▲ Dawn on Dragon’s Teeth Ridge, Hallasan National Park. Photo by Kim Bong Sun. Courtesy Korea National Parks Service
Dawn breaks over Gongnyong-neungseon Ridge (Dinosaur Ridge) in Seoraksan National Park, revealing endless layers of mountains capped by majestic, knife-shaped peaks surrounded by fog. A jaw-dropping image of one of Korea’s most famous parks and a view I’m familiar with, having visited the park in the northeast of the Korean peninsula last fall.
I flip the page and I am met by an equally stunning shot of the park, this time in winter at nearby Yongajangseong Ridge (Dragon’s Teeth Ridge). Mounds of snow cover a massive tree, a line of jagged rocks topped with rolling fog providing a distant backdrop.
As if the first photo wasn’t enough, just two pages later I see another incredible view of a mist-covered Gongnyongneungseon Ridge (also featured on the cover), sunlight mixing with clearing fog creating an almost otherworldly effect.
▲ the power of the seasons. Mt. Sobaek.Photo by Cho Gi Yong. Courtesy Korea National Parks Service
It’s an impressive start to “Top 100 Natural Wonders of Korean National Parks,” a large and heavy coffee table photo book by the Korea National Parks Service. This 200-page behemoth, which is divided into five chapters (Northern, Southern, and Central Baekdudaegan Range, Marine and Coastal Parks, and National Parks in Urban Areas), is filled with remarkable photos of some of the nation’s most scenic landscapes.
Each chapter begins with a quick summary of the highlighted national park and pictures are captioned throughout with interesting and relevant information.
But, it’s the photos that steal the show, in particular the double-page panoramas of Korea’s many mountainous vistas. Seoraksan’s Ulsanbawi Rock towers over a forest lit with wild fall colors, a light dusting of snow on its peaks. A sparkling, silver river snakes through a narrow valley crammed between a mountainous landscape in the cold, early morning light in Jirisan National Park, which is in the southern part of the peninsula. Jeju’s own Baeknokdam Crater provides us with a dizzying view high atop Mt. Halla, with its trees and rocky ridges covered in snow and illuminated by the pinkish glow of sunrise.
▲ Mt. Seorak’s Dinosaur Ridge. Photo by Ahn Chung Ho. Courtesy Korea National Parks Service
Motivated by the great works of art displayed in this book, I recently embarked on my own journey up South Korea’s highest peak (1,950 meters) right here on Jeju Island. Trekking at dawn along the 9.5 km Seongpanak trail on the eastern side of Mt. Halla, excitement turned to trepidation as I was met with severe weather conditions: very cold temperatures, fog, and blowing snow which caused an almost total whiteout as I approached the summit.
I nearly turned back but braved the worst of it and was rewarded with clearing skies and fantastic early morning light at the top. As the mist began to lift I was able to take a series of landscapes that show off the mountain’s incredible winter beauty.
I find myself returning to the book again and again to look at its images, inspiring me to visit and photograph more of these beautiful places. It is a wonderful testament to Korea’s incredible natural beauty. What more could you ask for in a photo book?
With 10 years on Jeju, reviewer Douglas MacDonald shares a few of his own photos of Hallasan National Park.
1) Early morning light shines on the rocky backbone of Baeknokdam Crater on the Seongpanak trail. 2) Clearing fog over Gwaneumsa Valley. 3) Afternoon sunshine bathes the rocky pillars of Baeknokdam Crater at the top of Mt. Halla. Photos by Douglas MacDonald
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Clearing fog over Gwaneumsa Valley. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
Afternoon sunshine bathes the rocky pillars of Baeknokdam Crater at the top of Mt. Halla. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
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