One of the reasons I wanted to become a photographer was to travel round the world without being just a tourist. So any opportunity to combine business with pleasure is very welcome!
To this end, killing several birds with one stone, I am in Korea visiting my wife's family while shooting for a project on some small scale agriculture and farming relating to Korean cuisine. Luckily I'm getting a chance to see some sights as well.
I have been in Korea for little over a week, travelling about with sparodic internet connections and one edition of The Korea Times (One of Korea's english language newspapers) so I have only a vague idea of what is going on in the world. Apparantly I missed James Nachtwey's grand unveiling of his project on XDR-TB. If you haven't already you can check it out here.
I did manage to catch the latter half of the U.S. presidential candidate's debate though I think the Palin/Biden one may have been more entertaining. For the record, I am not a big fan of a lot of Obama's policies, though how anyone could think that a McCain/Palin administration could be at all competent given the outright nonsense I have heard from them over the past few weeks is beyond me. They both seem to struggle to construct a coherent sentence, let alone a national policy.
Anyway. As an antidote to all this I thoroughly recommend taking a trip to Jeju Island in South Korea and hiking up Hallasan Mountain, an extinct volcano and Korea's highest mountain.
I don't, however, recommend doing it with a 4x5 camera. Or at least, if you do make sure you take a backpack. I looked at the mountain from a distance and it didn't look too steep. The climb up was only 10 km as well, so I just slung everything in my Domke. It turns out it is actually quite steep.
If I ever do some photography up a really high mountain (one that requires packing an ice pick for example) I will be investing heavily in new equipment...
So, here I am at a waystation around 3km from the summit on the Seongpanak trail. Just past 9 am and still smiling (sort of). The Korean guy next to me is my wife's uncle, my companion on this trek who had sensibly packed a point and shoot.
I have to say that the scenery was spectacular and I am hoping the large format negative will do it some justice. This was about 500m from the summit.
Finally, this was taken on the on the Gwaneumsa trail going down the other side. You wouldn't know it from the expression on my face but I was actually enjoying myself, though my shoulders were starting to feel the strain at this point. That's the mountain's peak behind me. Thinking back, jeans were probably a bad idea as well. The Koreans on the trail were mostly decked out in proper climbing gear. Some of them were as old as my grandparents. They probably do this climb every week.
Later this day I rewarded my weary body with some delicious green tea from Sulloc (Jeju Island produces the majority of Korea's tea) ate some fresh abalone on a rock by the sea on the Yongmeori coast and climbed several hundred steps to a buddhist shrine at Sanbangsan, where I partook of some allegedly magically restorative water, which after a full day like this was much needed.
The day after this mountain trek my legs hurt and I went to see an underground lava tube. It was dark and wet. And spectacular.
I took the D200 this time - check out some photos here.
Anyway. That's enough of my holidays. Back to work....