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Hong Kong Project 2016: The Beginning (at the End)

Leica M-A with 35mm Summilux Asph. Shot with CineStill 800T film. Approx 1/60th f/2.8

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy taking pictures in Hong Kong? Digital, film, point-and-shoot, ILC, smartphone, I don’t care what I use. As long as I’m on the streets where the action is, I’m ready to shoot. Unlike the past two years where I’ve gone on vacation to Hong Kong with my wife (aka Camera Girl for you YouTube followers), this time it was an actual work assignment. MonogramAsia invited me to interview landscape photographer Michael Kenna, and I invited Ryan from Arcade Original to join me. In homage of Michael Kenna’s film-only photography, I asked Leica North America to loan me a film camera (the Leica M-A), and I asked Fujifilm Canada to send me some film to shoot (Pro 400H and ACROS 100). I also had the new (but pre-production) Fujfilm X-T2 with booster and the new (and impossible to find) Canon G7X mrk II. I was also testing the new BitPlay EF18 ultra wide angle lens for the iPhone 6S. Yes I had many ways to capture Hong Kong, and I took every opportunity to use each tool to its potential. Did I have a favourite? Of course. Can you guess?

Leica M-A with 35mm Summilux Asph. Shot with Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 at approx 1/1000th sec f/11

As many of you know, I was a very late adopter of digital. Film was free (I worked at Kodak) and most of my friends owned labs (again, because of Kodak) so there was no need to shoot digital. At the time, digital was inferior (4MP DSLRs) and expensive ($20,000 USD) compared with film so I was just fine shooting away with rolls of Tri-X, Portra, E100S and Royal Gold. Almost 20 years later, there’s almost no reason to go back to film in terms of image quality and cost-performance. Digital is the future. However, does this mean film is the past? Yes and no. This isn’t the article to get into this argument, but let’s just say that film is surviving just fine in the world of fine art photography and enthusiasts. It’s also very big in Asia. Shooting film is very easy and convenient in Hong Kong and I took every opportunity to do so with the Leica M-A and 35mm Summilux. In total, I shot 12 rolls of film, which is about what I shot all of last year! Yes, Hong Kong is all about shooting with Leica and shooting film. #Filmisnotdead and #Believeinfilm are perfect hashtags for this moody and cinematic city.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF10-24mm. Classic Chrome film profile.

Let’s not just talk about shooting film. This trip was all about projects. The Michael Kenna project was the big one. My film project was also big. My buildings portrait project, daily vlogging project, YouTube project, back alley project, etc. I probably had 10 different projects prepared for this trip, and I completed all of them. I even picked up some spontaneous mini-projects while in Hong Kong so wait for these as well. Yes I was very busy. I was so busy that the only thing I had time for was to post to Instagram and Twitter. The rest would have to wait to produce once I got back to Vancouver. In fact, it will take me at least 2 months to roll everything out, so please be patient. I haven’t even looked at all the pictures I’ve taken in Hong Kong, including half my rolls of film and about 1/3 of my digital images. The biggest problem I had was that I had too much content, and storing and organizing my files became a huge burden and time waster. The biggest lesson learned on this trip? Have a solid workflow for ingestion and organization. Decide where everything goes, do it as soon as you can, immediately create backups, and throw some of your most precious images on a cloud-type service (I use Flick’r). Oh, and bring lots of memory cards, and clean out your external hard drive, computer and smartphone before the trip!!

Fujifilm X-T2 w/XF10-24mm. ACROS film simulation

The best part of traveling to Hong Kong is the camera culture, specifically film photography. There are some amazing camera shops dealing with vintage cameras, each one specializing in specific eras and types of cameras. Japanese rangefinders from the 1960s, European cine lenses, twin lens reflex, Leica, Leica, Leica and more Leica! Hong Kong has 4 official Leica Stores (Canada doesn’t have one!) so you know this is a serious city when it comes to cameras. Go visit Champagne Court in Tsim Sha Tsui or Sim City in Mong Kong. Find accessories at crazy low prices at Sham Shui Po. Even photofinishing is still big business here. There are tons of labs processing film, although most labs just scan your negatives instead of printing to 4×6 or 3.5×5 (Asian standard). DotWell Photo at Champagne Court develops and scans your colour negatives for $35 HKD (about $4 USD), making it reasonably economical to shoot film on a regular basis. It’s also very quick, often 45 minutes or less for colour negatives, and they’ll even email you scans. Every time I go there I’m in a lineup waiting to drop off or pick up my freshly shot rolls of film. The people in the lineups aren’t crusty old guys (like me) mumbling about the merits of grain versus pixels. They’re mostly young and half of them are female. Yes, MonogramAsia made a good decision to host the Michael Kenna event here. I’m still pleasantly surprised at how young the audience was, as well as how many females were in the audience. Watch my upcoming vlog of the event to see what I’m talking about.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF35mm f/2 WR. Shot at f/2. Classic Chrome film profile

This is not to say that #digitalisdead here. Hong Kong is a city of juxtaposition. They have the latest and greatest sports cars from all four corners of the earth, but they also have a very huge classic car enthusiast culture. Pristine Japanese sports cars from the 70s and 80s, perfect Mini’s and Rolls Royce’s from the 50s and 60s. And don’t forget air-cooled 911s! This city has a population of 7 million strong, so there’s lots of room for various camps of all genres of any hobby. Digital camera sales are very strong here as well. I saw as many digital Leica’s as I did film M’s. Whenever I met a camera enthusiast, they were always interested in the latest Fujifilm cameras and/or lenses I had with me at the time. In fact, I found most enthusiasts in Hong Kong were more open to various brands and types of cameras versus those in North America. There’s no ‘Sony versus Canon’ mentality on the street or in the camera shops. At least I didn’t see or hear it or sense this mentality when talking with other photographers and camera lovers. There was an overall appreciation for all types of photography and camera equipment. This is a great city for camera lovers of all styles. Leave your argumentative-fanboy-camp mentality at home please.

Fujifilm X-T2 with XF18-55mm. Classic Chrome film profile

In conclusion, this recent Hong Kong trip was a busy success. I was able to complete my assignment for MonogramAsia (at least the recording part), I was able to partner with Arcade Original and produce our own unique content (same), I created original content for FujiLove Magazine (2 articles so far) and I was able to complete all my personal projects for myself and for other brands. As I mentioned, although the trip is over, this is just the beginning in terms of content. More will be rolled out in the coming weeks. I have at least 30 videos coming to YouTube, 4 to 5 articles for my own website and a few more small projects that are yet to be announced. Stay tuned for details. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and my YouTube channel to see all the content from this trip. I’m scrambling to pump this stuff out because I have another trip coming up in less than 2 weeks. I know I won’t have it all done before I leave, but I’ll do my best to publish as much as possible. Where am I going and what am I doing next? Wouldn’t you like to know 🙂

Leica M-A with 35mm Summilux. Shot with FujiColor PRO 400H at approx 1/250th sec f/5.6