View of Jeju Island © Ryu Chae-woo

A Photographer Captures Fairy-Tale Moments of Everyday Life
Does photographer Ryu Chaewoo own a one-of-a-kind iPhone? An ordinary moment magically becomes a dreamy scene from fairy tales when photographed with Ryu’s smartphone.
Although we live in a world where the surface of the Moon can be easily viewed with clarity thanks to the rapid advancements in the camera function of mobile phones, it is not such a simple task to take pretty photos. It is even more difficult to create high-impact photographs that stand out among many others.
There is a popular online photography course that teaches how to turn ‘Everyday moments into fairy-tale scenes, just with an iPhone.’ Reviews by the course participants include comments such as “I’ve discovered the colors that fit me.” and “Thanks to the class, I find photographing much more fun.” It makes you wonder if the course will truly help you take awesome pictures and enrich your trip experiences.
The instructor is Ryu Chaewoo(Ryufill) who made a name as a travel photographer on Instagram.
An ordinary travel destination that everybody has been to becomes the backdrop of a fairy tale that is unlike any other. His notable photograph of ‘Gwangalli Uyuni,’ which created quite a buzz on social media, and the one of Disneyland, appearing even more fantastic through his lens than it actually is, all emanate a sense of illusion. His work capturing the sea of Dadaepo was featured on Apple’s official Instagram account.

Gwangalli Uyuni © Ryu Chae-woo

Taking Fairy-Tale Photos at Travel Sites
On his Instagram channel, Ryu Chaewoo introduces himself as someone who “captures everyday life and adds touch-ups to photos for a fairy-tale ambience.” It would be a far stretch to call our daily living a fairy tale, but there certainly are those who live with fairy-tale memories of ordinary moments. Taking a step back from the perspective that emphasizes the importance of accurately portraying the reality in photography, Ryu believes that “Photography can create fairy tales.”
We interviewed him via email to hear his thoughts on traveling and travel photography.

Cherry blossom tunnel in Jinhae © Ryu Chae-woo

Beautiful landscape photo © Ryu Chae-woo

Q. What are some of the top shooting spots in Korea for you?
A. In spring, I like Jinhae, which is where I was born. In fall I like going to palaces in Seoul or to the famous ginkgo tree in Bangye-ri, Wonju. If I have to pick just one, I would say Ulleung-do Island. It offers an endless array of scenes that are not found in other parts of Korea. From the galaxy, sunrise, sunset, and twilight to the ocean and sky, Ulleung-do has an abundance of things you can photograph. It’s such a scenic place.

Q. What is your criteria in making a decision on a travel destination?
A. Good timing. It is essential for me to take pictures wherever I go, so I try to find a location that matches well with the season. Sometimes the weather affects my destination. After the Covid-19 pandemic, I tend to stick to relatively less-crowded places for my trips.

Q. What’s the first thing you do after unpacking at your accommodation when you go on a trip?
A. I enjoy taking a leisurely walk with a camera in hand. When I’m pressed for time, I go directly to the shooting location, but normally I take time to think about the kind of emotion the place evokes in me as I walk around my lodging.

A picture of Seoul that is nothing like Seoul © Ryu Chae-woo

Q. What’s the first thing you check before the photo shoot at a travel venue?
A. I check the area’s landscape and see how the light flows there, first. Understanding which part of the village gets a good natural light in relation to the time of day and figuring out where the sun would set that day are important in creating quality photographs. I tend to predetermine the sites for sunset, morning, afternoon, and night shootings.

Q. Where can we find a good photo shoot venue in Jeju Island?
A. I find sunset photographs appealing, so I like to shoot on Sinchang Windmill Coastal Road that runs along the western edge of the island. The declining sun, wind turbines, and the sea often create a picturesque ensemble. I recommend the course to many people.

Q. We’d also like to know any overseas photo spots you want to recommend.
A. I still find Paris most charming. It’s where my dream of traveling across Europe was born. When I first stood in front of the Eiffel Tower or on top of the Arc de Triomphe to see the Eiffel Tower with the glow of sunset, my heart was bursting with happiness.

View of Paris © Ryu Chae-woo

Q. When did you start taking travel photographs in earnest?
A. I like to travel and capture moments spontaneously, so I have always enjoyed taking pictures with my mobile phone. I was more focused on how to capture moments, reminding myself of the type of photos that brought me joy later on, rather than trying to produce professional works. In 2018, I studied photography using various models of cameras before embarking on a trip to Europe. After my camera bag got stolen in the early days of the trip, I began using a mobile phone to take photos.

At a fairy tale-like Disneyland © Ryu Chae-woo

Photoshoot Skills and Retouching Techniques
Q. The place in your photograph is real, but has a fairy-tale vibe. Why do you add such effects?
A. The retouching is done because I personally do not like dark photographs. I also capture the moment that I find the object pretty, and that often results in a dreamy photograph. I want people who see my works to feel the same happiness that I feel when I snap the photos. Sometimes it makes me keep retouching them until it is a bit more than necessary.

Q. You became famous through a work of yours.
A. The photo’s known as ‘Gwangalli Uyuni.’ Also, the photos I took at Disneyland in Paris and at Dadaepo Beach became viral on Instagram, with the latter having been featured on Apple’s official channel. 

Sunset at Dadaepo Beach © Ryu Chae-woo

Q. With travel photos, which aspects do you give the most thought to?
A. My first thought is about whether there is light. I try to shoot in a space with ample light. Then I think about where my imaginary horizon would be. Horizontal and vertical lines that are out of place disturb me. I also try to take more vertical photographs for my Instagram feed.

Q. What motivates you to take photos with a smartphone camera?
A. It is convenient to use since I always carry my phone. It is also best in capturing the ‘beauty of fleeting moments’ that I highly value. The smartphone camera function has come such a long way that by taking simple learning courses on retouching or photography, anybody can take great travel and everyday photos.

Q. What is your best-known work?
A. I think probably the sunset at Dadaepo featured on the Apple channel. I use hashtag #Shotoniphone to present my photos, and Apple contacted me to ask for permission to use my photo on their official Instagram account. It probably got the most likes among my works.

Q. Do you have a principle for retouching photographs?
A. I believe that what you feel at the moment of taking a photograph should be considered during the retouching stage. I try to avoid dark photos, and prefer low-contrast works as opposed to vivid photos with high contrast.

Q. What should be considered when photographing landscapes, people, and objects?
A. Landscape photography expresses the harmony between the day’s weather condition and surroundings, while portrait photography captures the moment that best delivers the subject’s unique personality. The rapport between the photographer and the subject is very important. In taking a picture of an object, the focal point must be placed appropriately according to what the photograph is intended for. I also think it should have a neat background.

Q. Do you have specific photographs you want to take during this Europe trip?
A. I plan on recording the year-end festive atmosphere of the U.K. and other European cities. I want to convey how I feel in the faraway place called Europe, and create works that will help with the nostalgia that many people feel these days due to the travel restrictions.
January 2022 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Cooperation: Ryu Chaewoo

Where to stay?

  • January 2022
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
  • Cooperation: Ryu Chaewoo
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