I recently returned from a week long trip in South Korea on a campaign with Samsung. Here I was a part of the NX Traveler tour and had the privilege of exploring some amazing locations, great company and absorbing the Korean culture. Although I obviously didn’t explore the whole country in one week, we still managed to cover some decent ground running south from Seoul and stopping at a few cities along the way before reaching Busan. I plan to do a more in-depth blog on the journey but until then I have compiled a list below of my three places I recommend you visit if you are ever in South Korea!

1. Damyang Bamboo Forest

Located down the south-west just outside Gwangju is a town called Damyang. Of all the places we went to, this was the one I was looking forward to most. I am a big fan of trees but had never been to a bamboo forest before. Prior to this, my only encounter with bamboo is at the dinner table back home with our bamboo placemats. Upon arriving here, a small walk up a hill led us to the entry for the forest. It is deceiving from the outside as you can’t really see how deep the forest is. Just after a few steps in, it became evident how dense and lush this place actually is. What I have always loved about photographing forests is that there is limitless composition choices and ways to shoot them. Whether you point up, down, shoot wide or narrow, close or far, there is no right or wrong and every way produces vastly different results. Despite the crowds over here, it was easy to walk off on my own and have some quiet time in the shadow of these swaying giants. One of the highlights was when the sun would make its way through the cloud and strike parts of the forest. It really brought the trees to life and added some depth to the scene. I think the best way to experience this place was to take your time and to make sure you regularly look up.

Will Patino - Damyang

I couldn’t resist being this shot to give some scale to the scene.

Will Patino - Damyang 4

Lined up like soldiers. Each is so similar yet unique in their own way.

Will Patino - Damyang 3

A 1-second exposure with an intentional upward panning of the camera to create this effect.

2. Suncheon Bay

With the widest reed bay in Korea, Suncheon Bay ecological park is a protected natural area located down the far south of the country. in Suncheon. Upon arriva,l it was raining and didn’t look like holding up. I was rather disappointed as there was a hike to a lookout that I was keen to shoot with the setting sun. In need of coffee, we headed to a nearby cafe instead. Not long after placing our order I noticed nice light hitting the interior of the cafe. I looked out to see the sun fighting its way through the grey. With only 20 minutes before sunset, I was torn between chasing the light or enjoying a warm cup. Like always, the light of course won me over and I found myself charging up the hill like a mad tourist. Somehow I managed to make it to the top of the 2km hike, much to the disgust of my calves, and I managed to witness a site I really thought I wouldn’t see. I’ve lost count of the times the sun has broken through the darkest of skies. You can’t ever doubt.

Will Patino - Suncheon 3

During my run I turned back to see how much longer I had and really couldn’t resist quickly setting up my gear to capture this before heading up the hill.

Will Patino - Suncheon

The grey departs as light makes its late but welcomed arrival.

Will Patino - Suncheon 2

I made it! I didn’t think I was going to get this opportunity. When you hear that little voice in your head telling you to go the extra mile, it’s usually worth listening.

3. Cherry Blossom Road – Suwon

One of the unexpected stops on this trip was to this tree lined road just outside of Seoul in Suwon. Being spring-time, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and not just here, but they were to be seen scattered throughout the entire country. As far as photographic opportunities, this street was virtually perfect. These trees are really something else and as the breeze passed by, the petals would drift to the earth like snow.

A street lines with cherry blossomsCherry Blossom Tree.

Will Patino - Seoul