NOTES 2010

All the images on HardluckHK are captured with nothing more than the camera in my iphone. And while I do try to shoot things directly connected to our new home in Hong Kong, I mostly just look for good light.

When I can, and when appropriate, I will try to include notes on the images here.


Dec 21: Ho, ho ho! See you after the New Year!

Dec 13: Some old and dear friends recently celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary and they invited us along for the celebration. They met on a beach in Thailand. The event was a romantic reunion. Especially for me. I'm amazed at how well the iphone functions in low light. Especially when you pull the shadows out in iphoto.

Dec 6: Staying with the nautical theme, this is a shot of the sun setting over Aberdeen marina. There's a lot of clubs in Hong Kong. My wife's job came with a membership to the Aberdeen Marina Club. It seems fairly irrelevant that we don't have a boat. I wonder how many people who belong to the Hong Kong Golf Club actually golf? I was at the American Club in Tai Tam a few nights ago. We aren't members, but we were guests there of some Australian friends who are.

Nov 29: Not far from Hong Kong island, just a little southeast, is Po Toi Island. It's basically a rock with some sea grass. The population of the island is probably less than 30 people. And all of them work at the restaurant, the only the restaurant on the island. It's a terrific dive. You order the fixed menu and the food, which is simple and delicious and almost all seafood, just keeps coming. Po Toi is a little tough to get to. More so, if like my father-in-law, you miss the morning's only ferry. Undaunted, he paid a water taxi driver, a sampan, US $50 to carry him across. Turns out sampans are meant for inner harbor work and aren't particularly well equipped -- which is to say sea-worthy -- for travel across the stretch of open ocean between Hong Kong and Po Toi. Not so sure, he thinks the little shack is as charming as I do...

Nov 22: Happy Valley is right in the middle of Hong Kong. Nobody knows why they call it Happy Valley. Especially since for most of its history it's been a malaria-ridden swamp. But since the middle of the 19th century, it's been home to Hong Kong's thoroughbreds. The horses race each Wednesday night for about 10 months of the year. In 2009, $9.7 billion was wagered on 767 races. That's compared to the $12.97 billion that was bet on 49,368 races in all of North America. The Jockey Club, the non-profit organization that controls the betting through a long-held government monopoly, is the largest tax-payer in Hong Kong, paying nearly 10% of the states total taxes. The horses go by fast. And, from a US perspective, they run in the wrong direction.

Nov 16: At Lulu's school, the week before Halloween, they celebrate Book-o-ween. All the kids in the primary school (and the teachers and staff) dress up as a character from one of their favorite books. Lulu went as the girl from The Best/Worst Christmas Pageant Ever.

Nov 9: What surprised me most about Hong Kong is how green it is. You know about the bustle and the shops and the harbor. But 80% of the island is green parkland. This really is our neighborhood, shot from Violet Hill (1,433 feet).

Nov 2: This shop is the middle of a bustling street market in Wan Chai. The signage is as straightforward as it gets. But what I wasn't able to show in the photo is all the prostitutes buying lingerie in the shop (they chased me away).

Oct 19: There's a downtown neighborhood in HK called SoHo (south of Hollywood Rd). It sits between all the tall, shiny office buildings of Central and the tall, shiny residential buildings of the mid-Levels (mid-way up the hill). Between them is the longest set of connected escalators in the world. They go down in the morning and up in the evening, and thousands of people commute on them. I took this shot from the escalators one night. I was on the way up.

Oct 12: Rooftop bars and restaurants are pretty much a standard feature in Hong Kong. Sevva is a favorite after work spot for the financial services crowd (which is pretty much everyone in Central). They usually have a deejay or a band. And the roof is always bathed in the faint red hue of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Building. I didn't think I had enough light to get an image. It was pretty dark. But the shadow removal feature in iPhoto is pretty impressive.

Oct 7: This is from a section of the Mt Violet trail almost near the summit where you can just catch a glimpse of Central and the harbor. Ironically, if you climb all the way to the top, you lose the view. The red buildings in the near foreground is where you find the trailhead. Since everyone mostly takes pictures of downtown, it's easy to ignore the fact that Hong Kong is 80% unspoiled green.

Oct 1: My daughter is training to be an assassin.

Sept 27: Some friends we've made through Lulu's school invited us to the Hong Kong Yacht Club for the mid-Autumn Lantern Festival. The kids dress up in traditional Chinese silks and make paper lanterns. I thought the bright pop of the lanterns against the steady glow of the downtown night sky offered interesting light.

Sept 14: If you're paying close attention, you might have noticed this is the view from our living room window (again see June 16). Not sure what these little guys were doing or if they had any particular relationship to the 3 little "eggs" stuck to the outside of the glass. The eggs are still there, 2 months later, if you're interested. The sun was setting into one of the, thankfully few, really bad smog days we've had since moving here. With the red glow and the strange little assembly of tiny creatures with big antennae, it seemed otherworldly.

Aug 31: I saw this old fisherman and his wife from our living room window (see June 16). They looked like something out of an antique Chinese watercolor. But they were hopelessly far away for an iPhone shot without zoom (3GS phone). So I lined up our telescope and taped the phone to the eye-piece. So I'm guessing this is about a 40x physical zoom. I had to take about a gazillion images to get one that was vaguely functional. I think this is one of those images that's better if you know the story about how it was shot.

Aug 18: The China Club is David Tang's downtown private dining room. It's three stories include a main dining area, private club rooms, a bar (The Long March Bar), a library and the roof deck. It also houses Tang's collection of contemporary Chinese art. It's very cool and membership is perhaps one of the best perks of my wife's job. To get to the roof, you walk past the library down a narrow, low-ceilinged corridor and then squeeze through an impossibly small door that you feel certain should have a secret knock. Technically, I didn't take this photo. Sarah did. But I did make her shoot it several times until I got the effect I was looking for.

Aug 9: I think this one speaks for itself. I'm not sure how you reconcile the (to my mind absurd and oppressive) notions of veiled modesty with the trappings of show-off, look-at-me, luxury, designer scarves, but I personally think Allah would prefer Hermes.

Aug 3: One of the staples of Hong Kong summer weekends is renting a boat, in local parlance, "a junk." The first time we were invited on a junk, I had romantic expectations that we would be met by an old wide bottomed, wooden sailing ship with three masts. Turns out, "junk" just means any boat bigger than a sampan that isn't a ferry. I lucked into this shot. It's maybe my favorite of the whole series. It's my 10 year-old Australian niece and her friend jumping off the top deck of the boat. I shot almost straight into the afternoon sun and got a nearly perfect silhouette.

July 28: My backdoor has this old, cool, retro safety glass. I guess technically speaking it's not a backdoor as it leads to the roof deck. I was out watching an evening squall on the far horizon. The building lights were starting to come on and as I went downstairs, I noticed we were getting cool light play bouncing through the door. If you look closely at the distortion, you can sort of make out the buildings on the Eastern side of Repulse Bay.

July 25: This is my ode to Walker Evans. I couldn't get over how fastidious this guy was. Tie just so. Color-coordinated umbrella. Something on his blackberry was obviously distressing him. I actually ran off quite a few pictures -- while pretending to be checking email -- but only this one turned out. We were just coming into the MTR station at Sheung Wan and I got a bounce of exterior light.

July 12: So I've been quite impressed with you (meaning: me) can do with an iphone camera. But this is probably the first image I'm actually proud of. Walking up our street from the main road, this little guy was swinging on a tiny, silken thread that was probably 30 feet long. There was no breeze really, but he was still moving. So to get an in-focus close up, I probably had to take 100 pictures of this tiny worm. Timing my shot just so. Unable to shake that Kermit the Frog song from my head. I'm sure the security guys in our neighborhood thought I was mental. They did later accuse me of stealing a plastic playhouse (long story, punchline: me innocent), so maybe those things are related. To really see the beauty in this little guy, click on the image to see the full-size picture.

July 5: Wet means produce. Dry means everything else. Or so I'm told. This one happens to be in a sloping alley in the middle of the Wanchai section of downtown. Middle of the day, but the lamps are burning brightly under the make-shift sunshades. I'm not sure the photo fully captures how cool the blues and greens of the filtered sunlight play with the bright yellow fluorescence.

June 30: There's a Thai spot on the beach in the next bay over from ours. During the day, it's a place to rent beach umbrellas and chairs. At night, it's open air Thai food as good as I've ever had (though the pad thai is ordinary). There's also no lighting. This photo was essentially "black". But I forced the algorithms to give up what they had with the "shadows" button in iPhoto and was a little bit tickled by the grainy foreground and the "aquarium (?)" in the back. 

June 27: Probably should have written more about the last image. Was sort of amazing to just happen along just moments after the "incident". Especially iphone camera in hand. Felt like a cub reporter on a beat. And not long after I wandered into the neighborhood grocery. I couldn't believe how many choices of instant noodles were available. And the best part... I couldn't read a single label. Noodle roulette? 

June 24: I just happened to walk by. Must have been 60 seconds after impact from the look of things. Nobody seemed hurt. But the guy with the scooter wasn't happy.

June 21: Both kids' schools hosted dads for Father's Day events. I proudly went to both and had a wonderful time making a trophy from gold glitter and a toilet paper roll (pictured) and a pencil holder crafted with red felt wrapped around a soup can. I love this shot of Tommy proudly raising our creation. His classroom is glassed on all sides. Up to the level of the tallest four year-old you can imagine, the glass is frosted to keep the kids' attention from wandering. It made for an amazing background. If you look closely, you can see Tommy's fingers are stained crimson. As soon as I arrived and we sat down at our work table, his nose erupted. Blood poured all over both our hands and splattered on our trophy. The teachers were a bit freaked, but not quite sure how to challenge my parental authority when I said, "He'll be fine. If I can have some tissue, we'll just keep working on our trophy."

June 19: We were moving into our new place in Hong Kong when this GIANT snail (slug?) climbed the wall to greet us. I came upstairs to get our daughter to show her. "Want to see something amazing?" I thought seeing a snail with a 4 inch shell would impress. "Dad, I thought you were going to show me something really cool. Like an explosion."

June 16: We haven't seen much blue sky since we arrived in Hong Kong, something to do with a combination of increased industrial production in China and the start of the rainy season. But we moved into our house this week under a rare blue sky. This is view, facing south-southwest, from our roof deck.

June 14: I was invited to something called the Hong Kong Art Fair where art galleries from all over the world bring their best pieces to sell to rich people in Hong Kong. From the generic name and location (at the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre), I thought it would be a big Z Gallery poster sale. And I was wrong. The collections shown included pieces from Damien Hirst, a Rothko and a Taiwanese artist who "paints" with fireworks (his images are burned onto canvas). Somebody even had a Renoir for sale -- I didn't get a close look because you had to put your wine down to enter that particular space. It's also the event where I ran into Baz Luhrmann. These girls captured the event for me. It was the VIP opening night when collectors and their agents were supposed to have a first look at the paintings. But it was really more like a big cocktail party. Most people were too busy watching the other people to pay much attention to the art.

June 6: I snapped this one, without permission, on a recent harbor crossing. You might note the similarity in the sky in the last two images. The shots were taken on the same day about 20 minutes apart.

June 3: So I walked down to this little Thai place the other day. It's a small, open air place with a kitchen the size of a bathroom. They rent beach chairs and umbrellas during the day. But the food is surprisingly good and it's right on the beach. So it was Pad Thai, an ocean breeze and a sunset. And out of nowhere comes the Sol Beer Girl. The place doesn't have a bar. The place is barely a place. And here's this girl decked out in 60s Go-Go gear pushing Mexican Beer. I don't often ask if I can take photographs (and yes I realize the ethics of this are questionable). But I asked the beer girl if I could. While she was posing like Tyra Banks, I couldn't get the camera phone out of video mode. She wasn't happy as I just kept saying, "Almost. Hold on." I drank about 6 beers to make it up to her.

June 1: This place is like my own personal shrine. Hong Kong has plenty of hustle and bustle. And if that weren't enough constant buzz, I'm living in a corporate apartment with my three small children. So the lap pool is my solitude. I wonder if I'd swim as far if I weren't in a corporate apartment with three small children?

May 28: I was in Causeway Bay waiting for IKEA to open (stores don't open until 10:30-11AM here!), and just walking around. I noticed this guy riding his bike up the block. I jogged about 50 yards to catch better light. This is probably my favorite image to date. The beautiful range of grays -- store front, the sign, guy's shorts -- was a happy accident. And the guy looks like a mannequin that I posed for the shot; so it's nice there's an actual mannequin in the background,