Travelling as a photographer

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There’s a big difference between travelling for photography, and taking photographs while travelling. I think it all boils down to priorities: is your priority photography, or travel? Or are you like me: photographing gives you a reason to travel, and forces you to observe and thus enrich your experience?

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I still remember my first long haul international journey. It was from Melbourne, Australia, where my family had migrated, to Kuala Lumpur – our hometown. I was eight; it was quite an experience – those were the days when they didn’t really check how much luggage you brought on, kids and the curious were still allowed to visit the cockpit and talk to the pilots, and flying was still an adventure. People made an effort to be civilised, wear nice clothes and not fall asleep on their neighbour’s shoulder or demand to go to the toilet four times an hour from a window seat. I’m 100% sure that photography didn’t figure into things at all back then; we probably have two rolls of film from a four week trip. (These days, assuming I’m going to bother shooting film, two rolls might last me a day or thirty minutes – depending on the light and the location.)

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Fast forward twenty years, zip through my time in the consulting firms and the start of the low-cost travel era, and we – or I, at least – am now at the point where airports and airplanes are necessary evil that one must endure to get from one place to another. It certainly isn’t fun anymore. Perhaps flying an average of 120 sectors a year for several years killed it for me, or perhaps it was the overzealous and paranoid security – not just at airports but everywhere else, too*. Packing for normal air travel has turned into something akin to hardcore outdoor travel: you weigh and debate the merits of every single thing that you might possibly bring along, because you know that the scales at check in are going to be calibrated against your favuor – no matter what your bathroom scale might say otherwise. I had a keen outdoorsman friend who would cut the labels off his clothes to save weight; now it seems a lot of people do it to avoid paying Air Asia obscene excess baggage charges.

*During a recent trip to Jakarta, pretty much every building had metal detectors and security guards stationed outside; cars were examined with mirrors on poles. Seriously: do any of them actually have any training? Can they tell the difference between a Quaife LSD and a fission core? How can they determine the contents of my heavily padded camera bag are safe by merely patting it down with their hands? Frankly, as a regular traveller, the false sense of security worries me far more than anything. It’s too easy to have something go very wrong after being lulled into complacency.

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Even though cheap tickets, proliferation of long haul and short haul routes, interesting city pairs and new hubs have opened up more destination options than ever – and we’re seeing far more tourists too, even comparing places I’ve visited repeatedly during the same seasons for several years – I personally feel going away is feeling less and less special. Beyond the airline and security imposed restrictions, globalization has meant that the downtown core of most major cities looks exactly the same; I think it’s actually possible to find a location in every one of these places that is so devoid in visual and cultural cues that if you photographed it and showed it to a random person, they’d have no clue which country – let alone which city – you were in.

This is really quite sad, and certainly makes me re-examine my rationale and objectives when I’m on the road – assuming they’re not obvious ones like commercial assignments or teaching. Firstly, the most obvious thing to do is be both a bit more disciplined and a bit more open to serendipity. This might sound somewhat conflicting, but bear with me for a moment. Discipline: resist the temptation to bring more. I wrote an article in the early days of the site on the benefits of one lens/ camera to go; the specific model might have changed, but this holds true now as much as ever. How much do we really need? As much as I want to bring a bit of everything just in case – especially to a location I know will be photographically rich – the reality is that I’m probably better off bringing something safe, familiar and reliable, but boring. That way, the equipment doesn’t distract: it does its job of capturing the image, and gets out of the way the rest of the time. This applies not just to shooting envelope but also reliability and weight – it’s getting harder and harder to get away with a full camera bag as carry on, and there’s simply no way anybody in their right mind is going to check that kind of thing in. 5kg is a joke – unless you’re going with one lens, or a mirrorless system. Modern security and weight restrictions certainly make travelling with film something of a challenge – one or two passes through an X ray machine might be fine, but if you’ve got a lot of sectors to cover, from experience convincing them to hand check 50 rolls of ISO 100 film is not so easy. Exposure most certainly adds up.

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By a similar token, if you are choosing to make a trip to focus on one aspect or style of photography, then it’s probably important to pack something that helps you focus on that. I’m on the fence about the ‘one chance’ mentality: part of me believes that if you have the gear you probably should use it; it doesn’t make pictures sitting on your shelf, especially when 400mm could make the difference between getting that shot of bigfoot or not. But similarly – I like to pride myself in being able to make a picture under almost any circumstance, which means falling back on one’s skills as a photographer to engineer a composition that works regardless of the angle of view. I fight with myself before every trip when deciding what to pack, but in the end there’s always something that I brought but didn’t use (or could have really done without).

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I’m going to swing through 180 degrees here and come back to serendipity: if you’re not open to randomness, new experiences or just going wherever the road takes you, you’re also not going to be in the right place at the right time to get a shot you didn’t plan or expect. I think this is probably one of the biggest reasons why we travel to photograph: to see and shoot something beyond our normal expectations; to challenge ourselves to find something unique in a place where others have already been. In the modern age, it’s perhaps the closest we get to conquering something: putting a visual stamp onto a place that we can call our own.

I know I’m a very logical and ordered person: I’ve been accused of being binary and rigid as a result, which I don’t deny. (It also means that I’m good at planning, execution and dealing with contingencies, but that’s another story.) When I travel, I usually have a fairly good idea of where I want to go and what I want to see; but after finding that the most rewarding and pleasing images have been when I’ve just been in a place without an objective, I’m increasingly just turning up and following my feet – and my nose. Perhaps it’s that lack of destination that makes you more receptive to (and thus more observant of) the journey – and ultimately, isn’t that what travel is all about? MT

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Comments

  1. Reblogged this on cynthiadasilvarocha.

  2. Reblogged this on tyme4recess.

  3. I enjoyed your images. What was your overall impression of the Panasonic LF 1 as a travel camera? Is the EVF useable? Thank you?

    • The EVF is better than nothing for improving stability – bracing it to your face helps – but the resolution is terrible and the dynamic range very poor. It’s better than an optical tunnel finder, but not by much.

      Overall the camera is decent, but if you’re only going to have one camera – I’d still want something with a faster lens or better low light capability.

  4. The black and white photo of the people strolling has a wonderful ‘figure 8′ of people which causes the eye to also stroll round and round the picture, never leaving but picking up details with each revolution. Nice!

  5. You inspired me to look at my photography differently, especially when I travel.

  6. Reblogged this on Turning Wanderlust into Reality.

  7. Nice topic(s) & style Ming.

  8. Reblogged this on ZIPADEEDOODAH.

  9. Reblogged this on doubleplusgood..

  10. I think if your naturally a photographer this is not so much a question. i find that my need to capture images of a new place is what drives me to go and talk to people find out what crazy things people do there.

  11. Reblogged this on Cold Thriller in Disguise.

  12. you got a high class standard when it comes of taking photos.i absolutely love the pics you’ve posted.

  13. Great post, and definitely something I find when traveling as well! Awesome photos

  14. Excellent article. Unfortunately, I have not ever been able to convince myself that less can be more. Many times I’ve traveled with 2 camera bodies, 4 lenses, all the filters and everything else only to find myself using such a small percentage of what I brought. I think it does make you a better photographer to have to work with what you have. On the other hand, every time I leave the backpack at home, I find myself wishing for this or that. Last year, I went to lighthouse and only had my 28-300mm and there was no way of getting back far enough to get the whole lighthouse in. I was wishing I had brought my 10-20. The images I came away with were fine, but the extra work in post processing to get the complete lighthouse was time consuming.

    • I’m not sure a Swiss Army knife type lens is the best choice here; you’re sacrificing quite a lot of quality. In any case, I think the point of limitation is to concentrate on what you can get and spend extra effort in making it good, rather than compromising and trying to get everything…

  15. What a great post – words and images! I think your central issue is one many debate about in their own minds – some great points to mull over. Thank you.

  16. Reblogged this on Definition of Fernweh and commented:
    Check out this article! Do you travel to take pictures or take pictures while travelling?

  17. Nice photos of Prague. I’ve never seen less than 10kg for a carry on limit, 5kg is just insane! In fact I can’t remember the last time I had to weigh my carry on, lucky European I guess. Heading to the US in March and weighing up bringing both my SLR and compact or just going with the Fuji X10. The only thing i’d miss is the 30mm F1.4 on my Canon, and of course the better high iso results. Decisions decisions :) I think if we’re serious about shooting a particular place we’ll visit again specifically for that, do the tourist thing, take some snaps and scout it out and then head back and do the legwork.

  18. nice post. nice trip too.

  19. Reblogged this on cupofkt.

  20. really good article. thanks!

  21. Nice post. Really interesting. :)

  22. Nice topic. I often have this struggle when travelling: what will I concentrate on? Appreciating the beauty of the place or taking pictures? It’s kinda weird but I can’t seem to enjoy both at the same time, specially when the venue is somewhere which it is hard to carry a camera. Nonetheless, taking pictures always prevails. it’s quite hard for me to leave a great place without having pictures to remind me how beautiful the sceneries that I’ve come across to.

  23. I like this part and heartily concur:
    “Beyond the airline and security imposed restrictions, globalization has meant that the downtown core of most major cities looks exactly the same;”

  24. Ah, I just saw someone else identified it as Prague. Must book some tickets!

  25. Great post. A question – where is the town in the featured photographs? It looks Eastern European, maybe Hungary or the Czech Republic?! I want to go there (with all the cameras I like!!).

  26. simonyeoillustration says:

    Reblogged this on gallerycreative.

  27. Reblogged this on cuppakristy.

  28. Reblogged this on coralcoastpr and commented:
    Awesome Article

  29. Reblogged this on machilei.

  30. i guess these days we’ll just have to make lemonades out of lemons. security checks are tough but necessary, so i won’t be wearing my trainers next time. which reminds me to know how to pack only “the essentials”. it’s just that i can’t seem to figure that out till now. and yeap! the camera makes no difference, it’s the photographer. that’s why i love my point and shoot, most of the time ;-) great read! nice, i mean really nice photos!

  31. This enlightens me. Nice!

    -crizzie :)

  32. Reblogged this on Random Thoughts and commented:
    Difference can be seen

  33. Great post Ming, with such beautiful photos of Prague. Makes me crave a new camera so much more now!

  34. I am sure that your comments will ring a bell with many, especially about how air travel has changed and flying is no longer fun (at least not in large aircraft).

    But photography certainly DOES increase the value of travel. If you have even been forced to travel without a camera, then you will soon realized just how much you miss. But sometimes I envy those who do not take any photos sometimes it is much easier without the hassle.

    But when you look back on some good holiday photos, then it makes it all worthwhile.

    jeritilley.wordpress.com

  35. Love your post. Great pictures.

  36. These photos are brilliant. Wow.

  37. Also, very true about the cities I have thought that so many times, it really would make such a good exhibition; 3rd world vs western world… a city is a city. Or something like that!

  38. I am no professional and having upteen amounts of equipment to pack is not a problem I have, but I do travel to photograph. Without a doubt. In fact more often than not I experience most of the trip through the camera, as I am too busy taking pictures to look at my actual surroundings… I may as stay at home because i see the trip though a screen anyway!! But… I love it. What can I say? I want to have photographs of the world not actual memories!

  39. Reblogged this on Abi's Blog and commented:
    Great article here – I need to go travelling again soon!

  40. Reblogged this on 3/4 ramblings 1/4 sense.

  41. fifteenmelle says:

    this is beautiful

    fifteenmelle.wordpress.com

  42. Great work

  43. Gorgeous photography!

  44. These are amazing photographs! ~BobD (grayelephantclub)

  45. The last time I shot film while traveling was 2004. Shot 37 rolls in Brazil and it cost me $400 to develop them. (1/2 the price of a nice SLR). Digital has been great, though I do miss using my old, trusted and well-traveled Nikon N 40 from time to time :) Keep shooting and enjoying…cheers! – Damian

  46. Nice done. I like your observation, “Perhaps it’s that lack of destination that makes you more receptive to the journey.” That is what it is all about.

  47. Just figured out these were all taken with the Panasonic LF1 ! They are stunning.

  48. Excellent article, Ming. I noticed that these photos were shot if I’m not mistaken with a Panasonic LF1. What is your opinion of it? I picked one up myself just this weekend after looking for a (truly) pocketable camera to take travel pictures, mainly of cityscapes and my 2-year old son. My other camera is a Sony NEX-5N but I’m finding it difficult to handle it and a toddler at the same time. I’m hoping the LF1 can match the IQ of my old LX-3, but am still trying to figure out the best settings for it. I so dearly wanted to get a Ricoh GR, but it seems that the autofocus in lower light makes it less than ideal for kids. And the Sony RX-100 really didn’t fit in my front jeans pocket…

    • Yes, these were shot with an LF1. It’s not a bad camera, but the EVF is a bit of a joke and the lens isn’t fantastic. It feels and handles like a ‘conventional’ compact – IQ will match the LX3, but not much more. I don’t have an issue with the GR’s AF in low light.

  49. In ” Hunchback” Victor Hugo points out: before the printed word became universally available, Man communicated his story through architecture. It is hard to contemplate how vacant of variety instant electronic communication is going to make our world. Just look at how vacant folks appear when they stare into their cell phone……Regardless of what city they are in.

  50. What’s the best small camera for travel in addition a full system (like A7/E-M1 etc)? Sony Rx100, Ricoh GR, Pana GM1…

  51. Well, that is a very timely post Ming. Next month we are flying to Mexico for a weeklong vacation. I’ve been thinking about which lenses and how many bodies I will take (all m/43). Then tonight my wife told me that the official limit is ONE camera per person. Really?!? Since I’m not shooting professionally on this trip, and this is merely a ‘vacation’, I don’t know if I care to challenge the rules. One (slow) 14-140 super zoom might make everything ‘vacation’ easier.

  52. Ming, I know you mentioned in the post about refraining from adding sharpening in post processing but I can’t help but notice that some of these photos do appear to have been sharpened(over sharpened for aesthetic purposes)?

    • I sharpen the originals as much as they require. What you see here is flickr’s downsizing algorithm at work – it creates haloes even if you perfectly size and do not sharpen your iamge.

  53. I am not a photographer. I take pictures for fun. Nevertheless I still enjoy reading your articles and looking at those beautiful photos. I just want to share an observation on choices. When I was working in the supermarkets decades ago we found out that when we put too many brands and sizes on the shelves ie too many choices for the customers, the sales was flat. However when we reduced the choices, sales picked up for that category. May be that applies to other things in life as well.

  54. Charles L. says:

    I live in Tokyo and leaving your house everyday is like taking a trip. Whatever you have on you gets carried the entire day. When I was shooting Oly’s DSLRS I had four lenses that would get heavy really quickly. I moved to film for a few years which was an eye opener. The cameras and lenses are small and since I shot with only 50mm for the most part it was one body and one lens. Eventually as I shot more I sometimes carried two bodies and costs got expensive and I moved back to digital with m43s. Now when I walk around town it’s one body and one lens most of the time. Sometimes a second prime. I don’t even need a bag. I enjoy the day more and get better photos.
    On my recent trip to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia I just took the E-M1, 12-40 and 17mm. The latter in case I wanted a smaller lens, or just in case something happened to the 12-40. I ended up not using it once. There were a couple times I could of used something wider or longer, but I got great shots with what I had. Be it zooms or primes, generally less is more when you travel.
    Compare that to my trip to NY a couple years ago. A couple bodies and something like 5 lenses, mostly primes. Heavy, and I didn’t like changing lenses so much. Bringing fewer lenses would of been the smart choice.

  55. The most important thing is to enjoy the trip. I certainly try to select activities likely to produce the best photo opportunities, but I don’t travel alone not everyone is a photographer.

  56. Spencer H. says:

    Well timed for me. Thank you! My wife and I are going to Peru in June to bum around for a month and experience the region. The last time I went to south america in 2012, I took a d200, an old manual focus 24mm and 70-210 lens. Did some work I’m really happy with using that combo. The 35mm equivalent really opened a new way of photographing for me.

    The d200 was obviously way too large last time around. I’m a very extreme minimalist backpacker like your friend, so a small backpack is all I take when traveling. This time around ill just take my new to me fuji x100 and be good with that.

  57. My previous long vacation (3 weeks) was spent with a single lens, which was not even a favourite, but one that I felt very unfamiliar with. It paid off and I got photos that I quite like (though I have learned a lot since). The lens was also not the obvious choice for the locations, so what I got was somewhat different from the postcards. It did feel a little frustrating at times (when something really calls for a different focal length), but it forced me to learn and the lens became one of the favourites.

    Ming, from your photos it seems that you mainly travel in big cities. Any particular reason besides the obvious connection with assignments? For me larger cities are increasingly becoming places to drop by on the way to the real destinations. I think what you describe here (everything becoming generic) is a big reason reason all the best memories and most favourite photos are from smaller places (car traffic is another). It seems that one does not even have to venture outside the standard travel guides’ scope to find something different.

    • I did the same thing with ~50mm on my last trip, and had similar results – sometimes it pays to force yourself to do something different.

      As for big cities – mostly because of assignments, workshop logistics, family demands, and lack of time otherwise…

  58. Nice to see a few snaps from Prague, it’s a wonderful place. Is it my monitor or do all the pics have a magenta cast?

  59. Television, travel reviews and the internet has ruined it for modern day travel. When I first started traveling in the early 1960s, the planes were usually 1/2 filled ( once, from Paris to Boston I was the only one on the plane!!! ) and you could show up 10min. before the plane took off.
    Since most people in foreign countries hadn’t traveled much, they had no idea what prices were in the USA. Consequently, with a strong dollar, it was very cheap to travel. And, people of foreign lands dressed with local styles and not T shirts with those ridiculous cargo pants. Now every hotel seems to be part of a large chain and the prices are all the same no matter which big city you go to.

    In one sense, I’m glad I did my travel at the front end of the candle and didn’t wait for retirement! I still travel twice a year but the experience is very frustrating. I also wish each photograph cost $ 1.00 to shoot. There would be far fewer “photographers” cluttering up the landscape and most major cities!

  60. As a traveling painter, I wrestle with this issue all the time. Years ago, my temptation was to bring as much of my studio along with me as possible – every color of paint, every type and size of brush, many sizes and proportions of canvases, etc … but lately, I’ve pared things down dramatically. As a result, my paintings have become stronger, more cohesive and unique. Yes, occasionally I find myself “wanting” something that I left at home, but far more often, I feel a focus and empowerment that is the direct result of my carefully considered, self imposed, equipment limits.

    • That’s interesting. I suspect you’ve got much greater limits than we do – between paints and easel and canvases…I’m sure there are workarounds, but if you run out of blue…surely you run out of blue?

  61. I’m sure the family men on here can relate, but, I haven’t travelled, like this, in years and years.

    I’m 35 with three kids and school bills and yada yada, so travel, in the terms we’re talking about here, hasn’t been an option for me for some time. Economically [skint!], temporally [Japanese work hours!] or physically [my default condition is knackered]. The best I can do for travel is trips to the other side of Tokyo, or maybe a visit to my wife’s parent’s about a couple north of Tokyo. And when I say “I” I mean “we”—there’s no galavanting off by yourself in my position. So close distances, but with all the bumpf and gear you have to cart along when transporting a beautiful wife and three kids: even a one hour trip comprised of 40 minutes on a train and 20 minutes on a bus, is like trying to get the 187th infantry up Hamburger Hill. Going for the parents-in-laws is an operation of Hannibalian [?] ambition.
    I make these things, though, my exotic tour, my far-away trips, and I enjoy taking photos along the way. Trying to take photos along the way. The RX100mk2 was my first go at that camera for this kind of thing; but it was a bit too small for me [I'm quite a clumsy and butterfingered person]. My wife’s Nikon D60 always felt right, size, weight, simple operation and scope for old Ai lenses [sans metering; but that is really fun actually] but the performance always left something to be desired: the shooting envelope just wasn’t flexible enough. The F2: love to but it’s a wrecking ball around one’s neck; my daughter has a tiny scar above her eyebrow to prove it now, poor thing [true story]. The D3: umm, no. The Bronica SQ-A: ha! NO. The old Sigma DPMs before we parted company: tried and failed… Now it’s the Sony A7 and I think we might be there. The iPhone, it has to be said, is good enough though [though with less shooting envelope; but so much so, it becomes a different thing in its own right]. A lot to be said for disposable film cameras, and, hand on heart, the photographs from those things always seem the most immediate and like memories to me—it really is as if someone printed a memory on film. They’re sentimental and raw at the same time.

    My “travel” is definitely not for the express aim of photography. I’m not sure, if I could, whether I’d like to do that someday… Probably no. I get what Roger said and the results speak for themselves there. I get what Mark said Jay Maisel said, but who’s Jay Maisel to rule on it for outside of Jay Maisel [just a rhetorical point]? I do have a lot of time for Dan’s point—and it’s what scares me the most about my own photos [how they look to others] –> I see lots of Flickr stuff from guys who’ve been to Morocco or Thailand or etc., and they upload what appeared exotic to them, and yes exotic to me [at one step removed] but in fact, I also note as a viewer, is not exotic at all and just plain surface. There’s no genuine connection other than “wow, look at him!/her! => snap.” And I have a massive place in my heart for snaps; but it’s not “travel photography.” Or is it? I dunno… There’re just good and bad pictures, I suppose. I feel like random ambience shots of foreigners in their habitat can very easily fall into the “bad pictures” box if not done carefully. Honestly, a photograph like the “Afghan Girl” seems like one of those zoological pictures, the “exotic” ones; though obviously of a much a higher caliber and with none of that conscious intent. Then again, this analysis is perhaps a bare reflection of my own prejudices. Who knows…

    I need a holiday!

    • Saul Leiter is said to have made most of his photos within a 2-block distance of his home. Of course, I desperately want to believe that since I seem to only be able to make decent photos under a bridge! :)

      • Tom Liles says:

        Not true Andre: you have plenty of decent photos from out and about—the lovely warm toned tree in the field a prime recent example. As an ex-skater, I’d like to see you go back to the skatepark sometime with the GR/EM1 and the new vorsprung durch technik… Skaters captured like you got the bike guy under the bridge would look really good. But listen, don’t listen to me—I’d rather just sit back and enjoy whatever you present: it’s all yours :)

        • Tom Liles says:

          How could I forget “Jack Purcell + Waves #1″!?
          (title of my unilateral choosing)

        • Thanks Tom — you’re too kind! I hope I didn’t appear to be fishing for compliments, because that was not my intent — just making fun of myself.

          I’d love to shoot the skate park again, because the light can get very interesting, and the skating surface has all sorts of very interesting curves that throw interesting shadows, and is basically light concrete, so you can imagine the possibilities: abstracted, compressed perspectives of an isolated skater, his shadow, and the curves of the concrete is one picture I’ve long imagined.

          Unfortunately, the skaters are mostly kids, and one very self-aware (and kind) one told me that they don’t like to be photographed, so I avoid it now. Of course, I was carrying the Hasselblad that day, so I was pretty conspicuous. Maybe I’ll return one day with a smaller camera and when it’s emptier. There are so many amazing photographic possibilities there, especially if someone wants to do a real skateboarding shoot. What I’ve shot is not even the tip of the iceberg of the possibilities of that place.

          BTW, have you seen the Red Bull skateboarding film? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPuEU16P3zg The photography is quite good, and is shot with an anamorphic lens (as given away by the JJ Abrams horizontal lens flares, the oval bokeh ball highlights in the background, as well as the general edge softness), a high speed camera, and some amazing robotic cranes. My favorite sequence starts at 8:15. The film will stream at 4k too if you can view that.

          And are you predicting there will be a second picture in the waves + Purcell series? Haha, no pressure!

          • Tom Liles says:

            Oh come on—just like Verticality this has to be a series Andre. We can call it your “Purcell period.” :)

            Thanks for the link, I’ll have a look at that later. There has always been a ton of great imagery around skating and right from the very beginning very capable photographers have been documenting the culture. While everyone knows Spike Jonze from his quirky big time movies, skaters knew him from way before in the late 80s and early 90s, when he shot his friends skating and eventually made one of the best skateboard videos ever: Video Days. He later took skate videos to a totally new level with “Yeah Right” [that's just the intro linked to there and in crappy VGA or something horrid, but you can see the quality and production values, believe me no one had put this much into a skate video before]. Yeah Right got so big, even my sisters knew about it, which was weird and impressive at the same time.

            Not on the 4K yet, Andre. Like MT I was hawking for a 4k Sony Bravia panel [in my dreams!]; but I think if we wait another 2, 3 product cycles out, they’ll be seriously within the reaches of mortals like you and I.

            • The 4K panels aren’t that expensive. Hardware to drive them is :(

              • Tom Liles says:

                :(

              • The Retina and latest Air laptops can drive 4k at 30 fps. The Mac Pro can do much better, as can, I believe, any midrange to highish-end PC graphics card. The problem right now is the display interface: it’s not yet been standardized, so not all 4k monitors are compatible with all 4K outputs. Also, besides the odd video on YouTube or Sony’s little collection of blockbusters, there’s not much to watch right now.

            • Thanks for that link Tom. I didn’t know Spike Jonez was from the skateboard culture. It is a photogenic activity, as are most other somewhat extreme physical activities out there.

              At the local camera store here, I will occasionally run into surf photographers and film people as that’s the popular sport out here. One of them is a landscape photographer too, who uses Velvia 50 in one of those Fuji GX617 panoramic, interchangeable lens cameras. He let me play with it, and that thing is a beast!

      • Well, he did live in NYC. I suppose that might work in Tokyo, but not if you live in a little village somewhere :P

        I’ve made a lot of photos within two blocks of my home, but the better ones have always been from farther afield.

        • True. I think big cities like NYC and Tokyo offer a continuous stream of visual stimulation through the richness of the environment, so it’s easier to find inspiration. I imagine that Paris and London also have very dense image making possibilities. I have to say though that my favorite Leiter pictures are the ones he shot from a diner (foggy windows) or what may have been his apartment window.

          I think I’m probably just working a scene over a period of weeks or months. When I examine my pictures, I get ideas to try other things, and it’s very easy to return to the same spot to try out new ideas.

    • “who’s Jay Maisel to rule on it for outside of Jay Maisel?”

      Well, he gives this advice to people who pay him five thousand dollars for a week long seminar. I assume he thinks it has some merit!

      • Tom Liles says:

        Good answer! :)

      • It goes both ways: not everybody who charges to teach can/should teach, and not everybody who doesn’t, can’t. ;)

        • Too true. There’s an all-too-typical process, especially among younger photographers (and I mean teenage, essentially) wherein they buy an entry level DSLR with a kit lens and immediately assume that they’re in a position to make money from it without making any effort to become competent. They then offer to do photoshoots for farcically low fees. The results (usually posted on Facebook) are usually horrendous, although possibly not as horrendous as the fact that people will actually pay them for said results!

          As someone who makes his living from photography, was that one of the triggers to turning pro – the thought that “I now think I’m in a position to charge for this?”

          • You get what you pay for. The problem is most people cannot tell the difference…and assume the rest of us who do actually know what we’re doing are overpriced.

          • Tom Liles says:

            To be honest, that’s the impression I get from something like a Terry Richardson shoot; and I thought this way before I was into or knew much about photography [my slot in advertising used to be in fashion advertising, so I saw a *lot* of the above type photographs…] There are certainly photographic artists here in Japan, usually featured a lot in the fashion and fashionable magazines like Vice, etc., that literally have no idea how a camera works or what the various modes do. But that’s good in a way. I can imagine William Klein thinking so, etc… So, the bona-fide high-line pros, photographic artists, surrounded by coteries of applauding luvvies, are often not so far away from what those annoying teenagers are up to. In that sense, it’s quite fitting what those pretenders get away with it.

            The difference being, TR or his ex-assistant Keichi Nita or Juergen Teller or these guys, can really turn it on and give you a professionally lit orthodox advertising photograph, if they had to [or I hope they could]. But could a well-trained and aptly skilled wedding photographer, say, pull off the energy and punk rawness in a TR shot, though? I’d say yes [ha!] but what do I know; it’s not clear cut, I’m sure of that.

            As Ming says though, the customer decides the price—things are only worth as much as people are prepared to pay for them. There is no objective* monetary value to anything. That people don’t value photography and can’t see the difference between good and bad is not really their fault, and I wouldn’t even pose it as a “fault” either. It is what it is. And photography’s case remains to be made, by photographers—without words, of course.
            Those opinions of people that we just spoke about don’t exist in a vacuum: with all the amazing and world-famous photography already out there and a part of everyone’s lives, people still don’t really appreciate the difference between what we’d rate good and bad; and we know they ["people"] don’t want to pay for it. Says it all for me. That hurts us a little because we love photography and value it, especially the good stuff; but so what. The culture at large has spoken.

            I often think it might be a poisoned chalice though, educating, inculcating, the public to our way of thinking and rating photographs… To really appreciate a version of good and bad in photography [that we mostly agree on], I feel you need a modicum of ability yourself; you couldn’t really appreciate what aperture is and what it does until you go out shooting a lot and playing with aperture, etc. So you wouldn’t get the skill of photographer who isolated his subjects without the crutch of bokeh, for instance, or the what the macro shooter is up against, or the natural light shooter managing to hit focus in very low light at f1/4, etc. And so to appreciate the technical skill as we do — and we berate the public for not doing — involves a certain degree of proximity to the discipline itself. Now, from this point, from there and when that education in “this is good because…” is given to the public, what is to stop them making those strong images themselves? And we’re back to: then what do I need you [the photographer] for?

            The biggest criticism I see leveled against photography as opposed to painting or music or dance, etc., is anyone could do it.

            Of course they couldn’t; but for some reason, our images don’t flatly and finally make this case—for whatever reason, they don’t do it with the vigor necessary to prevent people from making the claim. I bet half of us took it up and look at images of the greats because somewhere secretly, we think we could do that too [not entirely a bad thing either; I'm just saying we might be as steeped, unconsciously, in "anyone could do it" as the public may be].
            I can see how it might not have been so bad in the film days; and more so in the earliest film days before that. Wet plate collodion photographs? Not anyone could do that—and I think even a laymen could get that. But from a backtrack like that, you see the forward trend here… and iPhone use and photo uploading and advertising’s coopting of private images to use in its advertising instead of commercially produced ones bears it out—-the professional photographer is probably a dying breed.

            Thinning out at the very very least.
            [I am truly sad to say]

            *As there’s no such thing as an objective monetary value—even when we had the Gold standard, what does the value of Gold really stand upon? etc..

            • Tom Liles says:

              Sorry, Mark, I wrote “objective” about money and I meant “absolute.” Silly mistake and it does make a difference.

            • TR does one thing really well: infuse his images/ subjects with a sense of dirty forbidden fruit. I don’t personally like the style, but I don’t think it’s as easy to pull off as it seems. I met the man in NYC once and he doesn’t seem anything like the popular image people believe; far more serious. But hey, that could be a put on too…

              • Tom Liles says:

                I think TR’s father was Bob Richardson, a pro photog of some note… knowing that I think there is a *little* more to his photographs than meets the eye. The problem is, photographs are about what meets the eye [in my opinion, anyway].

                • I was looking at TR’s Pirelli calendar camera shoot recently (for purely educational purposes, ahem! Definitely NSFW!), and it’s striking to see how he works in the behind-the-scenes video (look on Vimeo for it), and the pictures that come out. For all of the things said and alleged about him, that guy has the technical chops and eye to produce stuff that is very good on the absolute photographic scale (ie. Ming’s 4 qualities of an outstanding image).

    • I have to say that you’re lucky to be in Tokyo: even if you live there, it’s such an enormous and diverse city that there’s no end of new material to work with…smaller cities like Kuala Lumpur run out of subject matter quite quickly. More so when they’re not very pedestrian friendly, either. As much as Friedlander was the master of drive-by-shooting before guns replaced cameras in LA, it doesn’t really work here. And so we get on a plane :)

      • Tom Liles says:

        Since picking up photography, I am feeling lucky to live in Tokyo. Before, not so much [I miss my homeland and green]. But yeah, what’s not to like? All the cameras, all the film shops, all the printers, all the subjects and 100% photo friendly ones at that. A photog’s paradise.

        So this hobby has really done its job and then some!
        [Initially begun as a little thing to pick me up and make me feel better after moving back here, and to record the kids for posterity]

  62. Thanks for your thought Ming. I travel to take photos. When I look at my travel bucket list most of the places I have chosen seem to be ones that have an other world look like India, Iceland, Ireland (just to mention the I’s) which seem to me to have a different type of aesthetic than what I see on a day to day basis. I have been traveling for photography for over 10 years but it is only in the last year or so where I feel comfortable traveling DSLRless even though I have been shooting mirrorless since 2009. I like to bring backup gear and I also like to shoot with both a wide angle lens and a short tele on two bodies simultaneously because I don’t feel everything can be shot with a certain lens though in most cases I could get by with a 35mm and an 85mm.

    I find almost anyplace I travel to with new eyes has a freshness that really visually excites me. So far I have 4 trips planned through July of this year.

  63. Nikon DF + prime or two might make for a good option.

  64. Ming

    For me, travel and journey (by bicycle, kayak, foot or up rock) have opened my eyes to photography in a way that they didn’t need to be before a 28,000km off-road bicycle journey down the Americas. The ‘mind open’ attitude that that pace of movement engenders, included the desire to truly communicate what I was ‘seeing’ to others. The story was paramount, but transferring what I could see to an image was and continues to be the challenge. Inspiration from others (this site included) allows me to ‘see’ better/differently, but also to channel my vision better.

    My modes of travel/journey have helped develop my equipment choices too. 20 months in all weathers and climates with a Nikon D80/16-85mm zoom helped me reach the limit of that choice, but also hone my priorities. I now use a m43/OMD EM5-based set-up – allowing weather resistance, compactness and better IQ than the earlier iteration (that I was thoroughly over by the end of the trip). I recently did a 1650km unsupported West Australian desert ride, carrying 5 weeks food and up to 30 litres of water at a time – but also wanting to be able to keep my eyes open in the way that photography forces me to. (http://bicyclenomad.com/2013/08/31/canning-stock-route-photography/?relatedposts_exclude=3473) Lens choices and other kit were limited, but all in all the system worked.

    So – travel without opening your eyes in the way that communicating it by image requires is missing something – likewise looking to produce images without the journey/travel to motivate/inspire is also lacking. They feed each other.

    Tom

  65. Daniel Ritter says:

    These posts are getting really boring and way too self indulgent. Talk about tech, but lose the philosophical musings.

  66. Iskabibble says:

    Two things:

    “These days, assuming I’m going to bother shooting film…..”

    Really, film is a bother to you? Maybe stick with digital.

    And two- You can send film through quite a lot of X Ray scanners as long as it is ISO 1600 or less. Today’s scanners really are film safe. I have sent my film through 5 or 6 scans with no problem at all, with many reporting over at http://www.apug.org well over a dozen scans without even a hint of fog.

    One photographer counted over 20 scans his film went through with the images coming out fine.

    That is, if you bother.

    • Why the sarcasm? I shot mostly film on my last trip to Europe, and I’ve presented the results in several photoessays here already. Passing through the scanners wasn’t the problem. Convincing security to hand check was – if you’ve got ISO 400+ that’s going through a dozen scans, there’s a good chance it’ll fog. I’m not taking the risk, especially if there’s no chance of getting those images again. So yes, it’s a bother.

      • You can use Hakuba’s XRay protection film pouches. If you are not shooting a backpack full of film, of course.

        • I already do. But putting something through the machine that appears as a big black box only makes security officers all the more excited…

          • Iskabibble says:

            Exactly. That’s just a huge red flag for a deeper inspection. You risk a LOT more with security people handling your film than you do with any x rays.

            IMPORTANT: Film is safe ONLY for carry on x-ray inspections. All bets are off in checked luggage. They use FAR more powerful x rays to scan checked bags so no film there at all!!

      • Iskabibble says:

        Again, from long time photographers, 12 scans is nothing to worry about. Especially only ISO400 film. Read all the comments at apug.org or better yet, on your next set of flights, put a roll of Tri-X in your carry on bag and let it get scanned 10 times or more. Then shoot it just for fun and then develop it. You will see no effect at all from the x-rays.

        Yes, you shoot a lot of film and I GREATLY appreciate such articles. Put the phrase “If I bother to shoot film….” really rubbed me the wrong way. My apologies.

        • Well, it just seems silly to take the risk of losing some of your 3/4 or 1/4 tones to base fog – why shoot film specifically for that reason when you might land up negating it?

          Half of my carry on was filled with film by the time I came back from the last trip – 35mm would have been physically smaller, but I prefer medium format. It definitely requires some care and planning over digital.

          • Iskabibble says:

            Yes, there is care and planning needed to shoot film now, since finding film at your destination is a LOT harder than it used to be. Except Japan, which is nice. I found all the film I needed there.

            There simply is no risk at all getting your film X Rayed these days. Trust the people who know. I was always getting my film hand inspected but ran into areas where they said no. I feared the worst but the film came back just fine, totally gorgeous looking. Now I dont even ask for hand inspections. I went to Japan last year and brought a lot of my own film (simply because I had so much at home and needed to use it). It was scanned 4 times, which isnt much but still, no problems at all. For whatever reason, modern X ray scanners do not harm film unless you run it through there dozens of times. Do it yourself. Bring a roll and ask the guard to run it through the scanner 12 times. Run a test. You will see and become a believer. I am now. Removes a lot of stress while traveling.
            A LOT.

  67. Ming, just wondering if you shipped the recent limited edition prints yet and how long do you expect to ship to USA?

  68. Hi Ming,
    Interesting topic, I’m going to go out on a limb here and argue from an artistic point of view photographers often take their least interesting photos whilst travelling.I think people often confuse the idea of “exotic” (this is relative) as something that makes an interesting picture. Being inspired and taking lots of photos when on holiday will bring back pleasing results no doubt, but unless you are sincerely connected to place and culture its hard to see the forest for the trees. Art happens in the nuisances and connection between subject and artist In my opinion art in photography often reveals that the camera is actually pointed at the person behind it. You can apply the same philosophy on “gear” as you do to subject. Ideas vs excess?

    • I actually agree with you. Focusing on the idea and the subject more than the gear is of course paramount. I personally find my best images are made towards the end of whatever trip I’m on, after I’ve had time to get over the initial sensory overload of the location and observe things more closely. That said, there’s also a point after which you become acclimatized to some degree, and things no longer stand out to you – for example, I shoot very little in Kuala Lumpur these days; I feel that I’ve either done it to death, or it’s simply not interesting or different enough to stand out anymore.

  69. Jan van Bellen says:

    Shouldn’t the last paragraph say “without any objective”?
    P.S.: No real need for publishing this comment and great article as always :)

  70. Another thought provoking and insightful article, Ming. Well done! I read this before heading home from work today and it was all I could think off on the way home. I’m 24 and have been itching to take me EM5 and a trio of primes around the world. I’d love to save up, pay off my student loans, and just fly to Morocco or Istanbul and just shoot as I meander around unfamiliar places. Any thoughts?

    • Just go: not only do you only live once, you will probably only have that inspiration once, and as time passes, these exotic places are changing fast: not always for the better. Kuala Lumpur’s city center looks like pretty much any major city. Even the ‘heritage’ areas are becoming modernized. It’s not long before there will be little individuality left, and the world looks like one uniform corporate mask.

  71. Very timely – a subject close to my mind at the moment, thanks Ming.

    I am heading out on some pretty open-ended travel, including 10 weeks overlanding through Africa, spending a lot of that time game-driving on safari. And then onwards to India, Nepal, South East Asia, all sorts. I may end up being away for 10 months or so. I’m not really fussed on what camera kit I’ll be taking, that’s easy: EM-5, 17mm 1.8, 45mm 1.8, Samyang 7.5mm and 75-300mm.

    I’m more concerned about returning from months of travel with a backlog of 20,000+ photos to get through, so I want to take my Macbook Air, for both processing on the move and also maintaining a backup solution. But, backpacking with a laptop? For 10 months? The ideal doesn’t appeal to me in a lot of ways. The worry of taking something that could easily get stolen, something that I will worry about. It’ll be insured, but I dunno. I can’t decide!

    • The Air is good to travel with simply because of size, though the screen is not good for processing and you’re going to land up running out of space unless you have the largest SSD. Hard drives both as backup and overflow will be necessary.

      But beyond that: why not try shooting/ keeping less, but making it of higher quality? Raise your personal bar.

      • Yeah that is a good call! I will consider that. I’m finding that often my first exposure of a scene is the best, or at least second/third aren’t any better, so I think that is a step in the right direction. Cheers Ming.

  72. Since I’m kind of newbie photographer, I’m still getting the grips of focal distances – thus lens choices still are a little bit challenging. But I guess that with some experience and a little previous research of the places that you might see, maybe our travel kit could be shrunk. I shoot with m4/3 (for now), then weight/space is less of an issue than a FF system. But since there are a lot of restrictions with cameras in the customs here, I have to keep things to a minimum.

    Example: in December I was in New York for the first time, and bought a new camera and some lenses. But because of the customs restrictions here for the residents about cameras bought abroad (one camera per person with one lens, other lenses are allowed by the mood of the custom’s officer – and the import tax is insane), I only bought a body and 3 lenses; but none of them were around the 35mm (FF equivalent) field of view, and I missed my Panasonic 20mm 1.7 every day – in fact, in NY I’ve realised for the first time why 35mm are so beloved by street photographers, is just the right focal lenght for the NY streets…that was my point about experience (about focal lenghts) and some research (to have some idea about the most versatile ones for the places).

    If I can, I probably travel with a good amount of lenses (since most of the m4/3 lenses are small), but in the destiny, to walk around, generally I bring 2 or 3 only for the day. Being tired could ruin a good vacation day. :)

    About airport security, just an example from this trip – I’ve forgot my nasal moisturizing solution in my pants pocket for the scan, and the security freaked out, even making that chemical hand test to check for nitrate residues. And when I’ve arrived at the hotel, I’ve found a screwdriver in my handbag that I’ve forgot to put on my luggage…very efficient.

    • I’m surprised to hear about these customs restrictions – is that outbound from your country, or inbound to the US? I didn’t face anything coming in…and I had three cameras on my last trip.

      • Inbound from US. Here (Brazil) you have a US$ 500 shopping limit when returning from other country – if you pass this limit, you have to pay 50% (yes) in taxes for what exceeds the limit. But you can buy a camera (and a lens) as a “personal use item” for the trip – but only one.
        For foreigners coming here, generally the rules are much more relaxed – and if you are a professional photographer, probably there is no trouble with multiple bodies / lenses. But is always good to check in advance with someone which already traveled to the place.

        • Perhaps this is a silly question, but how would they know if you are professional or not? You could just have some business cards hand which happen to say you are…

  73. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    Frankly, I don`t get the idea of One Camera outfit when traveling and on other hand I do. The thing is a back up. What if it breaks? In the big cities you just buy a cheap point and shoot and go on but in some far away places that costed you money, time and effort to get there, days away to so called civilisation with camera shops? Seems foolhardy or not serious.

    • Well, it depends why you’re going: are you going to photograph, or is photography secondary? If I’m on assignment I’ll bring two or even three, even if I’m going somewhere I know I can get a spare. There will, always be one ‘clinch piece’ like a GR, but I may not want to have the weight of two D800Es/ Hasselblads or the risk of leaving one in the hotel.

  74. One long lens, one short lens – thats about it for me. FF DSLR are bulky and missus gets the shits. infact I just bought a RX100 to be my all time travelling cam.

  75. “Following one’s feet” in my view is an excellent means for travelling as a photographer (at least this is what I tend to do, and these excursions usually are the most successful).

  76. Jay Maisel (on one of his videos with Scott Kelby) talks about how he asks his students if they have any particular objectives when they go out and shoot. If they say “yes, I’m going to shoot X, Y and Z”, then he tells them “drop it”. He is really big on being open, having no plan and just looking, the idea being that shots will come to you, rather than you having to chase them or force them. His philosophy of shooting suits me perfectly, because I like to do the same thing, although for a super organized person like yourself it may be comparatively alien. His argument is that if you’re going out to get a shot of a particular thing, then you may or may not get it but by being fixated on it, you will miss many other opportunities on the way, some of which may be better than your originally intended shot.

    I think this applies to shooting in your proverbial backyard or in another country. Maybe more so the latter, because there are is so much visual stimulation in an unfamiliar place that you can just get overwhelmed trying to get everything, so you just see what comes your way and try to catch it.

    I think there are the seeds of another article in here: how does the way you live your life impact the way you shoot?

  77. Beautiful set of photos Ming! Exceptional.

  78. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Apologies for the double post,
    but the first two attempts gave no result, maybe because my data connection can be flaky.
    But it does seem odd with only three comments so far…. ;-)

    • Not having a bad day. I got four reply posts from you to this one :p

      • I recently went on a once in a lifetime trip to Peru, for birding as well as general travel and culture. So I needed a long lens as well as something more general. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth I ended up taking my e-m5 and kit 12-50 and Panasonic 100-300 and left my dslr and big lens at home. It made for much easier airline travel, and saved my back and shoulders while hiking at altitude, and for me the quality of the images I took was just fine, although in retrospect many of the bird images, especially BIF, would have been better with the DSLR gear. That’s the compromise. How do others travel with a DSLR and 2 or 3 lenses including a 300 or 500mm?
        Richard

        • When I used to travel with the superteles, they went in a rolling case that was about the limit of what the airlines would allow for carry on. I’m just glad they never weighed it :)

          • Ming, love the high elevation pictures of Prague. It is a city I have photographed many times, including when I lived there for a year. Like a beautiful lady it makes you want to reach for your camera every time.

            In December I spent a week hiking over snow covered alpine trails in Austria. A two lens M9 set — 35 and 75 was the ideal companion. Terrific, detailed IQ for landscapes, not too heavy for hours of carrying. The M9 even did justice to the night shots of Christmas markets and church spires.

            Prague by night is also amazing. Did you take any night shots? If not, make sure next time!

            • First time I’d been up the tower at the end of the Charles Bridge. Timed it just about right for sunset, I think :)

              Prague is perhaps the most photographable city I’ve been to. It’s almost impossible not to see something. There are some night shots in there…on flickr, I don’t think I posted them here.

              I had issues with my M9P locking up in cold weather and suffering from really terrible battery life compared to what it would normally manage – not quite the ideal for winter, I think…

              • Rain Santiago says:

                I thought the most photographable city honor would go to Rome or Venice.

                • Not Venice. It’s so distinctive and full of tourists it’s almost impossible to produce something that isn’t a cliche.

                  • Rain Santiago says:

                    Agree indeed Ming, I feel downside of affordable traveling is frequently visited places have been photographed a million times it’s already a cliche.

                    • Yes, but isn’t this where the art comes into play…seeing things in the cliche that others haven’t? One of the joys of photographing is making your eye work, not just ripping off a shot because it makes everyone go “ooooh”. And that’s not to say there’s no merit in that kind of image. I’m sure we all have examples of those in our own portfolios.

  79. Mr Thein, we didn’t discuss about how being a photographer is an attitude! Again! Lol.
    Now going serious, I couldn’t agree more in your description of what is civil aviation today. As I told you in one message once, I’work in the industry and I can see every day how torturous is to travel, from prices, to the general attitude of passengers. I remember when my late father used to tell me about how people used to dress up for a flight (late 70s, early 80s), and how much respect was hold for air travel in those times. I travel between 8 and 10 times a month internationally and nowadays security, cramped airports and even more cramped aircraft really add to the normal stress that air travel, plus total lack of respect towards fellow passengers and flight attendants. Thanks to cheap air travel, the world has become a smaller place, allowing us to go from our home town to somewhere else with relative ease. This has definitely crushed in some places the identity that each country and city had before that, thanks to globalization. There are few places where I consider they are still authentic and recognizable, like Japan between other countris in Asia, or certain places in Europe like Prague (my favourite place ever), Paris or London.

    But going to the bright side of the question, we were discussing with Ian in the Flickr forum some days ago about what we do consciously and unconsciously regarding photography subjects. Sometimes we have a very specific subject for our travel, sometimes we don’t, and believe me, you’re not alone in the sense that some of my best pictures came out of nowhere regarding my objective of that travel trip, they came completely unexpected. I thing it has to do with the inspiration of the moment, with something that we consciously don’t see but we feel as artists. And I think it takes a real artist eye to see those things that a normal person cannot see.

    I’m still one of the ones that believe in carrying a DSLR with 3 lenses at least, ND filters, tripod and shutter. Yes, I’m still one of those dumb guys, and it has to do with what we were discussing above. Although I travel (sometimes) with a clear objective of what I want to capture, I like to have everything possible at hand to get the image my eyes are trying to compose.
    At the expense of back cramps product of walking up to 12hs with 6-8kg of equipment!!! :D

    Keep it up man, cheers.
    I’ll be visiting your exhibition on the 18th or 19th in KL. Are you going to be there?

    Regards,

    Leo

    PS: Looking forward to read your “Being a photographer is an attitude” post!

    • I rescheduled that post to better flow with something else. Just forgot to clean up the links!

      Authenticity is sadly lacking from most places as a result of globalization; it’s nice to be able to get X or Y in whatever country – and I’m sure the locals appreciate it without having to travel – but It means that the places that are still visually and culturally interesting to visit are disappearing fast. Who knows what it’ll be like in another generation’s time.

      If you come to the exhibition on the afternoon of the 18th from about 2 onwards, I’ll be there – Zeiss is also doing a demo event with the full range of lenses…

      • Cool! My flight is landing at 15:00, I reckon I’ll be there at or around 18hs, maybe a little before that. Is this place near Petronas Towers?

  80. Ming I don’t think you want my travel schedule! I fly for a living and my company buys me the airline ticket to get me to where the aircraft they want me to fly is parked. We have no bases per say. I work a 7 day on 7 day off schedule and the aircraft I fly (Gulfstream 550) has a 6500 mile range. In other words, the world is my oyster!

    So I use my work travel as an excuse to photograph along the way. I can sure understand the weight and size limits you’re facing as I quit carrying my DSLR a few years ago. Now that I’m quite satisfied with shooting a fixed lens system I have no qualms about leaving the house with only one lens and body. However, I figured a way to get a couple lens in a Bare Bones Bag that I pack in my 22″ TravelPro Rollerboard and my Leica M-E with 35mm lens fits in my STM Messenger bag while traveling on the airlines. Once I get to the hotel and flying privately I can have more than two bags without additional charges (8~).

  81. Daniel Torres says:

    Hi Ming, you are welcome to came to México too! On the other hand, i think the link for “Being a photo grapher…” is broken. Keep the great work.

  82. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Ming,
    your reference to
    “being a photographer is an attitude”
    gives me a “page not found”,
    and I can’t see the article on your blog either.

  83. The “being a photographer is an attitude” link (http://blog.mingthein.com/2014/01/12/being-a-photographer-is-an-attitude) is giving me a 404 Not Found error.

  84. It’s all true. When I travel for a vacation with my babe, I bring a camera and take some pictures, some of which are good. But when I travel purely in order to photograph, when I have no schedule or objective and I just follow my intuition, that is where the rich serendipities emerge. My trip to Kyoto and Tokyo was like that: all new, no specific objective and watching, listening and practicing awareness!

  85. This really resonates, Ming. I took all of my lenses on a re ent trip (6 in all) and ended up really only using 2 of them. It is hard to let go, though!

  86. roadtraveleradmin says:

    Well, that is a very timely post Ming. Next month we are flying to Mexico for a weeklong vacation. I’ve been thinking about which lenses and how many bodies I will take (all m/43). Then tonight my wife told me that the official limit is ONE camera per person. Really?!? Since I’m not shooting professionally on this trip, and this is merely a ‘vacation’, I don’t know if I care to challenge the rules. One (slow) 14-140 super zoom might make everything ‘vacation’ easier.
    James

    • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

      ONE camera per person? I don`t quite get it. Do you mean that you`re allowed to take only one camera in Mexico? Must be a mistake. Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape spends his winters in Mexico taking loads of cameras and lenses with him and h never mentioned the issue.

      • It might be a family-imposed restriction :P

        • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

          I do hope so.

          • Michael Reichmann DRIVES to Mexico as he has made clear on many occasions — even movie of his trip. So it would not make sense to apply a limit to the number of cameras. I am sure he does not take the whole lot with him when walking around San Miguel.

            • I think he actually mentioned once that he has a second home there.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Honestly Michael Reichmann lives my idea of the good life: two homes in two scenic locales, walking round in free fitting aloha shirts and shooting some of the best cameras known to man. Writing about it. Rapping with pro photog pals about it.

                Doesn’t get much better

                • Except…I know this is highly subjective, but am I the only one to find his images a bit flat, formulaic and…well, boring?

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    His photography, as anybody’s, is always up for debate; but the lifestyle? Yes please :)

                    • I agree, the lifestyle looks to be wonderful. Lots of travel and just doing what you love. Way to go.
                      Photography is indeed highly subjective. There are some fantastic websites displaying wonderful photography all over the internet.
                      Some people are clearly talented even if some of their shots are crooked.

                  • No, you are not the only one! I think boring is a good term describing his pictures…. :-)

            • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

              What I was interested in was the number of cameras allowed in Mexico. As to Michael Reichmann, he`s announced Olympus OM-EM-1 his camera of year and that`s what he uses for walkabout photos. Otherwise it`s Phase One and meter long prints of landscapes.

        • roadtraveleradmin says:

          Nope, not a family/wife imposed restriction :)
          But I’ve read this now a few places…it may not be enforced, but apparently the ‘official’ rules [for tourists?] are one smartphone, one tablet, one camera, one video camera, etc.

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