Photoessay: natural vignettes

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Even though humans have become increasingly urbanised and there seems to be an overwhelming desire to ‘move to the city’, we still need the occasional natural interlude to remind us we aren’t robots of capitalism*. If anything, I find that natural elements stand out more by their relative absence; the curious thing is everything you see in this set was shot either in town or within a short distance of civilisation. They are the results of several expeditions with no more solid objective than wander out with a camera and see what falls out of it. Photography with and objective helps one to focus and curate pre-capture; though I find this still has to be balanced out with occasional photography with no objective to both relax and open up opportunities for creative experimentation. MT *Though the constant hunt for the camera unicorn is quite another matter entirely. This set was shot with various hardware that might perhaps have seemed appropriate at the time, but was later proven otherwise… _8B25690 copy

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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. Thanks for posting these photos. I love nature photography but I’ve been stuck for ideas recently. This helps a lot.

  2. Thanks for another set of images that are both instructive and satisfying. This set and “everyday abstraction” both brought out the same kind of smile as a particularly sweet bit of guitar picking.

  3. The tropical vines and tree roots are so amazingly different from what we have in North America. We have very different undergrowth here: briars, grapes, bushes, and unfortunately, poison ivy. Rhus toxicodendron is a plant to which I recently became sensitive, after 5 decades of being the only one in my family who would not break out in a rash after touching it. Now I get red rash from it and will have to be more careful photographing where it grows. It does turn a lovely purplish red in autumn. Poison ivy is related to your Asian lacquer trees, Toxicodendron vernicifluum, and both produce urushiol, an immuno-sensitizing chemical.

  4. These are very structured images, whereas the nature I experience is messy. What I see is a superb photographer of urban subjects applying that vision to a subject matter that he needs to bend to fit his accustomed visual frame. That said, these are very nice pictures.

    • Thanks Russ. I just consciously eliminate as much of the ‘mess’ as I can…

      • That’s the trick isn’t it? Figuring out how much ‘mess’ you want to leave in to have it look ‘natural,’ but not too busy, and putting it in a frame of reference that can be appreciated.

        • Martin Fritter says:

          Familiar with Lee Friedlander’s later pictures of nature – after he converted to the Hasselblad SWC? Szarkowski (I think) said they looked like Ansel Adams on crack. The odd thing is that while they are chaotic, they are very magnetizing. Almost impossible to imitate even though there seems to be no technique to them at all.

          • That’s a lot like Japanese street photography, actually: it’s chaotic but in a very deliberate way, and anybody who’s tried it knows it is not easily done.

  5. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Nr. 5 :
    You were lucky to catch a moment when Dali wasn’t hanging up his soft cLoCks before putting up his easel… 😉
    – – –
    My personal favourites (at the moment) are :
    Nr. 5 ( But not for the reason above, 🙂 , it can be seen in so many ways!)
    Nr. 7 ( A piece of graphic art.)
    Nr. 10 ( Perhaps it’s the quiet struggle between balance and tension?)

    • Dali’s day off that day 😉

      I kept going back and forth on #10 – it comes alive larger, because you get the sense of the slope the tree was on by the direction of the trunk – but at the same time, it’s almost too busy to be minimalist…

  6. Gerner Christensen says:

    I love so much to read about the gear, but having these bits of inspirational photographs and the belonging introductions every now and then, is and will be what will make me hunt the ultimate shot a thousand times + 🙂

  7. I particularly like #4, the fan palm fronds. But about the color — is it natural? Is it the lighting? Is it post-processing? Is it dead?

  8. Bruce Bodine says:


    Not only is the composition of these educating me on the how to “see” but the colors are so lifelike. Can you please share your pp technique that was used, in particular if it is one of your available lessons. Thank you!

  9. That’s some quality fauna porn Ming! #4 is hot! ❤

  10. John Nicholson says:

    I’m very fascinated by how images 2,4,and 8 reflect what I think of as your “city eye”. If they didn’t happen to be plants, they’d be modern architecture! Superb – and I like the others, too, particularly 3 and 5.

    • Thanks – I suppose the best way to describe it is ‘ordered’ and ‘structural’ – I try to frame recursively to equally fill all empty parts of the frame.

  11. Dear Ming
    If you would please, what camera or cameras did you use for today’s post?


    • FRA,

      You can click the images and view them on flickr to see which cameras were used. I clicked through them and most were taken with a Nikon D810 however two were taken with a Canon 5DS.

    • A wide range 🙂 I am trying to reinforce the point that the camera is not so relevant and a subservient tool to the image, so I won’t always post that info. However it is available if you click through to the image on flickr…

  12. not having to make a living out of it, that’s exactly what I do. Take the hardware along and see, what turns up in front of it…

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