This is the first, of a two-part article by Steve Schechter (AKA Spike @ Spikesphotos.com). Steve is a good friend of photoheadonline.com and will kick off our inaugural photoheadonline.com “contributor series” of articles. If you or someone you know is interested in photography and would like to be a contributor. Please contact me via the contact tab on the navigation bar. Photoheadonline.com is committed to providing the best content possible, on the stuff that you want to know about. So please don’t be afraid to contribute what you know to the site, and we can make the photographic community a better, more informed place.
Hi everyone and thanks to Photohead Online for allowing me to contribute here!
By way of introduction, I’m originally from New York City and I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 15 years. I’ve always loved photography and started getting more serious about it four years ago. Today I co-own a successful photography studio in Hong Kong called PASM Workshop (www.pasmworkshop.com) and try to get out and shoot as often as I can.
One of the things I really enjoy shooting is Hong Kong’s skyline, one of the best if not the best in the world. Most tourists bring their camera gear to Victoria Peak (aka “The Peak”). It’s a trip well worth taking your first time here, especially because you can get there by a historic tram. But when you’re there, you’re shooting down towards the back of many of our iconic skyscrapers. Shooting the skyline from the other side of Victoria Harbor means you can see these buildings from the front, as they’re meant to be seen, with mountains as the backdrop.
You can walk along the waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui and get some ground level photos of the skyline. Many locals prefer going to the top of a mountain called Fei Ngo Shan (also known as Kowloon Peak). You get an amazing panoramic view from the top and you can drive there (or take a taxi). You won’t see many other tourists coming up here and one thing that means is that you can get photos that don’t simply duplicate shots taken by millions of others.
When is the best time to go? Air pollution in Hong Kong has been on the increase in the past several years. Blue skies are increasingly rare and even on relatively clear days, it can be too hazy to get really detailed photos. However it’s magical at night, when the lights on the skyscrapers blast their way through the haze, the lights of the homes on Victoria Peak are twinkling and you can get some really dramatic clouds topping the whole scene.
Photographers will often mention a “Golden Hour” and that’s a great time to shoot. The lights of the buildings have just come on but the sky hasn’t gone completely dark yet and you can get some lovely results. So you want to be in place and have all your equipment set up and ready before sundown. I’ve found that in that hour before sundown, the sun can be so strong that it washes out all the color and contrast on Hong Kong’s skyline. However, on rare occasions, you’ll get strong beams of sunlight breaking through the clouds, giving your photos a truly dramatic look. Hong Kong photographers call this “Jesus light.”
My main camera these days is Nikon’s fabulous D800, a full frame DSLR with an amazing 36 megapixel sensor. Shooting with this camera at night can be a real test of your technique and skills. It requires a certain level of technical expertise as well as creative vision.
First and most important, of course you’ll want to bring a tripod for shooting, but not just any tripod. Take this advice seriously – buy the best tripod you can afford. My Nikon D800 body weighs 32 ounces, my Nikon 70-200mm lens weighs 54 ounces – that’s 86 ounces or almost 5-1/2 pounds. A bargain tripod simply isn’t going to be able to stand up to that weight. As the saying goes, “A fool buys everything twice.” You’re not just buying three metal legs to hold up your camera. Your tripod has to be strong enough and sturdy enough to remain absolutely still with the weight of your camera and lens on top. And when you’re shooting on a mountain top, it’s going to be windy. There’s a reason that professional tripods can cost hundreds of dollars and trust me, when it’s a matter of having something that’s rock solid steady and getting the shot you want to get, it’s worth every penny.
Next, you’re not going to take the shot by pressing the shutter button on your camera. Even the gentlest touch will introduce some level of vibration that can ruin your photograph. Get a remote release. It can be wired or wireless, it can be made by the same company that makes your camera, or by a third party. It might be just a button at the end of a cable or might have a LCD screen with a whole host of additional features. The point is that you need some kind of remote release.
The one thing that I always forget to bring along is a flashlight. Trust me, when you’re standing there in the dark fumbling through your settings or trying to change lenses, you’ll be glad you brought this.
The last item is one that I consider to be nice to have but not critical, and that’s a GPS sensor. These will tag the metadata in your photos with your exact location. Programs including Adobe Lightroom and Picasa can then plot your location on Google maps. As I said, it’s not essential but it’s nice to have. I found a GPS sensor from Phottix that is half the price of Nikon’s and has all of the same functionality (and comes with more cables and accessories than Nikon’s unit).
So now you’re ready to shoot. Not so fast! You’re not going to get the best possible photograph by leaving your camera in “P” or automatic mode. You’ve got a lot of creative choices here so take advantage of that.
Part 1: by Steve Schechter
All images © Steve Schechter 2012 www.spikesphotos.com
Continued in Part 2 of the Article.
Please visit http://spikesphotos.com to see Steve’s work and to read is blog. It’s has lots of great info!!