Seoul Mini Photo Essay #1

Seoul

Over the weekend I visited Seoul for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been back to Korea, so it was almost like visiting for the first time. I honestly didn’t have a ton of time for sightseeing and photography as I spent most of my time with family, but I did manage to get a little shooting in.

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First, a small note on gear. I actually did the opposite of my last trip to Tokyo and this time I brought 3 cameras and a variety of film stocks (both b/w and color). I brought my Yashica Mat-124G (with the intention of selling/trading it), my Konica Big Mini and my trust Leica M2. I also brought some bulk rolled Tri-X 400 and 2 rolls of Fuji Superia 400. Although I brought 3 cameras this time around, I actually only ended up shooting the Leica. I never even took the Konica Big Mini out of my bag and I traded the Yashica Mat-124G in for a Sony DSC-RX100, thus getting rid of my last medium format camera and making the full leap to 35mm only (a topic for another blog post).

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Like I said before, I had barely any time to shoot during this short 2.5 day visit. I only got in one roll of Fuji Superia 400, one roll of Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) and one roll of Portra 400. During my first full day I visited Namdaemun market, with the intention of checking out the camera stores. I’ve heard great things about both Namdaemun and Chungmuro and their film camera stores. I wanted to visit both but only had time for Namdaemun (I’ve heard Chungmuro has a better selection of film-specific gear!). I highly recommend visiting both if you’re in Seoul! The smells and sounds and sights are quite something.

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As I was trading in my Yashica Mat-124G and saying goodbye to medium format (for now), I managed to grab some Kodak Portra 400 as part of the exchange. I used to shoot Portra all the time, but haven’t shot it in about a year and a half. This is due to many reasons, but mainly price. I just couldn’t justify paying for expensive film when there were cheaper options out there. I also had a period of shooting only HP5+ for the better part of a year. But when I got my hands on some from the trade I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I shot it again.

The warm pastel tones of Portra give it that classic 35mm film look and the dynamic range is to die for. I overexposed it to hell and back and everything came out really nice. I seriously missed shooting this film. I’m definitely going to start shooting it more often now. Even if this trip wasn’t too productive photography-wise, it served as a re-revelation to the wonders of Portra. tumblr-71

Although I didn’t get to shoot too much during this visit, I definitely enjoyed the few shots I got. If it wasn’t for this trip I wouldn’t have shot any Portra and fallen in love with it all over again. I’ll definitely be back in Seoul sometime in 2018 or early 2019. Hopefully I’ll have more content after that trip.

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All photos shot on a Leica M2 and Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) or Portra 400.

Scotland and Iceland: Intentionality – Mini Photo Essay

In June of this year I joined my family for a two week trip to Scotland and Iceland. We spent ten days in Scotland travelling north from Glasgow, through the highlands, and making our way to Edinburgh before we jumped to Iceland for a four day adventure.

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I made this trip an opportunity to work on my intentionality when it comes to photography. I still consider myself as really new to film, even though I’ve been shooting for the better part of eight months. I primarily shoot to capture moments in my day to day life but as I learn more about this medium I try to shoot more and more with the intention of finding a scene, composing it, and capturing it. Maybe that seems like a nuanced difference but for me it’s an attempt to change my approach to photography.

I embarked with something a bit fancier than the usual “cheapest 400 speed you offer” so I ended up bringing five rolls of Portra 400, two HP5 Plus and two Tri-X 400. Why the variety? While I strive to become more intentional in my approach to photography I need to be purposeful about how I utilize a given stock of film. As for gear the only camera I owned at the time was my trusty Olympus OM10.

There are two things I noticed when I kept intentionality at top of mind,

  1. First was that I was more willing to take risks with composing because I was trying to shoot out of my norm, basically it forced me to get out of my comfort zone
  2. Second was that having constantly gorgeous new scenery all around you makes it harder to be purposeful because I wanted to capture everything!

These differences are what I think about when I go back to these shots. I can see some scenery shots here that didn’t challenge me as much, like this shot from the Quiraing landslip on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It’s not necessarily hard to line up where you want the horizon, capture this rugged landscape, and get it in this shot. Could I have done more to add some character to this shot? I very well could have but it’s not something that was top of mind because of that second point above, sometimes you just want to mindlessly capture gorgeous sceneries like this.

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And I look at this one from the Reynisfjara black-sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland. I was under a cave staying dry and just people watching and taking in the desolate scene. I knew I wanted to shoot something here that was more than just the sand and the cliffs because that wouldn’t do any justice to what I was seeing around me. I thought if I could contrast the ominous setting with something bright and warm then that would achieve my goals. I ran out into the rain to create this shot when the two vibrant ladies were contrasted with the sand – and in that way I challenged myself and got what I wanted from the scene.

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The more I think about it I figure it’s not hard to shoot with intentionality in mind. Does it require more focus on your subject and the composition? Certainly. That’s what it’s about by definition, but at that same time a requirement to focus gives you the time it takes to challenge yourself and to become a more vulnerable photographer.

It takes a whole lot more vulnerability to want to share the ladies in the poncho shot because it took me a lot more thinking and it’s more personal than the Quiraing shot. I’m sharing my own thoughts on what I wanted that image to look like and I get to benefit on a discussion related to those thoughts. So overall, being intentional and being vulnerable to share that intentionality forces you to grow and become a better photographer.

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Maybe this all seems like an obvious point but I just wanted to share where I’m going with my photography and I hope some of you connect to that approach, if not I hope you enjoyed the shots.

All shots developed at Kerrisdale Cameras in Vancouver BC, black and white shots scanned by me on an Epson perfection v550.