Photoessay: Details of Aalen

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For a relatively small town in Germany, Aalen has quite a few little interesting architectural details – certainly enough to make for a morning’s worth of abstracts in the right light. For the curious, though I mostly shoot in this ‘abstracted form’ style* for myself as eye training for still life or structuring product shots, the architectural details are also frequently commissioned by clients – so there is some commercial applicability…

*All elements decompose to just color, shape and light

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss Batis 1.8/85, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon.

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The Lisbon Masterclass (9-14 Mar 2016) is now open for booking


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. Lucy March says:

    After an aggravating day here in NYC — blustery winds, erratic subways, the grim determination of Christmas shoppers — what a balm to enter the beautiful order and surprise of these photographs. Much appreciated! And on a parenthetical note, I wouldn’t take number of responses as the metric by which to gauge the popularity of your more philosophical essays. I am sure there are many who, like myself, are engaged by them but don’t happen to post a response. Stop writing them and then you will really see a response 🙂

  2. rosa michaels says:

    Brilliant ; the eye of an artist , the soul of an engineer .

  3. Not in love with the Sony. Seems a bit flat to me.

    • Me either; these were pre-14 bit uncompressed files, and the latitude was rather limited before the files started to posterize and fall apart. The result is either very punchy color with no subtlety in transition, or subtlety in transition but with no punch…it’s better now, but still not as good as I would like.

  4. theres sense of calm and those ordinary buildings look beautiful the way they’re framed, lovely perspective

  5. Brett Patching says:

    I love the red and grey drain pipe photo in particular. Thanks for sharing!

  6. John Nicholson says:

    There is what I can only describe as an immensely refreshing cleanness about these images. Thank you.

  7. Alex Carnes says:

    They’re fabulous. Love the colours in particular! You’ve developed a very distinctive look; I’d know they were your photos straight away even without the black borders.

    Every time I look at your recent work, it really brings home to me a compositional problem I have that I still haven’t shaken off: I put too much in the frame. I’ll have to try shooting exclusively with an 85 for a while, see if that helps! 😀

    • Thank you. I’m not sure restricting yourself to purely 85 is going to solve it – try working composition in reverse, instead: identify the subject, and then only include the elements you need and nothing more…

      • Alex Carnes says:

        Yes, although I take a guilty pleasure in contexts! 😉 Too much so, when I look back over my photos.

        I can see that you clearly like – and have a talent for spotting – extremely neat and pristine compositions that are abstracted from some wider chaos; I’d like to know please how much culling goes into your final choices? Do you find, when you download your photos and look, that you went in closer and closer whilst shooting, and you choose the most pristine shot at the end, or are you selecting the best from lots of more or less equally abstracted and pristine compositions? I have this weird inhibition that makes me fear what I’m leaving out when I’m out in the field shooting…

        I presume Bill Brandt did too. He’s one of the old masters I particularly like, and I’ve recently been looking at just how much cropping he did to arrive at his final images! You’d have hit him on the head with his tripod for it!!

        I suspect this aspect of composition has never been a problem for you… 😉

        • That makes two of us. The risk is always having too much context to the point that the viewer can’t quite decipher what’s going on; the message becomes too complicated and the story falls apart because there are too many threads. It was too many responses of ‘what’s actually going on here?’ that made me simplify.

          Curation: I usually work variations of a scene, and take the one that has the best ‘bang for the buck’ – i.e. the most layering for the least number of visual elements…

          No cropping though, other than to non-native aspect ratios 🙂

      • It’s always easier with longer telephotos (135 or 200mm), but I like to challenge myself to do it with wider lenses where it’s harder to exclude context.

        Any tips for finding subjects like this for 35mm and 85mm?

  8. Love the way you look. (I mean the act one does with his eyes here…)
    I especially appreciate #1, but they all have a very pleasing morning atmosphere.
    Thanks, again, for sharing!

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