• Seoul photographer Greg Samborski shoots it all -- commercial, event, engagement, wedding, portrait... Give him a mission, he will deliver.


It’s the last thing I should be doing right now, but I gotta do it. I gotta blog about this trip to Vladivostok. I gotta blog it everyday without fail. If I don’t the memories will fade away and blur as they have for so many other trips like Mongolia. So let’s do it,

Vladivostok. What a trip. It began with a massive detour around North Korean air space. I’m still left wondering why we hooked left when the right hooked looked much shorter. Do commercial airliners opt to stay over land when possible? Perhaps the western side of North Korea is considered safer than the eastern? If you know please enlighten me in the comments.

I had very little idea what to expect in Vladivostok. The trip came together spur of the moment. My lovely wife had her eye on a handbag she wanted that was much cheaper at duty free and I was in need of my usual bimonthly exodus from Seoul. I got to go on an adventure, she got the bag, win win!

It was a bright, sunny fall day when I emerged from Vladivostok airport. Rather than wait two hours for the next train into town I decided to go with the bus. I walked right past the short bus the first time, being no larger than a minivan I thought it was specifically for the disabled.

For an hour and a half we plodded along the congested highway into the city. Parts of the drive reminded me of Canada. The way everything was spread out across the vast land. The groves of trees. It was 10 degrees cooler here than in Korea and the fall colours were further ahead. When not peering out the window I was messaging Slava, a local photographer I had made contact with though a Vladivostok facebook group.

I was one of the last to get off the bus. I handed my 100 ruble to the driver and proceeded to nearly knock myself out with the sliding door. Many passengers before me had struggled to open the thing so I gave it all my strength from the start and thats when steel arm fastening it to the roof nailed me in the head. I don’t think the driver or remaining passenger knew why I was swearing when I got out.

It was love at first site. European meets historical, meets asian, meets communist meets port city meets urban decay meets RUSSIA. There was so much texture here. I couldn’t stop shooting photos on the short 300 meter walk to my guest house Gallery and More.

After settling into my cozy albeit slightly smelly room I headed out to change some money camera in hand. On the way I ate what may be the best “burrito” (that’s what they call it but it really more like a donair) of my life. It was so flavourful and cost just under 3 bucks. The cute worker in the back let me grab her portrait. When I asked her to come outside for it she showed me the dough on her hand and I asked her to hold that pose.

My fist impression of the people here would include the following adjectives: real, no frills, strong, confident, fun, affectionate, approachable, good looking, euro, unique, stylish… I notice 95% of the locals dress in dark colours, lots of black, grey and denim. They don’t contrast harshly with the surrounding like many of the tourists.

The women have this air of confidence to them I’m very un akin to after 10 years in Korea. I don’t understand a word of Russian, my Korean is only slightly better. Yet as I sit here in this cocktail bar observing the tables of women and men I feel as though there is far more equality, that the ladies are not just there as a petty show piece, that they are contributing something meaningful to the conversation. But what do I know, I don’t speak Russian… Back to my day.

I took a walk down at the harbour and then met up with Slava the photographer and his graphic designer wife which is kinda funny because I’m a photographer with a graphic designer wife. We also both have short beards and longish hair… hmmmmm.

These two awesome people took me around the harbour and then pointed out what they claim to be the best coffee in Vladivostok. Slava’s wife left and he took me to an outdoor store to look for a jacket (I don’t pack much warm stuff). I walked out empty handed but Slava found a red sweater.

Slava and I then hit a supermarket to buy lunch for tomorrow. I was jumping off the wall with excitement. Supermarkets are what Hyunmi and I DO in every foreign country. We can spend hours just browsing everyday items like dairy and hardware. I wanted to try everything, all the milk, cheeses, sausages, deli meats, breads, juices and snacks!!! I vowed to return. I know I will be returning home with a very heavy suitcase.

So why did we buy lunch? Well it turns Slava has to run a photography class at a waterfall 3 hours away and has offered to take me along. How cool is that? Talk about hitting the ground running, my first day in Russia and I have taken two buses, met a friend, shopped at a local market and have an excursion to the countryside lined up for day two. I’m super excited. Better get some sleep… oh and edit some client work which is what I set out to do in the first place!


Weighing my camera options

Got something even better than free heavy duty plastic bags. Story coming soon…

Four of the top ten photos hash tagged #Vladivostok on Instagram.

Processed with Snapseed.


Textures and wardrobe

My humble abode

Hyunmi handbag tease

Street Food

Best donair ever

Most delicious Weissen I’ve had paired with cream of mushroom soup chips.Penicillin

I’ve photographed more events than I can count in the last few years. Most conferences follow a fairly predictable flow, reception, key note speakers, break out sessions and a gala dinner. Most attendees behave in fairly predictable ways, stroll in, maybe a little late, mingle, pay little or no attention to the cameras, listen/present and go home. This event turned both of those norms upside down.

Three key things differentiated this conference in Jeju from every other event I’ve photographed:

  1. The quantity of attendees
    A thousand is actually quite a large number. These day’s it doesn’t sound like much, especially if your taking dollars, that can be gone in a heartbeat but when you have 1,000 people in a room that A LOT of people. When you do individual portraits with 582 of them, about half a thousand, you further realize just how many people that is.
  2. The enthusiasm of attendees
    All of the attendees we from China. Every one of them seemed beyond ecstatic to be on Jeju attending this seminar. The event commenced with the main door bursting open and 20 attendees running through the reception area to get a seat in the convention hall. All 1,000 would have stampeded the place had Exomnia not been doing such a superb job of crowd control. The two crew barricading the entrance with their bodies were holding back the remaining 980 eager conference goers.This was just the beginning. Once the crowd spotted me and my assistant taking their photos they posed excitedly for our cameras and called in all of their friends. Groups grew so large we couldn’t fit everyone in the frame. Our attendees didn’t just want to be in one photo, they wanted to be in every one, often randomly jumping from their group shot into a another. I would put my camera on a tripod and hold it way up in the air like a giant boom and the crowd would go nuts, amassing, yelling and posing for the shot.

    Believe it or not things got crazier. Soon my assistant and I were being approached from all angles, even dragged at some points into portraits. We had gone from photographers to models posing for selfies and groups shots with attendees. It didn’t take long before celebrity status crushed us, after just 10 minutes we ran to a private area to gather ourselves and resume documenting the event.

    Honestly it felt more like what I imagine documenting a pop icon’s concert would be be like. At times we even felt like the icon. We quickly learned we had to say no to modeling and excessive group shots so things wouldn’t snow ball out of hand. By day two we had the system down.

  3. The requirement to shoot 582 portraits in under two hours
    582 Portraits in 98 Minutes = 10.103 SPP Seconds Per Portrait (5.0515 SPP) that if you count the second booth my partner was running). That’s a pretty insane pace to shoot a portrait. One that I would have told you is impossible just a few days ago. The only reason we were able to make it happen is because of the Exomnia event team. There is something special about Singaporean event organizers, they are incredibly well organized, hard working, easy going yet firm and even manage to keep there sense of humor and fun-loving attitude throughout. Some of my biggest events for companies like American Express, Philip Morris and Schroders have been organized by Singaporeans event companies but Exomnia raised the already high bar to new levels.Exomnia communicated exactly what they wanted, listened to our suggestions and worked with us to make it a flawless production. The crew would take time to remind us where we needed to be and was going to happen shortly before it happened. They created the photo booth layout with guide ropes and all that allowed over 500 people to have two individual portraits taken in just 98 minutes. During the actual shooting one crew managed the flow from the auditorium, another was responsible for holding items such as bags and phones for each individual during their portrait, another positioned them into the portrait and another on pulled them out and returned their items. Then the individual proceeded to the next booth. It went like clockwork.

Aside from the above mentioned things the event was fairly standard. In fact, there was virtually no reception spent mingling over drinks, limited branding and no gala dinner. All the hard work and planning we put in paid off resulting in a very smooth event.

It wasn’t all work in Jeju though. I took an extra day on each end to enjoy the island. Much of my time was spent photographing the landscapes of course. Seoul rarely offers the same quality of air and clouds Jeju has on a near daily bases. I grabbed some really cool long exposures down at the ocean after midnight. I also hiked South Korea’s tallest mountain, Mt. Hallasan. We also indulged in some tasty cuisine including authentic style fish and chips, Jeju BBQ black pig wish was out of this world amazing and some pizza and craft brew and Magpie’s.

Are you looking for an event photographer in Jeju? Please get in touch to discuss!


Chi running – in essence, the art of running like a cartoon character.

Today I gave it a try. My stupid credit card expired on iTunes so I couldn’t download the app, instead, I watched a few free tutorials on YouTube.

I alternated between what it looked like I should be doing, and what I thought I had been doing and suddenly my heal strike seemed clear as day. This might explain the heel wear pattern on my runners and feelings of inflammation in my knees.

With as much focus as I could muster I tuned into the FEELING of today’s run and there were brief moments where I think my technique was coming together. A good indicator of proper form for me (or at least what I hope was proper form) was the sound and feeling of my foot hitting the ground. When I couldn’t here the scuff of resistance, when it felt and sounded like I was rolling over the asphalt, when my upper body was more or less motionless, that’s when I think I was doing things right. For a moment my running really did feel like a “controlled free fall”.

The hardest part was remembering to keep my feet parallel and not over step. I did my best not to over extend my foot and land on the mid sections of my runner, virtually no heel at all. I observed that if you don’t push a little on take off it just feels bouncy and high impact. As soon as I pushed back and lengthened my stride to the rear the fall and roll seemed to happen more naturally.

Of course my pace dropped as I focused on technique but I also ran further with what felt like a lot less effort. Feels good to sweat again. I only subbed two or three days of running for yoga but man did I miss it.

Time to chrun home.

Here’s how I exercised today: 5km Chi walk/run

3 Things I’m grateful for: To be running again! Kinda keeping my cool during this morning’s spat. Going to Jeju with my buddy Dylan tomorrow.
What I ate yesterday: 1/4 of an over sweetened pomegranate juice, amazing Canucks kimchee egg burger, double gin pickle juice spicy Cesar / bloody marry, 1/2 cold brew, 1/4 of that butter fried squid, peanuts, fried fish and one beer (the last three things were part of an editorial on a pub.

Random act of kindness: Offering to help out with anything around the house for an hour before going to work.
Cool thing of the day: Update: I just got home and am floored to see I had one of my faster, maybe fastest kilometers to date. The left side is from the same stretch on August 4th, about two weeks ago, and I remember feeling like I was sprinting all out to try and get my best pace. Today I felt like I was just dabbling in running, messing around, experimenting. I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard at any point in the run, I actually felt like I was holding back so I’m really surprised to have gotten one of my fastest kilometers yet. See image below.

004-160818-Chi-Running-Faster-SplitsBlogging time: 40 Min

It is with heavy heart I announce I’m going to drop the journal for a week in order to focus on getting some photo sessions online.

I’m really digging the process of sitting here and writing about my day to day but when I scroll through my Lightroom library and see all the great photo shoots I’ve never shared it eats at me too. These blogs are taking me anywhere from 55 – 120 minutes per day and in that time I could blog a photo session. Ultimately I feel like blogging those sessions is a more productive use of my time.

This week I will focus on getting one shoot up per day and catching up on all the missed journals. I’ll still track my diet and fitness but drop the writing to see if that speeds up the process.

In other news I think I have IT Band Friction Syndrome on my right knee from overworking it, improper running mechanics, or both. It’s not painful, just an odd feeling that can best be described as an elastic band kind of popping over the side of the knee. Imagine stretching an elastic between your thumb and pointer finger, then sliding it down a tree stump. Imagine there is a little bump on the stump where the band gets hung up for a second, tension builds a little, then it pops over it. That’s how It feels, odd.

ITB Syndrome

The internet say the best way to fix the problem is to lower the miles or just take a break to let the band heal. To avoid a relapse do stretches that target the IT band and practice proper running mechanics. I hope to find a good running store in Seoul that might be able to assess my mechanics and suggest the right shoe and how I can improve.

In an effort to heal I replaced today’s running/cycling with 30 minutes of yoga. I didn’t get the same sweat or heart rate on but it still felt good and I’m sure that my body and mind will benefit greatly. I once did yoga for 6 months and never felt better, until recently 🙂 Today I also learned that a yoga mat is kind of crucial, I shall steal my wife’s tomorrow 🙂

Here’s how I exercised today: 002-160816-Yoga-Workout
3 Things I’m grateful for: Making it to level three meditation in Headspace, feeling affection from that kitty cat, that I don’t have to live with a kitty cat

What I ate yesterday: Creeps, peanut butter, avocado tomato crackers, carrot sticks, rice004-160815-Food-Journal
Random act of kindness: Bringing a kitty cat some water – we became good friends. Shame I have crazy cat allergies.

Cool thing of the day: Becoming the second largest snake in Slither! Only reason I didn’t make first is because taking the damn screen shot killed me!

001-160815-Slither-high-ScoreBlogging time: 40 Min


Not one for moderation, my approach has generally always been all or nothing. Package of chips, no chance I’m going to reseal that bag and save it for another day. Box of cinnamon buns, they’ll be gone in a sitting. Going to the club? Well, I better be getting slammed because there’s no point in drinking shitty booze if you’re going to feel it. I even wished we had birthed  triplets so I could get the whole child rearing thing done in one shot.

This outlook changed a little last weekend. The metamorphosis began in Bulgwang subway station after an intense 3 hour hike. I was famished and couldn’t resist the smell of freshly backed mocha-bread they were intentionally piping though the station’s ventilation system. Talk about inescapable and incredibly potent advertising.

Half of me said, “Greg! Just walk away! You don’t need this junk.” while the other half reasoned “Hey buddy, you did a really huge hike and you deserve that bun. Plus, it’s the weekend, give yourself a much needed break”.

I slapped a dollar on the table and got that mochabread. Then I slapped two more on the table for the half-dozen freshly baked gooey cheese buns I spotted. Now normally ALL of this bready-ness would have been devoured on escalator down to the platform but this time, I did something unprecedented, I only ate half the mocha bun and just 1/6th of the cheese bread. You know what? Withing a few minutes my desire to say “f@ck it” and give in to the hot cream cheese filled mochabread subsided and I was left feeling I got the best of both worlds; I got to taste two yummy treats and walk away from it all feeling stronger. Added bonus, I looked like a hero coming home with fresh treats for the family.


Note the first two pictures of partially eaten breads.

I have one other incident to share from the weekend. Saturday evening I went out to Monkey Beach bar/club with a couple of old teaching buddies. I had always figured there was one way to do a club, get in, get drunk and go home when you cannot function anymore be it due to drunkenness, exhaustion, or both.

Saturday was different. I had been up since 4:30 am. I had put it 25,000 steps / 15km of walking. I  had told my wife it wasn’t going to be a late one because I wanted to get some rest.

Monkey Beach was awesome. The three of us grown men shared a cranberry vodka bucket while girls half our size and age next to us each rocked their own bucket. We played pool, met new friends, eventually shared a gin and tonic bucket and then, at the peak of this great  I gave everyone a hug and bowed out to I’m to catch the last subway home”

74-160813-Shared-BucketThis time I didn’t have to draw the night out until closing time. I didn’t have to go for that 2am greasy mid drunken meal. I didn’t have to fight the post party hordes for a taxi or even waste money on one. I didn’t have to home to my wife smelling terrible at 6am. I didn’t have to deal with the shitty drunken sweat sleep. Best of all I didn’t have the destroy-your-Sunday hangover.

Instead I left on a high note. I saved my money and my liver. I had a great morning filled with a little wam-shikka-wam, home made Eggs Benedict and a great family filled afternoon at the pool.


Yes, the night could have gotten even better or it may also have been on decline, who knows. I felt satiated. I realize sometimes you gotta go hard. That was the choice I always made in the past. Now I’m exited about trying things a different way.

Here’s how I exercised today: 4km run with stairs
002-160814-Meringue-Cookies003-160814-Humburger-IceCreamWhat I ate yesterday: There was no holding back yesteday… Eggs Benedict with home made hollandaise sauce, thee home made meringues with Swiss chocolate (made from hollandaise discarded egg whites), Burger Kind “Angry Whopper” and Baskin and Robbins Snickers Ice Cream. Oh, and chips and peaches at the pool.

Random act of kindness: Spending a little extra time with Han yesterday at the pool

Cool thing of the day: Chaka doing a great imitation of Captain Smack, a Boove from Home004-160814-Chaka-Being-Captian-Smack
Blogging time: 80 Min