I recently went out to the town of Danyang, South Korea with my good friend and colleague Dylan Goldby. Snow was on the forecast and our goal was to shoot winter landscapes of Dodam Sambong Peaks (도담삼봉), a well-known natural landmark in that area.
Dodam Sambong is an often photographed spot and there are thousands of images of it online. These images are typically from the same general angle, which is totally fine for a postcard spot. A place will always have its most popular and arguably best angle. But we wanted to see if we could take it a step further and show our own take of the scene. So we decided to give ourselves a mission to each create ten unique images from the single area.
Before we get to the images, here are a few things that I kept in mind while shooting:
- Use camera orientation, cropping, and aspect ratios to your advantage.
- Utilize various focal lengths to achieve wide, medium, and tight shots of the scene.
- Incorporate foreground elements to add depth and interest.
- Come back at different times and weather conditions.
- Utilize minimalist compositions and negative space for added variety.
Let’s check out the images. Here’s a Lightroom screenshot of all the images to give an overview of the set. I have chosen a variety of orientations, cropping, and aspect ratios. Of course there are more that I like from the set and some duplicate compositions from different times. But for the purposes of the set as a whole, I based my choices on the widest range of compositions and angles.
The first three images were from our afternoon visit to the spot, pre-snowfall. The river had been frozen for a while due to weeks of sub-zero temperatures, making a fantastic winter scene.
1. This was one of the first images I took when we arrived. It seemed natural to start with a wide landscape shot to establish the location. A lot of photographers seem to prefer sunrise at this spot, but this one was taken close to sunset. That means the front of the peaks were being lit instead of being back lit, which brings out the detail and texture of the rocks. Other elements I really like from this shot are the reflections on the ice and the use of the boat as a foreground element.
2. For this image, I chose a vertical / portrait orientation. That allowed me to show more of the grass as a foreground. I really like the layering of elements from foreground to background, from the grass to the boat, then the peaks and the sky. The frozen blue river and its white cracks brings everything together and leads the eyes around the frame. One of the peaks is not showing in this image, but I think that makes the composition more balanced and cohesive.
3. The third image was taken from a spot on a nearby cliff. As you can see, this gives an overlapping view of the three peaks, which I think is a cool angle that you don’t really see as much. The high angle also really shows the texture in the ice as well as the curve of the river in the background. I also chose to incorporate some branches in the foreground to break the monotony of the ice.
Now we move on to the images from the next morning’s sunrise, where the whole river was blanketed in white snow. This really illustrates what I mentioned in tip number four about the value of coming back to a spot at different times to add variety to your images.
4. This image is quite a long panorama. While it may be difficult to view properly on typical social media and website formats, I think this choice of crop really focuses your eyes and gives a sense of the expansiveness of the landscape. I think it would be cool to print this image large. The morning mist offers just enough separation to make the peaks stand out from the background. I also love the subtle colors and textures of the sky.
I took another image around the same time with the yellow boat in the foreground and it was a toss-up for the fourth slot. I ended up choosing the panorama because I like how it shows more of the mountains in the background. I also have another very similar boat image in the set and variety took precedence.
5. For this image, I used the longest lens in my bag, the Asahi Pentax 135mm manual lens. This gives about a 200mm field of view on the crop sensor of the Fuji X-T4. For this image, I really wanted to focus on the pagoda as well as the surrounding textures. I went with a vertical orientation to show more of the mountainside in the far distance. I really like the sense of depth provided by the mist. From my experience with editorial photography, images like this are great for supporting the story, accommodating text, and adding interest to the layout.
6. I chose to crop this image square. Originally, you could see the farmland on the right side of the frame. I thought it was too busy and cropped it out. I think this crop is much simpler and focused, showing a bit of the river curve in the background and some shallow depth of field textures in the foreground. There was also some beautiful diffused light coming from the sunrise on camera right, lighting up the pagoda and peaks nicely.
7. Sometimes you just have to look away from the main subject to find other interesting aspects of a location. This is a view of the mountain and highway behind the peaks. I really like how the snowy branches framing the highway and mountains in the distance. The diffused sun makes for a surreal, painterly vibe. It isn’t a hero shot relative to the peaks, but it can definitely serve as a supporting image for the overall story.
Speaking of ‘painterly’, the last three images will definitely bring more of that. The snow started coming down heavily later that morning. This gave us another type of weather condition to work with and a whole new way of looking at the scene.
8. Here are the peaks from the main front angle, with the boat once again serving as a foreground. The falling snow provided even more separation between the peaks and the background and painted a whole different image from the one taken just an hour ago. The overall feeling is very painterly and minimalistic, really capitalizing the use of negative space.
9. This image is another take on the painterly type of scene. This time it’s in vertical orientation and uses the snowy grass as a foreground. The white snow really gives a feel of being a painter’s canvas. Again, the composition is fairly minimal, letting the elements breathe.
10. In the last image from the set, I once again looked away from the main subject and pointed my camera to the cliffs off to the side. This is actually the high vantage point from where images 5 to 7 were shot. The snow was coming down really hard at this point and the background mountains all but disappeared. You can still see them faintly through the snow, which I think adds a bit of interest to the photo. This image is another minimalist-style composition that takes advantage of a lot of negative space. I love the texture of the falling snow against the rocky cliff and of course, the Korean pagoda.
So that’s it for my 10 images from Dodam Sambong. Hope you found this article interesting and perhaps even helpful for the next time you go out and shoot. Thank you for reading and let me know in the comments below if you have a favorite from this set.
Dylan and I also made videos of this shoot on each of our YouTube channels. Check them out below:
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