Photoessay: Vignettes from a Sudanese wedding

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Recently, I was a guest at a rather interesting (and crazy) wedding celebration – a close Sudanese family friend’s daughter. Needless to say, I brought a camera – the OM-D and 45/1.8 – but to use strictly in an unofficial capacity. If you get the impression that the feel was very much 1001 Arabian Nights, that’s because it’s not too far off the mark. Enjoy! MT

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After the party


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


  1. where is this location in sudan..what is the name of the place they held their wedding at?

  2. Gorgeous photography Ming. After a few weeks with my OM-D it is good to know I am not just imagining that it is less threatening than my Canon. Thanks for a great post.

    • Thanks Lorenz. It is quite a bit smaller, vintage-ey looking, and perceived by most as ‘cute’ rather than ‘pro’…

  3. Leonard - SF says:

    Great shots Ming – you continue to blow me away. On another note the shots on your FLICKR page of KLCC with the Titan – amazing. You are costing me tons of money. I don’t know if I should sell my Hasselblad and buy a Titan or similar or keep both……I already purchased the Coolpix A – waiting for the GR – enroute to Phnom Penh in a few weeks which screams B &W. I was hoping to travel lite like the A and GR but now I am thinking I need a 50 mm and am pondering the D800E w/50mm or film. I am off topic again back to the Titan scans – when you are launching the “Ming Thein School of How to Scan Negatives with the D800e” 🙂

    • Thanks Leonard. I actually used the F6 for those…I don’t think the Titan would have produced any different results though, given the film and lens would have been the same. Why not try film with the ‘Blad for something different?

      I’ll be launching a film scanning rig to hold, tension and advance film, and align it parallel to a DSLR/ macro lens and flash combination for scanning – which is what I use now. Working out production details and pricing. The kit will come with conversion actions for PS, and a how-to for film developing and scanning.

      • Leonard Hobbs says:

        MIng – thanks for the thoughts. Put me on the list for the scanning rig for sure. Yes, I may bite the bullett and make room in my carry on for the Blad – now just to charm all the security people not to scan my film but I understand a couple of scans are not harmful as long as you are not using high speed film. What do you think Delta 100 and maybe some 400. Acros?

        Best Regards, Leonard

        • I’m using Acros and Delta 400 now. Too bad they stopped Neopan 400. In any case, I’ve taken Acros/ Delta 100 through up to six scans before, no issues.

          • Leonard - SF says:

            Cool. Yes, I remember using Neopan 400 I took a lot of photos with old Leica’s and Zeiss RF with Neopan and loved the look.


      • Leonard Hobbs says:

        One more question will the kit you are working on accomodate 35m and 120mm film? Thx

  4. Absolutely beautiful pictures ! (As always Ming)
    The camera might have been unobtrusive , but the photographer climbing on the ceiling for taking the shots from above, on the contrary 🙂 🙂

  5. Nice shots Ming. Unobtrusive is the word. Too bad they didn’t hire you for $ 10,000.

    • Sometimes I wonder if I should start doing weddings. The economic side is much easier to manage and far more lucrative than shooting commercial. Only problem is that once you start doing weddings here…you won’t be taken seriously for doing anything else.

      • How about charging an exorbitant rate so that you don’t get many wedding clients? And insist that you do it only your way: no artistic compromises. That way, everyone knows that the weddings you do are special events and not the thing that defines you as photographer.

        Also, I just noticed the camera stabilizer in the first picture! Was that one of the official photographers?

        • That would be the ONLY way I’d do it, if I ever did it at all.

          Yes, the stabilizer rig is from the ‘pros’. You can see another one of the ‘pros’ looking clueless and missing an important ritual toss in one of the top-down images…

          • “You can see another one of the ‘pros’ looking clueless”

            But Ming. How often do you see them looking important rather than capturing the moment.

            Too often 🙂

            • Actually, not that often. Most of the time they look clueless. A photographer must be working and in the thick of things to look important, i.e. like they should be there…

              • I was at a friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, and one of the sights that I wish I could have captured was everyone raising up their phones and looking into it, taking pictures of the big moments. Unfortunately, it seems like weddings are going to look more and more like that. Was that the case in Malaysia, too?

                I didn’t pull out my camera until the reception because I wanted to enjoy and be present at the ceremony. The pro there was a little annoying as she kept stepping right into the middle of everything at the big moments, blocking everyone’s views.

                • Always the case everywhere. Though Asia still seems to be split equally between enormous DSLRs and phones…

                  Pros should be unobtrusive: the wedding isn’t staged for them, though they seem to think so. You might enjoy this article I wrote some time back on wedding photography…

          • You must mean the last one. Sleeping on the job .. tsk, tsk. 🙂 I just saw the other overhead photo, and that’s not how you use that kind of stabilizer! OMG.

  6. Oh wow mr Ming,
    That first one scores 100/100 for comp and 150/100 for timing.
    There are many of us who have shot weddings who will seriously think of throwing in the towel after witnessing this
    Great shots and thanks for the insight into another culture.
    am I right or are the sexes segregated at their tables? (Very middle eastern)
    Thanks for the insight


  7. Was the 45mm the only lens you took along?

    • Yes, but I also had a GR1v in my pocket.

      • Ah – the old compact in the pocket trick! I was going to ask why only a short telephoto lens when 99% of photographers when faced with that situation would take normal or moderate wide lens if limited to one …

        • Well, depends on what you want out of it. If I was shooting cinematic, I’d probably be fine with just the 45. If I was covering the event officially, I’d have more gear and more variety. If I was just shooting for myself – as I was here – then I use whatever I feel like on the day…

  8. I find it hard to believe that the official photographer’s work was as good as your shots (the shots from above were particularly creative).

  9. Congrats to your friend. Wonderful set of images, has a lot of character and personality in these photos. It is nice to photograph a wedding without being ‘the’ wedding photographer – what I sometimes call the 3rd shooter.

  10. Assalamualaikum MT, first time posting here. I’m attending a wedding in Perak this Friday. Thought of shooting with my OM-D + Lumix 20mm f1.7 & M. Zuko 45 f1.8, no flash. 16:9 format. Think it will suffice? My D7000 seems too heavy nowadays after I got the OM-D. Thanks for your two cents. And as usual, your pics rocks!

    • Walaikum Salam. Should be fine, depending on how dark it is of course. Not sure I’d solely that if I was the official photographer, though.

  11. Jorge Balarin says:

    Dear Ming,

    Did you use some kind of illumination ? I ask you because in my experience it is very difficult to photograph dark skinned people in low light without some sort of illumination. Could you mention your camera settings ? Greetings, Jorge.

  12. Two thumbs up!

  13. Great shots, love the colours, love the atmosphere!!! Especially love the birds-eye view photos. I haven’t been to the new ISTAC building…looks like a palace!! But the old one in Taman SA, near Bukit Tunku is a real beauty……smaller, and more “embracing”..

    • The place is enormous; designed after the Alhambra in Spain, I’m told. Beautiful architecture and grounds, too. Worth a visit if you get the chance.

  14. Great stuff as always, Ming! Quite the event indeed!

  15. Tom Liles says:

    Also: the bride and groom’s change of dress: they do this in Japan, too. Two or three changes of dress throughout the event; is this kind of thing also standard practice in Malaysian weddings, or Sudanese ones, or both?

    Lovely culture.

  16. Tom Liles says:

    Enjoyed this set: danke schon, Ming!

    Two comments:

    1) Top picture, Canon camera far left of frame, the Official wedding photographer? Only thought—if I were him I’d have been quaking in my boots to know MT was in the building, CAMERA IN HAND

    2) Favorite picture in the set is the four gents, black and white; the first B&W in the order shown here. What attracted me to it was the familiarity [and warmth? even though it’s objective, neutral monochrome]. The “familiarity/warm” angle: as men, we’ve all been in those after-hours/on the sidelines/out back/group within the group bloke ciphers. Just the blokes being blokes. The girls have their version too. Anyway, this shot just brings all those type memories flooding. That’s what drew me to the picture. And my eye went to the guy in the middle, around, then back to him, then… WOW, THAT IS A RIDICULOUSLY LONG TIE! 🙂

    If the gentleman is reading: I’m only joking. You look great. Everyone looks great. Must’ve been a good one!

    • Thanks Tom. 1) They never see/ saw me coming, which is normal; they usually also don’t care – it’s just a job, not a passion. 2) Haha! Good one!

  17. Michael Matthews says:

    These photos are so warm and engaging that a total stranger feels as if he knows the people involved — or would like to.

    It must have caused a spike in the adrenaline level of the photographer hired to cover the event to see who was shooting informally.

    • Thanks. Hired event photographers here a) almost never have a clue what’s going on b) don’t feel threatened by people wielding small cameras c) probably don’t notice me, I’m very, very stealthy. 😉

      • that s what I love about the m43 allow us to be non threatening and yet grab great looking images. something which a large dslr might not be able to grab.

      • I got married in Malaysia (my wife is Malaysian Chinese) and my in-laws hired a local photographer in Penang to shoot the wedding reception and chinese marriage ceremony. What a total waste of time and money. Woeful. I didn’t keep any of the pics. I took more pictures and better ones and I was the groom!
        Assuming the official photographer in this wedding is good…. this couple is spoiled for choice!

  18. Really enjoyed these pics Ming. You’ve really captured the atmosphere.

  19. I always like how you get the balcony looking down perspective.

  20. Beautiful images. Trying to be inconspicuous, otherwise your D800E would have been perfect. Thanks

    • Actually, no. It was a very low light environment; the D800 is not really best used in these situations because you’re not going to get full benefit of the extra resolution anyway. The OMD has stabilised fast primes, which are much more useful.

      • Jorge Balarin says:

        “Stabilised fast primes”, that sounds excellent. Greetings, Jorge.

  21. Great work Ming!

  22. Malaysia has such a beautiful and richly diverse culture; these images are simply stunning!

  23. Wonderful Photos and Wedding! Nicely Done!

  24. Always a pleasure seeing your wonderful pics. Impressive indeed.BTW, where were these taken?

  25. Brilliant images, Ming; I am sure the family will love them.

    • Thanks – close family friends, otherwise I generally stay away from weddings…

    • Thanks for allowing us a glimpse into a fascinating culture. As always you seem to get the very best colours and exposure out of the OMD.


    • Roberto Sanchez says:

      All these veiled women remind us that there are many societies on this planet where women are essentially sexual slaves in the hands of their authoritarian master (essentially all Islam-based). I am not sure Photography should be used as a way to glorify such primitive behavior.

      • Actually, veils are a choice, and one that’s cultural rather than religious. Why that’s the case, I have no idea. I and my wife are Muslim, live in a Muslim country and she certainly doesn’t veil herself to be my sexual slave. You might also be surprised to discover that she’s not only allowed to drive and vote, but also has a very successful career as a director of a large healthcare group. I suggest you do a little research before making such blatantly ignorant and insulting comments.

        • Ha! Great response to such a moronic comment.

          • I Agree !!!! I can’t understand why anyone makes such insulting comments! Unbelievable…

        • Great photos capturing the beauty of another culture! It’s so sad that there are still those among us who can’t appreciate diversity in the world.

          • Thanks Chris.

          • Jorge Balarin says:

            We can not use generalizations about the Islam and the veils, because there are a lot of divisions inside the Islamic world. My Islamic friends, that come from Pakistan and Egypt, think that the prophet Mohamed prescribed the use of veils as the will of God. I know a turkish young girl that was not using the veil, but recently she started to use it. A Lybian friend, that knows her and it is married with an austrian man, told me that the turkish girl started to use the veil due to her family pressure. What started first, the use of veils or the religious prescription ? I don’t now. In my country, Peru, during the colonial period, veils were used by women. They were called “Las tapadas Limeñas”. The use of veils was a matter of coquetry. Look the next video:

            • Jorge Balarin says:

              I forgot to say that also in the Catholic weddings a transparent veil is commonly used.

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