Photoessay: Venetian nights

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An alternative to the Venetian Cinematics

Evening falls early in Venice in the winter; on a grey day, you can start thinking about blue hour come half past three in the afternoon. Coming from a country where sunset and sunrise vary very little through the course of the year (I’m pretty much on the equator), it’s a little disorienting – but very productive for photography once you get used to the time difference. I always find one of the more interesting things about higher latitudes the fact that changing daylight hours result in the visually unexpected: everything closed and empty streets with sun out, for instance (late in the evening) or normal activity in what appears to be the dead of night. There is a progression here from the active to the inactive and empty; the difference is in the presence or absence of people – not the light. I admit it was difficult to resist a cliche or two, but for the most part, I stuck to the brief…MT

This series was shot with a Pentax 645Z, 55/2.8 SDM and A 150/3.5 lenses.

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Working late

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At a jaunty angle

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It’s never too cold to anticipate the joy of gelato

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On the other side of the lens

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Merchandise inspector, off duty

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Motion at rest

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Shadows about to…

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What you imagine inside

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Untitled 2

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Last departure


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


  1. Ha! Hi Ming – had not looked at your site for ages then saw this. Glad you got to like Venice; it’s a place I’ve been photographing and painting for nearly 30 yrs. I wonder if I can share a link to recent work. I’ll try. You may like it (it’s on film?)

  2. Another beautiful essay, but in this one, Untitled had a very great impact on me. Thank you again for sharing and inspiring.

  3. I rarely come across night scenes as beautifully done as these. Color and dynamic range are outstanding. Hard to take eyes off those pics. Amazing work!

  4. Wow. Ming, these are absolutely outstanding. Unreal. I’m done visiting all these other gear review sites, for I’m just not getting anything from them. Your site is such an inspiring resource for me. Thank you.

    And the ‘Shadows about to…Never too cold’ are in class unto their own. Beautiful set.

  5. Steve jones says:

    Motion at rest is a masterpiece.It really is.Can’t stop looking at it. This image seems to exist in a place where painting and photography merge through the eye of the observer. beautifully done.

  6. Ian Moore says:

    Hi Ming – after using the Pentax 645Z for a while now how do you rate it against the Nikon D810? Rgds, Ian Moore (PS I have the 645Z and a D800)

    • I sold the 645Z because a) we need to buy a house and b) commercial realities of being a photographer mean that I have to pick one system that can cover everything – the D810 is it for the time being. That said, both are really excellent and I wish I could afford to not have to choose between them…I think the images speak for themselves, no?

  7. I have to say that there are a couple of shots in that collection which are superb even by your standards – “Trio” and “On the other side of the camera”. They both have this fantastic, dark-but-not-sinister feel to them. Plus the way the highlights and shadows are controlled is inspiring. Great stuff.

  8. The Cameo photo is beautiful another great Ming.

  9. Oh, beautiful colors!

  10. On behalf of all that normally read in amazement and don’t normally comment, can I just say a simple thank-you for taking the time to share your lovely images with us all like this. I for one, greatly appreciate it ! Looking at your work forces us all to be just that little more considered when we as well pursue our passion for making beautiful images. You have inspired and helped so many of us, I am so grateful.

  11. Gorgeous photos, and great use of shadows and dark. I’ll bookmark these and look again and again.

  12. robamend says:

    I always enjoy your photos, Ming, but I found this series to be exceptionally enjoyable.

  13. Great essay, one of your best – I especially love ‘It’s never too cold…’



  14. Fantastic pictures, I realy like “At a jaunty angle”, “Taxi” and “Untitled”.

  15. This is stunning ❤

  16. Wow, Ming, wow. “Motion at rest” and “Shadows about to” are jaw-dropping. “Working late” is beautiful, too.

  17. Ming, How do you find working with the Pentax 645 in the field, and at night? Do controls fall to hand and easy to find in the field?

  18. rgibbard says:

    What phenomenal vision you have to spot an image like “Shadows about to…” out of what seems like nothing.

  19. Stunning set of images Ming. The dynamic range and tones are just wonderful as is the composition. So nice to see Venice in a different light as it’s a very refreshing theme for the frequently photographed Venice and wonderful done at that. I had a 645z and sold it… at times I miss it terribly. IMO, one of the best cameras out there when it comes to DR and detail. It will be interesting to see what the next generation 50 megapixel DSLR’s bring but then again, it’s not the camera, it’s the hands that hold it.

  20. Oh those days and evenings Ming. Unforgettable moments. Thank you for taking us to Venice with your incredible set here!

  21. Venice is a very picturesque location indeed.

    Fortunately, I’m going there this summer!

  22. Venice is such a wonderful city. You catured it so good!
    Thanks for these pictures.

  23. Lectures au Coeur says:

    Beautiful picture! Thank you for sharing.

  24. Ming, inspiring as always. Can you comment on how you achieved color balance, the bright lights are so well behaved. Also, could you comment on your exposure? Thank you.

    • Thanks Daryl. Color balance using a calibrated monitor, profiled camera and color checker chart; there’s more info in this article and the whole process is covered extensively in Photoshop Workflow II. Exposure: depends on how the cameras respond, but the 645Z is quite linear with very clean shadows and 14+ stops of dynamic range, so I exposed just to the point of clipping the specular highlights, then recovered the rest.

  25. Ming

    These are wonderful, and remind me of why I fell in love with large format.

    Yes, I know these are digital from the Pentax. The look is very close to the same.


    • The more I think about the purpose of resolution, I think it’s less about spatial frequency and more about tonal resolution – this is what LF has in spades…digital still suffers from abrupt transitions at the macro level.

      • Yes, that’s what I’m seeing that I couldn’t quite place my finger on… these are ‘soothing’. Obviously in a subject/composition way, but soothing from a technical/tonal aspect. My old digital files felt like coarse steel wool to the eyes, and even my new D750 has a touch of ‘fine’ steel wool. These are soothing yet firm. It’s so hard to describe. The smooth tonal response + creative eye make these such a pleasure to linger upon.

        • I know what you mean – I think it’s a combination of higher dynamic range that doesn’t clip to white so abruptly, plus more spatial resolution to allow for smoother transition gradients…

  26. Another really lovely set Ming! I think the structure in the last few pictures with the boats in the water are what you do best!

  27. Wonderful images Ming! During winter we have sunset at 5PM and even during the summer the Seattle Waterfront often has an intense golden light two hours before sunset…

  28. Daniel Boyd says:

    Motion at rest is marvelous Ming. Took me awhile to figure out the reflection.

  29. Stunning Ming! As always…


  1. […] up my camera in wait for the moment. The resulting images shot over a couple of hours makes up my Venetian Nights […]

  2. […] the Venetian Nights. A wet evening requiring a certain shutter speed (and ISO) for the right amount of motion, whilst […]

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