FD Photoessay: In the garden

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Contrary to popular belief, I do shoot pedestrian subjects. Quite often, actually; it’s one of those ways you can condition yourself to see differently and pay more attention to light, form and composition. At the end of a long assignment some time ago, I took one of the Hasselblads, the 120/4 CF Makro-Planar and a few rolls of Acros out with me for a quick excursion to the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Park; I’d evidently gone at the wrong time of year since nothing much seemed to be in bloom. Still, I came back with a few interesting images from that outing – and all in all, was pretty satisfied with the output especially given that I hadn’t shot any film for going on two months at that point in time*.

*Work really does get in the way sometimes.

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Apparently somebody shooting with a Hasselblad in Kuala Lumpur is a tourist attraction in itself; I was photographed by countless other tourists using their phones, and have no doubt now got the infamy of being in several images on hipstagram. Oh well. I will let them continue to believe the square format came from that app…

Photographing flowers in monochrome is a bit more challenging than it seems, because you have to condition yourself to see luminance; ignore all of those bright colors. Regardless of how intense the color, B&W film is going to be equally sensitive to all wavelengths solely on amount of reflected light. One must take this into account when considering what subjects will stand out, and what won’t. The tricky part is that things that are mostly of the same color actually require color in order to preserve the impression of as much spatial separation and nuance as possible; contrary to what you’d expect. With monochrome images, you’re going to lose almost all of this subtlety. As usual: one has to go back to looking for shadows.

Enjoy the images, but don’t expect me to go shooting cats anytime soon…MT

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Fallen, I

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Fallen, II

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Fallen, III

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Fallen, IV

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Inspired by Mapplethorpe

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And lastly, my personal favorite from this series.


Enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards here – there’s US$35,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, it’s open to all ASEAN residents, and I’m the head judge! Entries close 31 October 2013.


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


  1. This is another example of why I continue to enjoy your blog, that of your continued growth into film photography, and that of the highest order in quality. If I might be so presumptive as to prognosticate your future work, I foresee much good work ahead. Thank you, Ming, for your dedication to the cause.

  2. I think black & white is not impressed with trees and flowers

  3. Jorge Balarin says:

    I like very much Fallen 1 and 3. Also I like your favorite one. Thank you.

  4. I’ve got one I can send you…already comes in Black & White…I promise she is fully house trained – she just chooses to not apply this training to our carpets…

    Beautiful series…my particular favourite is Fallen 1 – wonderful, simple composition, beautiful tonality, and I particularly like the texture of the miniature landscape the flower is on.

  5. Oh Ming … cats are infinitely more interesting than black and white foliage … 😉

  6. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    Thanks for great images.
    My favorite is “Fallen 1”.

  7. Paul Stokes says:

    Stunning shots and a reminder of how beautiful b&w photography can be.

  8. That pentagon bokeh in #3 is bizarre! Zeiss designed such great glass, but often had the funkiest apertures. Very peculiar. LOVE those Acros shots. A truly amazing film.

    • All of the V-glass had 5-bladed, straight apertures – who knows why. Perhaps to encourage wide open use! I agree though: Acros is some really outstanding stuff.

  9. Sergey Landesman says:

    Super! Thank you!

  10. Zone VI used to make a viewing filter that one wore on a lanyard. It isolated out the colors to help one see luminance. On the topic of Across, do you filter the lens?

  11. Ron Scubadiver says:

    The first and last shots appeal to me the most because of the fractal repetition.

  12. Some nice work Ming. I am just wondering – on Flickr it shows that all your Hasselblad photos were taken with D800E – do you use the DLSR for digitising the 6×6 negs?

    • Of course Ming can answer best himself but I believe the answer is that yes, he does. There’s a rig for this purpose that Ming has been working on readying for sale (he’s discussed it elsewhere on this blog). I suppose that if you “stay tuned” here you’ll learn when it becomes available.

    • Yes. I ‘scan’ the negs with the D800E; the rig I keep talking about will eventually be for sale…once the manufacturer gets it right!

  13. Truly beautiful Ming. It’s always good to remind people that you can shoot anything!

  14. Great work Ming! My favorites in order are Fallen IV (amazing composition), Fallen I (wonderful play between highlight and shadow as well as that special pentagonal bokeh), and Clenched (I’m a sucker for fractals and the beauty of ferns as well as that pregnant pause as life waits for its momentary flourish). Thanks for the inspiration today!

  15. Minh nguyen says:

    So beautiful. , !

  16. Inspiring!

  17. Ulf Sejersen says:

    Sorry! horrizontal in stead of vertical!!!

  18. Ulf Sejersen says:

    Hi, love your pictures and your site! I´m into streetphotography and I wonder how you got the vertical sharpness in the fallen 1-3 pictures and kept the blurred for- and background?

  19. beautiful.

  20. Very Nice Ming! I always enjoy your water Lilly shots.. Never thought of B&W for that… Wonderful!

  21. Amazing ming, i love the mapplethorpe one .. !!!

  22. Reblogged this on Gabbie cbg.

  23. Those are gorgeous, especially the “fallen” shots.

    I think it would be a valid social experiment to open up an instagram account under the pretext of being a 14 year old girl, and uploading some of those, just to see what would happen. “Hey, it’s all in black and white LOL”, “where are the filters?”, etc.

    I know you’ve mentioned this “seeing in luminance” before when you wrote about the Leica Monochrom. I think people would be interested (and I’m counting myself in that group) in hearing a little more about how to translate that into better black and white pictures.

    • Thanks.

      Actually, that’s an interesting (if slightly misleading) idea…

      Seeing in luminance: hmm, perhaps I could produce an end to end B&W workflow video…like zone system redux for modern digital.

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