Hong Kong – Film Shoot – Day 1

The official 1st day of shooting began early, before sunrise. The hotel concierge hailed a red urban taxi for me. My destination? What better place to begin filming than Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attraction, Victoria Peak.

Day 1: Main locations. © 2018 Google

I had about 30 minutes to get to The Peak from my hotel in Mongkok, set up my gear, and try to capture the most iconic view of Hong Kong during the morning’s ‘golden hour’ of light, preferably just after sunrise. Luckily, the morning traffic hasn’t picked up yet and traveling through the Cross Harbour tunnel was a breeze. The taxi arrived at the Peak Tower a few minutes after sunrise.

I decided to use my tripod to stabilize my shots on the 1st day. On the tripod, I mounted my Panasonic GH4 camera, a Rode Videomic X microphone equipped with a ‘dead cat’ wind blocker and my Atomos Shogun 4K external monitor. The famous ‘Lion’s Pavilion’ was selected as the first shooting location of the travel video.

All set up to capture Hong Kong just after sunrise

I can think of VERY few spots on the globe that offer similar SPECTACULAR day / night cityscape views as those seen from the various lookouts on top of Victoria Peak. When I have last visited Hong Kong, some 21 years ago, the Lion’s Pavilion was the one of the best spots at the Peak to take in the scenery, as well as various spots on Lugard road which semi circles The Peak. Since then, both The Peak Galleria leisure / shopping complex and the Peak Tower have been built. Both offer amazing views, both extremely popular with tourists.

View of Hong Kong from the Lion Pavilion, Victoria Peak. Shot shortly after sunrise

While you may gaze at excellent views from the Galleria terrace for free, The Peak Tower has the ‘Sky Terrace 428’. It is the rooftop balcony of the Peak Tower, the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong. The vistas are indeed breathtaking. Due to its popularity, the ‘Sky Terrace 428’ gets very busy. To avoid the crowds, an early morning weekday visit or night time visit (after 9 pm) is recommended.

I did just that. However, it didn’t take very long for the ‘Sky Terrace 428’ to fill up. By the time it was noon, there were a lot of people there. It was still worth it. You can easily spend half a day at the Peak Tower, experiencing the various attractions, shopping and food options available.

The Peak Tower
Workers on top of the Sky Terrace 428 doing some cleaning

The Peak Tower also serves as the Peak Tram station. The tram is the most convenient way to reach The Peak. Use it, unless you are planning on getting there very early in the morning, prior to the tram beginning its daily service.

As with the Peak Tower, choose the time you are planning on using the tram due to the crowds. Alternatively, take the bus or a taxi. At the end of my daytime shoot at The Peak area, I took the tram to the main station in the Central district of Hong Kong.

The Peak Tram station in Central. Crowds are a common sight

My first brush with the Hong Kong crowds was at the station. Hong Kong is BUSY. With almost 7.5 million people, it is one of the most densely populated places in the world. It is very noticeable in the urban areas of Hong Kong. There are people everywhere, all the time.

The next area of focus for the daily shoot was Hong Kong Park in Central. This large scenic park is a great place to relax, people watch, bird watch (there is an Aviary) and much more.

It was a beautiful day with blue skies and warm sunny weather. Coming from the dead of winter in Canada made the park stroll even more pleasurable. The lookout tower in the centre of the park provided for a great spot to capture the surrounding area.

Hong Kong Park

I was there at around lunch time. Office workers and business execs from the surrounding skyscrapers were taking a break, as well as the many casually clothed locals and tourists. The aviary was teeming with various birds, chirping away like some huge bird convention. The pristinely maintained park is a pleasure to visit.

The next filming location required the use of the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), Hong Kong’s underground / light rail system and its pride and joy (rightfully so). The 160+ station MTR is one of the world’s most advanced, profitable, accurate and all-round best there is. I LOVE the MTR. Every city could only wish to have wish such a train. I have used it frequently during my visit.

My plan was to spend the afternoon in the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong, specifically the observation deck on the 46th floor of the Central Plaza building. The 46th floor is more of a sky lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows providing amazing views of Hong Kong. Even better, it is free!

If you are planning on visiting the sky lobby with the intention of taking pictures / filming, remember that it is an office building with the constant noise of elevators arriving / leaving the floor. Local security are not fond of tripods so it might be a problem setting one up there.

Another thing to think about is the window reflection. I bought a nifty device called the ‘Fat Gecko’ by Delkin, enabling me to attach my camera to the window. I paired this device with the ‘Lenskirt’. It blocks reflections when taking pictures through glass.

Whether you would like to take pictures or just enjoy the views below, this a great spot to do it. Compared to other viewpoints in Hong Kong, this one seems to be less known but is totally worth a visit. However, the building floor closes around 8 pm, preventing onlookers from experiencing Victoria Harbour’s popular ‘Symphony of Lights’.

Central Plaza building on the left. VictoriaOP~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). via Wikimedia Commons
Victoria Harbour - View from The Central Plaza Sky Lobby

I was excited about visiting / filming the next location, The Happy Valley Racecourse. Every Wednesday night, from September to July, the Hong Kong Jockey Club hosts a large happening involving music, food, alcohol, horse betting and general good times.

The atmosphere is lively and fun and is one of the more popular events in Hong Kong. It is rightfully called ‘Happy Wednesday‘. You can enjoy an evening at the races for as little as 10 HKD or splurge. It was my first time at a horse race and the atmosphere was simply exhilarating. Do NOT miss out on this one.

Happy Valley Racecourse

I had one more spot to film before wrapping up my first successful day in Hong Kong. I returned to Victoria Peak, specifically the ‘Sky Terrace 428’ at the top of the Peak Tower.

By the time I arrived at Central’s Peak Tram station, it was past 9 pm, leaving me with less than a couple of hours to capture the footage that I wanted. The sky terrace still boasted a fair amount of people. I could understand why since the night views of Hong Kong below were phenomenal! I was one of the last people to leave the sky terrace at 11 pm, closing time.

The night views form the Peak Tower's Sky Terrace 428 are just as spectacular as those during daytime.

A relatively empty tram ride down to Central was followed by a red urban taxi ride back to the hotel in Mongkok. As with the previous day of my arrival, the rain shower was great, the bed..zzzzzzzzz.