Fa Peng Teng, a small hill next to the Lantau Link bus stop, is not quite high but is slanting and straight at some sections. Thus, it would be somewhat difficult in climbing it. Its view, nonetheless, is open. Here, one can look into Victoria Harbour and Tsing Ma Bridge and it is easily accessible. This is, positively, a desired site for photography.
At 4:30 pm sharp, we began our trip up the hill. It’s about 1,280 steps from the ground to the hilltop. It was scorching hot. The weight on the back was inconceivably chunky, including an SLR camera, three lenses, a litre of water and a tripod summing about 20 lbs in the backpack. Despite all these, design of the backpack really eased the encumbrance feeling. Soon halfway, we took out bottled water from the huge PC compartment to refresh. Sweat wetted our clothes unwittingly. It’s unexpected to have sound permeability between the back and the back panel, and we even felt some coolness when a wind blew.
After treading steps straight up the hill for about one hour, we finally arrived at the bourn. We took some rest, rambled around and admired the spacious landscape. When the sun descended slowly from the clouds, we were busying shooting. The sunset, rosy clouds and the night view were ineffably alluring. At this moment, buddies at the other side were calling out. Did something happen?! I rushed over to find out. Oh, it’s the sky that was darkening and stars were coming out because the weather at that evening was awesome. They were setting up to shoot the starry sky. Me, of course, no exception!
After setting up and at the very moment about to shoot, oops, the shutter suddenly stopped. Oh, the memory card was at full capacity and I was too careless to notice it. My buddies were teasing me. Unhurriedly, I took out another memory card from a concealed side-compartment and put it in the camera. It’s a bliss to have quite a few concealed compartments to keep various small articles, such as batteries and memory cards. Otherwise, I would have just sat around waiting in such a situation!
About two hours later, we tried to find a view at different spots but could not avoid the city light due to severe light pollution around the site. We could only gather up ourselves and our articles and then went downhill! I took out a backup shirt from an internal compartment of the backpack, changed the wetted one, and began to hit the road back. Just at this moment, something miserable happened….I was too reckless and kicked down my backpack! The steps were highly tilted and that kick let the backpack tumble for more than 30 feet. The SLR camera, three lenses and filters in it….Oh, no!!! I bolted down hastily and made a quick check. I had prepared the worst when picking up the backpack and patting away the dirt. Surprisingly, however, the SLR camera, lenses and filters in the backpack were all in whole skin and the tripod on the backpack was only scratched a little. If the tripod had been put in the tripod bag alongside the backpack, it would not have been scratched.
It was getting late, so I fetched a flashlight from a small concealed compartment in the front of the backpack and checked the accompanying items. After repeated tests, all equipment worked properly. Then, we hastened downhill.
Postscript: This non-official shock test has fully demonstrated that the backpack offers superior protection. Otherwise, my SLR camera and three lenses would have been dead!
In recent years, as some of Hong Kong border restricted areas are open for travel, we get access to more rural areas in the suburbs like Ma Tso Lung near the Lok Ma Chau Loop. Although it is really a remote place, it takes only a ten-minute walk after getting off the car for us to get there. To prevent the instruments from dropping and being damaged, you’d better lock the camera and tripods in a light and handy backpack because dozens of steps and a slope wait ahead in your journey.
The open view of Ma Tso Lung makes it a photogenic place for sunset and night scene. The nearby MacIntosh Forts of over sixty years old was built to safeguard the border. The signs left by military facilitates portray a strictly-guarded place here. Fishponds scatter hereabout like a seven-piece puzzle or a jigsaw puzzle. Skyscrapers in Shenzhen stand far off with the same air as the middle- and upper-ring areas in Hong Kong. The Tai Shek Mo Hill about a hundred meters high lies on the other side, which accommodates a transmission station, dormitories for soldiers and a watch tower. At the foot of the hill, locates the Luohu Checkpoint bustling with people who have to commute between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to earn a living. All these give feature-rich themes for photographers.
You may underrate the plenty fishponds and the tract of wetland as unimportant places when looking far. Actually, Hoo Hok Wai fishponds located in wetland reserve are of high ecological value as feeding and roosting grounds for wintering birds that fly from the Lok Ma Chau Loop across San Tin to Mai Po. If the Hoo Hok Wai were destroyed, the wintering birds would be stopped from flying to Mai Po posing a threat on the ecological balance here.
To your surprise, Hong Kong has fishponds to produce fishes and farm lands to cultivate vegetables supplied for local citizens. The fishponds collect in the northwest New Territories. They originate in 1930 when the villagers built bunds, called Kei Wai, surrounding the area for resisting the sea wave, which are the predecessors of the current fishponds. These fishponds cover more than one thousand acres and produce fishes up to two thousand tonnes with a value of about 60,000,000 Hong Kong dollars.
You can take the vintage county bus of Ma Tso Lung as an alternative of taxi to get to Ma Tso Lung. Only three county buses remain in Hong Kong allowing villagers to shuttle back and forth among Sheung Shui, Kwu Tung and Ma Tso Lung and the bus terminus is Lutheran New Village. Walk on foot is not recommended because the villagers’ dogs can move freely and will bark at strangers.
After a short break on the hill top, the sun was setting to the west and we began to shoot. It was really handy for us to take out the camera and various lenses because they were packed in order in our bags. When the sun was too harsh, we used Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter to balance out the difference in intensities between the sky and foreground. After a while, the bold and golden twilight was reflected off the water and crepuscular rays lighted up the sky. We were busy yet happy. When darkness did not totally covered the sky yet and cities began to light up, it came the perfect moment for night view shooting. We took out the long-focus lens from protective compartment of our backpack to capture the distant skyscrapers magnified with water fields as foreground and thus a photo with a contrast between rural air and urban vanity was produced. The photo also expressed our thought: it is concerning that development seems to always come at the expense of nature reserve. What a pity!
Accustomed to the concrete jungle, we really appreciated that Hong Kong had such quiet and unsophisticated places when we came to the desolate hill. Fishponds, lotus ponds, water fields, cottages, rivers, village and ancestral shrine, all of these foster an air of peace and comfort.
Upon leaving, we noticed plenty of sharp and scorched branches on the ground burned by fires ever occurring in the hill. Our shoes were stained black. Fortunately, the backpacks are also black and in thick and tough materials so that you are free of worries about stains and damages. The backpack is really well-designed.
Lugard Road on the hilltop is easily accessible and in good condition, so lots of people prefer to go there to take photos of the sunrise and the night view. Start from the Peak Tower, walk along Harlech Road, turn to a path going up the hill and keep walking for about half an hour. Then, here we are, at the steep High West that renders open landscape and sweeping view. Here, one can not only overlook the glittering night scene at either bank of Victoria Harbour and the long Tsing Ma Bridge, but catch sight of the serene Lamma Island. Also, one can even spot the towering Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak. This is, no doubt, a natural observation deck.
At this alluring place, one naturally wants to take more photos. That’s why each of us brought two SLR cameras (one for taking photos, the other for making Time Lapse), two tripods and three camera lenses, making the backpack engorged. Luckily, the backpack is reasonably compartmented and offers sound support. While filled with shooting devices, it still can cling to the body, cutting loads on the back. In summer, going up the hill to shoot the sunset is quite labored because of the fatigue after a day’s work. The stuffy weather and the high temperature also play a role. Besides, we were stepping towards the hilltop while facing the sun, so we needed to rest more often and drink more water. Therefore, it is quite handy and pleasing to take out frequently our water bags for a drink from the PC compartment.
We rested for a while after arriving at the hilltop. The setting sun shone its bright golden light on the high-rise buildings, which made them glittering. The sunset projected its beams onto the hillside, generating a contrast of brightness and darkness and further highlighting the stereoscopic col. To balance out the difference in light intensities between the sky and the foreground, we took out our graduated gray filters from a small side-compartment of the backpack. Also, we used CPLs to feature shades of the clouds. Before long the sun sank into the sea, a vivid cloud turned up in the sky, dying the sea glowingly red. Later on, the city was ablaze with lights, bringing another peak for shooting. Victoria Harbour, indeed, is colorfully gorgeous. Finally, we checked our cameras and found more than 400 photos shot, so we felt quite satisfied.
There is an interesting episode worthy mentioning. While absorbed in shooting, we heard some rustles abruptly, so we looked around but saw nothing. The grass at the escarpment, however, still kept wavering. Was it a rat? A stray dog? Or something else? Suddenly, we, still in shock, saw some figures spring up from the forest. Oh, they were climbing up from the west cliff! We almost forgot that place is the Mecca of cliff climbing, which freaked ourselves out.
After gathering up the articles, we sat on rocks for a break, and felt the aura of the city with the eyes and hearts. It gives us the feelings of vitality, bustle, being advanced, geniality, jam and busyness and that it is our one and only home. Though it appears to change bit by bit with policies of the government, we hope to be a recorder, witnessing its prosperity and changes. Moreover, through our photos, we also desire to remind people that we could spot sceneries in Hong Kong not less favorable than those in foreign countries as long as we are willing to walk around and that they are just in proximity of the downtown. So there seems no reason for us to stay at an air-conditioned room. We need to go to the suburb to take some fresh air.
On the way leaving, we again passed through the pitch-black forest. Mosquitoes attacked us from all sides, so we fetched out flashlights and insect repellents from the bag side to ensure safety on the way back. We carried the cumbersome devices for hours but didn’t feel toilsome because the shoulder straps of the backpack are wide and soft enough. Trotting for 40 minutes, we were back at the square, somewhat feeling as if we came back to earth. After having a hearty dinner, we left.