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Tag: summer

Married in Odin’s Eye

IMG_1183While we’re preparing for another trip across the planet, I’m going through the multiple-tens-of-gigabytes taken at a friend’s wedding in Sweden a little while back. This being a blog dedicated to photography and travel in all its indulgent forms, I can’t help but feel such an adventure is worth a mention.

I’ve been snapping away at people, performers, gigs and groups for a while now, and I’ve been edging myself slowly towards the glamour of actual professional photography as much as I can. One of the main hurdles most professional photographers overcome (or, in many cases, remain atop throughout their careers) is the dramatic field of Wedding Photography.

imageI love ‘people’ photography – I’m fascinated by different personas and quirks and madnesses which come naturally to ‘normal’ people. No one wedding is the same as no two people are, and my short experience with weddings so far lend to that belief.

imageOn August 9th, my close friends Dan and Emy – the groom coming from Stoke, near Manchester and the bride being Swedish herself – finally became Mr. and Mrs. after a ten-year engagement. Not to do anything in half measures, they decided to have the ceremony in the Scania region of Southern Sweden, staying in a huge traditional house next to Söderåsen National Park. Rather than having a church-based ceremony, Dan and Emy chose to exchange vows in the national park itself, on wooden pier floating atop Odensjön (Odin’s Lake : fabled to be the eye of the eponymous Norse god).image

imageimageNow, I bloody love travel – and I bloody love taking photos. Events like this make me feel seriously lucky with my lot, and I have every intention of having more experiences such as this. It’s an exponential curve; the more weddings I cover, the more people I meet, the more engaged couples I might have the opportunity to work with. While teaching in Korea, we’ll see if there are any opportunities to be had…image

I know ‘dream jobs’ can occasionally suffer the prefix ‘pipe-‘, but this is a job I’m going to sink my teeth, claws and tripod into. If I have to start forcing marital bliss on strangers, then so be it.

Your writer and his long-suffering girlfriend, destroying any ounce of ceremony.

Your writer and his long-suffering girlfriend, destroying any ounce of ceremony.

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This Blog Took A Year To Make.

Seasonal Types

All The Seasons  I actually had the idea to do this blog a little while before coming to Korea. My style of photography – something which I’d like to change slightly, if I’m to imitate professionalism at all – tends to focus more on the spontaneous world than the staged wonder so many artists manage to capture. I’m fairly confident that, if there’s a big ol’ bird circling above, I can snap it before it dive-bombs into the nearest tree; I can usually manage to capture the gargoyle expressions of friends as they theatrically emphasise their foreign-ness in very public spaces – but the ability to actually plan anything eludes me. Premeditated, orchestrated photography – model shoots, actual art, patient nature shoots – is something I have wanted to explore for a while, but this year’s focus on educational professionalism rather than artistic has taken me back a bit.

That being said, low-level OCD has its perks. I wanted to start, carry out and complete a year-long project documenting the shifts and changes in my local Korean environment and geography; the schizophrenic topography of Korea means that, depending what time of year you visit, there’s a completely different country awaiting you, and I wanted to (try and) capture that.Lake Bridge

My plan, as scribbled onto the back of a 2012 Sainsbury’s receipt for Monster Munch and milk:

1)      Take a photo and/or panorama from the same spot, in the same way, every time I happen to be there.

2)      Make sure there are spots in the area I actually visit on a semi-regular basis.

3)      Make sure the photos are neatly arranged on my computer so I don’t spend a solid four days rifling through the bastards in order to actually do the project

4)      DON’T FORGET TO DO THE BLOODY PROJECT

Incredibly, the lust for Monster Munch throughout the year may have subliminally propelled me into doing it.Under Construction

Crossing View

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View From A Bridge

Many/most of these sequenced landscapes are taken from Onam Lake, the actual name of which still eludes me – the frequency with which I’m there with the hairy tongued beast (Millie, to clarify) and its proximity to the house makes it a no-brainer. In addition to the trees, however, I’ve included a few shots of the work-in-progress (and catchily named) Lotte World Premium Tower as, aside from its curiously Lego/Minecraft-like construction process, it will be the tallest building in Korea when it’s finished and we’ve watched it grow over 20 floors since we got here.

Now, a quick detail of Korean seasons and the accompanying weather, from a year’s veteran’s point of view:

September – October(ish): AutumnAwesome Autumn

Korean Autumn is spectacular. All of those movies with Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau (yes, I know they’re Chinese) where they duel dramatically under unrealistically kaleidoscopic foliage? That is precisely how it looks and feels to walk through woods while the trees shed their bright yellow/red leaves. Meg politely asked me to stop making ‘sword-swishing’ sounds with sticks in public. I politely persisted.

Autumn weather is ideal if you’re a pasty-skinned Englishman unfamiliar with direct sunlight; it’s just cool enough to warrant a light jacket, but not so cold that you have anything to mutter about while waiting at the bus stop. Unfortunately, for the aforementioned reasons it’s also the single most popular time to be in Korea, so be warned if you’re going to the more popular spots – although, as we discovered when hiking Seoraksan, sometimes the rage for one’s fellow man is worth the sights atop an orange mountain.

November-February(ish): WINTERWicked Winter

I really can’t capitalise ‘winter’ enough. I love the cold; any excuse to hide beneath an enormous coat, or wrapping up thoroughly enough to make identity, gender and/or species totally indistinguishable is welcome to me. However, the measly -5°C we’re used to in Blighty is poor preparation for the casual -26°C sprung on us mid-winter in Korea. However, the country does winter properly – with snow an’ blizzards an’ monochromatic landscapes an’ that – and it’s unnervingly exciting to take a stroll across the massively deep lake’s surface being supported by a slightly harder form of water.

March-May(ish): SpringSplendid Spring

Spring is rather like the anti-Autumn of Korea; the weather is similarly mild (if generally warmer), with the foliage performing an energetic reversal of Autumn’s natural disrobing by throwing on an enormous coat of green, pink and yellow. In contrast to the April showers expected by English custom, Korean Spring is surprisingly dry, making it fabulous for walks, Korean exploration etc. before THIS happens –

June-August(ish): SUMMERSodding Summer

I capitalised WINTER due to the excruciating temperatures experienced at the time, and I give SUMMER the same treatment for very much the same reason. My vampiric Englishness did not prepare me for the months-long feeling of being part-man-part-slime while cursing my past self for not bringing more shorts. If you like flammable weather, it’s great; bright blue skies (mostly), bright green scenery and the perpetual justification for throwing oneself into bodies of water have their perks – but, if you’re a sociophobe like myself, prepare yourself for the throngs of like-minded campers who set up seasonal residence with huge tents in every spot you might personally like to have had a picnic. Also, in contrast to my expectation of ‘summer’, it’s the wettest month in Korea – so, prepare thyself for moistness.

And so, I present to you the life and times of Korea. I’m going to absolutely pine for the Korean seasons and their bipolar conflicts with one another when I return to the ‘what season is it now?’ ambivalence of England –  but, if I don’t miss the countries I temporarily call home, then what’s the point of travelling?

Progressing Panorama

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Jeju (1): Visiting the Island of the Gods

Cheonjiyeon FallsBlowing the dust off the blog…

It’s been [INSERT QUANTITY OF MONTHS] since the last update, for which I blame (if not my own mutant ability to procrastinate) the unbelievable cooking-temperature summer which Koreans deal with so casually – while I spend most of my day peeling myself off chairs and pavements.Seogwipo Bridge

I am the unconventional proud owner of a coveted smartphone courtesy of the stupefyingly generous Hailey, which means that I can join the masses in zombified silence in public spaces. I’ve already unlocked the secret characters in Temple Run – don’t pretend you’re not jealous.

An upside of having such an unnecessarily advance device is that now I can surprise myself on a daily basis with my Big Day countdown app, which currently reads 28 days. That makes exactly three weeks before I’m back in the greenish-grey sanity of England, and ‘conflicted’ is the word of the day. I would be lying to say that I’m anything less than hyperactive at the thought of going home – but I’m starting to notice the things which won’t actually be there when I leave Korea. But sadness can wait for a later blog! It’s taken me long enough to post this bugger.

Woven HorsesFor the majority of Koreans, holidays are often spent within Korea itself; when you’re surrounded by either ocean or possibly-psychotic Communists your options are, alas, limited. Either families visit each other in Busan/Seoul/Gwangju/Gyeongju etc. etc., or visit the beaches in the neighbouring province of Gangwon-do – but the sought-after holiday spot (and, according to my classes, ‘abroad’ destination) is Jeju Island, a small-ish dot on the Korean map stranded in the southern sea.

Grandfather StonesHistorically a traditional honeymoon spot, ‘the Hawaii of the Orients’ (so I have been told) is chocka with exciting geography, history, exhibits, weather and food. Unfortunately our holiday coincided with the single most popular time of year to visit, so much of this was seen between shoulderblades.

You know what? I retract that last passive-aggressive statement: what we expected was to only see sights over the tops of crowds. In fact, we (mostly) had ample room to travel.

Jeju CoastJeju Island (roughly translated as ‘Island of the Gods’) is predominately divided between two places-to-be: Jeju City, next door to the airport and bustling with hustle and shops and nightclubs and other familiar things – the alternative being Seogwipo, a substantially smaller harbour-town with more countryside than cityscape to offer. We chose the latter in an optimistic attempt to minimise forced human interaction for a few days.Seogwipo Market

Seogwipo was a good bet. The city is thriving with markets, vegetation and a staggering number of restaurants of all different flavours. Typically, we managed to repeat-visit two places in the five days we had, but hell – it was a holiday.

Part of our reasoning for picking Seogwipo lay in the options to explore the area – while Jeju City has plenty of museums and hilarious sculpture parks (which I shall address momentarily), we wanted to see the actual, breathing volcanicity of the island itself. Our choices were:

(Days 1/2)

Meggit & BeanCheonjiyeon Waterfall – a very pretty spot, but ill-chosen for the first visit; the peak season was particularly self-evident as coaches spilled multitudes into the small canyon hiding the waterfall itself. Never have I wished to join ducks swimming so much; Jeju is even more equilateral than Seoul or even Daegu and the heat can be awesome. As in, the actual definition.

Seogwipo Bridge ThingSeogwipo – the city itself, although built on a bastard hill, has something to see at each level. On top of the hill (ie. our hotel) you can gorge yourself on any kind of conceivable food (we had the best Dak Galbi thus far tasted in Korea. Twice.) Further down, you can find arts & crafts, music venues, and street sellers such as a fantastically bohemian Nepalese couple we met at a street-stall; I am now the thoroughly proud owner of a hand-made bansuri flute which, while distinctly un-Korean, is possibly my favourite souvenir thus far purchased here.

Dak Galbi Mashita!

Meg Eats     Ben Drinks

Mr. KimOn our very first night there, we encountered a lovely, if initially odd, gentleman by the name of Mr. Kim. We went on a merry adventure about the city with him as our guide, clambering over coastal rocks in the dying light and drinking into merriment; apparently just having friends for the evening made him ‘very, very happy’, which was only a little heartbreaking for us when we couldn’t find him afterwards…Bright Trees

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The Four Seasons of Jinju Apartments

jinjuarches

IMG_2523Time for some long-term observations, I think. We’ve lived here for over nine months, and have seen our distributed share of sun, old leaves, snow, new leaves and yet more bloody sun. ‘So,’ I hear you cry, ‘what cave or warren do you ferret away from the weather in?’ My questionably proud answer would be: Jinju Apartments.IMG_7868

If I mention Jinju to my ever-socially/fashionably conscious students, the typical response is ‘Oh! Dirty.’, or ‘Oh! Old.’ While I can’t entirely refute either accusation, I’d like to do a bit on the merits of Jinju Apt., if only to be bloody-minded and contrary. Not to mention the fact that it’s my home.

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IMG_3499Truthfully, one of the more frequent nouns to be associated with the apartment complex is ‘ghetto’. Visually speaking, this is not entirely without base; we’re basically talking about a square kilometre or so of five-story (dwarfed by the newer, slightly more pretentious accommodation surrounding it) concrete bricks with homes egg-boxed into them. Aesthetics aside, however, it lacks the exciting criminal element of real ghettos; the most severe noted crime to date has been the opportunistic theft of one £1-equivalent laundry basket used for our recycling – pilfered from its ‘somebody take me’ hiding spot in front of the bins while I nipped to the shop. Other than this heinous act, it’s entirely devoid of misdemeanor, instead rife with old dears wobbling up and down backstreets, picking herbs from the verge or cackling wickedly over their allotments.

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IMG_5160Unlike the rapidly-mutating geography of Namyangju throughout the year, Jinju remains reassuringly consistent. Ok – sometimes we find snow outside the front door, sometimes a tarmac-sizzling fish head neglected by the amateur butchers down the road; but inside our little English space, the world outside seems surprisingly far away. Unlike the newer, hastily-built apartments dotted about Onam and JInjeop, the apparently vacuum-formed concrete of Jinju effectively soundproofs the entire house against even the most obnoxious of airmen.IMG_9729  IMG_4059

IMG_3799In pre-snow winter, it’s pretty much the same as the rest of Korea, or indeed the world: kind of wet, kind of grey. Throughout the rest of the year, however, it remains true to the kaleidoscopic schizophrenia of Korean seasons, cycling at speed through every available natural hue until settling on the ever-dominant green of summer. Millie, in her infant naïveté and general doggish madness, is confused on a daily basis by the unreliability of her territory, making sure to soil and destroy any maverick flowers growing from the previously barren earth.

IMG_0423 IMG_0414 IMG_5765 IMG_1484IMG_3962  IMG_9195 

As for the house/flat itself, to quote an amazed student upon inspecting photos of the interior, “Wow, teacher! Jinju is old, but your house looks like hotel!”

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IMG_2047I’m unsure as to the precise accuracy of this statement, but it’s far from poverty; we’re very proud of our little space. It’s more than big enough for two (provided only one culinary genius is working in the kitchen at a time, for fear of slightly claustrophobic rage-induced spatulacide), and our living room/dining room/den/boudouir/gaming hub/pole club is possibly my favourite place in the country. In winter, the thankfully universal ondol heating takes care of you in the minus-twenties, while the solid concrete walls deter summer heat, oppressive as it can frequently be for English albinos.

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IMG_1491The Four Seasons it ain’t, but we won’t be moved from our Korean den. I wouldn’t trade our slightly decades-stained home for any of the generic obelisks spiking the countryside; we’re right outside our favourite dak galbi restaurant, we’re 40 minutes away from one of the world’s biggest cities and we’ve got Onam Lake within ten minute’s walking distance. This entry has been as much for our successors as for myself – speaking from experience, Jinju Apartments doesn’t immediately impress, but it’s a fantastic place to live and I love every fish-head and twisting alley in it.IMG_5154

Except the ones where the adoring stalker-children live. I avoid them.

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Envious Winter and Sprung Spring, or The One Where My Computer Died.

Hongdae FameIt’s been a while, chums. I’d like to say it’s entirely the fault of someone else, but I’ve had Toshiba back for at least two weeks now.Sun-Squinters

RainlightUPDATE: Make that roughly two months. I drafted this WAY long ago, but have miraculously managed to procrastinate all this while.

There’s a rather fantastic Korean expression – 꽃샘추위 , or Winter Envies The Spring (the cold envies the flowers, if we’re being specific); the phrase referring to the schizophrenic nature of early-year weather in Korea, where a few days’ unexpectedly hot weather is violently punctuated by a disabling cold/snow snap, leaving you in the delirious state of wandering into town with shorts, an umbrella and thick socks – just in case.What's This?

Pink BlossomNow, however, it has been several months since my last post; the weather has changed from bipolar spring to the more predictable progression of summer, with the living-room thermostat climbing a digit every day or so. In true white-trash fashion, I’m finding vests to be an entirely suitable fashion statement while my rabid beast lolls up and down the apartment. We’ve had a few ominous thunderclaps to emphasise the weather’s confusion, but now I suspect we’re in for the long haul – and my quasi-albino complexion has a gauntlet to run between now and Heathrow.The Guys

A lightning-fast update for those who have nothing better to read – practically every weekend is occupied with some kind of inanity, so I’ll do my best to be concise.

Pre-Sprung WoodsBetween then and now, the predominantly grey topography of wintry Korea has apparently exploded, leaving white-and-pink fallout fragrantly drifting to the green earth. Nonviolently speaking, spring has sprung like a well-coiled Slinky, and it’s driving the dog apeshit.Oblivious

Speaking of the aforementioned minibeast, we’re proud to say that the pathetically tiny 2.4kg animal we rescued in December now weighs a whopping 4kg: that’s about the weight of a slightly indulgent bag of rice.

She Likes Ice-Cream NowA few weeks [months] back, we and the ‘Mericans ventured into Hongdae, douchebag central of students and nightlife in Seoul, wherein lies the exclusive percentage of the local population daring enough to show any skin from the neck down. I don’t mean to say that was the inspiration for going, but that it proves how wild they get here. I might have seen a bare collarbone at one point.Aaron The Gentleman

Shawn's SkillsOur accommodation for the night happened was settled at Big Choi’s Guest House, a discreet and completely welcoming hostel ferreted away in one of Hongdae’s quieter back-allies for the more discerning foreign traveller. Concerning our accommodation, however, we were initially presented with a guiltily dark and quiet room filled with already-unconscious late-night frequent fliers. Our group being who and what they are, conservative use of sound would be a problem. This is the point where our Ukranian, skateboard-toting friend Phil Makarenko (Crackachenko to you, quoth he while skateboarding into a moving bus) reveals the slightly tatty gem of Big Choi’s: an Anne Frank-esque hidden ladder in a tiny cupboard, leading up into the mysterious Attic Room. By ‘mysterious’, I mean ‘mysteriously cosy despite the emphysema-inducing mould apparently used as wallpaper.Manly Portrait

Macarenko's HabitatOn the subject of new discoveries; greet the newly-adopted member of the Obnoxious Crew (actual group name to be confirmed): Anthony Shea, our very own super-duper secret military secrets have-to-kill-you-if-I-tell-you American James Bond. We tend to attract the exciting types.Obnoxious Consumerism

Josh

Lineup

ShawnHowever, Anthony’s initiation coincides with a decidedly more mournful occasion: our pec-dancingly handsome friend Shaun has left us for the somewhat envious shores of Hawaii. Given such a destination, our sadness is entirely selfish and we can only have schadenfreude hope his job is very, very tiring so he can only go to beach every other day (if Shaun’s reading – we love you really. You have been, will be and are missed something fierce).  The leaving ceremony predominantly involved a surprisingly English stubbornness to have a barbeque despite the pissing rain, and the pleasure of having the EOD workshop’s enormous female bulldog, Shelby, enthusiastically humping everybody’s leg.IMG_2426 IMG_2396 IMG_2315 IMG_2337 IMG_2345 IMG_2262

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a more political note, I gather there’s been some hulabaloo with them familiar-yet-completely-different-and-batshit-crazy neighbours up North: Mr. Kim Jong-Eun said some very hurtful and completely pointless things which were, have been and are entirely ignored by the actual populace of South Korea. It seems the entirety of the world outside of ROK (Republic Of Korea, fyi) had been biting their nails in a pseudo-Cuban Missile Crisis fashion, but the locals honestly couldn’t have given less of a toss. A few of my kids expressed their wisdom in the form of such sentiments as ‘North Korea crazy, teacher,’ or ‘Kim Jong-Eun is dirty psycho and is very very fat.’ With such moral and ethical safeguards as these children, it’s no wonder Jong-Eun’s backed off.Checkertails' Crew