Sunday, June 17, 2012


Last time I checked in with you guys, I had 1 more Korea Photo Dump for you. It's strange how easily promises like that can be broken, isn't it? I'm sure I'll get back to delivering you some good photo content eventually... for now, though, I'll be back to my sporadic-posting ways. I promise I have a good excuse this time, as I did just get an awesome job opportunity to work in video production and ELT content creation. It's going to take a lot of my free time for the foreseeable future, so bear with me. For now, enjoy some good ol' fashioned 'life-affirming' written content. You know...the stuff that I liked to write in High School that helped shape me into what I am today. Yea. We're getting to my roots on this one.

I've been in a strange position for the past month or so. For the most part, I like to live a very fast-paced life. I always thought that it was because it was "what you were supposed to do when you're young."I take advice from my elders very seriously, and everyone that I look up to in my life has told me that experiencing adventures like the one found in this blog is the right move for a 20-something year old. I got my degree. I have my wits. I support myself and am fairly self-sufficient. On paper, it seems like things are turning out how they are suppose to. That gave me drive and ambition, and it propelled me into this run-and-gun lifestyle I've grown accustom to. I've made this kind of life work for me, and I do love it.

What I didn't anticipate when I began going on these adventures was how much of my identity would be intertwined into being a 'traveler'. Let me tell you now, it's an awesome feeling knowing that people read this blog and talk about it with their friends. I've had old friends...ones I haven't seen or spoken to in years...come up to me and tell me how cool it was to follow my life in such detail. I mean, that's why I started this blog in the first place: to let my friends know how I was doing.

Over time, however, I realized that I was no longer just "Ryan Abella", but "Ryan Abella: the world-traveler." They both go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other. And, when I flew back to the USA a month ago, I went through a major identity crisis.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Korea Photo Dump #4

Today you get three photos! Today's theme: nights in Seoul.

Sometimes, nights in Seoul get crazy. Really crazy. Especially in a little area near Hongik University, appropriately named Hongdae (the Korean word for "University" is 대학, which sounds like "dad-hak"). It's a large area full of bars and restaurants and coffee shops, much like any university town you'll find in the USA. It's where the cool kids hang out and have fun on the weekends. Except this is Korea, and Korea does things a little bit differently.

For starters, the bars in Seoul do not close until 7 or 8am. Yes, you read that right. There is essentially no closing time, and that is dangerous. It gets even more dangerous when you consider that most people use public transit, and that public transit shuts down at midnight and opens back up at 5am.

What does that all mean? Well, basically, you have till midnight to decide if you want to get home that night or not. If you miss it, you are basically obligated to party all night till the subways open again or sleep in a sauna (more on that later). And, because of that, crazy stuff happens around 3 or 4 am...

Like in this picture, which was taken at a small park in the middle of Hongdae. If you notice, the horseman and wizard have headphones on. That's because they are in a silent disco, one of the strangest events I have ever seen. This was taken around Halloween, and everyone was in silly costumes and properly inebriated. Everyone was also dancing around, but there was no music. Apparently, the DJ is spinning some techno music that is being broadcast to about 100 different pairs of headphones that the people are wearing. So, to them, they were at a crazy party. To us watching, we thought they were nuts.'s a horseman petting a wizard's beard. That's just crazy.

This next picture is actually one of my favorites, and I have still yet to hear back from the girl in the picture (so if you are reading this, email me so I can get you your photos). That same Halloween weekend, I was scheduled to take pictures at a Halloween party for a bunch of foreigners hanging out at the Han river. It was a cool gig, and it was hosted by a microbrewery in Seoul. beer all around. It was awesome.

Anyways, I was taking pictures for the event, and I come up this Korean couple and ask if I can take their picture. The girl says sure, and the boy is all reluctant. They do the normal peace-sign pose, I take a shot, and I start to put my lens cap on. She asks for one more from me and, just then, grabs her boyfriend and gives him a sweet kiss on the lips! It was kinda romantic in a way, and I was just there to get an awesome picture of a young couple in love.

You can see on his cheek that I had the flash pointed right at them. I was using a wide angle lens, and so I was really close and, therefore, the light was pretty harsh on their faces. As it turned out, however, it pulled them out of the scene and put the focus on them too. I also got lucky with some backlight from the barge that really made the scene that much more vivid.

This last one is from the Seoul Fireworks Festival on the Han River. Korea and two other countries (this particular year it was Japan and Norway? Or the Netherlands? Some European nation) bring a ton of fireworks and put a show on for the city of Seoul. They are all judged, so each country brings their A-game to the competition.

Thing is, the two visiting nations are restricted because they only have a week or so to prepare on the ground. They can plan it out, sure, but they have a distinct disadvantage to the Koreans. I would consider this cheating, as the Koreans blew us all away with their show. We all win, though, because we get to see some cool things go boom.

This shot is actually from the Japanese show. We were a little bit down river, and I had my tripod and my 70-200L mounted to take some long exposure shots. Each of these shots were about 3-5 seconds each: just long enough to catch the trails of the different shells exploding. The end result is these awesome streaks of colored light framed by the river and the city itself. I have a good 30 shots from this night that turned out this way. It was truly an awesome night.
Tune in tomorrow for the last photo dump of this week. I'll pick back up on them this coming Monday and make it a regular thing. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Korea Photo Dump #3

Photo Dump #3! Today's theme: people in Korea!

This photo is actually of one of my best friends in Korea, Warren. He's a fellow photographer, and much better than me at that. We talk about gear and technique and such. Nerd out. That kind of thing. His wife asked me to take pictures of him for his graduation, and to tell you the truth...I was intimidated.

You don't like to tell people this, but if you ever mess up a job with a non-photographer kind of person, it's not that big of a deal. As long as you capture the moment and are able to edit it a bit, you can cover up your mistakes pretty well.

With Warren, I knew he would know every single mistake I made. I knew he would look at framing and aperture and all the nit and picky stuff....not to judge me or anything, either. It's more to know how I took a photo and what he as a photographer would do differently.

For his shoot, however, it was pretty cool because we were both in spots that were different than we're use to. He's not usually the subject, and I'm not usually shooting photographers. It created this team mentality that allowed us to grab some pretty cool shots. The day was kinda gloomy to begin with, but we were able to squeeze some good ones out.

This one in particular I liked a lot. I was able to snipe him with my 70-200L and pull him out of the frame with a wide aperture. We bounced it off the wall and, like all good photographers, he knew the pose that would fit perfectly for the scene. The white balance, with the gloomy clouds outside, played into the scene really well. Plus...he graduated. That's all that matters.

It's rare when you actually get to see me in a picture of mine! This is one for me. These are some of the girls I taught at WAW Middle School in Korea. They're funny, awesome kids with great senses of humor. My last day there was filled with pictures and saying goodbye, and this one is perhaps my favorite one of the bunch. One of the girls asked me to do a 'flower' pose, and I happily obliged. Quietly, they all crowded around me and did the same thing! It's can say 'awww'. I love this picture because I loved my job at WAW, and this is just one of many happy memories at that place. They were awesome kids, and it was an honor to teach them all.
Tune in tomorrow for a special photo dump of some of the nights I had in Seoul!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Korea Photo Dump #2

Today's photo dump theme: long exposure shots. Lots of fun :)

To take shots like these, you need the following:
  • A tripod or something completely still to set your camera on. That means no movement whatsoever.
  • A camera that can take exposures in excess of 10 seconds. For many DSLR's, you can go in upwards of 2 minutes, and if you want to get longer you can invest in a remote shutter that will hold that thing open for as long as you want.
  • Patience. It takes some time to set up shots like these.

This first shot comes from those hot summer nights in Korea, where staying inside on a Friday night just isn't an option. I had the privilege of living about an hour outside of Seoul, so I had an urban playground that was open literally all hours of the night. That usually meant me going out with friends and my camera to play around.

This night was no exception. Myself, Danielle (the girl on the left), Alex (the guy on the right), and Jonathan (the guy watching my camera so nobody hits it) decided to explore Namsan Tower: a giant tower on a mountain in the middle of Seoul. It is a really spectacular place, with people admiring the city lights below and taking in all the locks on the rails (I'll show you those later).

Usually I don't carry around a tripod with me, but this night was an exception. That meant we were going to have some fun. I set my camera low to the ground and cranked down the ISO really low. I kept the aperture pretty small as well, because for long exposure shots like this you are letting an phenomenal amount of light into the camera. We timed it for 30 seconds and had Jonathan count out loud for us. We would stay perfectly still for 15 seconds and immediately jump a couple feet to the left for another 15 seconds. This created the illusion of us looking at ourselves. Cool, right?

Also, if you look at the clouds, you can see light from the city bouncing off the sky. Long exposure lets in a ton of light, and so light pollution is something that you should account for. In this case, it actually makes a normally black sky look more vivid and alive.

Much like the last one, this was taken on those restless summer nights in Korea. This is actually my street in Wau-Ri, which runs right down to the University of Suwon. I always loved this street because, although we were in this small and tiny town, this place always seemed to come alive once the sun went down. It was rare to see it without college students walking up and down the streets.

This was one of the rare occasions where I had a nearly empty street in Wau-Ri. It had just stopped raining and the temperature dropped a good 20F. The air had this stillness to it that was very uncharacteristic with the season. I loved it.

One cool thing about this shot is the lights. I love the star patterns they create when you expose a picture for more than 10 seconds or so. Also, the rain puddle was still and cool, and I was able to capture some of the street lights in its reflection.

This picture brings back many memories of this wonderful little neighborhood I found. It was my neighborhood. I knew the people and the shops. I lived there. To me, this place will always be home.
Tune in tomorrow for another couple pictures from abroad!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Korea Photo Dump #1

Yea...that was a long week, I know. Strangely enough, it's kinda hard to keep up on an adventure blog when you don't have any adventures to go on. Who knew, right? Sometimes you just don't have much to say.

That's been me for the past month; I've taken a back seat on writing and photography. It's a well needed break...where you just indulge yourself on all the movies and books you've been depriving yourself of for the last year and a half. It's nice to enjoy other people's work for a while. For me, it helps me get the creative gears turning. It allows me to sort the slew of ideas in my head and see which ones really stand out. Eventually, a story or an image or two will come clawing its way out of the void...refusing to be silent any longer.

Got carried away with that metaphor, I know. It's been a while, and I'm taking it out on my journal and AOTOS. How bout I just give you some pictures from Korea to make up for it. We'll call it even :)

A little history: I had about 10,000 pictures or so that I sorted through. From there, I edited about 500 of the good ones. These photos stood out to me and told a story. They have been helping me bring some closure to the 1st year of Korea, and I hope you enjoy some of these unreleased images. I've been hoarding them for way too long.

I'll be releasing 2 images per day for the next week or two (or whenever I get tired of talking about my pictures), with some stories behind the image. Hope you enjoy!