Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hong Kong in Half a Day

So I was in Hong Kong again. I subscribe to Cathay Pacific for business trips, so I always transit by the Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok airport. Somehow, flight schedules between Cebu and Surabaya or Bali are misaligned so I have no choice but to sleep overnight at Hong Kong. Not bad. It has been more than 2 years since I entered Hong Kong! Counting those 2 years as my entire flickr lifetime, I realize there begs the opportunity to take pictures of life in Hong Kong.

Having arrived almost midnight in my hotel at Kowloon last November 5, I decided to hit the sack promptly. I only have a good half day for a mini photographic tour the next morning. Getting up early is never my problem and to my utter surprise, at almost 6:40, while I was having a (cellphone) text exchange with my wife, the sun suddenly shot up behind the Kowloon cityscape. My room window is directly facing east after all! The unplanned sunrise shots then became my first official photos in Hong Kong for the day.

BP Intl_0003-3
phototip: For the unordained sunchaser: be quick. The sun rises so fast from the horizon that you would have little time with camera adjustments and composition. But ha! Note my too high an ISO below.
f/5.6, 0.002s, 300mm, ISO 400, +1/3eV
Kowloon, Hong Kong

But where should I go? The street markets? Hong Kong Central perhaps? There’s always that cable car thing somewhere- I’ve never tried that. The decision was made a day before the trip actually. When I googled Hong Kong, I was led to this nifty website I followed the Attractions link and clicked Hong Kong walks and voila, there it is, a cultural walk tour around 2 temples and an old walled city.

Excited that I was, breakfast melted into an afterthought of 2 hot buns from a corner deli. I even dug into it subterfuge, in the subway rides from the Jordan station to Wong Tai Sin. (I am not sure if Hong Kong, is anally hung as Singapore where eating in subway trains means a sizeable fine so I was discreet).

Wong Tai Sin, a fairly new temple built in 1973, is nestled on hilly ground. Definitely a popular destination, it already was crawling with tourists who come in by busloads. Brightly painted, heavily tiled and ornately decorated, it is visually attractive. There is also no paucity of chances if you are into incense shots. I must have smelled rank with sandalwood and camphor, having lingered there for almost 30 minutes. The only minus was the constant badgering of the volunteers (?) cum maintenance crew who continuously chase people who overstayed in the central court. Necessary for easy traffic I guess. But they cut down on my photo ops.

Wong Tai Sin
phototips: If you have a telephoto lens, shoot at the side of the main temple offering table to be less intrusive. Wait for the smoke to get thick and for a color-worthy subject, say this lady in red.
f/8.0, 0.005s, 180mm, ISO 100, -1/3eV
Wong Tai Sin, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Next, the website suggested a subway ride to the adjacent station in Lok Fu. Niggardly, and always wanting for exercise, I decided to take a hike. Problem was the map was not drawn to scale and street names are missing. After almost getting lost in a semicircle – Hong Kong highways are blocked from pedestrian crossings and skywalks are sparse in this part of the City– I found the main street Tung Tau Tsuen Road. The walk took me almost 30 minutes. I was a bit disappointed that there is not much to photograph along the way, the street scenes were too sterile and concrete for me, but at least finding the Hau Wong temple was easy, exactly at a corner junction, as illustrated in the map.

Surprise, surprise, this is no crowded temple. No one was there save for some caretakers. Strangely, I was too unnerved to go inside. Being NOT a Buddhist, I felt that I would be intruding into a holy space. I contented myself to photographing artifacts outside like the weapons and staff flanking the entranceway of the temple and the red cauldron with burning incense. Honestly, while this temple is reputed to date back to the 18th century, this can be skipped unless you are interested in photographing calligraphy and plaques. Unlike me, you would have to venture inside. Probably the caretakers would not mind some photography if you asked politely enough.

Hau Wong
phototip: For vibrant shots, choose a subject in red. Always a headturner!
f/5.6, 0.017s, 55mm, ISO 400, -1/3eV
Hau Wong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

To cap the cultural journey, the Kowloon Walled City Park is just across the temple. To trivia buffs, the old Kowloon Walled City is an enclave in the heart of Kowloon that remained under Chinese rule during British occupation. Therefore, it was infamous for lawlessness, grime and eventually, decay. In 1994, it was razed down by the government and turned into a park showcasing the original walls, gates and the Yamen courtyard. For photography, watch out for the traditional gardens and the circular moon gates. The Park is also a popular hangout place for retirees and senior citizens who chose to relax in the gardens, swap talks, play music (one old man was playing the flute fabulously!) and perform the tai chi (calisthenics). I was all agog though in capturing the Lung Nam pavilion set amidst a lagoon and a manmade falls.

Lung Nam
phototipTo create a dreamlike scene, try long exposure mid-day. Stack on your filters (the polarizer, UV, ND most particularly) and use the narrowest aperture. Wait for a breeze to capture the blur of the thrashing greens.
f/29, 4.0s, 25mm, ISO 100, +2/3eV
the Lung Nam Pavilion, the Kowloon Walled City Park, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China

Time was already catching up with me. Since I only need to check in for my flight to Surabaya before 1PM, I have to check out of the hotel before 12 noon. Actually made it back by 11AM. I didn’t mind spending some more time in the airport. Work, after all cannot wait, and Hong Kong is just corollary to my final destination: Indonesia.

And oh, I will be back in Kowloon on Nov 11, this time, only for the night. Nightime Kowloon in 2 hours? Now that is another challenge.

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Jennifer said...

I'm not sure how I found this blog, but if you are in Kowloon for 2 hours, go to Chungking Mansion for Indian food. It's the best you'll ever have, and Chungking is notoriously part of Hong Kong's seedy underbelly!

Oss said...

This is great stuff Farley, next year some time I want me and Ana to visit Hong Kong for a few days.
The problem was that I was going to have to do some research on the city in advance, this is a great starter..!

Bookmarked :)

j-ster said...

Wow, thanks Farl, Im really enjoying your tips, and your stories are interesting too! You are putting quite a bit of effort into this, aren't you!

I am taking a dSLR photography course at the moment, SO pleased to be at the end of study, back into the workforce and able to afford to improve my skills in less academic areas, and so your blog is helping me in that direction. Great timing!

I was wondering though, what does the final value refer to on your pics: +1/3eV? I understand verything else but I cant figure out what that refers to?

Farl said...

jennifer- I have heard a lot about the Chungking Mansion. Problem is, I only will have 10PM until midnight tomorrow. Maybe next time. Thanks!

Jim- glad to hear you and Ana will hit HKG next year.

j- The numbers refer to exposure compensation. Negative numbers mean you are are underexposing the shot. Positive, as in +1/3eV, refers to deliberately overexposing the pic. Check out the manual of your dSLR and email me if you needed help.