Photoessay: Because it is Tokyo and there must be architecture

100D_MG_2882 copy

But even though Tokyo is defender of the modern, the minimalist and the avant-garde, it wouldn’t be a fair representation with a little subversive chaotic mess to sneak into the curation somewhere – in many ways, a fair representation of the real city. Whilst most of the quick-expansion concrete boxes are being rapidly erased by more modern and more interesting structures – especially in the more expensive parts of Tokyo – there are one or two left. I can’t help but wonder if in future they’ll turn out to be historical curiosities much like what we think of as ‘traditional’ buildings are today…I can only hypothesise everything is relative. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

X1D3-B0001284 copy

100D_MG_2546 copy

100D_MG_2525 copy

100D_MG_2974 copy

100D_MG_2897 copy

100D_MG_3026 copy

100D_MG_2260 copy

100D_MG_2048 copy

H610J-B9993359 copy

H610J-B9993391 copy

X1D3-B0001366 copy

X1D3-B0001369 copy

100D_MG_1923 copy

100D_MG_1927 copy

100D_MG_2385 copy


Prints 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. Someone has said that Tokyo looks clean at street level (no dirt, graffiti, garbage), but if you look at it from a rooftop it looks like a mess. All the streets are crooked like spaghetti, there is no central planning. New York, on the other hand, is grimy at street level, and from a rooftop it looks like a coordinate system. All the streets are straight as rulers, meeting in a well planned grid. The question, I guess, is what you prefer.

    • It’s a bit of both. There are definitely messy bits of Tokyo and clean bits of New York at street level…a city that’s totally clean everywhere is probably going to be rather boring, too…

  2. Ming, I really like this series. Excellent work with bold lines and limited color palate! These types (graphic/arcitecture) of images that you create are the ones I like most. Perhaps this has to do with your education and nature? Well, whatever it is, please continue to pursue this track -at least a little…

    • Thanks – well, it’s the stuff I shoot for myself and rarely show because it tends to be an acquired (read: most people find it boring) taste…

  3. Taildraggin says:

    Noted the 100d…

    Just got a D3300/35mm combo for light, daylight, walk around use. Plenty ‘sufficient’ to the purpose and much nicer to carry than the big iron.

  4. Benjamin Rooseveld Earl IV says:

    MT I honestly don’t think that your photography is progressing much. You are still over processing your shadows to a point where they look silly.
    I have always given you the benefit of the doubt considering your inexperience and lack of education and been patient where you “suddenly” realise something that was completely obvious (ie when you used to do architecture shots with fixed lenses but then realised that the post processing that you need to do looks “wrong” ) to others looks wrong to you. But I am getting tired of your claims of expert level work…
    Coming from the watch industry surely you know what a “gonzo” watch is. Please stop making “gonzo” images.
    I like a lot of what you and think you have some skills do but you need to stop doing the noob things that make a lot of your images amateurish. You are still doing things that a first year photography student at university learns not to do.
    You were at your peak making camera reviews. They were always biased but thorough and i enjoyed that.
    I know you can’t do that now, so think a corporate job was a very good choice.

    • Thank you for your feedback. Firstly, perhaps something is incomplete, but statement about fixed lenses and processing makes no sense. Secondly, interpretation is subjective, as are monitor calibration preferences, and if you’re not there – how can you to say if something was accurate or not to either intention or reality? And as for the ‘first year photography student mistakes’ – perhaps you’d be generous enough to enlighten us with a specific explanation?

      • Benjamin R Earl says:

        Firstly, my statement about using fixed lenses for architecture and processing makes perfect sense. Why you are attempting to ridicule me is hard to imagine but it is consistent with your responses to critique. I am not and have never claimed to be an expert but i am happy to lend my experience/education to your issues.
        Secondly, I will point you to “100D_MG_2525 copy” as a good example of where your shadow processing is amiss. Trotting out the old chestnut of “you weren’t there, you don’t know” may be true but if you were truly open to feedback (which I don’t think you are) you wouldn’t be putting up such childish barriers to critique. In “100D_MG_2525 copy” there is mismatch between the depth of shadows in the trees and that of the shadows on the building. It causes a negative tension in the image, making something clearly “off”.
        Could that have been intentional, yes. Was it? I hope not.
        I have just given you two first year tips that you would do well to take on board. Firstly, be humble enough to accept criticism. I have tried to have discussions with you before (and read along to several others) on various topics over the years and have alway given up because it is clear that you are only interested in winning the argument/point and not at all interested in accepting that you don’t know it all. You don’t know it all, nobody does. Every first year student learns that quick smart.
        Lesson two, tension in an image can be useful but mismatches in light quality in some parts of the image and not others is clumsy looking. Sure you want to show off the shadow detail and the reflections in the glass as well as the transparency (as you tend to do) but things like that are of little consequence when the image looks wrong because of the processing.
        As I look at your Flickr page I see that 10 people Faved that image out of the almost 3400 views. I would say that is anecdotal evidence that 3990 other people out there thought something wasn’t right as well. People are usually generous and Fave most things, particularly if they have a connection with the artist, so 10/4000 is quite poor, particularly for a popular blogger/camera reviewer.
        I think that I have been generous and patient with my explanations, I hope you can come off your high horse and accept them and move on. If you really want to know more, contact me via email and we can organise a private lesson, via Skype or in person next time you are in Shanghai. All the best and I hope to see progression in your work.

        • Benjamin R Earl says:

          obviously I am no mathematician but you get my point : – D

        • Sorry, but you still haven’t even completed your statement on fixed lenses or rationale. I have no issue with critique, I have an issue with subjective statements with no reasoning.

          Secondly, the image you quote *was* lit that way because of cross light falling from between gaps in a neighboring building you can’t see in the frame.

          Lastly – using Flickr as a barometer for quality and then trying to sell me your ‘expertise’ is hardly credible. I’d be far more convinced if you show me your own work.

          • Benjamin R Earl says:

            Sorry Ming I assumed you could connect the dots….. When one shoots tall buildings with a fixed lens, one gets tombstoning. If one desires to remove said tombstoning the image needs to be processed. The processing that need to be done requires a stretching of the image (as you used to do in your instructional videos and demonstrations) to create vertical lines. This causes odd distortion in the image. Clearly you know this and are just being obtuse.
            As for your second comment…. you are only being partly honest to try to make my points seem irrelevant. The processing still looks wrong. If you think it looks good, fine but you would be wrong.
            I am not using flickr as a barometer of quality. I was using it as a barometer of public opinion of your image. I think it is always valid to have supportive evidence to show that I am not the only one with that opinion. Regardless, I am not searching for credibility, least of all in your eyes as it means absolutely nothing to me.
            If you read my comment you would see that I don’t claim to be an expert, never have and never will. I am a hobbyist at most these days (barely even that) but I still have a well developed visual language to rely on. One doesn’t need to be an expert to see obvious weak points in your work. Like I said anyone who spent anytime gaining a proper education could point those out to you on the spot, the first two I have already done. Rather than hiring me, it would be cheaper for you to go to a good visual arts university and ask some first years about your work. Or maybe take a class…..
            Normally I wouldn’t care what rubbish you put out there, its easy to ignore. I only felt compelled to give you feedback because of your insistence that you are a master. Some humility in line with your ability is called for

            • Minor keystoning can be corrected with minimal penalty digitally. Especially if output sizes are significantly downsampled. Longer lenses require less and less correction. If you actually read anything else I wrote, you’ll also know that I mostly either get the right height so no correction is required, or use a shift lens for perspective correction. On top of that, there are when perfect parallel correction of verticals looks unnatural, in which case leaving in some convergence is required.

  5. Good shots…

  6. Richard J Bach says:

    When I see and shoot architecture, I often wonder the same thing.

    I live in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that is changing faster than one can fathom. I have lived here for two and half years and am watching one (admittedly ugly) old vinyl house or disused warehouse after another be replaced by yet another gleaming glass condo. The neighborhood is getting taller and taller by the day.The neighborhood I work in is quickly turning from blocks and blocks of huge old factories to a new skyline of identical glass skyscrapers. I’m sure no one thought they’d miss these buildings, the way no one thought they would miss the old concrete boxes of Tokyo, but it is hard not to feel a bit of nostalgia.

    Its the way of the modern world, to be sure. Cities change, some faster than others, and the pace is only accelerating. But I fear we’ll wake up a few decades later and every city will start looking like every other city, and the world will be a little less interesting.

    • I think it already does – the ‘new international style’ or whatever it’s called is spreading so fast that the more recent business districts all look the same; everybody is trying to push multipurpose developments with condo/ mall /office/ hotel – and as a result it’s all getting a little soulless. I suspect that the reason the older stuff looked so different was because there were far fewer international influences and only local ones; the case with any sort of diffusion of information (i.e. the internet today) is that there are very few thought leader and a lot of followers…

  7. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Very creative treatment of the subject matter – some of which would otherwise be rather bland

  8. richard majchrzak says:

    lost 4 words , thanks

  9. reflections and shapes are well doing !!!

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