Photoessay: Klang Valley MRT work in progress, part II

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We continue with the tunnel borers – this time reverting to monochrome for the aboveground portion of the monochrome documentary (underground was here here, focusing on the workers). A sense of scale is needed to appreciate the extent of the project, and this was the purpose of these images. I shot this with a mix of equipment over an extended period of time – mostly Nikon D800Es, however. Enjoy! MT

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While work goes on up on the surface, traffic and the city is in utter chaos in places.

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For scale. The pit at this station – Cochrane – is easily 75m deep.

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It’s a long way down. I know because I climbed every single one of those stairs.

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Tunnel lining shells – thousands of them, ready to be loaded on special low-loader trucks and drive down the tunnel to the work face for the TBM to install automatically. 

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Preparing to celebrate

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Breakthrough – perhaps my favourite shot from the entire job – though it really has to be seen large to appreciate it.

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Exiting the beast – note man for scale

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


  1. Kathleen says:

    It must have taken courage to face an explosion – especially while hiding behind such expensive glass! Well done!

    • Thanks – actually I find that when I’m shooting and in the zone, I really don’t think about these things – which is why on assignments like this, I sometimes have a spotter to make sure I don’t miss something dangerous.

  2. Excellent shots Ming particularly the wides with the 21mm, I just love the results you’ve achieved here with it and of course you’re processing technique. I find the 21mm a tricky beast to handle in the framing department, composition and balance needing careful thought, easier in a tight space but out in the open with all that sky and buildings…..fine work well done.

  3. Sid - The Wanderer says:

    Nice shots..
    An empty corridor…

  4. wayne seltzer says:

    Another nice mono set from thw TBM project Ming!
    I like the dynamic nature of the third to last image the best followed by the static 2nd to last shot.
    Too bad you could not have used a camera on tripod to get a more dynamic breakthrough shot with motion blur of the rotating drill end. Undwrstand you did not want to risk losing your camera to flying rocks if things went wrong.
    Seeing the whole exposed drill end is very interesting and reminds me of those in the Matrix.
    Thanks for sharing these.
    As far as using a red filter on blue skies in color images, results in a non natural looking sky color to my eye, maybe what Christan was aiming at above.For B&W images using red filter to darken sky is fine and is often done. But id it done that much for color images?

    • Thanks. Not just didn’t want to risk camera, I wasn’t allowed to set anything up for safety reasons. Was bright enough and the drill slow enough that I’d need some serious NDs, too.

      As for red filters – they don’t make any sense at all on a color image, but certainly on B&W. Since I needed both output, I went with the digital option in post.

  5. fantastic photo story ! i started my personal project about skyscraper which is being built near the building where i’m working and can observe te process from the floor 45 .

  6. THX! Surprised that the 24-120 4 was used…recommendable for d810 anyday? Could the 14-24 2.8 nikkor replace the 21 2.8 (and 15 2.8) in your opinion?? Sharpness, microcontrast, rendering etc? 14-24 would be more versatile/flexible with regard to FL….

    • Recommendable with caveats – you may need to stop down to 5.6-8 for optimum performance. No choice as I needed something flexible and weather (well, mud) sealed on the day. I prefer the two Zeiss primes to the 14-24. Rendering is nowhere near the same, nor is color or microcontrast. I think I prefer the Pentax 25/4 on the 645 to either of those still…

      • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

        One little question about Breakthrough picture. As ” you`ve got only one chance” situation, how did you solved the problem. Two cameras triggered simultaneously just in case one would misfire ? single shot or continuous? slow shutter on one ( for those flying debris and of course fast one as seen, for frozen action? Or it was just wild west shoot out. One shot does it all?

        • Had to be clear about the image I wanted before the event; partially down to what the client wanted and partially down to what I thought would work best. I aim to get the shot with the first try, then the rest are for insurance. I couldn’t set up tripods or remote cameras because of the risk we’d have to move and get out of the way quickly in case something went wrong or rock/mud started flying. I wouldn’t want to risk a second set of equipment there either – the client wasn’t paying that much!

          • I always, always assume that every one of these images is captured by your hands only, meaning in this case no second shooter or assistant for extra ‘insurance’ images even for the Breakthrough situation. There were some images seemingly from different vantage points that prompted me to imagine you were changing positions pretty quickly just to get them all. Wow.

            • That’s precisely right. If they were captured by somebody else, there’s always credit, permission to use, and it’s usually something I can’t physically shoot myself, like me shooting…

              But yes, I was changing positions very quickly. Run and gun indeed…

  7. Hi Ming,
    it can`t get any better than this! I have doubts at least…:) Simply excellent! Congrats, you really, really knows what your doing’!!!

    It cannot just be simply the d800e/ or 810 and 55 Otus or was any of these b&w shots taken with the GR? I saw otus lens in mint condition for 2250 euros in canada…i have to be clever somehow in order to avoid the customs……..must have lens…
    Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if the new sigma 50 1.4 art has a similar performance and esp. similar rendering (microcontrast etc.) as the otus….according to dxomark the performance is as good as the otus partially even better but what about the rendering ?
    Hopefully, there will be even more Otus lens – a series of different FL 24,28,35,existing 55, 85, 100/105 and 135 would be amazing….

    Lets hope and pray…only time will tell…

    Please more stuff like this….cannot get enough!

    • Well, I hope it can – otherwise I might as well retire now!

      All of these were shot with D800E/ Zeiss 21/ Otus or 24-120/4 VR. No GR in this set, I was shooting with two bodies.

      No idea on the Sigma, I haven’t tested it. There will be more Otuses though…85 for later this year at very least. And the current 2/135 APO is very, very close to the Otus as it is. Cheaper, too.

  8. Jacob Strand says:

    Really nice set! 7th pic link from the top seems broken?

  9. Cool Shots! Love the black/white.

  10. Wonderful shots Ming! Really stunning…

  11. Christian says:

    Hi Ming, i think this series is a great piece of work. I understundom that the sun was very harsh and unforgiving. However I feel that the processing is maybe compensating for this a bit too much. With an almost hdr look that I personally find a little unnatural. Great work anyway and thank’s for sharing it with us.

    • Thanks, but I think it’s your monitor or browser. There is no tonal overlap between shadow/ midtone/ highlight details on mine. And I don’t HDR anything – these were all single captures. Don’t confuse a darker/ contrastier sky achieved with a red subtraction filter with HDR.

      • Christian says:

        I know it’s not hdr, it’s just that exploiting dynamic range to it’s full potential sometimes can give the image a weird look. But processing is very much a personal thing. I have recently been shooting film mainly and marveled at the way the Images often look right without much work.

        • I still think it’s your monitor gamma and unfamiliarity with the use of red filters on blue skies.

          • Just my 2 cents, they look absolutely fine on my monitor (Apple CInema 20″ uncalibrated), and I hate overly done HDR images.

            • Thank you, glad to know I’m not going mad. I’m pretty sure it’s gamma or gamut and calibration – if any one of these is badly set or insufficient, carefully managed dynamic range quickly looks like messy tonal overlap and HDR.

              • Michael Matthews says:

                Looks stunningly great to me. i was about to ask if you had used a red filter or its post-processing equivalent. Many of these images meet, no, exceed, the best of what I’ve seen using this technique from the film era.

                • A digital red filter, in this case. More control than a physical one in case the client wanted color also (they did) and no need to worry about the height of the split…

  12. AaronLam says:

    Brilliant works, Ming Thein. I love the shots from this project.

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