Photoessay: Rush

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I’m still trying to figure out exactly why the nature of cities means we are always in a hurry to get from one place to another, even for pursuits of leisure. Surely this is somewhat counterintuitive and counterproductive…? Or maybe it’s just me; there are definitely times life feels like a checklist. But judging by the number of other people stuck on the same treadmill and doing the same things, perhaps there’s been a sea change in human attitudes we’ve unconsciously been sucked into. Still, it makes for some nice images…

This set was shot handheld with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR (this particular combination of camera and lens has a particularly effective stabiliser for some reason; much more so over its predecessor) and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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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. Joseph Somer says:

    Beautiful photos. You pull such poised arrangements out of the writhing mass of visual stimulus in cities, stuff that’s usually flashing by in such quick succession it’s hard even to process.

    On the topic of people moving faster in cities – perhaps as a reformed physicist you’d enjoy Geoffrey West’s take on ‘scaling laws’ in biology, now being extended into cities. There’s actually a good correlation between the size of a city and the average pace people walk in it! The theory goes that systems that are network-like have certain universal properties that stem out of fractal geometry. It’s great stuff.
    View at

    • Thanks! Scaling laws: I have actually seen this. But in very very large cities like Mumbai or Rio, the speeds drop again: something else is at work here; perhaps a function of heat (or heat dissipation…)

  2. Another great set, Ming. You just nail the beauty and contrast of stills that help us feel movement. Hope everything is well, my friend. Cheers!

  3. It’s sort of a chicken and egg situation. Do we rush because we live in a big city, or are we drawn to the city because we are natural rushers?

    Here’s a hypothesis. The bigger the city (and from this set of pictures, you’ve picked one of the biggest there is – most of them are Tokyo if I’m not mistaken), the more we know that there is to see and do, and this stimulates us to move quickly. It’s the “I don’t want to miss out” feeling. I get a similar feeling in London, but less so in places like, for instance, Helsinki (which is nonetheless a fantastic place).

    My wife’s family lives in Hokkaido, way up in the north, and believe me when I say that it’s quiet up there. Other than skiing in winter, there is very little to “do” in the Tokyo sense. You can’t rush around up there. It’s pointless. When we go there, a single activity, whatever it may be, usually takes up the entire morning or afternoon. It has to, otherwise the down time would be crushing.

    It might well also influence how one photographs. Don’t know about you, but when I’m walking around Tokyo with my camera I rarely stay in one place too long. Find an interesting scene, wait for something to happen, get a few shots, move on. Out in the countryside you’ll often spend a long time in one place, so it encourages you to look more closely. Not to suggest that one approach yields better results than the other, but they are certainly different.

    Off the main topic, but is there any particular reason you used the D850 over the various Hasselblads you presumably have at your disposal? Not that it makes much difference to the picture quality, certainly at web sizes…

    • Actually, there’s probably a large element of that for visitors; but I don’t know about locals. When I lived in a big city I just wanted to escape it for my own little slice of quiet…
      D850: better match to a teaching client’s equipment, and one needs to know what’s going on with the competition…practically, a lot of the visual effects and locations required a stabilizer (which the Hasselblads don’t have, and effectiveness decreases significantly with sensor size) or tripod (which wasn’t allowed in a lot of places).

  4. It’s very nice. Thank you for sharing it.

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