Photoessay: Navigli

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The Navigli is a series of canals around Milan originally dug and used to transport marble for the Duomo; it’s now a bohemian area full of restaurants, bars, and boutiques that only seem to open at 6pm. Sheltered from any actual tidal effects and even most of the ambient wind by buildings and banks, the canal’s waters have an interestingly slow, inky mirror quality to them.  I went relatively early to try and balance the ambient sunset (overcast) with the lights of the buildings, but landed up making a critical miscalculation as it turns out nobody eats til much later, and consequently it’s either light or people/activity (and of course food) – but not both. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Prints from this series are available on request.


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


  1. I think this is my favourite set of your photographs. I love the atmosphere they show. It struck me that the Italian people dress in such a way that they look “right” for the surroundings in which you found them, a natural visual symbiosis.

    Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Jacques says:

    All are lovely but the one in the music store gets my attention. Out of curiosity, do you spend time in music stores?

    Greetings from Calgary, Alberta

    • Thanks. These days – zero, given a much wider variety is online, streamable and at the convenience of one’s mobile phone…

  3. frankcornfield2017 says:

    I like these low key images but they would look better if the site background was dark or even black.

  4. Salut Ming,
    Like you, I used to get rave reviews of my photos but in the end very few actually ever bought any! That’s why I went into advertising photography. Actually, photographers don’t ( usually ) buy other photographer’s works. When someone actually pulls out some of their hard earned cash and purchases one of your photos, you know they truly appreciate your art!

    • Very true – and yes, it makes no sense to buy another photographer’s work when you can probably do something you like better yourself. Commercial was where I made a living, not selling to other photographers.

  5. Werner Walther says:

    I only enjoy, how really beautiful these pictures are! They are superb, a symphony. Here, photography goes beyond the technical image, the data file, it goes deep to our feelings, let it just come to you! The whole entity is more, than just a sum of all components, it is a composition in itself for the photographer, and will be recombined in the viewer’s eye, and mind, and soul to a new set of impressions, feelings and mood.Great!

    • Thank you! Some places/subjects speak to you more than others, and I suspect this comes through in the images too – if you have more feeling or empathy of sorts it’s much easier to make that come through in the final image, too…

  6. Beautiful images!

  7. These are stunning. It’s as if you made the light fall on every surface, and you made the air be crystal clear.

  8. When on earth did you manage to go to Milan?
    A most appealing series of photographs. Number 5 (big blurred arch hiding a large part of background in focus) I find rather courageous – gives me food for thought (on my own style of photography). Well done Ming, thank you!

    • Not long before things went upside down with COVID, actually. We returned on the 25th of January. Glad we did, seeing as there’s not going to be a chance to go again anytime soon. But definitely a place I’d love to revisit!

      As for OOF foregrounds: they work if they’re relatively low contrast and thus not distracting. But having something that’s calling out to the viewer but indistinct/ unidentifiable is extremely frustrating…

  9. John Jørgensen says:

    A true master. I find the 3rd last a bit messy in composition, one pict og sign and smiley, and one of canal / bridge. I find It confusing , but that’s only me. Really great picts. I really find your pictures a great inspiration.

  10. Superbes photos, d’une Italie à peine déconfinée.
    Bravo !!!

  11. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    And near one of them is the Basilica di Sant’Eustorgio – Milan’s “cathedral”, as distinct from the tourist’s “Duomo” – which reputedly originally housed the remains of the “three Magi”. There’s a gigantic stone “box”, carved, on display in the Basilica and when I saw it, there was a card claiming that the corpses of the three kings were all originally interred in it. Something I found rather hard to believe, since they came from different kingdoms and would surely have been buried there!

    • I saw that – and find it equally hard to believe, but equally it also seems like a rather odd thing to carve 🤷🏻‍♂️

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