Photoessay: KLCC abstracts in monochrome

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Half of perhaps the most iconic building in Malaysia.

Rather frustratingly, I’d actually typed out a long history about KLCC, but WordPress ate it and it’s nowhere to be found. Here we go again…

The Petronas Twin Towers – 88 stories, and part of the greater KLCC complex (including a park, two hotels, conventionn center, mall, mosque and another two office blocks) – put Malaysia on the map for megaprojects. Opened in 1998, the towers were designed by Cesar Pelli and completed by competing Korean and Japanese firms. It was paid for entirely by petroleum revenues from the eponymous national oil company; during the Asian Financial Crisis, occupancy was low – again with the exception of the name tenant – these days, things are back to normal and space is at a hideous premium, even on an international level. Architecturally, the site is challenging as it’s a former racecourse with very little bedrock and a lot of clay and porous limestone; this is the main reason for putting the taller, heavier structures around the periphery. Even so, extensive piling and foundation works had to be done, and many of the lower basement levels underneath the main towers are filled with concrete to settle the ground and form a floating slab on which some of the other outlying structures sit.

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Like every other landmark, this building has probably been shot to death by most photographers visiting or living in Kuala Lumpur; it’s therefore very difficult to get new or unique perspectives. I’m no exception – I’ve shot this building and the surrounding park with no end of different cameras, conditions and times of day. The pedestrian areas are actually quite lousy for street photography as they’re too open or indoors and too dimly lit; no matter because the architectural details are fantastic. The towers have a stainless-steel cladding that’s beautifully textured and reflects light in interesting ways; it’s especially suited to film photography because of the wide tonal range it produces. Unlike other buildings in Malaysia, this one has been well-maintained and is kept clean; sadly not the case for most places – the new Bank Negara headquarters is a good example – its titanium cladding has rainwater stains after just one year.

On an unrelated note, today is also my birthday – I’m 27, for those of you who are curious. I’m sure there’s a metaphor or moral of sorts about going around in circles and me posting a set of images from a frequented location with an older camera…for the life of me I can’t quite figure out what it is, though. Perhaps I’m just getting old ;)

This series was shot with a Nikon F6 on Ilford Pan F 50 film, using the 45/2.8 AI-P and AFS 85/1.8 G lenses, then scanned with a D800E and 60/2.8 G Micro. Enjoy! MT

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Lobby sculpture

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Ground level cladding detail

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Mall skylight

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Notch and pillar

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Hj Raden says:

    Assalamu’alaikum Ming and happy birthday. Happy Ramadhan to you and your missus too.

  2. Happy birthday! :) i enjoy looking at your great works, also learning photography from your site.

  3. calvin yee says:

    happy birthday ming, at 27, you have inspired a 66 year old beginner. thanks very much.

  4. Very nice and fresh point of view.

  5. Happy Birthday Ming! My mom’s birthday is on the 18th. If you’re only 27, forget what I said a few weeks ago about getting more sleep… You’re young. I’d say take advantage of it. You’ll only have this much energy for so long! (However, I do say you may want to be less picky about your hobbies. Try everything. The reason I say this is that, at 40, I’m only getting pickier and grouchier. (It’s just part of growing older.) Same goes for my parents! Eat some noodles (for longevity), per the Chinese tradition…!

  6. Christian M. says:

    Happy Birthday Ming, I hope you have a wonderful day! And thanks for running your blog, sharing your thoughts and pictures.
    I guess I am not the only one asking, but would you please share how you would “scan” color negative film with your D800E ? Scanning and reversing Black & White Negative film is not a problem, slide film (positive film) is even easy with your DSLR set up, but how can I convert color negative film into real pictures? It drives me crazy… Kind greetings from Germany.

    • Thanks Christian. Color negs – I don’t shoot them so I can’t say, but in principle – the same way as for B&W negatives, but you’d have to adjust each of the curve channels individually afterwards, or work in LAB mode. I might have to pick up a couple of rolls of color to experiment with.

  7. Rex Gigout says:

    A belated Happy Birthday to you!

    Ah, to be twenty-seven again; I would settle for thirty-seven! I really started to feel the onset of aging, especially the lessening of energy, at forty-seven.

    I enjoyed seeing these excellent images, and find it really interesting that you shot them with an F6. The F6 has become my new favorite for my personal SLR shooting.

  8. The building looks like a giant robot, the photos are low light?

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