Sunday, 25 December 2011

Everland & Christmas Ice Skating

The best theme park in Korea! That's what I can say about Everland theme park located a little bit outside of Seoul. As some of you might know this is not my first time here in Korea. I was here before once on a holiday. So when I have the chance I would relive past memories by searching for old photo spots and other things that I did 9 years ago. These are some of the photos mailed by my brother from Malaysia when he scanned old photos into digital, and I compiled it with some new photos.

Everland 1

The temperature was about -8°C that Thursday with some winds going around. This is a photoblog so let's let the pictures do the talking.

Everland 307
The park is divided into two parts, one on the top of the hill and one in a valley below.
Everland 254
This photo is taken on the safari, can't recall the name of it, I really want to try the snow slope there but its closed as they are in still in the process of preparing it.
Everland 215
I once stood ate lunch here 9 years ago with my family.
Everland 213
photo of le me.
Everland 217
We were eating kimchi fried rice and were sitting on the left side of the room, near to the water dispenser 9 years ago.
Everland 258
Not much of a roller coaster guy.
Everland 081
the ski lift gives a really nice view of the place.
Everland 086
it was 8 below freezing but its fake snow though.
Everland 089
Everland 100
American Diner?
Everland 135
I was here 9 years ago too. I coulda sworn the polar bears were huge, but now it looked so small. It's me grown up or the large bears are not here anymore?
Everland 148
Now this is winter clothing.
Everland 199
The park has some tents set up for people who want to get out of the cold for a few sec
Everland 201
Monkeys. There were a lot of em.
Everland 260
Was here 9 years ago too.
Everland 291
There you go, for the effect of movement I purposely slow down the shutter speed manually. This is why I love DSLR manual controls
The park changes when night settles in. It is winter so sunset is like around 5:15pm. This is when the lights is turned on and the view is just magnificent. For those who had small compact cameras, DSLR owners are jealous of your compact size but at night is the time for the large DSLRs shine...

Everland 376
Harsh flash... Shoulda control the focusing point the right place to focus on
Everland 372
My turn behind the camera. Move the focusing points around and you'll get this.
Everland 377
I like this framing better.
Everland 406
Everland 394
Some buildings.
Everland 387
This is my favourite view.
Everland 413
Nice perspective. Could work if there is someone standing in the picture.
Then we move on to the weekends. On a boring Saturday evening, which coincidentally is the Christmas eve, I joined two friends to go ice skating at Seoul City Hall. There was a crowd there, since a holiday is just around the corner. It is cheap to rent the ice skating shoes, at just 1000won. After buying tickets, I gathered with more friends eating dinner in a local fast food joint while waiting for our turn which is on 10:00pm. Some of the friends here are going to the church afterwards for some Christmass activity.

Le three musketeers
There was too many people on it so the chipped ice is compacted again once an hour
"Seoul Square Ice Skating Ring" that what it means I think
Le group
Happy meal?
Me bad hair day
Le group! A Korean auntie took this for us.
I also recorded a video...

That's it. Also check out my other video also posted a few days ago featuring my friends at school

Sunday, 18 December 2011

New YouTube Videos

It's a long time since I posted on my blog so I'm gonna link you guys to some new videos I recently uploaded to YouTube. Enjoy!

The video was shot using the smallest, lowest quality setting on my Canon 600D, just playing with it after a presentation. The title literally translates to "A recess time", a short video shot without any planning or a storyline using a Canon 600D/T3i with a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 DC HSM IS. The people featured inside the video are Malaysian students studying Korean language in Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea. All are shot using on 640x480 VGA, ISO 1600.

Another video shot when I was following friends to a bowling game shot without any planning or a storyline using a Canon 600D/T3i with a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 DC HSM IS with ISO 1600 and yadada technical babbling.

A videography tutorial soon? As you can see in my videos I'm not so good with it yet, there's a lot to learn but I will post what I've learnt so far after a month with this amazing DSLR when I have the time. Till then, see ya.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bored Friday: Dongdaemun

As usual, after Friday prayers at Itaewon, I am free to roam the Seoul metropolitan. This time, it is snowing! Yeah...

This place was not so far from Itaewon too. Long ago Seoul was a small fortress city surrounded by walls. Dongdaemun was named after one of the four gates that served as a entry point to the fort. 'Dong' means east. 'Dae' means big and 'mun' is simply a door or a gate. This is the gate now, covered in a vast box of scaffolding as it was set on fire by a Korean arson. Yay! Go for Korean patriotism!

You can see a part of it here.
So much for patriotism.
I want to bring forward the problem faced by 'aliens' in Korea. The Koreans have a thing for their own country and pure blood Koreans. Throughout history the Korean peninsula was battered by war. Attack from the Japanese occupation gave the deepest scar on them. So using the spirit of hatred to other nations, they unite. Look at the cars in the photo above, every single one of them is Korean made. This is a good thing for them. But not so good thing for non-Koreans. I heard stories on how mixed race Koreans are denied to serve in the military. And foreigners being addressed in informal Korean is a norm. Being a single-raced nation, they are less open to other races in short. The place where we can easily feel being alienated is here in Dongdaemun. I will tell you how.

The Chonggyechon Stream also runs through this part of town by the way.
There are four major malls that really gets your attention.
Le Doota. This place is like a departmental store.
Quite expensive but it offers a calm shopping experience.
Migliore is the best place to shop here. Although the shopkeepers might be very annoying, pulling your hands and stuff, you can haggle for the price you want as the stores inside is individually owned. Not stores, stalls.
Maxstyle. Pretty much the same. Just a newer building.
Korean girlfriends lalala...
They love Kpop dance so at night they would call young shoppers or anybody to come on stage and dance to the Kpop beats. 
Hello apm. Pretty much the same thing.
Some street food along the way? Muslim travelers be advised these things might contain meat.
Goodmorning City. Also new but the quietest of them all. Not much shoppers come here.
Across the street of those large malls are a place called Dongdaemun History and Culture Park still in construction.
The Dongdaemun Market area always come to the travel guides as a recommended shopping area. This place is a good area to do your shopping indeed, but I wouldn't recommend it much for travelers. In these malls, the shops are not really shops. They're more like stalls, each one with different owners. So while browsing through the stores you can't really walk around looking at the clothes displayed. The shopkeepers are constantly trying to get your attention and sometimes to the extent of pulling your arms, ushering you to their store. This is when Korean language skills and the ability to judge the price of a product is a must. There will be no price tags at all. You must come up with your own price and then haggle.

If you're good, you're gonna get good clothes with dirt cheap prices. But I'm an inexperienced haggler. Usually I would just talk about price and deal with it. But when they start to ask me 'where are you from?' I would try to leave as soon as possible as they might have sensed that you're a foreigner, an ALIEN. When this happens, it might sound trouble. I experienced some situations after answering the dreaded question, they tried to sell me a simple short sleeved round neck shirt for 30,000 won, equivalent to RM82 or US$26. I can get a better quality round neck shirt with nice designs at UNIQLO at 5,000 won, or RM13 or US$4.

Why? This is serious deal for travelers from abroad. They might get cheated to pay excessive amount of money for something that is not worth the money they paid. I also found a guy wanting me to buy a wool coat, usually around 30,000-50,000 won at 300,000 won. As I try to leave he lowers it to 240,000 won, then to 100,000 won. I was not very happy with the first price as 300,000 won is like RM800. What he thinks he is Salvatore Feragamo asking for the price? As I leave he got angry, faking it in the intention of intimidating me to buy his overpriced product in fear and without thinking.

I got some great offers starting at 70,000won and he said that it can be lowered some more by a nice old man. Now that's what I call a honest business practice. This is because the nice uncle didn't bother to ask the dreaded question I said before. The problem all began with a question, "where did you come from?"

And that's how we became ALIENS in Korea.

More street food along the way. Boiled fishcakes called 'odeng' is quite something
As I was walking to the subway station I reminisced my days in Malaysia where I spent my shopping time with my family in our favourite shopping malls like Jusco and Parkson. I can browse the store with utmost comfort and peace without hands pulling my arms or people constantly trying to get my attention. I can compare brands and products just by browsing the store. I can also compare prices as everything is tagged. Flip the tag and the price will surely be written there. Well, it is illegal under Malaysian law for stores to not label their items with price tags. I can buy branded high quality goods like t:zed, Larrie and many other locally recognized brands with reasonable price. I won't get dirt cheap prices but I get what I pay for, I wont get cheated either. Everything is done in a peaceful departmental store atmosphere, with air-condition as a relief from the tropical heat.

When you're out, then you'll start to appreciate the little details that makes you love your own country. It is sad to hear that many Malaysians failed to appreciate their own land and complain a lot about it. To Malaysians who always thought the grass is greener on the other side, come to the other side. You'll see. That's all what I have to say. Like my Facebook page or don't forget to follow my blog.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

First Snow in Seoul

Yes as we all know it is winter in the northern hemisphere in this time of year. So last Friday, it was snowing.

That's practically it. I am still waiting for heavier snow. When that time comes I will get more photos of snow soon. This video is kinda overexposed. A ND filter is quite handy this time of day...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Bowling: Sigma 18-50 Low Light Test

Some friends went for a bowling game a few days ago n I decided to follow and shoot some test shots of indoor low light sports photography to learn a bit or two about the needed equipment for this situation. Currently I have a Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8-4.5 DC OS HSM which includes a Hypersonic Silent Motor and an optical stabilizer. Yeah the aperture value changes as I change the focal length. This is a US$ 200 lens and the main reason I picked it because of the f/2.8 at 18mm and the optical stabilizer so I wouldn't expect miracles from it.

I was eyeing on the Canon 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM lens. It is f/4 and it is an L glass. I heard it got great bang for buck so I decided how will it perform in low light. But the Canon is seriously heavy and big. Another option is a Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD, with more reach at 300mm, an ultrasonic motor, also optical stabilizer and costs less than half of the Canon. Because of these lenses are f/4 so I tweaked my short Sigma to be at f/4, with an ISO 1600 it gives shutter speeds of around 1/160s.

Ah my test subjects were Naz, Khalish, Paan and Chox. Thanks guys...

Let the games begin in ISO 1600.
This is ISO 1600 f/2.8 1/200s which was adequate to freeze his motion
ISO 1600 to the untrained eye is fine but I can see the noise. Dam
noise in the dark areas man!
I'm quite impressed with f/4 still being able to produce nice shallow depth of field
Gogogo Alealeale
U mad bro?
le despair
ISO 1600 f/3.5 1/200s kinda good but this is cheating, lower than f/4 man.
ISO 1600 f/4 1/160s still blurry!
Romp Jeans advert by Chox wohoo!
Jeans advert again Naz?
Nice power stance Khalish.
This ISO 1600 f/4.5 1/100s is not enough to capture his fast movement.
ISO 1600 f/3.5 1/160s is good enough for motionless subjects
The verdict of this experiment is, you're gonna need the f/2.8 at the long end to give nice 1/200s or above to avoid blurs in low light situations. But an insane clean high ISO performance of a full frame would be nice too. A hypersonic motor wont cut it as I experienced a lot of focus hunting so we'll need the ultrasonic motor. The body for the job is indeed a full frame 5D Mark II with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L IS USM lens in front of it. Both of these guys are so expensive even after robbing a bank I'm still not sure if I can afford them. Maybe I'll just go back to where I belong, travel photography.

Justa video I recorded...

And plus
ISO 1600 f/4.5 1/160s. It was dark.
ISO 100 f/4 1/15s an impromptu test of the optical stabilizer shot handheld. 1/15s man! This guy wont be so sad if you visit his store..
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