Photoessay: Lisboan chiaroscuro

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Given the clear skies and very strongly directional light we experienced, in conjunction with the interesting shadows projected off oddly shaped roofs and down narrow alleyways…it would be a shame not to make the most of it to add a little ambiguity into the frame. Conventionally ‘good light’, yes, but who’s complaining? I do realise some of these stretch the definition of chiaroscuro a little – especially the somewhat wimmelbild reflection – but I felt they fitted the overall mood of the subject and this collection of images, so MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50/100mm lenses and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow from Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.

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My ultimate photographers’ daybag in collaboration wth Frankie Falcon is available here until the end of October, in a strictly limited production run.


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. Outstanding mastery of light, timing and composition! #4 is my favorite.

  2. Picture number nine is really disturbing, almost threatening — in a good way! There’s something about the shadow that makes it difficult to look at. Remarkably effective.

    I mean this one:
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  3. Kenneth Voigt says:

    Every once and a while, your photos REALLY grab me : these are wonderful !!
    (not meant as a putdown on the bulk of your work. and I think your UltraPrint efforts are exceptional)

    • Thank you – I don’t take it badly; it’s impossible to fire on all cylinders for everybody all the time; emotional connections, biases and all that.

  4. Thomas F. says:

    Hi Ming,
    very beautiful set, especially the 4th one in my opinion.

    Are you considering publishing a book with your work?

    • Thanks. The book – I am working on one – will be an illustrated discussion on the philosophy of photography and image making rather than a photoessay or technique book…

  5. The last photo — streetcars nearly blinded by grafitti — is incredibly sad.

  6. I think these photosets grow more impressive when there are more images shot in the same style. Good reason to focus instead of gunning around for every possibility…

    Just received the Fan Ho trilogy in mail. I haven’t opened the box yet, but I’m expecting to see similarities with some of these.

    • Curation, curation, curation 🙂

      That, and sitting time. I’ve allowed longer and longer periods between processing/ reviewing and curating into sets; the Prague stuff for instance probably won’t be shown until February. Most of this work was shot six months ago. I think it does help with the objectivity…

      • Agreed. I just tried to pick and process some shots from a social occasion to share right away but just gave up. Sitting time makes a huge difference and is used way too little (though of course processing needs to happen soon enough). You don’t really learn it until you try…

  7. Very well done … #1 and #13 are my favorites … and I too love Lisboan mood, the light there and the people, living in this phantastic city.

  8. Ming,
    this is a great set overall, but the first shot left me open mouthed. Simply perfect: composition, light, depth…a masterpiece.


  9. Coisas EM'adeira says:

    I like these pictures, I believe I already told you on other posts. But this title is puzzling me. By the post context I see and feel the contrast between light/shadows/dark
    What do you mean by “Lisboan chiaroscuro”? Because “Lisboan” is Basque (A province from Spain) for Lisbon… and the reflection link ‘wimmelbild ‘ seems is not working. Also some of the pictures are from a place called “Chiado”

    • From Lisbon = Lisboan. Everything was shot in Lisbon (the only other place I went to in Portugal was Porto) – Chiado is a suburb or district perhaps?

      • Coisas EM'adeira says:

        Ok, Lisbon in Portuguese is Lisboa.
        And ok I get it was just a coincidence the word came out in one of the official languages of Spain.
        Chiado is the name of the ‘zone’ were you took some of the pictures – like down town, up town, etc- I’m guessing it was just another coincidence…??

  10. good stuff! you need a wide angle…

    • Thanks, quite happy with the current FOVs – and the chiaroscuro doesn’t work wider. You lose the smooth transition at the shadow edges.

  11. by jove i think you got it ! some of your best use of light👍🏻 i like the new bag good job i might have to get one. Cheers.

  12. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    Hello Ming !
    Number four absolutely the best for me.

  13. Love this set, Ming! The 7th and 8th photos floored me!

  14. Wow, just wow! Each one of these is amazing. The color and contrast draw you in and the detail keeps you there. They would make a stunning exhibition. I remember you once wrote a piece about the difficulty in working with galleries but you might consider showing these around.

  15. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Living in Australia, I am completely used to harsh lighting. That said, as you already know, I am still coming to grips with the issues involving dynamic range, in the digital medium.
    Your first shot is a masterpiece – completely blew me away when I opened this post.
    The rest of the photos illustrate your complete mastery of dynamic range in digital.
    And PS – I love Portugal, it’s a fantastic place for anyone interested in travel in Europe.

    • Thanks! Expose to the right, get everything you can in the highlights (but don’t lose them) – let either end roll off smoothly, and you should be okay. That said, more dynamic range does of course help 🙂

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