Photoessay: nocturnal impressions of Hong Kong

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You know a place has something on you if you want to go out and shoot to relax after spending the whole day…shooting on assignment. In this case a very different sort of work, and the kind of thing one can shoot in flow/ stream of consciousness; you react instinctively and don’t think too much about the scene. I look at the structure and the main highlights – note, not subjects, since the image is more of a vignette of a feeling than a specific description of a subject – balance the composition, and then shoot accordingly. There’s one kicker: I shot everything at ISO 64, handheld, relying on the stabiliser of the Z7 and the large amount of ambient light. I must have been inspired by Robin’s experiment some time back, but in this case I was deliberately seeking out motion, layers and wimmelbild to convey the impression of busyness and activity, but with the sort of surreal detachment that a monochrome presentation suggests. The emotional impact of color is not present, and one feels a bit colder and more objective or separated from the scene; an observer rather than a participant – which matches my feelings in places like this. I shot something like 500 frames that evening. This is my selection. MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. There are also one or two camera JPEGs in there, and I now have a very similar SOOC picture control pack available here.

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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. Ming, your site is one of the very serious sites, that I visit from time to time!

    This was very interesting for me, as a few weeks ago I got the Leica M Monochrom 246 as an upgrade to the old one with corroded and unusable sensor.

    The huge different to your Z7 is, there is no VR or IBIS in the Leica and I have to hold all by myself.
    A few days ago I did some night shooting in Hamburg. It was so dark, that I had some problems to see enough to watch my steps. I had the Leica Tri Elmar 16-18-21mm f/4 and did most shots with f/5.6 and some down to 1/6 sec. – but I had to use up to 10.000 ISO.
    My previous Leica Monochrom was useless at ISO 6400 and so the results are very surprising for me and the B&W out of the camera is just a pure joy.
    You may find the pictures here:

  2. A nice set of photos of a favourite city of mine. It never occurred to me to go below ISO 800 when shooting the Causway Bay district at night (Sony 28mm f2 on an A7II) yet looking at the shutter speeds I could have handled ISO 400 (or 200 under exposed by one stop for richer highlights). It also never occurred to me to shoot anything other than colour (but I do get quite giddy on the colour of the place, at night).

    • Can’t blame you – sometimes it’s not easy to go against the strongest first impression; I find it usually takes a few revisitations…

  3. Very nice pictures, Ming. I think that with a worse camera (iq wise) they would even look better.

  4. Fred Pinkerton says:

    These great images are centered on the southern end of Nathan Road on the Kowloon peninsula. That’s across the harbor from Hong Kong Island. I stayed here many times on my way to factory visits in southern China. I must have over 500 snapshots of this area, with precious few to match this set. BTW: Shoestring Travel was my go-to business visa supplier (third image). I find Kowloon/Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) to be the best location for stopovers in HK. It’s super-pedestrian friendly.

  5. Fine Imaginative stuff Ming! Enjoyed it.

  6. John Cheng says:

    Hong Kong is colorful, why take B&W shots???

  7. Nice ones! Makes me think of Film Noir… In case you haven’t yet tried… I got impressive image stabilization with the 24-120 and the Z7.

  8. really nice work

  9. Thx for your impressions. Like the B/W style.

  10. Ming , this is truly inspiring work . Thanks for sharing . Night photography always intreagued me and knowing that today’s stabilization technology helps shoot handled with such stunning results is just the input I needed to get into it .
    And that 24-70 mm f/4 looks absolutely great
    One piece of advise that I would be grateful for : did you at anytime during this night shooting , miss an f/2.8 zoom or an f/1.8 or f/1.4 prime ?? ……Are the optics of the current crop of f/4 combined with the high ISO standards enough ?
    I remember in one of your earlier essays you did mention that f/4 24-70 is more than enough now a days especially considering the weight and the low light capabilities of current crop of cameras , irrespective of the make .

    Your kind advice would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks n keep up the great work for years …
    Especially since , on a lighter note , your country s PM is 94 years young …… thanks again

  11. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Oh, you’re good – very very good – Ming! This is my idea of available light photography – brilliant stuff. Captures the eye at once, and draws the viewer straight in!
    I’m trailing along behind, nowhere near as clever as that, but I love doing what I can in this genre. Because one of my primary objectives in switching from analogue to digital was to explore colour photography (after half a century of mostly B&W), I tend to shoot in colour. But these shots have encouraged me to rethink it, and perhaps give B&W a try. (Conversion later, in post, ain’t nivver gonna be the same!)
    The sharing of ideas in a forum like this is one of the great plus-es of photography!

    • Thank you! I admit this set is a bit out of my usual style too – which tends toward the color cinematic at night – but the stabilization capabilities and tonal range of the Z7 made me rethink this…

      • Great pictures that show excellent use of the stabilisation feature. Do yo think you would have been able to capture similar images with the Pen-F or does the Z7 bring something extra to the game?

        • Thanks. I think it’d probably be quite close since both would be at base ISO and there was a lot of deliberate tonal compression going on, but the Z7 definitely has more dynamic range should you want to retain more into the highlights/ shadows.


  1. […] is still there, but there’s also a bit more looseness that psychologically allows me to experiment in ways that I wouldn’t have done before. It’s a different set of creative restrictions – using a balanced amount of movement/ […]

  2. […] 📷 Ming Thien did some very nice nighttime photography around Hong Kong. Have a look. Read Photoessay: nocturnal impressions of Hong Kong […]

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