Photoessay: Entropy from a distance in Porto

H51-B0005003 copy

And to put into practice yesterday’s theory on wimmelbild: some images from Porto which I think best illustrate the concept. Porto itself is a curious city, because it looks very different from a distance vs. close up, and in ‘good’ sunlight vs overcast cloud. From further away – ideally, the opposite bank of the river – and in the evening sun, the romance is present. You can imagine the traders and merchants and intrigues over your glass of wine from the terrace on the side of the hill; but when it rains and you’re in the middle of the old city being panhandled by people who look as though they match the state of the buildings, it’s quite another matter entirely. Parts of the town felt as though the inhabitants were the last of their tribe, passed on and were never replaced; children went elsewhere or simply never existed. Many of the buildings do not appear straight because they were not actually straight – who knows how many are structurally unsound. Restoration is possible, and has happened in places, but within the limits of conservation set out by UNESCO – and the limits of the current Portugese economy. Chaos? Entropy? Decay? Wimmelbild? Perhaps all of the above. 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.

H51-B0004945 copy

H51-B0005268 copy

H51-B0005568 copy

H51-B0005878 copy

H51-B0005495 copy

H51-B0005049 copy

H51-B0005946 copy

H51-B0004804 copy

H51-B0005321 copy


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

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


  1. so cool that shoot

  2. Parts of the town felt as though the inhabitants were the last of their tribe, passed on and were never replaced

    I think this may be called ‘Saudade’ – something that my Portuguese friends haven’t fully got me to understand (not because of a lack of effort on their part!)

    What I really like about these shots Ming, (and PLEASE – I appreciate this may read like a backhanded compliment, but it really isn’t)

    Is that you haven’t really ventured far off the beaten path to take them, yet you’ve still got some angles to some famous views that aren’t often captured.

    I seem to recall an article where you spoke about looking for a different perspective when visiting much photographed places… I think you did that here, I really do (give or take the Ribeiro riverbank and the buildings behind Sao Bento shot from the platform, but you can’t not shoot them when visiting – it’s the law 🙂 )

    • That was the intention, even if I didn’t really know which paths were beaten and which weren’t here! :p

      • If you’re only seeing Portuguese people, mammoth amounts of dilapidation, with a ever so slight uncurrent of fear for your personal safety then you’re in the right (erm wrong?) place 🙂

        Don’t get me wrong, bad things can happen anywhere, and so far nothing bad has happened to me here in Porto, but I’ve had a couple of hair raising moments…

  3. jimaustin says:

    Each time I visit your site, Ming Thein, I learn from your excellent writing. Not only learning, but your concepts, like wimmelbild, are discussed and illustrated so clearly. Even when I think I know something in photography, like the term visualization (Stieglitz, Adams) or pre-visualization (Minor White), you expand it in my thinking in a way that inspires me to learn, and try more. Thanks Ming.

  4. Interesting compressions. Would be nice to see these at large size!

  5. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I thought the first one was art, too – one thing that I love about your photos Ming, is the clarity of the images – I can easily read “Porto São Bento” on the station platform, giving me a clear indication of the location of the shot – I suspect a shot with even the best of the full frames & the best of the lenses to suit them, there’d be blurring simply because of the difference in pixel numbers. That is NOT an argument in favor of lunatic pixel numbers in FF cams, I hasten to add – that seems to bring other problems, without solving this one – the real solution is to follow your example (or put up with results that can’t compete with yours). 🙂

  6. mylifestorymyway says:

    Beautiful shots 🙂

  7. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    Hello Ming !
    All are very impressive images.
    The last one is ART !!!

  8. Nice and great.


  1. […] Ming Thien shares a nice series of photographs, of architecture and rooftops in Porto, Portugal. He captured some lovely color. Read Photoessay: Entropy from a distance in Porto […]

%d bloggers like this: