Photoessay: Two buildings and a break

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For some odd reason, I’ve always thought these two buildings* to be amongst the most difficult to photograph in Singapore – partially because they’re such iconic landmarks that there’s almost no angle or light or weather condition that hasn’t already been exploited; you’re almost afraid to take a photograph because there’s a high chance you’ll just be doing something unoriginal. On top of that, the structures themselves are oddly shaped and the perspectives available at ground level are somewhat limited so that they look very similar from a wide range of vantage points. In the end, I landed up going back to basics: what is the essence of the form and feel of the structure? The result was a series of abstracts of each building. I’ve left what appears to be an unconnected ‘conventional’ image to divide between them, for the simple reason that under the skin: the hardware and M&E doesn’t change. MT

*If you aren’t familiar with Singapore architecture, the two buildings are of Art Science Museum and the Parkroyal on Pickering.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 35-90mm and 150mm lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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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. Another interesting aspect is that the first thing I notice about the Parkroyal on Pickering building is it lavish greenery, but you chose to focus on the lines in this essay. The abundance of curves provides a nice counterbalance to the more sharp lines of the ArtScience Museum.

    • Actually, I found that if you look closely, the greenery somehow diminishes – there’s less than you think, and more of the illusion of it from the surroundings rather than being incorporated into the building itself…

  2. Very nicely done

  3. The image of the roof is of Parkroyal building? Must be a pretty high vantage point! Can’t see the publicly accessible places where it could be shoot from, interesting 🙂

    • It’s the roof of the next building from the roof of the Parkroyal 🙂

      • I would’ve thought they’re all not high enough, but probably this shot is of the middle section of the Parkroyal, which is significantly closer to the ground, but I thought it would’ve looked more refined, as it should be visible from the visitor rooms. This still intrigues me 🙂

  4. Junaid Rahim says:

    The light was very cooperating Ming! Your control and not clipping the more reflective areas have enabled the images to be as striking as they are. I think that’s why I particularly like the 2nd and 4th images.

  5. Really outstanding. I’m mentioned the “technological sublime” before, I think. Superb application of your superb product photography skills.

  6. When I see architectural photos that are not literal I remember Ernst Haas quote about transforming an object from what it is into what you want it to be…
    Nice work!

  7. Haha! Sort of like a dive. Looks like you “nailed” the degree of difficulty to me, Ming. Nice work as always.

  8. I practice and practice but I just don’t know how you achieve such control over highlights and shadows. These pics are gorgeous. I will continue to work toward getting anywhere close to what you are able to do. This goes for composition as well. This is an inspiring set. Thank you.

  9. Inspiring, as usual!

  10. Brilliant series.

  11. In the main group of photos, following the text, images two through five are exceptional. Do you see all of those fine changes in tone as you shoot? Or are they found after the fact in culling and processing? I can understand being able to see mid-day sky as nearly black when composing, but predicting the consequences in the bright, reflective surfaces below boggles the mind. At least this one.

    • Yes, I do see them as I shoot – one of the reasons I prefer an optical finder (no EVF I’ve seen has the ability to accurately reproduce these nuances). PP only enhances contrast, it doesn’t create texture.

      Reflective surfaces: look at them through an ND filter. 😉

  12. Ming — These images are striking! I’m especially attracted to the first and fourth images. The various faces of each architectural element are well separated tonally from one another and I think this adds to the abstraction, leaving a clear outline of interesting shapes. Perhaps these structures have been photographed by many before; I don’t think that should hold a photographer back from capturing his or her own insights to the structure. Well done! Frank

  13. Magnificent black and white architectural abstracts that surely provide a fresh, unique representation of these buildings.

  14. Stunning photography, love it.

  15. FULLSPECTRA says:

    Crikey Ming. I love the way you see light! Just beautiful images!!

  16. Wolfgang T. says:

    Wunderfull compositions!I notice that your lastly shot Photoessays are all made with Hasselblad. Do you still use other cams?

    • Yes, but not often. There’s a D810 and 100D still in there for compactness or AF-tracking work, but usually only when I need something the H can’t give me. I probably use the iPhone more than those two, actually. The whole point of the MF switch was to be as close to a universal system for me as possible – no point investing so much into it otherwise.

  17. A fine series of images. I’ll be in Singapore for the first time in a couple of months. Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. richard majchrzak says:

    ooohh oh oh, scaringly wonderful , nice.

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