About a month ago someone posted and event on the Seoulighters Facebook group page. The idea was a photo walk and the intentions to find rooftops to shoot cityscapes. Unfortunately the event was canceled but it was good for me because I was busy and wouldn’t have made it anyhow.
A week or so later the event was rescheduled and I happily agreed to meet everyone at the set location. The girl I believe to have instigated the meetup was a traveler from Australia. She showed up with a DSLR and an old Minolta 35mm camera both slung across the same shoulder. Apart from here there were 6 others including myself.
The first order was making a shot in the area where we had meet up. Like with a lot of group affairs no one wants to make a clear decision. a few of us agreed that we should go try from the top of a building across the street, having spotted that it had an external staircase.
The first floor stairs lead right up to the main entrance and past a larce CCTV camera. there was an A4 size sign on a weighted metal pole stand blocking the next set of stairs… what sign? and up everyone went.
At the top I was fairly content with the view I had but the others wanted to push up to the final peak which required climbing over the loudest creaking and rattling metal gate. it required holding and passing each persons bag over the top and the prospect of a straight drop down a flight of stairs.
Anyhow this is what I got from my view:
After this this young guy who had the weekend off from his mandatory military service said he knew this cool place where we could get a nice perspective of the city so we went back to the metro and popped out south of the river.
Problem was we were on teh wrong side of a major freeway, i’m talking like 8-10 lanes, with no pedestrian bridge or tunnel. one of the group members left earlier so we were 6 at this point. The guy leading at this point suggested a taxi and split into two groups of 3. Only somehow everyone who spoke korean ended up in one car.
I guess the other driver caught on and our cars arrived together infront of our target. Our “guide” said to put away our cameras and described the next series of actions. i felt like I was in some hollywood heist movie. “There will be a security guard…” When the three of us from the first car looked up the other three were gone and we only caught the first 6 words of his instructions.
We checked a door that lead to a staircase; nope, the escalator; nope, then there was a fogged glass sliding door that openned with the tap of a button near the door frame.
There it was, this hulking polished wood security desk but we diverted our eyes and instinct said make a left. There was this hotel lobby feel to the room we had just entered, a sort of tightly woven burgundy carpet with a golden pattern. An elevator door was just opening and a woman stepped out, we paused for a second to glance around for the other three and the doors clunked shut.
The elderly security gaurd now asked in Korean where we were going. one of our three pretended to not speak Korean and said hang on and looked on his phone for the phone number of someone from the other group. The other one said to a friend’s house on the 8th floor and I just kept my mouth shut.
The guy on the phone wandered off with the security guard. We pushed the elevator button and surprisingly the doors sprang open immediately. the two of us looked at eachother silently asking, “should we?”
We popped out on the 32nd floor and spiraled our way up another several flights of stairs until we came to a door that was cracked open. The temperature was noticibly colder. When we pushed back the door I immediately knew where I was; I had watched this video on youtube a few months back where a guy and girl snuck into some building to take pictures from the roof, only they took a different route and were much more lost than we were.
From this point it was only a few steps up some metal grate stairs to the Helicopter landing pad. The painted green surface was slippery due to some water and the railing around the roof seemed quite low, which made me even more nervous.
Trying to work my camera in that kind of adrenaline rush mixes with the cold makes me realize that I am not sure I could ever be a photographer in any sort of conflict zone. That reminds me of this cool video about Tyler Hicks, a New York Times photographer in Afghanistan and how he works in the field.
These are the two pictures I got from the rooftop: