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


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June, Ginza, Tokyo. GX85, 35-100mm

Though this looks like part of a Koenigsegg from the previous post, it’s pure coincidence – I shot this through a window at the Nissan salon in Ginza whilst walking past on the way to another meeting. The textures and shades of red really appealed – and I’m actually surprised the M4/3 sensor didn’t cook the color channel.

(Continued from Part I)

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July, Kuala Lumpur. D810, 85PCE, SB900s and the MING 17.01

For me, 2017 will always be the year we seriously got into the watch game: buying is one thing, commissioning custom pieces is another, but building a brand is quite something else. The 17.01 occupies a special place in my heart because of what it is, what it represents, and the overwhelming (and unexpected) support we got from our friends in the collector’s community – our final batch sold out in two minutes. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s the harbinger of changes to come…

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September, Kuala Lumpur. D850, 24-120

Not only do they grow up fast, but learn fast, too. “Put your face in the light and turn a bit more towards me, Sophie,” I said – and this was the result.

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October, near Selfoss, Iceland. DJI Mavic Pro

When I first saw photos of this place, I wasn’t sure the color could be real…but thanks to oblique light and all of those volcanic minerals, it’s very real. I would have loved more light time over this location, but weather simply wasn’t cooperative. In fact, I could probably use more flight time overall – but thanks to tightening restrictions and ever decreasing time, that’s not very likely.

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October, Harpa, Reykjavik. X1D-50c, 45mm

An impressively modern building, but so clearly Icelandic and inspired by the landscape: the mass forms of the building itself are very much like the giant cliffs and mountains, and the hexagonal structure like basaltic lava pillars…and that’s before we even get to the way the light plays with the glass and mirrored panels, appearing transparent, solid (and icy) all at the same time. A nightmare for AF though, with many reflection planes and very thin ‘real’ object planes…

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October, somewhere between Reykjavik and Hellnar, Iceland. X1D-50c, 90mm

We drove through overcast skies that suddenly darkened and darkened…and looked as though they were going to open up with rain, but instead produced a rainbow and lifted. Unexpected, dramatic, beautiful, and given the speed of winds and weather changes in Iceland – looking almost like it was running in fast forward. I think this was the peak ‘action’ (certainly peak intensity), and in the full size version, you can see a few signs of hunan habitation which also put the whole scale – and our relative insignificance – into context.

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October, near Snaefellsbaer, Iceland. X1D-50c, Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

In so many ways, this is yet another microcosmic metaphor for the country: glacial runoff, lots of water, much more verdant that expected, with surprising hidden rocky-watery drama that you don’t see until you’re above or right on top of it – I’m sure one of the reasons this place is so popular is not just because you’re seeing something so different to whatever else you might be used to, but also because you feel as though you’re genuinely discovering something in the process.

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October, Haifoss, Iceland. X1D-50c, Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

Trying to produce something different but clear and essential isn’t easy, especially in a place that’s been photographed to death. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen something this minimalist – all elements are clear, yet a sense of mystery remains and the textural differentiation is very real despite being dark. A print of this one really sings, but not in a high key pop way: think slow smoky jazz with just a trumpet and a piano…

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November, Kuala Lumpur. D850, 85 PCE, SB900s and the MING 19.01

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November, Kuala Lumpur. D850, 85 PCE, SB900s and the MING 19.01

Our second release, and me continuing to push what can be done for a) a new brand b) a brand out of Asia c) a brand at our price point. I’m pleased with the result, at any price point (and I’ve had the privilege of handling, wearing and owning some rather special pieces). On seeing it, a collector friend said to me “You made a watch for you, not the collectors, didn’t you?” – I wholeheartedly agreed with him, because if we don’t love and believe in our product and design language – how can we expect anybody else to?

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November, Daikanyama, Tokyo. D850, 24-120

On first glance, it’s a rushing woman in a kimono with red hair (or a red hat and scarf) – but look closer and it’s merely an illusion. I see hope and passion in a tough environment – at least for long enough to merit further investigation. Somehow feels like life…

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November, Maranouchi, Tokyo. D850, 24-120

There is a sort of integration and continuity to modern life and cities that is both confusing but somehow works if you can spend the time to figure it out – other than the use of visual wimmelbild, I’ve struggled to express this (probably because it requires more than two static dimensions). Yet it’s so all-pervasive that I am drawn to continue – I think this image continues one step closer…

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November, Omotesando, Tokyo. D850, 24-120

We again have a scene of tension, increased by contrast and monochromaticness – hard vs soft, curved vs straight, massive vs detailed. You can visually see the corners pulling against each other thanks to the gridlines projected over everything. Also, the lines on the car remind me of one of my favourite pieces of automotive art – Frank Stella’s 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ Le Mans car.

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November, Gion, Kyoto. D850, 24-120

In urban photography, I’m always looking for scenes that are a representative little vignette of the whole place – something that captures its spirit and feeling, if you will. The small alleyways of Gion at night have this paradoxical feel of invitingness because of their warm decor and lighting, but at the same time a sort of impenetrability and intimidation factor because the doors are usually closed, and there are few windows (none, in older establishments) that give any clue to the atmosphere within. People hustle past either with a determined destination in mind (or perhaps not quite having worked up the courage and curiosity to go into one of these places).

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November, Kiyomizu, Kyoto. D850, 24-120

A young couple celebrates the season amongst the crowds at one of the most popular spots in Kyoto – I spoke to the man briefly afterwards when he asked me to take a picture for them; it turned out he’d just proposed (if I understood correctly) at that moment. Sometimes, we get lucky. MT


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop videos, and the individual Email School of Photography. The 2017 year end sale continues for just a little bit longer – use the code XMAS2017 for 50% off all orders >$100. 

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


  1. The GX85 shot is really nice. The car almost looks like it’s made of satin. And you shot it through a window as well?

  2. Michael Fleischer says:

    Hi Ming, a very fine 2 sets of photos with inspirational use of light, texture, colours, “movement” and the distinct trademark
    of a particular virtuosity of presence and balance. Wow…hope 2018 will bring you more time to make your own work.

  3. scott devitte says:

    Sophie- what the world is coming to. And it is a good thing, Ming you are one poppi who truly is going to leave the world a better place for future generations.

  4. That photo of Sophie is my favorite, Ming. Close second is October, near Snaefellsbaer, Iceland.

  5. Good morning Ming,

    Technically impressive, but perhaps a bit lifeless?

    Be careful not to get carried away with achieving technical perfection at the expense of the story and the emotion. Sometimes such capable cameras encourage us all to ensure our images are first and foremost sharp, well exposed, carefully processed, etc, and at the end we’ve realised that we’re perfecting at the expense of focusing on conveying meaning.

    Keep on the journey!

    Best Regards,


    • This is a little ironic coming from somebody who has emailed me at least 20 times last year about hardware questions, no? 🙂

      Images are subjective. What works for me may not work for you – etc. Not sure how you can call the people images lifeless, but each to his own.

  6. Good choices Ming! I’m also glad you’re posting some stuff with the 24-120 on the D850, and are obviously happy with it. Many pundits on the Internet believe that is an impossibly bad combination! 🙂

  7. Paul Huston says:

    Ming, Fantastic images as usual!…. question….will you be doing a review of the D850?

  8. These photos remind me of your blog back when I started reading it. Variety, playfulness, visual trickery, exploration, watches, car details and people on the street. I don’t know, but looks like you’re having fun.

  9. Just wow Ming! Truly inspirational set of photos. My personal favourites are both rainbows and the building facade/structure. I’m still amazed on how you were able to get inspired and transform an ordinary view into something extraordinary. A true artist indeed. Keep ’em coming Ming 🙂

  10. Some really special photos here, Ming! There’s one that I might want to have a print of…. Actually more than one, but no space to hang them 🙁.

  11. Kristian Wannebo says:

    🙂 !!

    I especially like all from Iceland, the Gion photo and the vimmelbild (also I needed some time to see that).

    That dark waterfall, best waterfall photo I’ve seen!

  12. Fantastic photos with so much variety. Everything from an excellent portrait of your lovely daughter, to a car, to a watch, to spectacular nature.
    One quick question: do you ever use the medium format cameras without a tripod?

    • All the time – actually I rarely use a tripod…

      • Alex Carnes says:

        I’m sure I remember a certain Ming Thein of some renown writing an article on why we should always use tripods and L-Brackets! 😉 I like my tripod but my enthusiasm for carrying it around is not increasing…

        Anyway, great set of images as usual. I’m a recovering watch addict btw, so I’m particularly intrigued by your new enterprise. 👍

        • When working contemplatively and slowly, yes…but tripods aren’t really so conducive to spontaneity. That said, you can’t really do long exposures or precision product macro handheld 😛

  13. It probably took me a good 4 minutes to figure the buss image out, but once I did it worked a lot better for me 🙂 But my personal favorite is the monochrome car, that’s the kind of image that got me to follow you and your blog.

    Just wanted to drop in and say thanks for the work you have done with the blog, Flickr-group and your teaching videos.
    I first found your blog when looking for camera reviews a couple of years ago, and it has been a big part of my own photographic development. Thanks again and a happy new year!


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