Photoessay: People at the seaside, Foz do Douro

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I’ve always found the Atlantic coastlines to be a little melancholy: there’s the beauty of nature, but often something heavy in the sky and a bite to the wind that makes you glad you brought your coat and hat. People still go because they’re attracted to the sea and presumably wondering what’s over the horizon; in this case, we’re at one of the westernmost points of the European continental mainland, and there’s pretty much nothing until you hit the coast of America. This series of images was shot in the space of a couple of hours. Porto’s old town proper had proven rather depressing, and the weather hadn’t helped; we took a chance and headed to the coast with the hopes of one last hurrah before returning to Lisbon. I’m glad we did, because I think it paid off – even if it meant using a lot of damp towels later to carefully dissolve the dried salt off our equipment. Despite the huge amount of moisture in the air and seawater splashing everywhere, the Hasselblad didn’t miss a beat – though curiously there was a lot more dust on the sensor than normal, perhaps sticking as a consequence of humidity.

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Actually, my biggest concern in situations like this is maintaining enough dynamic range to both create a plausibly natural image, and preferably a little bit more to be able to control tonality better. Fortunately the H5D handled it much better than the playback on the LCD would suggest. I wanted to make at least a few of these images seem like the turn of the century oil paintings of stormy seas and coastlines; it was certainly the feeling I was left with especially as night fell and the clouds rolled in. This requires a lot more dynamic range than you might think – the highlights and shadows have to be both clean and somewhere in the midtone to upper midtone range in the raw file in order to be able to create the feeling of smooth but rich/heavy visual texture later on in post. I also shot a number of pure landscapes; these will be presented in a future photoessay. Surprisingly, the leaf shutter also seems to offer a bit more motion stopping power (in this case, of wave action) than the raw shutter speed numbers suggest. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 28, 50 and 100mm lenses – plus occasionally the 1.7x teleconverter. Postprocessing was with Photoshop Workflow II and the cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.

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Masterclass Prague (September 2016) is open for booking.


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Beautiful photoessay. My preference goes to the first and last shots which are truly superb!

  2. Guy Incognito says:

    The opening shot is spectacular Ming. Kudos!

  3. I’m really glad you went to Porto, and I know your thoughts on the place (as you’ve mentioned them!!) but there’s no shortage of stuff to shoot here! (Particularly good for Wabi fans IMHO)

    It’s always nice to see your home through another tog’s eyes

    At the right time of year, waves can completely clear that lighthouse!

    It’s a dangerous ocean… If you’d kept going along the coastline (and perhaps you did?) you’d have seen the memorial to the fishermen lost in a storm in the 1940s….

    ….and some modern buildings in good condition 😉

    • The modern stuff wasn’t as interesting 🙂 Amazing that lighthouse is still standing! Coming from the Pacific Ocean, even this milder kind of weather is really quite spectacular…

  4. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Rough rocks, straight (mostly) concrete,
    clouds, water, people.
    A vision of complementary contrasts. ?.
    And, as usual, you have caught the right places and moments!

    We are always drawn to the sea …

    ( Perhaps part of The idea of man II ? – or III ? )

  5. Stefano says:

    First and eleventh picture: I can almost feel the salty air on my face and hear the sound of the waves splashing against the rocks 🙂


    • Thanks – it was bracing in person, that’s for sure…and I could season dinner with the salt wiped off the camera afterwards :p

  6. Kathleen Bowers says:

    I love the sound and fury captured by the first shot! Such a dynamic moment! The people in silhouette are a very effective measure of the majesty of the sea!

  7. I like your work MIng and I know this is your style – but when I read a headline like >People at the seaside<, I wonder why you don't go closer.

  8. Hi Ming!
    You have depicted very well one of my favorite locations f my home town. Congratulations!
    In winter, when the storms come in, one can make incredible images of the waves crashing against the lighthouse.
    Best regards!

  9. The first shot has great drama. The ninth: is the girl holding a selfie stick? And the eleventh: perfect. Composition, tones, story; this is a shot to linger over.

    • Thank you. Ninth – yes; it’s a dramatic, romantic place, and they look like they might kiss…but the mood is ruined by the intrusion of social media, and if you look closely, the juxtaposition is nothing more than a near miss 🙂

  10. Firstly, some cracking shots in there : in particular the half-silhouetted couple and the penultimate shot of the wave breaking. You and the Hasselblads seem to be getting along famously,

    Second, a question : have you ever lived near the sea? I ask because I was interested by the first sentence in the article : “I’ve always found the Atlantic coastlines to be a little melancholy”. I spent 17 years living in coastal towns, and possibly as a consequence of that I grew to love the sight of the sea. Even now I’m technically not far from it. I have nothing more than a hypothesis on this : grow up near the sea, and you grow to like it…

    • Thanks – you may well be right. I grew up with all sorts of weird foods that I’m sure wouldn’t be appreciated by the coast 🙂

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