Exploring Gampo: A Hidden Gem
For a while, I was seeing some amazing photos of these rocky formations out at sea. I had always assumed that they were further up the coast around Samcheok or somewhere like that. It seemed that many Korean photographers knew about these places and I was at a loss to try and find out where they were.
Then a fellow photographer named Brian Kim, introduced me to this area near Gyeongju a few years ago. It was amazing and also perfect for my side project photographing lighthouses. The area was located in front of the Songdaemal Lighthouse in the small village of Gampo.
A Peaceful Place
One of the first things that I noticed about Gampo was the fact that it was so quiet in the mornings. It was a place that I usually catch the sunrise and at that time, there are usually very few people around. If there are, they are usually tucked in behind a camera too.
Small villages like this are something that many people don’t see when they arrive in Korean and hit Seoul or Busan. These villages are typically centered around the port and the fishing industry. You won’t find large supermarkets here. Just the local marts and perhaps a GS25 convenience store.
It’s that sort of small town charm that keeps me coming back, aside from the stunning seascapes and the lighthouses. One of the times that I went, an elderly man approached as I was capturing one of the most interesting lighthouse designs out there. We had a short chat and he sad that the next time that I was coming through to pop in for a coffee, gesturing at his little shack by the port. It was a simple kind gesture but it sort of showed the nature of the kind of people out there.
What brings most people out to the area are usually the rocks that jut out of the water near the Songdaemal Lighthouse. During the sunrise, which is arguably the best time to photograph here, it makes for a wonderful and dynamic shot.
The rocks also make it a perfect place to get in nice and tight and with a long enough exposure, make a really out of the world shot. So you are not just limited to scenic shots with a centred horizon that a few photographers do. There is enough variety to really experiment with the scene a bit more.
This was one of the things that really amazed me. In this area along there are about 3 distinct lighthouses with unique designs. This really can only be surpassed by Gijange. However, these lighthouses all share the historical themes linked to Gyeongju.
Not to mention that you also have a piece of history with one of the oldest lighthouses in the area standing right next to Songdaemal. For a person that is interested in these amazing structures this is a special place.
An interesting note is that there is actually a button to ring the bell on the lighthouse that is shaped like the bells found at buddhist temples around Korea. So it is actually functional in that respect too!
The bottomline is that places like this are really off the beaten path but are so worth the visit. Gampo is located about just over an hour from Busan and about 2 hours or so from Daegu.
Here is a link to the Songdaemal on Kakao Maps to help you locate it and get directions. Don’t forget that if you are driving out there, the Kakao Maps app is in English and the navigation is also in English. This app is extremely useful in finding locations like this.