In the near-decade I’ve been living in South Korea, one of my biggest frustrations as a photographer has been my lack of autumn images. Despite living in a country with wonderful fall colors, I’ve somehow managed to miss photographing autumn year after year. This year, I vowed to change that by going to one of the most iconic autumn destinations in the country, Naejang Mountain (내장산). Located in the southwestern province of Jeollanamdo (전라남도), Naejangsan is one of the country’s most popular destinations during autumn. And there’s good reason for this. Autumn colors are much bolder and more fiery in the mountain areas. And in Naejangsan National Park, the roads, paths, and architecture blend with the trees in the most picturesque manner.
My first destination was Uhwajeong Pavilion (우화정). The pavilion is located in the middle of a small lake and has all the elements of a beautiful picture: colors, reflection, traditional architecture, and gorgeous light, especially in the morning. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some mist rolling off the water as well. I arrived at Naejangsan National Park before sunrise. It was still dark as I walked about 2 kilometers to get to Uhwajeong. Cars are not allowed into the park during this time, as the volume of visitors would quickly congest the roads and fill up parking areas. Since it was a Thursday morning, I was expecting to have the place pretty much to myself. I was wrong.
Not really wanting to get the same picture as everyone else, I went off to find my own angle. I found a little spot along the lakeshore where I could get foliage, the pavilion, and the reflection in the shot. I also decided to set the camera down low in order to incorporate some of the leaves that had fallen on the ground. This is what I consider the hero shot from that location:
And here are some other photos that I like from Uhwajeong Pavilion:
A short walk from Uhwajeong is the Naejangsan Cable Car. For 8000 Korean Won, you can take a short cable car ride up to the observatory and enjoy the autumn views from a higher vantage point.
After coming down from the cable car, I enjoyed more autumn views on the walk back to my car. People had started pouring in now and the place was bustling.
Shops and vendors had opened up as well. As with any popular tourist destination in Korea, trot (sort of like a folk-disco) music blared as restaurant owners called out to passers by. Vendors sold everything from street food to souvenirs, herbs and spices to medicinal roots.
My next destination was Baekyangsa (백양사). A 20-minute or so drive away from Uhwajeong, it is an essential part of any road trip to Naejangsan. Baekyangsa is a Buddhist temple which, like many temples in South Korea, were built close to nature. My main goal here was to photograph Ssang-Gyeru (쌍계루), another traditional pavilion built in an idyllic setting. I’ll let the final image do the talking:
My next mission was to do a bit of aerial photography using my drone. The DJI Mavic Pro did a great job of capturing the beauty of Baekyangsa and nearby Cheonjinam (천진암) among the swaths of color.
The final destination for this day trip was actually unplanned. I was an hour or so ahead of schedule, so I decided to drop by the nearby town of Damyang. Usually known for its large bamboo forest, Damyang also has a long Metasequoia lane. This is where I hung out and took photos. I also made sure to get a few aerial shots using what little battery the drone had left.
Overall, it was a great road trip and I recommend this course to anyone wanting to see beautiful fall colors in South Korea. The spots are not too far from each other, which means you’ll spend less time in the car and more time taking photos or just enjoying the view.
Here are the spots on Google Maps:
In case you are wondering what gear I used to create these photos, here is a list:
Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8
Samyang 12mm f/2.0
Super Takumar 135mm f/3.5 (adapted)
Haida ND1000x Filter
DJI Mavic Pro
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And if you are looking for some autumn artwork for your wall, please check out my Autumn Photo Collection on Fine Art America.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!