Photoessay: Night falls on the coast

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A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.

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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. You’ve been to Sweden! I would never have guessed it from the images, but the road sign gave it away (I live here and no other Scandinavian country has yellow road signs with a red border). I hope you enjoyed your stay. Maybe there will be more images coming …?

    • Just once, and very briefly at that – a day of meetings at Hasselblad, and then an afternoon with a long time friend…not enough to make any more images, sadly! But I shall be back…

  2. I would argue that oil paint is the best one to view a visual cuz all of the layers and… , but because it takes a painter to illustrate the visual so our next best thing would be print. But print is costly and space hungry , viewing is a matter of issue if you don’t want to hang everything unless you don’t want to print large(where is the fun in that). The best solution I guess is e-papers. They showed some larger colour prototype e-papers.Although they were looking amazing but they are unfortunately still limited in colour. Maybe future is more promising for us photo geeks.

    unrelated – Ming would you mind do a post on minimum shutter speed with H6D-50 and 100 and X1D on different focal length and generally how much hand-hold-able they are (specially X1D) ? and what do you think of the H6D-100’s bigger sensor ?

    • Big prints are bad, yes, but oil paintings are a whole different level of commitment entirely!

      H6-50: 1/2x. H6-100: 1/3x. X1D: 1/1x. The -100 sensor is one generation newer than the -50, and it shows – pixel level noise is slightly lower, but there are more pixels, so it looks even cleaner at the same reproduction sizes; the noise floor is lower, color accuracy is a bit higher, and dynamic range is definitely higher (it also runs a 16 bit pipeline, instead of 14 into 16 like the -50 sensors) – I find myself exceeding monitor gamut quite often with the -100…

      • “Big prints are bad, yes, but oil paintings are a whole different level of commitment entirely!” exactly.

        – So the colour is even better and tripod is a must have for 100mp sensor. I guess I have to rent one to come to a conclusion. Thank you for your insight.

        • A tripod isn’t strictly necessary – I do shoot my handheld, and as you’ll soon see, under some very challenging conditions. It is of course necessary to get the most out of the sensor, but you’ll still get better results than with other cameras even without.

          I see regular gamut clipping on my monitor from raw files now – I didn’t before, even with the -50c, which clearly indicates there’s more color information…

  3. Good heavens, I hope the quality is worth it, Ming. My poor computer is vibrating in terror just thinking about the raw file sizes.
    Picture # 8 is beautiful.

  4. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Enter the photograph – which, so I believe, means something in the way of an image created from light, on any kind of medium like card, paper or canvas. Breaking news is that the electronic media is poised to finish taking over completely – they now have a “photograph frame” which they claim can imitate a picture hanging on the wall, and you’d never notice that it wasn’t – just another electronic image, cleverly done to mimic a “photograph” – or a painting, if that floats your boat.

    What I am circling around, is the fact that a photograph uses reflected light – and the electronic media use transmitted light, Three things differ – DR, the dot size that creates the image, and colour range. Whatever we end up with – whether it’s an electronic image, like a JPEG, or a graphic image like a photographic print – it is NEVER going to be a perfect match for “the real thing”. We are left to choose between what we find “acceptable”, and that’s going to differ from one person to the next.

    I’m 110% with Gnarlydog on this stuff. I have a cellphone which IS a cellphone, and about all I can use it for is telephone calls, SMS messages and as a travelling alarm clock or pocket watch. I suffer from severe smartphone-phobia, and an allergy to selfie sticks. I accept that I am a relic of a passing age, and that I regard photographs as – shock horror! – prints – on printing paper! Half a century or more ago, I thought slide evenings with a zillion Kodacolor slides were on a par with a ring on the doorbell announcing the arrival of “Avon calling” or a visitation from some evangelist group. If you want my undivided attention, produce a print – ANYTHING – a daguerreotype, for example (I was once commissioned to reproduce one, so all the members of the family could have a half decent replica of it), or a contact print from a 16×20 inch collodion wet plate glass negative dating from the late 19th century.

    ‘Nuff of that – it’ll end up as an open invitation for an invasion of trolls. Spare us all from that!

    Ming, I love these photos – we don’t always have days or weeks to plan a specific photo (let alone a photo shoot) – these shots show how a REAL photography can triumph even when taken by surprise, and produce remarkable images. I love them – and love the soft tonings in them. At least 3 of them were my favourite 🙂

    • I’m always glad there are other people who believe in the value of the print: there is a huge disconnect already between idea and execution most of the time; there’s no need to make it worse by adding inadequate reproduction to the mix. But I suppose the corollary is that there are types of images that are better presented in small format or backlit screen, and we should at least consider this when it comes to conceptualization presentation…

      I’ll always maintain nothing beats a good large print, though. 🙂

  5. Wow your pictures are amazing 😍

  6. “frustrating, no?”

    I think you’ve answered your own question here. I remember that you wrote something a while back to the effect that it is now for the output medium to catch up to the capture medium (in other words, even the best monitors / displays can’t get close to what medium format digital can output), and therein lies the problem. You’re showing us some photos which probably contain more visual information than any of us can see.

    That’s not to denigrate the photos themselves, of course; they’re good. Seven and eight in particular are very nice. But like you say, it must be kind of strange to know that most people who view them are seeing, what, ten percent of what’s really there? A bit like a musician who releases an album, knowing that most people are going to miss the sonic nuances because they’re listening on an iPhone with the supplied earphones!

    You know what would be an interesting experiment? Take the same shot twice, on a monster MF body and on something like a four thirds or even a 1″ (RX series, etc), allowing for enough DOF to remove obvious visual clues. Could anyone tell the difference on the web? If they can’t, then you have proved your own suspicions.

    Needless to say, it’s very probably different in the commercial world, otherwise I doubt you would have gone with what you use now.

    • Definitely diminishing returns. There was an earlier post where I showed most gains were made at much smaller absolute information amounts; it’s the nature of everything.

      As for your comparison: you’d still see it in the dynamic range, which doesn’t disappear with downsizing. 🙂

      • Intriguing. Why does it not disappear, because it is independent of pixel count and more related to either pixel pitch or sensor size?

        • If you have insufficient dynamic range, your highlights will register as white and shadows as black regardless of how large they are (spatial function), unless the area is reduced to smaller than the smallest incremental element in the image (e.g. one output pixel) due to averaging…

  7. gnarlydognews says:

    I find it ironic that so many of us strive for the best “I.Q.” in images with extra sharp lenses and huge dynamic range when the most common display medium is, wait for it… the mobile phone 🙂
    It gets worse, the most popular sites to view those images are FakeBook and Instacrap with such low resolution that negates to even display how good an image taken with the iPhone can be.

    But I am sure this is not your target audience here, is it?

    • Well, if an image doesn’t work at all when downsized, then it’s definitely the wrong image for the medium. There are always going to be losses in translation: do you show nothing at all because it’s never perfect? Life is full of compromises.


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