Hong Kong Storm

We were in Hong Kong in early April of this year. Our visit coincided with one of the heaviest periods of atmospheric pollution this former colony has experienced for many years. Locals claimed that the smog was created on the Mainland; others said it was of Hong Kong origin. It is difficult to know the real source as the wind system was turbulent and, in truth, it matters little what was the origin of the mass of pollution. It all seemed so futile to play the blame game. After a day or two of dense choking and acrid smog that turned the Hong Kong world into “brown out” authorities issued warnings for the young and the elderly to stay indoors.  Levels of pollution had reached a point where the smog was too dangerous to have these folk venture outdoors. The smog, on the third day of our visit, was swept up in a seasonal storm when a front moved in from the southwest. The storm began after a moodful day that had from dawn promised a tempest.

These images capture the dazzling, surreal interaction between smog, fog, wind and rain that descended on Hong Kong about 10pm and lasted for some four hours. Clearly it was a special event because as the evening advanced even locals came down to the harbour’s edge at Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade to view the display. I thought I was watching live the East Asian version of Blade Runner. It was not only surreal but signaled just what damage we are doing to this planet and how fragile is our natural world. That evening I think I saw the future. Whatever it was I did not like it and the accompanying images are my protest at the damage we have done and continue to do. Climate change lurked here in Hong Kong that week in early April. No sensible person would accept that progress demands that we give up the right to breathe fresh air.  However, this imagery is not about climate change per se. It is about just how seductive is the damage to the environment caused by human activity. On the one hand we know it is happening and much of it is intolerable, on the other, it gives displays such as this, which are simply awesome and, if you pardon the pun, breathtaking.

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All were long exposures –some 30 seconds on ISO 3200, tripod and cable release. The lens was an 18 -200mm Nikkor zoom at f8 on a Nikon D7000. Post -production included some adjustment to levels, noise reduction and use of layer masking to shape the aesthetic which I must admit was influenced by my love of Turner – the wonderful English landscape painter and his mastery of light.

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It is trite to state but my Hong Kong Storm images are a warning or reminder to us all not to take our environment for granted.

These photos were made on my birthday. As I walked back to the hotel in the early hours of the morning I thought I had a great set of images but a lousy birthday present.

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