Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A short visit to Seoul, Korea and the Bongeunsa temple

I just returned home from a quick trip to Seoul, South Korea. I was there for less than 3 days, before flying home, but had a chance to grab some photos of this unique area in the small amount of time that I had available.

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.)

More praying...

...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)

This photo was a "lucky shot". If you compare this photo to the one above it, you will notice the cool shadow of the monk on the drum. That was caused by someone else's flash, coming from far to my right. The perfectly formed shadow makes this photo way more interesting.

As I was photographing the drummer, I looked up and saw a couple of other buddhist monks waiting in the background. I was captivated by the last remaining evening light on their faces and quickly moved to capture these photos of them.

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.

I also wanted one photo highlighting the candle in front of the figurines, showing the Korean text.

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.


Unknown said...

How is it shooting video with the mark III ? Do you need your arms extended? I am used to using the pop out screen on the 60D , I can shoot video with the camera close to my body. Also what about using the video during the day in full light , can you see the screen?

Anonymous said...

The 5Diii is amazing for video. That being said you have to realize that it doesn't have the flip screen. Which is fine in you're going to be using a stabilizer or a tripod but for hand holding above and below you it's not ideal. The 3.2 inch screen is bigger than the 60d but it is glass so it's reflective

Ryan @ Digital Photography Hobbyist said...

I like the shot where you focused on one of the gold figurines with f5.6. Cool image!