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 . . . .

 

The importance of printing

Last night I finished typing my old poems from twenty and twenty-five years ago into my computer. I had a computer when I wrote those poems and used it to print them, but where are those files now? Lost through accident because of poor or nonexistant backup practices, deleted by mistake and never noticed, or perhaps sitting on a floppy disk in an obsolete document format at the bottom of a landfill in Grand Falls or Andong. But on my bookshelf I still have all the poems I’ve written since university. Perfectly readable on odinary printer paper that hasn’t yellowed or crumbled.

I make backups of my documents and photographs these days. I’m careful about it, but accidents do happen and sometimes I’m careless. That’s why I make 8×10 prints of my best photographs every month and put them in archival folders. They will outlive me, never become obsolete and unviewable by human eyes, and I can’t accidentally delete or forget to include them in a backup.

Print, print, print.

 

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!

 

 

 

What’s the point?

I am currently not making any photos because I have a virtual pile on my hard drive that haven’t been edited, printed, shared, rated, or archived. Also, I think the shock of importing twenty-five thousand photos from a backup drive the other day put me off adding anything else to the D: drive of my computer, the poor suffering thing. The burden of having so many pictures started me thinking (not for the first time) about what I’m supposed to do with all my film and bits and bytes. No one buys photographs, there are only so many I can fit on my walls, photo albums take up valuable shelf space, and although friends thank me for sending them pictures through the post, they probably don’t want my photos piling up in the bottoms of their drawers or going into the rubbish bin. So, as part of my photo organising (a life-time project), I decided to write down what kind of photos I make and what I might do with them.

I mostly want to make fine art photographs. These have some artistic merit through either technique or meaning or hopefully both. These photos get printed on 8×10 paper and stored in archival sleeves and binders. At the end of each year, I choose the best ones, print them on nice paper, and put them in a special portfolio binder for presentation. A digital copy gets put on my website in a gallery separate from the blog. You can see these galleries in the menu on the left. I haven’t done so yet, but I’m thinking about offering some for sale.

Gangneung-presentation-029
Art

 

The photos that I might most treasure in ten or twenty years are the ones I make of friends and family. Memory photos. They don’t have to be good photos, they just have to be reasonably clear representations of people and animals I know. These I print on 4×6 paper and place in albums to be looked at now and then.

20170515-001-018
Not sharp, not completely in focus, but a great photo of Amice, my friend and brother.

 

I have family in Canada and pen friends from all over the world. Most or all of them have never been to Korea so I sometimes make photos to show them what things in Korea look like. Markets, buildings, downtown areas, whatever might be unfamiliar to someone who has never been to the country. These, I think, should be decent photos with good exposure and composition to best explain what’s being seen. Photos in this category could be artistic if I’m on top of my game or they might even get put in an album if I think the subject is a good memory. Normally, however, these photos don’t get printed. I post them on this blog or send them by email to people I know. I hope I never lose them, but it wouldn’t be a great loss if they disappeared from the world.

2016-collection-12
A reasonably well-done photo showing Anmok harbour, but not one for the portfolio page.

 

Writing this little essay has cleared my mind a bit, so I’m glad I did it. Now I don’t see 25,000 useless pictures clogging up a hard drive, I see a collection of photos that can be used in a variety of ways and that have purpose.

That said, I’m going to delete a lot of those twenty-five thousand pictures that are just mistakes and boring. But that’s another story.

A bit of film

The photos in this post don’t have much in common except that they were all made in May and they are film photographs. I guess it would be nice to present a nice photo essay about something like the redevelopment of the tourist areas (or whatever) but sometimes you just take a few decent photos while out for a walk or standing in the bathroom.

20170510-005-001
The aforementioned bathroom

I was brushing my teeth or drying my face when I noticed this patch of morning sunlight on the tiles of the bathroom floor. I ran to the cupboard to get my Nikon F6 and make this photo before the sun moved and ruined the photographic moment. This was made on Kodak Portra 400 film and very likely I spot-metred off the brightest part of the tile and added +1 or +1.3 stops of exposure.

20170510-004-008
2018 Olympics Women’s Hockey Stadium

The Winter Olympics are being held in Pyeongchang County and Gangneung City next year. It’s officially the Pyeongchang Olympics but ice rink sports such as hockey and curling will be in Gangneung and things like skiing will be held in Pyeongchang, where the ski slopes are. This stadium was built at the university where I teach and when the Olympics are done the facilities will be used by the students and by the public. I was leaving school one day when I noticed the beautiful reflections in the windows. The campus is filled with pine trees and new flower beds have been installed around the stadium. I searched the bottom windows for my own reflection but I guess I was too far away.
Just before I made this photo I ran into a small group of students and I got them to huddle together for a photo. Last week I got prints made and gave them to the students. They were really pleased, and I think that people are quite grateul when you go through the trouble of making a print and giving it to them. Clicking ‘send’ on a phone application takes no effort and people do it all day long. I hope they have the prints to look at long after their phones are obsolete and they’ve lost half a lifetime’s worth of memories.

20170510-004-016
Something old, something new

I was out for a walk when I came across this well-maintained Korean traditional house with modern apartments in the background. I like this sort of contrast between the old Korea and the new and I made a few photographs. The curve of the traditional roof and the zig-zag placement of the apartments gives this photo a slight dynamic feeling. The tree in the lower left is a nice touch, but I’m not sure about the utility pole on the right side of the frame. I guess it’s not too bad because there are power lines on the left side of the frame and they balance out. Made on Kodak Portra 400 with the Nikon F6. Probably a 50mm lens since that’s the one I usually have on the camera when walking around.

20170510-004-011
Stepping-stone bridge on the Namdae River.

The apartment complex on the right is the same complex that’s in the previous photo. I think it might be the same day, but I’m not sure because I don’t keep careful notes. Any notes. I waited around for a while for people to come by and cross the bridge. I was lucky enough to get people going both ways and meet at a compositionally pleasing spot in the frame. This photo was made with the F6 on, yes, you guessed it, Kodak Portra 400.

20170510-004-013
Stepping-stone bridge

This detail of the bridge was made at the far end where there’s little or no water and the grass has grown up. F6. Portra 400.

I’ve lived in Gangneung for a long time and sometimes I feel tired of going to the same markets, the same historical houses, and the same harbours for photography. I have no car so I’m limited in the number of interesting places I can visit. But, amazingly, sometimes just hanging a camera off your shoulder and wandering the seen-a-thousand-times city streets can result in some new perspectives and good photographs.

 

Anbandegi

One dusty, windy day, an acquaintance and I decided to go to an area on top of a mountain called Anbandegi. It’s about 1100 metres above sea level and it’s named after a wide piece of wood where rice cake is pounded out. There are no sharp peaks at the top of the mountain so you might think the top had been pounded flat.
There are farms (mostly cabbage and things that survive wind) at the top of the mountain, as well as a wind farm for producing electricity. There is no public transportation to the location because almost no one lives there and the farmers all have vehicles. Luckily, I was able to visit the area because my acquaintance has a car.
I brought a film camera and used up the remainder of a roll of colour negative film before switching to black and white Fomapan film. Just before we left I put a roll of slide film in the camera but it was a bad choice because of the harsh sunlight. If I ever go back there again (and I want to), I’ll go on a cloudy day with less wind.
But enough about cameras and film. Here are the results.

20170510-005-015
Walking up to a construction site

If you are interested in such things, you can see that the negative film handled the high contrast of this scene with no problem. We didn’t walk up this road to look at a construction site. There is a pavilion surrounded by a wall made from stones taken from the rocky soil of the area. I didn’t make any photos of the pavilion for some reason. Probably because the wind was so strong at the top of the hill that I couldn’t hold the camera still. A wind turbine is being built right next to the pavilion. So much for the view.

20170510-005-018
4-wheel drive Kia Ceres from quite a long time ago. This was an agricultural version of the Kia Bongo, thus the name ‘Ceres’. I like the look of this vehicle. I wonder if its available second-hand.

At the construction site was this Kia Ceres, being used for construction rather than farming. Behind my fellow photographer is the control box for the soon to be erected wind turbine.

20170510-005-022
Giant crane for building wind turbines.

As usual, I didn’t take the obvious photos of the construction site to show people what the scene looked like. I chose instead to be ‘artsy’ and make photos like this. I need to practise making documentary style photos so that I can show people what my trips are like.

20170510-005-030
Grass and tree

My new 180mm lens was very useful up on the mountain. Everything is a bit far away so I needed a bit of reach and I like the flattening effect of the lens.

20170510-005-032
Crane

The hanging-bit of the crane. I don’t know what any of the parts are called.

20170510-006-002
Wooden bench

This is obviously where I switched to black and white film. I have this same photo in colour from the previous roll but I prefer the black and white version. This is up next to the pavilion where we were nearly blown away. Again, I made photos like this instead of doing something useful like making a photo of the pavilion I keep writing about.

20170510-006-010
Wind turbine and cloud

What one of these giant turbines looks like at the top of the mountain.

20170510-006-021
Turbine in the clouds
20170510-006-028
pickup truck

I’m not sure if this is another Ceres or not. The front looks like a newer model.

20170510-006-033
My acquaintance clicking away on an observation deck.
20170510-006-036
Rocks, field, sky
20170510-007-003
Cloud, click, cloud, click
20170510-007-004
For luck?
20170510-007-016
Truck and hills

Made with the 180mm lens for some flattening effect. The truck at the bottom of the photo has a big water tank in it. Most of these farmer trucks have pumps installed under the pan for doing various things. All pickups in Korea seem to be either white or blue. Does limiting the choice of colours keep the costs down at the factory?

20170510-007-017
Across the hills
20170510-007-021
Truck from another hilltop.
20170510-007-026
Sheds

It’s a shame those wires are in the way.

20170510-007-028
Despite the wind and dust, spirits were high.
20170510-007-030
Self-portrait
20170510-007-035
Irrigation

As you can probably guess, I had to crop to get this photo the way I wanted it. This is the best photo of the day, and I’m looking forward to printing it.

 

 

Accidental Polaroid

The weather was warm for November and the light was good so this morning I went out with my camera and a single lens to see what interesting things might be found in the neighbourhood. I didn’t ‘chimp’ and I was curious to see how well I had composed and exposed my photos so I went to the photo lab and asked the technician to print one of each photo. A kind of ‘iron man’ photo challenge. When he was setting up the photos to print I noticed that I had three folders on my SD card. Although I always erase photos after they are safely transferred to my camera, I obviously hadn’t formatted the card for a long time. The technician gave me back my card, I put it in the camera, and then formatted. Oh, wait. Didn’t transfer to my computer at home . . . . . And so the morning’s photos are unique and worth millions. Well, none of the photos are really keepers and because I was near my house I can go back out and do them again. Anyway, my exposures were good so in the future I don’t need to fuss over it like I usually do while out making photos. A lesson learned despite a mistake.

img_1440
Priceless Art . . . . .