Street Food in Busan

One evening, on returning from my excursion up a mountain, back in December 2017, I decided to do something differently, and have my dinner outdoors at one of the roadside stalls of the place. It was my first experience of street food in Busan.

Roadside stalls with hygiene

Contrary to what you would expect in Thailand, for example, the Koreans do take hygiene at heart. So, vendors do use plastic gloves when handling food and all of their dishes are single-use.

Busan street food
Busan street food

Rice cannelloni

Most of the dishes were simply some form of rice cannelloni as can be seen on the pictures. The sauce was pretty good and in the cold evening of Busan, it did provide a refreshing change from habitual food (although I must say I tried also some delicious kimchi).

Most people just eat standing.

Atmosphere

Indeed, one of the lovely things about street food in Busan is also the atmosphere around. The night lights, the stands and the street’s setting combine to give it a homely atmosphere. Eating out should be done more for sharing in the atmosphere of locals. One local student helped to translate for me my order and was quite curious to know from where I was. Koreans have always been welcoming and helpful everywhere I went, and Busan was no exception to the rule.

Atmosphere in Busan
Atmosphere in a street where roadside vendors have set their stands

Finally, if you prefer eating in a restaurant, there are many places where you can eat kimchi or a full set meal for a very reasonable price.

For once, I truly enjoyed “going local”. But then, Korea is a place where even foreigners are gladly welcomed to share the local life. Probably one of my best experiences traveling around Asia. Busan, itself, has a more “rough” feeling to it, but locals are quite friendly and nice.

Street Photography in Helsinki

Helsinki is a marvelous city, especially in spring or at the beginning of summer. The daily life scenes are also interesting and surprising when walking through the Finnish capital. That’s why, doing street photography in Helsinki is a perfect experience. On the negative part, people are much more aware of cameras and photographers (as around Europe). Nevertheless, I never had any bad experience in Finland.

Panning shots in Helsinki

Helsinki, despite being the capital of a European country also loves to take things on the slow side. As such, many scenes are perfect for panning shots. Many Finns love bicycle riding, and these make perfect subjects for panning shots. In this case, the lady was carrying shopping bags of Marimekko, which made it the perfect symbol of Finland.

Finnish lady on bicycle in Helsinki
A Finnish lady is riding a bicycle in Helsinki center

You can also try your hand at people walking, but in this case, people should be walking parallel to the plane of your camera.

Finnish fashionista in Helsinki
FInnish fashionista in Helsinki

This allows to make street photography a bit more interesting by introducing a dynamic element in your pictures.

On very rare occasions, you can come across the perfect scene, if you take the time to change your settings quickly. Like this old car which was roaring near to Tuomiokirkko square. I just had the time to switch to Tv (time priority mode) which was set up on 1/30s and catch the shot. As luck would have it, a piece of Tuomiokirkko showed up in the picture, hence providing the context.

Old car near Tuomiokirkko
An old car rushing through Tuomiokirkko

Street scenes

Another way of shooting street photography is of capturing street scenes. Sometimes, you can happen across some unexpected scenes, such as these two Thai girls near the Helsinki harbour.

Two Thai girls in Helsinki
Two Thai girls captured in Helsinki

Looking around you, and having an eye for structure and leading lines can also give some interesting results. Like in this result, where two girls were taking their pic on the stairs of Tuomiokirkko.

Two girls on the stairs of Tuomiokirkko.
Two girls on the stairs of Tuomiokirkko

These shots are pretty easy to get, they just involve your paying attention to your surroundings. Then, if you have models around, you could also try some interesting shots. Like this pic, where Mitchy and Maria-Sophia were posing while a seagull took flight above their heads.

Before the Tuomiokirkko
Arriving in Helsinki: before the Tuomiokirkko

On the street, you can also try to contrast fixed subjects and moving objects such as trams. Here a shot also near Tuomiokirkko.

Mitch and Maria-Sophia
Mitch and Maria-Sophia in a side street near Tuomiokirkko

This technique allows to distinguish your subjects from the background, suggesting movement and also, at the same time, isolating the fixed subjects. If you want to try this technique in a crowd, which would work also nicely, you must try using a tripod to guarantee the lack of movement. Ideally, I would also deactivate the vibration reduction system on the lenses if any when using a tripod, otherwise, you will have micro-movement on your lens.

In short, Helsinki is rife with street photography opportunities. Just go out and shoot!

Maria-Sophia at the Helsinki harbour
Maria-Sophia at the Helsinki Harbour

 

Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan: between art and local life

On my visit to Busan, one of my targets was the Gamcheon Culture village. While being the first place I visited after the Gwangandaegyo bridge, I have waited a while to write about it. In fact, the place is very famous in Busan and the beauty of the setting is so lovely, that it requires some effort to give it justice.

The history of Gamcheon

Originally, Gamcheon did not really have an artistic legacy at all, but was placed in a very interesting spot, against a mountain, with the associated curves and complex turns. Interestingly, most of the inhabitants are refugees from the Korean war and followers of the Tageukdo religion. The Tageukdo is the symbol which is part of Korea’s flag (also known as the yin and the yang).

Taegeuk in Naju Hyanggyo
The Tageukdo symbol (origin: wikicommons)
 Nowadays, the followers of this religion are few in Gamcheon. Since 2009, the city of Busan attempted to redevelop this area by focusing on making about 300 empty houses the center of street art. This gave a new  impulse and made of Gamcheon one of the symbols of Busan.

Art in the street

The beauty of Gamcheon is that the redeveloped art project is closely mixed to the city life of the inhabitants. You can walk along the main street which circles all around the little village. Or you can delve into the city and try some shopping, like for these cute little bears (3,000 KRW each).

Cute Korean bears
Some cute bear dolls in Gamcheon Culture village

 

You can find some murals such as the “wall of love”.

The Wall of Love in Gamcheon
The Wall of love in Gamcheon Culture village

There is also a lot of subjects for detail shots in the village. Such as an old and worn out roof.

Worn-out roof
A worn-out roof in Gamcheon culture village

When looking at details, the tightly packed houses make also for interesting photographic subjects.

Houses in Gamcheon culture village
A detail of the tightly interspersed houses in Gamcheon Culture village
Gamcheon Culture village
Gamcheon Culture village from the photo viewpoint
Selfie in Gamcheon
A selfie in Gamcheon (as you can see, it was quite cold, despite the sun!)

You can also check my periscope account to find a live video I made walking through the village.

How to get there?

Gamcheon is not a lost place, but I elected to walk up there instead of taking transportation, and it was a quite strenuous climb.

Climbing to Gamcheon Culture village
Climbing to Gamcheon Culture Village

You must first take the metro to Toseong station and take exit 6. From there, either you catch a minibus, or you can climb all the way to the top. It was frisky on that day, so a good day for a walk! Taking the minibus down sets you back about 1,000 KRW, but the driving is quite vertiginous in those steep streets!

 

Victoria park on Chinese New Year eve

Yesterday night was Chinese New Year eve. It is a tradition for honkongers to go to Victoria park on Chinese New Year eve. Mainly because of the local flower and plushes market taking place there. Chinese New Year eve is the last day of the market, so vendors are hard pressed to sell their goods as soon as possible to avoid having to throw or to give them for free after midnight, when the market closes.

Learning business “on the job”

Victoria Park is also the setting of a real life “business school” for high school students. In fact, many students use the CNY market as an occasion to learn the basics of doing business. From starting a business plan, to pricing, sourcing, setting price, marketing and then adapting to competition on the market;

High school student selling plushes
A high school student texts while selling plushes with her comrades in Victoria park

Highly valuable, the experience sees the teenagers throwing themselves into the fray, rivaling with ideas to attract customers. Some even tried the idea of hanging plushes with sticks above the heads of the crowd!

Victoria park hanging plushes above the head
Students try to attract customers by hanging plushes above their heads

The Flower market

The other big attraction of the Victoria Park CNY market is, of course, the flower market. Replete with mandarin trees and various other plants or flowers, it is an occasion for Hongkongers to come and find cheap flowers to decorate their house.

On Chinese New Year eve, you can literally see “live” vendors discounting their wares as the hour advances.

Discounted plants
A merchant holds signs to attract customers for his discounted plants

As the hour advances and it gets closer to midnight, customers also hurry to get their shopping done. After midnight, the vendors must throw or donate their flowers, as they cannot be sold anymore.

Buying flowers on CNY eve
A mother and her daughter are buying flowers at a stall in Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve

It must be said that the flowers look magnificent and are a welcome decoration.

Flowers on sale
Flowers on sale as hongkongers pass by.

Finally, if you are not there to buy flowers, then maybe you just go there to take pictures and selfies. It is a bit what these three pretty girls were doing in Victoria park, with their smartphones.

3 pretty girsl on CNY eve
Three pretty girls stroll into Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve

In conclusion, although it was quite crowded, going to Victoria Park on Chinese New Year eve is an experience to try! You can also read about my similar experience with Chinese New Year in Bangkok, here.

Japan: Shibuya crossing

Shibuya crossing
The crossing as the crowd launches for the famed crossing…

A major place to visit upon any visit to Japan is the Shibuya crossing. Popularized and made iconic by countless photographers and/or instagram posts, the Shibuya crossing is famous for the sheer amount of people crossing the streets at any time during the day.

Hachiko

Shibuya crossing is also near to the famous Hachiko statue. Hachiko is that akita dog that waited for its master every day at this station, even for ten years after his master died. Japanese were so touched by this faithfulness of a dog to his master, that they immortalized it under the form of a statue that now waits everyday outside the station.

I will confess not having shot that picture, as there were too many tourists queuing and competing to have their picture take besides the statue.

Shibuya train station

Shibuya train station is a very vibrant place, being a real hub and a reputed meeting place. Among the numerous animations, got the surprise of seeing some young Japanese girls offering “free hugs” in Tokyo! In this case, Rino and Makiko, the two girls on this picture.

 

Rino and Makiko offer free hugs.
Rino and Makiko offer free hugs to people outside Shibuya train station

Around the station, you can also see various other scenes of animation or a bit eccentric characters. When shooting street photography and individuals, you may want to take advantage of the subway station and its natural reflection of sunlight. It allows to get a perfectly lit subject, as on this picture.

 

Shibuya crossing
The subway windows offer a natural reflectors for shots of people at certain times of the year (winter).

The crossing

The crossing can be shot from different angles, but the most known is probably from the Starbucks coffee shop that overlooks the crossing. The drama of the popularity of this place is that every day, you will have dozens of tourists occupying the seats and taking countless hours to record or shoot the scene.

Bike on Shibuya crossing
A bike takes off as people start crossing Shibuya

Here is an idea of what the crossing looks like in video:

Side scenes: Mario Kart

Being in Shibuya, it means also that it is one of the places visited by the Mario Kart drivers (an encounter by chance, actually). There is a Mario Kart attraction, whereby you can drive karts in the streets of Tokyo (only if you have a valid international driving permit).

Mario Kart in Shibuya
The Mario Kart participants at a red light in Shibuya

The interesting part of shooting these carts is to try and get a panned shot. This allows to suggest speed and gives a pretty dynamic picture. In this case, the driver was wearing a striped costume which aligned with the stripes of the zebra crossing.

Mario Kart at Shibuya Crossing
A mario kart rider roars off at Shibuya crossing

When walking a bit further on one of the alleys going away from Shibuya, I managed to capture an Autumn scene. While not as iconic as Shibuya crossing this shot still translates the bustle of the capital and the winter feeling.

Tokyo crossing
A crossing, not far from Shibuya illuminated by the warm winter light.

The key in travel photography is not to limit yourself to icons. Looking further away, you may find hidden gems even if unnoticeable at first sight.

Mongkok’s “karaoke street” explodes the decibels

Karaoke street performer
A performer pushes up the decibels to get the attention of passerbys

The famous Sai Yeung Choi Street where performers show off karaoke performance and which is also known as Mongkok’s “karaoke street” came through as exploding the decibels. To counteract the noise level from the performers trying to outdo each other with louder volume, a shop decided to put a “noise barrier” on the street. City authorities have considered this “noise barrier” as a hindrance to public passage, but this triggered a debate on the noise on “karaoke street”. This youtube video might give you an idea of the atmosphere:

 

A traditional hot spot

To understand better this area, it should be known that Mongkok’s Sai Yeung Choi street featured prominently among the Mongkok Umbrella movement hot spots as well as during the infamous “fishball riots“. Today, while the calm has returned, it still is a very populous area. Young and older Hongkongese come to enjoy the karaoke and the atmosphere on week-ends and public holidays. Not to mention, it is the only place where the last few remnants of the Umbrella movement still hold a sit-in.

When fun becomes nuisance

The problem is that most karaoke performers come there to earn money. When money is involved, it is the guarantee things will run out of hand. And indeed, performers have started competing by raising the sound level of their installation.

Dancing ladies in Mongkok
Two ladies dance on Sai Yeung Choi street on the music of a karaoke singer

Obviously, some people love the music and the fun like the ladies dancing to the tune of “Moon river” in the picture above. Other people (especially those who must live in the surroundings) tend to be bothered by the close proximity of those karaokes. In fact, they tend to literally almost walk on each other’s feet. To understand that better, watch my latest Periscope on that street:

Originally, that karaoke street was taking place every evening. As people complained of the sound pollution, they restricted it to week-ends and public holidays. If the sound pollution continues being a nuisance, it is highly possible this original cultural spot will be eliminated altogether.

For now, you may want to go and check it out yourself (Mongkok MTR, exit “D), look for “Sai Yeung Choi South Street”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Street Photography: Bangkok girls

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Bangkok girls over the years

Having lived for several years in Bangkok, I must say that I was gifted with a nice opportunity to take pics of pretty ladies almost at every turn, if we may speak this way. For street photography, Bangkok girls are a gift that keeps giving.

Girl with clogs
A girl walks past Dusit Thani while checking her phone.

If you ever felt that you were limited by subjects, Bangkok is an incredible trove of subjects in terms of street photography. You do not need to go in red light areas to find interesting and pretty ladies – on the contrary.

Girl waiting
A girl waits near the MBK mall in Bangkok, while a bus rushes past.

Candids or interacting photo?

Ah, that’s an eternal question of the photographer. Let me give you two examples of pictures taken with an interaction with the subject:

Flea market girl
A vendor at a flea market in tones which reflect the linen which she was selling.

If I did not ask this young lady for her permission I probably would not have had her look into the lens, nor her lovely smile which is just as warm as the surrounding clothes.

Beautiful flower vendor
A beautiful vendor prepares lotus flowers for sale.

In this case, it is a bit different, as I did not ask her consent, but I was very close (shot with a 20 mm), and she was happy to have her shot taken. Afterwards I thanked her for the picture. As the goal was to show her work, it was useless to have her pose. Of course, afterwards, I thanked her and she kindly acknowledged.

Compare and contrast with this picture, where the lady poses for the picture.

One of the vendors with the most colorful stands at Pak Khlong Talad.

In short, there is no single answer. It will depend of the scene and what you are shooting. As much as possible, avoid being creepy though. Respect and appreciation of your subject is the key word in street photography.

 

 

Street Photography in North Point

Why to do street photography in North Point?

Last week-end, I decided to explore with street photography in North Point. Always located on Hong Kong Island, this area offers some quite interesting architectural gems.  It is also an excellent location for street photography and on the tram line. Another example of street photography in Central instead was posted here.

Architecture

The interest of North point is probably first and foremost the architecture. While walking there, I came across this wonderful place called “State Theater”, which is now a derelict cinema. Originally built in 1952, this building has as peculiarity the exposed arches on the roof.

State theater of Hong Kong
The building, although old and badly maintained still provides an impressive view.

Seeing and photographing this building is all the more important as there are rumors that it might be destroyed in the coming years.

For photographers, State Theater provides a very interesting perspective on cityscape, especially when associated with the passing trams.

State theater and tram
A tram passing on the road before the state theater.

Compression

Similarly, North Point is also the location of several examples of “architectural compression”, such as Montane mansion. Other examples are present anywhere you walk into, such in this case, sun shining through these shades in a side alley.

emergency stairs
In a side alley, sun shines through the emergency stairs.

But all over North Point, the architecture is really striking. Here, for example a building just near to the State theatre building.

Compression facade
Another of the buildings whose curved surface shows the compression efforts at work.

Another form of compression observable, is the geometric compression, where structures are decorated and organized in forms that rely on geometry. Here this stairway is just near to Fortress Hill station.

Compression
Another form of compression suggested by tight lines contained in a frame.

Markets and shop owners

North point has also a number of markets with very friendly locals who will take great pleasure to explain you their history if you take the time to start a discussion with them. Here a butcher kindly posed for the picture.

Butchers
A butcher poses at his shop in North Point
Butcher shop North Point
The butcher’s shop in North Point

The beauty of street photography, especially in North Point is the communication it makes feasible with people. For example, I asked permission to take the portrait above… And later, I talked to the shop owner of a sewing shop just next door. He was extremely proud to tell me the history of his shop, which was set up by his parents over fifty years ago. Somehow, testament to the age of the shop, they kept the same boxes, which makes for an excellent picture too. He also kept over 50 years old buttoning machines.

Button boxes
Button boxes (very old ones too!) in a button shop.
Buttoning machines
An over 50-year old buttoning machine.

Along the way, you can also find typical scenes such as the featured picture.

The tram

Last but not least of the beauties of street photography, just taking the tram around can deliver some interesting pictures.

Here, for example, a tram carries a publicity for Sansiri, the Thai condominium developer. These ads are not astonishing as Thai developers have been trying to tap (with some success) into the Chinese money and attract investors.

Sansiri ads
A tram with ads for Sansiri the Thai property developer

From a photographic point of view, the tram rails and the lines allow for some easy photography in terms of composition.

Like here, a variation on “why did the cart cross the rails” using the lines and the pattern on the street markings.

Why did the cart cross
A man carries furniture across the tram rails.

And when you are bored, you can try some easy panning shots. Here, a tram with an ad for China Daily a mainland English-language newspaper.

Tram with panning shot
Tram with panning shot

If that’s not good, you can still try the minibus which also rush by.

Minibus
Minibus rushing at night

If you prefer more static photography, this building offers some nice texture at night.

texture
Nice texture at night for this local building.

 

All in all, doing street photography in North Point allows to see that mix of modernity and tradition which makes Hong Kong so attaching.

I will leave the last word to this little message stuck on a window of the tram:

Deserve some rest
You deserve some rest

How to get there?

The easiest way is to take the MTR to either Fortress Hill or to Taikoo Place or Quarry Bay and walk from one station to the other.

Photography exercise: panning shots in Mongkok

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Panning shots

Some times, to progress in photography, it is good to oblige yourself to do an exercise in style. Today, my photography exercise was taking panning shots in a street of Mongkok.

Panning shots involve staying put in one position and (ideally) shooting subjects which are passing parallel to your position. Using a low shutter speed (1/30th to 1/25th), you manage to get a motion blur which, when well done, detaches the subject from the background.

The difficulty

Where it gets difficult is that to get a perfect picture, you should have the maximum details on the subject. For that to happen, the speed at which you are moving the camera should be synchronized to your subject. Difficult to do that when the shutter closes, right? That’s why, you must look beyond the viewfinder, above your camera, to make sure you are synchronizing the camera to your subject.

Panning shots in Mongkok (2nd series)

Using the rain and lights

A special case of panning shots can be done at night, but preferably with bikes. This shot was taken in Thailand.

Two girls on a motosai in Bangkok, Thailand.

As this was shot at night, after the rain, it provided interesting reflections on the floor increasing the panning effect. While in Bangkok, there are a lot of bikers, hence allowing to use panning shots, Hong Kong has a bit less of these, but still, some occasion may arise as seen below.

Bikes generally have a fixed speed, so theoretically easier to shoot, but not always easy to align your speed on the bike!

The conclusion is to go out and take one morning obliging yourself only to shoot panning shots. Experience is vital, as even after a while, you may still have a lot of missed shots.

Street photography in Central Hong Kong

Central Hong Kong: Sophistication and beauty

Lady crossing the street
Of course, walking the nose into her phone…

Doing street photography in Central Hong Kong is an interesting exercise for capturing people walking in the city. The very urban framework provides a very localized view. At the same time, the occasional tourist and the beauty of many ladies passing in the area makes for good photographic subject. All together, you can suggest sophistication, beauty, and occasionally, mix it up with tradition.

Tourists

Selfie Chinese
Two mainland Chinese take a picture in the middle of the road…

Occasionally, you will have some tourists (often from mainland China) who will be willing to take selfies in odd places, like in the middle of the street…

Other tourists

Tourists in Central
Two tourists look at the map to find their way

In other locations, you will find tourists looking for their way, which provides also the occasion to test the use of reflectors (in the case of these ladies, the map). I decided to produce this picture in black and white, as the color version was providing too much distraction from the main subject… Look also at the face reflected in the shop on the right. Seems an interesting counterpoint to the two ladies.

Phone-toting girls

One interesting thing of girls talking on a phone: they will look very “natural” and will not necessarily notice you. The inclusion of the tram in the background localizes the shot, while the horizontal and vertical lines guide the eye of the viewer.

Wall art in Central

Wall art in central
A girl mimics the wall art, while another tourist walks past.

People posing for pics in front of wall art in Central are also interesting when, like the girl above, they attempt to mimic the art and you manage to capture the right moment.

Technique

Now, except for the last picture in the series, I adopted a technique of street photography, which is to stay stationary and to shoot from a same place (namely sitting down in front of a bank). It is a good technique for obtaining candids as people pay less attention to someone staying in place rather than someone moving around.

Respect

This being said, if someone makes eye contact and is aware I took his/her picture, I always smile and bow to thank. In general, people are appreciative and generally ok with pictures. If someone does not want me to take his picture, I will respect that desire. Respect of your subject is paramount. Similarly, I am very reluctant to photograph homeless people or people who are living through hardship – artistically it brings nothing, and to these persons, it would not bring anything at all, except maybe shame.