Photoessay: the towers, Chicago

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After the previous verticality projects, I wanted to try to find a different but still coherent approach to photographing large buildings from the human perspective at street level – this is harder than it sounds, given you have little room to back up in most cases. At the same time, overt geometric distortion from the use of a wide lens is not always acceptable. With the exception of two images, the rest were shot from fairly close to the base of the buildings with minimal or no perspective correction and the intention of preserving just enough of the uniquely identifiable aspects of the architecture. Locals or architecture fans should be able to identify the edifices, or I should go back to the drawing board. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, D810/ Zeiss Otus 28, A7RII and Zeiss Batis 85 and post processed with PS Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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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. My, my. Speaking about verticals and convergence we tough upon a very subjective topic. It all boils down in the to fine sense of balance. First thing is a totally aligned parallel verticals used mostly in so called product photos. Even here we have situations where very tall structures seem to be wider at top thus a very slight convergence helps to restore natural feeling. Next come convergence in different shades simulating in most cases upward view. They tend to represent a dynamic personal approach. The general rule is that we align center or slightly off centrer middle part of picture with the edge of frame to preserve a balance. Otherwise one gets a feeling of sideways toppling structures ( with exemptions of earthquakes a bit disconcerting feeling) . Unnecessary convergence of distant structures will, of course, give impression of toppling backwards. And so on. May the leaning tower in Pisa be with all you. Toppling old architect.

  2. These are actually really cool. They indeed seem to lack the disconnect from reality that I find distracting in many architectural photos, but also avoid the generally ugly composition you get by “just taking a shot” of a nearby building with a wide angle. Commendable.

  3. Brett Patching says:

    These are great Ming! I love the feeling of size that you have achieved.

    • Thanks – it’s the slight convergence that does it, I think. You tend to lose that with perfectly corrected perspective (but the architects love it).

  4. Looking at these images this morning it was all, Yes!…Yes!…. Yes!….Thank you Ming.

  5. Praise be to those who lift their gaze in search of the Omega Point and acknowledge the principle of convergence.

    Of course, we all know it’s an artifact of the shape of the human eyeball. But it’s comforting in its familiarity. The person viewing the image is given a sense of place from which to do his viewing, and to marvel at what he sees. At least, I do. Smashingly good photos.

  6. I like the harmony of the first image and the ambiguity of the last. Masterful!

  7. Very impressive set! I am curious if you used a tripod in the extremely high angle shots.

  8. I guess time of day is as important as the angle of the shot or foreground. If you’re there too early, light might just be hitting the tops of buildings, leaving the bottom in darkness and if you’re too late, you would get an ugly glare from all the glass around. What time do you normally shoot such pics?

  9. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    There is of course something odd about the way humans seek to have the “verticals” vertical, and not converging as one looks up to the top of a tall building. Of course they converge – it’s called perspective – and just as the camera is raised, so the top of the building is included in the frame, so we also look upward – converging the verticals, in the same manner that cameras do.

    My personal preference? – I like a mix of both – and you’ve nailed that, perfectly, Ming. I love the selection you’ve included in this post.

    • Thanks. I think it’s tricky in an image because there is a reference – the frame edge – that isn’t there in real life; our vision just fades out towards the edges rather than having a hard stop. I agree that perfectly parallel verticals is odd, but so is convergence… 🙂

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