On-Assignment photoessay: gentle curvature

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On some assignments you sacrifice your favourite camera strap, pray to the weather gods to grant you favour and be prepared to shoot everything in a half-hour mad rush around blue hour if it all goes to hell. This was one of those: a last minute call from a long-standing client with barely a 2.5 day deadline to deliver completed, retouched images. Normally I don’t (well, can’t) accept assignments on such short notice, but I happened to have a free day and the subject was quite interesting. The only problem: weather up to that point had been really terrible; one camera strap later and I think we lucked out. All shooting was complete within a 12 hour window – including the night images (done late the previous evening) and aerials (the morning of). Light was good, winds were calm and a couple of aerial stitches were achievable – thankfully, as there was no physical vantage point for the angles the client wanted, and limited aerial vantage due to surrounding buildings and construction cranes. The building itself is quite unusually shaped – there are no real external straight edges which gives it a very strange feeling at ground/podium level, as well as a means to defeat site setback regulations at street level to maximise internal floor space. Not all of it was completed in time, so there was no chance to photograph inside the rooftop glass-roofed area, which judging from the drone – had pretty extraordinary shadows from the window frames and columns. As an aside, I personally found the results much more interesting in monochrome as they brought out key features and played real volumes nicely against projected shadows, but unfortunately those weren’t part of the client brief – perhaps for a future photoessay, though… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, Z7 and DJI Mavic Pro 2 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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


  1. Excellent Images.Thanks for sharing such a beautiful images

  2. Ming, for that particular assignment, it appears you have used extensively the 19mm PCE. How was it to work with that special lens ? More precisely, did you experiment any loss of quality (not just taking about sharpness here) when you tilted/shifted aggressively ? Also, what is your opinion about the debate whether correcting perspective to have fully vertical lines does not lead to “natural looking” image ? Some people suggest it is preferable to leave vertical somewhat “oblique” . Many thanks !

    • I had to – not much space to back up to get the whole building in, and there weren’t really any other vantage points with a good line of sight that included the podium. For situations like this, the 19 PCE is indispensable.

      No loss of quality until the final mm or so of shift. I didn’t need tilt, at 19mm, f8 and normal distances almost everything is in focus anyway (and there isn’t usually any subject matter below say 2m in such a composition).

      Not all of my verticals are 100% vertical – it depends on what looks ‘right’, i.e. doesn’t stand out as being unnatural. 🙂

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Couldn’t agree more – while I’m a bit old fashioned about verticals (I’m entitled to be – I’m nearly 80!) and generally make sure that’s what I end up with, even if it’s during post, there’s quite often a shot which is enhanced by having converging verticals and would be destroyed by correcting them.
        After all, in strict optical theory, wouldn’t you have to be shooting dead level, from a height half way up the building, before “true” verticals is, in fact, an accurate image?

        • I tend to find in general:

          – Images that are all about geometry and made by the convergence should stay that way.
          – Images where the verticals are more of a backdrop – say a facade or hallway – need to be vertical.
          – Images at a distance need to be vertical.
          – Images at close range looking up can benefit from a bit of convergence for a more natural perspective.

  3. raticus says:

    Love it!

  4. Really well done. Hope the client appreciated your work (and work ethic).

  5. Manuel Felder says:

    Hi Ming, where is this fabulous building? Excellent pictures!

  6. Hi Ming, excellent images. I hope you were able to capture some monochrome exposures for yourself!
    I’ve been wondering for a while, do you use a photoshop macro to apply the ‘Ming Thein’ black border around your images? Or is it a manual operation?

    • Thanks, and yes I did – to be in another set.

      The border is an action I wrote that resizes, expands canvas and adds the watermark.

  7. Michael says:

    Not a fan of the architecture (think London) but the photography is terrific. You certainly know how to wring exceptional detail out of those drone shots.

  8. stanislaw witold zolczynski says:

    What`s that steel chute for? Unwanted clients? 🙂

    • I think the IDs were trying to be creative and fun but then forgetting the client is a government agency and thus about as far opposite from that as possible…

  9. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Fascinating life you lead, Ming! Extraordinary photos – but then we’ve come to expect that, from you. 🙂

  10. The first (and second) image does not look the same as the 12th images. Are they the same building? The 12th image shows a more symmetrical building back to front, whereas the first image shows a 3D curve edging towards the top of the building on one face.

  11. Alex Carnes says:

    That’s a great set of images!

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