Photoessay: The Verticality Project, part II

26_G007452 verticality XXVI copy
XXVI, Hong Kong

Today’s photoesssay is a continuation of the Verticality Project photoessay. I see this as an ongoing study of architecture. The aim is to replicate the feeling you get when you stand at the base of one of these things and look up: a sense of overbearing monolithic massiveness. The choice of a black and white square with no building base is deliberate: the sense of size remains because off the perspective, and the mood is maintained regardless of the color of the sky.

The majority of these were shot in San Francisco and Chicago, with a Pentax 645Z. Enjoy! MT

27_64Z2940 verticality XXVII copy
XXVII, Chicago

28_64Z2947 verticality XXVIII copy
XXVIII, Trump Tower, Chicago

29_64Z2986 verticality XXIX copy
XXIX, Chicago

30_64Z2971 verticality XXX copy
XXX, Wyndham building, Chicago

31_64Z3083 verticality XXXI copy
XXXI, Chicago

32_64Z3093 verticality XXXII copy
XXXII, Aqua Tower, Chicago

33_64Z3121 verticality XXXIII copy
XXXIII, Hancock Tower, Chicago

34_G008038 verticality XXXIV copy
XXXIV, Chicago

35_G008052 verticality XXXV copy
XXXV, Chicago

36_64Z3130 verticality XXXVI copy
XXXVI, Chicago

37_G008198 verticality XXXVII copy
XXXVII, Neiman Marcus, San Francisco

38_8B04799 verticality XXXVIII copy
XXXVIII, Chicago

39_8B04819 verticality XXXIX copy
XXXIX, Chicago

40_G008070 verticality XL copy
XL, Millennium Park, Chicago

41_G008110 verticality XLI copy
XLI, Chicago

42_64Z3433 verticality XLII copy
XLII, Hobart Building, San Francisco

43_64Z3435 verticality XLIII copy
XLIII, San Francisco

44_64Z3447 verticality XLIV copy
XLIV, Bank of America, San Francisco

45_64Z3459 verticality XLV copy
XLV, Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco

46_64Z3687 verticality XLVI copy
XLVI, Embarcadero, San Francisco

47_64Z4103 verticality XLVII copy
XLVII, San Francisco


Limited edition Ultraprints of these images and others are available from


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 | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Peter Boender says:

    Some delayed catching up here, Ming. What an exquisite series! I enjoyed these immensely. I especially liked XXVII, Chicago for its old world feel, XXIX, Chicago for the implied symmetry where it actually hasn’t any, XXXII, Aqua Tower, Chicago for the light that makes the facade look like a landscape and XXXIII, Hancock Tower, Chicago for the engulfing cloud.

    Never realized these pictures are presented in the square format until I read your accompanying text: “The choice of a black and white square with no building base is deliberate: the sense of size remains because off the perspective, and the mood is maintained regardless of the color of the sky.“. The second part of this comment (black and white to maintain mood across the series) is very helpful too.

    To be continued?

  2. Jorge Balarin says:

    Wonderful photos and architecture.

  3. skuramshin says:

    I love XXVII, Chicago. It captures the spirit of the building. Art Deco skyscrapers are so different.
    If making an Ultraprint, which size would you print it?

  4. Reblogged this on Hello world.!!.

  5. Walter Foreman says:

    I had an interesting experience while contemplating “XXXI, Chicago.” I was looking at the bottom of the photograph, noting how, in a superficially symmetrical framing, you gave the image life by NOT being symmetrical—the way you had the building meet the sides of the frame at a different level on each side, and the difference in lighting between the two “halves” of the building, the dark-light contrast up the middle and the contrast in texture between the two sides (which I assume would look the same if lit the same). As I was taking this in, concentrating on the lower part of the picture, I suddenly got the sense that the clouds in the upper right were moving in the wind, blowing past the building from left to right! When I looked directly at them, they started to slide back to the left (I understand this movement back, but not why they moved to the right in the first place!). Once I became aware of this effect, it tended to diminish—too much self-consciousness. But I did try this out on other photographs in the series where there were clouds behind the buildings. I got the strongest effect among the others on “XXXV, Chicago,” but here the clouds on the left appeared to blow toward the distance, away from the camera, rather than left or right. I just thought I’d report this, as a curiosity. In any case, splendid images!

    • Thank you – they’re not all symmetrical, but rather ‘balanced’ instead – I was going for a sense of evenness in visual weight left-right.

      • Walter Foreman says:

        I may not have made my point clear: what I was trying to comment on was the wonderful dynamism of your images of motionless buildings, the LIFE you give them by the choices you make (angles, lighting, etc.). At least, that’s the way the photographs work for me. I felt that the curious effect of the clouds (to my eyes if to no one else’s) was related to this dynamism. And I didn’t mean to suggest that because (again, at least to me) the pictures had such life that they didn’t also have the balance that you speak of.

        • Not at all. I think we’re talking across purposes: I think balance is necessary to create the impression of dynamism, which is born out of tension. If the tension is unequal across the frame, then you land up with your eyes just being pulled straight out rather than scanning from point to point and creating the impression of action/motion…

  6. Very nice work!

  7. The entire set is fantastic. You’ve not just captured scale but shape too which is tough to do with buildings like this. The processing is perfect too. Very nicely done.

  8. Stunning. Satisfying to view. Agree with Gerner about rich tonality. I like D800E/D810 but 645Z seems to lend itself quite well. Taken together this set seems among the best of Verticality to this date.

  9. Ron Scubadiver says:

    I am always afraid of falling over backwards… Funny, I published a few Chicago shots from my archives this morning.

  10. Great shots, you will run out of buildings soon…:)

  11. Magnificent photography Ming. The DR of your 645 seems unsurpassed. Expoure and execution on AA level or above. The tonallity is incredible rich. PP work is unmatched IMHO.

  12. I know, it is almost impossible to get to an mid-level to capture these skycreepers the way they are contructed! Result, they must be captured from down below! For me it is an boring view, because almost all buildings have an similar look! I am saying it, because I’ve worked in the architure fields! But, not to be misunderstood, these images are very excellent captured!

    • Thanks. That’s part of the point: no matter how much effort is put in, most of the time this specific view from below is what the actual users of the buildings see every day…

  13. Stunning Work Ming! They are exceptional!

  14. Reblogged this on tolmima.

  15. very nice job. I like it.

  16. Dens of the overlords :p

  17. These are the best ones yet! Love XXX, Wyndham for its different variation. It’s almost like the prow of a ship.

%d bloggers like this: