Gweilo in Hong Kong (Part I)

I only selected a few places to visit for longer periods of time during my stay in Asia, Hong Kong happened to be one of them. Boy did I not regret taking a week of my vacation to visit here. Not only did I get to travel with one of my best friends, but I also met so many awesome people during my time there. From eating dim sum for almost every meal to be chased off some of the coolest rooftops I have ever been on there wasn't a dull moment.

Day 1

We landed in Hong Kong around 4 P.M. in the afternoon, since Jethro flew in a few days prior I was on my own to navigate through the airport where Cantonese reigned supreme. Fortunately when I got to immigration a kind bilingual man helped me out with my landing card and I was able to get through. I was informed to grab an Octopus Card for the Metro and numerous other things, so I did this while I was at the airport before heading to the heart of the island. The train ride in was never what I would have expected, mountain after mountain for a while and then out of no where we came into the urban density of Hong Kong that you hear so much about.

'After arriving in Central Station we went to our AirBnB and then were on our merry way. We headed to Mong Kok to meet up with some of the locals that he knew. We grabbed some dinner and then shot the famous neon signs with the colorful minibuses. A relaxed first night but a good way to introduce myself to the area. 

Mong Kong - HK SS.jpg

Day 2

Being the lazy bastards we are, Jethro and I slept in a bit and took our sweet time getting ready for the day since it wasn't the best weather out. We headed to a spot in the Central District where the famous yellow crossing lines were. After a bunch of failures to get solo taxis going by, we were finally successful and then wandered about aimlessly in the area. The thing that really stood out to me during my first daylight walk about Hong Kong was just how colorful all the buildings were. As a person who loves to have color in his photos it was like a paradise for me. Another thing I noticed was how some of their elementary schools looked like penitentiaries with fences surrounding them and very few windows. 

Quarry Bay Close Up SS.jpg

After a casual stroll around we figured we would start to knock off some of the classics, so we headed over to Quarry Bay (one of the more famous Instagram spots, seen above). One of our buddies lived in the building itself so we met up with him and hung out for a while. Afterwards we headed to North Point where the super old gritty buildings (I know very descriptive when talking about Hong Kong) where the trams run through making for some great photo opportunities. While we were here it started to rain rather hard, so we decided to check out this portrait spot in the area. Little did we know we were in for the time of our lives. This man who draws portraits of people happens to have some very beautiful art of Chinese characters. We wanted to take some photos in front of them. This man appeared to be infatuated with me or something was incredibly off with him. He kept asking to take photos with me and wanting to see them afterwards and asking us to buy his drawings to the point it was very uncomfortable. This went on for 10-15 minutes. Being that I don't speak Cantonese I would often use this as my way out in awkward situations, so I walked away and never returned and my friends came running out after me a few moments later. A rather odd experience but one we laugh at looking back.

Central Light Trails Classic - HK SS.jpg

To end the night we went to a rooftop over in Central that overlooked the water that separates old and new Hong Kong. Some stunning views from this roof and was able to hit a few classic spots while in the area as well. Afterwards we shot some neon signs and the classic look up in Central to top off a productive day of shooting. Oh and how could I forget, we had dim sum too.

Day 3

The morning of the third day was similar to the morning of the second, we slept in and took our sweet time getting ready. After finally pulling ourselves together we headed over to Hong Kong University to shoot some spots. Which involved us taking the wrong exit a few times from the HK Uni metro stop. Shortly after we decided to try the Ferry system and took a ferry across from one side of the water to the other. We were in pursuit of another popular Instagram spot in Choi Hong Estate (the colorful basketball courts). This place is over populated with tourists and honestly a nightmare to shoot and edit. We didn't take any images while here but I thought it was cool to see what a place looks like in person vs through photos. We briefly stopped here on our way to the first hike we had planned for the trip, Suicide Cliff (aptly named). We took a minibus up the mountain until we couldn't any higher, from here we walked what felt like an eternity. This was all before the actual hike even began. The hike wasn't too brutal but it was straight uphill for 30 minutes straight which made for a challenge whilst carrying 15 lbs of camera gear. Once we got to the top it was all fun and games as the guys and myself played American music and just enjoyed the scenes and danced while waiting for nightfall. Upon nightfall we were greeted by two Westerners who had what looked to be about $20k in camera gear alone which consisted of only one lens and camera. The lens was the size of what seemed like a RPG. No idea how this woman carried it up the mountain!

Jordan Neon Signs Colorful - HK SS.jpg

Afterwards we head into the city for dim sum (what else?) before going out to shoot some of the dying neon signs in Jordan. Due to how old they are and recent typhoons causing many to fall they have been rapidly switching to LED signs. The signs are a huge part of the Hong Kong photography community. While in the area we hit Temple Street, a famous market that is known for the banners that stretch across the entire road which makes for an excellent photograph. We shot one of the two ways during this evening since you can shoot from both sides. This capped off an absolutely exhausting day of shooting where we ended up getting home around 1 A.M.

Day 4

You guessed it, I slept in and took my sweet time getting ready. We headed down to Causeway Bay to grab some breakfast with a local friend. Afterwards we were going to take a stab with some rooftops for some super unique views of the city. Our first rooftop provided some epic views of the city, I decided to drone from here to try and get some cool perspectives. If you didn’t know, Hong Kong has lots of signal interference so this creates for a rough time droning. I lost signal on multiple occasions but my friend helped me navigate my way to safety after much failure. I was still able to get a few shots like the one I will attach below.

Drone over Central Color - HK.jpg

After this we went to an elevator that had an open window that went to the 54th floor and shot through the window the whole way up and down. We also didn’t know at the time but when we were at the top we were next to some world famous rooftoppers who boasted followings of 300k+. They were live on Instagram and later found ourselves in their video which was kind of crazy. This lead us to our next stop which was at one of the cooler neon signs in Hong Kong. A dragon sign that is full of colors. First we shot it from one of the local apartment complex rooftops. After this we went to another rooftop nearby to shoot sunset or lack thereof. After another failed sunset mission we went to get some food before heading back to shoot the neon dragon sign while lit up. I think we spent an hour here trying to get the right shot (find mine below).

Dragon Sign - HK ss.jpg

Finally we headed to the colorful building in HK and went to the rooftop. A really unique view of Hong Kong, after a long day of shooting though we couldn’t end the night without some antics. On the roof were some bars next to all of the electric wires. My friends decided to have a pull competition on them and hilarity ensued. If i recall correctly Jethro bested Tim by one. One of the more hilarious things that occurred during my time in Hong Kong!

Note that during all of this my friends are mainly speaking Mandarin and Cantonese so I have my friend translating for me which makes most of this even funnier for me. Next week I will cover the final 5 days in Hong Kong. The adventure has only just begun…

Stay true to you,

Jordan

How Do You Edit?

The most common question I get is, "How do you edit your photos?" So today I am going to address that question. Each type of photo I take will require a different edit, so today we will focus on my cityscape images. Let's start from the top. (DISCLAIMER: Editing RAW files from different camera companies will yield different results.).

Before_After.PNG

Here is a before and after of one of my most recent Chicago images. As you can see the difference is quite dramatic. The first thing you'll notice is how dark my RAW files are. I tend to underexpose then bring the detail back in post processing. Note it is much easier to under expose and bring detail back than to over expose and try the same. Let's look at the basic adjustments first.

Basic Settings.PNG

From the top, I tend to leave a cooler temp in my moody images as I prefer the blue look. Otherwise I tend to stay as neutral as I can with my images. Lots of folks like to over warm their photos, but I am not a fan. I move the tint more to the magenta side as well due to my tone curve creating a more green look (this can be solved in other ways, I just choose to fix it this way). Exposure is brought up usually due to the dark RAW and preferring the blacks in my image to remain dark. I add a little bit of contrast as well just to make things pop since you'll see I tend to flatten the image with highlights and shadows. This is to bring all of the detail back in the photo. Whites are brought up to achieve a more natural look and then blacks are dropped to keep that dark black look.

Clarity is brought up a bit again to bring out some detail but this will all depend on the image, some images I will soften. Lastly you'll see I crank the saturation a bit globally. This is offset in the HSL though later.

Next is the RGB Tone Curve. You'll notice I bring my black point WAY up and then drop my white point a tiny bit. Mid-tones tend to stay neutral with not much contrast. I also use the individual RGB curves but they are more complex and I would struggle to explain so I will leave those out.

The HSL is the next step. This stands for Hue, Saturation, Luminance. This panel is purely photo dependent. Certain images have certain colors that I am trying to make stand out, so I use this panel to cater to these needs. Every photo is unique after all. You'll notice my favorite color is cranked to 83 saturation. The Hues affect the actual color itself, so you can change blue to aqua for example as you see in the photo. Saturation refers to the intensity of the actual color itself. Luminance refers to how bright or dark the color is. I often tell my friends that color luminance is one of the most important tools for editing.

Split Toning is adding color to the highlights and shadows of an image. Often I add a lot of blues to my shadows which is a look I rather enjoy. Occasionally I will also add orange to the highlights for sunset or sunrise shots.

Camera calibration is another way to play with the individual primary (I know Green isn't a primary color) colors that can make them pop in interesting ways.

This is really it for my LR editing process. Cropping can be important as well, most of my images are cropped to 4x5 as this is what Instagram uses. Make sure you are leveling your horizon as well. One thing that I didn't include in this is the touching up I do in Photoshop. For this image I de-saturated the color on the overhangs of the train station so that the color cast didn't distract the viewer from the rest of the image. It's important to think of yourself as the viewer of the image when editing it, figure out what pleases you and what displeases you. Everyone has a unique style, so don't think that you have to follow this. I just wanted to provide some insight to my curious followers.

Stay true to you,

Jordan