Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Hong Kong from the sky: a bird's-eye view of a concrete canopy

With space at a premium, the city has been ranked the world’s least-affordable housing market for a ninth straight year

A giant container ship sailing under a suspension bridge, Chinese cemeteries as densely packed as the housing blocks their occupants once lived in and lush rows of paddy fields.

A new series of photos taken from the air offers a new perspective on Hong Kong.

Internationally, the city may be best known as a high-octane finance hub filled with skyscrapers but there is much more to Hong Kong, from bustling ports and picture-perfect beaches to rolling hills and verdant forests.

Dale de la Rey, an AFP photographer, spent three months training his camera lens down on Hong Kong to capture these rarely seen sides to the city.

"I wanted to do a package showing the density, uniformity and contrast of the city to give a sense of living in Hong Kong," he said.

However, living here comes at a premium. The packed metropolis has the least-affordable housing market for a ninth consecutive year, according to the 2019 Demographia International report.

The city’s median property price climbed to 20.9 times median household income in 2018, up from 19.4 times a year earlier.

A bustling hub for the living and the dead

Hong Kong is made up of about 260 islands, the Kowloon peninsula and New Territories that borders mainland China. It is home to more than seven million people.

There are districts such as Causeway Bay and Quarry Bay on Hong Kong island, and Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei in Kowloon that seem suffocatingly busy.

Chinese burial grounds, usually nestled on steep slopes, are chosen for their auspicious locations and have row upon row of rectangular shrines or columbariums — small niches to place remains.

Competition for the limited spots is intense. Space in private columbariums can go for as much as HK$1 million (Dh468,000).

Yet, within easy reach of the dense urban bustle are hiking trails and protected parkland where it is possible to walk for hours without seeing many others.


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The city's dockyards are the fifth busiest in the world, and despite being a far cry from its heyday in the 1990s, it is still a cornerstone of its economy and a popular Instagram spot.

De la Rey said Google Maps offered a great way to spot potentially exciting shoot locations beforehand.

"The city looks great at night and I spent a lot of time looking at Google Maps … so when I found a place to launch I had the shot in mind."

Updated: July 29, 2019 02:46 PM