Bukhansan Mountain Seoul: Two weeks ago I announced to the universe what I wanted – five business days later I got it! I didn’t realize I was making any formal announcement at the time. I was just high on a mountain on an exercise high (because that’s all you’re allowed to get high on in Korea) with my good friend and fellow fashion photographer Jessica Marie Berggrunggrun. I turned to her, still catching my breath, and said, “I really want to do a photo session up here.” We stood there for a moment in silence surveying the quintessential asian mountain range, craggy slabs of smooth rock face framed by twisted pines reaching out over the vast metropolis of Seoul.
Jessica agreed it would make for an awesome location but we were both at a loss for who might be willing to scramble of some of these steep slopes, sometimes on all fours, at 5 in the morning to catch the best light.
Enter Johnny & Min. Five business days after Jessica and my 8km trek across the Bukhansan mountain range Johnny and Min reached out to me about photographing their wedding in October. We arranged a meeting to discuss their wedding details and my packages and pricing. Just as our meeting was wrapping up Min excused herself to the restroom an Johnny mentioned they were going to go hiking over the weekend. Of course I wanted to suggest the awesome trails J and I had found right in the heart of Seoul and that’s when I learned Min was all about hiking.
As Min walked back to the table she could see we were exciteltdy chatting and asked what was up. I shared our hiking route and pulled up photos I’d shot of the vistas and Jessica on my computer. I mentioned how I’d love to do a photo session up there one day.
This was the moment it happened. I had voiced my desire again and the universe delivered. I learned that Min had wanted to do some type of lifestyle/hiking engagement photos on a mountain but she didn’t think she could ever find a photographer willing to haul him/herself not to mention a bunch off gear up a mountain. Well, now she knew the most enthusiastic hiker-photographer in Seoul! And with that we sat down again to plan our 5am “hiking lifestyle engagement session”.
Originally I thought were going to keep it super simple but Min put in some major effort preparing wardrobe, props and event finding a makeup artist to come in at 2:30 prior to the session. The couple smartly enlisted two friends to help haul everything including enough food and water for a few days. Even the makeup artist trekked to the top with us! Of course my intern Sarahlou, who came to me to study business, not to hike and hold lights at the top of windy peaks and certainly not at 5 in the morning (although it may still have been her evening) came along too. All in all we were a 7 person team taking on Mt Bukhansan.
Even the most anti-early morning persons can be softened up by a good sunrise. We didn’t actually get one because it was overcast but you don’t have to see the sun to feel that early morning peace, that fresh, adventurous, alertness you get knowing you are up and active before the majority of the population. Despite not having the stuff landscape photographer’s dreams are made of, deep blue skies with wispy clouds and golden rays my inner portrait photographer was elated with the soft even lighting that looks so good on the skin and creates that kind of ethereal forest feeling.
I think the hike was a little more demanding than everyone expected. You could tell that by seeing just by looking around, I was in hiking boots, shorts and minimal tactical nylon camera webbing while everyone else were in runners, sporting causal wear and plastic grocery bags. Apparel aside, everyone made it up some of the steepest terrain I’ve hiked to date.
My goal on this shoot was was quite simple, it was to create a gallery of images that told a story of how Johnny and Min hike and spend time together from a very natural/lifestyle approach. To do this I generally avoided overly posed shots and looking into the camera. We stopped frequently along the way and I would suggest things like, “how about you dig into that backpack together” or my favourite “Johnny wanna hit a tree with a stick?” The key was creating activities and actions that fit with the story.
At the first summit we did a wardrobe change to get a few more styled shots. It was fun contrast having formally dressed couple all the way at the top of this mountain. The other hikers enjoyed it too, many of them congratulating our couple. Sarahlou assisted on the lighting for me, finally putting that big strobe we hauled up the hill to use.
By the time we wrapped up the summit was starting to fill with hikers. As we walked down the flow got thicker and thicker to the point there were traffic jams on the trail. It was a national holiday after all so we were all happy too have started at 5am.
I’m so thankful to Johnny and Min for going ahead with this idea and entrusting me with it. I’m thankful to the rest of the team who helped create these awesome images. I have a feeling one of us will forget this shoot anytime soon :). Looking forward to seeing you at your wedding Johnny and Min.
And thank you universe, for listening and delivering!
Dadameddeul, Seoul, South Korea: I’ve photographed more weddings than ever this spring. The season began with Jasmine marrying Sangjoon at a quaint pension in the mountains. My next wedding brought me down south to Yongin where I covered a Korean bride AND a Korean groom (the first time I’ve been asked to shoot and entirely Korean wedding) tying the knot in a pear orchard. Later in May it was another outdoor wedding with another Korean couple, this time in a local park in Seoul. Today I have the pleasure of sharing Becky and Kyung’s traditional wedding done outdoors at Dadameddeul (다담에뜰) a cozy hanok style restaurant/cafe near Donguk University.
Becky and Kyung found me through WEDIT, a Korean start up doing a great job of helping Koreans coordinate unique weddings minus the wedding hall and the needlessly high bills. As soon as the couple told me they were Disney diehards and going for a Beauty And The Beast color palette I knew we would be a good match for each other. You see, I LOVE it when the people I work with have a theme, idea or something unique that they bring to the event.
During our engagement/pre-wedding photo session in a couple months earlier I got a chance to get to know Becky, Kyung and our makeup artist, Gene Goh. It was a fun shoot that inadvertently took us through a mob of vibrant protesters in front of City Hall. When we realized Deoksuging palace was closed due to the protest we went with it and free styled our way around the palace and over to a temple. It was really nice seeing those engagement shots printed and posted at their wedding.
Becky and Kyung have to rank in the top three calmest brides and grooms I’ve ever worked with. Although Kyung was juggling a ton of phone calls as one does on a wedding (especially and international one) the two of them seemed incredibly at ease. I’m sure it was partly due to their planning which we should all heed! Here’s what they did:
-chose WEDIT, a wedding panning service, to coordinate
-booked a hotel room WALKING DISTANCE from the venue for preperations
-started makeup nice and early at 11am
-ordered in food for when people got hungry
-left TWO FULL HOURS FOR PRE WEDDING PHOTOS
-did the pre wedding photos ON THE WALK to the wedding venue
-left another hour of time before the ceremony began
-MINIMIZED WARDROBE CHANGES and activities
Of course there were a few wrenches thrown in along the way, the hambok socks were too tight, the shoes too big, the vows disappeared momentarily and the venue owner might have woken up on the wrong site of the bed that morning but they took it all in stride remembering that the day was ultimately about them and their love for each other, not the production. I think it shines through clearly in the photos that they were relaxed and everyone was having a great time.
It was really special to be able to photograph my first traditional Korean wedding ceremony with Becky and Kyung. It was beautiful event and I must note that the food was AMAZING! You two and your family and friends were all so great to work with. I hope everyone enjoys looking at the photos as much as I liked taking them!
TOTALLY RANDOM MOTORCYCLE BREAK (Errr I kinda have a thing for bikes…)
It’s happening. This is me taking my first step towards realizing my 10 year personal/business goal: “Becoming the go-to photographer/vidographer for documenting epic motorcycle adventures across continents and around the world.” That’s exactly how it is written. So now that this page exists, and can start working its way up the to the google front page for all searches containing: “motorcycle”, “motorbike”, “enduro”, “touring”, “travel”, “photographer”, “videographer” and “documentary maker” (did I miss anything?), it’s my job to convince you to bring me along now.
Maybe you were inspired by Long Way Around, Long Way Down or Motorcycle Diaries to tour the world on two wheels. Perhaps your desire manifested itself elsewhere. Wherever it came from, I should be the one to document your journey for these three reasons:
- I’m an experienced, passionate enduro rider and outdoor adventurer
- I’m a professional, full time, photographer (working on my videography skills)
- I’m fun , easygoing and a relentlessly hard worker (so I’ve been told)
Let’s begin with a little back story on the passion and experience:
Ever since I was six years old I dreamt of riding motorcycles. I was that kid who taped a hockey card to the front forks of my bicycle or rode over a pop can so that my bike sounded like a motorcycle.
I got my first real motorcycle in my second year of college as soon as I moved away from home. It was am 81 GS 550 Suzuki which I decided to COMPLETELY disassemble (just to see what’s inside) and repaint banana yellow (to match my new jacket).
Halfway through University, I took a year to work up in oil and gas to earn enough money to travel Southeast Asia for six months. I spent most of my time on two wheels in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I had wanted to rent a big bike in North-Western Laos but when I arrived to find there was no such thing as bike rental or even big bikes in that region I ultimately had no choice but to purchase a brand new 125cc scooter. I didn’t even take the plastic off the seat, I just strapped a pillow to it and rode to the south of the country where I was able to sell the scooter for nearly what I paid.
I’ve since ridden motorbikes in Korea, Vietnam, China, Mexico, the Philippines and the most epic of all, Mongolia.
Ever since I spent 10 days spent riding through the barren plains of Mongolia they have been calling me back. Never before have I experienced such a limitless Vista, the freedom to go absolutely any direction you choose only limited by natural obstacles that a 110cc Chinese Built Mustang could not clear.
The point of all this post is to show you that I am extremely passionate about motorcycles, adventure and photography. I have all the technical skills required for behind the camera and on the bike to document your adventure to the fullest.
But Greg, we could just document the journey ourselves!
Yes, you certainly could, and if photography and vidography are something you AND your crew are good and excited about then perhaps you should do it. As a rider, I understand just how amazing it can be to get in that FLOW. You know, that moment you the bike and the road are one, when the bike is an extension of your body and you’re feeling every curve and corner. When you are in the rhythm often the last thing you want to do is stop, turn off your bike, find a sold pice of ground to stand it on, undo your helmet, unpack the tripod, take out your camera, take off the lens cap, setup the shot, put away the camera, pack up the tripod, put the helmet back on, climb back on your bike, start riding, find your flow again, see another an even better shot around the corner and repeat. Even if you LIKE doing this, ask your self if the other members of your party will be equally excited about stopping and waiting every few kilometers.
Instead, let me be the guy who takes the hit to flow. I’ll ride ahead, get everything setup, catch you as you ride past and then catch back up again. You should be able to focus your time and energy on enjoying the ride, the scenery, the adventure, rather than where to setup the tripod and what lens and shutter speed to use to capture that river crossing you’re about to embark on. You should be able to give that crossing your all without worrying about your expensive camera gear getting smashed and wet. Leave the documentation to me and just be in the moment.
Sold, so how do we book you?
Great! You can contact me via my contact link above in the header. Try and give me as many details as possible such as where you will be riding, for how long, how many people, your budget etc and we can start planning how to best way to document this once, twice, maybe thrice in a lifetime journey!