Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 Cherry Blossoms in Yeouido, Seoul -- Hangang Yeouido Spring Flower Festival

Last weekend Julianne and I went to Seoul to see the cherry blossoms in Yeouido, Seoul. We decided to take a taxi from the Jongno area of Seoul to Yeouido . . . this was not a good idea as thousands of people were heading into the area . . .

Crossing the Han river you can see the National Assembly building in the background.

We weren't able to get out of the taxi at the intersection where the 2km lane begins--instead we got out about 5 blocks away and started walking.

The renovation construction that is going on all along the Han riverscape had made some progress since the last time I had seen it (about 3 weeks ago). But it's still not finished. The paths were really muddy, and construction was still going on . . .

Walking down the sidewalk towards the festival there were sooooooo many people!

Traffic was moving so slowly, and the sidewalks were so packed, we walked alongside cars parked on the street.

It's always interesting to see the different street vendors that come out to the festivals in Seoul. I'm still trying to get Julianne to try eating some of the more 'adventurous' items . . . lol.

You never know what you're going to see being sold along the sidewalks in Seoul. This women was selling baby chicks out of a cardboard box.

Still 3 blocks or so away from the 2km lane way with all the cherry blossom trees . . . ohhh, so many people!

I have a tradition of taking a pic of the festival banner--here's the 2009 banner for the festival.

I initially put my circular polarized lens filter on my camera but the pictures were coming out too dark. The sky was overcast so I took it off. Then the battle began of trying to get a good exposure with the light behind the blossoms in the tree . . .

If Seoul wants to attract more tourists they seriously need to modernize the trash collection and disposal infrastructure (there are NO public trash cans or recycling bins on the streets of Seoul). The pile of trash in this picture probably grew several feet in every direction during the course of the day . . . not really a nice thing to see if you're looking forward to seeing beautiful cherry blossoms, and smelling them too!

In this pic you can see how the blossoms transform into green leaves . . .

While this pic is slightly overexposed and washed out at the top I still really like it.

Another shot of the same tree (I really like it) . . . I wonder if there will be lenses in the future that can automatically switch lens filters without the photographer having to stop, take off one, take out another and clean it, put it on the camera, and then use it . . .

Another really nice photo spot. I wonder how old some of these trees are . . .

Julianne's red hair looked gorgeous in the sunlight, and pretty much EVERY Korean walking by stared at it. When you're a foreign person living here you truly do get a sense of what it must be like to be a celebrity!

I love this picture of Julianne--she looks beautiful.

The next few pics I took turned out pretty well. I wish the sky had been clearer and bluer--but clear blue skies are something Seoul, and Korea for that matter, rarely get. It was VERY interesting to see how clear the skies were last summer during the Olympics. When China shut down its factories everybody in Korea was shocked by the difference in the number of days with clear blue skies, lower temperatures, and lower smog levels . . . hmmmmmm!

The new lens I got for my camera is definitely getting me really nice close-ups. It has a lens stablizer feature that allows me to avoid having to use a tri-pod a lot of the time. I still have to use a tri-pod for extreme low light, extreme close-ups, and other types of shots. Simply put, the lens image stabilizer system has really widened the range of types of shots I can now take without a tripod and still avoid camera shake blurring.

This is a shot of the 2km lane way that runs around the Korean National Assembly building. Imagine that this entire laneway is packed with people, and then imagine that the river area that runs parallel to it was packed with people, and then add to that the surrounding area outside the 2km lane was also packed with people--if the cherry blossoms weren't so nice to take pics of I don't think I'd have been able to deal with the crowds.

Taking pics of your friends and family in the trees is very popular with the Koreans and foreign people who visit the festival. I took a few pics of this . . .

Not sure what this guy was promoting, but thought that his costume was funny.

This tree was further along in losing its blossoms and going into its summer look.

This little guy was so excited about getting his picture taking that he kept moving around and almost dancing . . .

I was trying to take a pic of the tree in the background, and this ajumma (middle-aged married woman) walked into the shot. I'm glad she did as this is probably one of the best shots I've gotten of an 'ajumma-visor' hat that is part of the ajumma uniform code in Korea.

In the middle of the 2km lane there was a performance stage area. Julianne and I waited about 5 minutes to see if this group was going to do something . . . they hadn't finished setting up their stuff so we wandered away to take more pics.

And . . . more people.

Cherry blossoms are not only white in color--they're also PINK!

I feel like these pics didn't come out as clear and detailed as I would like, but I still have a long way to go with learning how to use my camera to its fullest potential. I don't like using the pre-sets on it so I take the risk of things not looking the way I want as I learn and experiment with things . . . I try to remember to take ONE pic with a preset before I begin playing with settings, but I still haven't made it a habit yet . . .

This close-up turned out pretty nice. I like the sunlight and shadows . . .

I think a lot of parents must get some really nice pics of their kids during this festival.

People kept walking through this woman's shot as she tried to take a pic of her kids. With so many people in close proximity all together in one area social etiquette kind of disappears in terms of letting someone take a picture when you are walking somewhere and cannot take an alternate route. (Also, being bumped and jostled by others walking by you is not seen as 'rude'--I think some of the bumping could be avoided, but often you just can't move without bumping someone because of the sheer numbers of people).

These two buskers are here every year. They're very good. They sing songs, make jokes, and banter with the crowd. Unfortunately, this year Julianne and I got there just as they were finishing up.

I like the mix of greens, whites, pinks, and browns in this pic.

The next 3 pics are probably the nicest ones I got from this year's festival.

These two characters were really fun to watch.

I noticed this little guy with his dad--cute.

Towards the later part of the afternoon the sky was clearing in little patches. This is one of the few pics I got with some blue sky.

And some more shots of the lane way, tons of people, and the cherry blossoms.

This pic was taken around 5:30 or so. With the sun behind me, and the sky clearing up a little, it was amazing to see how different the exposure was. I think I should have tried to arrive very early in the morning, or started taking pics after 5pm and walking down the lane way with the sun behind me only . . .

I love this picture. It really captures the close frienships that Korean culture embodies. I only had about 5 seconds to try to fix the settings on my camera, and then get the shot . . . not bad considering.

Another nice shot taken later in the afternoon/early evening.

Not sure who the character is or what company its from, but the Korean people loved getting their pics taken with it. I also like this shot cause I took it standing behind a Korean guy holding his girlfriend's purse, and his 'murse' (man-purse), lol. You can see the two straps on his shoulder.

This woman was very brave trying to use a tripod in the crowds to take a pic of her friends. Getting it set up with no one bumping her, or knocking over the tripod, and then also starting the timer and running over to her friends and having the picture happen without anyone walking through the shot--wow.

We decided to walk back in the opposite direction and retrace our steps because the lighting was so much better with the sun behind us, and the skies clearing a little.

This is a spot I know well because it offers an opportunity to take a pic with a cherry blossom tree in the immediate background, and the Han river in the far background of the same pic. In Korea, seeing an individual Korean or a pair of friends or a couple taking a self-portrait with their cell phone is such a common sight I no longer notice it all that much--here's a great example.

In this picture you can see the girl on the left side of the trio holding her hand up to her face in a pose which seems a little odd to a non-Korean. In Korea, it's fairly common that people use their hands in poses near their face to hide and/or accentuate a particular facial feature or flaw . . . it's something I will never really understand as I prefer taking 'real life' or candid shots vs. posed and staged pics.

Surprisingly, a fair number of people were walking along the river in spite of all the construction.

This guy had Andrea Bocelli blaring on speakers while he did a puppet show. I've seen this kind of thing before at busking festivals in Canada . . . this guy's act has 'room for improvement.'

And . . . yes, another shot of the trees and thousands of people . . .

Arriving back at the stage we actually got to see a performance.

The dancers weren't bad. Julianne has some training in dance and said that the dancer's feet were driving her bonkers--apparently they were sloppy and not doing much in terms of shape and movement.

I wish this shot had turned out clearer. Again, I was trying to use manual settings and got decent shots . . .

And the finale of the dance . . .

Wandering back into the crowds . . .

I'm not sure what this guy is selling, but it was very popular at the festival, and I noticed that the majority of street food vendors were selling it in the area.

And then I saw the jeans stuffed with flowers . . . I'm not sure if this is some kind of homage to the insanely popular Boys Before Flowers TV show . . . anybody know?

Getting her pic taken with the exhibit . . . okay . . .

There were other exhibit pieces . . .

I'm wondering if these works of art are supposed to look better at night--each had a pair of lights sitting on the ground in front of them.

I didn't really like most of them.

This piece, however, was interesting . . . beehives with flowers growing out of them?

Now, if the kid was a part of this work of art--then it would be cool! Lol . . .

Leaving the 2km lane way, and crossing the street, I stopped to take a pic of the horde of people crossing from both directions.

And walking away from the National Assmembly area the sidewalks were still packed.

This is one of my favorite shots from the whole day.

Walking towards the subway entrance I saw this guy selling cotton candy.

His cotton candy making machine is welded onto his motorcycle--how cool is that?

Julianne and I saw several tables full of hats and picked up a summer sun hat for her.

Later, while walking towards Subway to get dinner in the Jongno area we discovered Buddhist paper lanterns and paper sculptures along the Cheonggyecheon stream that runs for 6km through the downtown core of Seoul.

More pics from that later . . . and on Sunday morning Julianne and I visisted Jogye Temple to see if they had already put up the wonderful paper lanterns for the Buddhist Lotus Lantern Festival coming soon--they had! Expect to see those pics sometime this weekend or early in the week.


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