Written and photographed by Joe Wabe
For one growing up in a tropical climate, autumn was only something you would see on television. Back then, it looked like one of the most romantic seasons of the year, with all the fallen leaves, the big pumpkins, and beautiful colors painted all over the trees. This beautiful season was actually called “harvest” a couple of hundred years ago, and the beautiful bright moon that commonly smiled during autumn was essential for farmers harvesting their late-year crops.
I moved to Korea many (many) harvest moons ago, but no matter how many there have been, every year I’ve enjoyed this season to the fullest, especially during the years of my journey through photography. This transitional season – from extreme summer heat to extreme winter cold – is a wonderful time to meditate and reflect about our marvelous world, not only because of the colors of the leaves but also because the afternoons are full of amazing intensity and nightly walks are accompanied by a brighter than usual aura.
What a nice treat autumn is, in particular, after all our juices have been drained by the heat and humidity of the cruel Korean summer.
For the past six, maybe seven, years, my friends and I have traveled to enjoy the foliage of Baegyangsa in Jeollanamdo as a photographer’s one-day field trip. Due to global warming, the color shift has become a bit unstable and usually comes later than it did in years before. Although we have never been able to arrive in time to see the full foliage, we have managed to arrive to enjoy enough of it. The abundance of reds, oranges, and yellows are a delicacy for our cameras, and the playground is filled with millions of leaves to have fun with.
Last year, because of my work, I wasn’t able to team up with anyone for the yearly photo trip and ended up just glimpsing at the foliage through the glass of my car while commuting. I didn’t think I missed a lot; “after all, I’ve seen it over and over for many years,” I told myself. But I was wrong…
This year, out of the blue, my friend Abe asked if we were going to make the trip, and I agreed without hesitation. I didn’t really put much thought into it like we had in previous years, when we planned it a bit more thoroughly.
The day came; I woke up late, picked up Abe, and drove up to Mudeung Mountain sometime after lunch.
On the way up, we made our first stop to enjoy the beautiful view of the city landscape from above and the amazing range of colors that were scattered all over the mountains. At this point, I realized how much I’d missed being in direct contact with the foliage, with the colors, and with autumn in its full spectrum. After the breathtaking view, we made it to the park half an hour later; the wind was blowing hard and a world of leaves dancing in the air made me appreciate the moment even greater. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing what we have loved doing for many years: capturing the color of the moment with our cameras while being mindful of its preciousness.
No matter how many autumns have passed and how many are to come, there definitely will never be one like any other, and they all come to create a very special place in our memory.
Joe Wabe is an established photographer and Gwangju local business entrepreneur. He has been contributing to GIC and Gwangju News for more than eight years.