Video game tourist Victoria Peak photo taking..

Scribbling Geek’s Sleeping Dogs Hong Kong Exploration 2 – Victoria Peak Photo Taking


Victoria Peak photo taking. It is not as easy as it is in Sleeping Dogs! (And I didn’t have an Amanda with me)


I begin with a confession. 🙂

I’m stretching things a little here to facilitate this post. Sleeping Dogs or not, I would still visit Victoria Peak. I do so on every trip to Hong Kong. To me, it’s hands-down the dreamiest and the most gorgeous destination in the ex-colony. In a somewhat juvenile way, as I’ve mentioned in my previous series on Sleeping Dogs, any visit to Victoria Peak is also particular nostalgic for me. It was the first attraction I visited during my first trip to Hong Kong in 1991. Ten years later, I also had a very memorable dinner here with my dad.

The Journey


Again, all screenshots from Sleeping Dogs belong to its creators.
And if you haven’t, check out part one of this series.


Great! That’s out of the way. Back to this video game tourist post. Thanks, or no thanks to my usual dilly-dally ways, I left the hotel too late; the sun was already setting before I was even near the MTR station. Concluding that it was quite unlikely that I’d reach the Peak before twilight is over, I decided to take it “easy” and enjoy the journey. Here’s a pic I took while strolling to the MTR station. (And while avoiding other pedestrians. Hong Kong people walk really fast!) This is Gloucester Road, in the heart of the Wan Chai District.

Gloucester Road, Hong Kong
On a side note, I’m really glad United Front didn’t mirror actual Hong Kong traffic in the game! Can you imagine driving in this? What a killjoy that would be!

Alighting at Central Station, I followed signs and soon found myself in Chater Garden. As I’ve predicted, the sky was already dark. I thus decided not to waste the moment and spent ten minutes or so appreciating the financial spires of Central. This was one of the shots I took.

Central District Landmarks, Hong Kong
I shot this while listening to Anything New by Bibio. The track, of course, being from the Warp Radio playlist of Sleeping Dogs.

Quite satisfied with my brief break, I continued upslope to the Peak Tram station at Garden Road, and was soon aghast. (Imagine me standing by the road with my earphones dropping away). The station was positively packed! I expected there to be a queue but I hardly anticipated so many visitors. It’s was like, I could barely see the entrance and the ticket office looked as if it was about to be stormed. It was at this point that a taxi so conveniently cruised to a sly halt beside me. Without a second thought, I hopped into it and snapped my destination to the driver.

“山頂!”

Victoria Peak photo taking, as inspired by Sleeping Dogs.
Traffic was quite heavy on the way up.
Taxi ride up to Victoria Peak.
I was listening to Battles’ Futura when I took this picture.

It was while ascending the steep slopes that I abruptly realised. Traditional route it might be, it would have been WRONG for me to use the Peak Tram. The Sleeping Dog way is to DRIVE up to the Peak. (Or in my case, be driven)

Comparison
Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Screenshot
In general, I’d say the game did a pretty great job reproducing the scenery during the way up to the Peak.
Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Screenshot
I like to clarify on this sort of view on the ride up, which I highlighted in my previous series. You do get glimpses of the skyscraper tops. But in snatches. In most cases, probably too brief for any photo taking. (Unless you can get the driver to stop)

Dinner

Reaching the Peak fifteen minutes later, I sauntered out of The Peak Galleria, did my best not to smirk at the people queueing to leave the summit, and had my first breath-taking view of the evening. Following which I decided, the game can wait, so can photo taking. I needed to address the uprising in my stomach before I get replaced as Dragon Head.

Parma Ham and Mushroom pizza dinner at Wildfire Pizzabar and Grill
Parma Ham and Mushroom pizza dinner at Wildfire Pizzabar and Grill. I would have preferred it to be a tad stronger in taste, but otherwise it was very fresh!

Sky Terrace 428

Re-energised, I whipped out my tripod and proceeded to the observatory deck of the Peak Tower, formally known as Sky Terrace 428. Now, a little bit about Sky Terrace 428 and the Peak Tower, before I show you my better pics from that hour. What’s there at the real Victoria Peak is quite different from what’s in Sleeping Dogs. In fact, I should say it’s starkly different, be it the shape of the Peak Tower, the number of buildings surrounding it, or access to the observatory area.

There’s no guide to bribe to open a gate to get to the observatory too. No, no! In real life, you tap your Octopus smartcard or buy a ticket then take an escalator. Secondly, Sky Terrace 428 itself, thank goodness, is not fenced up. What a photography nightmare it would have been, had that been the case.

Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Real Life photo taking
A heavily Photoshop enhanched version. There’s still a lot of flaws.
Video game tourist visit to Victoria Peak.
A blue tinted (filtered) one. (Empowerment by Photoshop!) This one shows more of what would be North Point.
Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Real Life photo taking
My attempt to zoom in on Kowloon. Bad idea. Looks acceptable as a whole, but terrible under magnification.

Comparison

Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Screenshot
Officer Wei Shen, pondering about his future.

Several differences are immediately obvious upon comparison.

The real Victoria Peak is much higher than the one in Sleeping Dogs, much further away too. What’s viewable from even the worst spots is also far more complex and dramatic than the scene in the game.

I’m not dissing the game graphics here, though. Given the incredible complexity of the actual scene, I think it would have been foolish had United Front reproduced the scene faithfully. (Assuming copyright even permitted them to) Too few of us would be able to run the game. As simplified as it might be, the visuals in the game do overall give an idea of what’s available at the Peak. If anything, it probably inspired gamers to visit the Peak or visit again. It certainly did that to me.

Victoria Peak Photo Taking Advice

TBH, I took over 30 shots on Sky Terrace 428 but ended up with few that’s truly satisfying. Reason being, I vastly underestimated the difficulty of this spectacular night scene. If you are visiting anytime soon and thinking of lovely selfies and atmospheric nightscapes, please be aware of the following:

  • Needless to say, this is a must. (Recommended even if you’re using a cellphone)
  • Unfortunately, air pollution from mainland China has long invaded Hong Kong. In the night, this would appear like mist or fog, with the impact of it being all sorts of unpleasant and hard-to-edit effects on your pictures. This is probably the biggest challenge for any session of Victoria Peak photo taking. Even the Dehaze function in Photoshop can’t completely save your captures.
  • Light contrast. To me, the other technical challenge is the extreme light and darkness contrast of the scene. The nearest (residential) apartments are dark. Followed by the bright towers of the Central District. Then the shiny cluster across the harbour that is Kowloon. Technically, there are various ways to deal with this. In my case, I didn’t use any filters and opt to edit in Photoshop. You might prefer another method.
  • The huge variety of lights in the scene can really confuse your camera’s white balance!
  • Tripod length. You need one that’s around 1.5 metres tall in order to completely avoid the railing. Otherwise, be prepared to crop your pictures.
  • Don’t lean your camera on the railing to achieve steady long-exposure. Apart from the danger of your gear taking a joyride down the mountain, other visitors would be leaning on, tapping, grasping and bumping the railing. The vibrations are worse than any camera shake.
  • WIND! This was my killer that evening. As I was using a rather light travel tripod, extended to the max, the wind effortlessly swayed my camera no matter how hard I tried to hold it down.

For all you lovely people using the latest flashy cellphones with “top” camera functions, I can only say this. Don’t expect perfection and your shots should feel fine. The flash from your phones would only be able to illuminate your faces. Consider whatever grainy/blotchy mess in the background as … romantic. (Don’t zoom in to check!)

Or you could just pay the pro photographer there at the terrace to take your pic.

 

Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Screenshot - Photographing Amanda.
Real life Victoria Peak photo taking is not as easy as it looks in the game. You’ve been warned! 🙂




The Peak Tower and Peak Galleria

Done with picture taking, and knowing deep down I didn’t get the shots I want, I continued with exploring the rest of Victoria Peak. At this point, I must say the whole Sleeping Dogs feel for the evening was rather gone. Luckily, there were the dreamy tracks from Softly station on my phone to remind me. With the crowd largely gone, it turned out to be quite pleasant strolling about the shops.

Madness 3D Adventure. Another way to enjoy Victoria Peak photo taking.
Madness 3D Adventure, a free attraction. It’s more or less a Trick-Eye Museum kinda thing. Another way to enjoy Victoria Peak photo taking, I guess.
Historical postcards display at The Peak Tower, Hong Kong.
Historical postcards display.
Sleeping Dogs themed Victoria Peak photo taking.
Historical peak tram. The building behind i.e. the one covered by scaffolding is the Peak Galleria. It’s under renovation but during my visit, most if not all of the shops in it were opened.
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong.
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong. The crowd under the awning is the queue for the Peak Tram.

My GREATEST discovery that evening. The most atmospheric smoking point in Hong Kong!

Best smoking spot in Hong Kong.
A Hong Kong Smoking Spot with an Awesome View!

(Basement, bros and sis. Lowest basement toilet is next to heaven.)

Comparison

Sleeping Dogs Victoria Peak Screenshot
Victoria Peak Tower, Sleeping Dogs version,

In short, game and real life are quite different. It would have been nice to have such a fountain at the actual Peak, though.

Final Adventure of the Evening

I left the Peak slightly after ten. With the worst of the tourist hordes gone, I was able to quickly board the tram for the journey down. Now, this was my first time taking the tram downhill. For all previous visits, I took the tram up and left by taxi. GOOD LORD. The ride down could give those at Ocean Park a run for the money! It’s like riding a reverse roller coaster. The most alarming part being the segment near May Road Station where surrounding buildings were all deliciously at 45 degrees inclination.

Peak Tram arriving at Peak Tower Station.
Peak Tram arriving at Peak Tower Station, Victoria Peak, Hong Kong
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong
The Peak Tower, Hong Kong

Please continue to Part 3!


 

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About Scribbling Geek

The geek divides his free time between video games, movies, anime, and attempting to write decent short stories. Oh, and trying not to sprain his fingers from playing demisemiquavers on his Electone.

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