Photoessay: London street mono, part II

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Stretch of the imagination

Today’s post is the conclusion of part one. The abstraction of man in monochrome continues; my own peculiar brand of anthropological observation/ documentary/ street photography. Call it what you will. Perhaps as a consequence of the medium (format), I feel these images are somewhat more structured, ordered and ‘rigid’ than the previous set; that said, I’ve never felt London to be a particularly liberal place – especially the City or any of its other institutions – so perhaps this is actually somewhat appropriate.

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Dealing in shadowy corners

I’ve actually realised that although I find photographing people fairly natural/ comfortable, it’s come to a point where it’s just not that interesting – there is some element of habituality to what I do when travelling. Perhaps it’s time to examine the whys in some further detail; man is probably sufficiently abstracted and it’s time to move on unless I happen to find some exceptional environments. I’m not sure how anybody can continue photographing the same subject for decades; I admit I just get bored – and this is part of the reason why there’s been little horological photography from me of late. I firmly believe that in order to produce good work, one has to be inspired. And by the same token, it’s also necessary to realise when one isn’t inspired, and move on.

Having said all that, street photography with medium format is an interesting experience. It’s a very binary thing: you have no choice but to engage your subject, be it before or (preferably, so as not to change the interesting thing which they were doing) after the shot; or you have to focus on the environment and let the subject be inconsequential. There is no ‘stealthy’ with a Pentax 645Z: it’s not classical enough to be ‘cute’, like a Hasselblad; it’s not small enough to be common, like a regular DSLR, and it just sticks out like a sore thumb. Especially if you have anything other than the 55 or 75mm lenses mounted. But I do love the tonal quality of the results… MT

If you’d like to learn more about how to create great images in black and white, the latest Monochrome Masterclass workshop video might be of interest…

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Jagged edge

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Modern day admiral

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Organized mess

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Some imaginary boundary

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Just about on the ragged edge

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Older and wiser, but aloof

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At Curators’ Coffee

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Summer, I

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Summer, II

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So much for summer

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The eternal question of ‘are we there yet?’

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Field trip homework

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Summer, III

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Building/ tentacles/ octopus

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Youth is responsible for all sorts of inexplicable things


Limited edition Ultraprints of these images and others are available from For more street photography technique, have a look at the S1: Street Photography workshop video, and this post.


Masterclass Venice (November 2014) now open for booking – click here to book or for more info


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


  1. I like the results. I think that the super shallow depth of field you can get from a medium Format camera is really appealing in street photography cause the people in the images have even more dimension and really pop out of the frame in a 3d manner. Shure one would have to adept the way of shooting with such a big and heavy camera. Running down the streets for hours might not be the best thing to do. Being at the right spot and waiting for the action to happen in front of you will work really well. Anyhow, image quality from the pentax is just amazing and worth the hussle.

    • Actually, you could probably get shallower DOF with a 85/1.4, 135/2 or similar on full frame; most of these were shot stopped down. I am not a big fan of super shallow depth of field under most circumstances because it removes context. However, what medium format does do is allow just a little bit of blur at more angles of view – enough to isolate/separate your subject, but not so much as to render backgrounds completely unidentifiable.

  2. I’ve been forming my own thoughts on the two sets prior to commenting. Basically I find part two far more interesting than part one. The subject matter for me is just more compelling and interesting.

    I like the idea behind modern day admiral and also jagged edge – maybe also due to the lovely lady in the latter 😉

  3. Compelling series. I was trying to imagine you taking them as I looked at each image. Great stuff. Ken

  4. Street photo with medium format… Good job! BTW do you find the B&W conversion as great and rich to work with on this Ricoh Pentax camera as it is on the GR camera? If yes, may be the Pentax Ricoh K3 camera will be the same… And I definitely ditch Canon. Thanks for your posts.

    • The GR is ‘easier’, but the 645Z is obviously smoother and has far more latitude to work with – but because the dynamic range is quite a bit greater than the output dynamic range of a monitor or print, you’ve got to take more care with how you allocate it.

  5. The tonal transitions are silky smooth and there’s no digital athom left for the eye to see. The image quality is far beyond what I have ever seen from B&W film. I am convinced it is my HD monitor that prevents me enjoying the inherent quality in full.
    But never mind the poor monitors we have. Pictures have to be printed to be appreciated and enjoyed in full. Ultraprints being the ultimate way so far!
    BTW love this set endlessly.

    • Thanks Gerner. It’s not just your monitor, but also the fact that you’re looking at very small versions of the originals. Even when I’m viewing the originals on my Thunderbolt Display, they pale in comparison to the Ultraprint versions, which can display all of the information!

  6. What a wonderful set indeed. My personal favorites are Summe III and Jagged edge. Love how the transitions go, albeit my screen is not the best, but these look really really nice to me. All the 645z photos seem to have a really great look to them.

    • Thank you – some of the smoothness is also lost in the jpeg compression; bear in mind that the web-size images you see here have about 1% of the information of the originals…best appreciated in print!

  7. I stumbled upon your site last year while I was searching for a review of the Ricoh GR. What got me hooked to your website ever since isn’t just the gear reviews, but also the quality of your work and your willingness to share your professional experience and knowledge. After almost a year of following your posts, the main thing that struck me was the consistency in both the idea and presentation in your shoots. This is something I’ve been trying to work towards. Thanks for your effort in creating such a great learning site for all!

  8. My morning tea + your images = beautiful start to the rainy day! Thanks!

  9. with a Pentax 645Z …. I do love the tonal quality of the results.

    The tonal quality of results really is quite pleasurable.

  10. +1 for Modern Day Admiral ! Hilarious.

  11. “Modern day admiral” is really quite brilliant.

  12. Wonderful scenes Ming! Very nice set!

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