Photoessay: Alpine

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Earlier in the year, I made a family trip to Japan – Tokyo (of course, images to follow) and Hakuba – site of the Winter Olympics in 1998. As it turns out, torn discs aren’t that much of an impediment to skiing since if you’re as out of practice as I am, most of the work is done by your thighs and knees; in the end I managed only two days before I gave up and decided to make the most of the one clear-ish day we had for some landscape photography. Even so, it had to be squeezed in between parental and spousal duties, so opportunities were somewhat limited; as it turns out the light didn’t last that long, anyway. All of my previous alpine photography experiences have been on bare mountains; it’s quite different to have the varied textures of different trees to work with, and the subtle gradations as the clouds shifted and shadow patterns across the hills changed. I deliberately left in the large color temperature differences between direct/reflected sun and snow/ ice in shadow; it seems the ice attenuates certain wavelengths to emphasise the cool shadows. Hopefully some of that delicacy is translated here. MT

Images were shot with a Nikon Z7, almost entirely the 70-200/4 with 1.7x TC, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III and the Z7 Profile Pack.

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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. Was kind of hoping for photos of French sportscars. Oh well 😉

  2. The consistent quality of your work never ceases to impress me.

  3. These are really beautiful photos! I would like to get into photography and these are inspiring.

  4. Justin Bonaparte says:

    These are really beautiful.

  5. William A Giokas says:

    Yet photography is looked down upon because you are using a digital device(camera)to create art instead of actual drawing.
    However, that being said it’s how one perceives the visual that is most important. A good assignment I had in photography class
    was to take a simple camera and go out and shoot. One that had a fixed lens.

  6. Ørjan Laxaa says:

    Beautiful set. You really managed to capture the look of winter (at least how I’m used to it, beeing from the nordic regions and all that)

  7. Wow.

  8. It’s really interesting to see deciduous trees in the mountains – the European Alpine forests are, of course, virtually entirely coniferous. I’ll never tire of seeing a bare tree sparkling with frozen fog in the morning, unfortunately it’s soo hard to capture with a camera :-(.

  9. Yves Simon says:

    Superb photos, I love them! Thanks.
    One question: number 7 is slightly mauve. Was it like that, did you want that coloring, or is it due to the camera / lens? (white balance, chromatic aberration).

  10. Absolutely stunning images Ming, an inspiration – thank you.

  11. amazing! 6, 7 & 8 look like brush paintings.

  12. The photo of the village… Excellent Ming!

    • Thanks – glad I carried all of those millimeters! My experience tends to be that alpine landscapes really benefit from a lot of compression; 400+ is welcome.

  13. I think you take better (more interesting/artistic) photos with Nikons than you ever did with Hasselblad. And I include the photos you took before you picked up the Hasselblad. I know it’s a generality and just my opinion, but I’d be curious about your point of view on that.

    • I was much more deliberate in the way I shot with the Hasselblad because I had to be; that’s the nature of the device. It isn’t a run and gun machine you can pull out of your pack at a pause in skiing, snap off a shot or two and then move on. The Nikons are a lot more conducive to point and shoot run and gun grabs; maybe that’s the reason. I’m probably even more experimental with the phone.

  14. Mark Kirkpatrick says:

    Very pretty, Ming — thanks. How did you handle white balance? Did you use (e.g.) a WB card, or each photo tweaked to taste?

    • As I always do – make a mental marker of what I want to read as white in the scene, apply my custom color profiles to the raw file to hit neutral, and eye dropper tool on the elements that should be white.

  15. Derrick Pang says:


  16. Axel Polt says:

    A great set of impressions – chapeau. Ming, you really should do more mountain / alpine trips if somehow possible… Why not the dolomites or the Oberengadin next time – hoping for a different view by you on those landscapes…

  17. I love how some of these look like pencil drawings. So nice!

    • Thanks – I wish I could draw that well! I can’t, so I use a camera…

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Ha ha – that was my excuse for not going to art classes and taking up photography instead. Anyway, I don’t believe it – you are extremely artistic, and if you’d put as much energy into art as you have into photography, you’d probably be hanging in galleries all over the world by now.
        Love these photos the subtle variations blew me away.
        I am constantly staggered at the range of things you photograph, and left wondering how you can possibly catalogue them – you must have more entries than a major public library using the Dewey decimal classification system has, to track its books!

        • Not sure about that – I lack the socialisation skills required to do the gallery thing properly, even assuming I could draw. Some people just can’t, myself included. That said, I thought it would be easier to take up photography as a form of art, but on second thoughts – maybe it isn’t. Ultimately though, all photographs / subjects decompose into blocks of color and luminosity – seeing only this enables you to look past subject bias to arrange those as your underlying structure. The remaining devils are in the details…

          Classification/ filing: by subject and then year. And there’s an index of keyframes/ selects I store separately to help me find a particular shoot. There are dozens of nested folders though.

          • Absolutely beautiful. In the tradition of etchings, only more so.

            When it comes to deconstructing art into blocks of color and luminosity, I can’t help but think of Chuck Klose – painting with pixels before there were pixels. Apparently he was breaking objects into minuscule cells filled with colors in turn divided into abstract shapes. Sort of like halftone screens for color printing, but without the rigid mathematical pattern. It takes an unusual vision to see that way.

            • Thanks – actually, reminds me of an artist I found recently called Jason Anderson, whose compositions seem to be similarly blocked/divided…

    • I was thinking this, too. Like sketches – maybe in ink – or even woodcuts. Pictures #5 and #9 look like “traditional” Japanese art, at least to random outsiders.

  18. Lovely set, Ming!

  19. This is ART, Ming. Well done.

  20. Great series, the third one down is very nostalgic for me, I use to live in a place with winters like this.


  1. […] 📷 On a visit to Japan, Ming Thien skied at Hakuba, and made some lovely landscape photos. Some of them look like pencil drawings! Read Photoessay: Alpine […]

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