Hong Kong's artists inspired by nature

Hong Kong's artists inspired by nature

Hong Kong's artists inspired by nature

Hong Kong's artists inspired by nature

Wooded hillsides,  craggy  ridges  and wheeling birds of prey are a world away from Hong Kong's famous skyscrapers but the city's country parks are a necessary balm for its stressed out residents.

With some of the world's highest property prices, many can only afford tiny apartments, some living in infamous "cage homes" big enough only for a bed. Hong Kong's fast-paced lifestyle and long working hours also take their toll.

Fortunately, within easy reach of the densely packed tower blocks and traffic, there is an extensive network of hiking trails which snake over hundreds of peaks across the territory and along its coastlines.

Nearly 40% of Hong Kong is protected country park and nature reserves, amounting to 443 sq km, drawing hikers, runners and campers all-year round.

For 29-year-old Dai-yu Cheung, those natural landscapes changed his life.

As a keen amateur photographer, he decided to document some of the city's remoter areas, never having explored them before.

His discoveries led him to ditch long hours in his job as a graphic designer, during which he had developed a bad back, and go part-time as he sought a healthier, happier existence.

Cheung lives with his family and cut down his financial outgoings so he could work three days a week, often hiking with friends.  

"When we go hiking, we feel free, relax and forget our troubles," he said, carefully gathering scattered litter as he walked through tall grass to a rocky outcrop in the northern New Territories.

He and his friend AM Renault, 29, also a keen hiker, have set up Facebook and Instagram pages under the name Yamanaka Yuko, sharing photos and video of their hill climbs in Hong Kong and abroad. They describe themselves as artists inspired by nature.

With a growing band of followers the pair are now regularly asked for tips about routes by local walkers and have teamed up for campaigns with environment NGOs and outdoor clothing brands.

"Our message is about protecting nature and the environment," says Renault, a freelance photographer.

He worries about the future of Hong Kong's trails -- the housing shortage has sparked government proposals to build on the outskirts of the country parks.

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