Welcome to the fourth, and final, section of my 2021 Year in Review series. In the final quarter of the year, things ramped up significantly as Korea’s vaccination program began to take hold and restrictions on gatherings finally began to relax. This quarter, I was able to photograph many more families, corporate events, and even a little editorial.
October – Family, Travel, Couple, and Event Photography
October means cooler temperatures and an eye towards Autumn for us here in Seoul. It’s one of the nicest months of the year for family photography and, thankfully, Korea had resumed its adoption program and I was able to work with several families across this period. To get things started, I had the opportunity to work with the Bishline family. Their daughter, HaEun, was still very cautious around her parents and the stranger they had brought into her life so soon. We kept our session respectful of that and stayed quiet and collected, taking moments when we could. It was a very different experience to be capturing such a calm set of images.
Following this, I saw an empty week before things kicked off again and decided to head down to Jeju Island and complete the so-called “Jeju Island Fantasy Cycling Path”. Jeju Island is still my favourite part of the country and I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone visiting Korea. The cycling path takes a ~270km loop of the island, mostly along the coast. It passes by many of the most spectacular parts of the island while keeping Hallasan on one side and the ocean on the other. The quality of the path itself isn’t really up to scratch in a lot of places, but the views more than make up for it!
I got back to Seoul just in time to pack my kit and head over to the German School to shoot their annual school portraits. As always, it was a wild couple of days. Every year, we make almost 300 portraits of students, teachers, and classes during school hours. It is always great to see some familiar faces but also a fun challenge to work with the new students.
After editing and delivering these portraits a couple of days later, I headed out to Nami Island for an early morning family photography session with the McDowra family. Even with the situation the world is in, Nami Island is still crowded and we need to make the most of the early hours to use the popular areas. As always with Nami Island, I stayed out there the night before and was rewarded with a beautiful foggy river in the hour leading up to my session. This is another reason why autumn is such a beautiful season here in Korea. Once my family arrived, we scooted all over the island to make the most of the variety it has to offer before getting a much-needed cup of coffee and heading back to Seoul.
Arriving back in Seoul, I had quite a unique session with the Sensenig family. Due to the current restrictions on travel, they would be making two trips to Korea for their adoption. On the first trip, their first two children would be with them. However, they wouldn’t be coming along on the second trip for custody. Brittany wanted to do two sessions in the same location and later on, combine them into a single set of images she could keep as a memento of their time here. Being that we would likely have an abrupt change of season in between these two sessions that would give a different feel to the scenery and light, I decided to keep the session in locations I knew should work no matter the season or time of day. On top of that, we made a couple of unique images for the older children as we had open access to Changdeokgung’s “Secret Garden.” Here are a couple of photos from that first session.
Next, I took a morning off and cycled out to one of my favourite places to watch the sunrise, especially as the autumn fog begins to roll in, Yangsu-ri. The next day, I had a wonderful early morning session with Caitlin and Jay for their pre-wedding photos. We started with a walk through the streets of Ikseon-song before heading into Changdeokgung for the second half of our session. Look out for a full blog of this, as well as quite a few of the sessions here in the coming months.
To wrap up the month, I had a couple of mid-autumn family sessions to make use of the best light we get all year. Starting off with the Liu family as they took custody of their little man. Somewhere in between collecting rocks and passing them back and forth (that story coming with the full blog soon), we got a collection of smiles to light up any day. To top it all off, we stopped by Fritz for a coffee and a chat afterward. It’s hard to beat a morning like that! A couple of days later was my last session of the month with the Melosi family. Again, the early morning autumn light treated us so well and we got some beautiful portraits to celebrate this family of three soon becoming a family of four.
November – Family, Event, and Travel Photography
I kicked off November with three quick family sessions with the McClauss, McMillian, and Wong tribes. Our autumn here means that the morning and afternoon light is absolutely gorgeous. The sun begins to rise a little later and set a little earlier. This lines up perfectly with the palace opening hours, so for those looking for a palace session, it is the ideal time of year. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have your session fall into that gorgeous couple of weeks (although this year was quite a bit longer) when all the leaves begin to turn and the world is ablaze with colour.
With a day’s break between sessions, I jumped on my bike and headed back out to Yangsuri to test my luck with the fog again. The conditions looked good and the results were absolutely worth the freezing pre-sunrise ride. Heading back to Seoul, I had the pleasure to work with the Sarracino family again for their second adoption. It was great to see Jaden having grown up so much and have a chat with him about his love for cameras.
The coming days were all filled with events and editorial work as Korea finally started to relax its social distancing rules. Starting with the cafe show for the Australian embassy, I got the chance to meet barista Caleb Cha and see firsthand his amazing latte art. I followed this up with a quick portrait of Professor Jinah Kwon for an article in the New York Post about Korea’s hit TV show “Squid Game” and the reality of Korean society that birthed the idea. Finally, myself and Roy Cruz joined the KGCCI again for their annual Innovation Awards.
Following this, it was time for me to revisit October’s session with the Sensenig family and continue the shoot with the newest member of the family. We had a blast running around, playing with blades of grass, and of course, a few rounds of peek-a-boo. Between the two sessions, Autumn had come and gone, but the warm weather and lovely light was still around. We started in the area we left off with the other two children and continued the session from there.
To round out the busiest month of the year so far, I had a few events, including one for Tourism and Investment Queensland, who were celebrating 20 years of ties with Korea. Then, a couple days riding along the Han River, and a couple of fun family sessions were a great way to finish the season.
December – Event and Family Photography
December was to be a month of family photos, with session after session of gorgeous moments to keep me busy. On top of that, the weather was still quite warm, so we were able to work outdoors without any issues at all! However, the very first session of the month was an event celebrating the 60 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and Korea for the Australian Chamber of Commerce here in Seoul.
Then it was time for the first family photography session of the month. This one was with with the growing Thompson family. They were adding their fifth child to the family and were in Korea for the duration of the adoption process. Speaking with Jenni and Dan, they were extremely happy to have all their children together for such a long period of time before they all head to various schools and begin lives of their own. This would not only be a special session because of the new little man, but because of the time they were able to spend together. No pressure at all on my end!
With a couple of days until my next session, my wife and I took our final bike trip for the year out to Chuncheon. Unfortunately, our favourite dalkgalbi place was closed for the day and we ended up ordering in, but the ride was gorgeous and the early winter frost made for a beautiful start to the morning ride.
My next two sessions were with the Watts and Schuyten families. We began the Watts family session with about as many laughs and smiles as it was possible to pack into the moments we had. We got so many portraits in such a short time that it was all our little man could do to stay awake. After our second mini-location, he looked at us all with an “I’m done” face and promptly fell asleep in his father’s arms. That gave us a chance to make a very different kind of photograph to commemorate the day. The Schuyten family was about the polar opposite of this session, with the little lady taking a bit of time to open up and let her smiles flow. With a bit of patience, we were able to get some beautiful moments when she was ready to give them.
The next day I spent some time with the Yan family. Jennifer had let me know that Bomi was a little shy so we decided to meet the day before our shoot and get a coffee together. I stopped by a store on the way over and bought some chocolate mushrooms to share with Bomi in an effort to get her on my side. While she didn’t immediately open up to me, I did get a little smile and a wave goodbye when we parted. Little did I know how much of a hit those chocolate mushrooms would be. At our session the next day, they became the feature of everything we did. More on that when the full blog goes live, but it should be easy to spot them below!
In my final family photo shoot before Christmas, I met the Ford family on one of the most beautiful days of the year. The air was reasonably clean and the sky was blue. In the early winter, this means warm light towards the end of the day and we got very lucky at this session. Once we discovered the little lady’s love for peek-a-boo, there was nothing we could do to stop the flow of smiles we would get. I’ve got plenty more images coming in the full blog, but here are a couple to get us through here.
After Christmas, I had just a few more sessions left to round out the year. However, as we got closer to the dates we had scheduled, the weather forecast took a turn for the worst. We would lose more than 10 degrees Celcius overnight, which would mean that who of my sessions would be plunged below freezing. Especially when it comes to post-custody sessions, this is just not ideal. So, I contacted all the families and scheduled the sessions back to back on one day. It was going to be a long, tiring slog with plenty of coffee and sugary snacks for me, but such a better experience for my families. Here we have the Fliflet family and two solo dads, including Andrew (who I worked with a few years back), who were here to bring their children home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this final post in the series. Please do follow both my Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date. Happy New Year, all. See you again soon with some full blogs of these sessions soon. Stay safe and healthy!