Photoessay: Autumn near Bandai

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Today’s photoessay is a quick landscape reminiscence from the end of last year; and I mean quick in both execution and conception. I captured these in approximately an hour, from two locations – one, not far from the ryokan at which I stayed during my visit to the Sigma factory outside Aizu, Japan; two, at a bridge overlook again very close to the Sigma factory (for which I requested a quick vehicle stop after seeing what was underneath it, and the unique perspective afforded by the height of the bridge). Nevertheless, I find we often encounter these single very strong locations that yield a large number of views and images (something similar happened in the Arrow River Delta outside Queenstown, New Zealand); they feel like brief chance encounters with random strangers with whom you just ‘click’ and promise to keep in touch with again; whether or not that transpires is another matter entirely. Many are in fact a sort of portrait of the location (even if ‘landscape portrait sounds rather odd). But for those moments, it was fun. I can only hope that in this series some of that magic of the cool breeze, clear sky and rustle of dry leaves carries through. MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII and Zeiss FE 1.8/55, and a Leica Q. Postprocessing via Photoshop 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. I remember when you first uploaded these to Flickr. Some of these images are my personal favorites from your collection of Japanese landscapes. I like your approach to landscapes that takes away a sense of scale, or rather perspective. I want to say these images are painterly but nothing too European and I’m not too familiar with Asian art.

    But I personally find these sort of landscapes more interesting than the more traditional ones.

  2. What was shutter speed in the final image? I assume the water was moving very fast, or there was very little wind.

    • The 4th and the 10th are my favorite compositions, perhaps I relie on a central subject. I will say you landscape work is very refreshing in that it doesn’t relie on unnatural saturation or unnatural tonal gradation to invoke a feeling.

      • Thank you. There is some subtle structure enforced by use of gradients because light and the physical world are never perfect – but the whole point is you don’t notice them 🙂

    • I honestly don’t recall, but the EXIF data should be intact if you click through. It was a long exposure.

  3. dear wolfgang, i repect but don’t share your view.
    the photos remind me a lot of classic japanese ink paintings or carved wood prints but interpreted in a new fresh way.
    the last photo is magic!

    do you know the works of andy goldsworthy? mings approach is showing that kind of magic without or with minimal human intervention imho.

    • I’m going to have to look up Andy. Also always wanted to shoot those vertical rockscapes that inspired the Chinese classical watercolor painters…

  4. The first image in landscape orientation and the third from bottom go well together. The white water and leaves have similar position and shape as does the stream. Cheers.

  5. Lovely colors and composition. The second photo caught be off guard. I wasn’t expecting to see the man made vertical in the midst of the organic flow of nature. It made me look, pause and look again. The perspective is refreshing. These are what a bird would see and not what you would see from an airplane. The reflections (#10 ,#12) and slightly viscous feeling to the water are beautiful. It is remarkable you saw and were able to capture so many pictures from so few locations. A wonderful set. Thanks for sharing these!

  6. Do you do any ‘edge burning’ (a la Ansel Adams and others)? The great lenses you use are made to avoid inherent vignetting — though graphically, it does help to gently hold the eye inside the frame. Some of your foregrounds would, IMHO, benefit from a bit of such ‘burning in’ — many of the images seem to be a bit lighter in the lower left corner — not as a lens aberration, but naturally in the scene. In landscape images, we generally look ‘over’ the foreground to where the ‘subject’ is found; light colored, complex shapes in the foreground ‘grab’ the eye — subtle darkening can reduce this. It’s always a pleasure seeing your work — and reading your words. Rare that someone as visually talented as you are is also so talented in expressing his thoughts in writing.

    • Thanks. No, I don’t use edge burning but occasionally a vignette if I feel the scene benefits. One thing I’ll say is the intent is print (not web) and the black borders may be drawing attention to a light edge which would otherwise work in a print with a light/white border.

  7. I do like the unexpected interruption of the sign post that takes on a different identity. Well done you for
    getting out.

  8. Wolfgang T. says:

    Sorry Ming, but I think you are no good landscape artist.The pictures are flat, dull and motionless.You are better in graphical sujets!
    Greetings Wolfgang T.

    • Landscapes generally don’t move. Output size matters, too – especially with this density of information, and the internet is highly limited in that respect. Thanks for your opinion.

      • The lighting in the final shot is so unreal it’s almost magical. I checked the EXIF on Flickr and the shutter speed + lighting lends a very dreamy, ephemeral quality to the motion you captured. So nice.

      • Wolfgang T. says:

        Sorry my fault, I want to say emotionless, because you took most of them from an aeroplan view( 2D not 3D) without foreground and background elements.

    • Wolfgang T- I`m sure Ming knows a lot about great and renowned landscape photographers. Here we have as you implied his choice of a graphical nature or a texture of nature treatment. I´m sure Ming is perfectly capable of shooting Grand Canyon or Scotish Uplands style pictures too.

      • I think Wolfgang clarified his point later on – I want to try to do something different perspective-wise because it’s not easy to make a style of landscape composition that hasn’t been done before …wouldn’t want to be boring 🙂

  9. Impressive set, especially given the circumstances. I really like the non-postcard light; it’s something I’d like to learn to capture. Should probably try with a tripod…

  10. tunisiaxxx says:

    Truly Fabulous, Ming! Thanks for taking the time to post. What a brilliant location. I’m jealous. By the way, ever been to Quebec City? I’m going this Spring and could use some location advice or what and where to shoot. Best regards, Joe.

    • Thanks. No, Quebec is on my to-do list, but so many places and so little time…

    • Quebec city is truly magnificent during autumn, during the fall colors (end of September – beginning of October). And the old town would give Ming plenty of subjects for his unique photographic style. Thanks Ming for daring to share with us your vision. I have bought your PS Worflow II and I was wandering if you ever tried another RAW converter, like RawTherapee or CaptureOne ? I am actually trying to find one with LAB mode capability (I don’t like Photoshop for many reasons to long to explain here).

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