A single sliver of moonlight illuminates the path ahead of me as I make my way up Yeongsil Trail on the northwestern side of Mt. Halla in the early hours of a chilly October morning.
There’s nothing but darkness on either side of me and I can hear the faint howls of wild animals in the distance. It’s a spooky place at night. But within the next 90 minutes it will turn into a photographer’s paradise.
I’ve hiked the trails of this beautiful park nearly a hundred times over the years. But, today my goal is to photograph Yeongsil and its brilliant fall colors in the soft, early morning light.
As I arrive at the top of the trail, dawn begins to break. I look around and realize that I’ve made a mistake. I’m up too high! It’s already too bright at the top and the spectacular, jagged cliffs that line the valley block much of the early light, leaving the colorful forest below enveloped in shadows.
I race half way down the trail to reposition myself for a better shooting angle as the sun begins to peek over the cliffs. Minutes later, sunshine streams between the giant pillars of stone above, flooding the valley with wonderful golden light. Patches of tall grasses and reeds explode with color in front of me and pockets of red, orange, and yellow pop up across the valley floor.
As I follow the light back down to the valley floor, I begin to concentrate on the colorful leaves. Shooting into the sun, the fiery reds, oranges, and yellows are incredible.
By chance, I come across across a small stream just a few meters from the main trail, hidden from view by thick bush. My jaw drops as I part the bushes. Small waterfalls cascade over boulders and empty into water ablaze with colorful reflections from the leaves above.
Mt. Halla at its finest.
Douglas MacDonald is a Canadian-born freelance photographer. He has spent 10 years documenting life and landscapes in South Korea. He is a Getty Images Artist. You can see more of his work at flickr.com/photos/dmacs_photos.
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