Hong Kong Through a Lens Sam Gellman is a travel photographer based in Hong Kong whose work has been published by the BBC, The Huffington Post and Wired to name a few. He’s taken some spectacular shots of the city and he's got some sage advice about how to get the best out of your camera in Hong Kong and abroad.


How did you get into photography?

When I was about to go to Cambodia in 2009 I decided to buy an SLR on the way to the airport. I'd been living in Asia for three years and didn't have a lot to show for my experiences so thought that taking photography a bit more seriously was one way to start capturing moments from my time here. In a short space of time it became a hobby and then a passion. (www.samgellman.com)


An intersection in Mong Kok from above

What's Hong Kong like to shoot?

There are tonnes of contrasts in Hong Kong. The combination of older traditions, customs, and ways of life juxtaposed with the speed of the city is always interesting. The city, however, is all about night photography. The skies are rarely conducive to day time landscapes or cityscapes, whereas the night brings out the life of the city. Beyond that, it's about capturing intimate moments of people on the street and in the markets.


IFC 2 from IFC 1. I took this shot while waiting for a friend to finish some work at her office in IFC 1.  There was this award which was presented to her bank and I saw the interesting reflection of the IFC through that award globe.

What camera/equipment do you use?

I use a Nikon D700 and a Nikon D90. I have a bunch of lenses but I almost never use a tripod or filters because I don't have the attention span.


The goldfish market is one of my favorite places to do photography. This image just captures one of those overly crowded tanks.

Tip 1. Light matters more than subject: We often hear people return from amazing vacations and talk about how the photos don't do the place justice. I think that's because the photos are taken during the normal tour times: 9am-5pm.  In my portfolio on my website, almost none of those shots were taken during those hours.  I get up early when I do travel photography and try to stay out until sunset.  From 10am to 3pm, there is often almost no reason to even have a camera as the light is simply too sharp.


The 11pm Bus: This is a 13-second exposure around 11pm taken near SoHo.  I have always liked the stillness of the skyline contrasted with the action of the bus passing by on the left side.

Tip 2. Always be exploring: Good shots are often a result of stepping a few feet off the beaten path or exploring a vacant alleyway or climbing a stairway to see the perspective.  I honestly think that my biggest attribute as a photographer is my willingness to explore and find new ways of seeing the world.  If you take yourself to interesting places and make sure you’re there when the light is good, the rest is clockwork.


A woman waiting for a taxi in LKF. The lights in the city are something we are all familiar with.

Tip 3. Only show people your good stuff: It's a weird "rule" but I often think the difference between great photographers and mediocre ones is the great ones are better at presenting their own images. We all take tonnes of horrible shots - some of us just don't let people see those shots. I really try to curate my own travel photos down to the few I'm really proud of and those are the ones I present to others.  It works well, because most people these days have short attention spans anyways.


An interesting long exposure perspective on IFC2

You can see more of Sam’s photos at www.samgellman.com


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