November 29, 2013

Graduating Assignment - Ming Thein Email School

Light and shadows

I have finally completed the Email School and while it's the end of the program I see it as a new beginning, a start of a new journey. It took more time than I expected but that's part of the beauty of the program. You get to do it on your own time and pace and you're not forced to making images if you're uninspired or you lack the motivation. For this final assignment Ming called it "Open Graduating Assignment". Subject doesn't matter, I can shoot anything and I can apply all of the techniques, tips and learnings from previous assignments. The challenge is I need to submit 5 images and each image must stand on their own with no explanation. So how did I do? Read on...

For the main image Ming thinks that the structure looks familiar. Perhaps because it could be any door entrance :). He thought the light is interesting with nice subtle tonal transition across the shadows into the doorway, the strong converging lines give the image direction and it's a nice, simple semi-abstract that works well. I should add that a few weeks after adding this image to flickr it became my most 2nd viewed image of all time with close to 10,000 views as of this posting.

Mt. Baker view from Canada

Mt. Baker - Ming likes the feel of this image very much. Quality of light is once again excellent and the subject stands out. He likes the dark to light gradient as the viewer moves up the frame. It helps to create a sense of distance and scale to the image. The image I submitted lacked a tiny bit of post processing and he suggested lifting the curve so there's more highlight contrast. I did that of course before posting the image to flickr. He called it a solid image.

In Between

Clock Tower - Ming liked the idea and the rich, deep colours which you cannot get without the right light. He suggested a little dodging of midtones/highlights on the bottom left to balance out the strong gold building but I decided to leave it. Not because I didn't want to but so you can see the original. I also did not want to post a before and after since it's very subtle and you can easily visualize it I think. Although I don't have a clue on flickr's interestingness logic (it's been a mystery for a while) and I don't trust it I still want to mention that flickr ranks this my 15th most interesting photo in my collection. It has close to 5,000 views as of this posting.


Saturn - more to the title later. Expansiveness of the sky and feel of evening are the two main things that came across Ming's mind when he saw this image. I want to mention the assignment about colour to create mood because it is key to influencing what the viewer feels. Sharing emotion through an image is important and one of the ways you can create that is through proper use of colour. Ming had several critiques to this image though. First, the bottom portion of the building is somewhat dark and heavy even though there are lighted squares breaking up the darkness. They were not enough to balance out the much lighter sky. It is most noticeable too on the bottom left. He suggested a tighter composition - even a vertical that includes the centre of the tower and a bit of dark object around it to make a 'U' shape. The vertical framing would also allow capturing more of the sky gradient to come through. There were no distracting edges and the subject stands out. The whole image is a bit flat though because there's not enough foreground detail to make out distant cues.

Ok, so why did I call the image Saturn? It is because that is the reason why I took this photo. If you look closely you will see one star in the frame (left center). On this day we heard on the radio that if you look South West you will see Saturn. So I went up to our office roof and tried to see what Saturn would look like to the naked eye. Initially it looked like an airplane light but since it was not moving we knew it was a star. It was quite shiny specially that no other star can be seen in that direction. 

Light & Lines

The fifth and final image is the weakest of the set. Although it has great light the balance is off. The top left sky is rather plain empty, even though it's filled by power lines, they're not visually dense to offset the strongly contrasty building. Ming liked the colours and contrast but he said there's something about the top right portion with the hints of light on the fire escape. There might be something of greater visual interest out of that corner. Unfortunately I cannot remember fully, I think it was quite rather dark due to shadows.

A window view

For this assignment Ming also asked me to take time curating the best images I produced. For the 5th image I considered the image above (window view) but I still picked the building over it. Ming did not provide a full review of the image but he said it's also a strong image in itself with the exception of the bottom right which is hugely distracting because of its size and visual prominence. And that is why I decided not to include it. I was not happy with the pov and could not fix it during the making of the photo. I had to jump into where the bartender is to get a better pov and I know they won't allow me back there just to take a photo.

Overall, Ming said he saw an enormous improvement in my work from the start of the course. And you can be a judge or critique if you're interested. Just look at my Flickr account simply by clicking any of the images in this post. I started the Email School around February or March of 2013. And one last thing, one of the images above was taken using an iPhone. Can you guess which one was it without looking at the exif data on flickr?

If you're interested to know more about Ming's Teaching Store simply click the link or go to The page lists all of the things that Ming offers including the Email School. Not to mention his website which has tons of photography related information that could help anyone improve their skills.



  1. Beautiful work - thanks for sharing! My favorite is the Clock Tower!

    Is the iPhone shot the last one (cafe)?


    1. Thank you Scott. The Clock Tower is the iPhone shot :).

  2. #1 and #3 are my favorites. Thanks for sharing the learning experience!