Freedom in the foliage

by Dylan Goldby
Groove Korea (

Namiseom glows in autumn

Marco Devon uses photography as a way to keep himself occupied while traveling, and the process of seeking out interesting subjects and eye-pleasing angles helps anchor him to the present moment. While the South African opts for street photography and portraiture over landscape photography, he finds inspiration at the golden hour in Namiseom in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province.

Groove Korea: Introduce yourself: the man and the photographer.

Marco Devon: I’m from South Africa and used to be a network engineer before becoming an English instructor in South Korea. I started photography in 2012. I knew absolutely nothing about photography at the time; I just enjoyed looking at images for hours on end. Eventually, I decided to actively pursue photography as a means to keep my mind occupied while being in another country by myself, and it basically snowballed from there. I really appreciate and respect art tremendously, which is why I try to incorporate it into my images as often as I can.

I’ve never really been a fan of landscape photography, but street photography and portraiture is another story. That (type of work) really gets me excited because I feel like I can engage with it more on a personal level.

Why visit Namiseom at this time of year?

Namiseom is great to visit in the fall because of the beautiful display of foliage. The autumn leaves have already started appearing, and coupled with a beautiful surrounding landscape they really are spectacular.

I wish I could tell you a time to go to Namiseom when it isn’t busy, but unfortunately such a time doesn’t exist. The island served as the main filming location for the TV show “Winter Sonata,” which aired in 2002. As a result, it’s inundated with tourists, particularly Japanese and Chinese people as the show was most famous in those countries.

Do you have any favorite spots on the island that lend themselves well to photography?

There are many, many good spots. The lanes are all very aesthetically pleasing, and there is even a main stage where concerts are held. I had the luxury of watching an amateur band there once, which was followed by a magic show.

I enjoyed the Hands-on Learning Center, too. You can get up close and personal with glass makers and potters. As a photographer, you can always appreciate it when the subject you’re photographing doesn’t care if you’re pointing a lens at them. So for me, that was my favorite place to shoot because it was far more interesting.

What’s the best time of day to shoot Namiseom and why?

I would seriously recommend late afternoon, just before golden hour. There are many trees, which means a lot of shadows that are very harsh and distracting, but the golden hour makes the island come alive. I find it more intimate during that time. That’s not to say that other hours are a definite “no”; I just had very little inspiration to shoot some areas during the day.

While it’s an easy day trip from Seoul, how can one make a weekend trip out of Gapyeong?

While at Namiseom, all the adrenaline junkies can give Zip Wire a try. The island and surrounding areas, including Cheongpyeong Lake in Gapyeong, also have many options for water sports.

If you’re after something more chilled out, then hopping over to the Garden of the Morning Calm is a must. There is a beautiful light display at night during the winter.

If you like museums and want to feel like you’re in France, then check out Petite France. It’s small but worth a look. They have occasional performances and exhibitions. I would recommend checking the schedule before visiting, though.  

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