I recently visited Danyang with my good friend Roy Cruz to photograph the triple peaks of Dodamsambong in the river there. I’ve been waiting on my schedule and the weather to line up for several years now so when I saw that there would be heavy snowfall there, I quickly booked a train and guesthouse to make it happen. 12 hours later, I met up with Roy in Danyang and we went to scout our location before the snowfall began.
We recorded some video while we were down there that served as a base for talking about the images themselves. So, on top of these five tips here, I’ve also included that video at the bottom of this page. It contains another 12 tips for making the most of a commonly photographed scene. If you’re so inclined, please head over and watch that as well. For now, though, let’s take a look at a few images from the trip.
Tip 1: Scout
Whenever you have a chance to see a location before you’ll be photographing it, take that chance. With each and every family photography session I do, I take the opportunity to scout beforehand. This allows me to understand the scene, see if there have been any changes since my last visit, and also drum up new ideas as I walk around without haste. The other benefit of this is that the conditions are likely to be different than when you actually photograph the scene, so there’s an opportunity to make a set of photographs that are different from the ones you originally intended.
On our scout day, there was no snow. However, we were greeted with a frozen river reflecting the clear blue sky. This distinct scene gave us the ability to create images we hadn’t intended. Here are a couple of those.
Tip 2: Get the Image You Came to Get
If you’re visiting a location, chances are you’ve probably seen photographs of it before or have an idea of what you’d like to come home with photographically. While it can be helpful in planning to get an idea of what you’ll find, expectations can leave you stunted when you arrive. If the conditions present, I always find it helpful to clear my mind by getting that first image out of the way so I can effectively see other compositions.
I absolutely love east-Asian-ink-wash painting (known as soomookhwa in Korea) and that’s what snow-covered scenes in Korea always remind me of. So, for my first image of the day, I set out to make a photograph that represented that in my mind. I was looking for something minimal, black-and-white, and high contrast in the style of those paintings. Knowing that my mind has a tendency to focus on an image and not falter from that until the mission is complete, I was relieved when we stepped out of the car and there was a fierce wind blowing the freshly fallen snow into clouds around the peaks. This was exactly what I wanted and so I quickly made a set of images so I could move on and begin experimenting with different photographs.
Tip 3: Shoot to the Conditions
What happened next, I could not have predicted in the slightest. The weather forecast had heavy cloud cover and snow falling all day. But, the snow wasn’t coming down at this time and there was a slight break in the clouds that allowed some colour from the sunrise to come through behind the peaks.
Over the course of about 5 minutes, that colour went from a faint glow to some fairly saturated highlights in the sky. I took both of these as cues to photograph extremely wide panoramas that took in the entire scene. If I had stuck to my original ideas, I would not have come home with these two images. They’re some of my favourites from the day, so I’m glad I took the opportunity to follow the conditions presented to me.
Tip 4: Change Your Perspective
There’s nothing quite so powerful for making a variety of images than having a variety of experiences. Taking the time to move around the scene and see how things look from different angles can lead to more interesting images than originally planned. Always try to walk around things in different ways, get up high, get down low, and look for foreground elements.
For this scene, we had the benefit of not only the riverside angle but the ability to climb a small hill beside the peaks. This gave us a completely different angle and allowed for a view of the scene not usually photographed by the masses of visitors.
Tip 5: Have a Coffee
The act of having a coffee doesn’t necessarily directly affect your photography. However, it does give you time to relax and clear your head. It also gives the weather time to develop. If you don’t drink coffee, try tea or even a snack. Your beverage of choice is inconsequential.
During our coffee on this particular day, the snow began to come down heavily and we dashed out to make more images of the scene. By taking a break, we’d revitalised our brains a little and allowed the day to develop. Here are a couple from that final session.