This first shot was taken from my hotel room when I first arrived in the city. The rain had subsided and the skies were filled with these dark ominous clouds. (Photographer's note: The best way to shoot through windows like this, is to focus out in the distance, and shoot at a high aperture, thus defocusing the dirt on the windows. I also turn off all the lights in the room to reduce reflections. If you are in a public area and can not turn off the lights, use a black jacket and drape it around your camera to shield all the ambient light. Of course, for all night shots, you should use a tripod to get a sharp image.)
Wednesday morning, the skies had cleared and the city was bathed in bright sunlight.
I have stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel at Coex once before and knew that there was a very cool old temple, called Bongeunsa, one block away. I had a free hour to go and explore, and headed straight to Bongeunsa to shoot.
This time, unlike the last time I visited the temple, things were decorated. I did some investigating on the Internet to try and determine if this was related to a specific event, but could not find anything.
This buddhist temple is busy at all hours of the day and night. I really wanted to capture photos of people praying but was a little wary of being disrespectful. I turned off the "focus beep" on the camera and put the Canon 5D Mark III into silent more. That allowed me to capture photos without making any noise. I LOVE the silent mode of this camera!
As is the case for most older temples in Asia, the details are just amazing. I knew that I would have limited time to shoot on this trip, so I only brought one lens. The Canon 28-300mm lens proved to be perfect since I could shoot wide shots, but also let me zoom in for detail shots like this.
There are a bunch of feral cats running around the temple grounds. Normally I would not stop to photograph these guys, but since my last blog post had a black cat in New York City, I thought it was a theme meant to be captured. :)
Throughout the temple grounds, there are lots of these little figurines that people have placed in nondescript areas.
I was walking around Bongeunsa, looking for interesting perspectives, and saw this view of one of the buildings peaking out amongst the trees. I really like the contrast of colors.
It was approaching 6pm in Seoul and I was watching the moon as I walked around. I positioned myself so that I could get a shot of the moon at the edge of one of the temple buildings. (Photographer's note: I metered this shot to get the moon exposed correctly. I knew that the temple would be almost completely silhouetted, but that I could open up the shadows in Adobe Photoshop later. In the retouching process, I lightened the building just enough to see the shingles.)
...and more details... I was shooting this photo when I heard a series of loud drums. I stopped shooting and headed straight towards the sound.
One of the Buddhist monks was drumming. I looked at my iPhone and noticed that it was 5:55pm (the exact time of sunset), so I assume that this was signaling the end of the day.
As soon as I saw this, I slowed the shutter of the camera to 1/13 sec to get some motion blur of the drum sticks. (ISO 640, 180mm, f5.6, 1/13 sec)
And then, after a couple of minutes, the monk moved from the drum to this giant bell. And this thing was really loud! After shooting a couple of photos of this, I decided to put the 5D Mark III into video mode and shoot some video. I put this into a short YouTube video here so you can experience this cool site for yourself.
Later that evening, after a business dinner, I headed back to the temple with some friends to show them what I had seen earlier in the day. This time, I brought my Gitzo tripod and grabbed some nice low light shots. For this photo, I focused and exposed on the face of the woman, knowing that the candle light would be a little too bright. I then pulled back the candle light (using the Highlights control in Adobe Photoshop) in post production.
I remembered this wall of gold figurines from my previous trip to Seoul and wanted to capture this again.
I took this photo at f5.6 to isolate the focus on just one of the figurines. I was on a tripod and could have easily shot this at f/16 to get everything in focus, but wanted the narrow depth of field to draw the viewers eye to the middle of the image.
Another low light shot of people praying...
At the top of Bongeunsa, there is this large statue. For this photo I set the camera to f/16 to create the starburst effect from the lights. Again, I was on a tripod, so shutter speed was not an issue. (ISO 100, 28mm, f/16, 20 sec exposure)
After shooting the statue photo, I turned around and saw this view of the Gangnam district, showing the Coex convention center and the Intercontinental Hotel (right), with a hint of the temple at the bottom of the frame. Old and new in one photo.
This was the last photo I took in Seoul, as the sun set and I prepared to head back to California.