Well it’s been a long few days getting here! Adriana and I left the evening of the 22nd and after a rough 7 hour layover in Beijing got to Hong Kong around midnight. We wanted to be in the thick of the nightlife so chose to stay in the Chungking Mansions, a crazy place that reminds me in many ways of Kho San Road in Bangkok. Neither me nor my wife have much need of luxury while we travel and often times I find it’s more interesting to stay at places like this, in the heart of the city; it just seems to add to the adventure.

We spent our morning walking around the northern Kowloon side of the city and getting our bearings, until we eventually stumbled down to Avenue of the Stars which is where all of the Chinese film stars are honored with some cement and hand prints, similar to Los Angeles. I took a picture there of my man Bruce Lee but I spent more time admiring the view across the harbor and thinking about the night pictures I’d be able to take from there later.

After another cup of coffee to combat the jet lag, which I might add was substantial, we took the ferry south to the actual island of Hong Kong and walked around the city snapping photos and enjoying the day. My goal for the day was to get some pics from the top of Victoria Peak.  What’s that?  Never heard of Victoria Peak?  Neither had I until a year or two ago; it’s basically a mountain on the western side of the island of Hong Kong.  If you do a search on Flickr or Google Images you’ll find many pictures from there, as it’s an excellent vantage point to get views of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Harbor.

I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time at Victoria Peak so we got in line around 3:45 for the Peak Tram funicular and I’m glad we did; the line was ridiculous – an hour and a half wait! I’m sure this had a lot to do with Christmas Eve but you’ve been warned. We paid 65 HKD for a round trip ticket and eventually got to the end of the line; from there we took a series of escalators all the way to the ‘Sky View 360’ platform. I found that the right side (closest to the corner) was the best location to setup.  I had done a fair degree of research before arriving and knew that this was the spot to give me the view I was looking for.

I setup the tripod and started snapping away; my 17-40 gave me a great view and I found it to be just wide enough, but I also used my 10-22 wide angle a few times to get some additional shots with a slightly different (obviously wider) perspective. On this particular trip I also brought my Cokin filter, which is basically an ND filter to block out the light a bit more so I can take the exposure for a bit longer. If you don’t know what this is or think it’s too hard core, don’t fret about it. Really not a big deal and in a future post I’ll try to explain more about it.

Below you can see two of the pics I took, we were up there for a long time and it really started to get cold. In hindsight I wished I’d taken the time to take a quality panorama but with the tripod head I had and the chaos of the situation (there’s a huge amount of people up there, many with tripods) it proved too difficult.  I did, however, make time to get a good picture of my wife and I overlooking the city – in many ways these pics are far more challenging to balance, ensuring the she and I are properly exposed while ensuring that the background isn’t too dark.  I’ll do another post soon to detail how this pic was taken as well.

15.0 sec @ f14, ISO 100 17 mm
15.0 sec @ f14, ISO 100 17 mm
1/5 sec @ f5.0, ISO 800 17 mm

My advice on taking pics on Victoria Peak? Get there in time to watch the sunset, I generally believe the best “night” photos aren’t really taken super late but rather 30 min after sunset. You’ll need a tripod and you’ll need to get a spot staked out and “owned” as soon as you arrive.  While we arrived in good time, there was still someone that had beat me to the punch and had already laid claim to the coveted corner spot on the viewing platform.  As the sun’s light diminishes take some photos using the lowest ISO you can (5o or 100 on most cameras), with a high aperture number like f16 or higher. I also tend to underexpose these photos a bit, maybe by -1/3 or so but use your judgement and personal taste as final decisions.  For shots like this I definitely shoot in Manual mode as well. On this particular occasion I didn’t take multiple exposures (quite honestly it was an oversight on my part, and not a mistake I made again) but this would be a great opportunity for an HDR photo as well.

I’ll have another post with some of the street photography we took in Hong Kong; it’s an incredible city with a lot to offer.  Street photography is often more challenging to capture but it also tends to tell a better story about the location.

Finally if you’re interested in where these photos were taken you can see the map below.