The national government designated the Jeju Fire Festival a “promising” festival for 2014 and it delivered over the weekend. The festival was held over three days and despite high winds, chilly temperatures and fears of cancellation, Saebyeol Oreum was successfully set aflame shortly after sunset on Sunday evening.
Hundreds gathered and huddled in Bongseong-ri, Aewol-eup, on March 9 to witness the finale and amongst them was The Jeju Weekly’s photographer, Douglas MacDonald. MacDonald has covered the event numerous times over the years and is always drawn back by the spectacle on offer.
“After the sun sets, a countdown ensues, fireworks explode at the top of the mountain, and the torchbearers rush forward and light the hay bales. The hay bales and the wishes attached to them go up in flames representing the burning away of bad luck from the previous year and clearing the path for good luck in the year to come,” he said.
In previous years, MacDonald has positioned himself at the oreum foot, but this year he opted to cover the event from a higher vantage point.
“Many of the pictures are from above the festival rather than at street level. I’ve always wanted to get pictures of the whole scene. I had to get to the lookout at 4 p.m. and wait three hours for the fire lighting to start. I couldn’t leave my spot as somebody would take it. I arrived first and had the best position,” MacDonald added.
More of his work can be found at his Flickr page here.
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