Making Explore Wild HK

Explore Wild Hong Kong! is the first film to show the diverse and dynamic destination that Hong Kong really is, with tips on how to get to some of the best sites. Sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airways, the film highlights sustainable tourism, or eco-tourism, showing how Hongkongers and overseas visitors can contribute to local communities, and so help protect some of our fragile ecosystems.


2 December2004: Hong Kong International Airport

We (Charlie [at right in photo], Charlie’s brother Antony [on left] and Martin) headed to the airport, to film an opening sequence.

We set up on south side of Arrivals Hall, by window with views to Lantau hills. (The Airport Authority had given us permission to film – with a dv cam.)

On paper, all seemed simple enough: Charlie would walk towards the camera, and say "Hello."

But in practice. Woah! – in practice. We did take after take after take after take, as Charlie wandered around, yabbering away and then – at least once – just bursting out laughing. And all because he had to say "Hello."

Well, truth be told, it was Charlie’s first crack at being a presenter. And Hong Kong International Airport is a pretty antiseptic place to start a show. And from time to time, security folk came over to see what we were up to. And Charlie had to say rather more than "Hello" – introducing himself, the video, Hong Kong in a few seconds. And there were last minute changes made by the script guy (err, that would be me, Martin).

Anyway, we at last wrapped the intro, and Charlie strode off towards the Airport Express. [Reviewing footage later, notied a Toilet sign was prominent in background, as Charlie walked off from his piece to camera. For this and other reasons, this sequence didn’t make the final cut; opted for a new opening.]

Then, we clambered up a small hill – about all that’s left of the original Chek Lap Kok island, for some shots of the Airport Express whizzing off towards town. Nice location; just too bad about the smog that smothered all but closer places.

Yikes!! – just phoned by Charlie, and gonna have to repeat that intro walk and talk sequence [that Toilet sign spotted; didn’t reshoot though, but scrapped airport sequence]. But before that, we’re goin to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, real early tomorrow.
{mospagebreak title=Tsim Sha Tsui; Causeway Bay}

3 December: Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay

We’d planned an early start for today; not long after 6.30am at Tsim Sha Tsui watarfront, to catch some nice morning light while the harbour was still peaceful. Well, Charlie and Antony showed up on time, but not the other bloke (which would be, err, me) – a call from Charlie at 7.30 found me snugly in bed, sound asleep, with my alarm clock’s battery dead. (Stay tuned to discover: will a dog eat my homework?)

I headed in, somehow avoided being marmalised, and handed out freshly bought chilled coffees.

 Happily the light was still good. So, we rolled. [But again, viewing footage later, abandoned this sequence.]

Charlie explained that he was at Victoria Harbour, in Kowloon – and wild Hong Kong is not far away. Soon, perhaps, we’ll even start filming there.

First, though, it was time to pop down to the MTR, where we’d been given permission to film Charlile apparently buying an Octopus card, then heading off on a train. (Santa was out of shot – we’re not working on a flim flam Xmas special, you know.)

Down on the platform, Charlie practised speaking his lines with split second timing, so he could tell the world about the wonders of the MTR, then hop into a train just as the doors were about to close. And Antony – once he’d set up the camera. What was Antony doing during all this?

Well, if you figure you can explain just what Antony was doing … hmm, maybe send us the answers on a postcard.

Anyways, we wrapped the MTR shots. Next stop: Causeway Bay, to shoot teeming crowds and a multitude of cars and buses. At last, it’s almost time for the hills. Could someone please clear away the darn smog?
{mospagebreak title=Dragon’s Back; Shek O (surf’s up!)}

6 December 2004: Dragon’s Back, and Shek O

Started with seemingly simple shots at Shau Kei Wan bus station; buses rarely aligning as we’d wish – so Anthony persuaded this one to reverse a little, to perfect position.

Charlie did manage to explain there are buses at most MTR stations; and we could leave – to enter wonderful, wild Hong Kong.

Didn’t travel far; just to the section of Hong Kong Trail leading up Dragon’s Back. Firstly, a chance to explain HK has great hiking trails – with signposts, and maps.


The slopes of Dragon’s Back were pleasant enough. But when we reached the top, the views were smog smothered; and with time becoming tight, and surf around the rocks below, we just went down again, and headed to Shek O.

Charlie sat on a rock, and admired the surf.

Abracadabra – and yes, in comes another wave! (Can you feel the force, Luke?)

Displaying versatility, Charlie took a stint behind the camera, to film surf – hopefully, we should have some fine footage of truly wild Hong Kong.

Then, we aimed to introduce Shek O, the eccentric village. Instead, we found that if you’ve come 14th out of 150 teams in an Action Asia race the day before (ie Charlie, who had swum, run up a gully to the top of Sunset Peak, and done other barmy things while most people were still in bed on a Sunday morning), then got up at 6 to start filming, and not eaten anything during the day, it’s not real simple being an ace film presenter. Time, then, to abort our mission for today.
We’ll be back.
{mospagebreak title=Luk Keng}

7 December 2004: Luk Keng

To Luk Keng in the northeast New Territories for the afternoon. First, though, Charlie insisted on a coffee break. (Or really, I figured that could shoot this – show people that can find small restaurants out in many parts of wild HK.) Gave me chance to wave around a reflector I’d just bought, to help stop Charlie’s eyes being in shadow, and so enhance the astonishing picture quality. Antony, though, wanted me to use the thing as a windbreak, stop noise on microphone. Good grief, cost me an arm and a leg that did. A windbreak indeed!

Though an old lady was none too chuffed at idea she might be on camera, we lined up shot of Charlie introducing this lovely village. And, we grabbed some footage of the lady chopping wood. Sadly, my Cantonese is way too limited to explain we hope to do good – would love to stimulate some tourism to the village, with monies helping with building upkeep and boosting incomes of residents.

We then roamed the village, for footage of places n things, like this shrine to the spirit of a banyan tree with it’s splendid roots.

Sadly, some houses are in ruins, others in need of repair. But, even broken tile roofs are photogenic.

The soft afternoon light enhanced views over the area.

Luk Keng seems a fine example of a classic South China village; it’s one of our best remaining village areas. (There are around five hamlets here; each solely or mainly home to a clan – mostly Chan, also Wong, Ngan, and Chu.)

The former rice paddies have become one of Hong Kong’s best wetlands, with mangrove mingling with brackish marsh.

Ominously, perhaps, we learned that developer Sun Hung Kai has bought some land here. So, instead of Luk Keng being protected – perhaps as a model for eco-tourism in Hong Kong – maybe it will become yet another of Hong Kong’s sites that have been wrecked by concrete.

With filming over, it was at last beer time.
{mospagebreak title=Mai Po Marshes (winter birds)}

10 December: Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve


Just in case you thought it was only in Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch that people have to get up for work before they go to bed: Charlie and Antony up before 6 today, after beddy-bies well after after midnight, and I was up and about at 4.10am, for 5.10 ferry from Cheung Chau. And whose crackpot idea was this, I wonder? Err, mine (Martin’s); aim being to film at Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve whilst trash fish being fed to the birds – giving us good chance of filming loads of birds.

Happily, this worked out wonderfully. I’d emailed Lew Young, head honcho of the WWF Hong Kong managed Mai Po reserve, and he figured our video seems worthwhile. Reserve officer Bena Smith (bearded chappie with binoculars here, elbowing Charlie out of view) kindly helped us – sorting our permit, and showing us where the birds would go once fish poured into the pond, then doing short interview with Charlie once it was showtime.

The trash fish are fed twice a week during winter, costing some HK$300,000 per year (paid by HK Govt; Agriculture and Fisheries Dept helps too) – aim being to reduce the amount of commercial fish that birds – especially the thousands of wintering cormorants – take from fishponds.

Whilst things are pretty quiet beforehand, once fish are dumped into the pond, it’s bird mayhem – with trees festooned with egrets, herons and cormorants, whilst birds flock in to snatch fish. Hopefully, will make some nice scenes for the video (helping overturn notions that Hong Kong is just a city – not just amongst people overseas, but maybe also in minds of some people who shape our deveopment policies).

Feeding time over, we filmed elsewhere in the reserve. Many hundreds of cormorants roosting in trees, coupled with reflections in channel, made an attractive scene (the Deep Bay wetland, including Mai Po, holds a significant proportion of East Asia’s cormorants each winter).

The paparazzi descended on lilies, filming from all sorts of angles.

With lilies thoroughly filmed (and photographed), it was lunchtime. I then headed off, to get all hot and bothered at a meeting on a "Concept Plan" (hahaha) by the Lantau Development Taskforce (well, the plan includes an indoor beach – not far from real beaches; I ask you!); Charlie and Antony stayed on, partly hoping the wild ducks near the education centre might have swum back to their usual spots near the path.

{mospagebreak title=Ma On Shan; Tai Mei Tuk to Bride’s Pool} 

11 December: Ma On Shan

Making the most of relatively clear weather, Charlie and Antony climbed up the mountain – near Charlie’s home in Sai Kung, for some "pick-up shots" that should be useful once we reach editing stages. [watch carefully in opening sequence!] 

14 December: Tai Mei Tuk, Bride’s Pool, and Luk Keng

The Explore Wild Hong Kong team’s first stop today was the Wong Kee Bicycle Co (we kid you not!), in Tai Mei Tuk – where Charlie was to hire a bike.

Nope, no helmets, but they did produce this rather fetching wig. (Happily, Charlie had brought his own helmet – so we’ll show safe cycling.)

Antony, meanwhile, searched through the dozens of bikes to find one that suited his style…

a bike with street cred…

with a certain, (as Dr Evil would say) I don’t know what…

a mean machine, ready to ride…

and he found…

Moving swiftly on…

I agreed to ride the bike up and over a hill just outside Tai Mei Tuk Ipartly coz, shock horror, I can’t drive [well, maybe I can manage better than a couple of drivers we saw today]) ( Note here the matching Columbia shirts. )

First, though, Charlie was to do piece to camera, telling about Tai Mei Tuk as centre for tourism in northeast New Territories. For this, practiced putting helmet on whilst talking; took a few goes to not put on backwards, fiddle with straps.

But eventually, on went the helmet, in what seemed a lovely smooth take. Cut! – and off, to film Charlie cycling by Plover Cove Res (I’ll spare you the photos, as didn’t take any there.)

Antony’s turn now, to ride the bike uphill.

Then Antony scampered up a "cliff" of concreted slope, and started yelling orders.

Way below, Charlie cycled up towards Bride’s Pool, and spoke into his radio mike. Then, we left Bride’s Pool – aiming to return later, hopefully after this long drought breaks and there’s a decent flow over the waterfalls.

North, then, to near the egretry on the islet by Luk Keng – where Charlie demonstrated a film-making technique that’s technically known as Bish Bash Bosh. After bishing, bashing and boshing, for some footage of many rather distant egrets, we continued – figuring it was a wrap for the day. (Hah, see how these terms fly from my fingers.)

Passing neighbouring Nam Chung, we noticed the light was excellent, so stopped for some bonus footage – should make for scenes to enhance the Luk Keng sequence.

It was too bad someone had chopped down a load of mangrove trees – have to hope that not planning a relatively sterile (for wildlife) fhispond, but the village looked great.

We’d arrived just in time; as within minutes, the sun dipped below the hills.
{mospagebreak title=Hong Kong Dolphinwatch; Jardine’s Lookout recce}

15 December: dolphin-watching, and Jardine’s Lookout recce

We joined a tour with Hong Kong Dolphinwatch, clambering aboard the bus in Central. En route to the pier in Tung Chung, north Lantau, guides Tak Ching (in English) and Shiu (in Japanese) told us about the Chinese white dolphins, and the problems they face. With dolphins becoming entangled in nets, washed up dead, poisoned by pesticides, swimming amidst trash including shoes tossed out by factories, and living in a busy shipping lane crisscrossed by high-speed ferries, the situation seemed so sad I almost wanted to leap off the coach before boarding the boat.

I’m certainly glad I stayed, though, as we had a fantastic trip. It seemed we’d barely started the tour when the first dolphins were sighted – making us abort an introductory interview between Charlie and Tak Ching.

Guides Tak Ching (on right here) and Shiu leapt up and down in excitement as dolphins popped up all around the boat – Tak Ching says people often ask her if she’s seeing dolphins for the first time.

The tour participants were real happy to, for this was surely a near perfect tour – great weather (albeit smog, but shouldn’t blame weather for that), calm sea, dolphin sightings a-gogo. Charlie the film-maker shot footage of dolphins, and pick-up shots. So too did Antony.

Two Japanese ladies caught Antony’s attention, and did a wonderful job of being thrilled on camera whilst watching dolphins. Kawaii!

Occasionally, it was as if the dolphins were on a a Hong Kong Humanwatch tour, as they "spy-hopped" out of the water for a look at the boat and the people, and two or three times swam in real close – Tak Ching had said they recognise the boat. But for all they performed well, the dolphins were tough to film; they surfaced only briefly, and it was impossible to follow them underwater in the murk.
(Tak Ching had mentioned that these are estuarine dolphins, and have lost the need for pigments to protect against the sunlight because the silty water blocks so much light; youngsters are grey, but adults are bubble-bum pink because of blood near the surface of their skin.)

Once the show was over, Charlie relaxed, and asked Tak Ching a string of questions. Many won’t suit our main video – dealing with pollutants in detail, and other problems; but maybe we’ll make a "bonus" segment for a dvd, and look at some of the woes we’ve seen.

Tour over, we went for a recce, up Jardine’s Lookout on Hong Kong island. It looked a top location for our needs, but not in the thick smog that blanketed the city – need a clear morning. I did take a couple of shots, was going to post one here – but I’ve mistakenly deleted; so just picture a view across city buildings, which seem a little grey in foreground, and soon fade into misty white, even though there’s a clear blue sky overhead.
{mospagebreak title=Bluff Island (Sai Kung)}

18 December 2004: Bluff Island, Sai Kung

This was to be the second of three straight days filming in the Sai Kung area. The day before, Charlie and Antony had filmed snorkelling at Bluff Island. Now I (Martin) was to head out, carrying a vital, top-secret document: the latest version of the script for Sai Kung, which I’d written the evening before. (Yes, it may all – we hope! – seem wonderfully smooth and natural, but there is some planning, some scribbling, underway.) After clambering from bed well before dawn, I arrived at Clearwater Bay Marina, and at last my carriage trundled into view.

Skipper – and owner – of the scary grey rust bucket (or should that be, err, of the Fast Pursuit Craft) is Paul Etherington, who runs in the Sai Kung area. He’d persuaded four friends to come along, to pretend to be tourists having a fun day out (yes, yes, they’re true Hong Kongers, as you can see from the cutesy photo posing by two, and near sleeping by another). Little did they know what they were in for.

Next thing you know, we were blasting and bouncing over the sea, which looked only slightly choppy yet had the bucket/patrol craft bucking like a bronco. I’d have dived off pronto were I not carrying that script.

We blasted in to Bluff Island, where we met Charlie, Antony, and Mark – who’d arrived in Charlie’s Boston Whaler, which isn’t really a whaler at all. (You get to learn all sorts of such nautical stuff when a landlubber like me spends time with old salties like Paul and Charlie. For instance, boat speeds aren’t measured in miles per hour or kilometres per hour; instead Paul and Charlie like to cruise along at speeds like Warp Factor Three.)

Here, I waded ashore, and climbed the hill to find Antony, who’d set up the camera ready for a shot of Paul and his merry crew arriving by boat (yes, I know, Paul had already arrived, but now he had to be filmed doing so, which meant he had to go back round the corner, and arrive again, and again).

Antony had a walkie-talkie, which he used to coordinate things with Charlie and Paul, making a change from the usual yelling. First, Charlie and Mark had to be snorkelling around over the coral area (Charlie’s friend Mark, you see, will be his friend Pui in the film – for these shots; the real Pui snorkels with Charlie, but she couldn’t be here today. And no, Mark does not look like a girl, but at a distance, well, maybe he’ll do as body double.)

Then, Paul was to blast into the bay, curl round by the coast, and stop to anchor. After a practice run, just needed some sun. With the morning cloud burning off, the sun duly shone. And … action!



Then – after about five hours spent to get two seconds of footage (perchance I exaggerate a little, as some friends say I am wont to do), down to the beach. Oddly, a terrapin was wandering around here – as if it was a tiny sea turtle.

Antony filmed as Paul lobbed kayaks from his boat, while in the background Charlie swam to Mojo, waved goodbye to Pui (only today Pui’s really Mark, but he’ll be Pui [who’s a she] in the film – hope you’ve got that), and swam ashore.

Antony filmed Charlie walking out of the sea, as if he was Ursula Andress or someone, Charlie suppressed his shivers for some chitchat to camera, then we directed Paul ashore with a kayak for him n Charlie. "Well, cor blimey Charlie, strike a light, fancy meeting you here me old cock sparrow," said Paul as the two met, or words to that effect. (Look, I told you the script’s top secret, very hush hush).

And Paul and Charlie paddled merrily away.

Next, it was all aboard the Mojo for Charlie, Antony and me. And I was dragooned into service as boom operator – yes, me, whose hands are dedicated to creating fine flowing prose, to crafting compelling storylines; I was obliged to hold a pole with a microphone shoved on the end of it. (Actually, it’s a carbon fibre boom, real lightweight.) Had a practice as here, while Charlie snapped this moment in movie making history for posterity; and Charlie joined Paul in the kayak, so they could paddle along and chat away about sea kayaking in Hong Kong, and whether anyone had a clue where we were going next.

Next up was lunch, at the Yau Ley restaurant at Sha Kiu Tau. This is set to appear in the video, too – for while you’re out in wild Hong Kong, it’s great to enjoy a meal at one of the rural restaurants, and this is surely one of our top places for an outdoor meal.

Antony filmed as Charlie, Paul and the gang tucked into a hearty seafood feast. They chatted about a couple of fish Charlie had earlier caught in offshore waters. As Antony, Mark and I hungrily watched and waited whilst filming was completed, the cheery bunch ate everything, the rotters. (Not really, soon after this shot, we joined in.)

Once everyone had eaten lunch, Paul kindly tested how long the folk in his boat could keep it down, by belting back and forth across the waves in an attempt to fly (did become fully airborne once, but I’d still suggest Cathay if you really want to fly anywhere further than two metres away). This wasn’t for our video, but for promotional footage for Paul’s company ("Join Kayak-and-Hike – and We’ll Scare You Half to Death!")

Then, Paul dropped off his friends, who actually seemed quite happy, or maybe they were laughing and with terror; he was set to return for more kayaking filming, but clouds moved in, and the light turned flat, so we binned that idea.

Returned to Yau Ley, where Charlie, Antony, Paul and I were to stay overnight. Antony looked around for something pink to be silly with, but had to make do with two daft dogs.

It was beer time at last. We took some bottles of Tsingtao to a pavilion built by the government, evidently following plans by someone who had won a Bad Taste Design Competition, and there was a sunset of sorts. Yet again, too bad about the smog – can someone please clear it away, so we can film some distant scenery too? Promise we’ll give you a good mention here on this site.
{mospagebreak title=Sai Kung islands; Tai Long Wan}

19 December: islands in southeastern Sai Kung, Tai Long Wan

Clambered out of our bunks a little before dawn, and got gear ready for another day’s filming.

Started with some pick-up shots, of the fish farms at Sha Kiu Tau. Lovely reflections with the calm water, and soft morning light.

We aimed to start with the kayaking sequences that had been planned for yesterday afternoon; would involve Charlie and Paul paddling past some spectacular cliffs and arches at islands off southeast of the Sai Kung Peninsula. First, Charlie guided Mojo along close to shore, for scenic shots.

Antony shot this arch, which Charlie and Paul later paddled towards.

Also filmed surf as we trundled real close to the rocks. But there were no major mishaps – nothing, then, that might have led to Charlie saying, "I’ve lost my Mojo."

Paul and Charlie then turned paddling explorers, checking out this fantastic coastline. (Come on, hands up – did you know parts of Hong Kong look like this?)

Here, Charlie and Paul waited for a half decent wave, to ride past the rocks n surf.

Antony then clambered aboard the kayak (which is designed to hold three), for some close up filming. After which, to ensure we have kayaking covered from all angles, Charlie donned diving gear, to film Antony and Paul in kayak from underwater – Antony masquerading as Charlie for the video’s purposes. (Happily all this presenting malarky and impending superstardom haven’t turned Charlie into a prima donna, not yet anyways.) I took the chance to snorkel – darn chilly at first, but fun, with some coral, and plenty of small fish.

Paul blasted homewards, and Charlie, Antony and I bounded northwards, to Tai Long Wan. Here, after some kerfuffle landing at beach south of this one (fair surf, so couldn’t bring boat close and carry gear without risk of being knocked over, so had to use dingy), Charlie gave the introductory guff for the Sai Kung Peninsula (that’s right; now we’ve filmed most of scenes wanted for Sai Kung, we shoot the introductory sequence. And if you ever see the finished film and think, hmm, looks like that’s afternoon light, well, hope you’ll understand we planned to be here earlier, but we were a bit busy beforehand).

Charlie announce he was hiking to meet friends (Pui and Paul) to snorkel and kayak, so we filmed him walking up and over the headland south of Tai Wan, and across the Rickety Bridge here at Ham Tin. Then, that was it for the Sai Kung three days; home Charlie, and don’t spare the seahorses.
{mospagebreak title=Kadoorie Farm}

23 December 2004: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

After the wide open spaces of the Sai Kung Peninsula, it was quite a change to visit Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, to show different aspects of wild Hong Kong. Our first stop was here, at the enclosure for Pui Pui, who had achieved fame as the Yuen Long Crocodile.

Though very shy when she first arrived at Kadoorie Farm, Pui Pui had clearly become pretty accustomed to being a celeb, and lazed under a heat lamp whilst her fans gazed on. ("I’m ready for my close-up now, Mr Frew.")

Charlie caught Pui Pui yawning, and it seemed that was about it for her imminent activity, so we went off to find other creatures to film.

This visit was partly a recce, partly to film some pick-up shots. We were first accompanied by Education Officer Ann Houng, who was partly checking we wouldn’t prove disruptive, wouldn’t disturb the animals (many of which have been rescued after being found sick or injured; several of those that recover will be returned to the wild).
There are two wild boar in an enclosure; and though like Pui Pui they had been shy, it appeared they were now well used to people. So used to people, they fell asleep together. "Go on, Martin, talk to them, make them do something – like Dr Dolittle," said Charlie and Antony. So, I made some squeaking noises, which can help attract birds’ interest when I’m taking bird photos. The wild boar were interested, all right: both pricked up ears and became alert, both stood, and one rocketed off to the other end of the enclosure. Happily, they soon settled, and Ann figured we weren’t really too terrifying, so we could have spend some time filming unchaperoned.

First, Ann’s colleague Karin took us to higher, wilder parts of the farm, so we could film some native woodland. We’d also hoped to get nice shots looking towards Mai Po (which is set to be the next destination in the film), but there was too much smog. We wondered about filming butterflies in the lovely, wild butterfly garden; but a quick check revealed three photographers trying to shoot one butterfly ("Hey! That’s my butterfly>" "No it isn’t, I saw it first, go away and find your own butterfly.") With more butterflies due, orchids set to bloom, in April, we plan a return visit, when it might be possible to film view towards Mai Po – after all, it’s little more than a stone’s throw away.

We left the farm for lunch, at a curry place Charlie had somehow found before, down a dirt track amongst car scrapyards; he claimed to have followed signs, but we had to wonder if he’d followed curry scent, like a human bloodhound or something.

Back at the farm, the small yet magnificent Leopard Cats performed nicely. Kadoorie Farm is a top place for filming HK wildlife like this – animals that are nigh on impossible to see in the wild – and so help show people the richness of wild Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Paradise Fish proved a little tricky to film, partly as they’re small. But these too seem worth including in our film – as this species was only recently new to science (they had been thought to belong to another, also rare species), and it is unique to Hong Kong.


{mospagebreak title=Reviewing Footage}


18 January 2005: reviewing footage in Digital Magic



Charlie, Antony and I headed in to one of the editing suites in Digital Magic – which is editing the video, to review much of the decent footage taken so far (DM guys had downloaded from tapes to computer; Antony had worked through the material, dumping the worst footage and leaving around four hours of material – which we aim to cut to well under 25 minutes of final film[!].)

Looking good so far, we reckoned. There are a few gaps, where we need to shoot more, and occasional sequences that didn’t work and we should re-shoot. But here and there are sequences and images that should look impressive in final cut (Charlie’s gobsmacked by Mai Po water lilies; yeah, not too shabby I agree, but I also liked Mai Po birds, kayaks n surf, boat arriving, Luk Keng village, dolphins and dolphin fans… If we and Digital Magic crew craft the material together well, and we’re up to snuff when filming outstanding material – this is gonna be good! If… Still plenty of work to do.)

While we were in the editing suite, the inimitable Percy popped his head round the door. Percy Fung’s a man whose namecard bears no title re his position in DM (head honcho, then?; I can’t remember). Percy’s a man who tells of loving to fly – propeller plane over Greenland, helicopters, gyro copter. Judging by his ebullient hair, spin Percy round fast enough and he might just take off all by himself.
{mospagebreak title=Kadoorie Farm}

19 January 2005: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

Before I left Cheung Chau, I looked across the harbour towards Lantau Island – where we want to film. Though the sky was cloudless, and there was no mist, Lantau was barely visible, lost in disgusting smog. Not at all good for filming, so we’re having to wait – and wait! – for half decent weather. And to think we complained about smog earlier, in December; those days seem clear by comparison.

I met Charlie and Antony, and we headed to Kadoorie Farm. Here, filmed Charlie walking into the farm; afterwards realised this is no longer the main entrance, but hey, this is art. (Or, hopefully no one will grumble; we’ve been entering and leaving through this entrance.)

Antony got quite excited filming some trees – coz the sun peeking through thin cloud cover looked nice on the leaves.

Then – hard-working crew that we are – it was time for lunch. Went to a place Charlie had somehow discovered, down past used car dealers and suchlike, in the Pakistan Traders Association. Had a grand meal – vindaloo making my face drip sweat – but, sadly, the owner wasn’t too interested in our offer to leave Antony as additional "statue" for the door; ah well.

There was more dappled sun on trees near Pui Pui the crocodile’s outdoor pen. We’d chosen to film Charlie interviewing Dr Chiu Sein Tuck, senior manager of the education department, here. Even though Pui Pui had been moved indoors, to escape winter chill, it seemed a good place, and in the film we could pretend Pui Pui was still there.

The extremely busy Dr Chiu arrived for the interview, from which he had to soon dash off for a meeting with big bosses. Charlie passed some time by demonstrating how to do the Hokey Cokey, or Morris Dancing; or maye it’s something Masonic that goes with a handshake. As we shot the interview, convoys of heavy trucks rolled along the road below us – well that’s what it sounded like; so have to hope the sound turns out ok.

One of the Kadoorie vets, Amanda, then helped us. As we hoped to get brief flight shots of black kites, she let us into a large aviary with several kites and a crested serpent-eagle that had been found sick or injured, and will later be released if possible. This proved v difficult, with the birds making quick, unpredictable flights – except of course when Charlie put aside his camera to answer an SMS message, and kites swooped and circled about in a graceful, almost slow motion aerial ballet, while two perched kites looked on.

Next, we went to aviaries with birds of prey. Here, Amanda helped Charlie film Katie – a kite who almost thinks she’s human. Not flight shots, but close ups, with Amanda whistling, then Katie giving here wavering, high whistle call.

At a neighbouring aviary, Antony took some shots of Halley the White-bellied Eagle. I’d whistled/called to entice Halley to come close.

Amanda then came along, to show how to really bring Halley in close. Though Halley’s healthy (try saying that a few times in a row!), Amanda said he’s so tame that if released, he could cause problems for himself and people.
{mospagebreak title=Editing; Mai Po Marshes (drizzle); early to rise, early to bed}

Late January to mid-April 2005

Spent several sessions in Digital Magic, editing our footage – down from around 25 hours, to roughly 25 mins, working on maps, adding some music (from Hugh Trethowan of Keyboard Pilots).

And, began itching to get out filming again, cursing the darn weather for recurring fog, grey skies, and rain (too feeble to really get waterfalls going, so far).

12 April 2005: Mai Po Marshes

With a promising high tide – which should be good for spring shorebirds – and weather forecast looking just ok, Charlie and I headed to Mai Po, for some spring footage.

It was grey as we headed up; but the day before had started grey, turned out fairly bright. But a cold front that had been stationary over eastern Guangdong had other ideas – stopped being stationary, and arrived over HK during the day.

We headed down the boardwalk, through the mangroves, to a hide overlooking the mudflats.

From the hide, as the tide began falling, we saw plenty of shorebirds and egrets; but it was so dull Charlie didn’t even get the camera out. A breezy wind sprang up from somewhere in the north (which was lost in mist), and faint drizzle turned to light rain.

So that was it; no option but to pack up and leave, with aim to return for next decent tides – from around 24 April – and hope some decent spring weather has arrived by then.

{mospagebreak title=Mai Po Marshes, mangroves and spring wildlife}

28 April 2005: Mai Po Marshes

Weather at last looking promising, and one of the last days this year when forecast tide looked good for seeing (and filming?) spring shorebirds in Deep Bay – so Charlie and I headed to Mai Po Marshes. And, had a decent session there. (Phew!)

Headed straight to the boardwalk through the mangroves, to hide (blind) overlooking Deep Bay mudflats.

The tide came in fast, but there were relatively few birds. (A Chinese egret – a world rarity – was too distant to film.)

Then, to check lagoons within Mai Po, for roosting shorebirds. Sadly, only few of these in evidence, none close enough to film (had been plenty on lagoons on Tuesday, we were told).

Back out to boardwalk, where with tide still high, there was chance to get some footage of mangroves, almost Deliverance style (cue Duelling Banjos?!)

Then, to the boardwalk hide, to wait – and wait – for tide to drop, mudflats to become exposed, and birds to arrive.

At last, mudflats were exposed, and large flocks of shorebirds arrived – mostly from Shenzhen side of the bay. They stood in shallow water, and swirled about in swarming flocks, especially when a peregrine swept into and through the flocks, trying to grab itself some lunch. Birds not close enough to show any individual detail on video (this shot’s thro my telescope, with digital camera), but swirling flocks fine, helping show more of what makes Mai Po important, and a great place to visit. (We earlier shot winter birds, especially egrets, cormorants, and black-faced spoonbills.)

Charlie "shot" some mudskippers – there were umpteen of them skittering about on the mud, but Charlie found that if he moved a little, any that were close were quick to skitter into their burrows. Then, turned the camera on some fiddler crabs, which also emerged from burrows to feed on exposed mud. So for Mai Po Marshes in Explore Wild Hong Kong! – it’s a wrap!

{mospagebreak title=Surprise storms (foiled again)}

22 May 2005

A scintillating afternoon, with blue sky, crystal clear visibility: a classic afternoon in the tropics.

Sadly, with this lovely aft a bit of a surprise, we weren’t filming – I headed to Cheung Chau beach. But, made plans for early start the next day.

23 May 2005: Early to rise, early to bed

I flopped out of bed at 4.10am, had breakfast, checked email etc but foolishly not the weather forecast on Internet (after all, superbly clear yesterday aft, still clear around midnight, and forecast for a fine morning with some rain later). Set off for the 5.10 ferry from Cheung Chau, but looked up to see not stars, but clouds, and occasional ligtning. Hmmm…

Nearing ferry pier, I phoned Charlie, asked him to check hk observatory website. As I reached the pier, he phoned back: radar showed storms to southwest of HK, approaching. So, as bell for ferry ringing, aborted. I headed home – took some cloud photos on the way, to bed, and within a couple of hours, major thunderstorms began.

A week later, again some promise in forecast, again up at 4.10 and set off for ferry – but this time, cancelled as it was overcast.

On 4 June, newspaper reported that May had been wet and windy: seven Amber rainstorm warnings, thunderstorms with some powerful winds, only three sunny days recorded by HK Observatory.
So, we’d fully anticipated having filming finished by now, yet still some footage to shoot. (On 4 June, Charlie was to do a little more for underwater sequence, but again thunderstorms spawned in and around Hong Kong. Curses – Foiled again!)
{mospagebreak title=A hot day’s filming – HK Island and N-e New Territories}

6 July 2005: Phew, What a Scorcher!

For the third time this summer, with weather promising the day before, forecast looking ok (or very good this time), I clambered out of bed soon after 4, hoping for a day’s filming. (This resulting from me being a Yorkshireman I guess: "We used to get up two hours before we went to bed…" or however the Python sketch goes. But I digress.)

Weather looked excellent in twilight as I walked down to Cheung Chau ferry pier. Arrived in Central, and scintillating light over the city, soon after dawn. Charlie soon arrived, in his new jelopy, and we headed for the hills.

Here, at last managed to film the opening sequence for the film. We’d initially tried this in the airport, what seems aeons ago – but that didn’t work out. Checked out this hilltop – Jardine’s Lookout – late last year, when no use for filming coz of South China smog shrouding most of the city.

Today, though, with clean air blowing in from over South China Sea, there was perfect visibility.

Oh, yes – with Charlie’s brother Antony back in Portugal, working on projects there, I was main cameraman today. (Yes, yes, you can laugh – but I’ll have you know I shot footage used in a BBC documentary on Siberian Cranes, narrated by David Attenborough. Only a few seconds on air, mind you.) Filmed Charlie giving introductory spiel – as he’d far earllier recited in the airport.

Charlie then grabbed the camera off me (well, I suppose it is his after all), and shot some scenic footage – both the city to the north, and Tai Tam Reservoirs and Dragon’s Back to the south.

Then, to another hill we’d been up months ago: Dragon’s Back, in southeast Hong Kong Island. We’d already filmed Charlie hiking up this, but got to the top to find smog hid even nearby islands, so left shooting scenes from the ridge top for later (hadn’t expected it would be so much later!) and instead shot Charlie admiring surf at Shek O.

Here, too, the visibility was perfect; again, I filmed Charlie, Charlie filmed scenery. It was darn hot in the sun; I rashly opened my shirt for a while to cool down a little – and as I write this a couple of days later, my stomach’s still glowing scarlet. Ouch!

Down to Shek O we went; had some lunch at beachside restaurant. Then, filmed on islet just off Shek O, and some footage of Shek O "streets" and temple, to edit together with surf shots from late last year.

On, on we went – even though the temperature was up in the 80s centigrade or somewhere (whatever it was, this was a HOT day), off to northeast New Territories, and Bride’s Pool, for more footage to add to material shot earlier. In this case, we wanted to film the Bride’s Pool and Mirror Pool falls with decent amount of water after summer rains – late last year, they were almost dry following a drought.

Here, I filmed Charlie in front of both falls; thought Mirror Pool looked especially grand on the monitor; but with being busy filming, I didn’t take photos till grabbed this one of Charlie filming stream lit by late afternoon sun.

And, at last, that was almost it. Went to nearby Luk Keng, for a drink.

Had this photo taken of Charlie n me, plus bottles n can from most of the water, sports drink and one beer we’d drunk during the day. (To guess who drank the beer, try to spot who’s almost asleep on his feet.) Then, grabbed a few seconds’ footage of a minibus, and headed for home. (By time Charlie reached his place again, he’d driven over 200km today.)

{mospagebreak title=Lantau Island}

25 July 2005: Kwun Yam Temple, Lantau

With the weather looking promising, Charlie and I headed to Lantau in the afternoon. Filmed at the lovely Kwun Yam Temple above Tai O; also getting some footage shortly before catching the bus east, to Shui Hau.

We stayed in Shui Hau, at Fung Wong Holiday Bungalows (really, holiday flats). This proved a good choice – proprietor, Wing, was friendly and helpful.

Went for walk on the nearby mud/sand flats, which teemed with shellfish – Charlie finding a couple of horseshoe crabs. Tranquil and magical as sun dipped below Lantau hills.

26 July 2005: Ngong Ping and Pui O, Lantau

After I was rudely awakened from my dreams by Charlie opening the door and shouting "Oi!", had breakfast at Wing’s. Then, Wing drove us a short way to coast, for quick look at a quiet beach facing the Sokos, before grabbing gear, and moving on up to Ngong Ping.

Though in the film’s intro Charlie tells us he’s been in HK for donkey’s years, this was his first visit to the main part of Ngong Ping – with Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha. (Gasp! – after hiking over Lantau Peak, he’d always veered off down steep hillsides, to get away from the crowds.)

Happily, Charlie reckoned the Buddha looked good ("stunning"), so filmed it as tourists wandered on by.

Also filmed from the platform that supports the Buddha (I shot some footage too, inc of Charlie as presenter). Then, we walked through the Tea Gardens, to walk to top of a small hill for superb views over much of western Lantau.

After which, down to Pui O, to film water buffalo. Loy Ho, founder of the Lantau Post and the Lantau Arts Festival, joined us, and I shot her being interviewed by Charlie with buffalo grazing behind.

After which, time for a manly drink at nearby Treasure Island, and some beach shots.

Then, as sun set, rode inter-island ferry to Cheung Chau. On waterfront here, Charlie met Patrick Cho of the Cheung Chau Rural Committee; a chance for a summary of what’ Charlie’s been up to during the film, plus to learn of more things to do – and, importantly, a fine time for some cold beer.

{mospagebreak title=Return to Kadoorie Farm; It’s a wrap!} 

27 July 2005: Kadoorie Farm

The weather was still good, and we arranged an afternoon trip to Kadoorie Farm.

First – for a short segment showing transport from Luk Keng to the farm – shot trains whizzing along East Rail ("It’s behind you Charlie!" – I tried yelling, but to no avail.)

Ann Houng of the education dept was our guide as we drove to higher areas of Kadoorie Farm. Though I was cameraman for shooting Charlie as he walked around, he set up the camera to ensure exposure and focus were ok. Here, he’s getting ready for a shot of him walking across a real picturesque little footbridge.

We also filmed in the butterfly garden, amidst a riot of blooms, with butterlies flitting everywhere, but only rarely landing on nearby flowers to feed.

And on, up to Kwun Yam Shan near the top of the farm, for shot of Charlie walking along path, and looking north towards Deep Bay (as Mai Po will be next in the film).

Though Deep Bay was visible – unlike when we came here in winter, and found it obscured by smog – it wasn’t too clear on the camera monitor; so after leaving the farm, we drove up Tai Mo Shan, for another long shot to the bay after the sun had moved round and down a little.

Then, it was a wrap for the day. And, very nearly a wrap for the whole film.





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