Photoessay: Hong Kong Urbanscapes II

_Q116_L1020174 copy

Following on from the previous photoessay, I’d like to present part two as a counterpoint – both visual and metaphorical. Whereas the previous photoessay was semi-decay and urban wear and tear, this series of images is the shiny, soulless face of modernity. We are still devoid of humans because the environment has almost become inhumanly clinical, yet somehow there remains a sort of stark beauty in what is left behind. Enjoy the idealised utopia!

This series was shot with a Leica Q and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

_Q116_L1010989 copy
The squeeze

_Q116_L1020088 copy
An exit to reality

_Q116_L1020166 copy
The clearing

_Q116_L1020172 copy
Fuelled by humans

_Q116_L1020018 copy
Idealism and aspiration

_Q116_L1020108 copy
A neat slice of the world

_Q116_L1020024 copy

_Q116_L1020115 copy

_Q116_L1020021 copy
The beginnings of chaos

_Q116_L1020059 copy
On the other side


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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. Excellent composition, perspective and lines as always, something about The Clearing I really like, I think the industrial lines leading to the cloud and sky shapes, light and reflections, and the use of B and W. Looking at your images makes me want to go out and shoot, just wondering if there are a couple of other photographers that inspire you to go and take photos?

    • Thank you. There are, but the inspirations usually come from unexpected sources – I guess there’s often something in a particular image that might trigger your own subconscious to get out and move. Perhaps try the reader flickr pool? 🙂

  2. very nice style

  3. Asif Mandvi says:

    “The Clearing” is most excellent.

  4. Frans Richard says:

    Wonderfull images, great compositions. 🙂
    Just wondering about “An exit to reality”. Have you thought of correcting the perspective and straightening the verticals? That would also clean up the top corners which don’t show much of interest in my opinion. I think it might make the image a bit stronger. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Thanks Frans. I did consider straightening but in the end decided not to because a) the convergence accentuates the wedge shape of the situation, and b) too much would be required – the height would look strange and there would be significant image degradation.

  5. Tim Jensen says:

    Another wonderful series Ming. I’ve been following your site for a long time and I’m always impressed by your vision and style. When I’m out shooting I often find myself wondering what Ming Thein would do. : ) Thanks for sharing all of your thoughtful insights.

  6. I’m not the biggest fan of architecture photography, but some of these really come alive! Perhaps that’s because they’re not strictly architecture, but they’re not too far either. The ability to shoot several genres and mix them is definitely a valuable skill.

    • Thanks Tarmo. I think they’re not strictly architectural – there’s a bit of chaos in there which the architect almost certainly didn’t envision as things changed around the buildings after construction…and that I think is what give the structures life.

  7. Carlos Polk says:

    I have to make one more comment. “An exit to reality” is my favorite of the series. Virtually all the color is reflected; the surrounding structures look almost like they were taken in black and white. Your ability to see and compose is awesome.

  8. Ming, I feel like you’re the visual spokesperson for the zeitgeist of this urban moment in human history.

    Our original patterns of human settlement and habitation may have been driven by a fear of the uncertainties inherent within our wild, ancestral world. Yet our current patterns of rapid urbanization have provided a (flawed) sense of security from wild nature with the unintended consequences of dehumanizing our dwellings and our communities and aggregating small, somewhat predictable, seemingly manageable uncertainties into large, highly unpredictable (though often inevitable), chaotic black swan events.

    Your images tell so many interesting stories…sometimes of a mechanistic world of metal, glass, and silicon devoid of humans…other times of an adaptive world of information, ideas, and emotions reflected among humans and upon our buildings and machines. As such, we gather in wait…watching that which is being born anew today.

    Your images document this birth of our global humanity. This might be most represented in the metaphors that speak to me in “The Squeeze, “An Exit to Reality,” and “The Clearing,” my three personal favorites in this set (which were conveniently shared in a logical progression). May the pain of delivery eventually be forgotten in the joy of living as Earthlings instead of meek members of our chosen tribes.

    As always, my deepest gratitude for your vision Ming!

    • Thanks Hal – I’m just shooting what I’m seeing. There are definitely some big changes afoot. I almost feel as though the people are getting squeezed out by their own hubris sometimes.

  9. “A neat slice of the world” and “Monoliths”. You may have done similar shots before but they never fail to impress. there’s just a wow feeling whenever I see such pictures by you.

  10. Fantastic compositions Ming. Your work is as impressive architectured as the buildings. A small increase in numbers of images that includes people 🙂

  11. Carlos Polk says:

    All I can say is Wow! I am fascinated by glass buildings and reflections, having made a number of photos of the same. Yours are beyond compare. As always, many thanks for sharing.

%d bloggers like this: