As a director of two veterinary clinics I am also the main person in charge of interviewing job applicants. One of the standard questions I ask during job interviews is: 'What other hobbies beside those related to animals and pets do you have?' This question is of paramount importance. A good answer will demonstrate to me the applicant's ability in lateral thinking, how balanced his or her life is, and I find that often a person with broad interests tends to be more intelligent, sociable and a better communicator. I cringe at answers I often get, like 'I don't have any', 'I like shopping and karaoke', 'I watch movies'. I like movies, too, but in an interview I would elaborate on the types of movies I enjoy and why. I sometimes think about what a model answer for such a question is, or what I would say in a situation such as this, and I find myself dumbfounded and lost for words, not because I don't have any interests and I don't know what to say, but because I wouldn't even know where to start. I am not going to list my interests, as there aren't enough words in this column for that, but I am going to provide a possible answer that is acceptable. One of the hobbies among my many interests is photography. It has been more than 10 years since I got my first single-lens reflex camera. Since then photography has grown from a hobby to a part-time profession. Having had schooling in oil painting at a younger age, I was proficient with the theory of art. However, I found I didn't have the patience to excel in oil painting. But the skills I learned have helped me as a photographer. My photographic experience started with capturing my life as it happened, shots of the places I had been and the people I had met. Through this photographic record of time, and through study, I have become proficient with the technical aspects of photography. A couple of years ago, the hobby took a turn towards the serious and I started to apply what I had learned of fine art to my photographs, such as lighting, contrast, subject and composition. I further refined my technical skills, such as through the use of studio equipment and computer photo-processing. Living in Hong Kong, it was natural for an aspiring photographer to take pictures of what was readily on hand. Hong Kong is a vibrant city of lights and is filled with urban subjects. A casual walk through Wan Chai could yield a thousand photographs. The city is ever-changing and another walk through the same area may yield a totally different set of photos. During my early life as a student and veterinarian, I was lucky to have been brought up in close contact with nature and rural ways of life. Now my life takes place in an urban jungle, rather than a jungle filled with eucalyptus. Travels to other countries during my tenure in Hong Kong have allowed some temporary escape from this urban jungle, but having less than a month of annual leave, like most people, it means that most of the time I am stuck here with all the concrete and noise. Two months ago, during a hiking trip in Yuen Long, I noticed some people with binoculars and camouflage gear. I found out that they were birdwatching. Lo and behold, up in a tree was the most beautiful owl I had ever seen. Wow! I couldn't believe my eyes and I suddenly wished I had brought my camera with me on the hike. I came back to the same spot a couple of days later and, after a short wait, the owl came back to the same spot. This time I was armed with my camera and I took some photos of it. After this, I decided to explore bird photography, because it combines two of my interests: photography and nature. I have since been to several places to stake out the birds, such as the Mai Po marshes, and have captured quite a few birds on film. There is something special about birdwatching and photography. I find myself getting up at about 5am, because around sunrise the light is much better for photos and birds are more active, not to mention there is no traffic on the road to get to the birdwatching site. It's usually in a rural area, the sun hasn't evaporated the mist, which still clings to the ground, and there is a wonderful orange glow in the sky. It is quiet apart from the chirping of birds. It takes a moment to concentrate, to tune my urban self to the natural environment. Where once I would just see reeds and ponds, I now see it is alive with birds. It's a most Zen-like meditative state. Not only are the birds more obvious, but you are struck by the vitality of nature, the vastness of the world - which humbles a small being such as myself. There is a lot of nature around Hong Kong and I would strongly suggest you escape the urban confines of life and find it, for the good of your soul.