Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part I

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The first part of this series is a sort of composited rush from one city (Tokyo) to the next (Kyoto) – it’s admittedly a bit discontinuous since the curation was made of a set of discontinuous 2.4:1 widescreen frames grabbed without the premeditated intention of being put together into a story; that said, I think they flow together quite well. If there’s one thing missing it’s a critical objective or action or something of that nature – but perhaps also quite indicative of what happens when one passes through a city with non-photographic objectives in mind. Shooting 2.4:1 is quite challenging without any guidelines – there is no mask or crop mode in the D850 for this, and one simply has to guess (it’s roughly half the frame height, plus a bit; I use the limits of the AF area’s outer box as a guide). 2.4:1 compositions really only work in two instances: when you’ve got a very full (‘wimmelbilt’) frame that spreads out horizontally, or a very empty one. The latter tends to be good for tighter human images, which this set is deliberately lacking – it’s about the place, not so much the people. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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


  1. Emil Varadi says:

    back to Nikon or have I missed something? Nice to see you reach “back” to the D-850. 😉

    • There’s always been a Nikon in the stable somewhere – there are assignments that require AF tracking and that’s not something I can do with the Hasselblads…

  2. I love the cinematic style. The shot through (presumably your own) umbrella and the one with the umbrellas blurred by motion are particularly appealing to me. The rears of the cars with all the vertical light signs in the distance as well.

    Regarding human vision, I find this illustration from wikipedia helpful:
    It shows our stereoscopic vision to be a circle of 120 degrees both horizontally and vertically; including monoscopic vision gets you up to 200 – 220 degrees horizontally, but only 130 degrees vertically. That’s 1.69/1, or pretty close to the 1.77/1 of the 16/9 aspect ratio. Although this image below, from the wiki about human field of vision, seems to indicate a somewhat flattened / widened per-eye field of vision:

    The stereo vision part equates a pretty extreme fisheye lens, and the monocular vision is about 130 degrees horizontally and vertically, or roughly to a 10mm lens on full frame. The actual in focus, full color part is in extreme telephoto territory. Labelling 35 or 50mm as mimicking the human eye doesn’t seem to be based on the actual human eye.

    I have a theory of how, if we insist on defining a “normal” focal length, 60-80mm on full frame is the only range that makes sense. It’s based on the principle that when the angle from the viewer to the outer edges of the frame equals the field of view of the lens, it feels like looking through a window, as the same angle of view is maintained into the scene. Combining this with the printing / displaying “wisdom” that an image should be viewed at 1.5 to 2 times the image diagonal, results in the most natural range of lenses for full frame being 1.5 – 2 times the 42mm diagonal.

  3. Beautiful images again. Thank you for showing!

  4. Bravo!

  5. I was on the Sony bandwagon for a while, the D850 cured me of that 😉
    Wonderful set Ming.

  6. So much visual depth in these, Ming! I love it!

  7. This is close to the XPan’s 3:1 aspect ratio.
    After shooting with the XPan for a while, I’m coming to believe that it actually represents a more “normal” view.
    Our stereoscopic eyes are arranged horizontally with overlapping visual fields, so the panoramic aspect ratio represents that binocular view more ‘normally’ than the monocular view of a 35mm or 50mm lens in a 3:2 aspect ratio.
    That’s the way I see things, anyway.
    You’re right that composing that entire, linear frame can be more challenging but that is a matter of developing an eye for the frame.

    • The XPAN may be a little bit wide, but I agree normal human vision is definitely wider than 3:2 or 4:3 – my guess is somewhere between 16:9 and XPAN depending on whether you wear spectacles or not (peripheral vision is compromised since the glasses lenses won’t cover the very edges). That said, 4:3 and squarer also look more ‘natural’ somehow than 3:2…


  1. […] Continued from part I. Think of this as Act II…MT […]

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