For many, the mention of Hong Kong conjures up images of towering skyscrapers across Victoria Harbour or from the heights of Victoria Peak, but there’s much more to the city than a pretty cityscape. Granted, the views are awe-inspiring and I’ve often found my thoughts lost amongst its skyscrapers, but the people and its culture are equally, if not more so, worthy of being photographed. For what Hong Kong lacks in sweeping vistas for landscape photography, it more than compensates when it comes to street photography.
I love Hong Kong’s juxtaposition of old and new together combined with a lot of people’s general lack of vanity or at least the level of vanity we’re accustomed to in the UK. Even amongst the younger generations, you get a strong sense of the importance of tradition, family, spirituality, religion and respect.
I can’t convey the breadth of Hong Kong life in a few blog posts, but hopefully my first set of street photography in Hong Kong offered a glimpse into the lesser seen Hong Kong. Here’s another batch of photographs which are a mix of everyday life together with everyday spirituality. For the photographers, there’s some technical info further down this post.
Inside My Hong Kong Camera Bag
For my previous trip to Hong Kong, I was carrying a Nikon D700 plus an assortment of fast lenses in a large and very heavy backpack. Whilst I was able to spread the load across both shoulders and also my hips via the waist straps, it was still tiring after hours of pounding the streets. Plus, it meant I either had to keep my camera out all the time or I had to waste time taking the backpack off in order to get access to it.
This time around, I decided not to take a DSLR and instead opted for a Fujifilm X100S with wide angle adapter and an X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm and 18-55mm lenses. For the occasions when I wanted a faster, longer focal length lens I also had a Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton VM which I would mount onto the X-T1 with an M mount adapter.
The difference this set up made in terms of the physical aspect was significant. Not only was I able to fit the entire kit into a medium-size shoulder bag, but I was able to carry it for 12 hours a day without feeling exhausted by the evening. April was fairly warm and humid so I really appreciated free flowing air across my back!
Street Photography with the Fujifilm X-T1 and X100S
With regards to street photography, shooting the two Fuji cameras was a completely different experience to using the D700. The main difference for me is not the size or the weight, but the noise. You can be within somebody’s field of vision and go virtually unnoticed as your movements blend into the background, but release the shutter of a DSLR and BOOM! You may as well have sound off a siren because that distinctive mirror slap would likely attract just as much attention.
Using the Fujis, in particular the X100S with its leaf shutter, even if somebody saw me point a camera in their direction the lack of noise makes it unlikely they could tell whether I’d taken a photo or not. Let’s not forget the X-T1’s flappy LCD which I made good use of for candid street photography. The remote wi-fi trigger offers another incredibly useful tool for candids, but it wasn’t one that I felt the need to make much use of.
Legacy Lenses on the Fujifilm X-T1
As I mentioned earlier, as well as the Fujinon 35mm and 18-55mm lenses, I also carried a Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton Aspherical VM (Leica M mount) which I sometimes mounted onto the X-T1 with a Kipon adapter. Whilst this is something I’ve done before with the X-Pro 1, it’s not until the X-T1 that I’ve been happy enough to really use a manual focus lens in anger. The large X-T1 EVF really lends itself to manual focus when you team it up with focus peaking and/or the dual display mode. I’ve even been confident enough to use the Nokton X-T1 combination for a recent wedding and got some really nice results.
There are a couple of photos which accompany this post that really show where the Nokton came into its own. Whilst visiting the mostly candle-lit Man Mo Temple, I had to be conscious of the very low and inconsistent light levels as well as trying to be as unintrusive as possible to worshippers. The large maximum aperture of the Nokton and the X-T1’s flappy LCD made it possible for me to quickly focus and get the shots I wanted without fuss.
It’s worth mentioning that subjects within the setting of a temple don’t tend to move very quickly. Given a different scenario with a fast moving subject and I’ve no doubt I wouldn’t have fared as well with manual focusing.
Less Is More
With hindsight, given the chance to repeat my trip to Hong Kong I wouldn’t change my equipment list. I’m not about to give up shooting full frame cameras, but a camera system that gets in the way less than a large, clunky DSLR is already way ahead when it comes to choosing kit for street and travel photography. There’s no point in having a larger sensor if some other component prevents you from getting the shot. To me, the Fujis get in the way less and allow me to get more.