Photoessay: observations in Hong Kong

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Everybody is a tourist sometimes

Today’s images are a series of observations of people shot in Hong Kong – it’s not quite the traditionally expected street photography, though neither is it my more abstracted ‘idea of man’ series, either. They are the sort of vignettes of life you get as you pass through the city with an openly observational eye – varying in scale and intensity of personal contact; familiar and unusual. I think this juxtaposition of immense scale and the relative insignificance of the individual being at odds with the lack of personal space is very much Hong Kong, as is the very variety of situations one might encounter within a relatively small radius. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q Typ 116 and processed with PS Workflow II or the Cinematic workflow in Outstanding Images Ep.5, Processing for style.

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Down a quiet alley

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Dual purpose

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Before dinner

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Escape from the blockhouse

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Requiem for a jam

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Predator of your imagination

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Information and master

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Overheads of modern life

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A world of boxes

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Watching over you

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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


  1. I really enjoyed your shots of Hong Kong. And it goes without saying that I just love Hong Kong itself. In many respect it is an urban street shooters paradise. I visited there in 2010 with a mate (my wife being unavailable) and that turned into a boys own adventure. I went back again in 2012 with my wife and though a little more subdued (party wise) it was a great opportunity to make some nice images. We decided to lash out and stay somewhere especially nice so took a harbour view room at the Shangri La on the Kowloon side. It was worth every penny just to be able to wake up to that wonderful view. Some of which are reflected in my album of the trip

    here are some shots from 2012

    Life on a Hong Kong Street 8

    and from 2010

    Victoria Harbour 5
  2. Definitely not conventional ‘street’ work, but you’re finding a way to combine your strengths in making photographs in a genre you may not be so proficient. The result is a rather thought provoking set 🙂

    • Actually, I used to do the ‘conventional’ stuff but went off it because it just didn’t do anything for me (and so many people were doing it already). So, it’s diversified into The Idea Of Man and cinematic – the latter which my clients seem to love…

  3. Don Ming. After your last post about output, you seem to have made these photos leap from the screen…. even at web size! I’m not sure how you do it, but niether do I care. This set just sucks you in and puts the viewer right there. I’d love to ask about the Leica Q, but I remember many of your previous posts, and know the ‘Q’ is irrelavant. It’s the ‘Ming’ that makes the magic. 🙂

  4. Ming thanks for the images, you are very prolific these days. It’s hard to keep up.

    I noticed that some of the flickr images magnify to different degrees. I’m assuming that some images are cropped.

    That makes me want to ask more about the 28mm on the “Q”. Are you finding that the 28mm limits your photography or that the “Q” fits a niche plan in your overall photographic tasks?

    Thanks and hope sleep is somewhere on your schedule.

    • Thanks – I did change aspect ratios on some, but one original dimension was always maintained.

      28mm works fine for most things, but of course there are some perspectives that require longer.

  5. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Very interesting;
    for a monent disregarding your captions,
    I think some photos from “Urban isolation” could fit here, and some from here could fit there,
    even though I see, or rather feel, a great difference:
    Here I sense people with purpose finding a way to live in whatever (strange) city they happen to live in.
    ( And the purpose here as well as the isolation there tend to influence also those photos that I think _might_ have been part of the other essay.)

    The other essay made me think of Giacometti,
    this one makes me think of “God bless the grass” by Malvina Reynolds:
    “God bless the grass that grows thru the crack.
    They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
    The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
    It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
    And God bless the grass.
    – – – ” (4 verses)
    ( )

    • Thanks – yes, the urban isolation set could mix in here too, I think. I felt these had a slightly different (and far less melancholy) mood though. Your poetry examples capture that difference nicely 🙂

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        ” .. far less melancholy”
        Absolutely! And, I think, mostly a *rather* different mood (often also in the body language)!
        ( Maybe that made me think of purpose.)
        And do listen to Malvina (at coffee break?). 🙂

  6. Gary Morris says:

    Great set. The Q… you’re clearly mastering the Q and seemingly getting maximum output. One quick question on the Q images… have you found that it takes a lot of work to correct for the 28mm distortion? The images in this set all seem to be very well corrected.

    • Thanks Gary. Not much work required – there is some software correction for distortion going on (if you’re referring to the usual wide barrel/pincushion/waviness), but not for geometric distortion (converging verticals as a result of perspective).

  7. Andre Dumas says:

    Hello Ming,
    Thanks for sharing, I evaluate what you do and compare to what I do. I’m wondering about your rendering of “Watching Over You” and A World Of Boxes); the photo was taken in full sunshine and yet your rendering is very muted with whitest white at L90 . I see this also in the work of Joel Tjintjelaar. Can you explain your idea behind the “muted” rendering.

    • As much a stylistic preference as anything. Going to full white renders the contrast too harsh perceptually and not in line with how I felt at the scene.

  8. Beautiful set. ‘A world of boxes’ in particular struck a chord. Certainly got me missing HK now…!

  9. Ah, Hong Kong. Always a delight to see well executed photography from there. It’s striking how pictures from there are instantly recognizable. This city’s apperance has a quality to it which makes photographs of it stand out like of no other city I know.
    I’ve been there last summer with only my X100s, and it is by far my most favourite place when it comes to everyday life. Its climate, the people, the mentality in different districts. However, making a living there I can only consider as back-breaking, and most of the people I talked to there told me how they struggle to make ends meet even in what are considered well-paying jobs in the rest of the world. Very high fluctuation, low job preservation, and sky-high rents.

    • I suppose it’s the mix of old world Asia and massive modernity? I agree: as much as I love visiting and working there, I don’t think I could ever live there.

  10. I love series of photos that make you feel present somewhere, just moving through space, looking here and there!

  11. Would have liked to see “Watching over you” in colour. It is not often that one might associate Hong Kong with clear skies.

  12. Amazing set. “Predator of your imagination…” is for my by far the best of the set.

  13. A wonderful set especially “A world of boxes” love that one.

  14. Gerner Christensen says:

    Incredible set Ming. There’s a lot of decisiveness practised making each one of them a study. Wanted to mention my favorite, but you made it impossible. Congratulations Ming, and thank you for the great ride !

  15. Sublime set Ming! One of your finest and most cohesive sets ever shared on the blog.

    As always your framing and composition are picture perfect. I can’t really put my finger on what it is, but the mood and the colors are really special. Both saturated and sedated in all the right places. Thanks for the continued inspiration and for showing these windows into our world!

    • Thanks Hal! Color: I think it’s a perceptual thing; shadows are a bit desaturated (as corresponds to the way our eyes work as light gets lower) and highlights are punchier, but any overexposure is always smoothly managed 🙂

  16. Dirk De Paepe says:

    This is the kind of street photography that I like the most, combining both elements: 1) shapes (architectural and others), put in a carefully designed composition, and 2) people (reflecting a natural situation, non-posed, catching a significant moment out of real life). The more those two, almost contradictory elements are present, the more powerful I find the picture.
    There are some really good ones here. And I like your subtitles, reflecting your impression, and really adding to the watching experience.
    BTW, picture #2 could be a typical example of what I commented on your last post, the main subject being pretty small. It “could” be, because at this resolution I can’t really tell. But it could be possible that, when at full res a lot more information (facial expression, fine body language – fingers etc.) is revealed, that the whole picture becomes yet a lot more compelling, largely increasing the juxtaposition.

    • Thanks Dirk. I find myself looking for the contradictory elements on purpose to provoke some pause and thought in the audience…

      • Dirk De Paepe says:

        Exactly. But often the “audience” doesn’t react in proportion to our (i.e. my) expectations. In both directions. So it’s hard to work towards a certain reaction. Would be the wrong goal setting, I guess.

        • Yes and no – I agree we never can have full control since everybody responds differently to things, but if we don’t at least have some sort of objective then we probably have to reexamine the purpose of the image…

  17. Thanks for sharing these. I really like “Requiem…” and “Learning”. The layers and balance are simply marvelous. It seems you are still enjoying your Leica Q!

  18. Wonderful images Ming! Very solid set. – Eric


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