Thursday, September 30, 2010

CedarBough's photography and more of my thoughts

In August, my friend CedarBough Saeji was kind enough to come all the way to Uijeongbu to do a photo shoot of Grace. Well, I ended up in more shots that I thought I would due to Grace wanting to jump in the river and climb massive and incredibly dangerous stairs. The pictures turned out fantastic. I couldn't be happier. The only thing I regret is that I look so bad. My hair gets ridiculously frizzy in humid weather and I was suffering from insomnia at the time. I look horrible. Anyway, the focus is on Grace and the she looks so cute. Here are few of my faves. By the way, she's wearing Flora Dress, which I knitted. I think it was perfect for the photos.

She can be reached at cedarbough AT gmail DOT com. I'm not sure if she's into doing more family photos or not, but she can let you know.

I think I mentioned this before, but seeing her do this shoot also inspired me to learn more about photography. She's given me so much valuable advice which I'm thankful for. Also, I've been on flickr nearly every night, poking around in groups and photostreams, finding photos I like and don't like. I'm addicted to looking at the exif info on good photos to see what settings the photographer used. The Seoul Photo Club group has been extremely helpful to me. I've posted questions and received great detailed answers from experienced photographers.

One thing I've seen on flickr that I'm very surprised about is that there are an awful lot of "professional" photographers, like wedding photographers and child portrait photographers that are not very good at all. I've been amazed to see all the poor wedding photos that some photographers full of shadows, distracting backgrounds, underexposed photos, overexposed photos, etc. I'm definitely not the best critic, but I have to say that if some of those photographers shot my wedding, I'd be pretty upset. It seems to me that some people jump into professional photography too soon, or they get a big head because someone asks them to take photos.

Another thing of great interest to me these days is flash photography. I never thought I would say that. The built-in flash on point-and-shoot cameras is awful, but the on-board flash on DSLRs is much better, and better still are speedlights that can be used on or off camera. I have a cheapie Yongnuo flash right now. I'm looking forward to playing with it and I would eventually like to try to use it off camera. I've been reading here and there, and I'm going to try to go to a lighting seminar by the Seoul Photo Club next week. Since I'm such a newbie, I'll probably just watch and take notes. It should be interesting.

It's so exciting to start a new hobby, especially one that will give you long lasting memories like great photos. My camera is still not here. It will arrive tomorrow. As of now I have a lens, a flash, a bag, and other random things, but no body!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soon enough

Soon enough I will have my new DSLR. I think Sejin got sick of me asking when we could order it (only he can do all the online stuff in Korean, especially when dealing with large amounts of money). This is what I bought:

Nikon D90 body
Nikkor 35mm f1.8 lens
8GB class 10 memory card
Lowepro sling DSLR bag

I think I made smart decisions. I'm glad Sejin made me wait so long to make the purchase, because over the last month and a half, I changed my mind many times about what to get. I was going to go with a D5000 body. I changed my mind several times about lenses. I settled on the 35mm after thinking hard about my needs and shooting conditions. Most likely, I will be taking lot of pictures of Grace, possibly indoors. This lens is supposed to be fast and performs great in low light. I am not too worried about feeling limited by the lack of zoom right now. First I'm going to focus on getting to know the camera. I will probably purchase another lens next year. I still have my heart set on that Tamron 17-50 with VC, but that's nearly double the price of the 35mm.

Another good thing about waiting is that I've had a chance to fool around with some photoediting. I've learned a lot just by using Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. Someday I will learn Photoshop proper, but I'm afraid my time is too limited right now. Photoshop Elements is very new-photographer friendly and still has great results.

One thing I've been doing is practicing using some old photos. It's amazing what some bump in saturation, contrast, sharpness, and a bit of retouching can do!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Strange compromise

Yesterday was Chuseok, the biggest holiday in Korea. We had to go to Sejin's parents for the celebration. I can't lie. I do not enjoy the Korean holidays. Sejin's parents' apartment is very small and all of his relatives squish in there for the festivities. Me, Sejin, Grace, his parents, brother, grandparents, two sets of aunts and uncles and four cousins. The atmosphere, although lighthearted, is not the same as a western holiday, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. There are huge expectations placed on the women of the family to make massive amounts of food (keep in mind tiny apartment). They are bent over portable hot plates on the floor, frying away. Of course, women also do the cleaning up. The men and children often just sit around watching TV and snacking on fruit and rice cakes. Luckily, I get out of a lot of things. Sejin's mother and aunts operate like a well-oiled machine in the kitchen, and I would just get in the way. There is also a language barrier, and the fact that I have a very young child who even has to follow me into the bathroom these days. Even though I take delight in getting out of these duties, sometimes it really bothers me to see the aunts sweating away (although they seem cheerful doing it) while the men lounge about. Anyway, I just went off on a tangent.

Where was I? Oh, yes. We got through the holidays. Grace had a lot of fun, actually. She has a thing for dressing up these days, so she really enjoyed putting on her hanbok. She was a little entertainer, and no one could get enough of her. But I was very glad to get us back home for a late, but much needed nap yesterday afternoon. We had a nice dinner of Chuseok leftovers and Grace went to sleep easily after blowing me a few kisses from her crib. It was great.
I was looking forward to spending today with just Sejin and Grace, but Sejin had another idea. He wanted to invite his parents for dinner. The conversation went something like this:

Sejin: I was thinking of inviting my parents for dinner.

Me: Uh, no. This is your only day off for quite a while. (He's working seven days a week due to intensive classes)

Sejin: Come on. You're leaving Korea soon. I want my parents to see Grace as much as possible.

Sarah: I understand that. Okay, they come over, I get my new camera next week.

Sejin: It's a deal.

Is that weird? I don't want it to sound like I don't like his parents. It's just that one full day was enough yesterday and I really didn't want them to come over today. We had already been out at Homeplus, I was sleepy, and just wanted a low-key afternoon...maybe a stroll and a light dinner and some TV before bed. Anyway, we came to an agreement.

It just rained

Yesterday was a really weird day here in Korea. It rained all day long. Of course you've experienced those days when it rains all day, with bouts of pouring with sprinkling in between. But yesterday -- no joke -- it rained torrentially from morning 'til night. The result was over 11 inches of rain. This is even more shocking when you remember that last month was supposedly the wettest August in one hundred years. I've certainly had my fill of rain for this year!

I lied. There was a brief time yesterday, some time around noon when it let up a wee bit and we jumped on the opportunity to take Grace out for a bit of a walk. Yes, it sounds crazy, but when she wants to go out, she really wants to go out. She will make you suffer if you don't take her. We were out for about 20 minutes and it started coming down hard again, so we headed back indoors.

Hat tip to CedarBough for the link to this blog with tonnes of impressive photos of the rain in Seoul yesterday! Wow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ball, rolling

I finally called the woman who owns the business I am interested in. I kept putting it off because the time difference is so great, and whenever I'd think of calling, it was late (or at least late for someone in their 80s). In short, the conversation was good, and we kept things pretty general. I wanted to introduce myself and express my interest over the phone because up until now my sister has been doing the talking for me. Phone conversation is not my strong point, but I think it went pretty well.

Now, not only do I have the urge to throw out everything I own and cut my hair, but I also have the urge to get on the next flight to Toronto so that I can start making things happen. Of course, this is just not possible. I even explained to the woman that I have immigration paperwork to finish for my husband and an apartment to unload. She seemed understanding, but naturally, she would probably like to get things moving sooner than later. I can understand that.

What I really can't wait for is to get there and sit down with a lawyer, accountant, or both and go over her books and see if this is really a good opportunity for us. I'm so helpless over here on the other side of the planet. And when you have this many things going on in your life, it is often hard to set priorities and get things done because you feel overwhelmed. So, here I am writing a pointless blog post.

First thing is first: immigration papers.

I end with a picture of Grace, who just can't wait to get going to daycare every morning. Thank goodness we have that place, somewhere she is safe, secure, and she gets to have fun and socialize. I'm so happy I stuck with the daycare decision.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The urge to purge

Yesterday evening when I got home from a long afternoon of teaching and Grace was finally asleep, I retired to the computer room, which is slowly being taken over by junk. I hardly had any room to put my sandwich and drink, and had to move stuff off the chair in order to sit down. The printer has been broken for months. I could not find a pen that worked.

Later, when folding and hanging laundry in the bedroom, I realized that most of my clothes in my wardrobes don't fit me. I have a stack of about seven pairs of jeans and pants that I can't even pull up. Looking to the piano, which has become my yarn storage shelf, I saw yarn that I would never knit up -- stuff I had purchased about five or six years ago when I started knitting.

Suddenly, I had this overwhelming urge to throw out about fifty percent of everything in my apartment: the broken old stroller, old bedding, all of my clothes that don't fit, ESL teaching materials I'll never use, toys of Grace's she hasn't looked at in months, cosmetic products I hardly ever use. This stuff adds up and piles up and you don't really notice it until it's overtaking you. Then I had another strange feeling, and that was the urge to cut off my hair, but I thought I'd wait and let a professional help me with that.

I'm very busy these days with book writing, teaching, and application work, but I think I'll have to start clearing out the junk one thing at a time, probably while Sejin's at work since he hates throwing things out.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I wish I could get more. But these days, I can't blame it on Grace, even if she is giving me a bit of a fight before bed. What happens is, I go to bed too late because I'm up writing the stupid coursebook and doing the stupid applications. Being on the computer for hours has me wired. I try to wind down for bed, but I just can't. I end up tossing and turning for hours, thinking about the silliest little details, like, I must email so-and-so to see if they have an address for that place, or I should check out baggage allowances for such-and-such airline. Stuff that doesn't matter right now, but it still keeps me awake. Sejin has been really great, and has been getting up with Grace in the morning and letting me sleep because he knows I'm not getting much during the night. This move is huge, and it's getting to me.

Tomorrow morning I'm calling the woman who owns the business I am interested in. My sister has been lovely and has been talking to her on my behalf. But it's time I introduced myself to really get the ball rolling. Are you curious yet? Well, I'm not going to give up many details because it may not work out anyway. This business would be great for me, but there's so much involved in taking it over, and this woman is a little on the eccentric side. She kindly wrote out all the financial details of the business in handwriting on a scrap piece of paper and gave it to my sister. spreadsheets. She doesn't even do email. The up side is that she's been in business 35 years, so she must be doing something right.

In the event that this does not work out, I've decided that I'm going to go to Canada anyway. It's just time. I think I can make something else work. I'm feeling much more optimistic that I was in the spring.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Learning!

I've been so frustrated with not having my DSLR camera yet. I really want to try out all these things I've been reading about. Today as I was doing some application work, I spied my Canon Powershot sitting just a couple feet away. Why not? I know that it has some manual settings, and a conversation CedarBough and I had yesterday popped into my head. She was talking about how her husband wants to learn about photography and has a slightly-better-than-average point and shoot camera, but doesn't use it on manual. Well, I have not done much with my camera, either! So I put it into manual and started fooling around. Lo and behold, I can do some cool stuff with it! I didn't even know I could adjust the flash strength, use manual focus, adjust the ISO, adjust the colouring for the type of lighting, and more. Of course, there are still a lot of limitations. I could not use a low f-stop in the dark room I was in, so the shutter speed was so long. I had to hold my breath and hope for minimal shaking. I guess this where a tripod comes in useful. Anyway, I took some practice pics of things on my desk using various settings. I suppose I'll have to learn what I can on my point and shoot until I can get my D5000. (The pictures below are by no means good pictures. Just the results of fooling around with different settings)

Thursday, September 9, 2010 taken!

I finally had someone other than ME take photos of my dear Grace. We would have loved to have gotten studio photos done when she was a baby, but they are not cheap. And to tell you the truth, the bulky knit hats (as much as I love knits), oversized teddy bears, and bad English on the walls doesn't get me excited anymore. I wanted some nice outdoor photos with her (and a few of us) looking natural.

It was almost a disaster, as it started to rain as CedarBough was arriving. But luckily, it did not pour. I think it worked out really well, actually, because it kept people away and the lighting was good. We didn't see many other people as we were taking photos down on the walking path. But I did see how difficult it is to take photos of really young children. They don't understand what you are trying to do, and they certainly don't care what background works better. Kids a little bit older would be easier to photograph because they could follow directions, even if only for a limited time. Anyway, I think it went well and I'm sure my friend got some good shots in. I will share a couple of my faves after she gets me the photos. I'm very, very excited.

After the shoot I took Grace to daycare. I planned on keeping her home today, but she was near total meltdown at 12:30 (nearing nap time) and asking for her friends using signs. As CedarBough said, it's nice that she actually enjoys going there. I was able to go and have a leisurely lunch with my friend and then return home to do some work. I'll have to go and pick her up soon.

The one and only bad thing about today is that it made me yearn even more to get my own DSLR (I will be purchasing the Nikon D5000, and lens choice is still up in the air). Sejin wants me to wait until next month, but I just want to get my hands on my camera so I can test out all these things I've been reading about. I really can't wait.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Application Hell

That's where I am these days. The stuff is getting done very slowly. It's a big job. The application I'm working on now is taking quite a while because they want start and end dates of the jobs I've worked in the last five years with addresses, phone numbers, and income. For the average ESL teacher, that might be okay, but I've done countless contracts with publishing companies, with teaching on top of that.

On the same application they want the addresses of everywhere I have lived in Korea. This is a tough one. I finally figured out I have had eight addresses here, but I no longer have the first four. I lived in Anyang for only one month, in Icheon Gyeonggi-do for four months, in Mapo-gu near Daeheung Station for one year, and in Ilsan Gyeonggi-do for one year. The first two I definitely cannot get. I could go to Daeheung and Ilsan to get the addresses, but I really don't have the time...and would they really refuse Sejin residency for the lack of a few addresses from over five years ago?

I think I'll have a small party on the day I mail the package to Mississauga.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another storm?

I heard a couple of days ago that another tropical storm is headed for Seoul. Unfortunately, it's true. It's supposed to hit Tuesday. It probably won't be as big as Kompasu, but still, I'm sick of the rain. It's raining and thundering right now as a matter of fact. Good thing we took Grace on a little outing this morning because we might be stuck inside this afternoon.

Speaking of Kompasu, I did not realize how many trees it uprooted along our little walking path here. Yesterday I took Grace out for grocery shopping and a walk, and saw lots of debris scattered eveywhere, and quite a few toppled trees. I've never been exposed to any really severe weather, like hurricanes, and I hope I never am. Wee little Kompasu is enough for me.Grace is just adorable these days, but she really has a mind of her own now. She wants to do whatever she wants and doesn't really care if I try to persuade her otherwise. We stopped to look at the river for a while and she couldn't understand why she couldn't just jump in. Then, trying to take her away from the river was even harder. The last straw when when we passed the playground to get to our apartment building. A perfectly nice outing ended in a full-blown tantrum. I guess no one said the toddler years were easy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

See ya, Kompasu

Violently rattling windows woke all of us up at 5:30am this morning. Grace was scared, and was rolling around in bed with us. Every time the wind picked up she would wimper, jump on me, and say "naning!" (raining). Important to note here is that it was our inside windows that were rattling. The veranda window was closed and the wind was still strong enough to shake them really good. Several car alarms were going the whole time, too. That was annoying. The power went out twice, but luckily it came back on pretty quickly both times.

The best part about it all is that it passed very quickly. A couple of hours and it was calm again. But there is debris all over the ground outside and I saw some men with a large piece of apartment roof in the parking lot. When Sejin took Grace to daycare (yes, after it died down, she just wanted to get the heck out of here) he said there was debris all over, some broken windows, trees, etc.

This was supposed to be a category 2 typhoon. I'd hate to be around for a category three. Right now the news on TV is filled with images of the destruction. Read more here.
I found this video on youtube. Some people cruising around the city streets during the typhoon. Whover the guy is driving should take up storm chasing. He sounds so excited.