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


Seoul, South Korea:
 Last minute bookings have resulted in some of my favourite session. There was Carolina, the Bride who STARTED her wedding photographer search just NINE DAYS before her wedding. It turned our to be one of the most beloved wedding sessions in my portfolio. Then there was Taryn, a world traveler who wanted some portraits made in Seoul. Despite the cold weather, the session was a blast and I created shots I’d never tried before (yet to post). So when Clint reached out to me on November 10th to see if I could do a couple session the following weekend, I remembered how some of the best things can happen with very little for planning and said “Sure!”.

Clint wrote, “as far as the location I know she will want to do something indoors since she’s not too fond of the cold weather as I am.” I couldn’t agree more myself. Unless you’ve got a great looking winter wardrobe you really don’t want be freezing your butt off in a lacy dress during a Korean winter! Even if you’re tough and can grit it out, you can’t control your skin and it will very likely opt for goosebumps and redness.

I suggested just a single option, a place I had always wanted to try and am not yet ready to divulge because it’s only a matter of time until photographers get banned for good. The secret location offered warmth and the most amazing light together with a not too shabby interior. We even ventured onto the rooftop which was a fair bit warmer than -3 but still too cold for sessions lasting more than 15 minutes. Putting it last on our agenda served us well.

Nadia and Clint we just amazing to work with. I swear they’re not models or actors which is what you might think given how natural they look in front of the camera. I explained to them just before the session, that the key to natural looking photos is interaction. You have to be engaged in each other, talk, play, flirt, frolic, entertain, feel, touch, experience, explore… I can find the golden light, the stunning backdrop and even suggest a pose/scenario to get started but after the stage has been set it’s up to you to take it from there. It’s not always easy, it takes work, commitment and courage to just dive right in and give it your all – and that’s exactly what Clint and Nadia did. Have a look at the shots below and you’ll see it too 🙂

ALT

 

Jeju Island, Late Fall: My last trip to Jeju was a beautiful disaster. It was just one of those days in life where so many things go wrong you actually begin to laugh aloud at your own misfortune.

*Note this is a very long story, so if you want fast track to the engagement shots from Jeju, scroll on down

Things started going wrong for me at Gimpo Airport security, a full day-and-a-half prior to the engagement session I had scheduled with Michelle and Raymond. Now I’ve been living with myself long enough to know I have have a knack for finding the longest way to get from A to B, usually as a result of getting so absorbed in photographing something like a reflection in a water bottle that I end up jumping on the wrong train or miss my stop.To ensure punctuality, I came up with an equation long ago that works flawlessly: Travel Time * 3 + 1 Hour for Early Arrival.

Let’s say my destination is an hour away by subway, this means I could theoretically travel for an hour in the opposite direction and when I finally realize what has happened I could still double back and make it to said pre-wedding session with an hour to spare! If there are no hiccups along the way, which is more often the case, I have a leisurely three hours to sip a coffee, scout the location and further plan my shoot!

But back to airport security. Long story short, they tell me I’m only allowed five lithium-ion batteries on board (this is the first time I have ever encountered this rule in 25+ years of flying). I happen to be traveling with SEVENTEEN li-ion batteries, the kind of power required to keep my two cameras, drone and iPhone operational over two days of exploration on Jeju. I can’t just throw away hundreds of dollars worth of gear so I must store them in a locker on the arrivals level and ultimately this delay causes me to miss my 7:40am flight. I’ll just get the next plane, they go every 20 minutes! Turns out everything is booked solid until 3pm. I setup my mobile office at a soup restaurant.

The whole reason behind booking the 7:40am flight was so I could get to the motorcycle rental shop by 10am and spend a leisurely day scouting Jeju from my BMW 800s. Yeongsil Trail, Jeonbang Water Fall, Occulloc Tea Museum, Yongmeori Coast, Seopjikoji were the primary spots I wanted to explore in the fall.

When I arrived at the motorbike rental shop it was already 4:30pm. I flew through the paperwork to so I could get to scouting before the sun set. I was in pursuit of fall colors and I found them on Eorimok and Yongsil Trail. I also stumbled on an iconic budhist temple tucked away in the mountains. Had I rented a car I wouldn’t have even made it out of the city before sunset.

By the time I pulled into Seogiwipo it was dark. I wanted to scout one last landmark, Saeyeongyo Bridge. I turned down an empty road that didn’t end up connecting to the bridge and made a very slow U-Turn, a maneuver I’ve done thousands of times. My motorbike stalled in the middle of the turn, perhaps I was still getting used to the clutch on this one. If you stall in slow turn and don’t get your feet out in time you just fall, like a tree, on your side. My pride was the only thing that took a bruising. Never mind pride thoughm I was far more worried about the bike. I heaved the motorcycle back up and was delighted to see the mirror hadn’t snapped nor was there any damage to the fairings. Then something sparkling on the road caught my eye, a cork sized cylinder of aluminum alloy, my gear shifter!

At this point two thoughts went through my head:
1. How the heck am I going to scout Jeju tomorrow with a broken gear shifter?
2. How much is that bike rental guy going to role me for?

I managed to ride the bike to my accommodation in first gear and then scoured a small pipe, some old wire and a clamp out of a neighbouring orange orchard. I used the pipe to pry the shifter out from the engine body and then rigged up a rather ingenuitive nub composed of pipe clamps and electrical tape on the end of the shifter. It worked flawlessly! Now it was 10pm. I was tired. I slept like a log.

My alarm rings at 6am. BOING! Off to scout Jeonbang Waterfall. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I can’t believe I’m the first one there. Next up, Yongmeori Coast. Here I decide to lighten my 25 kilo camera backpack a little. I zip it open to transfer some gear to the motorcycle panniers and bits of broken black plastic greet me. Looks like my 85mm lens hood is in pieces and the filter wont come off, must have smashed into my other lens when I feel. Oh no, better test my cameras then. Oh look at that, the touch screen on my year old 5D Mark IV has been jammed in and now the LCD only spits out rainbow coloured, skewed, pixelated images. Hello $400 repair! But at least it still TAKES pictures, but do they also come out rainbow coloured on the computer too? THEY DON’T! It’s just a broken LCD.  *Sigh of relief*

I kind of want a moment to cry, but I really need to scout…

Amazing! Yeongmeori Coast has to be one of my favourite places IN KOREA. The textures and colors are incredible! I’m holding out my phone camera, snapping reference photos and imagining where I’m going to place Michelle and Raymond in the scene. I’m so stoked.

It’s 11am and I have get the motorbike back to the opposite side of the island, rent a car and pick up my clients. My navigation says it’ll take me an hour to drive back across Jeju. Luckily that means about 30 minutes for me. Even though the owner didn’t notice the damage I do the right thing and show him the broken bit in my pocket. He wants $500. He’s insane. I negotiate him down to $150. That’s more than fair and time is working against me. I run to the rental car agency next-door, sign some more papers, and race back across the island to Seongwipo, this time it really does take an hour.

Parked at the Ramada hotel, I head towards the lobby, and then I tell myself “GREG STOP!!! Take five deep breaths, you don’t have to race anymore, forget the hundreds of dollars you’ve lost on batteries, tickets, lenses, cameras and motorcades, BE PRESENT with your clients and just enjoy doing what you love, focus on the passion.” I walk into the lobby and shake Michelle and Raymond’s hands. Then I can’t find our car… and Yeongmeori Coast was closed due to high waves…

Still, my fortune took a sharp turn for the better when I met Michelle and Raymond.  How lucky I was to be working with such a laid back, understanding, flexible and compassionate couple. We started with casual attire up in the fall colors on Yongsil Trail and slowly made our way towards the ocean. On our way I couldn’t resist stopping by some tall grass and an oh so Jeju orange orchard. When we got to the Yongmeori Coast they had unfortunitly closed early due to high waves. The clerks refused to let us in no matter how hard I pleaded so I took Michelle and Raymond 50 meters up the way. We jumped the fence and used the beach instead of the rocks where we were safe and out of sight.

There is actually a reason I shared this lengthy story that has seemingly has nothing to do with the client or photography. After saying goodbye to Michell and Raymond I spent the hour long drive to the airport questioning if I had really been able to produce meaningful imagery after the barrage of setbacks. I worried about getting to my computer and finding nothing of substance. What I found instead were some of my favorite engagement images to date, more specifically, the ones at the beach. The sudden change of location and the fact I couldn’t check the back of my camera led to a different kind of imagery, photos that felt less structured and more in the moment. When the light was gone and we needed a ring shot I improvised with car headlights which produced a look quite juxtaposed to the usual sunflairs and softness I gravitate towards. And this to me is the mark of a professional, someone who can solid work no matter what the circumstances. Thank you Michelle and Raymond for bringing me to Jeju and sharing your time with me. Wishing you all the best.

Looking for a photographer on Jeju? One who can get the job done come hell or high water? Please get in touch, as there are so many spots I want to explore with you – gust remember not to pack too many batteries 😉

Seoul Forest, October 24th: Fall in Korea is without doubt my favourite time of year. The leaves are changing color, you can actually put clothes again, (summers are spent mostly in my underwear) and the light is soft and golden all day long. With so many good things going for it, fall only gets better when someone asks me to help plan and capture a surprise proposal.

It all began with this email:

Hi greg, I am planning on proposing to my girlfriend, Grace.

Grace loves reading and travelling. Seoul was the first city we travelled together and she just loves it which is why I’m choosing to do the proposal there. I am currently in talks with someone about getting a personalized hollow book safe with a travel diary look where the ring can be kept. Not even sure whether I’m actually gonna use it for the proposal but yeah, i’ll just order it anyway.

About the location, I’m really gonna have to rely on your suggestions. A nice setting and background is all I ask and the less crowded, the better. I don’t want a very public proposal and neither does she. I don’t want us to be catching too many people’s attention if you know what I mean.

Looking at your work, I am impressed by your paparazzi style and that is exactly how I want the moment to be captured–like she’s not aware of anyone actually taking photos.

Thanks for taking time to read this and I’m really looking forward to your suggestions.

Regards,
Ephraim

I’m a huge fan of email, more so then instant messaging because It encourages both parties to organize their thoughts before speaking which creates clarity, saves time and leaves an easy to reference chat history. BUT… there are also times I abandon email completely, namely when brainstorming and conceptualizing proposals. Immediately after the initial inquiry I always suggest having a phone or video chat. With infinite possibilities to choose from when planning a proposal, discussing in real time possible locations, styling and cover stories is just so much more fitting.

Ephriam already had some clarity when he contacted me. Privacy was a priority and he had an awesome way to personalize the event with a custom made hollow book safe (made by Spellbinerie over at Etsy) doubling as a travel journal. Inside Grace would find stories of their past and eventually a diamond ring! I can’t emphasize how important it is to bring some of your own ideas to the table like Ephriam did so that the proposal is relevant to you. I see my job as to enable, advise and enhance, not tell you how to do it!

Privacy is hard to find in Seoul so I opted for a giant park which would also have some of the most vibrant fall colors in the city. As Ephriam and I got deeper into planning we came up with the idea to have a casual picnic all setup under a tree that they would just happen upon. Ephriam worried Grace wouldn’t believe it was meant for them so he had the bright idea of placing a small card with their names on it inviting them to enjoy the meal. Ephriam would reveal that his “friend” in Seoul had set it up as a surprise for them (he really does have a friend in Seoul”). Then during that picnic he would give her the book, surprise number two, and there she’d find an engagement ring, surprise number three, and eventually a photographer, me, would reveal himself and take them on a photo shoot. Oh how I love nested surprises!

As usual there was a ton of planning (which for some reason I get really into) locations needed to be scouted, sun trajectories observed, props and groceries organized and contingency plans drawn up. I was so lucky to have Clair from Petal Palette (aka my wife) do the styling for the shoot. Former graphic designer gone florist has such a knack for choosing beautiful things that fit together and laying them out the perfect way.

Clair and I arrived three hours early on the day of to sequester the picnic platform and style it. There were cheese and grapes, sandwiches, pastries and of course a bottle of bubbly to celebrate. As Clair setup I found my hiding spots and vantage points. With one hour to go I was alone and waiting, watching passersby look at the scrumptious layout with wide eyes trying to to give into the temptation to take a sample. When my phone app indicated the couple was near, I uncovered all the food and went and hid.

I could see the surprise and disbelief on Grace’s face. Here head and eyes darted around. Ephriam reassured her and when she saw the card she reluctantly sat down and nibbled cautiously, still not fully believing it was all intended for them. I had told Ephriam not to rush things but when after 30 minutes I still hadn’t seen him go on a knee I started to wonder if I had missed the moment when running frantically though the forest to get various angles. Had he abandoned the idea? Was he unsure if I was really there and ready? It turns out they really we just savouring the moment and after another sip of bubbly I saw Ephriam take out the book and present it to grace. And well… I’ll just let the photos tell the rest of the story…

 

 

 

  • Spellbinderie - 2017/11/14 - 10:26 PM

    Beautiful photos of one of the sweetest proposals I’ve seen in awhile! It was a pleasure to work with Ephraim in creating the vintage travel themed ring box! If any of your readers are interested in a custom journal, guestbook or engagement ring book, they can find my shop, Spellbinderie, on Etsy.ReplyCancel

    • Greg Samborski - 2017/11/15 - 6:38 AM

      Thanks so much for reminding me to share where that amazing book came from. I’ve linked to your etsy page above in the story, two times! 🙂ReplyCancel

Seoul, South Korea: In the last couple of years I’m getting more and more inquiries from students looking for photography internships abroad. Initially hesitant to take and train someone new, I politely declined. It was Maira Naba from Germany who finally changed my mind. Her introductory email and application were so good I couldn’t turn her down. I figured she would surely turn me down after I made clear that I was unable to provide housing or compensation. But she didn’t. Eventually Maira had to go back to school (though I tried to convince her not to 😉 and I missed her upbeat personality, dedicated work ethnic and quite frankly having someone share the burden of hauling 22KG of camera gear around Korea with me. So I brought on Sarah-Lou from France!Â

Sarah-Lou was actually a Marketing and Management Major at KEDGE business school in Bordeaux France. Greg Samborski Photography being a small, busy and growing business I welcomed her expertise. Again I was upfront about the fact I was unable to provide housing or compensation. What I did offer was an opportunity to share every bit of knowledge I have gleamed from creating my dream job out of nothing and building every aspect of my business from the ground up, on my own. (That is of course until I brought on these two interns!). Internship two with Sarah-Lou was even better than the first because I had learned many lessons on how to be a more effective, organized, trusting and compassionate manager. As all interns do, Sarah-Lou left back to school and now I’m ready for round three.

If you’re interested in interning as a photographer or in business related field that is applicable to running a photography business please read on. Below I’ll touch on what you can expect from an Internship with Greg Samborski Photography and don’t forget to read what my previous interns have to say about their experience.

Photography Internship with GSP

CAUTION if you are applying to intern with GSP then you’re applying to be more than a photographer, you’re applying to be a stand in, model, lighting specialist, porter, travel agent, data analyst, web designer, social media curator, content developer, networker, accountant, researcher, marketer, clerical worker, photo editor, graphic artist, computer technician AND A PHOTOGRAPHER. There are just some of the hats I wear and my interns get to try all of them on. Of course I try and focus on getting you as much exposure as possible to your area of interest but it would be wrong to think that just because you are majoring in business I wouldn’t ask you to be my second shooter at an event. That said, you don’t have to know how to do all these things, you just have to be willing to learn.

Business Related Job Duties

  • responding to new inquiries
  • customizing contracts and invoices
  • following up with clients
  • inputting customer/job data into spreadsheets
  • analyzing and creating visualizations from spreadsheets and Google Analytics to spot trends
  • managing clients and projects using iCal, Notes, Daylite, Klok and Numbers software
  • researching clients, locations, gear, advertising strategies etc..
  • managing content on website and social media profiles
  • creating and running ad campaigns on google, Facebook, instagram, print…
  • applying SEO strategies online
  • accounting

Photography Related Job Duties

  • producing jobs (ie. booking stylists, MUAs, renting gear, scouting locations)
  • assisting on photoshoots (selecting camera bodies, lenses, tripods, standing in, fixing wardrobe, hair and makeup)
  • assisting with lighting setups