Photoessay: Dresden cinematic

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In keeping with the seasonal theme, and one of my favourite parts about travelling to Europe during the winter season – the Christmas markets are interesting hives of human activity. People are relaxed and happy; they’re doing interesting things or having interesting interactions and the light gets cinematic fast since ambient is pretty much nonexistent by the time things really get going. It felt like the right time and subject for which to reprise the cinematic style a little, too – and an excuse to see what this new 85/1.8 Z can do (in short: I like it, very, very much). Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked – but there’s always next year, and I’d much rather the feeling of potential left to explore than a subject being completely tapped out…

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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  1. Wolfram Ziltz says:

    Dear Ming, as a German I’m pleased to see you came to our country again. Beautiful images !
    May I ask you about one legal aspect of the Dresden series. Starting from #3 and on, the subject is quite clearly identifiable human. Unfortunately with new, much-disputed copyright laws in force(*) those kind of unadulterated shots are almost
    impossible. You’d have to ask people for their approval in advance, at least when they could be identified later.
    My practical experience: sadly 90% of them will refuse to be in the picture.
    Of course that is killing any impulsive photo action, almost the end of “street photography”.
    So I wonder how you convinced those people … and how you would still get that accidental feel?

    (*) it goes so far that even when a person is only shown from behind, you’re still at risk of an offence in case there are some individual
    attributes that can be recognised by friends or family members

    • Does the law also exclude editorial use and implied consent? There’s nothing accidental about any of these images. I was standing in full view of all subjects like every other tourist with a camera, and was not stopped or objected to.

      • Wolfram Ziltz says:

        Unfortunately there is no such implied consent. I believe most of the subjects in their booths weren’t really aware they were being photographed, which I meant by accidental feel. Practically you can’t approach them first and ask for permission. The person may even be aware that you point a camera at him. The strange upshot of that tightened bill is that it doesn’t matter. You could get in trouble if you didn’t get the permission, then publish a photo and someone accuses you (which is very unlikely).
        After the dust has settled we’re a bit back to just-do-it using normal interpersonal rules of politeness. 90 percent would refuse in advance but still won’t step up to you and ask you to erase the image or sue you. German proverb ‘no plaintiff – no judge’.
        To be on the safe side in Germany, I suggest you use an (Italian style) workaround showing them your photos afterwards and ask if it was ok 🙂

  2. Hi Ming, next time you are in Dresden let me know. We once met in KL arranged by Peter Chong. I am Frank from The Bridge To Luxury, former CEO of GO, living in Dresden. Did you visit Glashütte? Best, Frank

    • Flying day visit with family, so nothing watch related on this trip. I believe we met in KL once but it definitely wasn’t Peter Chong, he will have nothing to do with me for reasons known only to him. I think it was probably Steven Holtzmann.

  3. elcastillohotel says:

    I love the pictures and their lovely atmosphere! Two questions: what exactly does cinematic mean? how do you handle white balance when shooting with light sources that have different temperature yet similar strength?

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Dresden because they have an amazing ballet company there in the opera house, but it’s a whole bunch of stops to get there from here in the US, so that was a little discouraging. Maybe one day if there’s an especially interesting program.

    I’m glad to hear you like the 85 so much. I think it’s the most special lens so far in their lineup: it’s certainly my favorite!

    • Ah yes – it’s a very artistic city, and the opera house itself has some interesting horological links with Lange on the watch side – their jumping hours and minutes clock.

      The 85 S is not far off the Otus on a performance level, but is so much lighter and AF really does make up for the 2/3 stop and small resolution disadvantage…

    • If you’ve the time i would combine multiple cities. Düsseldorf has some interesting architecture in the media harbout and many Art/Photogrpahy museums and might be the best place to get a flight to. There is also sometimes a “Düsseldorf Photo Weekend” where many museums and galleries open and work together to celebrate photography. Usually it’s in March.
      Hamburg is wonderful because of the new and old architecture, very open and friendly people, the big harbour and attractions like the miniature wonderland and from there Dresden would be a good next stop.
      If you don’t travel with too much luggage you can quickly travel through Germany by train. The rail network is pretty good, not slower than a plane if you consider the check-in/check-out and travel times to the airports, and if you buy the tickets some weeks before you can save like 50-70% of the ticket costs (called “Sparpreis” Ticket here). The only downside of the cheaper tickets is that you can’t cancel/refund those tickets or change the time.

      • Thanks for the tips. Actually I really want to do the car pilgrimage to Munich and Stuttgart, but that will have to wait 🙂 I can’t honestly say I’ve been a fan of the Düsseldorf school – it just makes no sense to me. Even in person, in print…

      • Thanks Leif! A friend used to live in Düsseldorf, so I’ve been there couple of times. I think I flew into Frankfurt, and we drove from there. The train system is indeed pretty good and fairly comprehensible even to non-German speakers like me!

        For gearheads, the Nürburgring is not too far from DUS, and a Ring Taxi ride isn’t that expensive, and is well worth the money, especially if your driver was Sabine Schmitz like we had. 🙂 And apparently the largest population of Japanese people are in that area too, so the sushi is pretty good. I was surprised to see a sushi stand at the airport when I first arrived!

        • Ah yes…the ring! I don’t know if Sabine is still doing taxi rides – isn’t she now one of the top gear presenters?

          • I think she hasn’t driven the Ring Taxi probably since BMW ran it, and before all the financial troubles the Ring went through.I was there in 2008, and BMW had E60 M5s for the taxis. It was great: she’d drift every corner, and people watching at that corner would cheer because they knew it was her.

            • That sounds fantastic. Surprising the M5s didn’t overheat actually – they were notorious for blowing diffs on track because of this…

              • I didn’t think the E60 M5 had overheating issues on-track, but maybe? I can’t find it right now, but I once saw a maintenance schedule for the Ring Taxis, and it was pretty intense as you’d imagine. New suspension every 5000km, and brakes probably much more often than that.

                • Whole new suspension every 5000km? That’s insane, considering you’d normally get 50k+ (or more) From the same setup and fast road driving. Could well be the overheating issues were only in the tropics – tarmac temp in the pits is north of 50C+ here frequently, and I imagine it’d be worse if you’re stopped after a run and the whole thing is heat soaking.

                  • In theory, steel springs shouldn’t wear out, but shocks will definitely wear, and probably the rubber bushings too. I don’t know about the M cars, but in the normal ones, the rubber bushings are basically wear items. The Ring is notoriously hard on suspensions, especially if you’re running 8-minute laps with 4 bodies and perhaps driving like a hooligan … I imagine the tires get replaced even faster! 🙂

                    There’s an interview with her where she talks about what she does if the car overheats, and basically, she doesn’t rev it as high.

                    • The M cars have much more robust suspension arms and more rigid bushings, but I think these are basically also wear items.

                      8 minute laps in a 1800kg sedan, 4-up? That’s mad…

  5. Wonderful Christmas photos Ming!

    What a tragedy Churchill and the Allies firebombed innocents of Dresden, home to much photographic history. The American parallel being my home of Rochester, also targeted during the Cold War.

  6. There are Christmas markets and then there are German Christmas Markets. The latter have so much more going on. You do well with the artificial light to create the cinematic mood (otherwise seems as if it was quite a flat, grey day).

    Dresden also has quite an edgy side to it, be great to see you capture that next time 🙂

    • I must have missed the edgy bit – though we were only there for a day, so the wife had priorities 🙂

      • You need to venture across the river for the ‘newer’ city. That mingled with old Soviet legacy is a great contrast to the beautiful old city. For only a day, the wife was right to focus on the main town. I love the markets but seem to get suckered into buying a whole load of tat!

    • Berlin has a definitely edgy side, and I love it. Great food, great jazz clubs, it’s a really enjoyable city. The last time I was there, they had an excellent Robert Frank exhibition.
      But, as much as I hate to say it, I find it difficult to photograph. Weirdly enough, almost all my keepers of Berlin were shot on B&W film.

      • Berlin agreed on edgy – I just didn’t see it in Dresden, but we also didn’t have that much time there. I also felt Berlin difficult to photograph. I suspect it’s because the city is quite flat and spread out with relatively low density at street level, making it difficult to link elements together spatially?

        • I agree with Berlin and the difficulties shooting, but I also find spring/summer is also a much better season for the city. The edginess has also been very much dulled by the hipster and dance music.

  7. Great ‘life’ photos. You seem to catch people at just the right time and match them to their surroundings.
    That 80-85mm is a really useful length.

  8. Wow! Truly beautiful pictures! My sincere congratulations!

  9. Michael Hanson says:

    Nice pictures! Definitely makes me feel like I’m there. Is there a particular aperture you prefer shooting the 85 at for this style? It looks like f/2.8 – 4 to me.

  10. Cinematic rocks

  11. Frank Sobol says:

    Lovely as always. I viewed these earlier on your Flickr photostream site and was stopped at the photo of the woman and man (photo #5 here) because of the color of her eyes. Again in viewing the photos here, I was stopped at the same photo. It was the capture of the color of her eyes again. Seemed amazing to have such clarity in the scene.

  12. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Very well captured, methinks!

    I lived in the south of Germany (around Heidelberg) for some years in the -70s and -80s.
    I’ve never been to Dresden though, but I do recognize the feeling, the action and the scenery – very similar to what I occasionally saw.

    Traveling through the eastern part of Germany still remains for me.

  13. Wow, can’t describe the feeling after all those great pictures from far away (KL and that sort) now seeing Ming Thein working my home town. That’s kind of a strange experience. And as always, what a great view through your lens.
    Greetings from Dresden!

  14. Love the atmosphere. As always, your images and way of capturing connect strongly the viewer to the scenes and people.
    Off topic : this 85mm seems to be a great “lens-to-go”.

  15. belle tranche de vie !!!
    Bravo !!!!

  16. “Dresden Cinematic”, or an expression of “Life …. “?
    Nice work!

    Ming, is your work on exhibit somewhere in Kuala Lumpur. If so, please advise the address and hours. It would be really nice to see it displayed on other than on screen of laptop/computing devices.

    • Bit of both, I guess?

      Sorry, no exhibitions at the moment or anytime soon – the cost to maintain a gallery is prohibitive, and art just doesn’t sell here (much less photography, sadly).

      • Pity.
        Perhaps at some point the Malaysia Photographers Community will give thought to having a national gallery for display of their work, or indeed something similar.

        • I can only hope – in the meantime most of them are too busy obsessing over their gear to actually take photographs…

          • ” … in the meantime most of them are too busy obsessing over their gear to actually take photographs… ”
            Found that most amusing/entertaining, besides of course the factual description that it is

            • Unfortunately sad but true…there was a gallery in the past that eventually had to become a camera dealer and workshop provider to subsidise the cost of the rest, which was eventually given over to more traditional (painted) art.

  17. Very seasonally “warm” images! Nice.


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