New year’s resolutions, 2019 edition

H61C-B0000187 copy

Perhaps a more accurate title for today’s post isn’t so much ‘resolutions’ as ‘expectations’. I like to think that after a while in the same industry*, one acquires the maturity to know what you want to do, what you can do, and what you realistically might be able to expect. Here’s my plan for 2019, both photographic and otherwise. Some stuff I’ll have already said to various individuals or gotten lost in various comments, but as yet things have not been unified. So, to hopefully stem the tide of ‘are you going to x’ emails, here goes…

*Shooting since 2001, for clients part time since 2005, and full time since 2012 – that’s a good 18, 14 or 7 years, depending on how you want to measure it. Even 7 years in the digital era is an age given how fast things change.

2018 was honestly a year of transition and rationalisation for me – I never said this publicly, but when I entered photography I saw it as at best a four to five year career. Few pros last longer than that, and almost all the ones I’d met that had were really quite jaded and uncreative by that point – it was just a job. And as ‘just a job’, there are much easier and more lucrative ways to make a living. Perhaps they didn’t have the option, or perhaps inertia took over; but I’m fortunate to be involved in more than one field. I honestly thought it’d be touch and go as to whether I’d even last that long – getting established was one thing, staying fresh and maintaining both the level of creative energy required and the level of physical energy required in what is really the wrong part of the world** for a high end photography career would be another. In the end I made it, but I think only just barely. I thought consulting and private equity were bad in terms of hours, but running your own business takes the cake – worse if there’s one of you, worse if it’s online (i.e. global). Working 18-20 hour days was normal, and there would be no real delineation between work and non-work. This got so bad to the point that I was not spending enough time with family, and found myself with no real interests outside work – they’d all either become work/business somehow or gone by the wayside.

**The creative market in Malaysia never really matured before the proliferation of digital and weekend hobby pros, and as a result there’s still a perfect storm of a lack of appreciation for creativity – “just copy x” is far too common a creative brief – and unsustainably naive pricing.

But things would get worse. I’m only now coming out of the tail end of a year of pretty bad depression and insomnia; the latter of which is still there. Doing most of the work for two businesses and being involved with another three was taking a physical and mental toll, and it was clear that something would have to give. The parts that took up excessive time vs profitability or generated excessive stress or involved too much travel (resulting jet lag and business as usual to clear afterwards put you out of orbit for several days for every week you’re away) would have to be cut – this is why by the end of 2018, I just do two main things now: design watches and shoot for a small selection of clients. Running mingthein.com is really a third job, except it’s neither profitable (and has never been, since we never had advertising and only reviews generate referral income, which I hardly do) – it continues as a masochistic labor of love and a small release valve of common sense against the increasing sensationalism of the photographic internet.

That’s the good news, of course: I plan to keep writing and shooting, though the topics may become more esoteric, and no, I won’t be writing many reviews. It is pointless to waste money buying cameras that I have no interest in, more pointless to force myself to properly test and shoot with them, and stupidly masochistic to then have to defend my opinions against ignorant trolls afterwards. If I don’t buy something, that should really say enough by itself – much the same as if I do buy it (but in reverse, of course). I’ve said this before, but an opinion or review is only as useful as the reviewer’s situation pertains to your own – and if it doesn’t, then ultimately it’s meaningless.

Creatively, I want to return to a more spontaneous personal style – something that doesn’t require as much hunting but focuses on more transient and quotidian subjects; less postprocessing (also a consequence of me not having as much free time or desire to spend in front of a computer) and in general a more opportunistic approach. I’m sure somebody is going to tell me I’ve gone in another circle post medium format and out the other side. I find myself caring a bit less about the haptics and nth degree of performance and more about efficiency: can I quickly get the shot and move on to the next thing, or switch in and out of shooting-Ming and back to [other]-Ming? In other words: I recognise that it’s going to be impossible to have a clear separation between work and non-work, especially when you are the brand in both cases. But I’m going to try to be more efficient about using my time and being more disciplined about drawing lines around non-work time, even if it’s only for shorter periods. There may not be such a thing as fixed work hours anymore, but the solution for that is better mental discipline and a bit more presence for being in the moment rather than endlessly planning what-if scenarios^.

^Risk management of course continues, but not worrying about it removes some of the mental overhead.

The watch business of course continues, and I think has a much better chance of being a long-term business than photography for the simple reason that I have a team. I don’t have to do everything myself, and I’ve got colleagues to interact with socially as opposed to always being in customer-service mode. There’s enough variety in the various facets of operations to keep my on my toes and not bored. That, and because it’s both a new game to us and a rapidly changing playing field – means that there’s a chance to try some disruptive strategies, and get away with it. I’m also humbled that some of the really serious outfits in the industry want to work with us; in the next three to five years we’ll be a completely different entity to when we started out, in the best possible way. Next year alone we have four new releases on the cards, and more for the year after that.

Oh, and there is one last thing. I’ve been approached by a couple of other camera companies to take on a similar advisory role. I’ve not yet accepted anything, but if I do – it will be under the condition that I have no public association with the company and I will only be involved in product development and R&D to prevent myself from sinking into being a customer service centre again.

All in all, I’m hoping 2019 will be a bit more leisurely with lower stress levels and in turn, a bit more creative juice, too. MT

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Comments

  1. I might suggest you take a look at the Christian faith. It has given people great joy and peace of mind for 2000 years.

    • It’s also caused a lot of wars and strife, but the same (both) can be said of all religions…

      • I didn’t mean to touch a nerve; just trying to help. I am 74 years old and made my living for decades as a working professional photographer. I started out in the garage next to the house and ended with a fancy studio of 2000 sq. ft., a full kitchen for food photography, and an overhead rail Broncolor lighting system.

        I would still be shooting if the digital photography transition had not destroyed the middle ground of photography (my studio as an example). As soon as clients could see an image on a screen at the time of shooting, the value proposition of a professional was ruined, as clients no longer feared turning the job over to an amateur. When I shot with film, no client dared take a chance with that approach; it was too risky.

        There has been an inevitable drastic drop in standards as a result, and every professional knows it. I would not have gotten paid for the level of work I am seeing today. Worse, the clients themselves are unaware they are paying for images that are little more than snapshots. And when the Internet is the only place those images will be viewed, perhaps a snapshot is good enough.

        So I think you have to go easy on yourself. The profession of photography, and the art of photography, have been degraded, which can unnerve someone like yourself, a professional in the old sense of the word. I still believe in the beauty of the still image, and I know how hard it is to create beautiful images. We have a skill that takes decades to master, and can’t be acquired from youtube videos about the “ten tips for this or that”, or what new gimmick on a camera is going to make it all simple.

        LIke all good things, photography, and life, often take us through dark days; my many years on God’s Green Earth have taught me that.

        • No offense taken, and advice noted in the spirit of which it was given. But religion is personal and I think best left off this site; for some odd reason a lot of people get zealous enough over camera choices that we probably shouldn’t further complicate things!

          • So true. For some photographers, their choice of camera IS their religion, leading to many goofy debates.

            On a more upbeat note, a few days ago I shot my first wedding for a friend. I was scared to death something would go wrong. I had to think on my feet with portable flash combined with daylight. It was a far cry from my usual controlled studio conditions. But the pictures all look great, the bride and groom are ecstatic, and that old joy of just taking pictures was out in force. I felt once again the thrill of being a photographer and don’t think that feeling will ever go away.

            • First point: so true, so mislead. Also applies to cyclists, golfers etc and anything else where equipment plays a significant part in the activity.

              Not easy working with flash in a quickly changing situation especially with ambient balance etc; mastering lighting can help both creating it and finding/ observing it…

  2. Out of curiosity, where do you think you’d have to live to do the photography work that Malaysia doesn’t allow you to do/make pay?

  3. Egmont Bonomi says:

    Happy New Year Ming! Sorry to hear of your stressful experiences during the previous year. Hopefully 2019 will bring you a more balanced and sustainable lifestyle. One small piece of friendly advice; always remember we reap what we sow, hence only take on new responsibilities or roles if you really take all possible forms of stress and frustration into account before making the final decision. I would like to apologize for the questions and issues I brought up with you in the past concerning my Hasselblad H6D100c, I hope these weren’t the reason you decided to jump ship. Honestly, being confronted with going through the regular channels (Shriro or DJI) I acted selfishly by unloading the burden at your doorstep. I hope I get the chance to treat you to a good meal in KL one day to try and pay for my mistake… That’s if you accept the invitation! Again, all the best in 2019!

    • Nope, it was entirely on the HQ side – there’s a big difference between providing legitimate support for people who need it (and specific field application expertise that HQ doesn’t have) and being thrown all sorts of stupid instagram DM enquiries…(to say nothing of new management attitudes)…

  4. Brian Nicol says:

    Hi Ming, I am slow to comment on this post but better late than never. I hope you realize the contribution you make via this site. I recognize the investment that you put in and value your insights. I took 6 months of your 12 month email program and received invaluable feedback that I need to practice. I had to stop due to health issues and then suffered acute concussion and whiplash from distracted driver in April 2018. As part of acute concussion I went through depression and high achievement suicide issues. I even could not figure out how to use my cameras, including Leica, for months even though I used to be an engineer and high tech executive. However, your blog was one of 5 that were a light at the end of a tunnel that gave me something to keep me going. Your images in general are inspirational and your articles are a bright light in the internet that is generally devoid of competence and artistic merit. There is an image that I want to purchase someday but I will have to search for it. Maybe it is just me, but at the time I saw it, I had no idea what pricing of your prints are so I did not jump on it. I suggest that you make this more obvious on your website and easier to order. I also suggest that you make purchases via B&H and so on more prominent as it is not very obvious and I read your blog for some time before it registered that this would help compensate even though not significant on an individual basis but crowd effort helps a bit. I have all but one of your videos and initially purchased to support your site but found I constantly had to stop and replay to have the invaluable concept sink in. I have purchased a Hasselblad X1D and have found it perfect to motivate me forward on the way to recovery and it inspires me to go out and take photographs. Happy New Year and best wishes to you and your family. And may your readership support you via your on- line purchase links, buying inspiring prints, and instructional videos. I find so many people purchase more equipment and latest camera update in attempt to improve their photography instead of investing in education such as your videos and workshops. I hope this is your most prosperous year; financially, emotionally, and with family. Cheers, Brian

    • Thanks Brian. To be honest, it’s hard to objectively know what (if any) difference you make – there are just as many people shouting at you as with you!

      I’m hoping you’re over the hump and well on the road to recovery after the accident; I can’t imagine what the mental issues might be like, but I’ve got some of the physical myself (torn discs) that are already unpleasant enough…

  5. Goetz Haindorff says:

    One of the most genuine and honest self-evaluation I have seen in a long time, written by a man.
    The heroic approach for us men only works for a limited time. Then the whole damn thing comes crushing down.
    Acknowledging what is instead of wanting to change what is. That´s the step most people leave out.
    Deep appreciation for letting us know what does not work in your life.
    Very good writing, by the way.

  6. Lothar Adler says:

    Dear Ming, I’m again deeply impressed and thankful about your honest thoughts which you share with us. With gratitude, Lothar.

  7. Thank you for your insights and knowledge. I appreciate it very much. I am one of those photographers that have been in this business for over 30 years and ponder about this business and the business model every year. We wake up to create for another day! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom…and the excellent visual work that you create. Blessings to you and your family.

  8. All the best with 2019, and with your life in general. It’s difficult for anyone else to know what it really feels like to do your job(s) but I regularly point to you (and your site) for an example of someone I consider to be a great inspiration – pursuing a passion in photography and watches without being tied to corporate purse strings. If your experience with Hasselblad leads to working with other camera companies on your own terms, I’d consider that a success too even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
    And thanks (once again) for maintaining this site. I’m sure that in addition to the commenters, there is a large population of silent readers who really appreciate the work you put in, and the fact that this site remains impartial and informative, not just another sell out blog for advertising. You have really made a difference to many.

    • Thanks – tiring, I guess is the best description. I’m still tied to other stakeholders/shareholders; the allocation may of course be different but responsibilities do not change. Things are interlinked enough that independence is very much an illusion if you want to stay in business, and in order to maintain some of that notional freedom, there is no free lunch…

  9. Hello Ming,

    Just wanted to wish you and your family all the best for 2019. I’ve come to greatly appreciate your insights and frank commentary over the last few years, and the amount of archival content in the blog has provided me with hours of education and entertainment. I appreciate the effort you’ve put into this unpaid ‘third job’.

    The tail end of 2018 saw the birth of my first child, a career change, and some serious reevaluation of what I am doing with my photography. Beyond the usual gear angst, I think it’s more about my struggle to adhere to a consistent processing style, the desire to focus on specific projects and subjects, and recognizing the need to spend more on output and printing.

    I suppose these would all be reasons why I find your writing engaging and informative.

    Sometimes I want to just sell everything and focus my energy elsewhere, but then I come across certain shots that make me glad I had a camera at hand. I’m hoping a bit more focus and discipline can help stave off burnout.

    On a tangent, I just found a 5-pack of Kodak Ektar 100 in my freezer. Maybe I’ll run a few rolls through my Rolleicord, fire up scanner, and see what comes of it.

    • Thanks Craig. From experience, focus definitely helps, but the diversions and serendipitous discoveries are also what produces interesting and unexpected results…

  10. Happy new year. Thank you for your blog 👍The blog is not so masochistic – really. It is your business card for what sells 😉 I wish you and your family a healthy and happy 2019.

    • Thanks, but I’m not really selling anything other than free education, which if considered selling…I suppose it says a lot about the general state of play 😉

      • Sorry, I thought more about the watches and your services which I assume are also successful because of your blog. I appreciate the educational content a lot btw. I especially enjoyed the depth that you have due to your physics background.

        • Clients don’t actually find me through this site; there isn’t what you’d call a commercial work portfolio here…if you’re in the marketing department, you don’t really care for the essays most of the time. And the crossover between photography and watches is sadly much, much lower than I’d hoped. 😉

          • There is a fix – you can try to put cameras into your watches 😉

            • Let’s not even go there.

              • …not seriously though-but if we did brainstorm: what would we come up with? A sensor and beeper in the watch that corresponds to hand shake? A remote trigger. A kind of (selenium style) light meter. A mechanic calculator?

                • No, just no. You would land up with something that is neither a proper watch nor a proper camera: in other words, a gimmick. Stray too far from something the majority of the market can accept/understand and you have nothing but an expensive experiment. Unfortunately been there, done that, not recommended.

  11. Dear Ming, I always find you site and honesty a breath of fresh air and, of course, I always appreciate seeing your excellent images. I see you as the anti-Instagram: no obsession with over-saturated bokeh balls and light leaks…I hope you find the desired balance in 2019 – if you start posting images of burning steel wool being spun around that’s when I really will be concerned.

  12. Hi Ming, Thanks for being brave enough to open up about your recent trials…

    I must say I feel a bit guilty right now, as I saw this coming some time ago, and made no mention of it to you: I guess I felt it wouldn’t change your behaviour anyway, and that what was coming was, unfortunately, inevitable.

    You are ‘cursed’ with great intellect and talent, and with that, often comes very high expectations: a recipe for eventual burnout!

    I’m sure you’ll learn from this life experience and be a better, wiser person for it. My advice: try to have gratitude for what you already have, rather than always chasing more. As the actor Michael J. Fox (who has parkinsons), once said: ‘happiness grows in
    direct proportion to your acceptance, and inverse proportion to your expectations’

    A few other relevant quotes come to mind; something for you to ponder over the holidays:

    – ‘In the end, photography isn’t about visuals, or capture, or even aesthetics. It’s about showing somebody else your imagination.’ Ming Thein

    – ‘Those experiences that come along that can reveal so much to us, don’t come from easy street’: Aron Ralston

    – ‘Be thankful of the tough times because they shape us into the people we are meant to become’: Josh Hutchison

    – ‘Pursue the small utopias…nature, music, friendship, love’: Kupferberg

    – ‘You don’t really know who you are until you’ve faced real adversity’: Dan Gasby

    – ‘If you can shift people just one degree, then if they travel far enough, they’ll end up in a very different place’: Daniel P. Jones

    – ‘Everyone reaches a point in their life where they must change or cease’: Brett Whitely

    – ‘The most evolved person is seemingly a contradiction: they’re both the strongest and the most vulnerable person in the room’: Billie Lourd

    – ‘It is widely believed among scientists that beauty is a reliable guide to truth’: Paul Davies

    All the best for 2019…

    Cheers

    Peter

    • One has to do more and more to merely maintain/ tread water – that’s the nature of business and society today. My wife actually suggested I retire completely, which isn’t a bad idea (though knowing me I’d get bored and look for something to do anyway).

      “– ‘The most evolved person is seemingly a contradiction: they’re both the strongest and the most vulnerable person in the room’: Billie Lourd”
      Very, very true!

      Happy new year, Peter.

  13. Ming hey man !!

    First off Happy News Year 2019 to you and thank you for making our 2018 , more meaningful .

    I totally empathize with your situation . But with your permission allow me to add my two cents worth .

    Humans are by nature multi dimensional : you belong to a rich Eastern heritage , and so m sure you understand.
    Its the western culture , starting with likes of Plato that converted humans into Algorithms or logical arguments . Buddhas , Zen Masters , Tao masters of the East had understood and transcended the logical mind ages ago .
    Unidimensional thinking ( becoming an engineer , lawyer etc only ) has led to unfulfilling jobs , dysfunctional workplaces and relationships between humans and between mankind & nature .

    You are right that way you feel . Just revert into the multidimensional human that you were meant to be .

    Be a great photographer ( only the kind of photography that fulfills you ) , a great watch designer ( only the kind of design work that fulfills you ) , plus do a few more things that you have seeds for . In every case HAVE YOUR OWN STORY . THAT S ONLY YOU AND NO ONE ELSE .

    Most importantly develop a rich spiritual life for whatever that means to you : Every path is right . The Buddha said never do anything anyone else tells you …even if The Buddha tells you . Do only what you deeply are convinced about .

    Secondly develop a good work out routine …whatever satisfies you . Third do some social cleansing : take unnecessary relationships out of your life completely : Be the Lone Wolf . There is a movement , i dont know if you have heard : MGTOW : Men Go YOUR OWN WAY .

    Do a bit of charity ….If that satisfies you .

    In due course you will find your new balance . You will never feel jaded . And you will find that the seed that you ve been carrying inside you for eons , germinate into a beautiful flower : Even you ll be surprised with the beauty that is manifested through you . Of course every human has his unique seed and his multidimensional sources of nourishment .

    The trick is to avoid being unidimensional and have your own story .

    You are a highly evolved soul and I am sure you will make it . Photography is an important dimension of you , so keep evolving in that direction too .

    DISCLAIMER : I have equal respect for all religious and other belief systems . I am not preaching any religion here . I m just sharing what I have leaned so far . I m still learning .

  14. Derrick Pang says:

    Ming,

    Happy New Year. I could tell your situation when we met up. I can’t agree more with what you said: ” I thought consulting and private equity were bad in terms of hours, but running your own business takes the cake – worse if there’s one of you, worse if it’s online (i.e. global). Working 18-20 hour days was normal, and there would be no real delineation between work and non-work”.

    Life is short, especially for those who have ambition. We have limited amount of time to juggle on things that we want to achieve. But we also have to deal with baggage that we created.

    Let’s meet up when you stop by next time.

    Derrick

    • Prioritisation vs responsibility vs the fact that it takes selfishness to create something really new/different, I suppose. But yes, the baggage: the more you do, the more legacy you have to support.

      Always a pleasure to meet up when I’m in HK – I’m just not there often enough! 🙂

  15. I can see your vision and attitude towards your visual environment both in your photography and in your watch designs. I am sure they will always reinforce each other. I hope one of the photo companies that contacted you is Nikon because you have good ideas as to how a camera should work. Best wishes for 2019!

  16. At the end of my business career, I started and ran my own software company for 5 years which required a lot of travel for marketing as well as managing a team of programmers. Fun and exciting but a LOT work. One of the best decisions I made was to take time out of the business day (3 days per week) to go to the gym. My wife and I have been going to the gym now for more than 20 years. I completely support your more sensible lifestyle goals for the new year. I will be watching your watches.

    • I have to say the balance was a lot easier not so long ago – we have to be thankful to the internet to opening up our markets internationally, but also cognisant of the the fact that business hours are now 24/7/365…take the time when you can get it, I guess. But unfortunately that isn’t always plannable! Trying to find a spontaneous and piecemeal activity that I can take up…oddly enough, that’s very much how ‘serious’ photography started for me many many years ago – it was the only activity I could think of that filled that gap.

  17. Happy New Year Ming ! Much in the same quandary after hopping out of the CEO suite 5 years ago: Happy with the challenges, running 2 businesses and interests but pained for time !

    Keep up the excellent work, although photography is very important to me (a stop, SEE, reflect moment) yours is the only site I read – the othe sites I view are about still visual art. The lack of advertising much appreciated.

    Keeping fingers crossed, and althopugh this may sound trite (but isn’t) it’s not the goal it’s the journey – explore !

    • Stopping and seeing: metaphorically, I feel I’m not doing enough of this right now.

      As for other sites: photography is about pictures. The minute that stops becoming the endgame is when the objective has been lost; why most ‘photography’ sites focus on hardware I’ll never understand. Maybe because it’s much easier than the picture creation part…

  18. Ming, life is nothing but a bell curve ( as are most things in the world ) and you are starting to get close to the top. The joy you had in the beginning of the curve you will find again at the bottom of the curve ( I’m there now! ). The best is yet to come……….
    Happy New Year and let us hope the politicians don’t turn it into a sad new year ( at least in my country! ).

  19. Kitty Murray says:

    “though the topics may become more esoteric…” Well, I’m totally down with this!

    Happy New Year Ming

    • Time to talk about…cheeses*!

      *Actually, my favourite of all comes from a region not far from where the picture was shot (Luzern) and was purchased from one of the cheesemeisters at the farmers’ market; it’s called Delice du Jura, and combines all of the best properties of the soft unpasteurised French-style cheeses like Epoise and Pont Leveque without so much of the ammoniac stinkiness, but retaining all of the umami and creaminess. Highly recommended with some floral honey.

      • Kitty Murray says:

        Kudos. Breaking it down like a true turophile.

        Next… Camellia Sinensis…Yrgacheffe…chocolate?

        Big grin from Austin.

        • I’m not sure about being turophile; I just know what pleases my palate (and I’m sure I’ll get all sorts of flak for not being authentic somehow).

          Tea: a friend’s father has an interest in a plantation in Sri Lanka…we get the top leaf only, partially dried/fermented, almost like a chinese white tea. It’s surprisingly floral upfront, not at all green, and has a long dark honey finish that intensifies on second infusion. Cold brewing yields something extremely floral and sweet but not cloying, and very pleasant. Yes, I know, I’ve been spoiled…

          Coffee: funny you should mention Yirgacheffe; I usually have a varietal of this called Red Cherry, that (unsurprisingly) has very strong stone fruit notes. It does need to be balanced off with an earthier/more robust base note, usually a more cocoa-heavy Columbian. That yields an incredibly smooth but flavourful blend, with complexity somewhat reminiscent of a good Bordeaux if the sour/bitter axis is properly managed. 😉

  20. My goal for 2019 is to purchase one of your beautiful watches.

  21. Depression. Sorry to hear about that. If only the answer were as simple as that suggested by cognitive psychology: put on a different filter; everything will look different and ultimately be different. I think you’re on the right track. Balance may be the key. Best of luck for a better 2019. And thanks for continuing the blog.

    • I’ve always found filters to be somewhat limiting: what you don’t see can often limit or come back to haunt you later. At least without filters you know 100% is really 100% 😉

  22. Happy New Year Ming and thanks for sharing your thoughts and feeling.
    This article somehow brings back the many days we have spent together shooting, eating and having fun. We had no stress and effortlessly just plaid like kids in the street. Many, many good shots as a result and it was always an injection of inspiration to move on.
    I found this little input about having photography as a hobby and in your case having a few assignments now and then … well as much as I can contribute, I feel much as this guy.

  23. I really enjoy the material you publish on your site and still your site is unique(and much better than like 99% of photography sites). Thank you for that.

    I think you should just publish a “how to design and develop a camera system from practical standpoint for dummies”, and just sell it to camera companies. My last hope is that you somehow get this role in Hasselblad. I wish you a great year ahead.

    • Thanks.

      “My last hope is that you somehow get this role in Hasselblad”
      Actually, I did have that role for 18 months from early 2017 to a couple of months ago – a lot of what you see now has had my influence – but they decided they’d rather have me answering tech support and the engineers doing product development, so I figured it was time to bow out.

  24. George Drazek says:

    Your opening comment on having expectations rather than resolutions for the New Year is the most insightful take on calendar passing I’ve heard in a long while. Enjoy your posts immensely and wish you peace and success in the coming and future New Years.

  25. Gregory Overcashier says:

    Peace

  26. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The reason for your success as a photographer, against a background of others failing, is quite simple. You are better!
    Not only, but also – because as your blog demonstrates, you take time out, to help other people. And without peering over your shoulder, as you go about your photographic business, I feel quite sure that this pervades that business and contributes to your success, on top of your technical knowledge (which is extreme and profound) and your talent (which is astonishing – as witness the very first photo in this posting – when I saw it, it completely blew me away, and it was quite some time before I started reading this post).
    Depression – sigh – this is becoming increasingly common these days. (My doctor told my wife 20 years ago that I have depression – I refused point blank to see a “shrink” or swallow “happy pills” and I’ve been fighting it myself ever since – each to his own?) I hope this is not an intrusion, but I would suggest it’s essential to make time available to spend with your family – that’s precious, and irreplaceable, because the moments you ought to share are fleeting instants in time, and don’t come back later when you’re less busy.
    I sincerely hope that within all this, you can and do find time to share with “us” – the fan club of followers in the blog and on your website.
    Photography, for me, has been a source of great pleasure over a very long period. I had two great-great-uncles who were among the pioneers of photography where I grew up, hauling their gear in a cart behind their respective horses, setting up a tent, making their own collodion wet plate negatives and taking quite extraordinary photographs. A father who was besotted by it. An older brother and me, taking photos since we were about 10.
    And one of the greatest sources of pleasure in this – for me, a rather extreme form of hobby – for you, a career – has been on extraordinary characteristic of photographers. It is quite astonishing, comparing photography with other diversions from normality and the humdrum, just how many gifted photographers are perfectly happy to spend time sharing their knowledge, wisdom and experience, with anyone and everyone who makes contact with them, by whatever means.
    Example – Ming Thein. Thank you Ming, for all that you have done for all of us, in the past, and for everything we are fortunate enough to have you share with us, in the future.

    • Better only takes you so far. Luck is a much larger component, as is being connected to the right people in the right places. One should also know how to replenish that karma and not overstay their welcome!

      I do sometimes wonder if we do it out of ego: we have to say something, and it’s nice to have somebody to listen 🙂

  27. Thanks for all the useful yet free content in 2018, and best of luck for the new year! It seems you’re gearing (figuratively) for the long play, and maybe the right way to do it is to have other means of living besides photography. What you describe sounds like a good start. Just don’t spread yourself too thin geographically 🙂

  28. Happy new year Ming and good luck with your endeavors! 😊 This year I’m going to give a serious try with SOOC jpeg like you’ve done with the PEN-F. Should save me an easy hundred hours of PP which I will gladly take.

  29. myscience says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us on your blog and for all your helpful advice. I hope 2019 brings you more contentment and less stress. Happy New Year!

  30. Happy New Year Ming!
    I am looking forward to more of your excellent condition work and insights. But please do take good care of yourself and your family.

  31. Kristian Wannebo says:

    There is always a haze over the fresh new year…
    Ming, may it (slowly enough) clear over a not too familiar and not too strange yet welcoming country!

    Wishing you a less stressful year with more time for [other-than-work]-Ming!

  32. Happy New Year Ming. I’m glad 2019 will bring you a little more balance – and hopefully a bit more sleep. Best wishes to you and the family.

  33. richard majchrzak says:

    happy New Year Mr Ming and i wish you tons of luck. I aggree with Claude Dumas above about honesty , knowledge and “no crab” attitude . I like reading your information because it is non biased and first quality. thanks

  34. First.thank you for sharing your thoughts and ruminations. Of course the new year, much like birthdays, visits us every so often, that is every 365/6 days. That said, it does provide humankind a device for taking stock and making any course “correction” if one so feels the need.

    Personally, for what its worth, I think you did well to keep clear of the money business, because, in my view, that does not in general offer a life (in our times) with any worthwhile purpose. One can frequently end up insincere or short of integrity, and once in a while in jail- all because of chasing money, chiefly for some one else’s benefit.

    It is not unknown for a person with an active mind to not have enough hours in the day- one can say that is the fate of an active mind with wide awareness. Artistic pursuits can invite deep and passionate commitments. Again it seems to me that what you have done with watchmaking, that is use trained assistants, is the way to go, and this model can perhaps be replicated elsewhere. It carries the added satisfaction of imparting training to others. But then we also get characters such Cartier-Bresson, with a deep commitment to a single piece of equipment and a one-dimensional approach to the subject, yet producing remarkable output.

    Personally, I do not think that geography matters much these days; and the future, for better or worse, seems to lie in East and Southeast Asia- given its depth of human resource and growing wealth. In a sense it offers a place for making new beginnings. You might find high-brow art gravitating to Asia, not just Hollywood.

    Apologies for this mouthful!

    Now back to basics, if I may. It would be helpful for those of us who look for guidance to have regular editing of your Recommended Gear List, now that you wont be reviewing gear anymore

    • Thanks. Can’t really do the trained assistant thing with photography – there isn’t really any scalability. It just isn’t the same because we’re dealing with constantly changing situations and output.

      Geography does matter – as much as we like to think it doesn’t. If it costs one airfare more to hire you, then you’re not going to get the job – unless you charge less.

      The recommended gear list is updated when my equipment changes – note the ‘last updated’ date. If there are no changes, I’ve managed to avoid buying anything… 😉

      • Thanks for sharing your views on scalability and geography. (I should point out though that a lot of visitors to Malaysia feel good about its generally tolerant culture, but that may not help much with a career in photography). Regarding my overlooking the date on the Recommended Gear List- clearly small print can be rather important!
        All the best for 2019!

        • Sure, we’re generally quite tolerant – but I suspect this also breeds a sort of complacency/ indifference that is not good if you are aiming for differentiation by quality…

  35. Keep up the good work Ming really appreciate your view on the world of photography.In aa era where ther is so much noise on the net your views and opinions are a breath of fresh air.Hope the new year is kind to you and yours

  36. Wish you all the best Ming, we appreciate your honesty, clear-mind and “anti-crap” attitude. This is truly unique. We are privileged to be able to learn from you and “thanks” is not powerful enough to compensate. I bought some video tutorials to help support (and been vastly rewarded by the knowledge I acquired) : do you plan to make more tutorial videos in 2019 ? Thank you !

    • Thanks. Anti-crap is only possible when it’s not brought to you by a sponsor 😉

      Glad you found the videos useful; there’s a very high information density in there despite the lengthy runtime. No plans for any more though – I think we’ve pretty much covered everything that can effectively be taught remotely.

      • Understood. But i cannot help myself but dream of an “extended” LR-only Workflow video : there are some stuff I wish were explained in yet more details, without reference to Photoshop itself. All is not clear for me, especially about the “dark magic” of tone curve adjustment. Thanks !

        • The reason that doesn’t exist is because it simply isn’t possible with LR in its current form – I’ve tried more than once only to be frustrated or stonewalled by software limitations and reverting to the same thing in PS, taking a few seconds instead of multiple convoluted workarounds. I suspect there’s a reason why Adobe doesn’t do it: revenue.

  37. Good for you Ming, best of luck de-stressing and with the watch business. I like Robin’s contributions here so I’m glad you have him along to share the load at least a little. Happy 2019!

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