Here’s a rare selfie from my visit to Seoul last weekend. I’m not sure when I turned into an anthropomorphized version of Grumpy Cat, but there’s my face. As you can see there’s a reason I’m behind the camera instead of in front of it and is the main reason everyone gives me the hairy eye when they pass me. Maybe it’s the beard? I only shave my beard once it gets caught in my zipper, so deal with it world.
One of the main benefits of being single and without kids is having disposable income. And freedom. And no baby barf all over your clothes. Oh, and you can suddenly decide that you want to go away for the weekend because the job/ life/ aging is wearing you out. Which is why I suddenly called up a few hotels that I knew didn’t require a credit card for booking (I’m a Capitalism Pariah without a credit card. You may also recognize me as the guy without the massive credit card debt who doesn’t live beyond his means, unlike you. Yes, you right there. The one with the scar.) and looked for a room for Saturday night.
Korea is really great for this sort of thing because it’s small enough that a major city, with all of it’s attractions, is never more than a couple of hours away. Japan is a bit more spread out so Tokyo and Osaka were something that needed to be saved for a long weekend. I never really left Taichung the short time I was there. And Canada? There *might* be a reason to head to Toronto beyond stalking David Suzuki, but I’m not sure what that would be. Regardless it’s a major undertaking getting anywhere in Canada due to it’s size which may explain why most of our traveling is away from it. It’s faster to go to New York.
The picture was taken with my new Samsung NX500. It’s proving to be a good little camera so far. The main downside is that, like all of it’s peers, nearly everything you need to change settings in under a menu instead of being a button on the body. I’ve been slowly editing things to get the A.I. to behave in the way I want. Now the focus ring on the lens actually focuses instead of doing a painfully slow zoom. The kit lens is a good general lens but low light and quick shots overwhelm it so I might have to expand my kit a bit come pay day.
Something else I can do as a single man with no kids and a heap of disposable income.
It was weird and stupid but by the time I had left Japan/ Korea, I wanted to see some snow. Both Korea and Japan had piddling amounts of snow. At least the parts I lived in. I understand Hokkaido is a winter hellscape. Kyushu is subtropical. Snow is rare. The above image, taken during pre-dawn, was the most I had seen in years.
Korea itself tends to be very dry in the winter. This past winter in Gunsan was a bit soggy, but being right on the coast may have something to do with that. Most of the time dry skin is shedding off of you like a snake.
Then I spent a winter in Canada after many years of never being there for it. It lost it’s charm quickly after the first few sets of photos and the inability to get anywhere it brought me. Then there was a 20cm blizzard every Wednesday. Then it was time for me to leave again. I’ve yet to rebuild an appreciation for snow.
Some of my earliest memories involve looking out the window of an automobile. Mostly the rugged landscapes of the Nova Scotian east coast as we traveled up to my aunt’s home. It was a small settlement named after her husband’s family on a long, narrow peninsula. The Atlantic Ocean and it’s smells and it’s sounds nothing more than a walk away. What seemed like huge cliffs and rugged coastlines to my childs mind seemed less impressive revisiting as an adult. Erosion of the landscape and erosion of my impressionability. The places of my memory are gone as are the relatives who once lived there. Nothing I remember is there now. It loses its grasp on me.
My earliest memory of my first time to live overseas involves looking out the window of a highway bus entering Seoul. It was night and the city lights formed geometric shapes in the dark. Just as rugged as the Nova Scotian shores in it’s own way. Did I gawk? Of course I did. The city I had known was dwarfed by the complexity and busyness of what I know know to be a small, unimportant neighbourhood in southern Gangnam. I didn’t know that the COEX Mall was a simple fifteen minute walk from my tiny shared apartment until years after I had moved on. I had been using the subway all that time. Returning to Seoul is much the same as returning to that small settlement in Nova Scotia. Urban development has erased some places. As has the deflation of the EFL industry here. The people I knew have also long moved on. It also loses its grasp on me.
Korea, for me at least, is not the same place I left eight years ago. Nova Scotia has also changed for me in the fourteen years since I left it. I came back to Korea out of financial necessity and it wasn’t so bad. I will be back in Nova Scotia sooner or later for personal reasons and it won’t be so enjoyable. All I’ll eventually have left of both of them is looking out of the window as I go.
As if it weren’t obvious, I write these posts largely in a stream of consciousness style. I like to think that most of the time this produces some amusing results and an entertaining read (tens of readers can’t be wrong) but it can lead to what I feel are dead ends. For example, the previous version of this post. It started out with the kitten above and my feelings on pet ownership (no), and devolved into a pretty mean snarkfest on anyone who thinks amoral shit stains like current Canadian PM Stephen Harper or any of the thuggish assholes currently vying for the Republican presidential slot down in the USA are good ideas. Lets just say there was talk of FoxNews viewers and kitten-eating so I fried it.
And I’m only telling you this because it ups the word count.
Let’s talk about my process in post instead. Not blog type of post. I just did that in the previous paragraph. Photography type of post. For those of you not up on all the hip photography lingo: “Post” is another way to say, “Use Photoshop to make the image more appealing to either human beings or the crawling lizard people wearing skin suits that run marketing departments.” C’mon! They *must* be some sort of aliens to think this looks ok.
Here’s what I do. Since I just figured out how to use WordPress’ list commands, I’ll make another one;
- Crop. I do this because while the idea of doing it all “in camera” appeals to the ego, there’s always a lot of uninteresting crap floating on the margins. And sometimes the margins are where the actual interesting stuff is and you were too focused on the pretty girl to notice the man in the gorilla suit drinking soju outside of the 7/11.
- Levels and/or desaturate. I like my B&W images contrasty. I like my color images B&W. I’ve come up with many reasons for my preference for monochrome. My cartoonist background. It allows you to keep blowouts. I grew up in a place that is brown and grey ten months of the year and now live in a country that is brown and grey 24/7/365. But it turns out that my reason for this choice is simply that I like it. Deal with it.
- Resize for the web.
That’s it. I know. I suck. Where’s the dodging? The burning? The smoothing? The lasso tool-using? The zit-hiding? The cloning? The HDR? The. Ayich. Dee. Arrrr…?
That shit’s too much work, man. I mean, if you gotta make creepy mockeries of the female form for the lizard people in marketing, alright. You’re the one getting paid in kitten meat. But it just ain’t my bag, man.
The kitty above was photographed in Canada using the Olympus Pen EP-3. It’s a decent enough mirco 3/4 type of camera with some pretty good lenses, but it didn’t take long for cameras following it to outclass it. Like my new Samsung NX 500, which I’m pretty happy with so far. I’ll try and post those shots up next week. If only to get this “Korea” blog focused back on Korea.
It’s still pretty good for FaceBook though so feel free to buy one for your granny.
There are a number of reasons you may not think that the Olympus Pen EE2 and EE3 (Identical cameras aside from the color.) are the best film cameras ever made. Let’s make a list;
- You hate great cameras.
- You think Leica’s bottom loading is good or something.
- You’re drunk right now.
- You’re a terrorist.
- Your heart is a black void lacking any sort of joy.
- You’re a Nikon user.
- An Olympus Pen dated the girl you had a crush on in high school because you were too shy and filled with self doubt to go ask her out yourself. Maybe she would have said yes. Maybe she would have rejected you. But you will never know because you you couldn’t bring yourself to do it while the far more confident and stylish Olympus Pen did. Now you resent him. And you now hate all women for not noticing how nice you really are, climbing on top of you, ripping off your trilby, dragging you away from the Bitches, Right? subreddit, and making the sex with you. You have no one to blame for your lonely misery but yourself. No. One. But. You.
If you’ll allow me to cut & paste from Wikipedia since it’s a lot easier and I’m not writing a term paper here. I ain’t citing nothing!
The original Pen was introduced in 1959. It was designed by Yoshihisa Maitani, and was the first half-frame camera produced in Japan. It was one of the smallest cameras to use 35mm film in regular 135 cassettes. It was thought to be as portable as a pen; thus the name. The idea was to be much copied by other Japanese makers.
A series of derivatives followed, some easier to use with the introduction of exposure automation, e.g. the Pen EE; others with a wider aperture lens and a manual meter, such as the Pen D.
The EE2/3 is an aperture priority point & shoot camera that exposes images on to a slice of film 2.4×1.8 cm tall. It can handle up iso 400 film and shoots at either 1/40 or 1/200 depending upon the mode or the light levels. It has a funky, always on meter that requires no battery and will tell you when it’s too dark to shoot. You can get about 73-76 shots out of a single standard “36 shot” roll of film. It’s small, light, fits in your pocket and thus makes it easier to carry around than your Canon 1D body pillow.
The sole downside: It’s film. Film is dead outside of the passions of mad men/women (it’s usually dudes though) who seek a simpler, less democratic, any-asshole-can-take-great-shots-now-and-I’m-not-special-anymore era of photography. But if you *are* one of those mad men/women and you want to impress the rubes with their iPhones and Galaxy XYZs and you find a TLR camera or large format camera too bulky to carry around, the Olympus Pen will get you that street cred you desire!
They’re cheap on the secondhand market, even in Korea where camera gear has an insane markup because capitalism.
Or you can stick with your boring DSLR.
In the spring the shrine had a double row of sakura leading up the hill to the grounds. It was clearly visible in the distance from the train between Miyakonojo and Miyazaki, somewhere on the outskirts of Mimata, I recall. Perhaps it was Yamanokuchi? Every spring I vowed to grab my cameras and go there. Sakura? Shrines? Japan? These are the things that multiple FaceBook and Flickr likes are made of!
If I could be employed as a professional procrastinator, I’d maybe take the job eventually. So it was roughly mid July when I finally got on my bike and started pedaling my way along the train tracks. I had what is locally called a momma bike. We stupidly call them “girl bikes” back home because we’re still a backwards, sexist culture that gives gender to vehicles and views the female ones as inferior. The momma bike and that low support bar is brilliant. No need to do ballet to get your ass into the seat. A smooth slide of the bum over and you’re ready to go. And the large basket in the front? Oh, how much better that was for quickly grabbing your camera than the bag over the back tire. Brilliant stuff.
But… They have a single gear and are very heavy. Great on a flat plain like the one Miyakonojo, Mimata, and Yamanokuchi were sitting on. Hills on the other hand were hellish and you may have noticed that Japan is made of mountains. Not wanting to go up some of them, I did a quick look at the roads that ran through the area farms, and I decided that road X looked like it was heading towards the shrine as it snaked around the hill of doom. The road was lies! All lies! There was just more hill sneakily hiding around the corner, waiting to mug me!
Having depleted my supplies of water… which is always required in southern Kyushu since that place is humid and hot through most of the year… I decided that I would take the next corner that was heading downhill, put my feet up, and allow gravity to hopefully, bring me to one of the many vending machines that you find in the damndest places in Japan. Rounding the bend I slammed on the brakes. There was the shrine up ahead!
The back of the shrine. The back of the shrine that had just the one entrance on the other side of the hill. I sighed and took a picture anyway with my Pen. I had just biked 20km to get to where I was and I wasn’t going to waste the moment.
There was a vending machine around the corner. I got several bottles of water for the ride back home where I sat drying out under the fan after my cold shower.
Olympus Pen! Whooo! Olympus Pen F! Whooo!
Olympus Pen! Whooo! Olympus Pen EE-2! Whooo!
Olympus Pen! Whooo! Half frame cameras! Whooo!
Olympus Pen! Whooo! Digital Pen! Whut Whut!