Wanchai, Hong Kong April 2017
Wanchai, Hong Kong April 2017
Riot being the name of the band playing at the Rio Club in Wanchai, Hong Kong. Here’s some shots of them in action – getting used to shooting with my Fujifilm X-T2, taken with the Fuji 23mm and 56mm lenses.
(This is one of those places where the stage lighting changes color every second, washing out photos with deep reds, greens, blues, purples, oranges. I wonder if one day they’d let me shoot the band with just “normal” lights in the club.)
I’ve had the Fujifilm X-T2 for almost two weeks and the more I use it, the more I get used to using it, the more I’m convinced that I made the right decision in selling off my Nikon.
My initial fear was that this camera was going to be too small for me to comfortably hold but that didn’t turn out to be the case at all. It’s a great fit, almost as if they had my hands in mind when designing the camera.
My next realization was that with easily accessible and clearly marked dials for ISO and shutter speed, and aperture rings on the lenses I purchased, plus the “assist” I can get from the two command dials, I’m possibly thinking about settings more than I did in the past, and manually bracketing a lot of my shots as I continue to try to find out what works and what doesn’t work with the camera.
I’ve added a photo gallery of my pictures of Jeff Beck, who appeared in Hong Kong at Asiaworld on March 22, 2010. The shot above is my current favorite from the batch.
As I mentioned earlier, as I’m allowing Spike’s Photos to wind down, I’m going to be adding photo galleries here. Rather than just copying over the photos from seven years ago, I’ve gone back into Lightroom and “remastered” them. Lightroom is a much better program and I’m much better with it than seven years ago.
The band included the great Narada Michael Walden on drums, Rhonda Smith on bass and Jason Rebello on keyboards.
While I’ve seen Beck live many times, stretching back to 1974 or 1975, this was his first time playing a concert in Hong Kong. And it was my first time having a “3 songs, no flash” pass for a major concert in Hong Kong. I’m really thrilled with how well these shots turned out (although when I go back to them now and see the settings I used, I’m amazed that they came out as well as they did).
I did get a little bit punch drunk while re-processing the photos, pushing things a bit to see just what I could do with them. They’re not in the gallery but I’ll show a few of them to you here.
I’m undecided about the results – they’re either artistic and unique or they’re goofy as fuck. You tell me.
I’ve just returned home after a week in Hong Kong.
The end of this month marks two years since I made the move to Manila. People always ask me if I miss Hong Kong and I do, to some extent, but in the past two years I’ve gotten back there at least once every 2 or 3 months, usually just for 3 or 4 days at a time, so it always feels a bit hectic, trying to fit in all the things I want to do.
This trip ended up being 8 days and spanning a weekend. I was there alone as my wife had several important things to take care of back home and, perhaps surprising to most of you, I did my best to stay out of trouble during the trip.
My company puts me into a small hotel on Lockhart Road smack in the middle of the bar area but also just a 2 minute walk to the office. The hotel is relatively new and the rooms are crazy small. How small? There’s a closet with four hangers but no other place to put your clothes other than living out of a suitcase or stacking them on the floor of the closet. There is one chair, an uncomfortable and unpadded wooden chair by the desk, though in some rooms the desk is so close to the bed that there’s no way to pull the chair out.
The entire hotel is non-smoking, which means every hour I’m standing in front of the hotel having a cigarette and watching what’s happening along Lockhart Road. Standing there I seem to be a magnet for all of the ladyboys and mainland Chinese streetwalkers – it’s not difficult to say no.
Allow me to digress from my current If I’m So Smart series.
I went to Hong Kong this past weekend, just Saturday through Tuesday, a quick break. Here’s what I did.
Saturday night, a party with a group of good friends, 4 or 5 hours hanging out in Joe Bananas drinking, eating, talking, followed by a 3 AM late night supper with my wife at Hay Hay.
Sunday, brunch at the Wanchai branch of Le Pain Quotidien. My wife was disappointed that there wasn’t more smoked salmon on her herbed farmer cheese and smoked salmon tartine but I was 100% happy with my “Tuscan platter” (4 different kinds of salumi and ham, ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes and an amazing black olive tapenade). The price was reasonable – for Hong Kong. I could go to Paul’s or Passion or Dean & DeLuca (or probably half a dozen other places in Manila that I don’t know about yet) and eat a similar range for half the cost, but without the aggravation known as “traffic.”
Then some shopping, mostly picking up some items at the Wanchai Computer Centre (much bigger selection than “cyber malls” in Manila and generally lower prices).
Sunday dinner, nothing remarkable.
Monday, I picked up a new backpack that I’d ordered from Amazon, the Everki Versa. (Odd. I paid around US$170 for it, plus shipping. Now it’s out of stock and once back in stock, it’s US$123 but only available for sale to Amazon Prime members.) I had it shipped to a Hong Kong address because getting it shipped to Manila would have meant an additional US$50 in customs and taxes.
Also on Monday I had to get from Causeway Bay to the ICC tower, and that took me 20 minutes. Traveling that kind of distance in Manila would have taken me at least an hour, maybe two.
Monday night, dinner at the oddly named Spanish restaurant The Optimist. We had zero complaints about our Jamon Iberico, Gambas a la plancha or the flat iron steak with chimichurri sauce, though I wasn’t impressed with the sauce for their Clams Almejas in salsa verde. A very comfortable place to sit for a couple of hours, great staff, we really enjoyed it. The price, again, “good for Hong Kong.”
Tuesday, Airport Express, 23 minutes Central to the Airport. Coincidentally my (second) ex-wife was transiting the airport at the same time so we had a brief reunion while waiting for our flights.
It’s kind of funny. I lived in Hong Kong for almost 20 years. I still work in Hong Kong. But these three days were stress free and totally felt like a vacation.
Then back to Manila. I came out of the terminal and traffic was backed up for miles. It was not moving at all. I got an Uber within one minute – because the guy had just dropped someone else off and was waiting there, stuck in traffic. It took an hour and a half for us to go 12 miles.
Now that I’m back home, I’m faced with a new traffic scheme, starting tomorrow, in which I will not be able to enter or exit through the main gate of my village because the idiot TPMO in Pasig is trying some new experimental traffic “scheme” that bans cars from the surrounding streets – Monday, Wednesday and Friday if your license plate ends in an even number, the other 4 days if an odd number. Instead of going out through Pasig, I have to exit through Taytay, where the traffic is already at a standstill every day due to construction work on a bridge and incompetent traffic enforcers and too many people who don’t know how to drive. On those three days a week, it would now take me one hour to get to the supermarket that is normally 15 minutes away, 2-1/2 miles from my house. To say I am unhappy about this is an understatement.
My friends in Hong Kong think that Manila is starting to get to me. I’m having an increasingly difficult time debating that point with them.
When I fly out of Manila, I try to get the earliest flight possible so that I’ll have the least amount of traffic going to the airport. That always works fine.
Coming back to Manila, I get a late flight, again so that there won’t be much traffic once I land. That works so-so, because the later the flight, the more likelihood there’ll be a delay. (A friend of mine on Facebook said, PAL = Planes Always Late.) That’s what happened tonight. My 10:30 flight delayed by almost an hour and a half. Then again, I made it from the airport to my front door in 38 minutes.
Anyway, last week a friend was visiting Manila and we went out after work for a few hours. This is a guy who is extremely well organized and I follow many of his tips. His latest tip is to always have a camera and a notebook. Aside from always having both at your fingertips, he says it’s a conversation starter. I silently questioned the wisdom of walking around Manila with a US$1,000 camera in your hands, but he seemed to be doing just fine.
But that got me thinking along a tangent. I have the Nikon D-800. I’ve had it for 5 years now I guess and it is without question the best camera I ever owned. I have ten lenses for it (including the 24-70mm F2.8 and 80-200mm F2.8). And in the year and a half since I came to Manila, I think I’ve used it three times. It’s just sitting there, day after lonely day, in the dehumidifier cabinet.
There’s also the fact that the camera is big and can be quite heavy (depending on which lens I’m using).
I started wondering, if I sold it all off and got a much smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, would I be using it more frequently – and would I be as happy with it (and with the results) as I am with the Nikon?
I don’t know the answer to that yet.
Very coincidentally, Wednesday night walking down Lockhart Road, I ran into a friend and we stopped into a nearby bar to catch up. This particular friend is a member of Hong Kong band The Sleeves. I knew they had just returned from Cambodia, where they recorded their second album, so I had at least a thousand questions. And I joked that they should have brought their official photographer (aka Me) along on the trip. And he turned around and said that the photos I’d taken of the band were the best ever taken (here’s some shots from the studio session we did) – and how sad it is that they can’t use them any more (they have a new bass guitarist) and that I should either bring my camera along with me next time I come to Hong Kong or maybe they’ll all make it to Manila before the end of the year.
I no longer have a studio – and I’m not connected to any local photographers or studios yet. So there’s that.
It also got me missing Hong Kong (even though I was there at that moment) in the sense that on any given night I can still walk around Wanchai or Lan Kwai Fong or TST and run into at least half a dozen people I know while my circle in Manila is immensely smaller.
First and foremost, I have to get out more. So that’s one resolution I will try to keep. With a notepad and camera in hand (but for now, just my Sony RX-100 Mark 3, which is still a damned fine camera for its size).
“I had the time of my life …”
I’m very sad to report that PASM Workshop, the photography studio that I co-owned, closed for good yesterday. Of all the things that I did in my 18 years in Hong Kong, I’m proudest of my connection with this studio.
The idea was Victor Cheung’s (the tall guy in the center of the photo above), a photography studio that would also be a meeting place for the artistic community. When Victor told me the details of the idea, I practically begged him to let me be a part of it. Coincidentally, the opening party in 2009 took place on the day that I left Warner Bros.
The team has grown and shrunk over the years, nine partners at its peak. We did this more as a labor of love than with any expectation of growing rich. The studio held frequent parties, was the Hong Kong branch of Open Show, hosted classes from internationally known photographers such as Emily Soto and probably shot as many charity events as paid events.
My participation in the studio over the years meant that I got to meet so many other photographers in Hong Kong, many of whom were uncommonly generous in sharing advice and tips with me. For me it was a place to learn, a place to try new things and a personal clubhouse.
With Victor’s untimely passing earlier this year, with me no longer in Hong Kong, with the other partners also holding down full time jobs, there was just no viable way to keep the studio going any more. Yesterday was the last day of operations. Today it’s dark. Read on to see some of my favorite photos from my PASM shoots over the years.
Saturday was my mother’s 95th birthday.
This picture was taken (gulp!) 68 years ago. It’s her with my father the day after they got engaged. She tells me that my father told her when he proposed, “I’m probably making a huge mistake.” But they remained together, for better or worse, for 44 years. On my mother’s side of the family, the men all seem to die in their 70s, the women last well into their 90s. I’m convinced my mother will outlive me.
This video on Vimeo is a staff pick there and has been shared a lot on social media in the past couple of weeks. It’s called “Hong Kong Strong” and was directed by Brandon Li.
Li has also done a “director’s commentary” video, posted on Youtube.
Have you watched both?
My thoughts after watching these. First thought as I was watching this was “I wish I had a drone” though I probably couldn’t do anything anywhere near as artistic with it.
But after watching all the way through and thinking about it … I’m not a huge fan but I like it.
Yes, it’s stunningly shot. The editing is too frenetic for my taste (perhaps as a result of the director once working as a producer for MTV). As it builds towards its climax, there doesn’t seem to be any message. As a huge admirer of films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka, I want more than just great images in a film, I want it to add up to something.
For me the giveaway is what Li says in the commentary – “I am a nomad. I don’t have a fixed address. I travel all over the world and I make short films about places that I’ve been. [Getting staff pick on Vimeo] it’s helped me getting other film making work, doing commercials or other gigs that let me travel and shoot for tourism boards.”
So even though he mentions his “Cantonese heritage,” he is an outsider. The target audience for this may be tourists or perhaps locals and expats who will get to see a favorite spot included in the film. Our cable channels are filled with television shows that are guides to exotic destinations that are hosted by people who do not live in those places and may never have been there before. This is no better and no worse than most of the other stuff out there.
The disappointment for me starts with the title. I was expecting a film titled “Hong Kong Strong” to make a political statement and this one doesn’t. Hong Kong is in a state of ever-increasing turmoil. Recent protests and calls for independence; the disappearing booksellers; the Chinese government stepping up their domination and forgetting all about what “one country, two systems” is supposed to mean.
I thought “Hong Kong Strong” might be a statement about all of that; a declaration of identity in the face of what will almost certainly be insurmountable odds. It’s not.
All of that aside, it is really brilliantly shot and Li’s contacts and connections have gotten him access to a wide variety of scenes and locations that do give some idea of the stunning choices available in such a relatively small territory. There’s a nice emphasis on culture here – much more locally oriented and steering clear from the ex-pat view and I think he deserves high marks for that. As I said, give me the same equipment and I wouldn’t be able to come up with something even 10% as good as this. It’s great for what it is, I just wish it was more.