Photoessay: Thaipusam 2017 cinematics, part II

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This is the peak of the event: handover of the offerings at the temple inside the cave (and at the top of 272 steps); the exit of trance and seeking of blessings by both participants and visitors. There are just as many exhausted devotees as ones dancing in religious fervour. I’ve always been careful to be highly respectful and not intrusive when photographing the ceremonies; we are privileged to be allowed to observe (and in a way, participate) in what is a very sensitive and private ceremony. Every year I’ve attended, I’ve been called over by one of the participants in trance to receive blessings in turn – and in a way, it feels as though I’ve been given permission to be there. I guess I’ll be going back again next year. MT

Additional coverage and full size sample images are here at The video is here.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with the cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 4 & 5.

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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. Great images as always. I’m impressed by the high ISO performance of the Hasselblad as well as the “pop” of the 50mm lens (e.g. Image 2 – the tethered guy crawling). But I have two questions: At what viewing size do you think the Hasselblad files become noticeably superior to those of FF (e.g. D810 + good glass)? And if the images were only going to be viewed at “normal” sizes, such as A4 or smaller, would there be any benefit to using a large kit like a Hasselblad over a more manageable FF camera?

    • Thanks. Dynamic range and colour differences are visible at all sizes; resolution, well, you have to exceed a situation where the lower resolution camera gets downsampled significantly…

      If you’re only printing to A4 using a normal process or displaying on the web, there are still advantages (again, color, DR) but I’d go with one of the 50MP options instead of 100MP.

  2. Great pictures! The colour on the hasselblad site is different, maybe a color management / profile issue?

  3. Response of others: the participants were pretty absorbed in what they were doing 🙂 But in general, for any documentary – if you act as though you belong, nobody seems to mind or question too much.
    You talked a bit about the technical challenges of photographing an event like this with a medium format camera.

    • Well yes: it’s dark, everybody is moving, and you’re shooting with something that has extremely tight tolerances for critical focal plane and the highest pixel density per degree FOV ever; that’s going to put serious demands on technique. On top of that, you can’t use a tripod or flashes for obvious reasons – I thought it was pretty clear those were the technical challenges…?

  4. Magnificent as always, Ming!

    On thing though: I cannot help but notice that in this series almost all subjects appear to be dead center in the frame. Might that be something to do with the autofocus system of the Hasselblad? In any case, it would be nice if could say something about how the focus-recompse af in the Hasselblad works. I still don’t really understand…

    • Yes, but that was more to do with the intended composition and distractions off-centre dominating subject than the AF system.

      True Focus uses a gyro to determine what angle the camera has moved by, and thus calculates the parallax compensation required based on subject distance and focal length.

  5. Superb (again).

  6. You’ve often spoken of how you do documentary work in a cinematic style. I had a pretty good sense of what you meant, but this series (I & II) really illustrates it perfectly. It’s very immersive.
    You talked a bit about the technical challenges of photographing an event like this with a medium format camera. What about the way that others reacted to you? Did you feel conspicuous using the H6D in such a way that the equipment affected the way people responded to your presence? Or were there enough media/photographers present that it didn’t matter?
    Thanks for sharing another great set of images.

    • Thank you. Response of others: the participants were pretty absorbed in what they were doing 🙂 But in general, for any documentary – if you act as though you belong, nobody seems to mind or question too much. Just another camera to them…

      • Thanks!
        I hear a lot of street/documentary photographers talk about how small (often mirrorless) cameras allow them to be unnoticed and get more candid/true-to-life photographs. Do you think part of that could be an increased confidence on the part of the photographer rather than a change in the perception of others? (i.e. if the photographers feel less obvious and therefore less self conscious, they’re more likely to act like they belong. The people are reacting, or not reacting as the case may be, more to the change in the photographer than the change in the camera.)

        • Probably: act as though you belong, and all that. Small cameras are stealthier, but I’ve never had a problem with large ones, either…

  7. Egmont Bonomi says:

    That last image is so powerful, no wonder you decided to use it at the end of your last video! Stunning work!

  8. Mr. Thein, please excuse the off topic comment – congratulations and best wishes on your appointment at Hasselblad. I never knew you had left such a prominent corporate position previously to pursue your art. That took a lot of courage!

  9. Ok so you’ve got me looking at the Hassy. The only other 100MP camera I could find is from Phase 1. What makes the Hassy better than the Phase 1 besides a slight price difference?

    • It’s a significant price difference, actually: $50k plays $33k. We have better color – individual sensor calibration, for starters – and a gyroscopic AF system that compensates for focus-and-recompose parallax. The camera is also smaller and lighter.

  10. Wow (!) I’m really thrilled about all these pictures and still don’t get it how you managed with that equipment !? Very very impressing… This is really a master work and so are you. Congrats Ming !
    Regards, Robert

  11. Anatoly Loshmanov says:

    Hello Ming !
    Very interesting photography.
    Congratulation on new position !

  12. Jonathan Hodder says:

    Great stuff, Chief 😉


  1. […] in 2018. MT did a splendid job covering it in 2017 with the Hasselblad H6D-100C (photoessays here, here and a video here), shooting mostly in low light as the rituals start on the eve of the actual […]

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