Hong Kong is festooned with neon lights, flashlighs and you-name-it-what lights. Sometimes, their brightness shining over the street can dupe passers-by into thinking that it was nine o'clock in the morning instead of at night. If you are new to Hong Kong, this light pollution after dark is very obvious. It should not be required any explanation that an ever bustling big city like Hong Kong needs lighting at night. But obviously, we are too much on the bright side.
The low ISO used for this nightshot speaks volumes for the seriousness of the problem. Surely, any experienced photographer would be amazed to find that even ISO 200 turns out to be sufficient for a very steady nightshot. Look, the exposure combo says F3.8 and 1/50s, far from the safety zone of F2.8 and 1/20s for this shot with a 24mm focal length.
People living here long enough are more lenient towards the issue unless they live near one of the light pollution sources. A awareness can easily be instilled in them by way of a short stay in, say, Macao or Shenzhen. Just in case you don’t know, Macao is a 45 minutes boat trip away from Hong Kong and Shenzhen is the Chinese city across the Hong Kong boundary.
Look at the above photo, it was taken at almost the same time at 9:10 p.m. and I need to push the ISO up to 400. Actually, a higher ISO value should be required if not for the glass panel on which I lean with my GX200. In fact, I had to drag the shutter speed down to 1/10s to give a faithful reproduction of the luminance of the street as you see below. The scene is closer to what we call a nightshot than the Nathan Road shot.
(Another nightshot through the glass panel. If you are not conversant with ISO values, simply put, ISO 400 is double in value than ISO 200. In the film days, ISO 400 films were called journalist films because of their adaptability in a wider lighting situations. The ISO 200 value is sometimes used when you shoot a photo in the daytime under an overcast sky. An indoor shot at home required the camera to push the ISO to 200 or above)
The ramification of Hong Kong being too bright at night is that people tend to stay in the street until even later, giving the grist to the rationale for keeping more lights on at night. This easily turns into a vicious cycle. Another side effect is that there are fewer real night activities in the street. A case in point is the fortune telling alley at the Temple Market. It used to be ghostly dark at night. Now, go there to check it out and make your own conclusion, especially the junction next to the mahjong parlour with its flickering neon signboard.
(A standard nightshot should require ISO 1600. Even with such a high ISO value, the shutter speed had to be dragged down to 1/13s. This speed is lower than the safety value for this shot with a 28mm focal length. The man is selling chestnut on his mobile kiosk in the street at Shenzhen)
To those having been living in Hong Kong long enough, the disappeared real night life in the street is very much missed. A darker street is more romantic too. Now probably there is only one thing left to be done in the street at night: shopping at shops. The Hong Kong government is drafting a law to tickle light pollution at night. Let's wish them every success.
(A hawker is selling big mandarins filling the two rattan baskets hung on his bike. I would consider it romantic if you take your parter for a date in this dimly lit street and buy him or her some mandarins from the hawker and enjoy it along a "shopless" sidewalk, chatting to each other)