There are a couple things I love about winter. I love the cold weather, the clear days when I can feel the winter chill and see the cool tint of the full winter sun. Even though I don’t get the opportunity all that often, I love snow tubing. When I was a kid I used to ski on occasion, but I don’t do that now, and I never learned to snowboard. However, sledding/snow tubing is a lot of fun, and I like speeding down the mountain in a rubber tube. Korea does have its ski resorts, but I’ve never been THAT motivated to go deep into the mountains to get my sledding fix.
However at some of the Seoul amusement parks, they set up small sledding parks for fun. It’s nothing like black diamond sled runs or anything like that, but it allows you to get your winter play fix conveniently. I chose to go to Everland, which is the same amusement park I went to for my Halloween jollies back in the fall. Everland was a good choice, because they simultaneously had their Snow Festival and their Romantic Illumination Festival. And since night illuminations are another thing I love about winter, I couldn’t pass it up.
I had the opportunity to go to Everland on a Monday, which proved to be a very fortuitous choice. I figured there wouldn’t be THAT many people there, because most people would be at work or school. I was definitely right, because compared to what I’ve seen on the weekend, the park was practically deserted. Most of the rides were open (though not their biggest thrill rides, because it was winter), but I was only there for two reasons: to sled as much as possible, and to enjoy night illuminations after darkness fell.
There were three sledding runs available: the Snow Buster for little kids only, the Jungfrau a gentler sled run, and the Eiger, which is for older kids/adults. Yes, there were height requirements to go sledding here, and attendants actually had a measuring stick to ensure little kids were tall enough. The sled runs are very straightforward. You get towed up to the top of the hill in your tube, and then you slide down, turn in your tube, get in line to get another one, and do it again. The only difference between the Jungfrau and the Eiger sled runs, is that the Eiger is a bit steeper and longer, so you get more speed and the thrill is a bit greater.
I did a few runs on the Jungfrau just to warm up. This sled run had more people, because it was easier and little kids could ride it. I have a feeling that the line to get a tube and up the hill on the weekend can get rather long, but since this was a Monday, it only took about 10-15 minutes to wait.
Afterward, I moved up the hill to the Eiger sled run, where I could get much more speed. This was where the sparse attendance really paid off. Basically there was no line to get a tube. It took longer to be towed to the top, than to get an inner tube. I was able to be towed up to the top, slide down, and immediately get a new tube to go back up again. I took advantage of all this to just continually do sled runs until I got too hungry.
After dinner, the sun was setting, so it was just a matter of time before it got dark enough to really enjoy the night illuminations at their gardens. Since it is the middle of winter, there were no actual flowers in the garden, and all the delicate plants were wrapped in thick straw to protect them from the weather. This was a good opportunity to take some beautiful low light pictures. I particularly enjoyed all the different gardens around Seoul that offer night illuminations during the winter. It may be very cold at night, but it just adds to the beauty of the setting.
The illuminated gardens offered up a castle fountain, a fairy tale carriage, wide variety of trees, faux marble columns, and the like. Because it was a weekday, the park closed earlier than it does on weekends, but it was more than enough time to see everything and take it all in. And since it was a weekday, I didn’t have to fight hordes of people to take pictures.
I recently started working with the manual settings on my DSLR, because I’m taking a digital photography class to improve my skills. Up until now, I’ve only used the automatic settings on my camera, but this trip was a good opportunity to try the manual settings to experiment with ISO, shutter speed and f/stop.
I decided to take pictures on my night landscape setting and then experiment with manual settings to see the difference. Since this was a low light setting, it was critically important that manual settings allowed for the camera to capture enough light. This was my first go at it, and it was OKAY. I quickly discovered that using an ISO setting of 800 with my other manual settings wasn’t getting the job done, so I bumped it up to ISO 3200. I knew this wasn’t ideal, because the higher the ISO setting, the more grain in the picture. I ended up adjusting the f/stop down as low as my camera lens would allow (f3.8), which certainly did have a noticeable positive difference.
I didn’t realize my biggest mistake until later when I was able to examine the settings on my pictures taken with the night landscape setting and compare them to what I had for my manual setting pictures. I knew that my ISO was higher than desirable, but I had the f/stop correct. However, I was WAAAY off with the selected shutter speed. I had my camera set for 1/125, which is way too fast for a low light setting. My night landscape setting photos had a shutter speed of 1/8, which is much slower to allow more light in.
So the day was a productive one. I got all my snow tubing jollies out of my system. I got to enjoy the delightful night illuminations that make me feel that I was walking in a winter fantasy land. And it was a good opportunity to learn more about what my camera is capable of, and what I need to do to take beautiful night photos.