Photo Album 2015 week 42: Re-visiting Dongdaemun Design Plaza

A set of images that I have spent countless times re-processing. Hopefully, this will be the last. Here I am re-visiting images of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza from 2014 again.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Exterior 1

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 2Nikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO 100

First, some background. I visited Seoul during the start of summer in 2014. I did not have a well though-out itinerary. The plan was just to spend three days in a Christian prayer and fasting facility, then spend a few days in Seoul and tour the city as we like. The pattern of movement will of course be mainly motivated by the ladies’ shopping instincts. πŸ˜› In fact I stumbled on the Dongdaemun Design Plaza totally by accident, and had the good fortune to be able to spend a scant two-three hours here. Probably too short for architecture fans and photographers.

You can find out more about the Dongdaemun Design Plaza from its official website. It is strategically located within Seoul’s urban district, and extremely well-connected with underground subways, shopping malls, shopping districts and roads. It serves as a space for public and commercial exhibitions and activities. Designed by Zaha Hadid, it is truly an architectural marvel. A pity I did not have an opportunity to move around and take more pictures of this place.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Exterior 2

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 1Nikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO 100

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Exterior 3

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 7Nikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/40, ISO 100

This place is as amazing to behold inside as it is to behold outside. However for all the architectural genius on display for all to see and enjoy, the interior is challenging to photograph and reproduce. This is because we have a lighting nightmare within the building. A human visitor who steps in will not notice anything amiss, because the combination of our eyes and brain makes the most amazing HDR device in existence. A visitor will just automatically adjust to all the lighting inconsistencies. However to a photographer that wants to paint that light into images, this is a challenging task. Let me list the difficulties.

  • The interior is predominantly white. However the lighting is predominantly warm. Some spaces use cool lights. Some spaces have cool daylight streaming in. Welcome to a white balance nightmare.
  • There are locations with cool lighting that look better that way. However there are locations with warm lighting that look better that way. Now we also have a white balance colour consistency problem if we want to select the best images from different locations.
  • Interior lighting is designed to reduce glare since the interior is already white. This makes visitors more comfortable, but also introduces a ton of shadow regions that are an eyesore in an architectural photograph.

The challenge is quite profound. Should I white balance everything to white? Should I use the “natural” warm light? How much of that warm light am I prepared to show in an image without making the walls look like they were painted yellow? Should I create an album of images with mixed white balance? How much post-processing am I prepared to do to fill in all those ugly shadow regions without feeling that the editing has gone excessive?

I finally decided on letting a bit of that warm colour creep in, as opposed to tuning everything pure white. Purists may prefer it white, but reality says it isn’t. So I came to a sort of compromise and arrived at these set of images that generally tuned all images towards white while retaining the warm look. Hope you enjoy them while we take a little tour of the DDP. Remember I only managed to spend more than 2 hours here, and much of the time was also spent exploring and appreciating the exhibits.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Information Counter

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Information CounterNikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO 3600

Yes, my ISO settings are wrong. πŸ˜› The information counter occupies a little space of its own.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Interior 1

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Interior CorridorNikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/40, ISO 1600

The interior is clean, modern, even futuristic. Everything you would expect from an imagined building from a “city of the future”.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Interior 2

Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Interior 5Nikon D610, 28mm, f/6.3, 1/40, ISO 1600

A unique feature of the DPP’s main building is this circular corridor that runs from basement 2 to the top, which is either level 4 or 5 – I cannot recall. It just encircles the building’s perimeter, with halls and rooms located in the center. Entrances at different levels open up to new areas located within the center. You would have walked a kilometer or two when you reach the top level. There is of course, a more convenient central staircase and elevators for those who feel too tired for this type of novelty.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Interior 3: Friendly Guide

Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Interior 5Nikon D610, 28mm, f/6.3, 1/40, ISO 1600

The interior corridor could go quite long. There are some friendly guides stationed around in case visitors get claustrophobic and starts panicking. Good idea!

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Roof: Friends Together

Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Interior 8: Resting GalleryNikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/60, ISO 200

There is an empty “inspirational” space on the roof just for visitors to just sit, look at the scenery and contemplate.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Central Staircase

Dongdaemun Design Plaza: Photographing The Central Staircase

This is the famous central staircase. Just do an image search and you will see plenty of pictures of it. So plentiful that I have decided not to include a contribution here… πŸ˜› Besides, I would have preferred to take a picture with something wider than a 28mm.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Exterior Staircase

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 8Nikon D610, 28mm, f/8, 1/100, ISO 100

Another famous staircase. Again, so well known that you can just do an image search and you will see plenty of pictures of it. So instead of taking another photograph that everyone has seen before, I took a photograph of someone else photographing it. πŸ˜‰

Dongdaemun Design Plaza Exterior 3: Connected

Dongdaemun Design Plaza 6Nikon D610, 28mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO 100

As I mentioned before, DPP is very well connected with underground tunnels, roads, and under-passes such as this. If after reading this far, you realized that every image in this album is made with a 28mm lens, congratulations for being observant! All pictures were taken with a Nikkor AF-S 28mm f/1.8 G. It was the widest wide-angle lens I had at the time and served me very well, though I knew I missed some unique shots because I did not have something with a wider focal length. I have since augmented my lens options with a Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-5.6 in 2015.

This pretty much concludes my brief tour of DPP. I did not get a chance to visit any exhibition as my visit was brief and I was not prepared to pay the entry fees, since I pretty much stumbled onto this place by accident and did not factor the costs of entry into my travel budget. I did not explore the main exhibition and event halls. If you are interested to visit, go to its website to find out more. Even if you find it uninteresting after an hour or two, it is still located in the middle of a prime shopping area, so it is unlikely that you cannot find something else to entertain you.

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