I think I left off with photos from San Francisco, right!?
In the Domke bag on my left shoulder sat the Leica M9. Was funny how often I just wanted to “switch to what I know.” Undeterred I kept shooting the Canon 5dm2 and either the 2.0/35 Summicron-R or the 1.4/50 Zeiss ZE. I left the 1.4/50 Summilux-R at home because I already had a heavy-enough Think Tank Airport International V2.0 to carry ‘round. That bag is a joy. From big-ass four-sevens to little RJ's ... it's fit everywhere. Thank God no one ever weighs it like the wanks at BA.
When I checked the iPhone 4’s weather app I noticed that the weather in Seoul wasn’t much different that places in the E.U. I’ve been to in the Fall. Well … when I got there … they were experiencing a cold snap. My light jacket didn’t even cut it whilst walking to the Hyundai Department Store. Should have known Korea gets cold having watched every episode of M.A.S.H. way back in the day.
I wasn’t in Korea to just shoot street shots. I was there on assignment. Funny that I was doing the public relations photography and Doug Menuez was doing the other photography. I hope you click his name. His work is lovely.
I don’t usually share details about assignments but … I was doing a walk-through with the p.r. people and a pretty famous actress. We’re walking around this billion dollar facility and a guy wearing a coat, whom I assumed was a doctor because there were doctors everywhere, walks up to us and says, “You’re Chris Weeks?” The actress gave me some kind of look.
I said, “Yeah” to which he responded “My friends and I read your blog.” In one fail swoop at the end of him saying that he raised up his Leica M9. “You pushed me over the edge to buy one.”
I invited my gf’s uncle to one of the Leica Road Shows (prior to it becoming a dentist’s convention) and he ended up buying an M9 as well. Then again, I believe some rather wealthy dude bought two M9’s and pretty much at least one of every piece of glass with a red dot on it as well.
Thinking all these things and knowing that I committed myself to shooting street with a D-SLR left me perplexed. I mean … from what I was seeing out of my car’s windows I knew I wanted to get out and shoot but … with … a rangefinder not that clunky D-SLR. But whatever I wanted to prove to myself that a) I didn't need a rangefinder, b) if that's what someone used to shoot street I wanted to know its limitations intimately and c) didn't want to be accused of being exclusionary.
More on (b) later. ;)
Very effective napkins those rolls of teepee. I shook off the cold. When I left L.A. it was in the middle of a heat wave.
I'm used to long-ish exposures hand-held. I like making them with a rangefinder for lots of reasons but I couldn't rule the D-SLR out of the game. I made the exact photo I wanted to make.
I know nothing about Buddhism. I failed at yoga. That's all I know. And I'm not sure either of those two are connected in anyway besides having to take off your shoes before you enter.
Sometimes I wonder if I "shoot to theme" and then really can't place one theme on what I look for when making street photos. Had a conversation with Doug about patterns in human behavior. A few things made sense after that.
Even though there's a lot of activity in Seoul once you tune out the din of traffic a place like this temple -- sorry no idea what the name is -- can become quiet as a tomb.
I worried that I knew I may interrupt homey's moment with the loud twack of the 5dm2 but ... surprisingly he didn't pay attention to me. Guess I didn't have to worry.
Some call Bruce Gilden a genius ... and he's literally right in your face. So ... it's all good I guess.
See I was almost-mean just there.
I just don't like to be seen and I want my photographs to reflect that. I guess that argument is as esoteric as the meaning behind a bazillion buddhas.
That's not intended to be a street photo. And I have no idea if they're, in fact, buddhas.
The Zeiss is so lovely.
This was the district I was "centered" in. I have no idea what it's called but I know the G20 was to be held the following week in the same location.
Seoul reminded me of a cross of Vancouver, Los Angeles and something vaguely European. The traffic is worse than L.A. It wasn't quite Naples-crazy, though.
I like smoking photos only because I'm jealous they're smoking.
This mega-mall dwarfs anything besides that place in Minnesota. 4 Starbucks ... and Seoul is definitely a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf town. Huge and seemed very lonely.
I'm pretty sure this was like the next morning after arriving. Went back to the same temple. It was fun to watch all of the kids looking at their "art assignment" from so many different perspectives.
No one paid any more attention to me than normal. I think I was looking for a reason to just switch back to the M9.
Since I live in a culture-less city, it's so odd to see such stark differences between the old and the new and how they co-exist here. Okay, LA's not completely without culture. ;)
I hear that apt. bldg. in the background is super-expensive.
Then again, the monks are sitting on a pretty nice piece of real estate here, too.
I don't quite get the surgical masks. Every time I saw one I thought of Michael Jackson.
And ... I don't know for sure but I'm willing to bet that the 5dm2 on AWB handled this mix of multiple light sources better than the M9 would have. The M9 sees things so differently sometimes even when you tell it what to see. No so much with the 5dm2.
I have absolutely no idea why these guys were here about the same time a few days in a row but they were super-stoked about something.
In the U.S. I would have thought they were reborn Christians. The best thing I've heard in a few days is that "Christians are just jews ... who want an insurance policy."
Not Scientologists, though. Seems a bit overt for them.
I love how girls everywhere love having their nails done.
I asked a friend from "the center" about some places to see. He took a map and circled a few things. I took the map to the front desk and told them where I'd like to go. They then took out a card, wrote something in Korean and handed it to a driver. Wherever I ended up was 45 minutes away.
There were a lot of restaurants.
I knew I had my address in Korean. I knew no matter how lost I could hope I to get I'd still be able to get back to the hotel.
Seoul's an amazing place, really, for making street photographs. People are pretty chill. They're used to cameras everywhere.
Frank liked the barstools.
Everyone's also selling everything to EVERYONE else here. And, again, the 5dm2 does quite nicely at slow hand-held shots.
Kinda kicks the ass of any rangefinder, too, when you wanna get closer than .7 meters.
They stood around this stage for at least a few hours bombarded by karaoke and adverts.
I think he was cold.
And as good as those smelled I still went to a "proper restaurant" but wasn't super-stoked about the color of the "chicken." I'm almost positive whatever the hell I ate was ... dunno ...
I'm sure it was ... it's just I'm no Anthony Bourdain.
There are a lot of heads in that shot.
I would end up looking as stoic as homey frame left if I had to stare at all of that for too long.
Kind of reminiscent of Hollywood and Highland.
Focusing at night with a rangefinder is way better. Was the first thing I noticed when I put the camera up to my face to make this photo. I find focusing on the 5dm2 with even the "better" focusing screen still kinda sucks for quickness especially in the damn dark.
Workable, definitely, but when you're used to one thing ...
You know how it is.
I always wonder what people are thinking in those 1000 yard stares.
I think for me ... ya' know ... 'cause I'm older ... that focusing a rangefinder is quicker because i'm matching shapes, recomposing if I have to and then making the frame. With the D-SLR there was a little hunting with focus.
I like to get in and get out as quick as possible.
I'd rather not have to use my magic panacea to get out of the "getting caught moments."
I know. It looks like he's taking a dump. I'm 14.
I like when things are shutting down.
That karaoke-advert stage-thing was still going on. People seemed happily distracted.
So much order. Totally bucking khaos.
Yet not when buying/selling socks of all kinds.
I wonder if they're buying cheap Chinese imports and threatening their own well-being like we do!?
All I could hear was a shrill voice coming through a horrible speaker with more horribly distorted music coming through equally bad speakers.
But she was happy.
I don't think you could possibly see this girl and see how happy she was and not let it effect you.
If not, dogs don't like you.
And you know it.
My other talented-friend-named-Doug whom I met on the way back to LAX thought this one should be kept in the blog post.
What are the odds of meeting two ultra-talented dudes named Doug in 72 hours?
Everything kinda smelled good-ish. I'm just a freak. I'm used to restaurant rating signs in L.A. Even if they had those in Korea I wouldn't have been able to understand them.
I was so anticipating that I would experience a "Lost in Translation" kind of feeling about Asia but ... I was wrong. Not once.
Like I said, "... everything smelled good-ish." There were a lot of places to eat.
And I picked the busy-questionable place.
I remember eating street food in Downtown L.A. once. Once. Like getting sick off of alcohol. Once. I know better.
Gave him a card with the location of my hotel written in Korean and didn't happen to hit any traffic whatsoever.
Then I think I reeled from the dinner choice.
And slept a few hours so I could eat breakfast and go ... work ... actually.
I'm pretty sure I worked that night as well.
Decided to meet up with my friend, David.
I seriously don't think that homey had a bluetooth headset. Perhaps he was having internal dialogue.
Yes, I know ... a bit Bruce-whatever-his-name-is but ... he wasn't looking at me.
Not that I was trying. Of course.
Always so much activity in Seoul. So much. Everywhere.
Okay ... can't say everywhere because I didn't tour Korea but ... suffice it to say there are a lot of people moving around there.
There's another thing about shooting a D-SLR ... I don't have a Noctilux for that body. ;) I'm not sure if it was the ND or just the fact the Nocti vignettes when you're wide open ... in daylight.
I do know that that Buddha was really friggin' big.
When I realized what was going on around me it dawned on me: I'd never made photos at a funeral. I have friends who have but ... me ... never. I'm not quite sure what Buddhists call what I saw going on. I watched for a significant amount of time.
And made a small series of frames. I know they know I was there but kinda pretended, I think, that I wasn't.
I know everyone has an opinion of rangefinders but I was so appreciative of the fact the M9's silent mode really is pretty quiet.
Very interesting ceremony.
This whole experience, of course, juxta-fucking-posed to being in some other temple and, oh, just a nice piece of lead noctilux hitting something that was about as loud as a drum from only a few inches. Could have been more but it seems to work.
If I prevented anyone achieving whatever they were to have achieved that day, I'm sorry.
Almost no laces.
They're smart. Untying laces sucks when you realize you've done it six times before.
I think they worked somewhere in giganta-mall. This place gave me a whole definition of "food court."
They were a little touchy about photos anywhere in this general vicinity ... not that it kept me from doing the same. Perhaps the army of police dogs and Oakley-wearing Korean soldiers should have tipped me off. Perhaps.
I even shot a roll of film.
A roll of film that's still in the body. I think there are two other rolls by the t.v.
Korea is definitely somewhere I hope life finds me again. Thank you Dr. Kim and Mr. Choi.
I know I didn't scratch the surface in Korea but perhaps one day. Then again, I don't really have the chance -- besides in Los Angeles -- to do more than surface scratching when I'm out-of-town. Most of the time when I'm out-of-town street shooting is just an adjunct to working, which I consider much more "real world" than "writing a blog about something."
Been skyping and emailing with a mutual friend of ours about doing a couple workshops. I'm hoping to that Mr. Jackson will be able to do some Los Angeles dates, too. He's such an interesting foil to the kind of street I like to shoot. Although we're working on the first one for the winter in Los Angeles, we're looking at other dates and cities that make sense. It's something I've always wanted to do but doing long-range planning as a freelancer is ... well ... I wish I got more "what does your calendar look like in the second week of february" instead of "... you working tomorrow" or "do you think you could get over to (insert location) today/tonight?" We're gonna keep it reasonable, too. This will NOT be tied to any manufacturer. People -- with a solid knowledge of using their camera -- can shoot anything they'd like. More details soon.
I gotta edit some photos.
I'll keep you posted. There's some really good stuff coming up.
FYI ... I don't think I was mean to anyone in this post. ;)
Cheers from chilly Los Angeles.
Note: Between the time I initially composed/edited this was one month ago today. :( Time friggin' flies. The next one will definitely cover switching from a laptop-based workflow to a Mac Pro-based work flow using RAIDs and all sorts of IT stuff I never really wanted to know about. Managing a 2.5 TB active library is all sorts of fun. And all I want to do is push a button at the right time. ;)