Photoessay: Salt pans, Useless Loop

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Useless Loop, postcodes 6537, Western Australia, is located inside the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shark Bay; it’s a closed private town for the employees of the Solar Salt Operation Shark Bay – as whose name suggests, uses the sun’s heat over shallow ponds to evaporate seawater and leave behind salt. With a name like that, one can only imagine it might have been somewhat tricky to attract the initial employees. The salt pans themselves are kilometres vast, perfectly still without wind, and as glassy as a mirror. There’s a slight haze to some of them as the salinity increases and salt falls out of suspension, rendering the water murky. Each pond is at a different stage of evaporation, yet irregular in shape and fitted to the geography of the peninsula – giving the whole place the odd feeling of being like a giant insect’s wing, especially when viewed from the air. This series was shot through the open rear doors of a Cessna 203 at about 1500 feet during pretty ideal light and atmospheric conditions. Enjoy the transient colors – from the milky blues of salt reflecting clouds and sky to the deeper sea green of freshly flooded ponds, and the tans of the dams holding back the bay. I’ve always thought each individual pond felt like a window into alternate world, or perhaps the same place at a different time. 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. hoksilatowitko says:

    Nice stuff Ming !

    How did you find the Hassy performs for aerial photo ? It seems you played a bit around f-stop and iso to stay around max. speed (1/800 i believe) ? Did you find iso 400/800 satisfying enough re. IQ ?
    Did you use any gyro stabilization device ? (do not know if necessary)

  2. Useless loop? Hey, that’s where I live!

    Beautiful images of an unusual place. And “insect’s wing” — you are a writer as well as a photographer.

  3. These are fantastic. What great images of an interesting place. There are evaporation pans here near San Francisco which are also cool, but end up with very different colors.

  4. Probably my most favourite of your work to date. Love how the pastel colours and streaks in the salt make it look like a painting.

  5. Insanely great set. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Martin Fritter says:

    These are fabulous. Hasselblad struck gold when they made you an ambassador. You must be so happy with this gear.

  7. Ming, did you use a polarizing filter on any of these images?

  8. Lovely depiction of this unique Western Australian landscape, Ming.

    My family and I drove through this area November last year on a 220 day trip from one end of WA to the other. The day we arrived the ambient temp at Shark Bay was 42Deg C, no breeze, and flies by the millions.

    And the colours and contrasts are amazing in this part of the world – even standing at sea level can be spectacular when the light is right. The whole region is pretty wild and rugged and only the tough manage to make a decent living in this harsh landscape besides fisherman and cattle station owners.

    Nonetheless, a fascinating and rewarding area for all travellers and photographers alike (particularly during the cooler months of year 🙂 and your aerial images illustrate this beautifully.

  9. 6,7,8 and 14 are my favourites, but this is a spectacularly cool set.

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Lovely !

    My favorites?
    At the moment nr:s
    5, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14.
    But several others will probably grow on me.

    ( #5 is a bit like looking out through a window of strange geometry!)

    ( I’ve seen very few aerial photos that appeal so to me.)

  11. Ming,

    More salt pans, this time in Kutch, on display in London, taken by the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky with a Hasselblad H4D-60 I believe (and printed LARGE):

    Best Regards,


  12. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I was going to say “it takes someone with a good eye, a steady hand, a really creative imagination and sound technical skills to take shots like that” – then I decided that was just long winded, and all that’s necessary is a single word – BRILLIANT !!!

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