Watch: Breathtaking time-lapse film showing Hong Kong's stunning beauty

Francis So was inspired to try time-lapse photography by a video of New Zealand scenery. It's now his full-time job, and his first film, of Hong Kong's natural beauty, has been viewed 320,000 times

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 August, 2015, 1:42pm

An iridescent night sky filled with stars, windswept rolling hills, a fast-moving sea of clouds streaked with breaking sunlight and serene water sprinkled with bobbing boats. The scenes in Seen by My Eyes, Hong Kong, a five-minute short made by local photographer Francis So Ka-chun, are so breathtaking that it is hard to believe that they were captured in Hong Kong, a city more famous for being a concrete jungle than its natural beauty.

Made using time-lapse photography, the short won four prizes – including winner of the mountain tourism category and first runner-up for best time-lapse – in the 4th Finisterra Arrábida Film Art and Tourism Festival held in Portugal in May.

Time-lapse photography records an object or a scene in single shots and turns it into a video that plays back at high speed. The easiest way to do it is to place a camera on a tripod and, at intervals, take shots of slow-moving things – such as clouds and germinating plants – for hours or days on end. The footage is then compressed into a video lasting only a few minutes.

Watch: Francis So's Seen by My Eyes, Hong Kong here

So, a 28-year-old former designer turned full-time photographer first tried the technique two years ago after he saw a time-lapse photography video on New Zealand landscapes taken by Bevan Percival.

“I was stunned by the breathtaking natural scenes in the video,” he says.

Before, he only did part-time nature and travel photography as he worked as a designer full time. To try his hand at time-lapse photography, he went to various rural spots in Hong Kong, including Tai Mo Shan, Po Toi, Sai Kung, Lantau Island, Kowloon Peak and Pak Nai in Yuen Long, pitching tents on windswept peaks to take pictures of the dawn and the serene night sky.

His equipment included two cameras – a Canon Eos 5D2 and Eos 6D – a number of EF (electro-focus) lenses and a Skyler Linear Tracker. He also used a dolly, a tripod and a remote shutter.

After 13 months of excursions he had more than 100 pieces of time-lapse footage (each between 15 and 30 seconds long), from which he made the five-minute short. Nine months after it was uploaded onto YouTube, the organiser of the Portuguese film festival contacted So and invited him to enter the competition.

“I was the most happy to win in the mountain tourism category. Many people think that overseas scenery is more beautiful than Hong Kong’s, but the prize shows that Hong Kong has its own breathtaking views.”

The short has been viewed 319,000 times on YouTube.

Many people think that overseas scenery is more beautiful than Hong Kong’s, but the prize shows that Hong Kong has its own breathtaking views
Francis So, photographer

Before setting out on his filming trips, So – a graduate in digital media design from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education – checks the weather.

“I check information through the Hong Kong Observatory, things like humidity, wind speed and cloud height. With high humidity, low cloud height and low wind speed, you might be able to see a sea of clouds.”

His time-lapse works are bought by companies for use in adverts and by American and Japanese TV manufacturers to demonstrate the quality of their televisions to customers.

So was inspired by this time-lapse short of New Zealand scenery by Bevan Percival

With government plans to build a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport and talk of developing country park land, So says he wants to do more nature photography to raise public awareness of the need for nature conservation.

“People should know Hong Kong has a lot of beautiful places out there worth conserving,” he says.