Heritage, a sense of humour, and a strong desire to live a life that is as contagious as it is authentic. Bernie Ng is deeply passionate about Hong Kong, its unique architecture and skyline, and devotes his spare time to capturing it. A lawyer by trade, Bernie focuses his hobby mostly on aerial photography, as a way to explore interesting angles and express Hong Kong’s unique urban aesthetic. It’s this perspective that shapes Bernie’s work today. His photographs are featured in the Trope Hong Kong Edition.
I picked up photography when I was a university exchange student in the United States, and I bought my first Canon PowerShot camera from a local store. At the beginning, my interest was landscape photography, particularly sunsets and clouds.
I mainly shoot architectural and urban subjects, and I’m particularly interested in compositions with strong lines, symmetry, patterns and colours. At first, I took photos with my camera. My main motivation for entering the world of aerial photography around two years ago was to find new and interesting angles to express Hong Kong’s unique urban aesthetic. Nowadays the vast majority of my work are aerial photographs.
My lovely wife gave me my first drone unit that began this obsession of mine with drone photography. I think she still has some regrets given how much time I spend with the drone (and away from her)!
Drone photography is a different ballgame altogether. It absolutely changes the way I see my subjects and the way I shoot. Compared to conventional photography on ground level, I find drone photography both liberating – in the sense of having that freedom to make a perfect composition by flying your camera to the right angle at the right height – and challenging, given there are so many controls to manipulate, and factors to take into account, to ensure your camera takes to the skies and returns to you in one piece!
My output is almost exclusively aerial photography and I fly a Mavic 2 Zoom drone. My work that features in Trope Hong Kong City Edition is from my original Mavic Pro, which I replaced recently.
Drone photography isn’t as spontaneous as photography on the ground. There is a fair bit of planning involved. I spend occasional idle time browsing Google Maps to find interesting compositions and often catch on-the-ground public transport so I can spot interesting neighbourhoods and buildings. Drone cameras – even the latest and greatest – are nowhere near the sophistication of conventional handheld cameras, so light and weather conditions are also critical and can make a big difference. But I like that unpredictability. Drone missions can sometimes be unexpectedly rewarding, or a total write-off!
My process for editing my photos is mostly done on my mobile phone. I rely on Snapseed for most of my editing, and I usually use Polarr when I want to make selective colour adjustments. I occasionally use Retouch when I want to remove blemishes or objects, and finally, I use Photofox when I want to make a composite montage. I do use Affinity Photo and Designer for editing RAW photos, stitching panoramas, or the occasional digital mischief of a rudimentary kind (like creating a mirror effect for symmetry), and Adobe Premiere Pro for some video editing.
I don’t apply presets and I don’t have much interest in them. It feels better to edit something with your hand on the controls. That said, I do occasionally apply Instagram filters (yes!) just before I post. This is when I want to achieve a warm aesthetic with muted blue and green tones. For example, Instagram’s Ludwig filter is actually pretty good.
If I go more than a week without flying my drone, I get incredibly itchy fingers. My inspiration comes from within and outside. Part of the mission behind my photography is to document and share the lesser-known and under-appreciated parts of Hong Kong, and I have a very long list of places I want to check off the list before I consider my mission complete. This motivates me to get out and knock a few more spots off the list. Second, Hong Kong has variable weather, and no two shoots will ever look the same. I enjoy the thrill of possibilities!
I have a natural affinity for this city, its unique colourful neighbourhoods and its beautiful skyline. I love this city’s diverse geography. From its gorgeous harbour flanked on both sides by seemingly endless buildings, to its spectacular mountain ranges and secluded bays in the hinterland, there’s so much to see in a relatively compact space. And, I love our unique architecture and density, which have given me so much material to work with!
I’m a lawyer by trade. I’d love to pretend to have a more interesting profession, but l’m no good at lying! I have a couple of dream professions that I never quite ended up pursuing. When I was younger, I had on my list: urban planner, cartographer, architect and interior designer. My parents are typical uber-practical Asian parents and gently but firmly steered me towards what they considered to be more acceptable professions. I almost quit my law degree partway through, but I never quite made it.
I’d like to think that even though I never became one of my four dream professions, my love of urban and architectural photography is a manifestation of the passions I have for these areas.
I am a Hongkonger and was born here, but I spent a considerable amount of my childhood and early adulthood in Sydney, Australia. My parents and my younger brother are still based in Sydney.
Photography has taught me to be patient and humble. No photo will ever be perfect, and to attain anything close to perfection requires time, planning, foresight, perseverance and lots of luck!
I want viewers to find some inspiration from my photography and the stories I share along with my photos. I hope that they enjoy what they see, but also take away a small snippet of useful or interesting information, and in the process, learn more about Hong Kong – warts and all.
Shoots with: Mavic 2 Zoom drone