Sherlyn contacted me from Singapore back in March enquiring about doing a short pre-wedding shoot during her visit to Seoul. She and Yao, unbeknownst to me, have been shooting a series of photographs with different teams and photographers in the lead-up to their 2016 wedding. Much of this can be seen on Sherlyn’s wedding blog. They would only be here for a short time during the busiest month of the year, but we managed to schedule in a couple of hours to work together at Yeouido Park, and then down on the Han River at Yeouido.
We’ve had some extremely fickle weather of late, but on this day, everything lined up perfectly. It was a warm day, warm enough for folk from the equatorial region to be comfortable during the shoot. Not only that, but the previous week’s clouds and rain cleared for a calm, bright afternoon. It honestly couldn’t have been better.
Earlier that day, Sherlyn and Yao had rented hanboks (Korean traditional garb) for the shoot, and that through a beautiful spin on what was already a gorgeous day for photography. Yao had practiced tieing the ribbons for Sherlyn’s hanbok quite a few times at the rental store, and got it perfect the first time. Once we were changed and ready to go, we moved through the park, finding spaces between the parks visitors to stop and shoot in the streaming sunlight.
The weeping willows around the park’s like provided a beautiful frame, and the whimsically growing pines a touch of Korea to add to the couple’s gowns.
It was hard to tear ourselves from Yeouido park, with it’s beautiful forests and gorgeous light, but we made our way down to the Yeouido Han River Park for a different aesthetic in some more modern garb. Freshly bloomed tulips, and the stark, modern architecture of Seoul provided us with a setting at odds with where we had been shooting a few minutes prior. Shooting in the golden light until the sun had dipped below the horizon, we wrapped with some geometrical frames to round out the session.
Finally, it’s time to get Part 3 of my Year in Review as a Seoul photographer underway. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here. Last time we left a couple of stories unfinished, so I’d like to start this post with those. After a two month wait, it was finally time to see Amber and Matt again, and be there as they took custody of their too-cute-to-be-true son Asher.
It would also be time that I got to spend time with another three families from earlier in the year. Nell‘s mother would be back for the final part of the journey, and we would find out what a trooper Nell was (also, how much she liked gifts of jewelry and crayons!). Not a tear was shed by this brave girl, and she was asleep before we got back to the apartment!
I would also have the chance to be there as Ezra‘s custody was finalised, and as he excitedly helped his new family move rooms. We would also spend an extremely hot summer afternoon at Changgyeong-gung to work on some adorable family photos as well.
The Schubring family also had me out for a couple of days with their energetic young bunch; Annabelle, Joseph and now Joshua! Joseph was an absolute star with his little brother, and over the moon to be seeing his foster-mother again. Next up was the Jones family and their fabulous little fellow, Josiah. Check out his personality on my Instagram! We had a great morning together in Gyeongbok-gung to celebrate their finalising his adoption. Josiah could not have been a more fun boy to work with. We played hide and seek and chased each other all over, with him winning against us oldies every time!It wouldn’t be long before I’d be hanging out at Olympic Park with the Wilson family being chased around be two little men doing their best dinosaur impressions. And then another warm day out chasing Lawson about Deoksu-gung on his first time out and about with his new family.
To wind up an extremely busy month, I also had the cover of Groove Magazine for their story on the changing Itaewon; a parody of the popular Itaewon Freedom song.
August was a little slower, and I was able to spend 7 days in Wyoming with a couple of my besties, Shawn and Megan, for their wedding in the mountains. I almost didn’t come back. Almost. My first morning in Wyoming greeted me with nothing but the winds swishing through the grass…
And then there was a wedding…
And then the final morning…
Back in Seoul, we had our fair share of beautiful skies over August as well. Some of the finest I’ve ever seen in Korea.
I would also have the pleasure to document the first time Ari coloured with his big brother at Holt Children’s Services in Seoul.
And finally meet the Murphree family as they came to hang out with Jack Cruz for the first time. In a room full of chaos, Jack Cruz focused his energy and playfulness on his new parents, who were two of the happiest people I’ve ever seen after that meeting.
In September, it was time for the Wooten family to extend their arms for another new member.
As well as the Tsong family, who we will meet again next time.
Following this up was an awesome pre-wedding session with Alice and Erick in a few different locations.
And to wrap it all up, a wonderful Day in the Life session with two amazing new parents, Karen and Mark, as they spent their first day with their son, Kai. I’ll leave you with my favourite frame from this session – the full blog is coming!
Part two of my Year in Review as a Seoul Photographer. If you missed Part 1, head on over to check it out. The year began to pick up pace starting in April with the weather warming up, and the year getting underway for everyone. I was more than happy to start it in the warmest part of the country, Jeju Island. Although it poured rain for my solo ride from Jeju City to Seongsan-ri, the weather cleared up and we couldn’t have had a more perfect day for my shoot with Sook and Maui. We drove and rode all around the area, skipping the crowds and making a beautiful collection of landscape-style engagement photos.
While I was down on Jeju, I got a call from my good friend and colleague, Greg Samborski, with a job that would take the two of us to organise, and would begin the day I flew back into Seoul. The Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award, or HIPA, needed an on demand printing service organised for their booth and had asked us to provide it. We tag-teamed the preparations for this while I was shooting some personal work and organising the first ever foreigner group exhibition for the Seoul Photo & Imaging Show. A big thanks to everyone who participated in that as well!
I also got to finish the first chapter of Brian and Anna-Marie‘s story when they returned to Korea with their son Knox to pick up the newest member of their family, Tobin. From the moment he laid eyes on his brother, Knox was enamoured and stepped up to the plate as big brother. It was such a treat to be welcomed by Brian and Anna-Marie to document this special time for them, and watching Knox and Tobin left us all in awe at their ability to bond so quickly.
I also had the chance to work with a couple I’d been talking to and dying to work with for quite some time, Danielle and Todd Odenath. We had a great time getting shadowed by security at a palace, blown all over the place on the Han River banks, and of course enjoying one of Seoul’s ubiquitous coffee shop experiences.
April was a busy time for adoptions this year, and I met two more wonderful families before the end of the month. Firstly April and Blake Chambers were visiting with their two children to meet their newest boy, Silas. It took him a little while to warm up, but his big brother Griffin wasn’t going to give in. Before long they were dragging each other all around the room, leaving no corner unexplored.
Next up was Amber and Matt, who were adding a forth little one to the ranks! Amber, being the daughter of one of Holt’s first adopted children, was extremely excited to be in Korea to meet her new son. Her mother and father also came along to meet their grandson, and spent the afternoon kicking a ball and chasing Asher around the room. Asher’s foster-mother actually turned out to be April and Blake’s first son Griffin’s foster-mother as well, and so Asher knew exactly who I was walking into the room!
Moving to May, I shot the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce‘s Wine Festival at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It was a great afternoon with 26 different wineries in attendance. It was also a joy to shoot an event during the day for a change, and not have to push the limits of digital sensors!
Working again with the team at Mi Casa was a treat as well. They know how to do good food, and having a professional team working together makes the job run so smoothly. Chef Manuel Manzano Rodriguez is an artist in the kitchen, and produced dish after dish to perfection all day long. Can’t wait to work on the new menu!
The end of May would prove to be a whirlwind week of back to back sessions. First up, I had the pleasure of meeting Josh and Elizabeth and working with them on the first day they met their son.
Next up was Angelo and Cecilia’s beautiful wedding in Seongbuk-dong. A big thanks to Greg Samborski for second shooting that day for me!
A couple of quick pre-wedding shoots would round out the month well. So, first up I worked with Leah and Preston on a set of photos to remind them of their time here in Korea.
And then with Cindy and Adam before they left to get married in Scotland!
A good portion of the month of June would be spent with the Brown family, who had contacted me in January and finally got their travel call to meet Nell. With the B-Team, Bates and Brodie, in tail, Mary Leigh and Nick embraced Seoul for everythign it had – zoos included, and had me along for the ride to document every interaction, every smile, and every “Let’s go!” from Nell. We had an amazing week together that started in the Holt offices with Nell, and then the boys’ foster families, followed by a day in the park with Nell. This was a long and wonderful journey that can be read about here, here and here.
Of course, I can’t forget Greg Samborski being my test in the bride’s room.
Or time with my niece for Children’s Day.
Or the 4×5 selfy attempt.
Shooting personal work with Zach and Spencer…
Or finally having the opportunity to photograph the mighty Robert Koehler for Groove Magazine!
Jeju Island; what an idyllic location for a pre wedding shoot. Rolling mountains, vast oceans, clear blue skies. Certainly some of Korea’s most beautiful landscapes. Sook was also notably excited about the prospect. She contacted me a year out to book this shoot. Sook and Maui, being fans of natural scenery, were keen to include a lot of Jeju Island’s picturesque landscapes in their frames. We set to work planning an afternoon on Udo, a small island off the Seongsan coast.
I arrived two days in advance to scout the island and get my bearings again after a couple of years not visiting Jeju. Two wheels being my preferred mode of transport, I booked a scooter with ample room for my equipment and headed down to Jeju.
As luck would have it, the day I arrived, so did the rains. Droplets the size of marbles greeted me as I pulled out of the rental shop. Never mind, it should let up by tomorrow, Mr. Lee told me. The rains eased by morning, but the howling winds kept the ocean turbulent and all ferries to Udo were canceled that day. I spent the evening in Google street-view instead.
Come the following morning, while our makeup artist Natasha and Sook were working on makeup, Maui and I took a drive down to the port to check on the ferry situation. I inquired with the ticket salesman about the number of cars, and he said that on most days he could give an estimate of when we’d be able to get a ferry. But, with the cancellations the previous day, he wasn’t even sure we’d be able to get a ferry before late afternoon. We decided somewhat reluctantly that our time would be better spent on the main island of Jeju. I had somewhat expected this after the ferry cancellations and had scouted several locations close by our hotels as a backup.
And so we began. Sook and Maui were a great couple to work with; playful, fun, and willing to work with me on my whims – like standing in the ocean for a shot. Being from Malaysia, the cool spring winds were a little much at times, and I think they were glad for the respite of the car when we changed locations.
As no Korean experience would be truly complete without coffee at one of the chain stores (and we all needed a coffee!), we started in an empty cafe, then moved to the seaside the catch some of the early afternoon sun. With a view of Seongsan Sunrise Peak in the background, we started to really show Jeju’s beautiful scenery.
From there we drove back to Sunrise Peak and made use of the cove next to the Haenyeo House, and the setting sun with Hallasan. We could not have been luckier at sunset. Two days of rain had cleared the air, giving us perfect visibility of Hallasan and the Oreum, leaving us with some great final shots at Sunrise Peak.
Thanks again for a great day out, Sook & Maui! All the best with your wedding!