Tuesday, July 6, 2021

(Probably) My Last Time Ascending Mount Soyosan


The rainy season is a great time to visit Mount Soyosan. The streams and waterfalls are running wildly and the foliage is full and green. 

Mount Soyosan stands 587 meters tall (1925 feet). A modest mountain, but a mountain nonetheless. I've ascended twice since returning to Korea in March, and I've been to the mountain no fewer than half a dozen times all together. But my ascent last weekend might have been my final trip to the top. 

By mountain climbing standards, I'm sure this is considered an easy climb, by hiking standards, I would say it's a moderate to difficult hike. It's not that I'm in bad shape, I'm in halfway decent shape. After all, I'm a soldier in the US Army and I pass my fitness test and weigh in under the standards. But my ankles and low back are the issues. Going up the mountain isn't too bad, it's coming down that takes a toll. And it didn't help that I was carrying a 40 pound camera backpack, which I probably should only carry when traversing flat ground.

Coming back down the mountain, the weight combined with the declination forces my toes into the front of my shoes and the jolt of the impact is absorbed by my ankles, quads and low back. I was feeling it with each step and it was not a good feeling. I think that if I ever do go up any mountain with this type of severe incline, I will have to go with only a camera and tripod, no heavy bags. Simply put, this ascent and descent, broke me off. 

Soyosan was as green as I have ever seen it. One of the wonderful things about hiking, nature walks, mountain climbing etc is that you can return to the same location many times, over and over again, and it looks completely different depending on the time of the year. I've been to Soyosan during all seasons except for winter. Perhaps I will have to consider going up again this coming winter? Haha.

And while I did enjoy the scenery, the extreme humidity only added to my skeletal and muscular misery. I made the mistake of only taking one 16 ounce bottle of water, which I therefore had to ration so that it might last me the entire length of my trek. I probably sweated off at least 5 pounds. My T-shirt was soaking wet and that soaked through to my backpack as well.

Was it worth it? It's always worth it. Mother nature offers up endless amounts of magical scenes, and I am fortunate to capture any of it. This time, the deep green color of the forest seemed to overwhelm my senses, so much green! Anyway, let's get to the photos...

Camera: Sony A77II
Lens: Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Springtime in South Korea - Simply Wonderful


Spring time in South Korea is simply wonderful. What I love about spring, is that it is a time of new beginnings. The flowers begin to bloom with tremendous fervor, their pedals blossom in excitement to receive the warm rays of showering sunlight. The grass and foliage grows thick and green, so green. The temperature warms and the children have come out to play, this is spring.

This year, spring time had ushered in a number of vast changes and new beginnings. I find myself back in Korea for the first time since 2016. Ironically, when I departed Korea 5 years ago, it was also in the spring. My first several weeks this time around, were extremely challenging. Firstly, I had to go through a mandatory two week quarantine in which I was only allowed to leave my room for an hour a day to exercise. Secondly, when I finally reported to my base at Camp Casey, we were restricted to base due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the area surrounding the post. Thankfully, this all occurred during the waning days and weeks of winter, spring had only just begun to knock on my door.

So when the word came down that the restriction had been lifted, and we would finally leave post, I took full advantage. I invited my protege, Chase, out for a spring time street photography session and we chose the Dream Forest as our destination. It's is located in the Gangbuk area, a suburb just a few miles to the North East of Seoul. They say it is a converted amusement park, now it serves the people of Seoul as a tremendously impressive urban park, complete with hiking trails, ponds, traditional Hanok houses, restaurants, large, open grass areas, and ample trees suitable for laying out a blanket and a picnic basket to enjoy the comforts of the shade and cool breeze.

A large "I SEOUL U" sign greets visitors at the East entrance of the park

The skies were as blue as I have ever seen them in my 3 plus years of living in Korea.

It was a perfect day to take the dogs for a walk, fly a kite or enjoy a picnic.

A mother embraces her child has they look upon the "Moonlight Reflecting Pond"

The observatory houses a small library which features a distinctly modern design.

The view from the observatory is breath taking. This is looking North from Gangbuk.

The "Moonlight Reflecting Pond", the observatory can be seen in the distant background atop a hill.

Being an American soldier, stationed in Korea, far away from loved ones, can often bring with it feelings of loneliness. Even though we are surrounded by our "battle buddies", there's still of sense of isolation. South Korea is an amazing country populated by wonderful, loving people, but the loneliness and isolation still sits over your shoulder, and you know that they are there... 

I captured the image below at Wolmido Island, near the city of Incheon. It was a cold, dark, dreary day. The sky never wavered from the grey blanket of clouds which covered the entire port city like a guardian on a prison cat walk. This presented an opportunity for a long exposure image by the waters edge. I hope you enjoy the result...

Enjoy the rest of the photo gallery. The snap shots were captured over a two day period in and around Seoul and Incheon. What I love most about street photography is that there is so much discovery. You don't have a set agenda and anything can become a subject. Korea in the spring time is magical. A time for new beginnings, which is something I, myself, desperately need this year.

A man and his best friend sit on a bench.

Chinatown, Incheon

Dogs in a second floor cafe window, peer down at passersby. Itaewon

A street vendor hunched over her cart in exhaustion.

Beautiful spring tulips bloom at an urban park in downtown Seoul.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Below are images from an amazing interactive, AI, 3D display which must be seen to be believed.
Visit @teamlab for more information.

I edited the above image to really make it unique as a work of digital art.

Above, unedited @teamlab

Korean folk art and statues are among my favorite subjects as they can be found almost anywhere you go in plentiful numbers. Buddhist statues, Korean folk architecture, artistic sculptures and other public art pieces add just another layer to the unique culture that is South Korea.

In the ceramics village near Icheon (not to be confused with Incheon) there are many cute shops and cafes. It's a great place to window shop or pick up pottery items or ceramic gifts.

And finally, an unidentified woman on the street is looking down the avenue as she appears to be waiting for something, or someone.