Thursday, 18 May 2017

photographic highlights 2016–17

I shall be heading off to the UK for the summer this coming weekend, and as is my habit, I’ve compiled a collection of my favourite photos from the past seven months. However, also as usual, the collection doesn’t include any of the photos that I’ve used to illustrate other blog posts. Almost all these images were taken while I’ve been out on my bike, and many were taken in locations that are close to one another, but I’ve chosen to post them here in chronological order because that provides a far better insight into what I’ve been up to during the winter.

I like to photograph the fruiting bodies of fungi, and the first photo is, I think, the best that I’ve managed this time. I’m not sure precisely where it was taken, but it is likely to have been within walking distance of my home.

I’ve included the next photo because I like the perspective effect combined with the reflections on the river, which is a tributary of the Shing Mun River in Shatin. The cycle track on the left is part of an extensive network, while the building in the distance with the maroon roof is Shatin’s floating restaurant. Paula and I used to be regular patrons when we lived in the area between 2005 and 2008, but I hadn’t eaten there for several years until I visited last Easter with an Australian friend. The dim sum is still pretty good, but when we went for yam char to our local restaurant, Sun Ming Yuen, the following day, Bernie agreed with me that our local tea house is much better!

The next photo was taken less than 40 minutes after the previous one and shows the track of a cruise missile that has raced across the sky and exploded behind the oil terminal in the bottom right of the picture. Cough! Cough!

The next photo was also taken in the Shatin area and shows a mosaic on the wall of St. Rose of Lima’s College. The mosaic itself is interesting but not especially memorable, but I did appreciate the fact that the elderly Chinese gentleman in the photo noticed what I was doing and waited politely for me to finish. I didn’t notice him at the time.

An elderly Chinese gentleman appears in the next photo too. I’d stopped to photograph the juxtaposition between the primitive white huts reflected in the fish pond and the high-rise buildings in Shenzhen behind. Once again, I didn’t realize his presence as I took the photo, but he succeeded in changing a fairly ordinary photo into rather a good one. I won’t point out that he is cycling the wrong way down a one-way road, because I do exactly the same here—the alternative is dangerous for cyclists, and there is almost no traffic here anyway.

I don’t think many people will spot what the next image is unless I admit to rotating the original 90 degrees anti-clockwise. It is in fact a picture of a section of cycling overpass in the Shatin area with very strong shadows thrown across it. I’ve included it here for its abstract qualities.

I’ve included only one piece of actualité in this collection. Last summer, a wonderful tree, around 20 metres in height, next to the road near my house appears to have been deliberately poisoned. In the autumn, a cherry-picker was used to cut back the dead wood to leave the stump you see in the next photo. The two men in the photo, which I took from my roof, are trying to cut down the rest using—you’ll never guess—electric drills!

You will probably guess that the next photo shows a section of the frontier between Hong Kong and the rest of China. It’s a section close to Ta Kwu Ling, but why have I included it in this collection? Look carefully at the fence. Note the razor wire. This barrier is designed to stop people in Hong Kong entering China illegally. In the old days, the emphasis was always on preventing immigration from China into Hong Kong!

Back on the frontier road. In December and January, you see a lot of cormorants here, and this photo shows a row of them on a power line. It was taken on 11th February, by which time the cormorants have usually moved on, but this year I was still seeing these birds, in these numbers, towards the end of March. What is going on?

Despite a more than 40-year association with Hong Kong, I was, until last year, unaware that there were squirrels here. I saw three last winter, and this winter I spotted another. I was cycling along the yellow railing path (Ping Kong Ping Pong) when I saw it run up the line from the bottom left in the next photo. As a wildlife photo it’s worthless, but again I like the geometric abstraction. And it does show how electricity is distributed in squatter areas!

And now I’m back in Sun Ming Yuen to illustrate chopstick test #2. The Chinese may have invented chopsticks—it’s alleged that they did so to confound gweilos like me—but according to my observations, a lot of Chinese don’t know how to use these implements either. The photo shows a dish of three beef cheung fan (steamed rice-flour pancakes with a savoury filling) that I’ve cut into three using my chopsticks (in one hand).

Whenever I see that someone on a nearby table has ordered this dish, I always watch to see how they will cut it up. The most common technique is to do what I do, except that the free hand is used to squeeze the two chopsticks together. Pathetic! I often see this operation performed with one chopstick in each hand, and using a ceramic spoon to do the cutting is clearly a cop-out. Not doing any cutting but merely picking up the entire pancake and biting pieces off it is not an acceptable solution either, but I also see that from time to time.

The next photo shows the footpath junction indicated by the red circle on the satellite image in Ping Kong Ping Pong, approaching from footpath #3. I’ve seen a lot of goats this year—goat meat must be getting popular in Hong Kong—but I’ve selected this photo not to illustrate that point but merely to indicate how polite these animals are. They had been following the path I was on until they saw me. And look what they did:

Keeping with the goat theme, I also encountered quite a large herd while exploring the diversion that I eventually described in Detour de Force. I took a lot of photos, but this portrait of one individual is my favourite. Dig those horns!

Towards the end of March, I had the utterly radge† idea of cycling up into Wo Hop Shek Cemetery. I made it up Wo Ka Lau Road, which is about 300 metres of circa 20 percent uphill slog. However, by the time I’d reached the columbarium, I’d decided that I would not follow Wo Hop Shek Road into the cemetery, but I did grind my way up the eastern extension of this road, which is a dead end.

And from that road, I took the following photograph. The high-rise blocks in the middle distance are Fanling, but I can’t be absolutely certain of the blocks in the distance on the right. Fanling is not that far from the border, so they are probably in Shenzhen, but I do need to check the direction. If this photo was taken looking due north, then there isn’t a problem, but my impression is that I was looking northeast, in which case there is a high mountain ridge in the way. Am I going to have to slog up that bloody hill again to check?

By the way, the objects in the foreground of the photo are ossuaries, repositories for bone jars, which contain the earthly remains of prominent New Territories citizens. I can’t be sure, and I’m a cynic anyway, but I would not be surprised if these ossuaries were constructed here before the high-rise blocks were built, and the building of the latter has subsequently buggered up the fung shui, which is why the ossuaries were located here in the first place.

I’m back on the frontier road for the next photo, which shows a piece of history that needs careful interpretation. It shows a staithe on the so-called Lok Ma Chau Loop, a huge incised meander on the Shum Chun River, the nominal border between China and Hong Kong in these parts. Apparently, the 1898 lease on the New Territories used a direct connection of the river—cutting out the meander—to define the border, but since the rise of Shenzhen in the past two decades, this definition has rankled with the other side.

What I find interesting here are the steel bollards. There are four on the staithe in total, and there are steps at each end leading down to the water, so I conclude that this section of river was once navigable, and boats tied up here. There does still seem to be a current, because you can see the vegetation that has colonized the surface moving along, and the surface is sometimes quite clear, but I don’t think that there is any connection to the sea now.

The final point to make here is about the recent agreement between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to establish a science park in this vicinity. I would be utterly amazed if any kind of environmental impact assessment has been done, and I fully expect this wonderful area to be comprehensively trashed within a decade.

From the sublime to the absolutely ridiculous: I cycle through Lei Uk every Sunday (weather permitting), but I only recently noticed this converted shipping container being used as a site office for house construction in the village:


The next photo is not here for its aesthetic merits. I just thought it was funny. And very strange. It shows a pig barbecuing a pork chop, a cow grilling a steak and a chicken roasting a chicken wing. And the sign is there to advertise a commercial barbecue site in Sheung Shui, where, I assume, all you need to do is turn up. Both meat and charcoal will be provided. Ho sik, as they say around these parts.

Near the beginning of the final frontier, I pass a huge lagoon. I’ve taken a lot of photos of lotuses in ponds over the years, but what prompted me to stop and take the next photo was the juxtaposition of pink lotus (bottom right) and white lotus (top left). Unfortunately, the flowers of the latter haven’t come out at all well.

I’ve been cycling past the object shown in the next photo for months, possibly years, as I’ve set off on the long and winding road. And I’ve always known that it’s a bomb. Yet it’s only in the last few days that I’ve suddenly realized that it’s that nuke the Americans lost in the Pacific a few years ago.

“Boom! Boom! You’re dead!” as they say in the classics.

Have a nice day.

† There are quite a few words in the English language that express utter daftness, but I grew up with this dialect word for the condition in a small town in northern England, and in this particular enterprise I consider it more apt than any other.

previous posts in this series
A Baker’s Dozen
Another Baker’s Dozen
Photographic Highlights 2015–16


  1. I love your photos! My favourites are the ones that show the juxtaposition of the old against the new. The view from the ossuaries and the brightly colored shipping container office are powerful images. I'm also really fascinated by the American bomb, I'd love to know how it came to be on a pallet beside the road!

    1. Thank you for such a positive comment Refugia. Of course, I was being facetious with regard to the ‘American bomb’, although it does look like a bomb, and I do wonder what it’s doing where I found it.


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