a large area of land into wetlands for a park and a conservation area. It’s a lovely spot to walk around and there are lots of birds to look at. This boat is for the caretakers to use.

20170613-003-018
Observation area.

Many parts of the wetlands are off limits to visitors and some parts are even protected by a wall so that animals are not disturbed by passersby. A bit more depth of field here would have been nice . . . .

20170613-003-036
Dangerous

Here’s one of the more dangerous beasts in the park. The bearded film photographer. Listed as nearly extinct. In my hand (it’s a self portrait — thus the head chop) is my D810 that I brought along as a very expensive light meter.

20170613-004-002
Hotel construction

Condominiums are going up here and there in the tourist areas of the city. The one in the background is huge and an eyesore, but I guess it’s what tourists like. They can watch the sun rise out of the sea in the morning from it.

20170613-004-008
Willow(?)

One side of Gyeongpo Lake has many of these trees. Whatever they are. Anyway, they are very nice.

20170613-004-021
Marge Simpson and . . . Homer with a wig?

After leaving the lake I came across these paintings on the side of a building. Odd.

20170613-004-022
Dog and cat love? I guess we can all get along after all.

I’ll leave you with those images to haunt your dreams. Next week . . . . kittens!

 

 

 

A Baker’s Dozen

Nothing to do with baking, in case you arrived here by web search looking for biscuits.

I don’t much like going to festivals because of the noise, the crowds, and the drunkeness, but it’s sometimes interesting to walk through the festival grounds early in the morning when everything is quiet. These photos are from the 2017 Dano Festival.

000020
Blankets. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800

There is a whole section of the Dano Festival dedicated to blanket and pillow sellers. I don’t know if it is true or not, but someone told me that some of these vendors can sell enough blankets during the festival week to keep them in money for a whole year.

000022
Blankets and Mats. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800

This vendor hadn’t showed up to open his/her stall that early in the morning. I think I passed through about 8:15 in the morning. No one is shopping at that hour anyway, so time enough for a lie-in.

transport truck delivering blankets under a sun screen at dano f
Blanket delivery. Nikon D810, 50mm

This was a different day and I had my digital camera with me. This large truck was parked so it was difficult to get past. I think I was on my bicycle as well, so it was more difficult to get around.

Early morning cyclist at Dano Festival. Nikon D810, 50mm

This photo probably looks okay on on a web site but seen at a bigger size you can see the cyclist was too fast for the shutter speed and the woman in the distance is very fuzzy because of the shallow depth of field. I had the camera set to ISO 64 for some reason. There was no reason to make such an amateur mistake when the D810 looks great at ISO 1600 and higher.

000029
Man walking past tents. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800.

This man is also slightly blurred but I think it was because I had a slow-ish shutter speed. The tents appear to be in focus.  I’m shy about making photos of people so what I often do is choose a background that I like, prefocus, and wait for someone to walk into the composition. When the person is in a good position I press the shutter release button. This doesn’t always work, especially with younger people. Most people are fairly snap-happy so they are aware of other photographers and avoid walking in front of cameras so they don’t spoil the picture. Even though I want them to be in the frame. Other times, people will stop just outside the frame and wait for me to finish taking the photo. Foiled again . . . .

000034
Man walking through tents. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800.

This guy is slightly out of focus, but it’s okay. I metered off the pavement so the bright tents wouldn’t cause the camera to underexpose. This guy stopped outside the frame but I told him to just pass on by. I made several photos at this spot but this was the most interesting person to pass by. In the wrong direction. There was a cart pusher that came my way but he turned off and went down another lane.

000025
Tent ropes. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800

Tents require a fair amount of rope.

000032
Liquor Crates. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800

The last tent photo, I promise. Like any festival, there is plenty of booze and some of the liquor companies are official sponsors.

000033
Paddle boats and circus tents. Nikon F6, 50mm, Kodak Portra 800.

Okay, it’s more tents, but they are far away. The city closes off one of the river’s small dams to keep water around the festival grounds. The blue and yellow tent across the river is for a circus. I’ve never been inside because it’s a bit expensive and I don’t really like circuses (circos?). Still, it’s a nice balance for the yellow pontoons of these paddle boats.

I highly recommend Kodak Portra 800 when it’s not too bright out. Or even when it’s bright out, if your camera has high shutter speeds. It gives good colour, good contrast, and the grain is pleasant.

000030
Deep fried crabs. Nikon F6, 50mm, Fomapan 400.

This is the first time I’ve seen deep-fried whole crabs at the festival. I didn’t try one, but I suspect the top shell is removed and batter poured in before frying. It doesn’t look like a thing that would be pleasant to eat, even if you like crab.

Fomapan is a cheap black and white film made in the Czech Republic. It’s only about half the price of Kodak and Ilford films. It can be very grainy and the negatives are a bit thin if you set your camera ISO to 400. I say ‘set your camera to 400’ because the cannisters don’t have the DX codes for automatic cameras. Saves on costs, I guess. I set the ISO to 320 on the last roll of film I used and the negatives look much better. I haven’t made large prints using this film so I don’t know how much grain would be in the print. I like this flm because it’s supposedly an old formula and gives photos an old-fashioned look.

000031
Bowing to a pig’s head. Nikon F6, 50mm, Fomapan 400.

Korean traditional rituals sometimes involve a pig’s head. Supplicants put envelopes of money or bills into the mouth and then bow while asking for a blessing. Some people who buy new cars will perform this ceremony in front of their cars on the side of the road.

Traditional house with aluminium roof and fence. Nikon D810, 50mm.

Nothing to do with Dano Festival, but this house is on my walk to work. I spot metered off the odd white wall in the foreground and added about a +1 stop to get a good exposure.

Chair and wall stain. Nikon D810, 50mm.

The last ‘biscuit’ in this baker’s dozen. Not art I imagine, but I noticed that the wall stain on my office wall matched up nicely with the chair. Digital photograph. You wouldn’t want to waste a piece of film on this.

 

 

Editing, Seongyojang, and Scraps

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I would rather edit photos by looking at prints rather than a computer screen. I got prints made straight from my digital camera card and prints, not scans, from my film. It didn’t work out like I wanted, though. For one thing, the order of the prints got messed up on the way to me and, as a result, I couldn’t be sure which print belonged to which frame when they were very similar. Also, the lab cropped quite a bit when printing, as I realised when I got the film scanned later. The Nikon F6 viewfinder is 100% and I compose very carefully so having cropped prints is not acceptable. Also, prints cost a fortune. So I decided to just get film scanned at a lowish quality (good enough for 4×6 prints and web viewing) for editing and get very good scans (50MB) of the best photos later. My digital prints didn’t get cropped but if I’m looking at film scans on the computer it’s just as well to look at digital photos on the computer as well. So, I’m spending more time on the computer but I’m saving quite a bit of money and seeing all of my film frames.

clipart camera03

I have recently made two trips to Seongyojang. Once with the F6 and once with the D810. For colour, the Provia 100F film I used has a distinctive look but the digital looks good as well. And printing on good paper makes them look even better. But for black and white I don’t think digital comes anywhere near film yet. The Fomapan 400 film I used looks really grainy (maybe it’s the low quality scans?) but it’s an oldish formula and I really like the look.  More experimentation is needed.

20170515-002-021
Seongyojang Museum Building

I kept my distance and used a 180mm lens to cut out all of the distracting things around this museum building. I’ve never been in the museum, even though it’s included in the price of admission to the grounds. I go to Seongyojang to photographs the buildings and the landscaping. I’m not that interested in the history. I suppose I shoud go in once, just to see what I’m missing.

20170515-002-031
Outer wall of Seongyojang

I think I like this photo. There’s nothing especially wrong with the composition but . . . but . . . something’s lacking. I’ll probably figure it out after I’ve paid a lot of money to get a good scan and print . . . . There are so many trees and things like paths and lamps near the wall that I again used a long lens (180mm? 85mm?) to cut out distractions.

20170515-003-002
Outer wall in colour

Mmmm, film . . . .

20170515-003-013
Wall disappearing into trees

I like the idea of this photo but the highlights in the top of the photo are too bright. I might try this again with digital the next time I go back.

20170515-003-025
Flower pots and traditional Korean house

I like this one and I like the colours produced by the Provia film, even though they are not accurate colours. There’s probably soy bean paste or chili paste in the two pots to the left.

20170515-003-026
Flower pots and traditional Korean house

I like this vertical view of the pots and house as well, but it lacks the breathing space of the horizontal view. This one feels crowded and less relaxing.

MTP_3199
Flower pots and traditional house – digital version

Let the film vs. digital flame war begin! Here is more or less the same photo from the D810. Interesting that some colours in both photos, the tall plant’s leaves, for example, are the same but others are quite different. The clay walls are really different. The digital colours are accurate.

20170515-003-031
Two kinds of walls

The wall with the clay tiles on top surround a building, whereas the other wall is to keep a hill from sliding down into a path.

MTP_3200
Two kinds of walls – digital

Flame War II! The D810 version of the photo above. You may notice that there is more foliage in the film version of the scene. That’s because 35mm film has a ratio of 3:2 but I’ve set my digital camera for a ratio of 5:4, the same as large format cameras. I like printing on 10×8 paper and the photo and the paper match perfectly so there is no cropping. Also, I like the ‘stubbier’ frame for most things.

MTP_3179
Tree knot

This is a knot in an Asian pine tree. It’s interesting to look at the texture, but I’m not sure this one will make it to the large print stage.

MTP_3187
Old brothers

I’m not so good at landscape photography and this was the best I could do all morning. The left tree trunk shouldn’t be touching the left side of the frame, maybe. I used a wide angle lens, so it was hell to compose.

MTP_3216
Tree and flowers

I saw this on the way out. It looked better before I posted it here . . . .

I think I’ll go back to Seongyojang again before too long because I want another crack at the wall and maybe those two old trees. Someday I’ll make a photo of them good enough to cover a wall with.

clipart camera03

There are a few other photos from the rolls of film that I want to share but don’t have anything to do with Seongyojang.

20170515-001-003
Puppy and traditional house

I pass this house and puppy(?) on the way to school every day. He’s very friendly and always appreciative of a head scratch.

20170515-001-025
Door in birthplace of Heogyun

Low light and no tripod, but I managed to hold the camera steady enough to avoid blur.

20170515-001-034
pots and wall at the birthplace of Heogyun

The composition is okay and the shallow depth of field (no tripod) and the film grain structure really give this an old-fashioned look. I made this photo to test how much detail I could keep in the bright spot in the background and the dark pots in the foreground. The film passed with flying colours.

20170515-001-019
Dyke and garbage bags.

I think the bags were put there by city council workers who pick up garbage by the river and leave it in bags for pick-up later. I don’t know what that drak stain might have come from.

20170515-001-016
Look this way,
20170515-001-018
look that way,
20170515-001-015
go for a nap.

Thanks for looking and reading!

Selfies

We all do them, even if we despise them. In fact, people have been making selfies since 1839, when they were known by the more distinguished name of self-portrait. The photos I’m sharing today are just silly, so I’ll call them selfies.

20170319-001
Selfie from Bridge. Nikon D810 digital camera
000018
Selfie in Porch. Zeiss Ikon ZM and some expired film.

Film Roll: 20170210-001, 20170210-002

Sometimes I take a while to get through a roll of film so there are lots of snapshots and nothing that I can put together as a story. So, instead of contorting my brain to come up with a title that describes all the photos, or cutting out decent photos to fit a Procrustean title, I’ve decided in these cases to just write the name of the film roll or rolls.

filmfotobw-1
Hoesan District, Gangneung

As you can see, the district of Gangneung where I live is quite rural. This may change in the next ten or twenty years as more apartment buildings are built and these farms disappear. In the background you can see the smoke from a fire set by a farmer to burn up old straw. This is illegal but the employees of City Hall are too busy making up laws to actually enforce the ones they already have. You can also see transmission towers that bring power into the city.

filmfotobw-2
Pine hill on snowy day

This is the view from my living room. A lot of snow fell soon after we moved into this apartment and it was very nice to look out the window with a cup of tea. What’s even nicer is that the apartment management hires people to clear away the snow outside.

filmfotobw-3
Homeplus Food Court

It’s fairly easy to make surreptitious photos with a mobile phone (though mobile phones in Korea and Japan have to make a fake shutter noise by law as an anti-pervert measure) but it’s obvious she noticed me bring my rangefinder camera up to my eye and make this photo. I prefocused so that I didn’t have to spend time twisting the focus ring back and forth after composing. This lady looks threatening (notice the closed hand that looks like a fist!) but through the hygiene mask you can see she is smiling a bit. I’ve eaten at this food court several times and she friendly enough. In this photo, she’s preparing boiled fish paste on a stick. The name sounds awful in English but it’s delish.

filmfotobw-4
Lotte Soju Factory

The top of thos soju factory is visible over the background hills when I look out one of my bedroom windows. This was once the main factory for this company but they built a new one in another province closer to Seoul to save on transportation costs. A taxi driver told my wife that this factory laid off many of its workers and now produces soju for export. Maybe that’s one reason why a bottle of the Korean ‘evil water’ is pocket change here and costs a small fortune when you buy it overseas.

filmfotobw-5
Council Housing

A couple of years ago the government constructed these apartments for low-income families. The rich arseholes who invest in real estate and drive up housing prices can’t buy these places to rent them or flip them because they are only avilable to people below a certain income level. They are smallish, but they are cheap and you can get at least a glimpse of the river or some hills. The government probably saved money on costs by buying land next to transmission towers.

filmfotobw-6
Scooters

This is somewhere downtown Gangneung and they look to be parked too close together. Maybe it was cold and they were huddling for warmth.

filmfotobw-7
Transport

This is a failed photo because the man’s dark hair is on a dark spot in the background and is difficult to see. But a man transporting printed materials on his electric scooter with his legs dragging behind is interesting enough to share.

filmfotobw-8
Liquid Cat

The cat was sitting on the table and I knew that he would eventually jump down to the floor. So I selected a slowish shutter speed and waited. He eventually became bored of sitting on the table and poured himself to the floor Slinky-style. I pressed the shutter release button when he was at his longest.

filmfotobw-9
Sharpening

I don’t know if I made this photo just after the Liquid Cat photo or on another day, but the cat will often make a mad dash for the cat tower and have a good scratch. You might be looking at the carpet and thinking, “expensive handmade carpet + cat = disaster” but he’s never bothered it. That said, we had it professionally cleaned a couple of months ago and could have made another carpet out of the cat hair that came out of it.

filmfotobw-10
Central Market’s Backside

This is the rear view of some of the buildings that make up Gangneung’s Central Market. When the railway went through the centre of town, this was all hidden by the raised tracks. The city levelled the rail line and is planning a public park. I don’t know if they plan to do anything about the ugly view that was nevere meant to be seen.

filmfotobw-11
Dog on Chain on Line

I guess there is a special name for this line where a dog on a leash can move back and forth across a wide area. This is the parking lot of a service station or something in the city. I can’t remember.

filmfotobw-12
Self Portrait

This was the last frame on one of the rolls so I was probably just trying to finish it up before changing the film. Last frames are often photos of the family pet (which was the second last frame on this roll) but I decided to make a family portrait. Hours of fun when you have a camera.

Pile of Film: Mostly Snapshots

During the holidays I was busy and film piled up at the house, undeveloped and sometimes unnoticed. One day I gathered it all up and sent it off to the lab. There was a bit of everything in the pile: colour negative, slide, and black and white. I haven’t gotten around to editing the black and white photos yet and I’ll post some of those later, if there’s anything worth sharing.

filmfoto-4

Below the window is an aluminium tray wrapped in a cloth. Restaurants deliver to nearby businesses by putting all the dishes on a tray and delivering it like this. When the business employees are finished eating, they put the tray outside for pickup.

filmfoto-5

There’s nothing special about this photo. Everyone likes kittens so I’m posting it.

filmfoto-6I photograph these trucks sometimes when I walk by the river. They don’t seem to ever move and they might be abandoned.

filmfoto-7

If the bottom left cloud were on the top left, it would be a much better photo.

filmfoto-8

A ladder truck moving furniture and belongings into an apartment. Windy days must be nerve-wracking for movers.

filmfoto-9

On a trip to Seoul last winter we stopped for fifteen minutes at a service area. This fellow doesn’t seem very enthused about walking to his car in the snow.

filmfoto-10

No matter the weather, business must go on as usual.

filmfoto-11

Despite the snow and ice, some scooters were on the roads and sidewalks the day we were in Seoul.

filmfoto-12

Aluminium roof in Gangneung.

filmfoto-13

If you walk down small alleys in most Korean cities, you will find houses that are not maintained well or that have been abandoned.

filmfoto-14

Despite the ugliness of many of the alleys, you can sometimes find little spots of colour and life.

filmfoto-15

The others are straight. Why not these? Did the person putting them down run out of energy? Did he/she just stop caring?

filmfoto-16

Scooter sizes up pretty pink bicycle.

filmfoto-17

This photo needs a passeryby in the upper right corner. Must visit again . . . .

filmfoto-19

This is related to a security light, somehow. A meter, perhaps?

filmfoto-20

I’m usually shy about making photos of people. I pretended I was taking photos of things outside my window and then swung around to make this photo. I don’t think he was fooled, but he didn’t seem to care. “Oh, those wacky foreigners. What are they like?”

filmfoto-21

Another ladder truck. I seem to be fascinated by them.

filmfoto-22

These poor bastards are always on a very short chain outside this flower shop. Most dogs are tied up like this.

filmfoto-23

The lab where I get prints done. He’s great at printing but somewhat unreliable when it comes to film, so I get my developing and scanning done in Seoul.

filmfoto-24

This guy works at or owns a shop in Gangneung’s Central Market and he always says Hello when I pass by. I’m going to print this photo and give it to him the next time I’m downtown.

filmfoto-25

The sidewalks on the high street used to be packed with grannies selling stuff and getting underfoot. The city cleaned up the high street and moved them all into the market area where they sell stuff and make it difficult to get around the market.

filmfoto-26

Chinese dates, maize, barley, ginger(?) and what looks to be rice and something else in the background.

filmfoto-27

A scooter parked in front of a steamed bun shop. Remember those narrow lanes from two photos above? Scooters go up and down these all day, making it even more difficult to get around. And people wonder why the traditional markets are disappearing.

I really like film, although it’s onconvenient. The first few photos in this post were made with slide film and I think I like those colours the best. Kodak is going to start producing slide film again this year and I’m really looking forward to getting some. Ferrania from Italy is also supposed to start producing slide film from this year and I’m looking forward to trying that as well.