Story by: Dylan Goldby, Photos by: Jeffree Vallejos
Jeffree Vallejos is a structural engineer working for Daelim Industrial Corporation. He started taking photos in 2011 after buying a Nikon D7000. He just wanted to take pictures of himself and his wife, and his old point-and-shoot wasn’t cutting it. He learned fast. For this month’s Capturing Korea, he shot Suwon’s historic Hwaseong Fortress.
Groove Korea: Give our readers an introduction to yourself as a person, and as a photographer.
Jeffree Valalejos: I started by taking pictures of my wife at first, just using the automatic settings of my camera like portrait, landscape, candle, close-up, etc. Later on, I took photos of flowers, food, toys and other boring subjects. Then one day, I saw on Facebook a nice blue hour photo from someone who later turned out to be one of my favorite blue hour photographers — Yen Baet — and I was like, wow, this is cool! From that point in time, my interest in photography suddenly grew as I wanted to at least emulate her photos. A few months passed and I found my true love: landscape photography and, to some extent, portrait photography. (My wife would kill me if I took more landscape shots than portrait shots of her!)
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress is a fairly popular location for people to visit. What makes it a great place to photograph?
I live in Seoul and I started to grow weary of the buildings, shopping malls, crowded streets and other structures, so I told myself, why not try Suwon Fortress? Since I am a landscape photographer, I think this is the best place to take photos of a mountain (Mount Paldal) and other man-made features of landscapes. For less than an hour of travel via KTX from Yeongdeungpo-gu, this is one of the closest things to nature.
What sort of things are you looking for when you compose photos of a place like Suwon Hwaseong Fortress?
I try to create a composition by using the walls as the leading line. The walls guide the viewer’s eyes through the photo.
However, this is sometimes difficult to achieve since I need to be at a higher elevation and away from the fortress to get a nice photo. In cases like this, I resort to just isolating a subject (a gate in particular) and finding a nice foreground.
I also try to present the subject in an unusual point of view to make it more interesting, like shooting from a low or very low vantage point or shooting very near to the subject.
Your photos all seem to be taken in the period from just before sunset to just after twilight. What makes that a good time to photograph the fortress?
The colors are warm the hour before sunset and add great interest to a subject or to the overall composition.
After the so-called Golden Hour, there comes again another brief period called Blue Hour where the color of the sky turns blue; it coincides with the time when the fortress is lit up with warm and colorful lights. This is the time when most people would call it a day and head back home. For landscape photographers like me, this is just the beginning of the grand finale. Hence, shooting just before sunset through to twilight enables me to capture great photos because of the quality of light and colors during these periods.
What else is near the fortress that makes for a good visit?
There’s this place inside the fortress (Yeonmudae) that lets one experience traditional archery. For a low price,one can experience wearing Korea’s traditional clothes and shooting conventional bows.
The tour train is also available for those who want to enjoy the nice scenery. It runs from Mount Paldal to Yeonmudae and hits Hwaseomun, Jangan Park, Janganmun and Hwahongmun along the way, and vice versa heading home. The travel time is 30 minutes (one way). This service, however, is not available on rainy or snowy days.