Peng Chau island: an oasis in Hong Kong

Everybody knows Cheung Chau and its crowded streets. Now go a bit outside of the beaten path and you may come across Peng Chau island, a small island which feels pretty much more like an oasis.

Originally, a lime production center

Until the 1970’s, Peng Chau was a bustling area of industrial production for two main products, namely lime and matchsticks.

Lime was obtained by burning oyster and clam shells, corals, to produce the final material which was then used in various other industries. After the 1950’s lime was used less and less in construction, and eventually the lime kilns went out of business.

The matchstick production faced a similar fate when disposable lighters appeared in the 1970’s. Today, all that remains are old buildings (which I did not visit on this occasion).

View by drone on the ferry pier of Peng Chau
View by drone on the Ferry Pier of Peng Chau

An excellent light hike path

Cheung Chau might be appreciated and invaded by tourists, but Peng Chau has nothing to envy to its big neighbor. Actually, it might be worth saying that Peng Chau beats Cheung Chau by the peace on the island. Being a small island, the area to cover is pretty limited, but with less tourists around it is much more pleasant.

Beach in Peng Chau
Nothing beats the deserted beaches of Peng Chau

Nothing beats thus the deserted beaches of Peng Chau. Nothing to do with the crowds of Cheung Chau and the numerous glass pieces that can be found along the beach.

The island built a very convenient hiking path which was a pleasure to trod barefoot. You can also climb up to the Finger Hill view point on stairs which are quite easy to hike upon.

The Old Fisherman’s rock

One of the landmarks of the island, at its northern end is the “old fisherman’s rock”, a balanced rock formation, a bit similar to the one found in Tap Mun island.

This place is easily reached after 20 min-1/2 hour walk from the ferry pier. The interesting part of this rock is the view it affords on both, discovery bay (Disneyland) on the other side and the Tsing ma bridge in the distance.

Nearby, there is an even more secluded beach, where I managed to stumble upon a scene directly taken out from the 1950’s… A young lady smoking a cigarette in the middle of the sea.

Smoking beauty
A young lady smokes a cigarette in middle of the waves

A small island

Cheung Chau is said to be small, but it seems that Peng Chau is quite smaller. This is best understood when looking at it from a drone.

Peng Chau by drone
As can be seen, the relative size of Peng Chau is very comparable to Cheung Chau

The main island is connected by a land bridge to a tiny island called “Tai Lei”, on which are hosted most of the utilities for the island. BTW, there are no cars at all on Peng Chau, which makes it absolutely lovely.

Tai Lei island by drone
Tai Lei island by drone

On the opposite side of the Ferry pier, there is a, inviting beach inside a cove.

Peng Chau main beach
Peng Chau’s main beach

One warning however: there is a large infestation of big cockroaches all over the beach’s wall. Seem they have a huge pest problem on the island, and by the behavior of the insects they are not very scared of humans.

At night, that beach provides the ideal setting for some night photography with a magnificent view on the Tsing Ma bridge.

Tsing Ma bridge seen from the Peng Chau beach
The Tsing Ma bridge seen from the Peng Chau beach.

How to get there?

Getting to the island is pretty easy. You must go to pier number 6 in Central, and from there catch one of the two hourly ferries. It takes roughly 40 mins to navigate until Peng Chau, but the island itself is covered in half a day, depending on your walking speed.

The Mavic 2 Pro unveiled

There was not much to know about the Mavic 2 pro, or rather the “Mavic 2” as DJI has dubbed it. Nevertheless, this last piece of technology from DJI is already out and its specs can make you salivate. Obviously, if you just want to purchase it, or read the specs directly on Dji’s web site,  then just click here.

20 MP camera

The Mavic 2 Pro has a Hasselblad camera and as expected with the size of 1″, the camera sports a whooping 20 MP to boot. Of course, as previously mentioned, this is bound to annoy all those who purchased a Phantom 4 Pro. The Mavic 2 will provide better technology in a more compact format.

The new feature is the apparition of “HDR video”, which seems that they will apply the multiple exposure concept of HDR to video (how?).

Comparatively, the Mavic 2 Zoom will remain stuck with the 12 MP camera, although it gains a capacity to create composite images corresponding to about 48 MP.

Variable aperture

As anyone who works with the Mavic Pro knows, the current Mavic Pro has a fixed aperture, which is very annoying in bright sunlight and seems to force the use of ND filters.

The Mavic 2 Pro will have a variable aperture from f/2.8 to f/11. I would have preferred seeing f/22, but I guess you can ask only so much…

Oh yeah, now they also have a downward facing light to enable landing in low light. While it seems the drone is very much geared towards dusk or sunset operations, it is worth remembering that in many countries, operating a drone after sunset is illegal.

Onboard memory

As anybody who uses sd cards knows, these may be quickly overloaded with some 4K videos. The Mavic 2 offers a temporary fix under the form of 8 GB of onboard storage.


So, hyperlapse is a sort of timelapse, but shot while moving (instagrammers know about this). The point is that, until now, many Mavic Pilots used third-party apps such as Litchi to be able to program their Mavic along a preset route. Dji now integrates this function on the Mavic 2 Pro.

What is the image quality?

For sure, the images look a notch better than the habitually washed out tones of the Mavic Pro, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed. With all the post-production efforts put into promotional pictures, the samples Dji shows us on their web site show again a certain lack of dynamic range.

Dji sample pics
Dji sample pics
Dji Sample pics
Pics posted by Dji as samples

In short, it is probably a significant jump from the Mavic Pro, but it is not yet at the level of offering the same depth of colors as even an older camera as the Nikon D750. For more details on other aspects of the drone, you may check Endgadget.

Conclusion: a nice to have, not a must have

While the bigger sensor and the Hasselblad camera are certainly winners, I am not sure the new drone is necessarily something to have, unless, obviously, you are making a profession out of piloting drones. In that latter case, obviously, the Mavic 2 Pro should be the ideal drone, compact, yet with  a high and versatile camera. I won’t even say a word of the Zoom version, as the optical zoom, to me, is just a gadget that does not justify in any way purchasing a new drone (especially as  the camera remains at its current 12 MP).

So, if you want to buy it, I am sure you can enjoy it, as long as you keep flying safely. If you already have a drone, think hard and long about it and whether the expense is justified. Its retail price will be of $1449 for the Mavic 2 Pro and of $1249 for the Mavic Zoom (price being another argument to switch to the Mavic 2 Pro, or even grab a Mavic Pro if they are discounted).

The Mavic Pro 2: latest rumors and news a few hours before the announcement

In a few hours, Dji is having its launch event for the Mavic Pro 2. In the meantime, their decidedly leaky marketing strategy seems to have seriously deflated the expectations with regards to the event.

DJI’s teaser

DJI was not discouraged and started sending out yesterday a sort of video teaser for the persons who are registered in their database.
Dji’s teaser

To be honest, the teaser tells or shows nothing at all except some gorgeous imagery.

The latest leaks

The Mavic Pro 2 has definitely been heckled by the leaks of media campaigns released before the initial announcement foreseen in July 2018 was cancelled. Once again, a publicity was released in Germany, according to the website Dronedj. This came under the form of two zip files containing high-resolution pictures of the two Mavic Pro 2.

The original tweet with the pics of the Mavic Pro 2.

The interesting part is thus that we have a confirmation that one of the drones will be equipped with a Hasselblad camera and, adds the leak,

Housing a 1-inch CMOS sensor with a 10-bit color profile, the camera captures four times as many levels of color per channel compared to Mavic Pro to provide maximum flexibility for photo and video editing

This means, as previous alluded, that the camera and sensor should definitely have much more dynamic range.

The Mavic Zoom, instead will just offer a 2x zoom, with a smaller 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor.

Then again, another leak yesterday appeared to provide the full technical specs of the Mavic Pro 2. Given that this leak puts the camera on the Mavic Pro 2 at a maximum iso of 6400, it is fair to imagine that the imaging quality will be great at night (oh yeah, in most countries you are NOT allowed to fly at night!).

Other rumors

Well, we mentioned earlier about the omni-directional sensors, so that may save more than one pilot from crashing his drone. Seems the range and stability of signal will also be addressed. One of the issues with the Mavic Pro is that you often get signal lost warnings when the drone is at some distance (especially if you are hidden behind something, like trees which interfere with the signal).

The Mavic Pro 2 will standardize the low-noise propellers first introduced with the Mavic Pro Platinum. I had already adopted those propellers for my own Mavic as they provide lower noise and better energy efficiency.

Some of the photos leaked seemed to suggest that the Hasselblad camera might be detached to be used as a gimbal. How would that work with the Dji Osmo Mobile 2 already launched, is a good question. Ok, admittedly consumers needing a gimbal won’t always own a drone.

There is also talk of a Mavic Pro enterprise more geared towards professional application, such as rescue services, but specifications are still not so clear about that model.

Which drone?

It is obvious that the sweet spot for photographers is with the Mavic Pro 2 thanks to its larger dynamic range and color quality. What is yet unknown is the numbers of Megapixel in the camera, but it should be a fair bet that it would be close to the 20 MP of the Phantom 4 Pro.

Anyway, it is just a few hours away from the announcement, so stay tuned for the latest news when we get all the details about the latest Dji drone.

If you are thinking of buying a drone, you may get one from the affiliated link on this web site, and if you already own one, Dji made an interesting article for newbie pilots.

The Mavic Pro 2

In recent weeks, pursuant to a leak, we got some more details on the upcoming Mavic Pro 2, the replacement for the Mavic Pro. We will most likely get two Mavic aircrafts, one gifted with a Hasselblad camera, the other with a zoom function.

Upgrade of the camera

So far, while simply the change of angle gives already an interesting possibility for the Mavic Pro, the camera and the sensor are a bit short. Dynamic range and image quality suffer hugely when it gets a little bit dark or there is a contrasted scene.

Devil's Peak sunset
The lack of dynamic range of the Mavic Pro is cruelly evidence in this picture with huge contrasts.

The new Mavic Pro 2 would have now a 1 inch sensor, which would make it comparable to the Phantom 4 Pro, currently in Dji’s range. While this was not made very clear, it seems the Mavic Zoom would instead be stuck with the reduced size sensor.

Obviously, a larger sensor would probably give more dynamic range and probably also a better image quality in low light (one of the weak points of the Mavic Pro).

Direction sensors: multi-sided obstacle avoidance

One of the big subjects for most users was the inclusion of multi-sided obstacle avoidance on the Mavic Pro 2. This would mean that the drone would avoid obstacles even flying backwards (one of the most popular drone cinematic moves). Right now, the Mavic Pro only sports forward obstacle avoidance sensors and this was a great complaint among chiefly amateur users. Personally, I try to avoid flying into danger zones or relying blindly on automatic modes (I actually think I used only once an automatic mode).

Some issues with the product line

I initially wanted to talk about the product lineup, but in fact, the original announcement by Dji for the Mavic Pro 2 was scheduled somewhere in July. They pushed back the announcement, apparently because their production lines were not able to satisfy the demand yet. So, yeah, there is an issue with the product(ion) line too.

But similarly, the Mavic Pro 2 and its 1 inch sensor bring into question the existence of the Phantom 4 Pro and its 1 inch sensor and 20 MP camera. If performances are similar, I expect most users to ditch the Phantom for the reduced size of the Mavic (which is very convenient for any photographer).

It could be that Dji may also announce a new Phantom 5 with upgraded capabilities for professional drone pilots now. While bulky, the Phantom line probably provides a top class flying experience for pilots. Nevertheless, if you are a photographer, you will have to make a choice between bringing a camera or a drone. With the mavic pro, you can bring both!

Time to upgrade?

To be honest, I will sit on the fence on this one. My drone is less than one year old, and while I flew quite a lot this year, I still feel it has some life in it. Not to mention that while I am flying it, I am still “amortizing” its cost.

The cost of replacing a drone is quite high. So, just like I advised for the Nikon D850, never mind the great capacity of the cameras, if you are not making money out of them, you don’t really need to upgrade until your camera is really obsolete.

In the meantime, as the Mavic Pro will be phased out, you may watch out for special offers by Dji via this (affiliate) link. And if you want some special discounts on Dji products, just go here.

Barefoot hike on the Ancient Trail from Tsuen Wan to Yuen Long

I tackled a fairly easy (ok, just because it is paved, but the effort required is tough at the start) trail barefoot. The Ancient trail from Tsuen Wan to Yuen Long which I hiked barefoot, was built centuries ago, to connect two of these localities in Hong Kong’s new territories by land. Today, they have become a hiking trail, mainly paved and generally requiring some extensive walk.

Tsuen Wan: doors open to the large

Tsuen Wan being on the Western edge of Hong Kong is also, in some way a door open to the large. From its surrounding mountains, you can see the container harbor, as well as the Tsing Ma bridge. And what’s more, it is an excellent plane-spotting point. Towering at 458 m, the highest point of the hike allows to see from quite close the underbelly of the planes on their final approach to the airport.

View on the Tsing Ma bridge
View by drone on the Tsing Ma bridge.

A steep climb

When you get to Tsuen Wan (if that is the direction you elect to hike, many people go the other way, starting in Yuen Long), you start the hike just opposite the Adventist hospital. The trouble is that you are in for 500 m steep climb for about one kilometer or two.

While on the hike, I crossed many trail runners tackling this trail.

Start of the trail
The start of the trail opposite the adventist hospital of Tsuen Wan.

Although the path is cemented, it climbs relentlessly for at least 1 km. Under the harsh sun and heat of that Sunday afternoon, it was grueling with my 12-kgs camera bag on top of it. It must be said that the floor was also close to scalding as I was hiking barefoot and it was sunny that day. Difficult not to be discouraged when seeing the endless climb.

Endless climb
Climbing is ok, but demands quite some effort.

I tried to fly my Mavic Pro here, but the metallic bars in the paved road kept giving wrong feedback to my drone’s compass, so, for safety, I decided to wait and get to a more open area.

The gorgeous views over Tsing Ma bridge

The Ancient Trail is an ideal place to obtain a great view on the Tsuen Wan and the three bridges.

Views on Tsuen Wan
Views on Tsuen Wan

The ancient trail itself is mainly composed of big stone pavements. They are very easy to walk upon, except when it is very sunny, as it can quickly scald your bare feet.

Tsuen Wan Ancient trail
Tsuen Wan ancient trail

Obviously, as it was getting late in the afternoon and it was a bit cloudy, the trail was still walkable. On the side of the trails, you could see the traces left by feral cattle.

Walking on the ancient trail
Walking on the ancient trail

Drone views over the trail

It must be said that flying a drone safely is not possible over the whole trail. Although a significant part of the trail is exposed, in some places, the iron rebar in the trail confuse the compass, in others the tree canopy makes it impossible to take off.

But when you can launch your Mavic Pro, you are greeted by majestic views.

A view from the trail on the three bridges.

Similarly, photography is just as interesting, except that the distance and the wide angle of the drone do it a disservice for the spectacular views.

View on the Tsing Ma bridge
View by drone on the Tsing Ma bridge.

Looking back on the city of Tsuen Wan is more rewarding in terms of photographic effect.

Tsuen wan from the ancient trail
Tsuen Wan, seen from the ancient trail

At any rate, once you arrive at these viewpoints, you are merely at the beginning of the trail. The trail continues then for several kilometers, always through paved roads. In some places, however, the paved road is damaged (or more exactly, they are in the process of repaving it). While technical, the trail is quite doable barefoot (at least at my level of training) and here is the video to prove it.

And then, of course, the habitual dronie on the trail:

A dronie on the Tsuen Wan ancient trail
Dronie on the Tsuen Wan ancient trail.

As the evening fell, I only managed to reach the halfway of the trail, namely Sham Tseng, which is the only earliest exit short of returning on your steps. If you are interested, there is a famous roasted goose restaurant, just near the exit of the trail.

From Sham Tseng, I grabbed a minibus to Tsuen Wan, where eventually I managed to catch a MTR towards my home to the other end of the city.

A photographic excursion to the Kap Shui Mun bridge

Old ambulance at the Kap Shui Mun bridge
Just before reaching the bridge, you can see this old ambulance parked under a shed.

The Kap Shui Mun bridge as well as the Tsing Ma bridge, which it prolongs are some of the marking signs of Hong Kong. Everybody entering to Hong Kong, never mind how, must pass through this bridge. Incidentally, the viewpoint near to the bridge offers quite a spectacular view over the bridge and Hong Kong as well.

A viewing pavilion, but no official trail

Although there is a viewing pavilion which can be seen from a distance when crossing the bridge, it is obvious that there is no official trail to go there. So, you can get there only by taxi or bus. Bus being probably the most convenient, as long as you can one of the E-xx buses heading to the airport. You must alight at the Lantau Link bus station and then walk back. One of the paths starts at the Lantau link and leads up to a mountain. Another involves following the highway back to the bridge, and this was the one I took.

Getting to the bridge.
To get to the bridge, you must walk alongside the highway.

If you are barefoot, you will note that the blocks on which you are walking are sometimes disjointed, but no danger.

Just before reaching the bridge, you will see an old sort of airport ambulance parked under  a shed.



Upwards or downwards

Once you arrive at the bridge, you have two choices: you may either climb to be level with the bridge for photography… or you may walk down beneath the bridge to try some of the filming experiments I did with my drone.

View from the top
The view from the top

At any rate, here is a view from the top, and as you can see, while the bridge still keeps you in awe, it is nothing to write home about. The true dimension of the bridge really comes to light by drone.

I did not manage to go to the pavilion, mainly because I felt that the best view of the bridge was close by to it. The beauty of the setting of the bridge is being able to see what is behind it.

A drone view

I launched my drone a first time to get a visual impression of the area.

Drone view of Kap Shui Mun bridge
Drone view of Kap Shui Mun bridge

While the general view gives a good picture of the whole structure of the two bridges (Tsing Ma bridge in background), it does not give as dramatic an effect as I would have wanted. I later experimented more with pictures. In this case, I was able to include one of the ships which just sailed under the bridge.

Ship after the Kap Shui Mun bridge.
Ship sailing after passing the Kap Shui Mun bridge.

But the most dramatic picture probably came at dusk and much closer to the bridge, which is the picture I chose as featured image. It is to be noted that this bridge is a marvel of engineering as even the MTR to the airport and to Tung Chung passes underneath! When you are near the bridge, you can hear the MTR screeching in the underbelly of the bridge.

Kap Shui Mun bridge
The Kap Shui Mun bridge at dusk

And here is a dronie of yours truly as he operates the drone barefoot.

Dronie near Kap Shui Mun bridge
Dronie near Kap Shui Mun bridge

As there is very little haze right now on Hong Kong, visibility is pretty clear. You can even see Central Hong Kong from the bridge!

View from the bridge
The view from the bridge can extend until Central HK when there is no haze.

The video

All in all, a great experience, both with the easy hike to the place and the images captured. Here, a drone video for you to see the bridge in all its glory. To be noted: the hike can be continued uphill to a rock resembling a vase. However, as you will be further away from the bridge, the dramatic effect of the structure is lost.

First barefoot “race”

So, after training, running and hiking barefoot, I decided to participate to one of Smartone’s (my mobile phone provider) fun races. The race seemed essentially geared around promoting the Apple Iwatch and its benefits for training. Nevertheless, it was a fun occasion of going out and running with Matthew, my HK friend. So, it was a first barefoot race, but “race” between brackets for it was not really a race.

Getting there

The race took place at Diamond Hill, which is just one MTR station from my place. The fun thing is that I have a shortcut to get to the sports ground, which involves some forest trail near my condo. So, I took the trail, and managed to run all the way to Diamond Hill, by which time I was already sweating as hell.

Knowing the forest trails near your home is fun, as they give me a number of shortcuts. I have another shortcut on the same path taking me right up Jat’s Incline, towards Kowloon Peak. This time, it was just to get on time to the sports ground. As I am pretty confident now with going around barefoot, I just ran from my home without shoes or slippers. This allowed me to keep it light and easy.

The Smartone event

For a race organized by a mobile phone company, the facilities they provided were a bit on the spartan side. In the matters of drinks, just one 18 L bottle of water was available.

Runners grouped around
Runners grouped around the meeting point at Diamond Hill

But then, of course, you could borrow an Iwatch and test it. I never saw something more unhandy for fitness. Both, the small screen, the lack of ergonomy and the erratic heart rate measurements were a total put-off.

Now, to the big elephant in the room: no issue at all with me running barefoot. People were just a bit astonished, but as most are runners, they understood the desire to be barefoot and to run barefoot. Some runners even came to enquire about my running barefoot. While on the tracks, I saw at least one other guy training barefoot. So, after the 2010 vogue and crash, now it seems barefoot running is either starting a comeback or keeping the true “believers”.

The race

Anyway, we were not there for the watch, but for the race! Initially scheduled at 19.00, it finally started only at 19.30… Thankfully, our group was the first to depart, and contrary to our fears, it was not a free for all race, it was rather a slow, paced jog. We did a 3.5 kms loop and came back at the starting point. As we were a bit bored with the pace, Matthew and me, we both sprinted to the finish line.

race bracelet
Race bracelet

All in all, a fun initiative and a perfect time together with a friend. Heat and discomfort due to the humidity can be taxing however when running. There was little to no breeze and most of the runners were in the same state as me, drenched with sweat.

Barefoot hike on Devil’s Peak

Devil’s peak is probably one of the easiest hikes in Hong Kong. The proof of it is that many old people come up there for their morning or evening exercise. It was thus just logical that I would attempt a barefoot hike on Devil’s peak.

One of the easiest hikes in Hong Kong

The Devil’s peak, despite its scary name, is one of the easiest hikes in Hong Kong, its path being mostly cemented. Of course, it depends where you make your entry, but it is quite an easy hike with a very moderate climb of roughly 20 mins to 1/2 hr. Many oldies come on the peak to exercise in the morning or in the evening.

Climbing to the Gough battery through the shortcut takes  a bit more scrambling as it is a makeshift path. Still, for a barefoot hiker, it is very easy (about the level of Dragon’s Back).

The path to Gough Battery
The Path to Gough Battery

The Devil’s peak is at the end of the Wilson trail, one of the famous HK hiking trails crossing across all of Hong Kong. However, you don’t need to complete the full Wilson trail to reach Devil’s Peak. There are far easier entrance points.

Gorgeous views

The Devil’s Peak is located just next to the Permanent Chinese cemetery of Junk Bay. For Westerners, there is a something unique and soothing in this view, for Chinese, it tends to make them extra nervous.

When looking on the other side, the view extends on Kowloon bay and Victoria Harbour and is a favourite spot for sunsets.

Angel's light on Devil's peak
A view of the gorgeous sunset on Devil’s Peak with “angel’s light shining down

A view by drone provides even a better context as it allows to capture both, the devil’s peak and the view behind.:

Devil's peak at sunset by drone
Devil’s peak seen by drone on sunset

The Permanent Chinese cemetery

Obviously, in Chinese-language sources, you will not find a lot of resources on this cemetery, but it has a gorgeous view on Junk Bay. As previously explained, there is a lot of superstition around death in the Chinese population, so they get very nervous by the simple evocation of cemetery. You can see below a view by drone of the cemetery which faces the sea in good “feng shui” manner.

Permanent Chinese cemetery of Junk Bay
The Permanent Chinese cemetery of Junk Bay

Cemetery of Junk Bay
Cemetery of Junk Bay

The panorama is quite gorgeous from up there.

A panoramic view of Junk Bay
Panorama of Junk Bay

Kowloon bay view

However, despite the majestic beauty of Junk Bay, the best view at sunset is obviously on the other side. When there are clouds, the “angel light” effect can lead to some quite stunning pictures.

Angel light over Kowloon Bay
Angel light over Kowloon Bay

Obviously, because of its ease of access, a lot of photographers occupy the premises at evening, often with ND filters to dim the sunlight. I did not use a ND filter, yet the result is quite acceptable in my feeling.

By drone, you can have a general view including the Devil’s Peak and Gough’s Battery, but the lack of dynamic range on the Mavic Pro’s sensors do flatten a bit the colors of the sunset.

Drone view of sunset over Devil's Peak.
A drone view of the sunset over Devil’s Peak

At any rate, here is the sunset with my Nikon:

Sunset over Kowloon Bay
Sunset over Kowloon Bay

And to end this, a panorama over Kowloon Bay:

Panorama over Kowloon Bay
Panorama over Kowloon Bay

How to get there?

Getting to Devil’s Peak is as simple as taking the MTR to the station Yau Tong. From there, you will have two paths to reach Devil’s peak: the first one which involves a quite steep climb on a paved road. This path is generally preferred by some Chinese who are superstitious and scared of walking close to a cemetery. If you can, you may do a barefoot hike on Devil’s Peak.

I do recommend the second path, which passes near to a temple. I provided a google maps instruction below. The climb is much easier. Just beware that at dusk, you may have wild boars forraging in the surroundings. Never touch them or approach them and they should leave you alone.