Welcome back to my annual Year in Review series. Today we’ll be taking a look through the months of July, August, and September. Typically, these are some of my busiest months of the year in Korea, but this year a few things conspired to make this a quarter dominated by personal work. The Korean courts were processing very few adoptions, we had summer holidays followed by an early Chuseok, and the weather was sweltering. All this together meant that things were slow for local work, but I had plenty of time to work on other things. So, let’s take a look at those and pepper in a few local jobs that filled up this quarter nicely.
July – Travel Photographer
First up, my annual workshop with Pics of Asia. We had an amazing group join us this year for our Central Vietnam Tour. We hit up some of our favourite coastal villages, a couple of markets, and some beautiful golden hour spots on the Lan Co lagoon. We all learnt a lot about working with people, dealing with light, and just how to wade through lagoon waters in the dark without losing thousands of dollars in equipment. Below are a few of my personal favourites from that week.
Back in Seoul, one of my first orders of business was to test out the beautiful new Laowa 17mm f/4 Zero-D for Fujifilm GFX. It was an honour to be tasked with giving the lens a run for its money and produce some sample images for Laowa to use for their marketing. Knowing that the way I could separate my images from the other testers was going to be Seoul’s epic cityscapes, I took the lens rooftopping a couple of times and down to the Han River for testing. The gorgeous sun stars produced by the lens were a joy to work with. It was great to see the images used for the product launch and be able to work with another of Laowa’s wonderfully crafted lenses.
August – Pre-wedding, Travel, Proposal, and Editorial Photographer
There were a couple of jobs spattered within this period, but unfortunately, I can’t share the work from them. This year has definitely been one for the books in that regard! The first one I am able to share is this gorgeous sunrise session with Sarah and Eric. We had a wonderful morning out in Seoul before the city woke up and the midday heat settled in. Summer light in Seoul is really only good for the first and last hour of the day, so we made great use of this gorgeousness for our session. Thanks to this wonderful couple for heading out with me at 7am!
That evening, I had a chance to meet up with my old friend, Simon Slater, of The Secret Map fame while he was back in Korea for a few days. It was a pleasure to spend an evening shooting the breeze and photographing him enjoying one of his other passions, Cuban cigars. The lights of one of our favourite bars in Seoul provided the perfect illumination for this quick portrait. Following that, I spent a couple more days documenting the city I live in before heading off on assignment for Mabuhay magazine. That set of images will go live early next year when the magazine’s embargo is over.
Coming back from that quick trip, I had the task of documenting Zion’s proposal to Miya. We planned this one for quite some time and Miya even got wind of the process at one point. However, we managed to keep it secret long enough to make this lovely afternoon at Haneul (Sky) Park happen. After a beautiful proposal to music and some fine words by Zion, we headed up to the peak and made a few images of the couple together to celebrate the occasion. Even in Summer, Haneul Park can be quite spectacular.
Wrapping this session up and getting it sent over to the couple, myself and my good friend Wesley Chang headed down to Jeju Island on an impromptu summer holiday as we found ourselves with a few days free. We drove the coast without a plan and stopped in at some of Jeju’s well-known haunts as well as a few things we stumbled across along the way. It was great to play with a combination of Fujifilm’s XF 8-16mm f/2.8 (with Haida’s amazing M15 system) and Laowa’s 17mm f/4 for my GFX. Typically, Wesley and I focus on images with people involved, but we found ourselves freed by the landscape of Jeju (with a small lapse on my part as I spent some time with Mr. Lee).
Returning to Seoul, I had my last opportunity to play with the XF 8-16m f/2.8 before returning it to Fujifilm. I chose to spend that time at Bongeunsa, the most famous and most trafficked of Seoul’s temples. It had been many years since my last visit and it was interesting to see the changes. Still, walking amongst the devout was a powerful experience.
Next up, it was off to visit my friends at MoonBear Taphouse to shoot a couple of ultra-short ads for their social media launch. One of those is linked below. If you’re in Sokcho, definitely head over and spend some time sampling their food and drinks.
While I was on assignment for Mabuhay earlier, one of my old editors had reached out and asked if I’d be interested in shooting a feature for Cathay Pacific’s Discovery magazine on North Korean Food. The brief asked for four establishments to be photographed along with several signature dishes and the chefs wherever possible. Getting all the restaurants to open their spaces for me in the short window we’d have to shoot proved challenging. However, in the end, we got a great set and everyone was happy with the results. Check out a couple of spreads from the magazine below. Plenty more will be coming in the final blog.
September – Editorial, Travel, Event, and Wedding Photographer
To get September started, I headed down to Buyeo with the team from Social Innovation in the Community to meet up with some folks rejuvenating a dying Korean village. It’s hard not to love the mix of old, new, and abandoned in small Korean towns. This little place was nothing short of breathtaking. I loved it so much I cancelled my ticket home and stayed a few extra hours just to walk around and enjoy the place.
To round out an eventful summer, I had the pleasure of photographing two surprise proposals before heading off to Taiwan. The first was at Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza where Jed proposed to Minh in a break in the rain. We even managed to schedule in a quick couple shoot afterwards before the weather turned sour. On the other end of that storm, I met up with Erick as he surprised Zineb with his proposal along the Cheonggyecheon. I grabbed a few images as they made their way slowly east along the stream to a quiet location before Erick popped the question. Then we spent 30 minutes making some couple images before I had to head to the airport for my flight to Taipei.
Waking up the following morning, my wife and I took the dawn flight to Taipei to enjoy a week off for our anniversary. It was extremely freeing to shoot my entire week of images on my tiny Fujifilm X100F. Despite being one of the most unreliable cameras I’ve owned, it’s by far one of my favourites! It’s such an unobtrusive little machine that you can use it anywhere to make great images. I’m looking forward to sharing some more from Taipei on my personal site.
After flying back to Seoul, I spent a week working myself up to my new hobby of cycling the rivers and streams of Seoul. It’s been a great way to see the city and, when the light is right, a great place to make some photographs. Here are a couple from the late summer light that blesses us when the storms pass.
The last week of September was taken up with a string of corporate events, a wedding, and a visit to the Dwight School for our annual birthday photo. So, let’s start with Dwight’s number 8. The school is rapidly growing and that means that our numbers get larger and take a little longer to fill out every year. The team did a great job, though, and we were able to pull this one off without any issues.
The International Bar Association took over the city for the last week of September. So, I had quite a few assignments covering meetings and socials that would be held by the various firms visiting Seoul. Unfortunately, I’ll only be able to share one with you here. The IBA’s opening party was spectacular. My colleagues Greg Samborski, Roy Cruz, and Wesley Chang were all hired as part of a team to cover the event. With 3,000 people attending this event alone, we had a lot to cover. Here are a few shots from the gorgeous opening ceremony. Of course, we also ran a photo booth and there’s never a dull moment with one of those. I’ve included our team shot to test the lighting for our evening.
As the Korean courts came back into session and adoptions started being processed again, I worked with my first adoptive family in months. Derek and Allie’s first meeting with their little boy was a day to treasure. In a tiny little room like this, it’s hard to explain the amount of movement that was done. The little man sure knew how to keep us all on our toes. You’ll see a bit of his fun-loving daredevil personality below.
My final two sessions for this quarter would be the annual German Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Innovation Awards and the stunning wedding of Arnaud and Minji. The Innovation Awards are always a treat to photograph. It’s a busy evening for the media team, but we have a great time. Every year, we run a photo wall, do the event photography for the reception, and then cover speeches and performances for the rest of the night. In true German fashion, there’s always a follow-up party with some great performances and dancing.
Finally, we get to Arnaud and Minji’s wedding. At a private Hanok in Bukchon, Seoul, these two tied the knot and I was invited to photograph the beauty of the day. Unlike many weddings here, the ceremony was short and sweet, but the wedding party was long. A small, intimate crowd gathered for the celebration that lasted well into the night. I’m looking forward to sharing a full blog from this lovely night early next year. Stay tuned for that.
Thanks for stopping by again to spend some time with the images I’ve made over the course of 2019. Just one more instalment remains before we head into 2020. As always, I encourage you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram and check out my personal work as well if you’re interested.