Aerial photos: Hong Kong from above | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Aerial photos: Hong Kong from above

Aerial photos are literally the big picture. They don't have the detail of a street-level photo, but they make up for that in other ways:


A photo of a bombed-out, deserted Wanchai taken near to the time of the Japanese surrender. It captures this bleak time in Hong Kong - when else have the streets been this empty?

1945 Wanchai


Need to know what stood where? Check an aerial photo!

eg was this 1950s photo of the Star Ferry or City Hall car parks?

1950s Fred Evans' photos

Here's the answer, posted yesterday.

1960s City Hall Construction

(It was the City Hall Car Park, shown on the left. The Star Ferry Car Park had two ramps, City Hall one.)

And can you guess what this is:

Wartime Cooking Area E

It was taken above the hills behind Quarry Bay in 1949. I knew there were several wartime stoves built around there, but until I saw this photo I didn't know exactly where they stood or how they were laid out.


Aerial photos are a natural companion to old maps. With maps you're at the mercy of the person deciding what to include. eg it's unlikely the post-war mapping dept would consider the broken-down stoves shown above worth mentioning. With photos, you get the unfiltered view of everything in front of the camera.

They also add the third dimension to 2-D maps, eg this photo of TST in the early 1960s. The buildings off to the right are still low-rise, but you can see a growth spurt among buildings along Nathan Road. Recently completed buildings like Chungking Mansions and Mirador Mansions tower over their older neighbors. This would be the standard height for TST buildings until the 1990s.


Where to find aerial photos of Hong Kong?

  • You can view the gallery of photos tagged "aerial photo" here on Gwulo
  • The Survey and Mapping office  (SMO) has a library of aerial photos dating from 1924 to the present day. They will sell you reprints.
  • The SMO also published a book ""Hong Kong in Old Times - A Collection of Aerial Photos Taken in 1964". Unfortunately when I contacted the SMO last month to buy a copy, they replied: "[it] has been sold out for quite a while. It's unfortunate that our senior management has decided not to reprint it."
  • And of course for modern photos, we're spoiled for choice with free satellite images available from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

Readers, any other good sources to recommend?

Regards, David