Photoessay: Inside the Port of Singapore

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This photoessay is actually composed of b-roll from another assignment; it fell outside the client’s brief. However, it’s about as easy to stop seeing and shooting things as it is for me to stop breathing for a long period of time – so I went ahead and photographed anyway, knowing that the images can’t be used for anything commercial. I’ve always found heavy industry to be fascinating – not just because it’s outside the sphere of normality for most of us, but also because there’s a big challenge in capturing and conveying the sense of scale of a place that’s unfamiliar and might lack visual cues for most. On top of that, throw in a whole bunch of interesting hardware, textures and abstract patterns, and you’ve got photographic nirvana. Some of the perspectives will be unusual because they were shot from a pilot boat on the harbour, or the bridge of one of the 1000-ft container ships. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D4, 24-120/4 VR and 70-200/4 VR lenses.

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Arrival, from the pilot boat

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Double parked

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Somehow this must all fit

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The other side

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Empty fishing

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Operate with caution

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Finding the needle in the haystack

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In context

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The tail end

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Day’s end


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


  1. Amazing photos. Here those containers roll by daily on the railroad tracks. I love that you say.. would be like asking you to stop breathing, to stop snapping. I agree.

  2. victorhphotos says:

    What an amazing post and outstanding photos. I was in Singapore twice and I was surprised by the amount of ships near to the docks, it was literally like a parking lot but with ships instead of cars.

  3. Great work Ming you even have the ability to transform cargo containers into art.

  4. NeutraL-GreY says:

    This is awesome. I am studying to work in this industry. It’s nice to see two interests of mine intersect.

  5. A wonderful set, Ming. I always love your industrial work. Many thanks for giving us access to these hidden but magnificent sites.

  6. Inspirational set. My favourites was by far Untitled and Compression. Keep finding inspiration on your site, so thank you for that. Wish I could afford a spot on your class…

  7. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Nice geometry, Ming. We have a huge port here in Houston, but entry is highly restricted and Homeland Security officers will interrupt with regularity. Last time I gave one my information without his asking. I am seriously thinking about getting the 70/200 f/4 as they are $200 off right now, (US $1200 at B&H)

    • Thanks Ron. I can imagine – security at PSA was pretty tight, too.

      You might also want to consider the 80-400 if you need more reach. I had an aerial assignment last year where I did, so I traded in my 70-200/4 because of the overlap.

  8. It’s all in the composition! Great shots.

  9. Some truly masterful framing here, I particular admire the way you composed “scale”, “untitled” and “compression”. Always interesting to see great photos from an unusual setting, I’m not sure I’d ever have considered a container depot a good place for a photoshoot before!

    • Thanks! Can’t help but think when you’re on a tight schedule in a new environment you just revert to working instinctively – there were a lot of images I landed up discarding because I was working perhaps too quickly, but overall reasonably pleased with this set…

  10. Brilliant set Ming. I love this stuff and your images have just the right balance of process and complexity. Somehow this time lapse of the offload of a container ship in Antarctica comes to mind…

  11. Hakan Lindgren says:

    Thanks for this series of images – one of your best imho! The only way to make this environment even more photograpically/visually interesting would be to shoot the same area … at night.

  12. Gerner Christensen says:

    Beside my fascination of harbors, from the smallest marina to a port like this, the sea light reflected by the steel and rust in this amazing set is no less than very appealing.

    Even I haven’t done any harbors the later years, I remember I could spend days there seeing new frames each and every minute. That’s a great contrast to what I find and may frame in my wide open wine yards where I live at present.

    Oh .. those zoom lenses seems also to sing for your Ming 🙂

  13. Fascinating, visually really interesting to take in and in some instances quite beautiful… loved compression. : ))

  14. Chris Searle says:

    Agreed! And x10 if it is rusting and decrepit. Here in Mumbai there is a plethora of corroding post industrial decay that is absolutely mouthwatering but extremely difficult to gain access to. Love the pics by the way.

  15. Really like this set! The straight lines, edges and the way everything is placed neatly within the frame and has an order of its own is very calming and re-assuring. I also feel like there is a story about excessive consumerism somewhere in there. Personal favourites are Mooring, Somehow this must all fit and Untitled.

  16. Your best yet. Scale and Untitled are my favs

  17. Very nice set, especially loved the complexities/geometries in Scale and Compression.

    But one look at ‘Operate with caution’ and suddenly my head is filled with voices saying ‘gostan gostan’ (you know, the local colloqualism for to move in reverse). Not officially confirmed but I think it originated from shipping and aviation terms, “go astern”.

  18. Stunning images Ming!

  19. Wonderful images Ming! Great to get in so close to the port.

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