Christmas humour: You know if you’re a real photographer if…

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Following on from the popularity of the last stereotype post that left no single photographer un-insulted, and in an attempt to bring some comedic relief to what is otherwise a very, very serious site: enjoy today’s post. Laugh if you recognize yourself or your friends. And feel free to suggest any additions in the comments.

And last but not least, Merry Christmas, everybody – I hope Santa brought you something photographic! MT

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Judging the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards

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One of the winning images from photographer of the year, Yaman Ibrahim.

Sometimes, choice can make life difficult. A couple of weeks ago, five judges and I sat down (virtually, since everybody was in different parts of the world) to decide on the category and overall winners for the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards. I had the privilege of working with Raghu Rai from Magnum; Mike Yamashita from National Geographic; Jim Liaw and Manny Librodo. Submissions closed on 31 October after three months, with a grand total of nearly 70,000 entries from 9 ASEAN countries. Shortlisting these down to approximately 1,500 final contenders was a panel of secondary judges, with myself overseeing.

Winning images and detailed results may be viewed here at the Maybank Photo Awards website.

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A very OT review: the 2013 BMW Z4 28i

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In a break from regular programming, I’m going to take up one of my readers’ suggestions from a flickr comment and review something different for a change: a car. There are a few automotive journalists I admire and whose work I enjoy for various reasons; the Top Gear trio, Chris Harris, etc. But I’m going to approach this in the same style I approach my camera reviews: from an unashamedly practical standpoint and with some nice images. I’m an enthusiast and nothing more. Read on if you dare.

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OT: Thoughts on blogging in an increasingly crowded space

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Content consumption and creation is a 24/7 business.

The internet is no longer the tool of knowledge sharing it originally started out being: it’s a commercial and marketing platform, pure and simple. Money goes to he who shouts the loudest, whether they might have anything worth listening to or not. Like everything, there’s good and bad to this. The good is easy: it’s made doing business ever easier than before (even if Paypal takes a huge cut as financial gatekeeper); especially for small businesses and individual proprietors who’d otherwise never have had access to those customers or audiences. Information is easily available; almost everything is there if you look hard enough. And on top of that, there are new and exciting streams of income that simply didn’t exist 15 years ago – sponsorship, paid blogging, pay-per-click, email harvesting…but is any of it really sustainable?

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Garage sale time again!

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Following on from the last couple of days’ musings, it’s about time for a clearout. This is your opportunity to get equipment that has been tested, QC’d and used by me – so you know it’s good. The overwhelming reasons for me disposing of gear are consolidation and upgrades. So, without further ado, on to the items. Please send me an email if you would like to buy something; from historical experience, don’t wait too long as everything is usually gone within a day or two. Those who’ve bought from me before know that I tend to rate my gear very, very conservatively. Feel free to make me an offer if you’d like multiple items, or you think my prices are out of whack.

Please note: items are first-come first served; Paypal fees are included but shipping is not (it will of course depend on your geographic location, impatience level and risk appetite :) Any white dots in the images are dust; they have not been retouched in the interests of authenticity. Lastly, I’m happy to do a face to face transaction if you happen to be in Kuala Lumpur.

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Interviewed on the official Zeiss blog…

I was interviewed recently by some of the folks at Zeiss about food photography – you can find the excellent (and very comprehensive) feature article here. Enjoy! MT

How my photographic journey began – a short autobiography, part two

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The hunchback of Kuala Lumpur has a Hasselblad.

Continued from part one.

My return to London immediately after that trip saw me a) dispose of the D70 and purchase a supposedly more robust D2H – in reality, I just liked the way it felt in my hands – and also begin to seriously explore Photoshop and Wacom tablets; by the time my D2H arrived in the mail, I’d decided I’d only shoot raw and focus on extracting as much detail as possible out of those relatively small files. That camera was not a forgiving one: get everything right, and it rewarded you with images beyond what you’d expect for the pixel count; get it wrong and you can pretty much junk the file. It taught me shot discipline and the importance of getting as much right in-camera as possible; these traits have continued to serve me well today. Unfortunately, the camera met a watery end after shooting in a tropical downpour in Kuala Lumpur two years later in 2006; I opened the battery compartment indoors and failed to consider condensation. A zapping sound and puff of smoke later, and I’d pretty much toasted the internals. By that point though, I’d shot enough frames – heading towards a quarter million on its second shutter – and jobs with that camera that it’d a) paid for itself several times over, and b) made me learn more about photography than anything else since.

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How my photographic journey began – a short autobiography, part one

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You’d think that after 13 years of this I’d have mastered the art of camwhoring for decent self-portrait, but no. At least the collage shows two things: firstly, a relative progression of personal style over the years, secondly, that file sizes have continued to balloon…all of these are at the correct relative size to each other. Also, that I’ve gone through a hell of a lot of gear. You might even spot a Canon in there if you look closely enough.

Today’s topic is a rather personal one, but something which has been asked with remarkable frequency: how did I get into photography in the first place? I’ve been shooting seriously for the better part of thirteen years; taking commercial assignments on and off since 2005, and full-time pro for the fourth time since the beginning of last year (2012).

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Maybank Photo Awards 2013: a few tips for competition entrants…

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Come to think of it, this post should really be titled “Tips for entering photography competitions”. As a judge, I’ve frequently been asked what we look for when assessing images; beyond that, how can you increase your chances of winning? Today’s post will talk a bit about both the mechanics behind the scenes, as well as a little strategy.

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PayPal, margin pressure and the small business perspective

A few days ago, I received an email from PayPal informing me that some of their terms and conditions of service had changed – ostensibly to ‘ensure high standards of service continue to be maintained’. I read that immediately as a greedy grab: turns out I was right. Buried in the fine print of the changes were a bunch of rate amendments, effective 10 Sep 2013, that now make the cost of receiving payments in my part of the world anywhere up to 6% plus a fixed fee (for commercial payments that fall into the “International micro payments for digital goods” category, which includes my videos). On top of this, there’s a ‘micropayment fixed fee’ of MYR2.00 (US$0.65). And then there’s a 4% currency conversion fee to Malaysian Ringgit on conversion. And a further 2.5% added to the exchange rate when you withdraw the funds to your bank account. Very cunningly, they don’t provide a like-for-like fee comparison, either. That’s a grand total of anywhere up to 12.5% PLUS RM2.00. Previously, I calculated the net cost of using PayPal at about 5% inclusive of FX; a merchant credit card terminal would be around 3%. Given the long payment times for credit card providers and relative discomfort of people using cards overseas, I elected to stay with PayPal for the time being – lousy service and lack of regulation notwithstanding. See why this has now become a problem?

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