Photoessay: Boats of Porto

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Something a little less intellectual today: nothing more than boats at rest along the Douro, running through Porto. I honestly have trouble finding the romance in the whole notion of sea travel (it just seems a slow way of moving anything that can economically be transported by plane, and an inefficient mode of relaxation since space, supplies and locations are constrained) – but they are undeniably attractive objects to photograph. As always, the challenge is how not to repeat something that’s been done before – and I think you can tell from the emergence of the little blue and white dinghy that my thoughts continually strayed to the graphic and abstract… MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on the Hasselblad H5D-50c and lenses can be found here.


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


  1. Really nice set of images Ming 🙂 Some remind me of paintings and I love those blues!

  2. Ming! As a former physics major (did I get that right), I’m surprised that you don’t appreciate the marvelous energy efficiency with which boats transport huge loads vast distances. Because they don’t expend any energy to support their load, it’s simply a matter of right-sizing the vessel to support the load. And the bigger (longer) the vessel, the faster it goes…albeit with respect to the viscosity of water rather than air.

    There are 3 transportation methods that offer similar energy efficiencies: boats, trains, and bicycles. Only boats don’t require roads or prepared rolling surfaces.

    Planes are an inefficient and uncomfortable means of transporting time-sensitive things vast distances extremely quickly, but they’re the only conveyance that can span half a world in less than a day. And that suits our hurry-up-ed-ness. But they only reach peak efficiency at very low airspeeds – barely above stalling. Think gliders, which airliners are very much patterned after. (Synergy Aircraft is proving out a radical design that dramatically improves mid-subsonic velocity cruising efficiency by employing open-field fluid dynamics principles, but the point still stands).

    A few decades ago, I was in a rush to get places. Now I enjoy the more human-scaled pace of a comfortable train (somewhere between a TGV and average US passenger train speeds), and the occasional short ship journey. I’ll still always choose to fly, but I don’t enjoy it much. And I’m a licensed pilot. Glider and power. How’s that for conflicted?

    Other than that, love the shots. Takes me back to Portugal.

    • Well, yes, but I was looking at them from a personal-human-pleasure standpoint rather than an engineering one 😛

      If we look at it through that standpoint, then let’s bring back the wing-in-ground effect craft…

      • Frans Richard says:

        From a personal-human-pleasure standpoint I would think planes are the worst possible choice. Extremely constrained on space, both personal and luggage, noisy and stressful. Traveling by boat is far more relaxing as it more or less ‘forces’ you into a slower pace allowing you to absorb your surroundings more intensely. I would think someone photographing with a Hasselblad would appreciate that! 😉
        Great series by the way. 🙂

        • Mosswings says:

          Ming has made many sacrifices for his craft and profession…by the time most folks can afford a Hasselblad, they’re nearly twice 30 and more than ready to slow down 🙂 And willing to pay the substantial premium for ship travel. Though I can’t see choosing a transpacific ship vs. a transpacific plane journey, regardless of how good the food on the ship is…

        • Planes are not enjoyable at all – the whole process to get on the plane itself is horrible…

          Hasselblad like stability. 😛

    • Carlos Polk says:

      Couple of comments. First, I am not trained in physics so my opinions are just that…. but fun to think about and discuss.

      I think most commercial aircraft are more efficient at altitude. Less drag and the engines are optimized for altitude and target cruise speeds.

      Ships. I agree with the energy efficiency of ships. And trains for that matter. However, with ships, the greatest cost is fuel and once again hull friction (drag) is the greatest culprit. So whereas it is true that ships don’t expend energy staying afloat, they do spend a lot pushing the load through the water. A lot of attention is given to reducing hull friction and other drag in the design of huge commercial vessels.

      Length of the bow wave is the limiting factor in the maximum hull speed without planing, and as you point out, directly related to the waterline length. I am not sure that most of these huge monsters have the power to approach their hull speed potential. Many military ships are another matter.

      • Aircraft are designed to be efficient at altitude – the engines work best in the transonic regime before supersonic flow creates compressor issues; the pitch of the blades has to be designed for a certain inlet speed since they’re not variable. As for ships – I’ve always found it amazing that some submarines are faster than surface vessels despite having more of the hull immersed in the more viscous fluid…

  3. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Underwater housing for the Hassy? Yes?


  4. Alex Carnes says:

    They’re fabulous. I love the diffraction flare that Hassy lens produces, by the way! (Sunstars a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine!)

  5. Kristian Wannebo says:

    ” I honestly have trouble finding ..”
    Ming, wait till you have tried sailing a light boat moving nicely through the waves (which usually means a more traditional hull) and felt the boat grow into an extension of you.

    Try The Mirror of the Sea
    by Joseph Conrad
    ( It may surprise you.. , and it is not about romance.)
    [ Available on Project Gutenberg.]
    – – –

    I like the photos – but today I only have a totally inadequate 3 inch display.

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