FD Photoessay: Urban abstracts in monochrome

_8036265 copy

It’s been a little while since I posted any images from Kuala Lumpur; the truth is that I don’t actually shoot that much in my home city these days. Partially it’s because I feel I’ve really plumbed the depths of most parts of the city; partially it’s because I try to keep some potential in reserve for when I have to go out and review a camera – finding new material in a city in which you’ve shot close to 200,000 frames is actually quite tough.

_8038589 copy

That said, sometimes I like to restrict my photographic choices, and in doing so, force myself to see differently, experiment with composition and hopefully derive a different visual result; this mini-series is one of those times. I went out with a roll of Acros 100 in my F6 and the 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor on the front, during daylight, with the specific intention of not shooting with it wide open – both as a little compositional exercise, and to see what the rendering character of the lens is like when used stopped down on film. In short: this thing really justifies its place in the pantheon of greats, both through resolution, contrast, microcontrast and pleasingly-vague general drawing style. Enough from me. Enjoy the images. MT

_8036275 copy

_8038579 copy

_8036272 copy

_8036300 copy

_8036305 copy

_8038609 copy

_8036302 copy

_8036303 copy


2014 Making Outstanding Images Workshops: Melbourne, Sydney and London – click here for more information and to book!


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 | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Ming; there are a some very good photography sites on the web. Without question you are the best photographer of them all 🙂 You have a great eye, and your compositions are spot on. And I think the better the photographer; the less need for a great camera. So you could shoot with an Instamatic and produce great pictures. I’m no good, so can I have your Hasselblad – and you can have my old Coolpix 5000?

  2. Piękne.

  3. serialphotographer says:

    A lovely set of images Ming. I always loved acros it had the most glorious tones

  4. Did you buy your F6 new? I enjoyed this set specially the Genesis image. I’m still on the hunt for a better film camera but a friend suggested to skip 35mm and go MF. So I’m still undecided on what I should get. My Nikon FE is giving up and having it repaired/conditioned will about cost buying a new mint one on the 2nd hand market.

    • No, I got it from a reader actually. It might as well have been new, I certainly can’t tell the difference. I’d try an F2 for 35mm or yes, go medium format – a big and noticeable difference there. And LF is in another league completely…

  5. Steve Austin says:

    Wonderful series. The first image is my favorite, and almost seems based on a Mondrian circa 1920, with a little Boogie Woogie thrown in for excitement.

    Thank you again for posting your work, and hosting a great website. I learn something significant every time I look in.

  6. wish my images wee as clean! any handy tips for grainless crisp black n whites, do let me know!!

  7. Clean and compelling! Thank you!

  8. Very nice collection of images. Do you try to align, where appropriate, both verticals and horizontals when you shoot or do you adjust in Photoshop? I often find your images to be extremely straight in both dimensions so I’m curious. I find it a bit tough to achieve this, but it could in part be because I mainly shoot rangefinders where alignment is less easy to judge in the viewfinder.

    • I pay close attention to them when shooting, and also use tilt shift lenses. Some minor straightening in PS, but you can’t do too much anyway otherwise the degradation in image quality is obvious, and the proportions become off.

  9. Very nice set Ming. You certainly have a good eye and exemplary technique. Viewing them during my lunchbreak from behind a desk, they are also inspirational; offering a nice distraction from the daily grind. You certainly put your money where your mouth is.
    I enjoy going out with just my D800 and a 50. In my case a nikkor 50 f1.2. Not as nice as your noct though. Interested in the zeiss 55 f1.4 distagon. But it seems very large – maybe too large?
    Any how, thanks for hosting such an interesting and thoughtful site. Im tuning in quite regularly now as you may have noticed 😊

  10. great monochrom serie. Like very much. Thanks

  11. John Lockwood says:

    Nice images. Now, I have to ask, do you ever use colored filters when shooting Acros?

  12. As usual, great images. MM 🍀

  13. Very nice series. Gorgeous black and white. I love these photos.
    Have a nice day.

  14. Ming used bokeh @. @
    It made my jaw drop on the train.

  15. Oh, Lord… ❤

  16. Amazingly sharp lens – a classic. Shooting it stopped-down? Interesting approach, and perfectly sharp, distortion-free resulting images. Thanks for sharing. Well done!

  17. Nice set! #1,5,8 are my favorites.
    I have two .
    Minolta 58/1.2 Rokkors converted to EF mount which have a very similar lens design to Noct-Nikkor but have less round bokeh circles.
    They are very sharp stopped down like the Noct. Has nice bokeh and special rendering.
    Have you been shooting with your Otus lately?
    I am going through Otus withdrawals since giving back my rented copy and after getting your 24×24 Vertically iv print framed.
    Still waiting for B&H to have it in stock and after paying my taxes.
    I guess you use the Noct with film and Otus for digital.

  18. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Reminds me of Seattle.

    • I’ve never been. On my to do list, though…

    • As someone who has lived in Seattle, currently resides in KL, I can assure you that the differences outweigh the similarities. IMHO Seattle, which I visited again last year , and it’s surrounding areas (parents live in Redmond) has far more photographic opportunities and really makes you want to have your camera at the ready always. KL for me, not so much. Maybe jaded too. 😉
      “Plumbing the depths” in KL can really take on whole new meanings, or maybe I just need to hang out with better friends. 😉
      Probably answered before, so apologies Ming, but favourite 3 places in KL to go and spend a days shooting?
      (Very nice shots, btw, goes without saying!)

      • No, KL is pretty dry photographically – at least for me, perhaps because I’ve already lived and shot here for so long.

        Best is subjective – it depends on what you want to photograph…

        • Ah, well, it’s not just me then..;) Never really been satisfied with KL work , whether street or cityscape, architectural or abstract.
          Whereas Ipoh, or until recently as it has changed very fast, was constant visual stimulation for me.
          Thanks for the forthright answer.

          • With KL you have to just be receptive to the serendipitous. Looking for shots is tough, I find – sometimes you get nothing, sometimes you wish you’d brought your camera…

  19. Wonderful Set Ming!

%d bloggers like this: