Photoessay: A few trees

I thought I’d do something different with today’s photoessay: it’s a collection of images spanning a wide period in my career, but of a single subject. For a landscape photographer, trees, clouds, terrain, water, weather etc. are all staple building blocks of a complete image; for an obsessive photographer, each individual element can yield manifold variations. (Clouds are my other real obsession, but I think I’m going to need more than one photoessay to do those justice.) It’s an interesting idea I’d like to explore further both in future photoessays and opinion pieces. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with a variety of equipment at various times; the different vintages of watermark are the giveaway here.

_M9P1_L1014802 copy
Kuala Lumpur

_N210302 copy.jpg

_5003575 copy

_5000108 copy
Kuala Lumpur

_M8_L1025017 copy

_0011006bw copy

_8010971bw copy
Kuala Lumpur

_M9P1_L1005769 copy

_T3S1399 copy
Subang Jaya

_8014866 copy

_0010745bw copy

_D90_DSC1908 copy

_X1_L1000255 copy
Shah Alam

_5018490 copy
San Francisco

_11_8031403 copy

_10_8031373 copy

_10_8031368 copy


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


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


  1. Jeric Deleon says:


  2. liramusic says:

    A kind of tree picture we have here– wait, a couple of kinds come to mind. One is that we have these bent-over trees. The other kind is of what I call dead-wood forests. We have those here where a large area is totally ghostly with trees like spooky, grey objects. In both cases the causation is not too clear. Oh yes, another, burls, or what the younger kids ridiculously call boob trees. Burls are rounded artifacts. Well, one more, we have leaning trees since the sun is low in the sky. On east-facing riverbanks, the trees, and I mean large, old ones, lean out over the water toward the sunlight. Appreciate your photos so much. jw

  3. I love your work, particularly the simplicity and the pleasure you seem to find in details such as shadows and lights, lines and angles, and sheer aesthetics. I would love to get some comments from you sometime.

  4. Harry Hancock says:

    Reblogged this on Harry's Blog.

  5. Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing this! Cheers, Rudy.

  6. Ming, wonderful work as always! I love the composition of the Prague image…it’s like the trees are holding that little cloud up in reverence for the water it gives to them. And the light and shadows of the Subang Jaya image are absolutely stunning…it’s as if the path is a failed attempt to find the secrets hidden among the trees. Fabulous!

  7. As a lover of trees these photos are a delight to look upon. Subang is a fantastic composition love the path. Niseko is a standout also….canjust feel the weight of the snow. Trees : )

  8. Must be the butterfly effect. I took a close up photo of a willow tree today (not yet posted) after I read your tree post.


  9. Carlo Santin says:

    That 5th image is wonderful, terrific colours and composition. I too have a fondness for photographing trees. Here in Canada we are lucky enough to experience all 4 seasons and I love shooting trees as they go through their seasonal changes. Trees in winter, covered in snow and ice, are especially great subjects.

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aah, trees…

    They drink knowledge and sagas from the ground and their twigs and leaves whisper them into the wind, for ears to hear and eyes to see that can –

    – but so hard to catch with a camera…

    Ming, you’ve done it again.
    ( Some of them, I feel, like e.g “Canterbury” and “Niseko”, want a large print to really come into their own. )

    As the explicit subject is “trees”, the “Fukuoka” with the three steps in the forground, “Subang Jaya”, and “Niseko” are my favourites at the moment – they are so “treeish”.

    But, I think, tree photos can carry so much feeling (regardless of the style used) that the choice depends a lot on the momentary mood of the viewer.
    ( Treeishness and contrast to manmade objects being two of the influences.)

    • Thanks Kristian. Prints can always be arranged, shoot me an email to discuss 🙂

      I think trees are much like good sunsets: they somehow always put us in a good mood. I think it’s the return to nature and implied innocence – how can there be anything sinister in a tree? Once again, photography is all about philosophy…

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        It’s also how you see the life of the tree and it’s power of growing in the shapes of the limbs, and in how they curve…
        ( But oh how seldom you have a background in tune – and when the helping mist comes it often doesn’t help after all.)

        It’s strange when sometimes when you lean your back to a tree you can almost feel it growing…

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        As to prints, my walls are all to small now after I moved… 🙂
        But thanks anyway!

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        ” – how can there be anything sinister in a tree?”

        I agree, but how easy it is to make certain trees or some forests look sinister in a photo.

        Want some inspiration?
        Try the chapter about the journey through the Old Forest in the beginning of part one of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings…

        Or how about these fairy tale illustrations by John Bauer:

        • Good point. And the Germans didn’t call it the Black Forest for nothing.

          • Kristian Wannebo says:

            We had “black forests” in Sweden also :-).
            John Bauer was – despite his German sounding name – a Swedish painter and illustrator,
            also famous for his trolls and giants.
            ( )
            Strangely, the forests he painted were not wild, but the result of logging.

  11. Tom Liles says:

    Ming, I needed that. It’s been a 14hr day and not one of those slow-burners, just balls to the wall work all day. I have finally finished, I’m shattered, low, ready to throw in the towel—I stopped in [haven’t had a chance all day] before switching off the McBair, and this set.

    Thank you. Really.
    m(. .)m

    We don’t have much green in Tokyo. And I miss it. I grew up surrounded by pasture and copse: the good green. It’s part of me. I can’t be in it again because I’m here; when the batteries are low, it gets to me. So this was good. A psychological back rub. I’m sure everyone has a soft spot for trees and the green. Look at the warm comments flowing in here. It’s the next best thing to a mother’s caress; it is a mother’s caress [nature]. I needed that.

    Whatever the next print run is, I don’t care: I need one of these. Any one. I’d buy them all if I had the means. Verticality is for my study [and for my kids when I’m gone]. But one of these would be for me and wherever my work space is [would need a big one for an MT print, I’ll grant you] for those days, like today, when you’re tired and fed up, and you can glance across and the single touch of an image makes it all disappear.

    You’ve just reversed my whole day around 180 degrees.
    [I almost feel like fate threw it at me today to lay the ground for this release. I’m thankful!]

    • Glad to hear it. Enjoy the trees, then, and go check out the grass in the Imperial Palace East Garden (in person, preferably) here and here.

      Did it for me last time I was in Tokyo. And prints of (almost) any image can be arranged – shoot me an email and we’ll discuss offline. 🙂

    • Seeing them all collected together in on place is simply breathtaking Ming…I can’t even imagine how they would look printed large and in one room. Trees are probably my favourite thing in the world…I am lucky I am surrounded by them, but even still the power of these images are not diminished. The frustrating thing, for me, as a photographer and dendrophile, is that capturing an image of them that comes close to recreating the ambiance and emotion of actually being amongst them is so difficult. So often, the most elegant, tranquil woodland turns into a chaotic, gloomy mess. Not so in your hands though.

      I recognise the aspens outside of The Tate Modern in London…I havn’t been there since I took up photography, but have been meaning to go back in the autumn for them.

  12. Excellent collection. My favorite of the batch is the one from Subang Jaya. I really dig the trees shapes, the colors, and how those colors change when they are in light versus shadow.

  13. Franco Gilio says:

    The second one from Kuala Lumpur and the one from Subang Jaya really blow my mind. Also Prague and Geneva are very beautifull… It’s funny how I “rediscover” a new one every time I scroll up to check the location while writing this coment.

    Thx Ming!


  14. Stunning images, Ming. Number one from Kuala Lumpur is pure BW-magic.

  15. Reblogged this on manoglia.

  16. My favorite: No. 7 – Kuala Lumpur

    The composition is beautiful, simple and straight forward. Pleasing tonal values and by the way: I’m heavily biased towards black and white.


  17. Ming,

    Nice set. The one in Subang looks like it’ in autumn…hahaha

  18. Hi Ming,

    I love the yin-yang of the one from Geneva. Was this a conscious decision while shooting?


  19. Ming,

    Kuala Lumpur has always been my favorite tree picture of yours along with Canterbury and London. However I have never seen the Subang one before and it is gorgeous. A very impressive set.

    Best Wishes – Eric

  20. Wonderful, and like Shah I also liked Subang. Didn’t look at the Exif data, but looks like taken with a longer lens to me…

  21. Ming absolutely beautiful! Please may I know where was the subang one taken? Please please!


  22. Nice set of images. Wonderful indeed.

  23. Gorgeous set of images! Love the shot from Geneva…

  24. Great work


  1. […] produce anything of visual interest whatsoever. In any case, given the popularity of the trees photoessay, I felt that perhaps a different subject to the usual urban/ street documentary might be welcome […]

%d bloggers like this: