4 Nov 2016

Three of my Favorite Places to Shoot Street Photography in Hong Kong

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hong-kong-street-photography-blue-wall
1. The Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun neighborhoods
I love shooting in these neighborhoods because of the many contrasts: new and old; modern and traditional. There are so many great side streets and alleys full of color and life. There really is a bit of everything for the street photographer, whether you’re into street art, architecture or simply interested in documenting daily life on the streets of Hong Kong. Take a right on Staunton Street off the Mid-Level escalators and keep walking as Staunton turns into Bridges St. After you pass the YMCA you can start exploring the many side streets and small alleys for the latest bit of urban beauty.

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2. The intersection of Jubilee and Des Veoux in Central
I love this spot and revisit it often. I usually shoot from either side of the pedestrian walkway right by Hang Seng Bank above Des Voeux. It’s a great vantage point for shooting city life below and can be especially cool to capture long shadows and take advantage of the softer light if you are there in the morning or late afternoon. It’s also a fun place to play with panning and after-dark long exposure shots.

3. The area around Chung King Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui
Another area that I go back to time and again. Day or night, there is a great energy in this part of Kowloon. In terms of people it is one of the most diverse areas of Hong Kong and a multitude of characters abound. The gritty and grimy alleys are definitely worth exploring but if you don’t feel that adventurous, just camp out at the main crossing in front of Chung King Mansions. If you’re there after dark, bring a tripod and capture the never-ending movement and motion under the the neon lights.

Michael Kistler (michaelkistlerphotography.com) is a photography instructor at HONG KONG PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP and a Hong Kong artist specializing in fine art urban photography and photography education. Originally from Minneapolis, he lived in Tokyo for 10 years before moving to Hong Kong in 2014. In addition to having his work exhibited in Tokyo, NYC, Astoria, Minneapolis, London, Dublin, Porto and Hong Kong, Michael offers urban photography courses regularly in Hong Kong and is co­-founder of Finding Yourself in the Streets, a series of international street photography workshops. Michael has conducted workshops in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, Dubai, Minneapolis and Yangon.

His street photography workshops run regularly in Hong Kong with dates listed here.

19 May 2016

Where to develop film in Hong Kong

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ilford-hp5-film-nikon-slr

Here are a few places I’ve gone to develop 135 film:

Chung Pui Photo Supplies, 44 Stanley Street, Central
B&W: HK$35 develop + HK$50 scan to CD = $85 as of May 2016
Color: HK$30/$35/$40 (next-day/same-day/1-hr) develop + HK$30 scan to CD = $60/$65/$70 as of May 2016

image playground Camera Shop, 3/F, 11 Queen Victoria Street, Central
B&W: HK$40 develop + HK$35 scan to CD = $75 as of March 2016 (incl. free push 1-stop)
Color: HK$30 develop + HK$35 scan to CD = $65 as of March 2016

If you have any submissions on film developers in Hong Kong, feel free to submit it in the comments.

23 Mar 2016

Buying 35mm camera film in Hong Kong

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I finally bought my first used film SLR camera at Champagne Court, and along with it a few rolls of B&W film. I wasn’t able to easily find a list of 35mm film stores or pricing, so I’ll keep a running list here:

Chung Pui Photo Supplies, 44 Stanley Street, Central (pictured above)
Ilford Delta Pro 400, HK$52 as of March 2016
Ilford HP5 Plus, HK$52 as of March 2016
Kodak Portra 400,HK$69 as of March 2016

image playground Camera Shop, 3/F, 11 Queen Victoria Street, Central
Ilford Delta Pro 400, HK$55 as of March 2016
Kodak Portra 400,HK$67 as of March 2016

I’ve also seen Dot-Well Photo Workshop in Tsim Sha Tsui (just outside the used camera mall) mentioned on various other websites, so I was excited to go but the woman at the film counter had a bit of an attitude problem (one of my avid film shooter students had the exact same experience). This place presumably has a long history in Hong Kong which I can respect, but I can’t recommend them – if you go anyways, beware the film counter nazi.

If you have any submissions on film prices in Hong Kong, feel free to submit it in the comments.

10 Mar 2016

Should I buy a UV lens filter for my new lens?

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hong-kong-photography-class-lens-filter-bokeh

If you have ever bought a camera lens in Hong Kong, inevitably you have been asked this question – do you want to buy a filter?

What does a filter do?
Different filters have various purposes but the one most often used, and the one that a shopkeeper will most likely immediately try to sell you after buying a lens or camera is a UV filter – essentially a clear piece of glass that screws on to the front of your lens without having any noticeable effect on the actual image.

Then why do people use lens filters?
Photographers generally subscribe to one of two schools of thought – using UV filters on all their lenses or not using UV filters at all. Those that use UV filters generally use it for protection – if you were to drop your lens or something were to smash into your lens, the filter would take the brunt of the impact, and hopefully leave your actual lens unscathed. Unfortunately many camera shops in Hong Kong will try to “scare” a first-time buyer into thinking you ABSOLUTELY NEED a UV filter when really, its up to you. Not cool.

Yes, a UV filter could save your lens from damage one day, but I prefer not to use any UV filters at all and to just use my lens hood as protection. It saves me money and works just as well. So the next time you buy a lens and get the hard sell on buying an additional lens filter, think twice.

14 Jan 2016

Where to buy and sell used cameras and lenses in Hong Kong?

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When it comes to buying and selling second hand camera equipment in Hong Kong, there is no shortage of options in Hong Kong. There are used camera stores in the Central, Wanchai, Mongkok, Sham Shui Po, and Tsim Sha Tsui districts of Hong Kong – and those are just the stores that I have seen personally. Here are the stores that I would recommend:

Used Digital Camera Shops

My favorite place to go to buy used and new camera equipment is Sim City in Mongkok. It is on Shan Tung Street between Nathan Road and Sai Yeong Choi Street, only a block away from the MTR station. It is easily recognizable by its (incredibly gaudy) neon sign above the escalator entrance. The mall has 3 floors of used and new camera shops including branches of a few local reputable “chain” camera stores like dcfever, tin cheung and cam2. Generally when I come here I’m looking for a specific used lens or camera body and scouring the used stores to find who might have one for sale. One of the first stores off the 3/F escalator is called Hi-Tech Pro Shop at Shop 301 – a guy named Ray has helped me out several times there.  He always seems to have a good selection in the gear that I am looking for (usually Nikon, Canon or micro 4/3s Olympus or Panasonic), and I have found his prices to be at least comparable or cheaper than other stores in the mall.  He’s also just a nice guy.

Used Film Camera Shops

Hands down the biggest selection of used film cameras and lenses are at Champagne Court at the corner of Kimberley Road and Carnarvon Road in Tsim Sha Tsui (not to be confused with the nearby Kimberley Street or Cameron Road). There is so much to love about this place – the ground floor shopping centre of sorts inside Champagne Court is a bizarre mish-mash of used watch stores, hostels, a pizza joint, a famous pork neck and cheese instant noodle shop, and of course used vintage cameras and lenses galore. Not that there isn’t any digital camera or lens equipment there, but unless I was shooting analog I probably would go somewhere else.

The two entrances to Champagne Court’s camera shops are a bit discreet. This is the entrance from Carnarvon:

Then there’s the entrance from Kimberley Road:

26 Aug 2015

What does a lens hood do?

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Nikon-Lens-Hood

A lens hood serves two main purposes:

1) To block stray light from getting inside the lens, usually from overhead sun. Stray light is bad because it can cause glare, lens flare, or sun spots in your image, and it can decrease contrast which can sometimes look hazy. A lens hood works a lot like a sun visor in your car.

But in most situations where there is no strong sunlight or other overbearing light source – the visible difference of a lens hood will likely be unnoticeable.

2) As a simple form of protection. A properly attached lens hood can prevent things from smashing into the front of your lens or can absorb impact if you drop it. Not the most technical application in the world, but better a smashed lens hood than a smashed front lens element.

The pros of using a lens hood certainly outweigh the cons (none really) and for that reason I personally always use a lens hood when I shoot. I consider it a good habit and it gives me a few seconds to gather my thoughts on what exactly I want to photograph before I start firing willy nilly.

A few other things to keep in mind – not all lenses include a lens hood with the lens. They are sometimes sold separately. Secondly, most lens hoods can attach forwards and backwards, so if you do want to use it for any of the above reasons make sure you screw it on with its “covering” over the front of the lens.

Now you’re one step closer to knowing (or at least looking like you know) what you’re doing with that new camera!

20 Aug 2014

Stanley Street Camera Stores in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is a photographer’s paradise, and there is a wide variety of camera stores in Hong Kong to choose from whenever you are ready to buy the latest and greatest equipment. And although I have previously recommended buying photography equipment at the various computer centres in Wanchai and Mongkok, I’ve had a few recent bad experiences with bait-and-switch and upselling tactics that have made me begin recommending Stanley Street instead.

Stanley Street is a short 2-3 block side street in the Central district of Hong Kong. A few camera stores have come and gone, but I think most of the ones that are still there have been there for ages. The shopkeepers are usually older chaps and very proficient in English. Here are the camera stores currently on Stanley Street (all prices were for the “Hong Kong goods” version of the camera, better explained in this older post):

Photo Scientific
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Photo Scientific Front
This camera store is the first one you’d see on Stanley Street if you are coming from D’Aguilar Street or Lan Kwai Fong. They’ve got plenty of gear and accessories in their display window, although for some reason I’ve never found them particularly friendly.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5850

**UPDATE 20 Jan 2015: I’ve heard that this location has closed and re-opened at 64 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan.

Chung Pui Photo Supplies
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Chung Pui Front
No fancy storefront (or doorway for that matter) here, just camera gear and good friendly service located right off the Pottinger Street steps (the area selling Halloween costumes in October). Although they are not always the cheapest, they are usually not off by much. I have generally recommended my photography class students to go here – I have personally seen the shopkeepers here patiently answer question after question to first-time camera buyers with reasonable advice.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5880

Tin Cheung Camera Co.
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Tin Cheung Front
The new kid on the block, albeit a branch of the long established Tin Cheung camera store chain. Lots of Leica equipment in shiny glass cases, and also a reasonable inventory of camera bags and tripods to try out. The store feels like a boutique camera shop which is great to browse but I generally don’t expect to get the best price here.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5580

Kinefoto Ltd.
Stanley Street Central Hong Kong Camera Stores Review Kinefoto Front
Right next to Tin Cheung yet at the same time the complete opposite in style – this place is old school. Lots of used and vintage equipment on display for sale – I bought my first Nikon flash here, a shabby old SB-28. This store has a small place in my heart, and competitive pricing to boot.
Price of a Nikon D5300 w/18-55mm kit lens: HKD5200

**UPDATE 9 Jul 2015: This store is now closed – unaffordable rent according to several sources =(