black and white

In a Crowded Place

Dinner in Black and White
1/500s, f/1.2, ISO 1600, 50mm

This month, I am back in Hong Kong for a few weeks.  I've missed the city's grit, its narrow streets, its beat.  Beijing is such a sprawling city, and I still haven't figured out what to make of it.  As a result, I'm finding it more difficult to capture and portray Beijing adequately in my photos. But Hong Kong is different. Hopefully, I will be able to get in some shots this weekend.  (As an aside, I've been meaning to do fewer close-ups and bring in more of the surroundings in my street shots--more on that some other time.)

Being back here, I thought it would be a good time to revisit a brief photo essay I wrote for the spectacular Danish photo magazine, Fotorama (and turn it into English).  So without further ado...

I used to live in Hong Kong's Soho neigbohoord.  I was one of thousands who each day commute to work on a series of escalators.  Endless streams of lawyers, nannies, and tourists gather on a conveyer belt that leads to Hong Kong's financial center.  Here, more commuters join as jam-packed busses and underground trains let out floods of people into the city' streets.

Hong Kong's claustrophobic geography has forced the city to expand vertically.  With some 7,500 high-rise buildings, it's the world's tallest city.  And the Mong Kok neighborhood is the most densely populated on the planet.  It's a crowded place.

Despite the intense density, Hong Kong offers its citizens almost total anonymity. The physical closeness does not create any expectations among Hong Kongers that they relate to each other.  In fact, it's as if the crowds and the tight physical spaces allow people to create their own personal space.

When I take pictures in Hong Kong, I am often drawn to the moments where people are able to create their own spaces among the crowds--in particular the times when it's not clear if someone wants to be alone or if its the environment that forces the loneliness.  Are these people fighting loneliness or the crowds?  And then I wonder how many might wonder the same thing about me.

More pictures below the fold.

Wellington Street (威靈頓街)
1/640s, f/2.5, ISO 400, 50mm

Street Reader
1/640s, f/1.4, ISO 800, 35mm

Gage Street, Hong Kong (结志街) Take II (Explored)
1/1250s, f/1.2, ISO 100, 50mm

Soho at Noon
1/8000 secs, f/1.2, ISO 200, 50mm

Queen's Road West at Night
1/320s, f/1.2, ISO 4000, 50 mm

Island Line (港島綫)

Walking Alone


Afternoon Nap

Around Hollywood Road

Photo Shoot


On the Streets of Mongkok

Broken Rose

Thoughts on Black and White

Around Hollywood Road
1/4000 secs, f/1.2, ISO 400, 50mm

I often end up processing my street photography in black and white.  Especially when the composition is centered around a person or is an outright portrait, I find that subjects are likely to be more intense and dramatic in black and white and that the lack of color can make expressions stand out.  Besides, with Hong Kong's colorful streets, black and white processing can make other parts of the scene less distracting.  And when shooting at high ISO values or when the focus is not spot on, black and white tones tend to be more forgiving.  Of course, it's also a subjective call: sometimes a photo just looks better to me without colors.

I have collected a few more recent black and white shots from Hong Kong below the fold.  For a fullscreen slideshow of my collection of black and white Hong Kong photos see this set on flickr.

Around Hollywood Road
1/6400 secs, f/1.2, ISO 400, 50mm

Around Hollywood Road
1/2500 secs, f/1.2, ISO 800, 50mm

1/250s, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 35mm

Photo Shoot
1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 1000, 35mm

Soho at Noon
1/8000 secs, f/1.2, ISO 200, 50mm

On the Menu
1/500s, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 35mm

1/1250s, f/1.2, ISO 1600, 50mm