Photoessay: Upwards

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Today’s set is the result of a sore neck in New York – there’s so much verticality so close to you that you’re always craning upwards to see what the light is doing at the peaks. Street level is mostly shady given the angle of the sun and the blockage of surrounding structures, but there’s inevitably a lot of interesting contrast at the tops of the buildings – not to mention such a dense urban wimmelbild of shapes and textures. Perhaps it can get a little repetitive, but I find the homogeneity quite interesting – it’s the same, and yet it isn’t. The challenge lies in giving each frame its own personality – especially when the preference tends to involve shooting at a certain time of day for the right kind of shadows. And no, I didn’t always correct the keystoning – sometimes, that’s a large part of what creates that sensation of towering into the distance. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z and my custom JPEG picture controls, and a Fuji XF10 and Workflow III.

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Prints 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. Kristian Wannebo says:

    )Usually New York photos give me an impression of dense building at the lower levels with lofty spires sticking out.
    Many of your photos here, Ming, give me an almost oppressive feeling of high density all up to the top – a little of the feeling of the architecture in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis…

    But I most certainly enjoy the photos! 🙂 !
    Especially your choice of light play and composition – as usual, Ming, you get all the details right.
    ( – as e.g. in #1 the upper right corner and the light on the top of the lower middle building.)
    – – * – –

    > “.. I didn’t always correct the keystoning ..”
    Of course not, that always introduces a false perspective – sometimes wanted though.

    ( For geometry, or e.g. reducing the keystoning to compensate for watching (extra) wide-angle photos at a “nornal” distance instead of close enough.)

    • I got the same feeling when I was there, so the photos just mirror it – but it does vary from district to district, with some places being a bit more open than others.

  2. As someone that grew up in, lived in and worked in NYC for the better part of seventy years I found this article very interesting. Typically, New Yorkers never look up for fear of either getting knocked over or getting something in the eye. You are a brave man!

    • Knocked over I can understand, but something in the eye…from pigeons? Or things falling off buildings? (Have both glasses and the camera in the way, so perhaps no biggie).

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        … there is a lovely scene in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, where some children (plus the Uncle) take turns – by whistling at the right moment – to try to induce people to walk straight into a lamp post; success means winning a pancake, and many are eaten.

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