Jirisan, and a new camera

What better place to test out a new camera than Jirisan in the fall.

Yep, I finally did it. I plunked down 1.5 million won and bought my first HD videocamera, a Sony SR11. For the first week or so I was afraid to take it out of the house. But I gave it its first full test this weekend in Jirisan, a beautiful expanse of temples, mountains, and village culture.

This wasn’t my first trip there. I went during Chuseok last year and visited Ssanggyesa temple. This time we went to Hwaeomsa, intending to take a nice hike. But as we entered the temple, I noticed a banner that read “Spiritual Music Ritual 2008.” The date was Oct. 25. Hey, that’s today, cool. We made our way into the temple and found people handing out programs and leading us into the concert area. The show was almost ready to begin.

We found our way to a clearing on some stone steps with a great vantage point for the concert. A bell rang out and a procession of monks filed into the front rows of seats. One monk played a huge drum and then another rang a massive bell with a log on a chain. The actual show began with some 12-15 musicians arriving on stage and singing a kind of chant. Apparently this was all of the performers for the day. There was a white girl, an Indian sitting at a tabla set, two Turks, and a lot of Koreans.

The music was absolutely amazing, particularly the singing. These were some immensely talented vocalists doing things no human should be able to do.

The next day we went for a long drive through the countryside, on our way to a “stone village.” We got kind of sidetracked at one point and came across an odd area in the middle of nowhere covered with… I guess you’d call them scarecrows, but they were meant to depict different aspects of traditional Korean culture. There were scenes of regular village life, musicians playing, children playing, plus a couple of historical and political depictions. It was all a little eerie because there weren’t really many people or houses nearby. You got the feeling that these effigies were once real people who had been put under some kind of spell.

We later drove for another hour or so to the stone village. I think it’s called 삼성궁. It was a beautiful place, surrounded by strange rock sculptures, ponds, and all the vivid colors of fall. The first thing you see is a very large duck.

It’s amazing what happens when you climb into a car and just go. None of what we saw and did was planned in advance. Sometimes those are the best weekends.

As for my camera, I’m still trying to figure it out. I was playing with exposure and focus settings trying to get a feel for it. The shots looked great on my LCD screen, but I’m somewhat underwhelmed with the results. I took a lot more video than stills, and I’m hoping the quality is much better. Sadly, I can’t get video into my computer because I need a Final Cut Pro update to version 6.0.3. I’m learning that HD is a whole other world from SD.

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