Until 2016, landscape photography was at the bottom of my list of topics I wished to explore. At the time, I was very interested in portraiture, the subject matter of my film photography modules at university. Only after I moved to South Korea and began to travel more did I turn my attention towards landscape photography. This isn't too surprising considering that everyone's interests and desires fluctuate throughout the course of their lives. I was ready to make the transition from an all-around hobbyist who took pictures of anything and everything to a more serious photographer. I have since managed to explore a few countries, camera in hand, and am building a diverse portfolio.
Most landscape photographers have favourite countries or locations where they frequently visit and capture images. They may know they will come away with great images each time they visit, or the place might hold an emotional value for them. Myself, I am always looking for locations that are so awe-inspiring that I will return time and time again. A place that provides inspiration, opportunities, and excitement.
If you ask me whether I have found such a place yet, I will immediately answer with one word: Gyeongju.
Gyeongju is a historical city on the East coast of South Korea, nicknamed the 'Museum without Walls'. It was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57BC-935AD). The city still contains many archaeological sites to this day, making it a popular destination for people seeking history and culture.
From where I lived, Gyeongju required an extensive trip. I had a choice between 3 separate buses or 2 buses and 1 train. Either way, it took a good 6-7 hours, but the journey was always worth it. National parks, temples, museums, folk villages, historical sites, and hill shaped tombs scatter the landscape. However, my favourite place was Woljeong-gyo. (Woljeong Bridge)
Originally, this wooden structure served as a bridge between Donggung Palace and Namsan Mountain. Throughout time it eventually perished into the Nam river beneath it. Restoration began in 2008 and was fully completed by 2018. Having undergone some modernisation, Woljeong-gyo stands proud once again.
I will try to paint you a picture of the scene. Traditional folk villages line the river on the left. Passing through them as one travels from the main town to Woljeong-gyo, visitors also see historical sites along the way. Across the wooden bridge or a stone bridge further down the road, walking trails lead to a National Park on the right. The riverbank is steep, with large stone steps conveniently placed for visitors to climb down to the water and cross the river right in front of the construction. Here people pause for photographs. Depending on the time of the year, the sun rises directly behind the bridge. Even in the evenings, people pass by and linger, but not to see the sunset. As blue hour approaches, the bridge becomes brighter and brighter. Modern features include lights within the wooden frame to make Woljeong-gyo stand out in the dark. On the surface of the river, a dance of green, red, and yellow can be seen. Sitting on the river's edge, watching the day turn into night and the colours become more vibrant with each passing minute, was truly a pleasant experience.
I particularly enjoy this location for multiple reasons. It's generally quiet, and although it's a popular place to visit, it's never overcrowded. It feels as if you have wandered into another world as you explore the area. This breathtaking location offers many interesting photo opportunities both during the day and at night, filled with colour and culture.
The golden sunlight that bathes the bridge early in the morning is a delightful memory, followed later in the day by the brilliant colours that pop against the dark.
I have a nice little collection of images from there, but my three favourites are these, which are also available in prints!
All taken at different stages of the evening, I cannot decide which is my favourite! The river in these images serves as the foreground subject, with water passing through the steppingstones and toward the camera. To capture silky, smooth water, I used long exposures. Using a long exposure also meant that I was able to capture the bridge's reflection on the water as the light faded. In order to make the main subject as sharp as possible, it was important that I focused on the bridge itself. Rather than let visitors ghost through my pictures, I waited patiently for them to jump the stepping stones. Overall, I am very happy and content with these images.
There are also prints available of these images as mentioned previously. These are great in both A3 and A2 size! Let me know what you think about them, too! Which is your favourite?
I've created a video of this shoot's behind-the-scenes. You can see it here:
On my next trip to South Korea, I'll be heading straight for Gyeongju upon landing. In the meantime, I will look for a location in the UK that can rival Gyeongju.