Taking stock

_5019362 copy Time for a breather.

For those of you who are curious about what I do, (and also so I don’t forget)…as far as I can determine, here’s the current list of my regular activities. I’ve found that I certainly can’t do the same one thing for long, and there’s definite value in having inspiration from many sources.

  • Professional commercial photography – watches, architecture, food, advertising.
  • Writing and reviewing for mingthein.com, which includes extensive archives accessible via the header bar navigation; 600+ articles, 1.3 million words. It also occurs to me that the way the comments on my posts work, the site is more like a forum…
  • Moderating the reader Flickr pool at www.flickr.com/groups/mingthein
  • I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/blog.mingthein
  • I’m on Flickr at www.flickr.com/mingthein
  • I’m on Twitter @mingthein
  • I teach workshops
  • I teach the email school with 110+ students as of the last enrolment
  • I teach a photography masters’ program at a local university
  • I do copywriting and creative design work
  • I do creative concept direction work for video
  • I contribute to a couple of magazines and other websites
  • I do design consulting work for some of the watch brands
  • I do product testing and evaluation work for some of the camera brands
  • Now also beginning market research and consumer insights reports for the photographic industry
  • I’m developing a film scanning rig
  • I do some financial consulting and valuation work – it’s a holdover from the old days to keep my hand in
  • I’m developing a nonlinear fractal trading algorithm based on quantum mechanics on the side (partially kidding; you really didn’t think I was going to be a photographer forever, did you?)

Hmm, I seem to have forgotten sleep on the list… I’m just saying…:) MT


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Jorge Balarin says:

    Dear Ming, you must have a daughter and then you will write: “I play Barbies with my daughter”. It is sooo sweet. Greetings, Jorge.

  2. Lim Teik Oon says:

    Would be very interested to order the last item of things that you are doing when done i.e. film scanner.

  3. oddball says:

    .. but not on Google+?
    .. which is The place to be for photographers, by the way.

  4. Hi Ming,

    Just out of curiosity, where exactly do you teach your Master’s course ?

  5. You really are the hardest working person I’ve ever met!

  6. Lawrence says:

    ming, you are a very talented dude… out of curiosity, do you have one single ultimate goal in life? or just be a renaissance man?

    • Be happy and contented. If that requires being a renaissance man to keep all aspects of one’s brain satisfied/ occupied, then I guess I don’t have much of a choice 😛

  7. And you seem to have forgotten eat too, as important as sleep 🙂

    • I’m in two minds about food. Most of the time it’s functional for me, because there’s so much disappointment and overpriced hubris locally. But then occasionally you get one of those magical meals that you remember for a lifetime…

  8. So, are you enjoying yourself?

  9. Back in the old days, I had a” Honeywell Repronar Model 805A,” which was an enlarger color head with a bellows attached to it and various masks for different sized films. I made lots of money with that baby duping slides for clients. I’m sure you can improve on that old model.

  10. Funny you mentioned fractals. I used a bit of that in my grad school thesis work looking at correlated sequences over time (and space, in some cases). Most phenomena in nature appear to be persistent (Hurst intermittency > 0.5 for a 1D sequence). I wonder what stock price behavior would be like?

    PS/- See you at the workshop.

  11. “I’m developing a nonlinear fractal trading algorithm based on quantum mechanics on the side (partially kidding; you really didn’t think I was going to be a photographer forever, did you?)”

    Going for that PhD after all? Or for the big bucks in the stock market?

    • A PhD doesn’t make one financially comfortable, let alone wealthy.

      • It seems I’ve chosen the wrong career path then 😉

        • Not if you want low stress and sufficient sleep :p

          • Hal Knowles says:

            Hi Ming and Digital Adrian,

            First, Ming kudos to you for the scope and scale of your personal productivity! It is inspiring…though exhausting to think about 😉

            Second, as an “all but dissertation” member of the PhD adventure club, I can completely relate to the fact that this career choice is not for those interested in fame and fortune (well maybe the more ego centric faculty are focused on these things). I certainly make less money than my days working in building construction management in the private sector…but the same can be said for the stress and the sleep (at least most of the time). I’ve chosen quality of life over quantity of “things” and it seems to suit my personal nature well (though maybe not always my photography and mountain biking gear lust).

            Third, like Syed said further down, my graduate school work involves the application of nonlinear time series analysis (specifically fractal dimension) on time interval data related to some green building issues. I’ve done a fair amount of literature review and I’d be happy to share resources as you may desire or may find helpful. I can do so via group resources in Zotero or directly via email. If you have an interest feel free to shoot me an email to my account based on the donation I made to you last week. I’m still in the nascent stages of learning how to use MATLAB for my analysis. What software and/or language will you be writing your algorithm?

            You may want to check out the final book written by Benoit Mandelbrot (the father of fractals) before he passed on from this place. It is called “The (mis)Behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence” and it was his attempt at seeing how his lifetime and legacy of fractal geometry may help us better manage the marketplace. Rather than striking it rich, I think his interest was in better risk management of chaotic systems in the hopes of mitigating the most tragic consequences of catastrophic market events.

            To finding that strange attractor and center of no-center within us all!

            • Mandelbrot’s book sits next to Taleb’s series on my bookshelf. They’re geniuses, in my opinion.

              We’re running in fortran but did some of the earlier sim work in Excel (don’t ask, it’s the only thing I can code with any level of competence in).

              • I agree wholeheartedly on the genius of Mandelbrot and Taleb!

                I am speaking way above my own current personal experience here, but you may want to check out the http://www.r-project.org/ It is an open source statistical computing software that is highly extensible and might give you a robust foundation for both coding and running your algorithm. And since it is open source many folks in sectors from academia to financial trading are using the software and running the various packages. Search some of the existing packages for inspiration to riff from.

                I can also tell you that my background in green building and urban development issues and research into fractals suggests that after tackling the fractal dimensions between 1 and 2, you should venture into those between 2 and 3 and see where your talents can go on the digital image processing front!

                As a birder, you may be interested to know a recent ecology paper found evidence that extremely complex information about a bird’s fitness is being conveyed in the fractal pattern of their plumage – http://royalsociety.org/news/2013/fractal-plumage-bird-fitness/

                What other valuable information is sitting waiting to be revealed in all of those amazing images in your (and others) Lightroom and Bridge catalogs?

    • Michael Fong says:

      Ming’s building his gravy train ..i guess

      • Not really. More like firing a shotgun: enough pellets and one of them is bound to hit something, but you still have to aim in the right general direction to do any real damage. Gravy: I wish!

  12. Michael Matthews says:

    Suggest a go-slow on the trading algorithm. If the kit car tax is any indication, success in trading stocks and other financial instruments will result in a 200% tax on net profits.

  13. patrick Griffith says:

    Dear sir,
    I am seriously worried about you .Before you post the list of your daily activites i have been wondering how you could manage to do so many things in so little time.I hope you will not pay this overactivity with health problems.
    I am a highschool head and also a teacher,i play the saxophone,listen to music(i am an audiophile) and try to take pictures from time to time but cannot do it the same day.
    How can you do that trick.I need lessons there too.(I did not even mention my wife,is your s very forgiving?

    • Mine is definitely very forgiving. Efficiency helps; logically thinking things through before executing usually speeds things up because you seldom waste time doing anything twice.

  14. DynaSynergy says:

    Gifted guys are a rare breed but one with the spirit of exquisite finesse is a gem in a million ! You are a real gem !
    May i ask you for advice not related to photography ? – i have a couple of vital innovations & inventions related to audio gear / drumkit / etc but dont have the funds to patent them ( its costs more than a quarter million to just patent a product in 10 countries ! ) What should i do ?

    • Thank you.

      Be first, be the loudest, and be the best. Even if you are copied, people will still remember yours as being the original.

  15. I would say you are a Renaissance man. 🙂

  16. Terry Bell says:

    Ming… thanks for making me feel like a total slacker!

    Seriously, I’m hugely appreciative of your work and your insights.

    I take great pleasure and inspiration from both.

    Be well


  17. Dr. Paul B. Lewis says:

    Ming, You do everything very well and professionally. Thanks for so much info.

  18. GREGORIO Donikian says:

    Poor wife !!!im sure The list will not last !! Enjoy ???


  19. A film scanning rig? Great. Let us know. I personally would be interested to buy one if it easier to use that the combo D800+micronikkor/slidecopying tube. 🙂

  20. Exhausted just reading! : ))

  21. 3 words…Awesome busy man ! 🙂

  22. Very inspiring. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, knowing that time can be utilized in so many constructive ways.

  23. Sigmund Krøvel-Velle says:

    And a 404 on your flickr links….

  24. You mention that you are “developing a film scanning rig”. Are you able to share more information about this yet, or have a time frame? Thank you for consistently high quality postings….. – Martin

    • It’s a frame to hold a DSLR, macro lens and light source perpendicular to roll film, which is tensioned, advanced and evenly lit for quick digital copying. I’m using an early prototype of that system now. We’re on the second prototype – some manufacturing tolerance issues – I’m estimating August, with a bit of luck. I’ll be opening ordering by batches once I have a prototype I’m happy with.

      • Sounds excellent! Thanks again….. Martin

      • andygemmell says:

        Did you read the reviewing Steve Huff about the scandinavian fellow that’s does this? He had a home made rig set up using his DSLR for scanning. Sounds like you are going one step further and perhaps looking to produce a product people could purchase?

        • It’s a high quality professional grade product to purchase, not a couple of toilet rolls. This is the cares of the delay…not happy with the QC and finishing so far.

      • 🙂

  25. Dear Mr.Ming Thein,

    Once I have encouraged dpreview to start a project after so many times of writing and asking them:
    I asked them “why don’t make an opinion poll among your readers and come up with a solid idea what people would think
    about how an ideal compact camera shoild be like and then communicate this to big companies?”

    First they have started something but as they did not accululate the incoming inputs from readers in a categoric
    manner, it turned out to be a not so useful chunk of information. I thoughtay be you could do that in a much better way then the dpreview guys as they never took this project seriously. It is my personal humble opinion that successfull bloggers like you can act as an effective intermediary between enthusiasts and the camera manufacturers.

    Best Wishes,
    Utku Oguz,
    Istanbul, Turkey

    • At least you got a reply! I get the definite feeling of superiority and arrogance from DPReview which perhaps doesn’t exactly endear them to manufacturers; also, none of them are actually photographers. There’s a reason why camera makers don’t employ reviewers to beta test products.

      They are partially right, though: users would ask for the impossible. Better to have a single, rational source of suggestions. Assuming, of course, that any of them would pay…that has yet to be determined.

      • “I get the definite feeling of superiority and arrogance from DPReview ”
        +1 to that

      • That arrogance will be their undoing, IMO. The site is far too lacking in original, engaging, meaty content, and the titular reviews, while admirably comprehensive, simply trickle out far too slowly for such a fast-moving sector. Their readers tell them this all the time (in between trolling), but it seems to fall on deaf ears–and they’re developing a bit of a reputation for that, as evidenced from the comments above. Only inertia is keeping them near the top of the pile now IMO.

        • plevyadophy says:

          Todd, the problem with your criticism is that there aren’t any large, comprehensive review sites that regularly do reviews any quicker than DPReview do them (please correct me if I am wrong, but Imaging-Resource don’t nor do Lenstip or the other big ones I am aware of).

          Secondly, to rush reviews out simply because there is a buzz of anticipation about a new camera is plain daft as it leads to bad reviews; and there have been times where one can clearly see DPReview (and others) have felt pressured into doing a review quickly only for them to make a lot of errors and have to spend too much time revisiting the review to make corrections and updates.

          Third, thorough reviews take time. It’s my personal experience that a camera takes, at the very least, three months to get a handle on and I would say a good six months to MASTER the device (know almost every function, combination of function, bugs, and quirks and to be able to use all the features instinctively); I have one camera where I “discovered” a feature around five years after having bought the thing! So a review team who have a multitude of other duties can’t be expected to come up with a review as comprehensive as the ones DPReview produce in a few short weeks after a camera is released.

          As a consumer, I have come across far too many reviews where clearly the reviewer wanted to be “first”, only for one to find a little while later that the review is flawed in many important details.

          • Actually, the more cameras you review, the more you know what to look for. So six months is not quite right; the litmus test for a real world review is whether you can produce images of your usual quality with it or not – then you’re ready, whether that’s six days or six months. And reality is you’re never lent cameras for that long – a week at the outside if you’re lucky.

            • plevyadophy says:

              Yeah, I hear you. But even though a reviewer ought to know what to look for the more cameras they review, I still find that after say six months or so the forums are awash with bugs, quirks, and tips and tricks that the experienced reviewer hadn’t noticed on a particular camera.

              And like you rightly point out, reviewers are often given cams for a ridiculously short time; I do note however, that DPReview and Imaging Resource do tend to get to hold on to cams for quite a bit longer than some blogger reviewers do.

              All that said, I still think we should all be a little less hasty to criticize reviewers for not bringing out reviews quickly. I have done “reviews” for myself and I know how time consuming it is (and I am not even doing some of those fancy techy tests that the major sites do!). Reviewing really is a hard task and we should be a little more understanding of and grateful to our reviewers (I would love to do reviews ………………….. but only if I could cherry pick the products that fascinate me; as I am sure the excitement would soon wear off as the reality of the long monotonous tasks set it in). I take my hat off to you all reviewers.


          • 1: The fact that no one else is currently doing it faster/better shouldn’t be an excuse to rest on one’s laurels.
            2 & 3: No one said anything about rushing reviews to compensate; that’s not the right answer, nor is it the only solution. Keep the reviews the same (note that I did describe them as “admirably comprehensive”), but consider rolling them out in stages (like they do with Previews/Reviews, but over a longer period), outsource more of the lab tests/data (perhaps to DxO, as there’s already a tie-up there), beef up the staff… Those are three off-the-cuff suggestions from a complete amateur; I’m sure people who do this sort of thing for a living could come up with a lot more.

            I’ve got no interest in blindly criticising DPReview–it’s still part of my daily reading list–or upsetting you, I simply think that they could improve the site in the areas I mentioned. If you’re not pushing forward then you’re inviting someone else to come along and do it better. They’ve been under the Amazon umbrella for some years now; surely there’s some money to play with?

      • plevyadophy says:

        Ming Thein,

        I think your thinly veiled criticism of DPReivew (and I guess, by extension other review sites and reviewers) is very unfair and way off-beam.

        Firstly, as to the staff not being photographers; I think if you look at their profiles many of them are accomplished photographers (whether amateur or paid pro) and a few have had extensive experience in the photographic industry. And even it is true that NONE of them are photographers, to sneer at them in that way is as silly as sneering at Angelo Dundee (Muhammed Ali’s long time trainer) when he discussed boxing because he was never a world champion boxer.

        As to the second swipe at reviewers (your remark that “There’s a reason why camera makers don’t employ reviewers to beta test products.”) maybe that’s a good thing; if a manufacturer continually approaches the same clique for advise they don’t get new insights (a problem with Canon in my view) and instead end up with the same “stuck in the mud attitudes” e.g. Konica Minolta (rightly in my view) thought it silly the notion that a so-called “pro” camera shouldn’t have an in-built pop-up flash (they rightly thought it useful for fill flash and for the purpose of creating the world’s first wireless flash triggering system) whilst Sony (who later bought out KM) decided to pander to the old fashioned mindset and later removed that unique feature from their full frame cameras. In any event, I think you are wrong for a more obvious reason; the reason being that, many times DPReview, as well as other “reviewers” get products to beta test (I can think of one well known reviewer who was approached by Leica for feedback when developing their S system).

        And whilst the charge against DPReview is one of arrogance/superiority (and I am not really arguing against that), I find the underlying suggestion that it’s better being a photographer rather than a “mere” reviewer also rather arrogant.

        Besides, if pro photographers are supposed to be hard at it honing their skills on assignments where on earth would they get the time to be effective beta testers and reviewers?! Someone’s gotta do the job, so wouldn’t it be better to let some professional/full-time reviewers do it, no? :o)

        • I’m looking at the poor standard of sample images they post – there’s no excuse if they really are photographers. If I posted images like that with my reviews, I’d have to wear an asbestos suit.

          As for arrogance – you are not aware of what takes place and is communicated offline. It’s a very, very small community and most of us know each other.

          • plevyadophy says:

            When you say poor sample images they post, what do you mean exactly? I am curious to know what features of a/their sample image/s you deem poor. Secondly, I tend not to look at the sample images (are you referring to their samples gallery, or the images presented within the body of their reviews?).

            As for the arrogance thing, yeah very true indeed; you lot on the “review circuit” get to meet each other in person so you all have a better take on what a reviewer’s personality is like. I can only go by what I see online, and I certainly wasn’t arguing that they are not arrogant because having been a long term forum member of DPReview I can well how some might come to that view just from their online presence (and two of them in particular come across as overly sensitive/prickly).

            • Sample images. They’re not the kind of thing a good photographer would release from a compositional point of view. I can understand shooting the same subjects for consistency/ comparison and eventually because having to ‘force’ a nice image out for a review is difficult…that said, if you are a pro, that is not an excuse you’d give to a client. These reviewers on DPR are all salaried staff. They don’t work for free. I do, and I still care enough not to post random snapshots. Not having any pride in the images you release but still having your name attached to them suggests the photographers are not too bothered about what other potential clients think – ie they are not really pros. And before you say anything about jpeg vs raw and postprocessing, the images from my E-P5 review were all SOOC jpegs. Given they have the cameras for that extended duration, these oversights are sloppy.

              • plevyadophy says:

                Aha, I see! 🙂

                I had a sneaking suspicion that is what you are talking about, and it’s an issue that has been raised before by DPReivew’s own forum members but ………………………. I have to disagree with you all.

                When I come to your blog, to me reviews are a secondary thing, the icing on the cake as it were. I see your blog as a shop window to your services. Therefore, when I read a review which is interspersed with pretty images I just see those images as eye-candy, a case of you showing off as it were (I say that matter of factly not in any judgmental way, for showing off is exactly what you should be doing). You are selling your wares (as a pro photog) and therefore your site should be full of nice images; the bookshelf images that appear in your recent Leica review are obviously techy images to illustrate some purely technical point.

                On the other hand, when I go to DPReview or any other review site I don’t expect to see any creative images at all, even when the reviewer points to their gallery of images; I expect a review site’s images to be nothing more than images showing off the technical ability of the lens or camera they are reviewing even if it is a landscape or portrait shot. Maybe I am wrong to do this, but whenever I look at a review sites “gallery” I always have in mind the content of the review and look at the gallery with that in mind so I am like thinking to myself “hmm, where’s the purple fringing in that image?” and “let me see now, can I see soft edges?”, and those thoughts wash over all the images I look at to the point that I don’t notice any artistic/compositional flaws. In my view the reviewer’s gallery images should be “situational”, that is to say, show us images created with the camera/lens in different situations .e.g. overcast sky, bright/harsh sun, on the beach, in a bar etc. I will then look at the, for want of a better phrase, “situational behaviour” of the kit being reviewed. I really don’t think reviewers should be wasting their energy trying to be creative and I sure don’t look for creativity from review site images because that’s not why I am there (of course my mindset changes as soon as I come to your site, or Zak Arias’ or NcNally’s site). And for the reasons just put forward, I hardly ever look through DPReview’s gallery to any great extent because I doubt I will find much more info in those gallery images than I have found in the main body of the review that I read.

                Your images are a shop window for potential clients whilst DPReview’s aren’t (or put another way, your potential client base is likely to want you to produce exquisite imagery whilst DPReview’s simply want to learn about the latest gear).

                Warmest regards,

                • That would make sense. Different purposes then. That said, I still wouldn’t want anything substandard images to have my name attached to them regardless of purpose. Far too easy for potential clients to google, see something, make the wrong conclusions, and it’s over. Reputations are hard to make, easy to break, and the pro photography pie is ever shrinking.

  26. I got a 404 on your facebook link …

  27. Wow …. considering a day has 24 hrs, a week has 7 days and a year has 12 months ….you really has the passion, energy and momentum to cover all these areas. I am just doing photography as fun time but still get ‘blanks’ in my brain on what to do when doing walks with my camera.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Forcing it typically doesn’t work for anything creative. Go with observant eyes and be prepared (but not pressured) to shoot, and you’ll probably find yourself being more productive.

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