Photoessay: Postcards from San Francisco, part one

Had the chance to process some of my files from the first few days in San Francisco – in the first six days on the ground, I shot over 3,500 images…let’s just say that it’s an extremely photographically rich city; or perhaps it’s the allure of the unfamiliar and the new (the last time I was in the USA was on a family holiday before the time I was interested in photography). I do know that my keeper rate on the first day was nearly zero, but I put that down to jetlag. I tend to find there’s an ideal point between cultural oversaturation and being jaded with a city – and that tends to be the most productive period for me photographically. It typically happens after four to five days; I’ve learned to go with the flow and not worry too much about not producing anything in the early days simply because the stream-of-consciousness type ‘seeing’ will come, and with it, an enormous task in the curation…more to come once I get a chance to edit and process.

This set was shot with the Olympus OM-D, ZD 12/2, ZD 45/1.8 and Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (via a M-M43 adaptor). Enjoy! MT

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


  1. Hmm, there’s only “part one” of this series? I want more stuff! 🙂

  2. Kin Ming Ho says:

    May I ask why you brought the Summilux 50mm along with the Olympus 45/1.8?

    • Wasn’t sure how practical it would be to use with an adaptor; I picked it up on arrival. Didn’t want to be stuck without a tele option.

  3. Pete johnson says:

    Ming, appreciate your site and love your images. Is the image with the Mercedes and Macy’s on O’Farrel St and Powell corner? I haven’t been back since ’69 so don’t even know if Macy’s is still on that street.
    Your urban images are my favorites, period.

  4. Stunning set of photos – and unusual too. Keep them coming!

  5. Me too impressed, any special camera settings?. I have abonded the “auto graduation” because i think it give you to bright exposures, especially at night photography.
    i don´t get those deep black as you do.

  6. Steve Jones says:

    My goodness, and here i am worrying about editing just 350 images! Ha ha! Good to see you using the OMD / Leica combo.
    Very nice for travel.

    • Well, I process a couple of hundred, but I still have to figure out what to keep and what to bin – the ‘duds’ are what I think of as 95-99% shots; I’ll only keep something I’m fully happy with. Else I’d never have any time to do anything but post process.

  7. I’m really impressed. You just touched down for the first time in SF, and within a few days you’ve got a set of photos which really convey the sense of the place while avoiding the obvious and going way beyond cliché. Your blog posts – especially the photo essays – are real highlights of my week.

    • Thanks! That’s what I do for a living – if it took me too many tries to get the shot, I don’t thin I’d be able to bill clients for photography.

  8. Excellent photos as always Ming. I’m curious whether you see much of a difference between images taken with the OMD + 25mm/1.4 Panasonic/Leica and the quality of an equivalent real Leica with the m43 adaptor?

    • Thanks. Not a fair comparison, the 25 was designed for the M4/3 sensor (i.e. is telecentric) and the Leica M lenses are not. This shows especially with wides with corner CA issues and vignetting. There’s no direct equivalent to the 50/1.4 ASPH for M4/3 anyway.

  9. When I was younger, I used to go out and shoot lots of film ( 120 shots/day was alot ). Then I’d process it myself ( E-6,C-41 and B&W), take a good look on the light table and exclaim,” why in hell did I take so many useless shots!” As I got older, I took more time in looking and took fewer shots. Now, I go out for a full day and only come back with 60 digital shots. Out of those maybe 5 are decent and maybe 2 good ones. That would be a great average if I went out every day! Looking and thinking before you shoot saves alot of time on the computer…….

  10. …that city you can just keep walking , and walking , and walking, and walking…so much to see, had a chance to visit a few years ago and got some great shots through China town and some of the less savoury neighbourhoods….

  11. There is a reason I find your writing and images so inspiring. Even something, which by an average photographer, might be considered trivial. It is something that pushes me to become a better photographer. And quite often, it is something that makes me hesitant to post my own photos – which is probably a good thing to let myself be my own toughest critic.

    It is your vision and your ability to deliver that vision. (The colours in this series really stand out to me)

    Thank you for your photos and your blog.

  12. Great images.

    I love that city and get back every month.

    Few additional locations if you haven’t considered already:

    Mt. Davidson
    Fort Funston
    Golden Gate Park
    Treasure Island

    Have fun!

    • Didn’t get a chance to cover everything – no time, unfortunately. But that does give me an excuse to go back again! (Not that I needed one).

  13. Some good stuff Ming. Been seeing shots on the app photo stream and really liking some of the depth of field control that you’re showing. Hope the workshops are going well!

  14. Ming, you really give so much more of yourself and your work than just about every other photographer/blogger on the internet. Most of them out there are content to stick to reviews (or “reviews”) but you also show us the money (shots). So thanks!

    • Well, I sell images for a living, not blog and flog cameras…so yeah, I suppose I have to show a money shot now and then 🙂

  15. Diego Defilippi says:

    Really nice pictures Ming.
    Your photgraphic eye is really inspiring.
    I really like the use of the defocus in some of them and how you use people or objects to guide the eye to the main subject.

    @ Ilko

    I don’t think they are over post-processed… I think Ming has a really gentle touch in post-processing phase.
    Maybe it’s different from film but you know… They are different things and they can’t be simply compared only on sharpness.

    Can’t wait for other pictures.
    Have a nice time Ming.
    Bye Bye

  16. Love the images Ming! Can’t Pick a favorite. 🙂 Enjoy your travels!

  17. Very nice and non-postcard work .. I just have a small concern wth the sharpness / edges of the images – they somehow look over-processed to me, there is this nervousness in the edges, almost halos like look .. Maybe its me and my venture into film and thus very low tolerance for digital look as of recent .. How did you sharpen them ?

    • It’s Flickr’s resizing algorithm (they host the images). I don’t sharpen the downsized versions, but for whatever reason, they apply far too much sharpening for the intermediate sizes. Been through this already…not much I can do, unfortunately. If you click through to original size you’ll see they look much better.

  18. Ming, your sense of timing, your ability to see way beyond the obvious exemplified in your use of reflections, your appreciation of parallels, your understanding of the wide-angle lens, your post-processing technique, etc make each image totally thought-provoking, captivating and unique. You’re an inspiration. Thank you!

  19. I thought you were a BMW fan (two of your pictures from this set feature Merc) 😛

    Nice pics! Can’t wait to see more. Also will be refreshing for the reviews of that interesting gear you got 🙂 Thanks Ming!

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