Year in Review – Part 1 – Seoul, Korea Photographer

Yet another year has passed here in Seoul. It was a big one for me as a photographer and it seems to have gone by particularly quickly. Maybe it’s the amount of work I’ve been doing, maybe it’s the trips I’ve taken for Tattoos of Asia, or maybe I’m just starting to get old. Whatever it is, this has been a whirlwind year at WelkinLight Photography and I’d like to share some of it with you today. As always, I’ll start with highlights from the Seoul winter in January and February, followed by the beginning of spring in March. Somewhere in between, I’ll take a few trips to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

 

January – Family and Travel Photographer

The year started, quite literally, with a family photography session out on Nami Island. January 1st is not often a date I get asked for in Seoul. For most, it’s just too cold and, for many others, too painful. Not for Gloria and her family! We all made our way out to Nami Island and spent an hour running, jumping, hiding, playing, laughing, and of course, sipping warm beverages. A couple of my favourites from that session are below.

Family Photographer - Seoul, Korea

Family Photographer - Seoul, Korea

Next up was a session that had been in the works for a while. These two lovely ladies were in Seoul for a week or so and we managed to schedule a couple of hours to take in some of Seoul’s urbanity, tradition, and nature together. With Seoul being a fairly conservative place, I don’t get to do a lot of LGBT sessions and this was a great breath of fresh air from my usual sessions. We took to the back streets of Jongno and Euljiro for some urban grit and then headed over to Gyeongbokgung to use the gorgeous architecture and evergreen pines. One of the benefits of having your session in the holiday week and freezing cold is that there are very few other people around. Thanks again for an awesome session!

Couple Photographer LGBT - Seoul, Korea

Couple Photographer LGBT - Seoul, Korea

Couple Photographer LGBT - Seoul, Korea

What would a couple of weeks back in Seoul before heading out on winter holiday be without some Jongno Gentlemen. Marco and I headed out to track down and make portraits of these fixtures of the Seoul landscape again. Despite the cold, we managed to stop several dapper gents for portraits in the streets of Jongno. Check out the rest of the series on Facebook.

Seoul, Korea Editorial Photographer

Then, well, let’s be honest, the winter got to be too much. My youngest brother was about to start his final year of secondary school as well, so we decided to go on a trip together. We picked Cambodia and Vietnam for our adventure and started with the city of Angkor. As usual, the smiles and warmth of the Cambodian people were a joy to be around and we could have stayed a lot longer than we did. But alas, we had to go and meet Jeehe over in Vietnam to enjoy yet another country full of warm smiles and, well, some of the best food in Asia.

Angkor - Cambodia Travel Photographer

Hoi An

Hoi An - Vietnam Travel Photographer

 

February – Travel, Band, and Couple Photographer

While I was away, we had worked on finalising the placement for my intern Jonne to fly into Seoul from the Netherlands. At the last minute, we confirmed everything and she would be flying in on the 7th of February. As we had confirmed this so late in the game, I had already booked my flights to Laos for my Tattoos of Asia project. I would be leaving just 4 days after Jonne’s arrival, so I asked if she would like to come. We ended up meeting in Seoul and then flying straight to Laos a couple of days later for a week-long ride through the countryside in search of the Brao people. It was a pretty good introduction to the way things go around here, I think. We also took my book with us, which was a hit. The similarity in facial structure and the fact that another people have facial tattoos led to the question, “Are they also Brao?” a lot.

Tattoos of Asia - Laos Travel Photographer

Tattoos of Asia - Laos Travel Photographer

Tattoos of Asia - Laos Travel Photographer

The day after I flew back into Seoul, I met up with a local band, Wooden Lucy, to shoot some promo work for their album release. It’s always a good time when you can shoot gritty black and white for a change. We had a great time and pulled off some fun images of the band in a few different locations. After that, there was another last-minute confirmation that took us out into the streets of Seoul for a surprise proposal and then some braving the winter with Albert and Logan. After being in South East Asia for a few weeks, this day was even cold for me, but I don’t know how everyone else did it. None of them were ready for the cold of a Seoul winter.

Band Photography in Seoul

Band Photography in Seoul

Proposal Photographer - Seoul, Korea

Couple Photographer - Seoul, Korea

 

March – Food, Hotel, and Family Photographer

I had the pleasure of working with Chef Ryu at Ryunique on some clean and simple dish shots for his social media presence after this. It’s been great to see those used over and over again in magazines and websites. His beautiful plating makes the job easy, that’s for sure! After that, I found some time to do one more thing I love before the busy season kicked in – I hit the streets to document some more of Seoul before the gentrification makes every street corner look the same.

Ryunique - Seoul, Korea Food Photographer


Seoul documentary photography

Seoul documentary photography

Seoul documentary photography

Then it was time for the busy season to start again. March is when everything ramps up. To really get things rolling were a couple of families I have worked with in the past. The Visingards were back to visit their son’s foster family and spend some more time exploring Seoul. I got to spend a few hours with them as they reconnected with the foster family again. The Tsongs were up next. I was with them when they took custody of Daniel as well, and this time we scheduled a session of fun in Seoul’s Changgyeonggung during their short visit.

Visingard Family - Seoul, Korea Photographer

Visingard Family - Seoul, Korea Photographer

Tsong Family - Seoul, Korea Photographer

Then I had the pleasure of working with the Bolenders as they prepared to leave Seoul. We met just about a year prior when their son was born for some photos with the whole family, and this time we got together for a Day in the Life documentary session as they were leaving Seoul. We had an absolute blast eating several breakfasts, playing in the washing basket, and eventually heading out for a walk around the city. Lots of fun to be had. To wrap up March, I worked with the Italian Chamber of Commerce for their AGM and work with the New Seoul Hotel on their new promotional shots.

Italian Chamber of Commerce - Event Photographer

The Bolenders - Family Photographer

The Bolenders - Family Photographer

New Seoul Hotel - Commercial Photographer

New Seoul Hotel - Commercial Photographer

That’s all for the first quarter of the year. Come back next week for plenty of families, couples, a ball, and some time with the BBC. Until then, have a great week!

박우식 – Korea Photographer

Readers of this blog may remember Woosik. Last year myself, and good friend Damari, set out with the boys from Ground Jam to shoot some promo material for them. Woosik is one of their members. Not only a phenomenal dancer, but after a short hiatus, now getting back into acting. Needless to say, when he contacted me looking for some headshots, I was more than happy to work with him again.

Being an unorthodox kind of guy, he wanted some unorthodox photos this time around. His inspiration for visual style was tear sheets from GQ, Geek, and 1st Look. A fun challenge to say the least! We got together of a Friday afternoon in a rented studio in the north of Seoul, and sat down for 해장국 (recovery soup… a Korean hangover cure) before beginning the shoot. Always a good way to start.

We had three outfits to get through, and 4 walls to work with. As you see on this blog, most of my work is outdoors. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m always nervous walking into a studio. Making my own light is not a problem, I do it all the time. I even teach a class on it. But a blank wall… that’s way out of my comfort zone. We got straight into it though, and conquered that fear with some killer images.

Seoul Photographer

 

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

Seoul Photographer

 

Personal Work: Fine Art Portrait

As a working photographer it is all too easy to get caught up in working on jobs and forget to nurture the creative side. As much as we love to create for others and complete jobs to the highest standard we are capable of, every job needs professional development from time to time. For us that comes in the form of personal work. Creating for the sake of creating is a great way to remind ourselves why we are in this craft we love so much. It also gives us the opportunity to learn new techniques or play with a new piece of gear.

This shoot came to me one morning last week as I was sipping my coffee and finishing a chapter of my book. I didn’t live in Seoul at that time, I lived in a forest filled with magic and dreams. I decided then and there to make an image of that feeling. Three days later, I had organised to shoot with Jaymie and my good friend Andy.

We met at Olympic Park in Seoul with a rough idea of what we were going to do, a camera, a tripod, a book, a lantern, and a cup of coffee each. From here we set about piecing together the image you see below. Sitting Jaymie on the picnic rug, I began collecting vines and leaves to place all around her. We then decided to tie up her hair using a piece of twine I had with me. Two guys attempting to achieve this must have been quite comical to any onlooker, but in the end Andy brought out his inner hair-stylist.

From here it was a case of lighting Jaymie and the lantern. The lantern is lit by an SB800 powered to 1/128 sitting behind it with a full CTO gel attached. Jaymie is lit by another SB800 at 1/16 power in an SMDV Diffuser 70 to camera right. I have been wanting to try the new Diffuser 70 for a while and learned quite a lot about it from this shoot – review pending! We then took Jaymie out of the frame and tossed leaves and pages all around to be composited into the frame in post.

This shoot gave me the freedom to put together each piece of the puzzle as I saw fit and create the image I had in my mind. It was a great excercise that I think we all need to do more often.

Seoul Fine Art Photographer: Personal Work

 

 

Dell Wasabi Printer – Travel Photographer

As we were planning our trip to South East Asia last year, my wife and I began talking about what we could do during our trip to repay the kindness of strangers that so very often comes your way when traveling. Travel often involves gaining experiences we couldn’t get at home and bringing them back to share with our people. We wanted to leave behind memories that would last and constantly remind the people that we met of our shared experiences, just as our photographs would do for us when we got home. So why not give those photographs to these people then and there?

The Printer

I did some research and came across a lot of different options for printing 4×6 prints on the road, but these printers were just far to bulky and heavy to carry around for the three months we’d be walking around South East Asia. In the end I came across the Polaroid Pogo printer, which led me to the Dell Wasabi. Neither of these produce the quality of a dedicated 4×6 photo printer, but we didn’t need that sort of quality. All we needed was a small printer that would allow us to hand out memories on paper.

We went with the Dell in the end (Wasabi vs. Pogo? The choice was easy.), and took about 200 sheets of paper with us. A couple of hours on charge and this little guy gave us between 10 and 15 prints, depending on the resolution of the files – transfer times tend to drain the battery significantly. This was perfect for a day out traveling. If we made a portrait at any point during the day, we printed it immediately and gave it to the subject then and there. We could not have prepared ourselves for the reaction these prints would get, however.

The First Print

We took the printer out for the first time after making a portrait of the young man who made our breakfast at Indein Market, Inle Lake, Myanmar. He smiled widely as I handed him the print, and ran off across the marketplace and handed it to a woman I guess was his mother. He returned to his duty shortly after and we ordered another bowl of his noodles. As we ate, we noticed that the print was making its way around the market, and people began waving to us from every direction. The print finally made its way to the elderly woman who had been sitting on the other side of the noodle broth tending to the tea that comes with all meals in Myanmar. She regarded the print, returned it to the boy, and gestured me over. She wanted a photograph as well. She was smoking the handmade cigars that seem to be the staple diet for the older generation at Inle Lake, and I made her portrait with the cigar as you see below. After receiving the print, she quickly put it on the table and thanked us with a smile and a nod. We sat down to finish our breakfasts, and once we looked away, she carefully picked up the print and continued to regard it for the duration of our meal before tucking it safely into her breast pocket and waving us goodbye.

Colin and Sara – Seoul Wedding Photographer

In the winter of 2011, Colin and Sara got in touch with me about doing some post wedding photography to add to their album made by their previous wedding photographer back in the United States, and commemorate their time in Seoul, Korea as it came to an end.

Colin is also an excellent photographer (you can see his work on his website), and had a location in mind that he and Sara would like to use for their shoot – Seoul Arts Center. I had 20 or  so ideas scribbled in my notebook from my scouting session. I had planned all sorts of crazy situations to put these two in, but they had ideas of their own, and we ended up weaving the session together as it went along. Like an engagement photography session, the focus was to be on these two enjoying their time together, and that’s what we did.

The weather was cold, and the bureau had said it wasn’t likely to break before Colin and Sara left Korea. So we picked a day that looked like it would be above freezing and set out to shoot. Korean weather is always full of surprises, and our surprise today was 15 centimetres of snow and -2 degrees. But, we powered on and stopped for coffee too thaw our extremities from time to time.

One of the great things about being a photographer is the people you meet – Colin and Sara have become two of my best friends despite the fact that we now live more than 10,000 kilometres apart!

Portraits of Myanmar – Travel Photography

Myanmar has a reputation for its beatiful sunrises and sunsets, its never-ending plains of temples, crimson robed monks, and the reflective waters of Inle Lake. But the people, aside from being ridiculously friendly and welcoming, are beautiful. Below you will see a small selection of portraits from Myanmar. These are carvers, cooks, children, market stall owners, weavers, teachers, farmers, seamen and book sellers. From my short time in country, these are the portraits of Myanmar.

Subject Defined Portrait – Seoul Portrait Photographer

For the last four weeks, I have been visiting my family in my home country of Australia. It has been good to see the sunburnt land again, and (touch wood) avoid the bushfires so far. One of the tasks I set myself while I am here is portraits of my family. Not in the traditional sense. I want to evoke each of their personalities in the images I make.

With that in mind, I started my project by photographing my younger brother Matt at his workstation. Matt is a little bit of everything: part musician, part party goer, part electrician – an eclectic human being. I wanted this to come across in the image. This wasn’t going to be a standard Rembrandt lighting setup, and it wasn’t going to be a deadpan look into the camera.

We started simple with a blacked out room (except for his monitors – which we based the exposure on) and a CTO gelled SB800 fired into the back wall to illuminate the room to about 1.5 stops under the exposure I initially wanted. 1.5 stops under? This was my base to build on, same as you would use ambient outdoors. CTO? I wanted the key light to be really cool, but the shadows to be neutral – so I set the camera’s white balance to tungsten. On top of this we threw in my Diffuser 50 with another (non-gelled) SB800 about 10 centimetres out of the frame to camera right. Their respective powers were 1/4 and 1/32 by the time we had balanced it all out.

Now it was time to start shooting. The first few shots were to get us warmed up, so we started with Matt working at the station. Clearly, this was not going to be the final image we were going for.

Flash Portrait of Matt Working

We had filled the room with everything that is Matt, and now we just needed him to be him. “Think about it for a minute, and when you’re ready, give me a little bit of Matt,” I said. This was the result.

Flash Portrait of Matt - Personality

This works for me. It is simple, but it shows everything Matt is – bar one thing that is. Matt has his own way of doing things. His music blurs the lines, and this needed to be expressed. Then it hit me, or rather I hit it.

While swinging the camera down to have a chat with Matt about the possibilities for this image, I accidentally pressed the shutter and made a blurry image. Nobody’s perfect right?

Serendipity played the best role in bringing this image to life. I slowed the shutter to 1/1.6 and closed my aperture down to f/4, then adjusted the flashes accordingly. For the next few frames, I had Matt bring himself out again and I shook or moved the camera in circles for the duration of the shutter – making sure I lined up the frame I wanted just before the shutter closed. This is when the flashes fired – on rear curtain (slow) sync – freezing Matt and his room over the top of the chaos I had just created.

Flash Portrait of Matt - Slow Shutter

As an extra, I decided to try firing the flashes twice during the exposure. This was down with the test button on the Flash Wave III radio triggers and resulted in another portrait that represented Matt to the letter.

matt-portrait-flash-double

Two lessons from this quick session – always be open to serendipity, and never settle for ‘good’.