Tommy Ku Photography

Photowalk from the peak to the harbor

One day in the public library I saw Lee Fook Chee's photobook《流光迅影香港情 Lee Fook Chee's Hong Kong》featuring both the life story of the photographer and photos taken in Hong Kong in the 20th century, a period when Hong Kong recivered from World War II and recognized as the Pearl of the East internationally.

There were many photos taken from the peak. Lee Fook Chee took them to print as postcard and to compile photo packs for selling to tourists in order to help his photography business aside from taking paid portraits photos for the visiting tourists, sailors and locals.

Inspired by his photos, I too wanted to visit the peak (which we locals rarely do) for a photowalk. My friend showed interest and brought along his Sony digital camera. With a number of goals in mind, I hauled my Mamiya Press Super 23 with a 65mm lens and Fujifilm XT-20 with a Nokton 40mm f/1.2 to the walk.

Suspicious photographer
Suspicious photographer

I wanted to:

Tourists would have taken the tram near Central, whereas the smart locals would avoid the crowd by taking a bus route 15 from Central. Bus is arguably faster because there's no long queue and seat is guaranteed from Central bus terminal.

The bus ride was disorienting as it climbed to the peak on the curvy road, the view was good though, and allows ample of time to view both the north and south side of Hong Kong Island. Perhaps, go up on bus if you're visiting.

Old red tram
Old red tram before they replaced it with the green trash can they use now

It was a hot day already. Staying outdoor for more than 5 minutes and we begun to sweat. We took a few pictures on near the mall. On Fujifilm XT-20 I was talking photos to compose panoramas and using the Brenizer Method to try getting some more bokeh than what Nokton 40mm f/1.2 could provide. Panoramas are ok, but for Brenizer Method to work I need some knowledge on nodal points—more on that in a possible later post.

Suspicious individual
Stitching multiple shots to achieve a wider image but suffers stitching issue

To be honest, simply shooting Nokton at f/1.2 would have been better if I wanted bokeh.

Cityscape panorama
Restaurant panorama because might as well

After that we started to make our way up to the garden. Originally, my goal was the Victoria Peak Garden where the (British) governor's residence used to be, but my friend was in a rush, so we ended up at the Mount Austin Playground instead. Again, it was a hot day and we both weren't in the mood of hiking.

Restaurant panorama because might as well

The garden is very unlike Hong Kong. Green grass, actual well nurtured green grass, with rich people paying for tea party and dedicated photographers for their kids.

We chilled next to the dried fountain and took a few shots to finish my roll of bulk loaded IMAX cine film, before realizing we were being cooked alive, so we moved on. These are shadier film than 135 cine film, no expiry date, sprocket holes on top and bottom, but terrific sharpness and color that Gold 200 can't match.

Dried fountain
I don't like those sprocket holes and light leaks, otherwise the color are good

A lady passing by complimented my Mamiya Press, the 2kg hunk of scrap metal with some scratched glasses on.

We began making out way down along Barker Road, taking some photos at the Barker Road Tram Station. There I finished the last shot of the cine film and switched to shooting UltraMax 400 at 135 format, that'll give me XPan-like ratio without having to buy an XPan. I shot the UltraMax 400 using the 6x7 film back configured to shoot at 220 film format (longer than 120 format), which allows for automatic film wind stopping for the entire roll of UltraMax 400—19 shots with minimal gaps between frames.

New tram passing Barker Road Tram Station
New tram passing Barker Road Tram Station

By the way, I don't like the new tram design, too modern, unlike the crammed mess that it once was.

Interior of old tram
Crammed mess taht it once was

We passed through the residence of a rich person where staff and guards congregated, then some half done construction, and turned into the Central Green Trail. Many people were walking up to the peak. The view was good and the trail was really quiet, despite being in one of the busiest district of Hong Kong.

Half done construction
Private path sign
Private path, taken slightly too high

Although we were on a rush, I managed to take a few shots I was happy with. The only issue was probably my viewfinder mask detached from the 65mm viewfinder, or maybe because I missed to adjust the 65mm viewfinder for parallax, therefore composition of many of the shots were messed up.

Very long vertical XPan cityscape
Very long vertical XPan cityscape

Some would say I should have just shoot 120 film and crop later, but I can't find another film available in 120 format that produces color as vibrant as UltraMax 400. Compared to UltraMax 400, ColorPlus and Gold 200 are jokes, or maybe, the lab can't get the curves right.

The trail ends somewhere near the MacDonnell Road Tram Station, my I would have spent more time shooting if my friend wasn't in a rush, so anyway I took 3 poorly composed images. One suffered from double exposure as there's no double exposure locking mechanism in Mamiya Press Super 23.

Tram slope
Nice looking slope, with 0 safety precaution

To spam the remaining few shots we passed by my favorite place to test camera—the Botanical Gardens. When under direct sunlight, the color of flowers reflect violent on the media, be it film or digital. I was happy with the outcome, aside from the obvious composition error caused by the missing viewfinder mask.

Garden chair
Almost cinematic
Flower garden
Planting flowers at each corners for people to selfie

In the roll of cine film there were a few shots taken in the Botanical Gardens on a different days too, and the color was really so good that I placed it over even Portra in terms of vibrancy. Perhaps, given good light, Portra could achieve the same effect, without the sprocket holes rendering wasting the imaging area.

So good

I call this a good run, despite I haven't really reached my goal, the Victoria Peak Garden (still haven't as of writing), but it helped me realize 3 things:

A photowalk can be chill, or it can be physically demanding, all depending on the location and time of day. Sometimes, going to a photowalk with somebody having a different intention will undermine the experience. Saying "No" sometimes is the best way to protect the walk. If needed, chill at a later time, a different occasion, perhaps.