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

DISCLAIMER: I was NOT the official wedding photographer for this event – I was just a vacationing photographer who convinced the bride and groom to let me drop in for a couple hours on their special day and shoot some candids… and some not-so candids 🙂

NO SUCH THING AS STRANGER (A BACKSTORY)

I won’t lie, I was (not so) subtly trying to get an invite to this wedding. You see, when the population of the tiny island of Koh Mak spikes to 2 Canucks per square kilometre, it’s almost impossible not to hear that the Thai pharmacist is marrying her Canadian Fiancé.

Rheal is the fiancé. Jariyachat is the pharmacist. Hyunmi is my wife. I am Greg. Now, to complete the puzzle: Hyunmi has this thing for visiting pharmacies in foreign lands. She’s not a pill popper or anything; she prefers the ointments and repellents. One night on our first visit to the island, we were walking along the main road (itching our sand flee and mosquito bites) and Hyunmi’s eyes lit up when she spotted a pharmacy. To summarize, this is how we met Rheal and Jariyachat.

Fast forward to this year’s trip to Koh Mak, I was at Coco Cape pier, famous for stellar sunsets and Chai, the stellar bartender. I can’t remember if I was going to shoot a photo or rinse off after a swim, but I overheard some guys in the water talking about Saskatchewan and Alberta. It’s not often that I meet Canadians from where I spent many a summer vacation with my grandparents. I was curious what had brought them all the way to Koh Mak and that’s when I got news of the wedding. Remember, I am a photographer, with a photography-obsessed mind. Here were my initial thoughts (please read as if screaming):

AMAZING VENUE + GORGEOUS BRIDE + HANDSOME GROOM + AWESOME FRIENDS + POTENTIALLY GREAT LIGHT = EPIC DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTO OPPORTUNITY!

Over the following weeks, I met more and more of the wedding party. You know, you can have all the fancy wardrobe, white sand, and palm trees you want. But in the end, the people create the moments and emotions that make great photos. I could already tell this wedding was shaping up to be something special.

I had brought up the fact that I was a photographer in passing, but I couldn’t just silently wish for an invite, especially since the bride had booked THREE photographers out of Bangkok. So I took action, that is, when the perfect opportunity floated on by! I was browsing the local gift shop, making every attempt to pull off my bohemian fisherman’s pants (without a modicum of success). An older couple soon came by to purchase a coke bottle of gasoline for their scooter. We greeted each other, as is done on this small island and (Aha! Sherlock Samborski!) I quickly learned that these were the parents of our groom and soon-to-be bride.

I asked Rheal’s parents when the wedding ceremony was commencing, and they replied “4pm”, an hour before Thailand’s most golden of golden-y lights shine. Nope–I couldn’t be subtle any more. So, I decided to run my idea by the parents first. I explained how I saw all these great ingredients coming together that would result in beautiful images. I would unobtrusively shoot some candids free of charge, share them with everyone, and add a destination wedding to my wedding portfolio.

Right then and there, mom and dad said, “Well, you’re invited,” which I wasn’t expecting. That’s right, the groom’s parents extended my initial invite to Rheal and Jariyachat’s wedding. Although the parents were the self-proclaimed final authority, I still wanted to ask the bride and groom for permission. So, I dropped by the pharmacy to confirm with Rheal, who of course had to confirm-confirm with his fiancée. Jariyachat gave the nod of approval and that was that!

Okay, so that was a lot of backstory, but I wanted to share it. It taught me yet again how “subtle” often doesn’t cut it. Whatever you want in life, you have to make it known, and put it out there so others can help make it a reality.

NOT-SO-SUBTLE STRANGER GOES TO BEAUTIFUL WEDDING (THE DAY OF)

On the day of Rheal and Jariyachat’s wedding, I drove my scooter to the opposite end of Koh Mak. I stopped along the way to grab a few shots of the rubber tree plantations, a look and smell that I (and perhaps others) strongly associate with this island. The wedding venue was Little Moon Villa, a resort that I’d never visited before. I walked in and the party was already underway.

The whole event was the quintessence of a cozy tropical destination wedding. With all the inherent beauty of Thai island life there is hardly a need to decorate, but the bride, groom and organizers did a job of making things even more charming with flowers, lighting and props. It’s better if I let the photos describe all these things in more detail.

I greeted the groom and groomsmen, and then got straight to shooting. Being the second shooter, or better yet, the total-stranger-photographer-observer-guy is amazingly freeing. There was a trio of hired photographers covering every angle of the bride and groom and snapping all those customary wedding shots, which left me to shoot whatever I wanted. So I did just that. While the official photographers were focused close up on the bride and groom, I shot wide and long, often capturing the little details I saw around me.

After the ceremony, post-wedding shots got underway. Golden hour was just kicking off. I was perched on a massive side-sloping tree trunk that grew out over the beach (ever wonder why coconut trees lean towards the ocean?). My eyes darted among the brown sandy shore, a tree swing, small sailboat, golden highlights, deep shadows and all kinds of other fun things to play in and on. When the bride and groom asked me if I had any photo ideas, I was quite elated to have permission to give the creative direction I had been working hard to suppress. I explained the images I had in my mind of them swinging, kissing with sun flares, walking down the beach, and sitting on a tree trunk playing footsie.

Soon enough, the sun dipped behind the nearby island; drinks continued and dinner was served. I discovered one of my new favourite cocktails, the Calibou Lou: coconut, dark rum and pineapple. I did a few final shots of what was sure to be a delicious dinner and a great party, and made my way back across the island. Had it not been my mom’s farewell dinner that night, I would have accepted the invite to stay, eat, and drink (Calibou Lou) late into the hours.

GRATITUDE (+ LET ME SNAP YOUR WEDDING)

Again, I want to extend a huge thank you to Rheal, Jariyachat, and everyone else who welcomed a stranger into one of their most special days. I hope that I was able to capture a different angle on your wedding day that is meaningful to you.

If you like what you see, I’d throughly appreciate if you could help me reach more potential wedding clients by liking my Facebook page and mentioning @GregSamborskiPhotography when sharing. If you’re an Instagrammer, you can find me here. Of course, the biggest way you could help me would be to pass my name along to friends and family who are looking for a wedding photographer. Enjoy the images and thank you in advance!

 

Camera Basics | Seoul Photography Classes

The Camera Basics course is the stepping stone, the foundation, on which all other photography classes are built.

I don’t believe that great photography is the result of expensive equipment or meticulous mathematical calculations of aperture, shutter and iso settings. Great photos happen in hundredths of a second. Your odds of capturing them greatly improve when you can operate your camera instinctively, when the equipment is no longer a barrier but an extension of yourself.

To teach and learn photography effectively we need to start by speaking the common language and this is why we begin with Camera Basics.

In this class we:
-Review basic camera terminology ranging from “Battery Compartment” to “RAW”, “ISO” and “Aperture”
-Familiarize ourself with the location and function of the most important controls of the camera
-Briefly examine HOW the camera works so we better understand how to achieve the results we envision in our mind’s eye
-Cover how to download and manage your photo library
-Answer every other question you might have!

My 10 years of teaching experience has taught me that the best way to learn something is to DO it. I encourage everyone to bring their camera so we can be hands on the whole class. My teaching methods include incorporate demonstrations, multimedia, analogy and mini assignments/missions.

I have one final goal for this class and that is to build a community of likeminded people whom we can learn from, share with, and support.

Class TitleCamera Basics | Photography Workshop
DescriptionWe learn the basic terminology and functionality of our cameras so that we are all speaking the same language for future classes.
LocationWithin a 25 minute radius of Seoul City Hall. Exact location TBA.
Dates & TimesSaturday January 21st | 13:00 - 16:00
Tuesday January 24th | 18:00 - 21:00
*Please note you only need to attend one of these classes.
CapacityMaximum 12 students
Price$50 USD / 60,000 KRW Per Student
Requirementsa. Minimum 4 students are required to run this course
b. Students should have a camera that offers manual control over aperture, shutter speed and iso
c. Payment must be made in full by 3pm on Friday January 20th to be enrolled in the course
*If minimum enrolment is not met all payments will be fully refunded in 5 working days

So I just found a partner who’s just as keen as I am on planning amazing engagements and proposals here in Seoul and throughout Korea!  I met Alex a few months back during a food tasting event and we collaborated on a couple project since. After our last shoot he invited me to drop by his office and share the space for a while. While editing away on a couple session in Lightroom, it occurred to me Alex would probably know of some ideal locations/backdrops in and around Seoul for proposal and engagement photos. As it turns out, Alex has connections with tons of hotels and restaurants all over Korea and can even organize musicians, extras, flash mobs, food… you name it! We both started coming up with increasingly elaborate proposal ideas that honestly, we figure are better shared on the phone or in person rather than here 😉

So if you have a vision you need help making reality or your drawing a blank and need some ideas we can help you. Just get in touch with me via the contact form above and give me as much info about you, your girlfriend/boyfriend and what if any ideas you have so we can tailor the experience to you.

I hope to hear from you soon!

-Greg S

As Steve and I got to the last quarter of our Mc Donald’s drip coffee, planning out how we were going to approach total strangers for portraits, Opokaigama strolls over to our table and says “can you take my picture?” I gave Steve that “is this for real?” glance over a momentary silence and  then got to work with our first model of the day. Pretty damn good start to 2017; ask and you will receive!

 

Opokaigama is proud that he created and released his mix tape in 2016. Check it out at soundcloud.com/grey-sky

I set out with a few goals on this photo project:

1. To make deeper connections with my subjects which I hoped would put them at ease and elicit more genuine expressions

To do this I focused on building a rapport. It began with approaching the person of interest in an open, non confrontational way. Being January 1st, I started with “Happy New Year!” and made clear as quickly as possible that I wasn’t there to push my religion or ask for donations but rather a photographer working on a personal portrait project. As I explained, I shared a few of my best images on the back of my camera* to confirm my story, give the subject a better idea of what I was doing, and ultimately sell them on the idea. I assured them it was totally free and that I would in fact send them their images – which I did before posting this.

(*Techie side note, after shooting with someone I reviewed the photos and assigned a one star rating to my favourite. I then assigned a one star filter to the top wheel of my Canon 5D Mark IV. This allowed me to essentially create and then share a mini portfolio to the next person. I absolutely fell in love with this feature and believe it helped immensely in establishing credibility.)

After a model agreed to a portraits I would choose a place to work, for the most part the middle of the street, and explain as began shooting that I’m asking the same questions to each person on this day, “What is your proudest/happiest accomplishment of 2016?”

I encouraged my volunteer to take a moment to think deeply about this question. This created the expression I was looking for, thoughtfulness, reflection, a few seconds where they forgot about the camera. When they shared their answer I could catch interesting expressions and quite frequently a big genuine smile as they reminisced on something positive.

The answer to the above question and some of the deeper conversations it led to will be shared under each photo.

2. To focus on and share positivity

I wanted to avoid asking something typical like “What are your new years resolutions?” as people have a tendency to list negative habits they hope to break. This day was about reflection and positivity. For many people in the Itaweon district English is their second, third or fourth language so sometimes the question wasn’t understood but we proceeded regardless.

3. To get familiar with my new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art

I’ve owed and broken both the Cannon 50mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4. I never felt a lot of love for either lens and abandoned the 50mm focal range altogether perfectly happy with a Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and Canon 70-200 2.8 Mark II slung at my sides. This combo however was less than ideal for the increasing amount of food photography jobs I’ve been getting. With food, a 70mm lens demands a huge working distance and 35mm is just too wide. Up to this point my Canon 40mm 2.8 pancake has been my go to yet I feel it too is a bit wide.

On the portraiture side, for things like artist and corporate headshots, I was finding the 70-200mm a little too intimidating for my subjects and the 85mm 1.8 slightly bland due to the very fact it is considered a “perfect” portrait lens. The compression at 85mm is almost too much at times and both lenses require you to stand so far back it’s hard to create the personal connection. My goal was to keep the working distance intimate, add a touch more dimension to my portraiture and retain the ability to really throw the background out of focus or work in low light if desired.

Enter the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art. It’s a beast of a lens and isn’t exactly cheap at around 1,000 USD (I got mine for $625!!!) but based on my four year relationship with the 35mm 1.4 Art I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I love my 35 Art so much that it goes with me EVERYWHERE, even when I have a freak’n Canon 16-35 2.8 L in my bag I still bring it along much to my backs chagrin because there is simply no other lens in my bag that can produce that 35 1.8 Sigma look I adore so much.

The Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art didn’t disappoint. I shot it mostly at f2. Standing so close to my subjects, I wanted to ensure a little more was in focus than just their eye. We’ve only know each other one day but I’m already falling for the 50mm ART.

4. To create a visually and conceptually consistent body of work that had some unique element to it

I get bored easily. Shooting the same subject, camera, lens, composition, lighting, etc is soooooo not my style but this time I committed to keeping things simple and constant so I could focus on interactions and create a cohesive BODY of work.

The little bit of uniqueness I added was the use of a huge California SunBounce reflector. This gave the images that pop, that tinge of surrealness I love in a photo. Another benefit of the reflector was that it added yet another layer of credibility. Many people still believe their is a positive correlation between photographic ability and the size ones camera or the amount of gear they have. The SunBounce looked “pro” and for that price it BETTER BE 🙂  Despite it’s huge size it’s incredibly easy to transport and handle.

So how did it all go? In one word, AWESOME! I think all but two people agreed to portraits and I was truly struck by the warmth and openness of everyone we met. This personal project reminded me  that we all ultimately want the same things: to connect, share, be heard and better ourselves.

I’m looking forward to what 2017 has in store. I will be doing more of this kind of thing as it gives me as big of an adrenaline rush as dirt biking or traveling. A huge thanks to everyone who took a few moments out of their day to help me with this project. If you liked this, please share it anyway you can.

Peace,
Greg S

Harun Kara sells Turkis Ice Cream. We didn’t get into chatting about 2016.

Sayide is proud of EVERYTHIGN he does. He works as a butcher in the Itaewon area.

Saad and I didn’t talk about 2016. His portrait marked the start of the “down the street” look and composition that would follow for most of the day.

Dan is still thinking about what he’s proud of having accomplished in 2016. I told him it’s his vacation homework.

This is Dan’s brother.

This is Fluffy the dog. Fluffy is most proud of his ability to be yappy and annoying on two legs.

Abremen and Ferida are siblings. I didn’t ask them what they’re proud of, most likely of being crazy adorable.

Susan Digs is proud of the fact she traveled a lot in 2016. She saw Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. On her travels she would sell things from the other countries she visited.

Jarr’s biggest accomplishment in 2016 was becoming a father.

Samson pooled money with some friends and they started their own Fish N Chips shop. He built the interior himself out of recycled wood. He was so excited to show it all to me.

Nur Rauwiyah is proud that she traveled four times in 2016.

Mohamed Hadad last name translates to Black Smith. He’s not a black smith though, he left Egypt due to the poor economic conditions and is looking for work in Korea. He loves it here. Mohamed is proud of having traveled four countries last year including Tunisia, Algeria, Taiwan and Singapore.

Ahmed would rather pose than reflect on 2016.

Adam is like Ahmed, man of few words and many poses.

Look Kate is a Thai human rights activist and is proud to have lead a youth student group to reject the referendum new proposed by the military government in 2016.

Air is Look’s friend. Both study in Gwangju currently. She’s most proud of having returned to school to study Human Rights in Bangkok.

Jinyi comes from China, he is interested in photography too and most proud of the fact he made a lot of money in 2016. This is his expression right after he said the “money” part.

Didn’t get a name. No 2016 reflection. Just a reflection of a reflector in 2017.

Demba was a little suspect of the whole portrait idea. His terms were group shot or nothing – so I took what I could get. After his crew saw the results and a little persuasion solo shots were approved.

Didn’t get any names here so I’ll have to go with Demba’s crew.

Didn’t get any names here so I’ll have to go with Demba’s crew.

Demba’s crew.

 

Ready to go

Day two taught me a lesson in communication and setting expectations. It’s amazing how different the day you envision can play out from reality. You see, Slava got a last minute booking to go out and shoot some “waterfalls” for a kind of adventure/photo tourism startup and invited me to come along – which was awesome. The previous night he took me to a shopping centre where I pickedup some groceries, a lot of groceries, for the trip. This left at least 8 hours for me to day dream about how our adventure might play out.

Here’s what I knew: a small crew of people would be driving out to a waterfall. Slava would take pictures and the rest of the crew would document the adventure.

Here’s what I imagined:
-An hour or so drive into the wilderness
-A wide open space in the mountains with a 30+ meter waterfall cascading into a large open pond. The sound would be magnificent. We would setup base camp there.
-At 12:00 we would all break for lunch and sit in a circle around a camp fire in view of the waterfall, share our lunch and possibly drink until we had a good buzz going

Here’s what actually happened:
Five of us piled into an SUV at 10:30 in the morning and drove for two hours on and off road into a narrow mountain valley. From there we trekked 7km up the valley only stopping to take photos of the “waterfalls”. (To be deserving of the title waterfall I believe there are two prerequisites that must coexist in abundance, water and falling. I would say the three sites I visited met the first perquisite, water. The falling was lacking in that even at the largest “waterfall” there was only 2-3 meters of fall and that’s generous given it was more like water rolling down a ramp or taking than steps than straight-up falling.)  There were no fireside picnics, there was no sharing of bread, it was more like eat your granola bar on the way. When we reached the last waterfall we turned around. Unfortunately I had packed according to my fantasy plan so I ended hauling a tripod, a full bag of lenses, a bunch of food including a loaf of bread and the Hefty 70-200 around my neck for the 14 kilometre six hour round trip.

Now I know the last two paragraphs could make me sound like an unappreciative, whiney little bitch, especially to a Russian, so please let me clarify. I whole heartedly loved every minute of my adventure with Slava and co. It was such an awesome experience to find myself in the company of 4 locals tagging along on a photography assignment in an area I couldn’t even dream of finding or getting to on my own not even 24 hours after I’d touched down in totally foreign land. I took note of how strong the Russian men and women were around me, how no one complained about the distance, intensity of the hike, or rain, something I KNOW I would have heard a lot of people moaning about back in Korea. The fragrant smell off the moist forest brought me back to my childhood spent on the west coast in Bella Coola, Nanaimo, Vancouver and Victoria. The fall colours and foliage were gorgeous, and while the water was not officially “falling” according to my definition, I had not a single regret about taking the trip. The reason I bring any of it up is to highlight how important it is to seek out detailed information, for packing purposes, and not set expectations because Happiness = Reality – Expectations.

It was a quite ride home after a day filled with exercise and fresh air. We weaved our way back through the never ending gridlock that plagues Vladivostok at around 8pm. From there I put on my warmest clothes and headed out for my first proper meal. Until now I had only eaten street donair and snacks from the grocery store. I found the most delicious Georgian Restaurant. The beer, bread and soup blew my mind. Perhaps the long day made it taste especially good. I’ve grown quite fond of photographing menus so you can have look at what was available and the prices below! Come back tomorrow for Day 3, a day dedicated to coffee, wandering the city, buying warmer clothes and my first Russian club experience!

Ready to go

Cafema

Cafema

Bus

Bus

Coffee in Bus

Coffee in Bus

Pot Plant Graffiti

Pot Plant Graffiti

Country Road

Country Road

Wild Cow

Wild Cow

013-161005-16-vladivostock

Out House

Out House

Amongst Trees Again

Amongst Trees Again

Lone Building

Lone Building

019-161005-22-vladivostock

Canon 16-35 Broken At Mount

Canon 16-35 Broken At Mount

Forest Path

Forest Path

Big Tree

Big Tree

Hole in Tree

Hole in Tree

Red Maple Tree Forest

Red Maple Tree Forest

Guy Squating in Forrest

Guy Squating in Forrest

Small Stream

Small Stream

Photographer at Work

Photographer at Work

Rearranging Nature

Rearranging Nature

Small Waterfall Russia

Small Waterfall Russia

Waterfall and Pool Near Vladivostok

Waterfall and Pool Near Vladivostok

Greg Sitting on Old Tree

Greg Sitting on Old Tree

Big Rock

Big Rock

Third Waterfall

Third Waterfall

Third Waterfall

Third Waterfall

Group Photo

Group Photo

Valley HikeValley Hike

My Warmest Clothes

My Warmest Clothes

Georgian Restaurant Menu

Georgian Restaurant Menu

Georgian Restaurant Food

Georgian Restaurant Food

Georgian Restaurant Food

Georgian Restaurant Food

Craft Beer

Craft Beer