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Fragrant Harbour - Victoria Harbour Hong Kong
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Hong Kong offers one of the most amazing skyline standing in front of lush green mountains and peaks but when the winds die down or they blow down from the north we get bad air days..  This however is not what occurs on many days due to differing factors.  This can make it very challenging for photographers and time-lapsers to catch the best of what the city offers.  Hong Kong locals typically see this as far more common occurrence than it really is.  In a place that has such dramatic skies why would one remember blue sky days that as a time-lapse photographer could not be any more boring if possible.

The haze is often worse in Hong Kong during the winter months when the winds typically blow down from the North.  One can link the increase in API with the resulting smog.  Haze is not just from dust, smoke and other particles in the sky.  Fog and mist are also common in Hong Kong during spring and fall when the temperature of the air and water from the ocean start to differ to a greater extent.

n terms of the pollution it does not take much to point the finger north where manufacturing is a large contributor.  It has occurred that a wind storm over Beijing has effected the air quality in Hong Kong.  Shipping, cruise ships and ferries can be seen all over the water of Hong Kong.  Ships have a very dirty fuel that causes sulfur dioxide gases being emitted during combustion that are converted into small droplets of sulfuric acid.  These reactions are enhanced in the presence of sunlight, high humidity that is very common in Hong Kong and stagnant air flow that is not uncommon in the Victoria Harbour basin.  Smoke can come from a few sources in Hong Kong.  We have not only an incinerator but a big part of local culture is burning paper and incense.  One can be across the street from a temple and chock on the smoke.

Typhoons, monsoons and storms can all play a factor in disturbing the weather.  The images on this page show how we went from very clear and incredible skies before the typhoon.  After the storm went by it pulled the air currents and the result was soup like sky.  This was short lived as effect of the storm diminished.  The sharpest time to shoot Hong Kong is always after a storm as the particles fall from the sky.

For a photographer this causes some major problems as contrast is lost in images, due to light reflection of particles in the atmosphere.  Sunset and sunrise colours appear subdued on hazy days.  The decreased visibility due to the particles that if great enough the sun disappears before reaching the horizon.  So in effect haze and fog as a natural soft box as it scatter light sources which dramatically reduces contrast and colour saturations.

On days when the winds are low and humidity and coastal mist are highest the fumes from a dirty engine create bad air.

On days when the winds are low and humidity and coastal mist are highest the fumes from a dirty engine create bad air.  Now consider the fact that there are thousands of boats in HK waters and many with much larger engines the problem is much clearer.

Photography Tips

Picking when you travel to Hong Kong can help greatly but this is not always proven safe.  This past summer (2014) I can recall only a handful of bad air days.  Two years ago the whole summer was bad air.  Typically the summer is a safer bet but due to high temperatures and high humidity it’s often not ideal working conditions.  It’s also important to remember than cameras like all electronic items don’t like moisture and I find going from cold room to hot humid air is more damaging and frustrating than leaving camera in the shooting conditions all the time.  If camera does get a bit damp I throw it in the rice box.

Using super-telephoto lenses often have a built in yellow filter to help compensate and enhance image contrast.  An ND filter and or polarizer filter can also help improve the image.  Infrared imaging may also be used with a combination of IR-pass optical filters and IR-sensitive detector.

How to capture the effect of fog is done by ensuring there is depth layers in the image.  This means making sure something up close is not effected by the elements.  Use lights to add drama as the light bounces much greater of the particles of light.

In general in order to keep detail in both fog and smog it’s best to shoot for under one second exposure or texture will smooth out resulting in a flat image.  Slow exposure will give a more full and milky look and worth giving a try.

Filters can be very tricky to use in fog or smog conditions that are the result of humidity.  This can cause the lens to fog up much like those who wear glasses are used to.  So bring a lens cloth to keep wiping the lens to have a fighting chance.  I also cover my camera in order to keep moisture build-up of the camera body.

Fog can be rapidly changing so images taken only minutes apart can look far different.  This would not be the case of haze unless there is a storm brewing and in Hong Kong that’s highly possible as high humidity is a common occurrence.

 

Purchasing Info: Looking to order a print there are many ways to purchase my the artist directly.  This is an artist created site and continuously updated work of passion.  You can click on the image and get pricing details.  You can also contact me directly with the image link or name or even a specific image type request.  Every picture captures the essence of Hong Kong and welcome an inquires.

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