Photoessay: the arches of Prague

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The nun at dawn

Prague is one of those locations which never fails to captivate – it’s an interesting blend of Old World elegance, modern efficiency and very friendly people. One of the things that falls out of the Old World setting is an unusually large number of arches – as a load bearing architectural device to create an aperture in a structure supporting a large building, they were pretty much the only option available if you’re working in stone or brick. Photographically, they’re a great device for framing and adding layers of interest to an image – beyond the obvious use of placing the subject in the middle, you also gain the ability to stack them up to create areas of interesting texture through geometrical repetition. On top of all of that, they also act as light control devices – if you photograph them side-on, they can create directional light out of a very flat day especially if there are no other apertures on facing them on the other side. This set was shot during the March Prague masterclass, and includes some of my favourite images from the city. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses, the 45 PCE, and mostly the AFS 24-120/4 VR. It was processed with PS Workflow II.

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Recursion

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Waiting for Godot

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Structure I

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Warm glow

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Red door

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Teenagers at Starbucks

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Apertures in buildings

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Untitled monochrome

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The quiet interval between lunch and dinner

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Lady in red

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Kielbasz time

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Sympatico I

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Sympatico II

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The boundary between real and virtual

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You are never alone even if you think you are

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Thoughts and transience

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A Prague evening

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

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

Comments

  1. I don’t what it is you do differently but your pictures practically leap from the screen.

    As an enthusiast, I’ve been committed to just using Lightroom and so stopped my purchase of your videos at Episode 4 of the Outstanding Images series. I haven’t bought the workflow videos because I don’t have Photoshop and again it is probably overkill for what I do. However, seeing these, I have to wonder if I am leaving somethings on the table by not taking that next step. I wonder how much of what you do in post can be accomplished in Lightroom alone…

    Great, great pictures.

    • Thank you – it really IS a workflow thing. I don’t use PS because it’s PS, I use it because there are simply things you cannot do in LR like multiple curves, or have fine control over dodging and burning, or edit in LAB mode (which affects luminance but not saturation). Sharpening is far more refined. The list goes on. For $10 a month subscription (or something like that), it’s a no brainer – PS is the one bit of equipment you’ll use for every image.

  2. I’ve enjoyed this essay very much, but I have to say that for me, Sympatico II simply blew me away. Terrific work. I have an odd love-hate relationship with Prague, having been there several times, but always during horrible times in my life. I’m left with a bitter aftertaste, which I know I need to purge. I hope to get there in better times. Thanks for helping me “heal.”

  3. Grant S. says:

    A bit of street, a bit of architecture, a bit of cityscape, a whole set of superb images. Really got absorbed looking at these, love them.

  4. So inspiring, Ming. You’re posts have helped me so much with regards to going out for street photography, having an idea/theme in mind, and focusing on that. Hands down one of my favorite essays. And I agree with the nun comments, however the ‘never alone, even if you think you are’ shot is so compelling. My imagination is racing as to what’s really going on in that photo! Love it!

  5. Brett Patching says:

    Wonderful set Ming!

  6. Arch Angelic!

  7. Great!

  8. The Nun at Dawn!…Perfect shot Ming, exhibiting careful composition and waiting for the right ‘moment’. I had multiple ‘stories’ come to mind when my eyes left the nun and fixed on the dark figures in the shadows to the left, and on the rooftop, and on the balcony!, great fun! Thanks

  9. Jeffrey Horton says:

    That shot with the nun is amazing, probably my favorite shot that I’ve seen from you.

  10. That top photo is absolutely brilliant – great light, framing, composure and the bit of luck with a nun.

  11. “The nun at dawn” is just brilliant! The lighting, the gradient of tones in the buildings running from darker in the foreground to lighter in the background and then white in the sky, and the way the arch in the foreground separates the frame — what a fantastic composition and moment. Well done!

  12. Amizing all of them!!

  13. Jorge Balarin says:

    Hi Ming ! very nice post.
    Prague is a wonderful city, and Vienna – where I live – it is not far away, so I’m planning to travel over there frecuently. I will try your ideas. Greetings.

  14. nova0000scotia says:

    Stunning

  15. Beautiful.

    Minor aside, I think you meant “quiet interval” rather than “quite interval” (title). Cheers, and best wishes, to you.

  16. Love this set. Hard to choose, but have to go with Nun at dawn as my fav.

  17. lady in red is my favorite in this set. The communication between the subject and the artist is obvious and makes this picture stand out.

  18. Lovely shots, especially the first one, at dawn. Your images speak for themselves, so much so that I feel they do not need any subscripts or titles, especially where they are, with respect, a little too obvious …”Lady in red”. As a quick identifier, sure, – as a light-hearted comment – to what subtext am I now prompted? -, I am not so sure. An image is easily trivialised by a text. A simple “at dawn”, “in the old/new part of town” and such likes gives me a handle – that’s all I need. Anyway, I remain, one of your devotees.

  19. Really beautiful and interesting photos. The first image has so many massages. Very beautiful work!!!

  20. I’m especially fond of ‘The nun at dawn’, ‘You are never alone even if you think you are’, and ‘A Prague evening’.

    Also something to be said for finding the right stage, at the right time of day (light) … and then patiently waiting for the right subject to step onto it.

    Nice work, Ming.

  21. Wonderful imagery. Many people say that the Nikkor 24-120 is soft and not sharp enpoigh. I agree with you that good composition and understanding light makes up for any lens shortfall. Love the 810 too.

    • Perhaps I got lucky with my copy, but I’d beg to differ.

      • From what I’ve seen, the 24-120mm is a great lens especially for the price and easily good enough on any 24MP body. No experience on higher resolution bodies. If I was to build a Nikon system from the ground up, this lens and a 50mm f/1.8 would cover most of my needs.

        Great set Ming, Prague is my all time favorite city!

        • Thanks Mikko. I suspect the negative comments arose from sample variation…there are a lot of elements in that thing and VR, which means many possible failure points…

    • I think the 24-120 f/4 VRII is quite a good lens in terms of sharpness and resolution. Where it falls down is in distortion and vignetting (both of which stop short of being a bit appalling, frankly).

      Where I’ve found it works best, perhaps ironically, is on Nikon’s APS-C cameras, particularly the D7000/7100/7200 series. Used in that way, one stays in the central “sweet spot” of the optic, getting better overall optical performance and gaining a 36-180mm equivalent lens, which tends to cover most of what you need when traveling, without resorting to the truly dreadful 18-XXX kits lenses.

      • Don’t forget to add CA to that list. Fortunately, all are correctable relatively easily, and it doesn’t really have any alternatives as a general purpose tool. I’d take the stability VR gives and the reach over the extra stop of the 24-70 any day, especially since I work at smaller apertures anyway. That said, a 24-85/2.8 VR would be nice…

        • Yep, I forgot CA, but as you mentioned, correcting it is a click away, along with some of the other nastiness.

          It’s become the “go-to” lens for event photographers working in the Nikon ecosystem, along with travelers.

          Still, I think for traveling I’d still lean towards an X-T1 or E-M1 kit; solid performance with less weight and bulk. I’m still extremely partial to the Olympus OM cameras. In fact, I just read about a couple of Magnum shooters who are using them for their day-to-day reportage work in rather “challenging” parts of the world; small, unobtrusive, lightweight, and portable – they definitely punch above their weight class, so I understand their appeal in that application.

          • Ironically I was questioned and ridiculed by a lot of people several years ago when I started using the E-M5 for a lot of my documentary work…ah, how things have changed.

  22. The Nun at Dawn is amazing. Wonderful set Ming!

  23. Incredible set….very evocative. I just love the timeless quality of “Nun At Dawn”.

  24. The nun at dawn is outstanding. Very well done!

  25. This series of phenomenal images takes me 100%. Love each and every image. An example for me how I want to shoot my run and gun style.
    Your PP is outstanding and WFII just takes every image to its ultimate presentation. The transparency and fidel colors are cracking, all in all fantastic work Ming.

  26. I like some of my photos until I look at yours. FRA

  27. marvellous set, sifu.
    archetype arched architecture photography 😉 .
    i wish you a good weekend.
    ken

  28. I am wondering, that you’re using as an lens expert the NIKON 24-120mm zoom lens ! Pls don’t say, that this is an super glass!

  29. Rudolf O. Friederich says:

    Just marvelous!

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Arches of Prague. Very, very few lenses maintain that kind of contrast and shadow separation when faced with such […]

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