I found myself back in the tunnels under Hong Kong again a couple of months ago. I’d previously visited both locations in a much less complete state – the Central Wanchai Bypass was a trench with a lot of bracing holding the seawall at bay, and Whampoa MTR station was a bare tunnel with no platform and no liners – just a large cavern. The former is now a neatly lined tunnel and roadway awaiting the final finishing touches for ventilation, M&E ducting and lighting; most of this portion of the contract has been or is about to be handed over to the next contract to be finished. The station is now in pretty much recognisable form – even the information counters and ticket kiosks are in, though without their final cladding and not fully cleaned up. At this point you could certainly imagine rush hour passing through, though – even if the work dust everywhere gives things a slightly post-apocalyptic feel. From an execution/ equipment standpoint, I think this assignment was tougher than my first documentary assignment with the H system – Thaipusam 2016 – mainly because the brief was tighter, light levels much lower in some places, and frequently the subjects more conscious of being photographed. For some odd reason, it was much easier to photograph religious festival participants…
I actually found the two biggest challenges underground to be light, and weight. There frequently wasn’t enough contrast/light for a solid AF lock, though this was later pinned down to my use of parallax-correcting True Focus under those situations: when the light gets low, just revert to normal AF-S and things are fine. Medium format doesn’t track moving subjects very well, though. I also struggled a little with lack of light and sat frequently at the 6400 limit, or had to push afterwards – this mainly because the environment was so dusty that I couldn’t change lenses without risking the cameras, restricting me to the 35-90mm zoom (f4-5.6) and the 150mm (f3.2) lenses. I have nobody to blame but myself for the weight, though: I took plenty of contingency gear just in case because this was my first formal assignment under these conditions with the Hasselblads, and in hindsight should just have stuck with those two bodies/ two lenses and a tripod – the rest of the stuff was never used because of the aforementioned dust levels. Still: I’m quite pleased with the way these images turned out. There’s a very graduated, controlled feel to them that I’ve not seen in smaller formats, probably because dynamic range was preserved very well even into the higher sensitivity regimes. MT
Images reproduced with kind permission from Chun Wo Development Holdings.
Part II, from Whampoa MTR station extension
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