Described by many as a photographer’s dream, it’s easy to see why Lantau has provided the perfect backdrop for so many iconic images over the years. Claire Severn reports.
Beautiful, natural, relaxed – just a few of the many words that come to mind when you hear the name Lantau. The largest of Hong Kong’s numerous islands, our home boasts a diverse mix of people, places, scenery and wildlife, making it an absolute dream location for photography enthusiasts.
“I love photographing Lantau,” opens May James of May James Photography. “It is a beautiful, dynamic and multicultural island with gorgeous scenery and tremendous opportunity for exploration.” May lives in Tung Chung, where she finds plenty of opportunities to snap the special moments that make North Lantau the vibrant place it is. “You find thousands of emotions and interactions every day,” she says. “It really is a very special place.”
Another fan of the north side of the island is Asha Sridhar, also a Tung Chung resident. Inspired by her surroundings, Asha decided to found a group for photographers in the area, and so began the Tung Chung Photography Enthusiasts group.
“I started the group almost on a whim,” explains Asha. “My idea was to provide a platform for amateur and professional photographers in Lantau to share their works of art. We are still a relatively small group with just under 70 members, but it is growing. Going forward, my plan is to organise group activities, such as photography walks or hikes and maybe even talks from professional photographers.”
Of course, one of the most photographed parts of the island is South Lantau, with its stunning country park, coastline and abundant nature, and it’s there that Mui Wo resident Natasha Ramsey is able to capture some breath-taking shots of the local landscape and wildlife.
“Lantau is full of wildlife and beauty; it truly is a photographer’s dream,” says Natasha. “Hong Kong is a known biodiversity hotspot and Lantau illustrates this perfectly. No matter where you go, there are so many different things to take photos of, from the iconic buffalo to the amazing views and beaches. We really are so very lucky to live in such a wonderful place, and that’s why we must do everything we can to keep it unspoilt.”
But it’s not just local snappers who appreciate Lantau’s unique diversity – photographers from other corners of Hong Kong enjoy making the trip to explore the island’s rich, cultural heritage. Rudmer Hoekstra of rudmer.space photography lives in Central and makes it out to Lantau a few times a year. “We have friends living in Mui Wo, and I like the ‘laid-backness’ you can still find on the island,” he says. “There’s a real mix of tradition and modernity, which makes for some fantastic photos.”
Here, the four keen photographers share some of their favourite photos from across Lantau, and explain what they feel the images say about our incredible island.
Yat Tung Estate by May James
“I took this photo at Yat Tung Estate with my iPhone 6s,” says May. “I was out shopping and didn’t have my camera with me. I was really inspired to see my friend’s daughter climb up on the bench and sit between the two elderly gentlemen. To me, the photo is all about being. It shows the purity and innocence of young kids. Kids are unlimited – it is we, the adults, who limit them.
“There are lots of special moments to capture on Lantau – just keep your eyes open and use the tools you have to hand at the time.”
Hong Kong International Airport, Chep Lap Kok, by May James
“I love the airport! It is a chaotic place packed with emotions… happiness, sadness, excitement, love, courage, fear, disappointment, loneliness and many other elements of human interconnection,” May says. “I also love the design of the buildings – the architecture is beautiful.
“To achieve the shot, I used my Fujifilm X100F and placed it on a shiny surface to create a mirror image. The reflection and the silhouettes create a sense of mystery for me as well as an open view, showing that Lantau is a portal to the rest of the world.”
Cable cars at Tung Chung by Asha Sridhar
“This particular photo was taken in Tung Chung on the road to the airport,” Asha says. “I was out for an early morning walk with my dog and had stopped on the bridge. I looked across, and the effect of the sun’s rays on the hills and the sea was breath taking. The cable-car system only served to enhance the scene.
“I took this photo on my iPhone 7 Plus and haven’t made any adjustments, save for cropping the road and the traffic whizzing past, and applying a standard filter that is available on all iPhones. To me, this photo represents space and communing with nature, it represents peace and solitude, and it also represents a very positive spiritual energy.”
The Big Buddha, Ngong Ping, by Natasha Ramsey
“To me, this photo exudes peace and tranquillity,” says Natasha. “Whenever I go to the Buddha, I feel a sense of calm. On this particular day, I knew that I wanted the Buddha to be my main focus, but I still wanted the trees and the Chinese symbol in the photo, so I decided to use them as a frame for the Buddha.
“I’ve seen and taken a lot of photos of the Buddha over the years, but I’ve never seen this angle on it before – I just happened to be sat in the right place. It’s a good example of how you should always look for new perspectives on things. Try not to follow what everyone else is doing – unusual angles tend to work well and having a natural frame is always nice.”
Selfie time on Lower Cheung Sha Beach by Rudmer Hoekstra
The comedy element of the colourful swimmer alongside the large, chewing, grey creature is what makes this photo for me,” says Rudmer. “I took the snap using a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) and a long zoom lens, and had to run into position to get a good shot.
“I loved the man versus beast encounter – it looks like the buffalo knows the drill. This image shows that Lantau is a place where humans and animals can coexist peacefully.”
Tai O by Rudmer Hoekstra
“I took this photo in the back streets of Tai O,” says Rudmer. “It was taken from across the water with a DSLR and a long zoom lens. I was really intrigued by this gentleman, who was taking such great care turning his fish, which were drying in the sun. He was lining them up with almost mathematical precision – so professional and respectful of his job.
“I find the photo portrays a feeling of nostalgia – perhaps the man feels the same and is doing a job that has been passed down to him. It shows how Lantau is a place where tradition meets modernity more than anywhere else in Hong Kong.”
Caterpillar by Natasha Ramsey
“I was lucky enough to spot this caterpillar in my garden in Nim Po, Mui Wo, first thing one morning. I zoomed in and focused on the head to create depth of field, making the rest of the photo blurry, and followed the angle of the caterpillar and vine so that I could capture the whole thing. In the lightroom, I just defined the raindrops a bit more.
“It just goes to show that nature is all around us on Lantau, if we only take a minute to look. It’s such an unusual caterpillar, but for me, the raindrops really make the photo – even after a heavy rain storm, nature keeps on going, no matter how small.”
Tree frog by Natasha Ramsey
“This was another creature that I happily came across in my garden here on Lantau. Getting the shot right was all about angles and lighting. It was taken in the early morning sun, which is always such a beautiful light. After trying to photograph from below, I decided the best thing was to get on the same level as the tree frog. He was such a great subject and actually leant towards the camera for me! Having quite a plain background worked well, too.
“He is such a beautiful little frog that I just had to photograph him. A friend said to me that all he needs is a little crown, and I think she’s right! After I took this photo, I put my hand next to him and he was gripping onto my finger – it was very sweet, indeed.
“For me personally, this photo signifies why I love Lantau, in particular my own garden — every day I wake up to a new piece of wildlife. Always take your camera out with you — we are surrounded by wildlife here, and you never know when an opportunity will arise.”
Dragonfly by Natasha Ramsey
“I took this photo in Wang Tong, Mui Wo. This was another shot where the angle and light had to be just right. I wanted it to enhance the beauty and detail of the dragonfly. This required me laying flat on the floor and using a zoom so as not to scare it away. Afterwards, I used the lightroom just to add a bit of definition. I’ve always loved dragonflies and wanted to show the detail of the eyes and the wings close up — they remind me of a fighter pilot!
“One of the main things this image represents for me, however, is perseverance! It took two hours of laying on the floor to get this shot. I knew how I wanted the photo to look, and I eventually got it. The key is to know your subject and to persevere. I spent a long time watching dragonflies beforehand to see the different places they would land. They are quite good at going back to the same spot, which helps you get into the right position. Get on the same level as your subject, and don’t give up!”
FIND IT:lantau in pictures, may james, natasha ramsey, photography, rudmer.space, tung chung photography enthusiasts