The problem with views like Victoria Peak, which overlooks Kowloon and Victoria Harbour; the centre of Hong Kong; is that it’s often really hard to convey in a picture the experience of a view so breathtaking. It’s hard to recreate the experience of looking down on a city sprawling back up at you.
It’s such an iconic view as well, people have seen it so many times. How can you convey to your audience the experience of having been there as best you can through a photograph and a bit of photoshopping?
The tram to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong was built in the 1890s and I can’t imagine how fucking scary those shitty little wooden carriages would have been to travel in, cluckle-a-cracking step by step up the steep mountain side. Even today I feel really nervous at the angle as we ascend amongst and through and finally above the towering buildings of Hong Kong (though it is a really great experience with amazing views out over the city.)
Whenever I’m Photoshopping a photograph I’m always torn between just giving the image a quick grade and going really stylistic. I try my best to let the story in the image that I’m grading dictate the grade. What do I want you to look at? What kind of mood do I want to dictate? When grading moving footage I generally find that the less stylistic the better; far too many people crush the blacks far too much and oversaturate all the colors or go “Saving Private Ryan” which really distracts most of the time from the story that’s being told. I think you have a little more licence on a still because people have more time to take it in. I always try not to push the grade too far and to stick as closely to the original as I can, though don’t always succeed. The art of subtlety is not one learnt quickly and I often find myself over-grading footage only to discover after much time spent that the simple original is far better.
In a restaurant at the peak I spend maybe a little more money than I should and have a mediocre meal but with a fantastic view out over the city. It is coming towards the end of my trip and I’ll soon be back in Ireland after five weeks away, going back a day early for my first stag party, no less (attending…obviously) Time for some up-your-own-hole soul searching montage of all the things that I’ve done on my trip. Blah blah blah changed my life; all that bullshit that you’d expect from one of the final scenes. I probably do a little bit of that but mostly I just admire the view over a nice glass of red wine.
For the most of the images above there isn’t really a story other than the view itself. The only exception, really, is the shot of the IFC2 Skyscraper and the bird, where I’m trying to make the bird more visible so that it can be used to give a sense of scale of the building and of the city. I have kept this quite simple in grade by punching the building out a little, giving the whole image a bit of a blue hue and centering the focus more on the bird through subtle vignettes and blowing out the background a little.
So, for the vista views I have gone for much more stylistic effects, to separate them out, perhaps, from views you may have seen before. For the daytime I have pushed the contrast on the clouds to almost comicbook levels and blown out the centre of the image to white at some points to give the impression of very strong God rays. I do like the outcome of this, it seems post-apocalypticish and comic booky.
For the nighttime shots I do not feel I have been as successful. For these I was trying to combat the very often seen black and lights of cityscapes (and especially the black and lights of this oft seen cityscape) by adding some color into the proceedings. Obviously there is very little color in the originals so I have tried to layer up a few colors into the black of the night sky to give a washed out and slightly tinted look. Although I think that this effect might work in the future it doesn’t to me seem like it worked here. Judge for yourself…