Photoessay: Cityscape Hong Kong

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It turns out this one was a lot tougher than I expected – mainly because of the sheer volume of starting material. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Hong Kong during my photographic career; and inevitably you land up staying somewhere with a relatively interesting view or two even directly from the hotel room, let alone once you start wandering at street level. The sheer density and rate of change of the city means that these two elements themselves are constants in the overall impression left; only on top of that can you layer the other details. The interesting thing is the details become recursive at multiple scales, resulting in a very dense urban wimmelbild of texture; it was tough to decide where to draw the line between cityscape and street during the curation. It’s also equally easy to get lost in the concrete canyons and forget that there are actually a lot of open green areas around the islands, and of course water. Regardless – there’s a lot to see here, and I’m pretty sure there are no end of arguments as to exactly what constitutes a ‘comprehensive’ interpretation of Hong Kong…

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS 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. When you’re travelling to cities, do you prefer to bring a zoom or a moderate wide prime and short tele prime?
    I’m travelling to Japan over new year for 2 weeks with my E-M5 II and not sure which kit to bring

    1) 12-40/2.8 with either 12/2 or 15/1.7 for night cityscapes
    2) 12/2 or 15/1.7, and 45/1.8

    The zoom will give more flexibility but I feel the primes will force me to think about composition more

    • For work, I go with whatever’s needed. For personal travel…well, that hasn’t happened in quite a while, but I’d go with the zoom. You don’t need to compose any differently than with primes, the rules of perspective don’t change; it’s just one’s own personal discipline about not being lazy to frame…

      • Thanks. Yeah I sometimes find I have to snap myself out of that mode of just composing where I’m stood and not zooming with my feet to find a better composition.

  2. I really enjoyed these. Number 10 (the reflected pedestrians) momentarily threw me for a loop while my brain figured it out.

    Very engaging through and through; wimmelbild is an apt descriptor.

  3. Very fine photographs, but really scary too; especially fourth and fifth from the top! Singapore seems a blessed place by comparison.
    Incidentally, did you use Hasselblad X1D in this cityscape?

  4. Beautiful photos but they scare me! Looks like future science fiction, but we are there! More and more people stacked one on top of another. No elbow room or private space. Little ticky-tacky boxes stacked one on top of another or side by side. China should have stuck with it’s one child policy and India should do the same. And look at the figures for Africa in the next 50 years. 7.3 billion people is straining our planet’s resources. Stop overpopulation, enough is enough! What will it take for us to figure that out? I guess it’s just in our DNA as “animals.” Reproduction at all cost………the cost of where we live.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • We’re definitely there. When Tokyo doesn’t feel out-of-blade-runner different and Doha airport had me confused with the bridge of the Enterprise…

      As for reproduction: education is needed first. We can’t arbitrarily limit half the population to one child – but have the rest of us be free to choose as many as we want – and expect to keep the peace. It has to be a voluntary choice, not a compulsion. It’a almost as bad as state-mandated compulsory religion; speaking firsthand as I live in such a country…

  5. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Browsing back and forth gives me the feeling of getting lost in this city…

    Shaking that off I see an impressive photo essay of strong photos.

  6. Nice takes on HK, I especially like the Mong Kok street, and I can see my own window in two of your photos (but that’s really not saying much in HK)

  7. Awesome essay….i haven’t been to HK yet but looking into yr images does tempt me….thankyou

  8. I’m still mad at myself for not tacking on a trip to Hong Kong when we took our river cruise of China with Viking. I love, love, love your pictures. It’s the buildings all stacked together and the street shots that I would love to have in my photo memory. And I still don’t understand how they can accommodate all those people with electricity, plumbing, parking, etc. A simply amazing place.

  9. Dennis Kane says:

    Thank you for these wonderful photos. I just returned from HK and your photos instantly brought back wonderful feelings. What a wonderful, fascinating city, and you captured much of what I experienced.

  10. Somehow this essay feels particularly fresh to me as I feel like it’s increasingly rare to see photos of HK that don’t dweel into neon fetichism, ultra grit or the “east meet west” cliché, not that I’m guilt-free of this…

  11. Jonathan Hodder says:

    TST, Jordan, Yau Ma Tei, Mongkok, Sham Shui Po. Brings back memories. Unfortunately not us brightly lit these days as it once was.

    Nice to see an X113 image snuck in.

  12. I love these images. For many, many reasons. But the one with all the people holding umbrellas is…wonderfully brilliant. Seriously.

  13. Don Moraes says:

    Picture #10…the one of the reflected umbrella people…fried my brain. What a brilliant photograph.
    Your editing style and composition are some of the best I have ever seen. Not too contrasty, just a smooth gradient of different tones. Amazing stuff!!

  14. Mostly telephoto compressed perspective… makes the city feel impenetrable, excluding. Not the place one wants to live in?

    • We can only meaningfully photograph what we feel…

    • Exactly my feeling. Ming’s evocative images, especially those showing buildings density make me more appreciative of being able to enjoy the countryside and open spaces with trees and green fields and unimpeded views of the sky.

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