Snapshots: Chicken Soup with Rice

I got off the bus downtown around 11:45 this morning and looked around for a place to eat. McDonald’s was crowded, as were many of the restaurants on the high street. I decided to head into the market to see if I could beat the dinnertime crowd for a seat. As I entered the market I remembered an area where a number of restaurants serve chicken soup. The most famous restaurant there was packed (as always) and a restaurant I had been to before also had no seats. Down the hallway a little ways was another restaurant called Busan Restaurant that had the same menu as the other two restaurants. All the restaurants in that hallway have more or less the same menu, actually. There was almost no one in Busan Restaurant so I entered, slightly worried because of the lack of custom despite it being dinner hour.

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The front of Busan Restaurant. Note the large iron pots of meat simmering away. The three main dishes of this restaurant are cow’s head soup, chicken soup with rice, and blood sausage soup with rice. They also serve steamed blood sausage and various dishes made from cow and pig offal.

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The chicken soup and a dish of cabbage gimchi. Not a piece of gut in sight! The soup was delicious and the gimchi some of the best I’ve ever eaten. While I was waiting for the soup to cool down a bit, I plucked out pieces of chicken and ate them wrapped them in leaves of gimchi. So good. The man at the next table was giving me odd looks because of this.

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The other customers, all of whom wandered in after me. I must be good for business! The woman with the bandana looks unhappy about something. Maybe her husband is eating too slowly. She should have married the fellow in the corner because he was in and out in ten minutes. Koreans, especially Korean men, eat extremely quickly. The hobbit-sized lady at the table next to me was kind, and suggested I add black pepper to my soup. I handed her things she couldn’t reach. After the meal she let out a big belch. It’s not considered a sign of satisfaction to do so in Korea. She’s just old and doesn’t care. I’m shy about taking photos of people so I pretended to be very interested in the calligraphy on the wall. Then I took out my phone and made this photo, all the while staring at the sign. Because the phone has a wide angled lens, it managed to include everyone without directly pointing at anyone.

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What a good boy am I!

After paying, I felt I had earned the right to make a short video of the iron pots and the people working. I’d be too shy, otherwise.

If you’re ever in Gangneung, I’ll bring you there for a bowl of excellent chicken soup.

 

Downtown Snapshots

I needed to go downtown to buy some camera batteries at my favourite electronics shop and I thought I may as well practise some documentary photography in the downtown area. I haven’t done much documentary photography and I’m not very good at it yet. I’m naturally shy about taking people’s pictures and my photos are often rushed because I am worried about someone coming out and telling me off. Still, even if the photos I made today aren’t very good, at least you will be able to see something about life in Korea.

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This house is unusually by itself on a side road. The wall that surrounds this ‘compound’ is about my height, maybe a little taller. It’s an ugly building but interesting in its own way.

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A little farther down the road was this little patch of green onion in a field behind a tour bus operator. This would be nicer without the shadow of the light pole.

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A clothes collection box. When the box is full or items are large, people just pile the clothes and blankets on top. The stencilled words say you can put in curtains, old clothes, blankets, shoes, carpets, and bags. As you can see from the houses in the background, it’s one of Gangneung’s poorer neighbourhoods.

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This is still on the same road. This truck belongs to a courier company.

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A winter treat in Korea is sweet potatoes or chestnuts roasted in wood-burning barrels like this one. Sometimes people buy roasted chestnuts and carry them around in their coat pockets to keep their hands warm.

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This is an example of a photo that didn’t come out well because I was rushing due to shyness. I made a photo of this woman and took the camera down too quickly when she looked up, causing blur. It’s hard to see the blur at the size I’ve posted here but it’s embarassingly obvious on the original photograph. When she looked at me I smiled, waved, and hurried on. I look like a tourist because I’m not Korean so she just laughed.

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You can find fish hung up to dry just about anywhere in the market area. This aluminium wall separates some shops from a construction area.

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Many of the little food shops in this alley look like they should be shut down by a health inspector but the food cooked in them is very delicious. In a few years they will probably be torn down and replaced by yet another coffee shop or ten.

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I wanted a photo of the mung bean pancakes and this guy’s hands but he saw me standing in front of his shop and bent down to see who I was.

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This is what I wanted but it’s poorly composed because I was shooting and running.

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A man and his wife pushing a cart on which they’ve piled cardboard to sell to recyclers. This sort of photo should be made from the side or the front but, again, I don’t have the nerve yet. And I don’t really like taking photos of poor people.

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A lost couple visiting Gangneung. Out of focus and you can’t see the map they are looking at, but I like the composition. As you can see from the reflection, I was in a convenience store, which is why the photo is out of focus. Reflections can fool a camera’s autofocus system. I should have switched to manual focus but I was worried they would notice me taking their photo so I just quickly went back to my tin of milky coffee.

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A view of my apartment complex. I don’t live in building 104.

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I bought this mugwort rice cake in the market. It’s covered in bean powder. I don’t like this kind of rice cake but my wife enjoys it very much.

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This is the rice cake I bought for myself. This is a more modern style of rice cake with bright colours and fruit flavours. I wanted to make a photo of the shop where I bought the rice cake but it’s the new year holiday and I was being knocked about by children and old ladies in the very narrow market alleys. I paid for the food and got out as quickly as I could.

These photos won’t win any prizes but I hope they are interesting as a glimpse into what a South Korean city looks like. I enjoyed walking about and making the photos and perhaps next time I won’t be so nervous and I can get some better compositions.

 

Downtown Walkabout

Sometimes I go to a pre-decided place with a tripod and make a number of photographs. Other times I just step outside the door and go left or right as the mood takes me. Near the beginning of October I did that several times and here are a few of the better photos from those walks.

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In the downtown market there is a shop that sells Buddhist supplies. Incense, candles, grey clothes, and small statues like this one. This Buddha stands outside the shop under the electricity meter. I’m sure this is profound in some way.

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Tourists come to the Gangneung market for things like the fried chicken and other foods but most of the market is not very picturesque.

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This is the large 5-way intersection in downtown Gangneung. I don’t know what’s on top of that very large pole. Lights? Speakers? Death rays?

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This is a concrete wall in my neighbourhood. A patch of concrete fell out and a seed fell in and grew into a tree. Daoism in action. This is the sort of photo that I like most. Graphically simple but tells a story.

 

December’s Photos

Here are my ten favourite photos from the month of December. Lightroom tells me I made 187 photographs in the last month, from two rolls of medium format film, three rolls of 35mm film, my iPhone, and the Fuji X-Pro 1. That number doesn’t include the large number of digital photographs I deleted while editing. I don’t delete photos from roll scans even if they aren’t good because I want to use Lightroom as a computer contact sheet.

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Fish drying on a pedestian bridge. Fuji X-Pro 1

This bridge is near the downtown market area of the city and it’s not unusual to see fish hung from the wire rails to dry. I suppose it’s a good place to do it because there is often a good wind coming down the river and there is nothing blocking the sunlight.

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‘Son Rock’, Town of Jumunjin. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

This interesting rock formation is in the town of Jumunjin and is called ‘Son Rock’. A legend says that if you stand under this rock and make a wish it will come true. Many people used to (and probably still do) come here to wish for a child. Specifically a son. Thus the name ‘Son Rock’.

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Girl walking past Son Rock. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

While I was making photos a Korean man showed up with two non-Korean children. This girl is about twelve or thirteen and her younger brother was about eight or nine years old. Their father(?) spoke only Korean to them and the girl spoke decent Korean to him and fluent English to her brother, who spoke fluent English but little or no Korean. I thought about asking where they are from but they are probably asked that question every day of their lives so I let it go.

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Short Alley, Gangneung. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

There used to be a restaurant on the first floor. It’s hard to tell what building it belongs to or if it was just built between buildings. Just how many buildings are in this photo, anyway?

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A tub of ginger in Central Market. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

These ‘parking spaces’ are what the city made when cleared the main downtown streets of the grannies who were selling vegetables on the sidewalks. The old ladies show up with their stools and vegetables in the mornings and set up shop in these little spaces. Why these spaces are empty except for a tub of ginger, I don’t know.

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Tubs of food around a fire hydrant, Gangneung Central Market. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

A few years ago the city tried to increase the number of customers coming to the Central Market by building a roof over the market roads and drawing lines on the road to indicate how far into the road a stall owner could display his or her goods. You can see part of a  yellow line above the hydrant. The lines are ignored, as is fire safety. Hydrants are surrounded by tubs and many fire alarms mounted on walls and pillars have drying fish hung from them.

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Children’s traditional dress, Gangneung Central Market. Contx 645, Kodak Portra 400.

There is also a clothing section in the market that sells rubber boots, coats, trousers, and so on. A few shops sell traditional clothes like these hanbok for children.

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Gingko Tree, downtown Gangneung. Contax 645, Kodak Portra 400.

Near the market is this very old Gingko tree that looks beautiful in the autumn. (This photo was probably made sometime in November or possibly late October but I didn’t get the film developed until December). This photo only shows the trunk and the lower branches but it is several stories tall.

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Cardboard collector, Gangneung. iPhone 6s Plus.

This carboard collector, who stopped for a fag at the crosswalk, figured that since his cart has wheels then it’s okay to leave it in the road. Once he finished his smoke he crossed against the light.

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Daegu North Bus Terminal. Zeiss Ikon ZM, Kodak Portra 400.

Daegu is an industrial city and this bus terminal is located in one of the heaviest industrial areas.

And those are the photos I thought were the best for this month. After the New Year holiday I’ll bring the computer files to the lab for printing.

No Photo

Most shops open at 10.00 so I left the house about 9 to make some photos while wandering around the downtown area. It’s a much better way to spend an hour than clicking around the Internet. I made a few photographs on the way that I will probably never share but since every photograph made counts as practice it wasn’t a waste of time.
I entered the traditional market area of downtown and noticed that the city had paved the roads and put sidewalks on either side of the narrow streets. The city did a good job but the sidewalks are unusable because merchants consider them a part of their shop space and set out their wares right to the street. And where there are no goods piling up there are cars parked on the sidewalk. For most of my walk through the market I had to walk almost in the middle of the street dodging cars and motorcycles.
When I entered the older part of the market things became worse. Besides the stink of fish and cigarettes the very narrow lanes were overrun by men on motorcycles going back and forth to their shops. After nearly getting squashed between a horn-honking motorcycle and a tofu cart I turned off the camera and escaped the market for the relatively sane aisles of the supermarket.
And the government wonders why shoppers are abandoning the traditional markets . . . .

(Next to?) last batch of film photos

Film being scanned at Dongin Studio Here is the lab technician at my local lab scanning what has now become the second to last batch of film I have. It was going to be the last batch of film but I thought this morning that I should use up the six rolls of medium format film I have left in the fridge. (Unfortunately, the sun came out just after I left the house and I spent most of my time scurrying from building shadow to building shadow. I made just six photographs). I decided several weeks ago to give up film for several reasons. One, the price of film, especially slide, keeps going up. Fuji recently announced the price of film will go up twenty percent. There was a similar price increase just a couple of years ago. The second reason I decided to give up film is that labs can’t be bothered to do a good job anymore. Scanning film takes time, time that would be more profitably spent printing from digital files. The exception seems to be medium format film because scans need to be done manually and the technician seems to have a soft spot for the look of medium format film. Here are some photos from that last six rolls of film. All are from 35mm Provia 100F film. Clay jars and drying cloths at an old house I always thought this house was abandoned but some time ago I noticed these jars put out and cloths hanging on a line. The jars are probably full of soy bean paste or chilli paste or both. Plants in a plastic crate in an alley Anything will do for an alley flower pot. Snow shovel in summer alley Is the owner of this house too lazy to put away the snow shovel or have they just prepared six months in advance? Wooden boxes put out for garbage This is what the scene looked like through the viewfinder. Because the Contax N1’s viewfinder doesn’t have 100% coverage the film had some blue garbage bags on the right. I cropped those out to make the scene I originally wanted. Dog on sidewalk in front of stamp shop Many dogs in Korea have very short leashes and they are ignored by their owners for most of the day. This beautiful dog was happy when I stopped to pet him and let him lick my face. Then he sat still while I made this photo. Good boy!Red arrow in alley This alley goes somewhere important enough to warrant a red arrow. Three crosswalk arrows Three arrows mean you have to run across the street? Woman selling fish in tubs, Central Market This smiling fishmonger didn’t mind me taking a photo of her in this market alley. Probably because she thought of me as a tourist and not someone trying to get her in trouble with the authorities. Being a visible minority (I am white) is an advantage in photography sometimes.

Woman selling vegetables in front of cosmetics shop

Many old women will bring a bundle of vegetables to the market in the morning and set up anywhere they can get a space. It’s surprising that shop owners, such as the owner of the cosmetics shop in the background, don’t drive them out of it. But perhaps they feel sorry for the ‘grannies’.

Woman pulling cart full of cardboard boxes

Korea’s yet underdeveloped welfare system means that many old people have to make money until their dying day by collecting recyclables, cleaning streets, or doing other menial labour.

Stuffed dumpling seller

I made this photo by first selecting the composition of the menu, wall and steamers, and then waiting for the cook to come by and open a lid. Making photographs like this gets better results and saves film.

Fruit seller doing her books

This fruit seller was doing her books when I stopped and chose my composition. You can see that she has just noticed me and is starting to turn. When she saw what she thought was a tourist she smiled and nodded. It might have helped that it was a weekend and there lots of tourists in the market so she was used to cameras, cameras, eveywhere.

Looking at these photos again reminds me of how much I like film photography. My digital camera is good and convenient but no matter how satisfied I am with the exposure and colour, digital is different than film. Maybe I’ll reconsider my decision not to use film once I’ve developed and printed the leftover film I have in my bag. Flip Flop.

Market Ladies

20150319-002When I first came to Gangneung the sidewalks were filled with older women selling vegetables. Because they all sat on the ground and spread out their goods on a sheet of plastic it was sometimes difficult to walk down the street, especially at the weekends or late afternoons. Several years ago the city cleaned up the downtown central market and moved all these ladies into it. It was a kind gesture by the city council, who could have just cleared them out, but now they are underfoot in the city’s central market.

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When there are more than a few people in the market the aisles become very congested, especially since stall owners ride their scooters when they need to make a delivery or do business elsewhere. I hope that as these older ladies retire the city will not allow anyone to replace them. I like the idea of a traditional market but it’s too unpleasant and organised there at the moment for a good shopping experience. That said, the best fried chicken and rice cakes are in the market so I do go there sometimes.