Jeju Island (제주도) is one of Korea’s most popular tourist destinations for locals and foreigners alike. This sub-tropical island paradise is full of natural beauty thanks to its lush greenery and volcanic origins. Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Jeju Island courtesy of Canon Korea. Full back story later.
Our guide for the trip was Canon event director and photographer Hong Ki Lee (이홍기). Mr. Lee and his team guided the participants on 2 days of shooting around the island. I’ve been to Jeju a few times and the weather has been less than spectacular. This time was no exception. Dark clouds loomed overhead as we made our way from Jeju International Airport to our hotel at Phoenix Island (휘닉스아일랜드).
Our first shooting location was Seopjikoji (섭지코지), located right behind the hotel. This location was made famous by the 2003 Korean drama series “All In”. I figured there would be no getting around the weather, so I decided to take the dark clouds and dreary mood and run with it in my photos.
After check-in, we hopped on a bus for lunch and our second location, Soesokkak Estuary (쇠소깍). This is a pretty cool location with volcanic rock formations, pine trees and a stream that leads out to the sea. The name literally means “the end of pool of water”, referring to where the fresh water meets the sea. Rafting is a popular activity here. The beach is covered with smooth stones that made for some nice photos.
Our final destination forDay 1 was photographer Yeong Gam Kim’s gallery (김영감 갤러리 두모악). Yeong Gam Kim was a great landscape photographer and Jeju native. His work, mostly large format panoramas of Jeju, is absolutely stunning. I set the camera aside for this stop and took inspiration from the beautiful photos. A delicious dinner of Jeju black pig (흑돼기) on noodles at Kwoen Dang Ne Restaurant (괸당네식당) ended the day and I was out by 8:30 PM.
The second day started at 5:00 AM. The people who were actually able to get up on time headed over to Gwangchigi Beach (광치기해변) to (hopefully) catch the sunrise. Our spot on the beach provided us a great view of rock formations in the foreground and the famous UNESCO world heritage site Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak (성산일출봉) in the distance. Unfortunately, the sun decided not to grace us with its presence, but I’m pretty happy with the photo.After a breakfast of unlimited bacon and other good stuff at Phoenix Island, it was time to check out and head to our next destination. On our way there, the sun finally came out. By the time we got to Jejuma Bangmokji (제주마 방목지) on the slopes of Halla Mountain, the weather was beautiful! It was very, very windy though which I guess made things more interesting. The horses didn’t seem to mind the wind at all. 😀
After lunch, our next destination was the famous Jusangjeolli (대포주상절리), where strong waves crash on beautiful hexagonal volcanic rock formations. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos here as our team had to complete a group photo challenge. In the spirit of teamwork and camaraderie, I will say it was alright and worth it. 😉 Fortunately, I have this photo of Jusangjeolli from a 2010 trip to Jeju: Our final location for the trip was Aewol Elementary School (애월초등학교 더럭분교). This is another famous location thanks to a smartphone TV commercial. It is a real elementary school that has been painted rainbow colors. It was actually quite beautiful and we met some of the zealous but cute kids that warned us not to litter on campus. And the final photo of the day is of an awesome cloud formation that appeared overhead. This was a few meters down the road from the elementary school, at Yeonhwa Mot Pond (연화못). I shot it as we were walking toward the bus to head to the airport. Overall, it was a great trip. The Canon event team took really good care of us. It felt a bit stressful at first, as we were constantly being told to move due to the tight schedule. However, as the trip progressed, I felt more relaxed and the team seemed to chill out a bit too. I’d say about 30% of the trip was spent on the bus. But we did cover a lot of ground and I give them all the credit for a well-planned and well-executed trip. I loved being able to sit back, relax, get taken somewhere and just shoot. Thank you, Mr. Hong Ki Lee and the Canon team for a wonderful time!
This all started back in April. Me and some fellow expat photographers were walking around the 2013 Seoul Photo and Imaging Show at COEX (here’s Jason Teale’s blog post about that), when I was handed a small plastic camera frame thing. The Canon EOS 100D had just come out then and I figured it was some kind of contest to promote the camera. I tucked the plastic frame away in my bag and didn’t give it much thought. A few days later, I read the rules more carefully with my wife and found out that the prize would be a free 2-day photo trip to Jeju Island for 50 people (Plus 50 more people who actually bought the 100D and won a separate contest. 50 + 50 = 100D!). I figured it might be worth a shot and I snapped this photo with my iPhone one day on my way home:
I put the photo on Facebook and it got some votes. A few weeks later, I got a message from Canon saying I had been chosen as a winner. The rest is history. No, it wasn’t one of those prestigious photo contests with a huge cash prize, but an all-expenses-paid photo trip isn’t bad at all!
On Being a Foreigner
When I joined this contest, I was half-expecting that even if I did win, I would be disqualified for being a foreigner. That was not the case at all. There were several phone calls between me and the Canon representative prior to the trip, and we both did our best to communicate with each other. My Korean isn’t bad (I’d say intermediate level), so I think that helped make the process smoother. I ended up being the only foreigner on the trip and everyone knew that. However, I didn’t feel uncomfortable and everyone that I came in contact with was very friendly and welcoming. Funny thing is, on the first day, I made a huge effort to speak in Korean to everyone I met. On the second day, the tables were turned and everyone was speaking English. 😀
Here are some behind the scenes photos:
For this trip, I brought my Canon (of course!) 5D Mark II, Samyang 14mm f/2.8, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8.
Here’s a list of other essential gear and techniques I used for this trip:
1. Tripod – my favorite kind of landscape photography involves long exposures, with moving clouds and silky water. A sturdy tripod that can resist wind and other external forces is absolutely necessary for this.
2. Cable Release (generic, with intervalometer) – essential for shooting in BULB mode.
3. Variable ND filter – I used an ND2-ND400 filter on this trip. This allowed me to darken the scene and do long exposures even during the day.
4. Cokin Graduated ND8 filter (P-series) – this kind of filter darkens only the sky and balances out the exposure. I used this a lot on the second day when the sun came out.
5. HDR – the first few photos in this series were processed using High Dynamic Range techniques. I took 3-5 varying exposures of the scene and combined them using Photomatix software. This gives the photos a bit more kick and brings out the details in the clouds and in the foreground elements.
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And if you want to see more photos of Jeju, be sure to check out these amazing classic photos from 1979 over at my friend Pete DeMarco’s site.