Favorite images of 2017 (or The Year in Review), part I

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January. John Rylands Library, Manchester. X1D-50c, 45mm – place aside, think of the concept of a library: the preservation and sharing of knowledge – which itself needs to be nuanced, detailed, solid, and illuminating at the end of the visit: this scene translates all of that into architecture, and subsequently a physical location. What could be more appropriate?

Let’s indulge in a little retrospective curation today. Being the start of the new year, I generally find it useful to review my output from the previous year for a couple of reasons: firstly, to see how things have moved in general (often, you have the intention to shoot something but not necessarily the opportunity or discipline) and secondly, to determine where to go from here. It always makes sense to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, not to mention an awareness of just how much of photography is down to serendipitous luck. I suspect we’ll find that the planned/ commissioned work is pretty much as expected with few wildcards, but the spontaneous stuff is both less in overall volume (simply due to not having time or opportunity) but higher in spontaneity (because the few opportunities that remain are really NOT planned.) It also doesn’t help that the more you shoot – the higher the thresholds get. There’s simply a lot more history to overcome: what you produce now needs to be ‘better’ than what you did previously in the same subject or style category; yet it’s precisely this sort of precuration that kills experimentation. And we’re not even counting what I think of as the ‘craftsman’ type jobs where the client defines precisely what they want, and there isn’t much scope for creativity – those of course almost never hit the radar.

Interestingly, I landed up with more images from more recent shoots – which suggests that there’s definitely temporal bias even after a few months; either that or I’ve simply forgotten work from earlier in the year. Even so, there are only 29 images in this set, each of which I think would pass the ‘would I print and hang it’ test. With that preamble out of the way, let’s go to some images. I won’t leave much commentary other than precisely what appeals to me in the image and a little context. Even so, it’s going to be a fairly long post – so I’ve broken it into two parts. MT

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January. Hasselblad HQ, Gothenburg. X1D-50c, 90mm

One of those spontaneous moments where shallow-angle winter light made it feel like we suddenly stepped out of a camera factory and entered a 1940’s detective agency, complete with trench coat…

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January, Ipoh, Malaysia. 501CM, CFV-50c, 80mm

We arose from the primordial muck, we changed, we conquered, we terraformed to our liking – or the liking of our customers. Is this sustainable?

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January, TTDI Ascencia, Kuala Lumpur. H5D-50c, 24mm

Timing matters, even in architectural photography. Especially in architectural photography, because you can’t move the building, the light source, or your modifiers (clouds). Right place, right time, but not that much time when you’re on assignment. Sometimes, you get lucky.

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February, Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur. H6D-100c, 100mm

I’ve said this time and again, but beyond the sheer visual impact and atmosphere of the event – there’s something about this festival that hits you at a much deeper level and keeps you coming back again and again. I have no idea why, but I’m not ruling out a 2018 visit which will be my seventh or eighth.

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February, Thaipusam, Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur. H6D-100c, 100mm

It’s all in the eyes – he had the same intense unblinking stare at the other devotee in front of him, for nearly ten minutes; for a split second, he turned and fixed me with the most intense gaze I’ve experienced – right through the camera.

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April, Kuala Lumpur. H6D-100c, 24mm

I think of this image as ‘the aftermath’ – one day after the party, some presents and detritus still strewn around, the kiddo off on her next mini-adventure and nowhere to be seen…time flies, and its relative passing is really only brought home when you have something (like this) to measure it against.

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May, Hong Kong. H6D-100c, 35-90mm

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May, Hong Kong. H6D-100c, 24mm

This and the previous images are conceptually opposite sides of the same coin: on one hand, there’s the heavy engineering and hazards etc. that go into making a habitable human environment; on the other hand, modern society and economics mean that somebody’s entire world can be contained in the ~140sqft you see in the image above – shot from the 10sqft balcony, with a 16mm-e lens. That gives you an idea of just how small the space is – yet it still felt quite cosy and homely, without any of the claustrophobia you might expect. But one would have to be extremely careful in curating possessions, I think…

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April, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. H6D-100c, 150mm

We arrived late at night to darkness and a warren of narrow, unfamiliar streets. And awoke (slightly jet lagged) the following morning to this – welcome to Istanbul.

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April, Istanbul. H6D-100c, 100mm

The city and its people have seen thousands of years of history pass through its straits and streets – there’s a sort of feeling of calm acceptance no matter how crazy things get. The one constant is change; we are the transient and insubstantial element. Istanbul, on the other hand, endures.

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April, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. H6D-100c, 150mm

This image is all about tension: order, chaos, balance, imbalance, patina, age, newness, precariousness, solidity, fragility, warm, cool, straight, curved – every element is represented, and somehow remains coherent and integral. It’s ancient architecture at its best…looking at the building, it’s easy to forget that construction started ~1,500 years ago – I can’t imagine any structure of the current era lasting much more than 100 years, let alone 1,000+…

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May, Ångelholm. H6D-100c, 50mm, DJI M600, Broncolor Siros 800L, and of course a Koenigsegg Agera RS

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May, Ångelholm. H6D-100c, 50mm, Broncolor Siros 800L, Koenigsegg Regera

What can I say – what an assignment! The best of the best and an open creative brief. The image with the aerial light trails is pretty stunning as a large print – as it was intended to be viewed. I didn’t get to drive as neither of the cars were set up yet, but there’s a standing invitation I will cash in on one day…

(To be continued in Part II.)



Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Great images.
    May, Ångelholm is spectacular!!!
    January, Ipoh is one of a kind. How difficult was it to capture the person and hit the shutter at the right time?
    I assume this one was shoot from the drone? What a great expression of nature and humanity mixed together.

    • Thanks – luck rather than anything else for the Ipoh shot. Definitely not from a drone – note equipment used; was off a tall building nearly straight down.

  2. Beautiful İstanbul pictures

  3. I try to avoid going overboard when commenting on other people’s pictures, because it tends to come off as insincere, but in this case it seems appropriate to just say “stunning”. These are just superb, every one, but to me the first shot and the evening picture of the Hagia Sophia are the standouts. And while I know full well that “it’s the photographer, not the camera”, these are giving me the worst GAS I can remember having in ages. Fortunately it’s for equipment that would almost ruin me financially (the most dangerous kind of GAS is when you CAN afford it). Can we coin a new word : “Gasselblad?” 🙂

    Regarding the comment : “Interestingly, I landed up with more images from more recent shoots – which suggests that there’s definitely temporal bias even after a few months; either that or I’ve simply forgotten work from earlier in the year”, could that not also be a sign that you’re getting more familiar with, and thus getting more out of, the equipment?

    • Make that “morning shot of the Hagia Sophia”. That’ll teach me to read more carefully.

    • Thanks – in part II you’ll see there’s a whole bunch of other non-Hassy gear, too (though I realise almost all of these were shot with the H6D-100c!) And to be honest – I haven’t gone through the iPhone yet.

      As for familiarity – I don’t think so; I’ve been using a H5D since the start of 2016, and medium format long before that.

      • Looking forward to the next part!

        As you mentioned the teaching store at the bottom of your post, would you mind answering a couple of quick questions?

        1) I’m given to understand that the newest workflow video (number 3) contains profiles for certain cameras. I have a Sony RX10 mark 3 (the superzoom) and am considering an upgrade to the 4 (they’ve put the A9’s PDAF system in it). Is there a profile that would work with the mark 3 and (assuming that the 3 and 4 have similar image processing systems, the mark 4 if I were to upgrade)? Of course I could also make a profile as you suggest in Workflow 2 (which I use at the moment), but the testimonials for Workflow 3 seem to suggest that colour accuracy is improved with your profiles.

        2) I’m also interested in the 4th and 5th “Making outstanding images” videos (shooting and processing for style). How do they work in conjunction with the workflow videos? Is it one or the other (i.e. if I’m not looking for a particular “style” then I use the regular workflow, but if I’m going for one of the styles in question then I use the Making Outstanding Images video?), or can they work together?

        Thanks in advance!

        • 1) Start with the included RX100III profile; it should be pretty close. Tweak as necessary. Generally, manufacturers keep color quite consistent between models and very consistent between sensor sizes (tonal response is generally fairly similar). Unless you’re looking for critically perfect reproduction, it should be fine – though I’d suggest using something else if that’s your objective. I doubt it has the A9’s PDAF system (algorithm, maybe) simply because that’s a physical property of the sensor, and the A9’s sensor is quite a bit larger 🙂

          2) Outstanding Images 4 and 5 work together, and piggyback off Workflow II (they were made around the same time). You’ll see that you can easily adapt this to workflow III though; Outstanding Images 4 explains the capture part and key characteristics of each style, so you know both what has to be done at the time of capture and what must be done afterwards. In short: the PS Workflow videos are the toolkit; Outstanding Images 4 covers concept and capture; Outstanding Images 5 covers application of post processing.

  4. Kristian Wannebo says:


  5. Can’t believe you were shooting in Ängelholm! That’s not too far from where I grew up, while you, kind of, belong to an other world, very far away.

  6. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    “May”? – are you holding back on us, Ming?

    I fell in love with the first shot, the instant I opened this posting. Of course all your stuff is perfect-in-every-way, so this is not about which is “better” – it’s a question of personal tastes & preferences, at this level, and for my pt&p, no. 1 is “numero uno”.

    You had other shots of the mosque in Istanbul earlier, Ming – I liked some of the interiors more. See? – it’s a giveaway – I like the lolevel lighting, available light shots – maybe it’s a reaction to the harsh sunlight of summer this close to the equator? – although I do get a buzz out of exploiting that very harshness. Photography isn’t about getting what we want – it’s about getting the best out of what we are given, and the only way you can get the softer light of the lower latitudes is to go & take your shots there! Or go indoors, or wait till sunset – both of which appeal to me enormously. Is it because only in recent years we’ve had the higher ISO’s, wider lenses & betters sensors, which enable us to exploit these conditions – and we are seizing on them, because in the past it was all too hard? – except with a tripod wth longer shutter settings, which ruled out a lot of candid stuff?

    • Holding back in what way? 🙂

      Actually, I tend to avoid the ‘easy win’ stuff – where just being there and getting an image is already novel because there was nothing previously; getting a unique and interesting image somewhere already well-covered is another thing entirely…

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