Hong Kong, the vertical city

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There is no other way to apprehend why Hong Kong is often called “the vertical city” than to climb upon a mountain and to look down on the city. The pictures in this post are taken in Kowloon.

Human Density

Kowloon is one of the most densly populated areas of Hong Kong and also cumulates a number of the poorest areas such as Sham Shui Po or Yau Ma Tei.

The human density on this part of the city led to a profusion of high-rise buildings erected as far as the eye can see. In some way, this both answers to and replicates the human density with an architectural density.

In a previous post, I wrote about “architectural compression” in Hong Kong when talking about Montane Mansion. Here, we are talking about a different “compression”.

Compression takes place in height, rather than in space. With the limited space available, logically, most buildings are erected upwards.

View from a mountain

All of the pictures featured in this post were shot from a mountain, namely Shatin’s pass, between Kowloon Peak and Wong Tai Sin. It is a lovely hiking route, with almost no danger (excepted the cars attempting to replicate a mountain rallye race). In addition to the lovely route, Shatin’s pass affords some exceptional viewpoints when the sky is clear.

In this case, there was some haze (treated partly under Lightroom), so not the ideal situation.

A vertical city soon in crisis?

Despite the construction craze which can be seen in some of the pictures, the HK Government has kept on warning hongkongers to beware of a backlash and possibly a drop in real estate pricing. Pointless to say that with some cultural factors such as no lady accepting to marry you if you don’t have your own flat, such warnings fall into deaf ears. Real estate prices still climb, fed by cheap money with the low interest rates for mortgages.

How to get there?

Ok, I forgot to tell you how to get there… Two routes. Either you get down to Wong Tai Sin MTR and walk up to Shatin’s Pass, or you take the thougher route which is to climb the whole Jat’s Incline after alighting at Choi Hung MTR. Either way, be prepared for some tough climbing even if it will be on perfectly paved roads.

The red moon of Hong Kong

Tonight, there was a red moon on Hong Kong. As the moon crescent was well formed and the skies were somehow clearer, the moon could be clearly visible as it went down over the horizon. Sadly, as always where there is nice weather on Hong Kong, the sky still had some haze.

Why a red moon?

Well, it is important to mention that earlier during the evening, the moon was not red. It was white. It got that reddish tone, simply because as it got lower, the atmospheric pollution caused the bluish components of the light to be lost.

You can find an interesting explanation on the causes of that phenomenon on USCB Science Line.

Technical aspects

On the technical side, the picture was shot at 200 mm, and I raised the iso slightly to 400, in order to keep a faster shutter speed (exposure is still 15 seconds here!), to try to keep the moon clear enough to be distinguishable.

The earth turns!

When you are doing astrophotography, an important part to bear in mind, and this is particularly true for the moon: the earth rotates!

It may not seem as much, but the rotation of the earth is sufficient to cause a blur during the 15 seconds exposure on this picture.

Astronomists generally use a gear that rotates slightly the camera to account for the earth’s rotation, but obviously, that’s not my specialty right now.

How to get the moon clearer?

You can opt to try shorter exposure times by opening the diaphragm and increasing the shutter speed to keep exposure as short as possible. Obviously, it gets tricky with you include darker elements such as a cityscape. In the end, as always, it ends up being a question of choices and compromise. I made the choice to keep the picture with as little grain as possible while reducing exposure time to try and minimize the effect of earth’s rotation.


A black and white stroll in the city

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Black and white photography can be an interesting way of focusing the attention of the viewer on the most important elements of a scene.

This post is thus more of a stylistic exercise.

Here, you have an illustration on how B&W photos dim distractions that might crowd a picture when shot in color.

Black and white photography allows to dim distractions

The background of these photos are all filled with a number of colorful displays, lights and shops. Black and White puts the focus on the subjects at the heart of these pictures and allows to “erase” the distraction.

Obviously, when distractions are eliminated, then composition and focus becomes more important. In a city like Hong Kong, there is a wealth of people walking around

Actually, the areas around Mongkok are filled with street photography opportunities, as they are heavy circulation areas. In addition, there is still a lot of traditional activities going on (cart pushers, cardboard ladies, pretty girls going out…).

So, if ever you are feeling like trying your hand at street photography, just go and take a stroll in that area. I love going there on week-ends at night, but it will be the subject of another post.

Urban exploration: the hidden temples of Aberdeen

Last week-end, I went out on a bit of an urban exploration in Aberdeen. Aberdeen, on the far side of Hong Kong island is a bit of an unknown entity, mostly reputed for being the location of Ocean Park, but is also rich with hidden temples.

Aberdeen the city of shrines?

However, taking a stroll in the city allows several interesting discoveries with hidden worship places hidden all over within a very small space. I walked only 3 kms to find all these pictures.

Initially, I alighted at Aberdeen harbour, where you can see traditional sampans serving tourists as well as more traditional fishing boats moored in the harbour with the chimneys of the power generation center of Lamma island in background.

You can see Lamma island immediately behind.

Old Chinese temple

As I walked further, I could see already other signs that Aberdeen is a bit different from the other parts of Hong Kong. Namely, a Chinese temple near a wet market.

An old man places incense in front of the old Chinese temple in Aberdeen.

I pushed on a bit further, and I came across another temple, this one right on a busy street of the city.

temple on the side of a street in Aberdeen

The temple in the trees

The most interesting of all, was probably the “temple in the trees”. I call it so because even if it is not fully on a tree, part of it is backed to an old banyan tree. When you see it first, it looks like this:

The stairs are misleading… that’s only one part of the temple.

And when you follow the stairs, you end up seeing a first cabin, almost resting against the tree:

This is the first part of the temple when you climb the stairs.

When you come to the top of the stairs, you have a wonderful sight on a little temple high perched over the city, which almost looks like a jungle hideout.

This temple is probably one of the most unique that you can find in HK.


So, with these findings, you can go on and visit the hidden temples of Aberdeen.