Photoessay: The people of Taipei

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An obsession with things on sticks, I

Whenever I travel, I find the people more interesting than the location: they give a place character, and say a lot about the local culture. It is therefore natural that we photograph people as part of a travel photography set, and seek to capture a little bit of everything: some culture, some uniqueness, some context – in essence, the spirit of the location. Things that stand out are behaviours that I find unfamiliar or inexplicable; but this must be balanced with normal people going about their lives to avoid a biased view of extremes and stereotypes. I found Taipei to be a quirky blend of China’s modern awkwardness at attempting to copy the west; Japan’s tech-obsession, and a little of that old dynastic elegance. Enjoy! MT

This set was shot with a Ricoh GR, Nikon D800E and Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/55 Otus APO-Distagon.

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An obsession with things on sticks, II

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The modern equivalent of a prehensile tail

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Chanel victim

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Handling choices from a young age

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Practice run

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A different kind of fishing, I

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A different kind of fishing, II

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Behind the scenes

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Teahouse meeting

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Noontime slump

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Ceremonial guardian, I

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Ceremonial guardian, II

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Three degrees of separation

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Day’s end


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


  1. Peter Boender says:

    Sorry! Late to the set. Which is great by the way 🙂 Having recently visited Taipei briefly for the first time in my life (you can see my Flickr set here.) I can well relate to your Taipei travel photography set. Now I need to build a larger body of work of this interesting destination… I felt the quirky blend too! The city I was most reminded of was: Osaka!

    Question: what did you use to shoot “The modern equivalent of a prehensile tail”? It seems to have a somewhat unusual un-Ming-like use of DoF…

    • Thanks – D800E and the Otus. Light was low – much lower than it seemed – I was testing the lens on the moon, saw this and grabbed. Didn’t bother changing the aperture for both light collection and separation.

  2. Is that first shot pre-focused in Snap mode? F8 and be there seems to work most of the time (ISO 800) but there are instances where I wish I could have done a lot better with the pre-focusng in Snap mode. Takes a lot of practice!

  3. I’m taiwanese. Absolutely great work!

  4. These are truly wonderful photos. Your website is a wealth of information and inspiration for a keen enthusiast. Since I discovered it a few weeks ago, I have learnt so much! Thank you

  5. I’ve lived in Taipei and I think you’ve captured the sombreness amidst the high capitalist chase of this city.

  6. Nice work, The last image is a stand out for me personally.

  7. Great portfolio. If you really do have a mix of the two cameras and lenses, then it’s not just a little shocking. I thought that if I worked at it I might be able to guess which images were created by which camera, but if you have to work at it then it’s not worth the trouble (or money) is it? Seems like someone interested in this type of photography would do just fine with a GR for 25/35 mm perspectives and one other camera with as good a sensor as the GR and a good 50mm lens. Small, lightweight and great images. Of course, it would also require the high quality of post processing that you always seem to do so well. But then you also provide a video showing how to improve on that as well. Thanks for sharing.

    • At this viewing size, you probably can’t tell the difference to an iPhone, either. The difference is hugely apparently in prints. That said, there is no 28mm Otus yet…

  8. Yi Yung says:

    I enjoy your photos very much, especially the last two. As a native Taiwanese currently living in northern part of Taiwan, I must say your comments of people of Taiwan in your opening remarks may apply to the northern part of Taiwan. If you ever visit Taiwan again in the future, I recommend that you visit the southern and eastern part of Taiwan, I think you might have a different perspective of people of Taiwan.


  9. Although I LOVE your reviews and commentary of photo gear and art philosophy, I enjoy your photo-essays even more. You show a lot of respect to the subjects and (in this case) to their culture.

    I love this series.

  10. Although I do love your reviews and thoughts, for some reason I enjoy your photo essays even more. You show a lot of respect for the subjects and their culture, I like this series.

  11. The last two are the most pleasing to me in an artistic way, but 1 and 2 and the first “A different kind of fishing” should go viral. You have a great eye not only for composition, but for the human condition as well.

  12. I’ve seen a lot of the GR and 55mm Otus, has the 28mm focal length and 50mm focal length now become your bread and butter?

  13. I like the last one the most. I have the feeling that I have already saw this photgraph in your flickr, I dont know.

    I was reading some of your reviews post and I saw that you use the manfrotto hydrostatic ballhead. I`m not enjoying my current ballhead (it creeps when I use my 70-200 f/4) so I`m deciding wich one to get. The RRS BH-55 was on my mind but the price is just too much. You still use the hydrostatic ballhead from manfrotto or are you using the arca that you reviewed later?

    • Yes, these were uploaded some time ago – there’s usually a bit of a delay between flickr and the site because I need time for objectivity of curation.

      I’m using the Arcas I reviewed – the P0 and Cube.

  14. Ming these are a wonderful selection. I would echo what has already been posted

  15. titaniummike says:

    Reblogged this on TiTANiUM MiKE.

  16. Fernanda Machado says:

    that’s nice, i’ve never been to Taipei

  17. Fun set. Elliott Erwitt would be proud of #1 and #2. Comedic.

  18. montserrat sobral says:

    So good!

  19. Superb set, the boy making tough decisions is my favorite.

  20. A great photo essay with or without the titles… it really gave me a sense of the place. Thanks : )) Trees

  21. Love it… did you use more of the GR or D800

  22. This is a great set of photos. What really struck me was how the ‘title’ of the photos impacted my impression of the scene. They definitely add another dimension to the experience. Thanks for this post. I enjoyed it very much.

  23. Beautiful essay. In particular, “Three Degrees of Separation” is more than a great photograph – it’s a great piece of modern photographic/journalistic cultural anthropology.

  24. randomesquephoto says:

    Wow. Great work Ming! I love the 1 and 2 s here the most.

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