Winter's End by Adam Travis

I got a letter from my aunt yesterday. She doesn't have a computer, so it's the easiest way of staying in touch. It's also a nice surprise to come home to something in the mailbox that isn't a bill or a menu I can't quite understand. Back home, she writes, March has been bleak. Back-to-back nor'easters and a fresh mountain of snow have her — and many others, I imagine —wondering if winter will actually end.

Last week, it hit 20°C. Today in Korea, it's going to be 18°C. This month, it's also snowed, rained, and we even had a thunderstorm. To close out the month, next week is forecasted to be the beginning of cherry blossom season! So while the weather here is just as unpredictable, I'll take rain showers and 20°C temperatures over a late-winter snowstorm any day. 

It wasn't so long ago, though, that these streets were windswept by frigid air, and clumps of wet snow drifted down from the sky. Korean winters come nowhere close to the emotional toll a long New Brunswick winter takes, but they can certainly be rough in their own way (I've never felt so cold at only -5°C).

Looking back through these photos of snow-covered streets dotted with footprints, I can't say I'm feeling much nostalgia. As lovely as the snow can be, I've had my fill of it for this year.

Texture + Form by Adam Travis

Black and white photos in their simplest form are light and shape. Over the last few months, I've found myself drawn to these compositions. The interaction between a concrete rooftop and an apartment block. Light highlighting the ridges of pipes stacked up at a construction site or the pattern of worn brick stairs. Each feels like a little visual poem, written in light and shadow. 

Seoul Streets by Adam Travis

Seoul is a mix of old and new. Centuries-old temples and high-speed trains. Winding streets, packed with old brick buildings give way to wide avenues filled with buses, scooters and the latest Korean and German cars. Ultra-dense blocks of buildings, their forms obscured by neon advertisements and cluttered boutique windows, are shadowed by modern glass towers. All this dichotomy makes for an endlessly interesting place to photograph. Adding to the interest is the light in the city. Skyscrapers cast streets into darkness and light up others with glittering, reflected light. Slivers of sun pierce their way into the packed backstreets, highlighting slivers of the street. 

Visiting during Seollal had the added benefit of emptying some people from the streets, making it easier to walk around. The Lunar New Year sets off a massive pilgrimage from Seoul to the countryside towns and cities so many of its residents hail from. As a result, buses were almost empty, (some) streets felt wider and corners of the city were as quiet as a metropolis of its size can be. 

Enjoy a few shots of Seoul, as I saw it, below. 

Seoul Food by Adam Travis

When our co-workers asked us what we would be doing in Seoul over the long weekend, our answer was 'food.' The gamut of Korean street food is large and wide and even varies by region. But for sheer variety, it's hard to beat Namdaemun Market in Seoul. 

After hopping off the KTX and busing to our hotel, we immediately headed over to the market for a street food crawl. Early in the afternoon, there was only a handful of stalls open. But after a sightseeing walk and coffee break, we dove back in and found a whole block of the market had filled up with food vendors and we spent the rest of the afternoon hopping from one stall to the next.

The next day, we paid a visit to an old friend, Isaac Toast. These shops specialize in egg and toast sandwiches, with marinated meat, crispy potato, cabbage and their signature sauce as toppings. We were nervous that not much would be open since it was Seollal weekend, Korea's lunar new year holiday. But reliable as always, the Isaac in Myeongdong shopping district was open, with dozens lined up outside. 

That afternoon, we headed to Itaewon, Seoul's foreign district. The food in Gwangju is good, but options for non-Korean food are limited. Being able to eat around the world in a day is something we had taken for granted in Canada. 

Film in Thailand: Black and White by Adam Travis

It was -11°C in Gwangju last night. Looking at vacation photos isn't doing much to change that, but thinking about being warm is the next best thing to actually being warm. This week, I'll be showing the results of the black-and-white film I shot in Thailand, earlier this month. 

I brought a few rolls of black and white film with the intention to shoot them mostly at night. I would split the rolls across the eight nights we would be spending in Thailand, using maybe a half-roll every night. Reality didn't entirely match up with that plan. I rewound one half-shot roll too far and ended up shooting the other three throughout the week in a huge variety of lighting situations. 

The result is a collection of moody, grainy scenes that contrasts nicely with everything shot on colour, albeit with fewer frames. 

This also concludes my three-part blog on shooting film on vacation. At times, it was stressful: not knowing if anything would come out, not knowing if I'd have x-ray fogging on the negatives, wondering if the low-speed film would prevent me from getting shots at night, and just trying to keep everything organized.

But aside from a couple of mishaps (dropping the camera on day one and rewinding a roll with only seven frames on it), I found this experience to be really, really fun. I didn't spend hours trying to edit pictures from my camera on my phone or reviewing and agonizing over shots during my downtime.

Most of all, I found myself falling into a sort of meditation when I was looking through the viewfinder. As I'd bring my camera up to face the scene in front of me, the running dialogue in my mind would fade away. Instead, I felt myself become completely absorbed in the moment. The voice in my head was more focused on what was in front of me: composition, getting close, and capturing the right moments. Focus. Click. Wind. Repeat. 

While not every shot on every roll came out the way I'd expected, I'm more than thrilled with what I got, and the memories that those rolls documented. 

Film in Thailand: Chiang Mai to Bangkok by Adam Travis

From Bangkok, we flew North to Chiang Mai, the hometown of our guide. We spent three days there and it was nice to take a break from the daily hustle of packing and unpacking at every new stop. 

After a few days, I had gotten used to shooting without a meter. For anything I wanted to be 100% sure of, I would snap a photo on my phone. I'm glad I kept my camera in hand more than my phone, though; as I got more comfortable with the camera, my shots got better and better.

I'll cut the chatter though, and let the pictures speak for themselves. Next week I'll be wrapping things up with some black and white shots taken over the week. 

Film Scans - December 2017 by Adam Travis

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’ve been shooting mostly on film recently. The ‘delayed gratification’ aspect of film pairs well with documenting daily life, which is what most of my photography has been lately. Seeing scans a month or two after the shutter clicked open is like revisiting an old journal. What seemed mundane then becomes inundated with a kind of nostalgia.

I was going to hold off on processing these rolls since I enjoy getting so many photos back at once. Last week, though, I realized I would be traveling for a week with a camera that’s sat unused for quite a bit of time, with a new lens – I wanted to make sure the kit was still in good working order.

So last Friday, I sent four rolls, plus one that I’d mistakenly opened the camera back on, off to Seoul to be developed and scanned. Service was above and beyond anything I experienced in Canada, with the lab offering on-site storage, drum scanning of images at a later date, a one-day turnaround for black and white, all on top of lightning-fast shipping.

On Tuesday, I received a link to download my images. After a few days of straightening, applying a few tone curves and crops, here are some of my favourites. 

 Vegetable market in Seo-Gu, Gwangju

Vegetable market in Seo-Gu, Gwangju

 A bus speeds through Seo-Gu, Gwangju. 

A bus speeds through Seo-Gu, Gwangju. 

 Used shoes on a donation box. 

Used shoes on a donation box. 

 Tracks in the snow, as seen from a second-story window. 

Tracks in the snow, as seen from a second-story window. 

 Condensation on frosted glass. 

Condensation on frosted glass. 

 Snow swirls around a streetlight on the first snow of the year. 

Snow swirls around a streetlight on the first snow of the year. 

 A woman stands silhouetted against traffic. 

A woman stands silhouetted against traffic.