Monthly Archives: September 2009

In Focus: Overcome the Intimidation

commentarylogoAny camera can be intimidating for the budding photographer and this is especially true with a new DSLR. All the buttons and options, terms such as aperture, depth of field, white balance and custom functions all conspire to overwhelm and confuse those new to photography. It seems like you need to have some sort of specialized training or qualification to use the thing successfully.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Photography is really very simple and you don’t need to understand white balance to capture spectacular images. To be sure, it helps to be aware of what your camera is capable of and the relationship between aperture and depth of field, but photography is an art, not a science. It’s a common mistake for enthusiastic newbies to get caught up in camera and lens technology and this takes their focus off what is really important – what you see.

The crucial part of photography has nothing to do with custom functions and happens before you even lift the camera to your eye – the ability to see a composition or recognize an opportunity. Make no mistake, knowing what effect the ISO setting has in the photographic process is of course important, but that or anything else isn’t anything you can’t learn from your camera’s instruction manual, the internet or in casual discussion with a more experienced photographer over a cup of coffee.

However, to engage in a little more creativity and leverage your artistic ability and opportunism, it is of benefit to know a little more about how the technology comes together. So take your time with your camera and experiment using a bit of trial and error.

One of the great advantages of shooting digital is the ability to easily take as many photographs as you like and delete them later. For example, invest an hour or so of your time in Aperture Priority mode and see for yourself what effect the different aperture values have on your images. You will be surprised how much you can learn just on your own and the best part about it is that all it costs is a cup of coffee while you sit in the coffee shop on a Sunday morning, play with your camera and take a few notes. Perhaps the best part of this approach is that as you learn you will develop your own unique style and way of seeing the world through the viewfinder.

The Seoul Photo Club is a valuable resource for photographers anywhere in Korea, a place to share ideas, get advice and learn a little about the art of photography. Our members are always ready to lend a helping hand to those wanting to get their heads around different aspects of photography.

After all, everyone was in the beginner’s shoes at some point, and we’re all prepared to pass on the free advice we got when we were there. Get out there, experiment, seek a little feedback and above all keep shooting.

The opening of the Seoul Photo Club/Expat Living exhibition “This is Korea” on Saturday evening was a great success. Many thanks to all those who came along and contributed. The exhibition runs until mid-October at Gallery Cafe Ohoo in Hongdae, so if you haven’t checked it out, drop by to enjoy the pics and perhaps a quiet cup of coffee as well.

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Capturing Korea

A nice article from the Herald promoting the exhibition and the club.

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Weekly Winner: Simon Bond

Stunning image from Simon’s glass ball.

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This is Korea: The SPC Exhibition

commentarylogoOver the course of the year, some of the best images produced by members of the Seoul Photo Club have been featured here on the Expat Living page and they are all coming together in one place for the Seoul Photo Club-Expat Living Photo Exhibition.

The theme of the show is “This is Korea,” and the photographs really do represent all of Korea through the eyes of the expatriate. There will be photographs taken literally from one end of the country to the other. From broken dancer sculptures in Paju to a Hallasan sunset on Jeju, the gritty byways of Busan to the fortress walls of Hwaseong, Suwon. Seoul features prominently of course – images as diverse as club action in Hongdae and Buddhist sculpture. What the SPC sees through the viewfinder is indeed varied, interesting and representative of the many different ways of looking at this unique nation.

Almost every different style of photography will be represented. Landscape, street, portrait and night photography. Natural light, controlled light and black & white. Film and digital. It will all be there.SPC Exhibition

So when and where does it all take place? This Saturday evening is the opening event, from 5p.m. at Gallerie Cafe Ohoo in Hongdae. It’ll be a great opportunity to meet the people behind those cameras, as Seoul Photo Club members from all over Korea will be there. It could be a good opportunity to share a drink, ask some questions, and get (or give!) a few tips. You’ll discover that expat photography in this country is practiced by ordinary people just like you and I – living, working and traveling here in Korea. If you miss out on the opening night, the exhibition runs for two more weeks, so there’s plenty of opportunity to check it out.

This is only the first SPC exhibition. We have another planned for spring next year, and we’ll be selecting the exhibitors each week until then. If the idea of winning a 50,000 won voucher from Hyosung Camera, a Babo shirt, having your image in the newspaper (a fantastic souvenir of your time in Korea, by the way) and being a part of this event appeals, then head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr ( and just upload a few pics a week. It’s that easy. And as all of the photographers you’ll meet on Saturday evening will testify, it really is an excellent incentive to get out there and develop your photographic skills and travel the country. See you on Saturday.

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SPC Exhibitionp>

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In Focus: The Second Lens

commentarylogoAlmost all who move into the realms of the SLR camera sooner or later face the question of what lens to buy next. New DSLR packages come with what is called a ‘kit’ lens. Typically a zoom lens with a range from wide angle to short-medium telephoto, they attempt to cover the focal range that most photographers use most of the time – these are utility lenses and they fulfill their function very well, while being cheap enough so as not to affect the price of the new camera too much.

Because of this utility, design compromises have to be made and a kit lens has three significant limitations, one or more of which the photographer will encounter at some point and any of which raise the most vexing conundrum: What lens shall I buy next?

How can one answer that question? Let’s look at the three areas of limitation to better understand what they are and help us in the answer.

First limitation, “It’s not wide enough.” The kit lens is usually just wide enough to give the user only a taste of the unique and sometimes bizarre world that is real wide angle photography.

Second, “It doesn’t work well in low light.” Low light performance is at a disadvantage because of the smaller maximum aperture necessitated by the zoom ability and cheaper design.

The third limitation is “It’s not long enough.” The need for greater reach is discovered when ‘sneaker zoom’ becomes modus operandi or is no longer sufficient for your purposes.

As a result of these issues, photographers find themselves in a bind. The decision as to which issue requires addressing is accompanied by much angst and hand-wringing. After all, more often than not there is a lot of money riding on the right choice. So what’s the answer for you? I don’t know, but you can avoid a lot of indecision by considering in what kinds of situations you take the most pictures or what kinds of pictures you enjoy shooting.

Do you like really getting close and filling the frame with the subject? Or do you enjoy a unique perspective and dramatic compositions? Try an ultra-wide angle zoom in the 10-20mm range.

Are you often out in the evening or at night with friends in dim coffee shops or enjoying the vibrant Korean night-life? Do you enjoy the creative possibilities that a narrow area of focus and lots of bokeh provide? Maybe a fast prime lens is for you – say, 50mm with a large f/1.4 or f/1.8 aperture.

Do you like to shoot outdoor events such as traditional Korean ceremonies where sneaker zoom would make you an unexpected and unwelcome part of the performance? A telephoto zoom up to about 200mm might be the answer.

Also, have a look through your archives and check out the style of shooting that seems most prevalent. This might give you another clue as to what kind of photography you gravitate towards.  Keeping these things in mind, you might be able to choose that second lens with a little less stress than would otherwise be the case.  Check out the different styles of photography when you head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr. You might find some inspiration to help in your choice.


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Weekly Winner: Alaric James Willi

Great neon reflections Alaric. A dynamic shot!!  Also, Tom Hicken the opportunist managed to slip a topical pic in there.

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In Focus: Film vs. Digital – Economics Revisited

commentarylogoThis week we were going to look at film vs. digital in the area of image quality. But in the couple of weeks since we looked at the two mediums in terms of economics, I’ve had a bit of negative reaction to my suggestion that over time there may not be as great a difference between the two as you might imagine.

It was considered by some that I was a long way off the mark in that assertion. I don’t think so and I’d just like to revisit that. I wasn’t suggesting people switch to film just because it might prove cheaper. Indeed, as much as I enjoy shooting film on occasion I wouldn’t give up my DSLR in part because of that convenience we talked about last week and image quality is perfectly acceptable for my needs — a digital camera gives me everything I want and I can shoot as much as I want to boot.

Given that it’s accepted that the average person tends to shoot fewer pictures while using film, let me give you a reasonable scenario. At today’s prices you could buy an auto exposure, auto focus 35mm SLR camera, compatible with the best lenses being produced today and shoot one roll of film every week for ten years for around $4,000 or even less. Now that’s a pretty reasonable outlay for any hobby over that period of time. Especially as at the moment I’m considering spending about half that on a new DSLR that will be junk in about half that time.

How is that possible? If you shop smart you can purchase film in 10 or 20 roll lots for about $1 a roll, developing a roll straight to CD costs around $5 and you could spend anything from $50 upwards on an appropriate camera.

This isn’t something I’m necessarily recommending, nor would I myself do it as I enjoy my DSLR too much for the convenience and volume, and I’m prepared to take the hit when it comes to keeping pace with technology. But as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago and the point of that article – it compares favorably and it is certainly food for thought.

In other news, The Seoul Photo Club-Korea Herald Photo Exhibition has been affirmed. Over the course of this year the best images from members of the Seoul Photo Club have been making their way onto the Expat Living page. All these photographs will be collected for a weeklong exhibition starting on Sept. 26 at CafeKkoomm in Hongdae, Seoul.

You will be able to check out those fantastic images from all over Korea in person, so pencil that date into your calendar. More details will be mentioned over the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime get out there, keep shooting and head over to The Seoul Photo Club on Flickr

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Monthly Winner: Tom Hicken

Good work Tom, garnering the majority of the votes in the Open Challenge!!

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In Focus: Film vs. Digital – Convenience

commentarylogoLast week we examined the economics of film vs. digital cameras and came to the conclusion that in the long term, there might be very little between the two. This week the question of convenience between film and digital comes into focus. With two very important exceptions, there is very little difference between actually using comparable digital and film cameras, and there are also a couple of important peripheral considerations.

Before we examine the differences, how are they similar? On either camera the photographer must make a few choices before taking the shot. For example, what mode shall they shoot in (aperture priority, manual, full auto, etc.), or do they need to apply any exposure compensation? These decisions are common to both types of camera: make decisions, compose and shoot. Not much difference in convenience here.

Digital though, does have a couple important advantages around the time of capture. The most obvious is the feedback we get from being able to view the image immediately, and the subsequent choice whether to keep it or delete it and shoot again. This feature is certainly convenient and useful, particularly for those new to SLR photography. Perhaps more significant is the ability to select different ISO values on the DSLR. (Very briefly, the ISO value is the “speed” of the film or digital sensor – the higher the number, the more sensitive to light the film or sensor is. Higher ISO values allow better performance in low-light situations.)

With a film camera, you commit to a fixed ISO value when you purchase a roll of film, and once loaded into the camera there is no way to change it short of loading another roll of film with a different ISO. This gives the DSLR a tremendous advantage when it comes to adapting to a very broad range of lighting conditions. From bright sunlight to the dim interior of a coffee shop on a Friday evening, the DSLR can take it all in stride.

The peripheral issues I mentioned include having to be prepared with extra rolls of film – the capacity of memory cards precludes having to worry about that issue with digital – and post-processing.

With film we have to find the time and convenience to drop off undeveloped film and pick up those hopefully great images we’ve been dying to see. Shooting digital means we have likely already vetted our images at the time of capture and now we are ready to share and enjoy them when we get home. But beware of getting sucked into spending hours in front of the computer making your images “better.”

For me, I think the digital camera has the edge. I like my DSLR’s ability to easily adapt to different lighting conditions and I appreciate the convenience and the flexibility this gives my photography.

Next week, we’ll look a bit closer at images from film and compare them with those captured digitally. In the meantime, head over to the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.

by Aaron Raisey

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