Shoot everything / diminishing returns

Is it possible to practice too much? To the point that it’s almost impossible to capture something exceptional because you’ve already seen 99.9% of the possible expressions of a given subject, and then captured and curated the best from there? Is there really a point at which additional repetition does not build muscle memory, speed of response, familiarity or spur creativity? Of late, I’m increasingly thinking the answer is actually yes: you can overshoot. But as usual, there are caveats, so hear me out before you break out the stakes, pitchforks and gasoline.

There was a time when I could not go anywhere without a camera. Not a camera, but a camera: the kind of thing that required its own bag, compromises and weight allowance. And usually at the most inappropriate times, since I was also working corporate in consulting/finance/PE at the time, where individuality is generally frowned upon at best, and a permanent black mark on your record at worst. Nevertheless, I stubbornly persisted, using my lunch breaks and commutes to open my eyes and experiment creatively. Photography was one of the few two-way (creative, not just passive-consumptive) forms of entertainment that could be engaged in piecemeal in small bites. For a long time, my camera bag was worth more than the car I used to carry it in (wait, that’s actually still true). And I’d shoot any damn thing to practice because at the time, it was all new to me.

Fast forward the better part of 18 years, and I can’t honestly say it’s new to me anymore. In fact, there are so few shooting situations that are new to me that I have to really try quite hard to create something that I haven’t encountered or done before – pushing every aspect from the technology to the subject matter to the locations to the presentation medium, and then tying it all together. At some point in the last year, I got tired of doing that. I got tired of forcing creativity and eventually found it harder and harder to engineer these situations; I don’t know if it’s because all of the reasonably accessible opportunities had already been done, or because I was getting burned out – or both. The demands of four simultaneous jobs (commercial photography, this site, Hasselblad/DJI, and the watch company) were wearing me down, and eventually something had to go because there wasn’t enough to go around. You’ll notice I shoot a lot less commercial these days – that’s a deliberate choice, and I’m happy for it. It means that the jobs I do take I’m excited to do again and the creative experimentation comes naturally in flow, rather than having to be brute-forced.

It’s a weird sort of minimalist attitude to photography I’ve settle into now: I no longer carry a separate camera everywhere I go, and even when on trips I carry what I think will cover the majority of situations I might find myself wanting to shoot in (to be the subject of another article), and I’ve even started shooting JPEG sometimes. I don’t force myself to shoot or feel obligated to squeeze something new and unique out of a scene if it doesn’t immediately hit me. I’m no longer feeling the frustration if I can’t brute force a frame out of every scene; there’s no need for that because at some point in the past, I know I’ve already worked that kind of scene to death and extracted all of the possible angles, and I know I can do it again if I have to – but it won’t make a different or interesting result, so there’s no need to. The extra time allows me to be creative in other fields, which in turn comes back to reflect photographically as the very nature of creativity itself is not and cannot be limited to one discipline: inspiration often comes from outside of where you’d expect it.

The images you shot before now curate the images you haven’t yet taken. There was a point where I’d have to rationalise with myself and talk myself out of shooting the image ‘just in case’ or ‘because the quality will be better now’ – for what? The creative impact is the same, and if it was a great image then – it was regardless of the the capture medium. If it wasn’t, it won’t be any better now. It may sound strange, but a psychologist friend recently told me that the (my) behaviour most closely matched a serious chronic addition – the kind that debilitates you to the point that you can’t ignore it and you only feel better when the thirst has been quenched, the shutter pressed, and the final sharpening done before the file is saved – even if you never look at it again. I suppose he’s right; for the longest time I had a pathological need to photograph everything I came across, and had trouble restraining myself in inappropriate (read: corporate professional) situations, thinking more about how nicely the light fell from the open windows rather than the four year IRR impact of a certain conditional clause to a deal.

I don’t know if it was because of the forbidden fruit factor (we want what we can’t have) or the fact that I simply had an unhealthy addiction to photography; but I’m quite content now to sit and observe, and not carry any hardware – but at the same time know that I’ve got enough compositional skills and shooting envelope on my phone to make something work if an exceptional opportunity really did arise. And I work in a place where there’s no stigmatism against breaking off to photograph something interesting, or to use a phone instead of a medium format monster (or vice versa). It’s zen calm with a single decisive strike – if needed – as opposed to frantic struggling kicks and punches. And the images I produce now are different, too: yes, I’m photographing experimentally again. You’ve probably figured out by now there are no images in this post for a reason; they’ll come soon enough (every alternate post on this site of the thousands from day one has been an image gallery!) I promise I’m not addicted, really. MT


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  1. What keeps me going is the need to document things periodically for my young daughter. Also a shift to more video to make that documenting more lively, relatable, and entertaining. Video is also quite a difficult thing to manage with minimal equipment, so that challenge has got me occupied for some time to come.

    I suppose I have a fear that I will be totally forgotten to the generations that follow, in a way that when I look back on my grandparents and their very limited photos, writings, and other leftover tidbits, that I feel no real relation to them (I grew up without them in a different country).

    Leaving behind photos and images, among other creations is how I deal with it. I guess I’m not so much a photographer to be a photographer, insofar that it is a means to an end. Also I love sharing the odd perfectly timed photo of my family that looks awful, much to their disaproval.

    • I did video for my family too, but admit I’m too lazy to process it, and it’s not the same viewing experience as stills – there’s an implied/ necessary flow that requires time to view. And sound. Plus I suppose I’m far more experienced and intuitive with stills…

      • My daughter always lights up when she sees video clips of herself, no matter how bad. I used to have a lot of apprehension about trying to create quality video, but I found it was unimportant in the larger scheme. Just having the video in the first place seems to be the important part. Quality is just a bonus.

  2. I have come to believe that the creative impulse in this now “world society” is no longer about the end result as much as the process. Therefore we are talking about personal therapy, not trying to sell the world on our uniqueness. I am more convinced than ever, that the most creative action benefits society (more on this momentarily). With the ease of picture taking and proliferation of images (everyone is now a photographer via our phones) our senses are now oversaturated by aesthetic expression (I use that term as most of us consider ourselves, or at least wish to consider ourselves “artists”), our forerunners and first to take the risks of the medium (Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter come to mind in specific genres), had little competition, they created the road of discipline, process and vision and were willing to take risks most would not have the patience, stamina, and focus to see through. We, as successive instrumentalists, are their derivative, mostly we end up trying to mimic them, always looking for that secret sauce to vision, success, notoriety, and perhaps income. A breakaway from, a bolt ahead of the group is what we seek from the hoards who have infiltrated this medium.

    We are in denial if any of us thinks that we can find that same career as the trailblazers. Having said that, I am equally convinced that the area where we can be most discerning, creative, and have a buying audience, is in business; this after many years of intense concentration in photography, painting, writing, and music to find a pathway. In the end, these aesthetic mediums are essentially there for self gratification, as there is more to be realized by taking our focused and intelligent energies, and promulgating a communication with buyers of unique and important products or services. I don’t want to overstate this because most may not have an opportunity to recognize this. Elon Musk among others are those trailblazers who have vision, intense focus, and a realization that what they are seeking will benefit society. Does art benefit society? Indeed. But when differentiation becomes an almost useless task, as most are simply expressing a “variation on a theme” of their predecessors, you end up with severe limitations in recognition. Having said that, perseverance and metamorphizing oneself to adapt is a legacy of few (David Alan Harvey comes to mind as one). Others like Hans Strand have found a niche, and have broken boundaries by recognizing opportunities in expressing color with their unique vision of various landscapes. He has capitalized on the ease and quality of high end equipment with a vision of the world few had considered before his own foray. He has expressed his own dissatisfaction with the market place, a deterioration in his own sales due to the distraction of newcomers mimicking his style.

    However, I love how photography gets me out and about, the exercise, fresh air and interacting with the light – speaking of which, if I found myself limited by my own efforts, I might leave that venue behind, or only seek those special occasions where I was spirited by OMG moments. In short, seeking those unique situations when the subject is less of a concern than capturing the rarest of light. Maybe you should consider taking a trip to the US West with it’s grand vistas, and find new “seeing there”. There is always room of rarified moments of light and vision.

    • For the most part I agree – in the early days of anything, it’s easy to be a trailblazer because none of the roads have been taken. On top of that, you also don’t have the distraction of expectation – there’s no other work before yours to create subconscious markers before you even have a chance to interpret a scene or idea for yourself. It’s much harder now both because the number of subjects hasn’t exponentially increased, but the number of people capturing images and (important) sharing them has; we’re now facing visual saturation every day. An image that would have been exceptional in the early days is now mediocre, and the bar has been pushed a lot higher. No matter how good you are, nobody is immune to diminishing returns and the limits of human psychology at noticing stuff.

      “He has expressed his own dissatisfaction with the market place, a deterioration in his own sales due to the distraction of newcomers mimicking his style.” If people are copying you, it means you need to work harder and go beyond your comfort zone. Having met the photographer in question and seen him work – the only barriers to copying are access to location and helicopter. Is it any wonder that he’s being copied?

      “…only seek those special occasions where I was spirited by OMG moments. In short, seeking those unique situations when the subject is less of a concern than capturing the rarest of light.” Ideally of course, you want both – but that’s as much luck as anything else when it comes to being in the right place at the right time. You might get a better shot than the next person, but if the quality of light or uniqueness of the situation (light+subject) is that exceptional – then the audience will interpret this before any compositional or technical nuances. This is why most of the time we make the light exceptional ourselves (at least on smaller scales) such that the scene isn’t one that can be repeated. And beyond that, accept that there’s no such thing as bad light per se – just bad light for a given subject and creative intention.

      • Hate to say it, but the photography profession is seriously over saturated now. I live in Ansel Adams country and the amount of people who pull over on Highway US 395 in the fall is crazy. And it is not just the iPhone crowd, it is serious photographers with tripods and big lenses. Getting the same shots as everybody else. Posting them on Instagram and YouTube, like everybody else.

        I just watched a video of a prominent YouTube photographer pull over and take the same pictures of a rundown house, just like everybody else. I then checked out the pictures of that shoot on his website, not quite the same picture. In the video they are shooting this scene in the middle of the day and on his website the image has been altered to look like it has been shot at sunset. Not quite an accurate representation of the “moment” but it looks nice.

        So the real question becomes, does having amazing post-processing skills make you the more marketable photographer?

        • I don’t disagree: the barriers to entry are low, the client discernment is lower still, and there’s always more where somebody came from. The low and midrange is a bloodbath; the high end still survives but is (and has been) contracting for some time now.

          Any time and every time I show a BTS video, it was shot at the actual time the stills were shot – it’s meaningless otherwise.

          If you had amazing post processing skills AND you were a good photographer, surely that would be be better? 😉

          • Some marketing, administrative, and client relation skills helpful as well.
            But the ‘bloodbath’ strongly reverberates with me and the remarks I’d made about feeling discouragement … things seem very far down the worst-case end of red ocean.

            • I would say more than some are required on all fronts – especially the marketing and client relations parts; perhaps I’d go further as quantifying it more along the lines of being able to speak the same language as the client and demonstrably adding value…

  3. I’ve been making pictures since 1960 or 61 (crs disease), but last year I started to pare down my heavy landscape kit and simplify. While I still shoot the occasional landscape, I mostly look for abstract images which convey more feeling for a place. I even find myself going out and never taking a single shot. Case in point – last night we had a spectacular sunset with lots of red and deep orange. I reached for my camera and then put it down, settled back and just enjoyed the moment. Ahhh – felt good.

    On another note I rented a Z7 last week. Got me to thinking that except for long exposures I could dispense with my tripod and god-awful heavy ball head altogether. I didn’t care for the 24-70 much, but with an adapter and a Leica M lens could be a great package.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Sorry to hear that. But yes, perhaps not a bad thing to enjoy the scene a bit more rather than always trying to capture it – I’m finding myself doing the same these days. After all, we need to experience it in order to be able to express it visually…

      The Z7 does open up what I’d think of middle-length shutter speeds (beyond the range of handholding, but not quite in tripod territory), but not what I’d think of as long exposures (seconds, minutes).

  4. Ming
    Yours sounds like an addiction and burn out. The obvious energy you have been putting into your endeavors are akin to the addict working hard for the next fix. Something loads of us have experienced in some way shape or form. There was a point with my photography where I thought more was better. Specifically more time spent out there with the camera. It did not work. There is something to be said for developing craft facility, but that does not necessarily translate into great photographs.
    One of the benefits for me with my problem is that it made me decide that what I wanted to do with my photography and what I did not want to do. I did and do not want to do trip journals or other types of photography. I decided to make carefully crafted pictures. I expect to make maybe 10 or 12 pictures that I really care about in my lifetime. I may like the others but they won’t be my children, they’ll be somewhat distant relatives. I am not into making a mountain of mistakes for a molehill of success.
    The drive and intensity needed for those few photographs is enough motivation for me.
    Also, maybe the biggest problem I gave up was trying to make a living at photography. I discovered that I could work as intensely as I needed at photography without trying to make a living at it.
    Take a break, a well deserved rest from the intensity, if you can. As Joseph Cambell said, follow your bliss. If you get the chance.
    Good Luck,
    Claude Fiddler

    • Thanks Claude. There is definitely a large (and widening) difference between the images people like to make and look at and the images companies pay for – I don’t know why this is, because it actually makes no sense. Surely you’d want to show people things they are interested in if you want them to pay attention to your company and products? On the other hand, the more mature about the whole endeavour you get, the greater your ability to say no and walk away if the creative fit with the client isn’t good; this tends to lead to fewer but better (and oddly, also better paid) jobs. Quality over quantity, as you say (whilst preferably having some time to allow your addiction/tolerance levels to recover somewhat in between…)

  5. I would suppose there are many kinds of shooting and most are distinguished by the internal motive.
    For example, there might be extensive shooting to train oneself and build skills; how many Olympic or professional athletes function at their level without having first conditioned themselves in this way?
    Then shooting to maintain conditioning so your technical skill is available when the opportunity arises.
    There is of course shooting for bread on the table and auto insurance payments (and possibly the occasional cigar).
    There’s shooting for social time together, – not the kind that distracts from social time together ;).
    There’s shooting for relaxation aka “shutter therapy.”
    And shooting to produce art, either for your own consumption or motivated by desire to produce something of value that at least some people would enjoy.
    Probably these motives shift and very often blend.
    I’ve wrestled some with the value of an image: if we did the math how many images can we reasonably estimate are captured around the world in a single day? It must be a large figure.
    Or thinking of a particular known photogenic scene, how many images are shot of that scene in a single year? Looking toward demand or ‘consumption’, how many images can a potential viewer consume over a period of time (while remaining healthy)?
    Wedding images seem very unique and are perceived to be of great value to the people who commission them, but ultimately how often is that wedding album actually opened over the years?
    Then, it has developed that my own skills have hit a plateau because life circumstances have rather flattened me; I hope this situation will prove to be only temporary. My first (and only) commercial shoot to date paid so poorly and was so time-consuming that it probably inflicted more personal financial harm than good. I wish photography would pay a proper livelihood to me so I could at least realistically include it into the mix of work I do.
    I feel a personal need to evaluate the significance of what I’m doing; and significance seems difficult sometimes when evaluated in light such as utterly staggering numbers of images that must be captured daily. In yet harsher light one could perhaps start questioning the cost of all the data one has captured.
    There is a lot of tension involved between these forces.
    Despite all this tension, my desire “so far” would be to continue developing skills in this domain, as well as to be creative and live creatively generally.

    • I fully agree on the training part, but I don’t think it’s so easy to separate out the necessary from the conditioning from the recreational – they all exercise the same muscles, so to speak. The differences boil down more to ones’ psychology and intent at the time than anything else – which is part of why creating that separation is so difficult. For example, if you’re out doing something else, but happen to carry a camera and find yourself with downtime to shoot casually/ recreationally – you might. And if one of those images happens to be saleable or newsworthy or something of the like, would you not do it if your job was also professional photography? If you didn’t, you likely wouldn’t have the mindset to survive in the first place (not business/opportunity aware, etc) – so it goes around in circles somewhat.

      It sounds to me like your commissioned job experience was actually a good one: better to learn sooner than later that it’s not so easy to turn this into a sustainable business (especially if you plan to do it full time). There are a lot of hidden financial, time and administrative considerations that aren’t necessarily obvious or even applicable across the board.

      Perhaps the best of both worlds is to develop the creative/seeing skills independently; the client handling and business part is very much trial by fire; thinking opportunistically is not; but then have interests in many things so there’s no pressure for any one of them to bring home the bacon…

      • I believe I’ve become somewhat seasoned in client relationships and the business ends of things — in a realm other than photography and primarily small and mid-size business clients. A bit of global corporate work (on the inside of the corporate) as well, although not close to as extensive as yours.
        Yet, the bottom seems to have fallen out of the perceived value of images, and along with it the value of photographers. That has been probably the single most discouraging factor to me. That, and I’ve never liked races to the bottom. Perhaps some work at building market share for a time, but a life’s work of undercutting is plainly wrong as a fit for me on the very face of it.
        No, I don’t foresee parting with my extant business and professional work in pursuit of a pure-photography income stream. The freedom and flexibility to include some, in a mix, had struck me as a pleasant notion. I do perceive myself as having enjoyed best and highest performance when including some percentage of alternate forms of work to engage — exercising my brain in differing ways and all that. The prevailing value assigned in the market here seems to be running dismal.

        • Missed some connective words…. Last sentence better written as : “BUT, the prevailing value assigned to photography in the market here seems to be running dismal.”

        • That’s good – ultimately it’s all down to a) luck/opportunity and b) precisely those relationships. Actually, photography is all about relationships: photographer to subject, photographer to client, image to client, client to audience…

          It’s been said by others (and me) before, but *your* own value as a photographer can be determined by you only: thus you need to only work for a price which *you* are comfortable with. And increasing that to a point you are happy doesn’t mean less clients; it means less clients you won’t be happy with. And there’s also the whole psychology from the other side: if a client spends more to get your service specifically, they’re also far more likely to be invested in seeing that you deliver what you think/promise (and what they want) as opposed to something commoditised.

          I’m sure there’s some very complex market/pricing psychology going on here, but the only thing I can say is that it’s both unintuitive and nonlinear in way that can sometimes work in favour of the freelancer.

          • Thank you for your remarks in reply. I’ve more than once bemoaned the transactional rather than relational culture in my immediate surroundings, and personal discouragement can at times be vision-limiting. I sense potential value to be realized if I should give your remarks adequate exploration and thought to applying them properly. So thank you, again, for that.

            • No problem – unfortunately it’s something we all experience. I realise there’s a lot of oversimplification in what I said, but essentially: there’s such a thing as the ‘wrong’ client – creative fit, stage of their maturity as a creative services buyer, state of your maturity as a service provider, etc…and sometimes one needs the experience to know when to walk away.

  6. Hello Ming – This post resonates and echoes what I have been feeling for a couple of years.
    Curious what cell phone/camera you currently use. The iPhone 6 still serves me well except for some halos in contrasty scenes.
    For OOC jpegs I like Fuji but think your Nikon presets were a brilliant effort. Hopefully, the presets are fruitful for you. It would be nice to see you rollout presets for smaller cameras like Olympus or maybe the L mount bodies as they become available.
    Congrats on the wonderful Bloomberg article about your line of watches. Nicely done.

    • Thanks – I was on the 8+ but got the XS Max recently for the dual SIM cards and stabilized telephoto, the latter of which has turned out to be impressively useful.

      As for presets, not every camera can take them or has the software to create them – I published my Olympus settings in the post discussing SOOC jpeg but beyond that I can’t do much as the camera itself lacks that option. The only downside is you either have to create a lot of presets or be stuck in one particular look…

  7. Neal Spero says:

    Dear Ming, It came to me early in January when you discussed your injury you are soul searching and doing it well.My wife and I agree there is one place to go to. Papua New Guinea for Sing Sing.You will shoot until you finger is sore. Keep up the great work. Neal

    • Let’s call it objective revaluation more than soul searching – but yes, one needs to keep asking and feeling self-aware to also feel self-confident. Sing sing sounds interesting…

  8. I think you want “addiction”, not “addition”.

  9. david distefano says:

    as a person considerable older than yourself ming, for most of my photography years i was shooting with film up to 8×20. my 8×10 color film was $10 a pop. so pressing the shutter release was an important moment. you made damn sure that the image you shot was an important one. my keeper rate was very high. when i shifted to digital i kept my film philosophy. “if an image is not good enough for film it is not good enough for digital.” that idea has done well for me in that my keeper rate is still very high. i read about photographers who over a weekend shoot upwards of a 1000 images. that would have been $10,000 in 8×10 color film days. i don’t think i do that many digital shots in a year and that includes most weekends and 3 weeks at x-mas, 5 weeks in summer and 1 week during spring and fall break. i believe that this, for me, allows me not to burn out and appreciate every time a take camera in hand.

    • I shot LF film too, so I know exactly what you mean. I’d carry five holders, double sided, for 10 shots in a session. And sometimes come back not having shot more than one or two of them. Digital hasn’t changed this discipline, but it’s allowed for much easier experimentation and thus creative growth. And we won’t mention the whole shift in client expectations that’s come with it – there is definitely the perception of reduction in effort or value and a move towards quantity being an indicator of value…

  10. Ming —

    As ever, you have insightful observations that made me think. Thank you.

    Let me offer a slightly different perspective motivated, i think, by the rather different ways in which thee and me got into this whole photography business. I sense that you started as an artist trying to make excellent, rich, arresting images (and you do!) Some of us started as photojournalists (PJs) and our whole task was to get “get the shot and move on”. I simplify but not too much.

    I recall some years ago there was a steam locomotive pulling an excursion train through my community; an engine that had not operated here for 60 years. i knew a rail crossing in a bucolic town that the train would transit, went, set the dSLR on 6fps, burned off a few dozen shots and went home. All the while the other photogs were running to their cars to roar off to the next village to get another set of shots. But i knew that i had gotten my shot (and no chimping either); the print hangs on my office wall as i type.

    My point is that PJs are disciplined to confidently get the shot an move on; we do not naturally revisit things we have already done. i haven’t shot professionally in 40 years but i still approach it the same way. Yes, i carry a camera with me when i am going to a new places; mostly i don’t when i am re-visiting. i will say this: when i moved up to a d810 with some primes, the resolution jump was such that i did revisit some of my old scenes. i also find carrying a Gx9 w/12-40 is much easier than full frame kit when not going just for shooting.

    — gary

    • Actually, I started shooting watches – then everything – then spent quite lot of time as a PJ doing just that. I learned to previsualize the shot, recognize when I’d gotten what I wanted, and then move on. Lingering with uncertainty and speculation isn’t me, either 🙂

  11. I haven’t run into this problem yet – although I haven’t been shooting quite as long as you (about ten years since I started taking it “seriously”, in my case). I think it could be a few factors.
    1) I live in Tokyo, and it’s pretty much impossible to run out of subjects here, as you are almost certainly aware.
    2) I decided some time ago that I was going to update my blog (the one linked to my name) at the very least twice a month, preferably every week, and that pushes me to continually be on the lookout for interesting things.
    3) I try and go by the advice that Jay Maisel apparently gave his students : if it’s not fun, don’t shoot it, if it doesn’t excite you, don’t shoot it, and if you’ve seen it before, don’t shoot it. Look for what he calls the “rip in the fabric”.

    Maybe you need to create a “problem” for yourself to solve. Alternatively, check out Brian Eno’s “Oblique strategies”. It’s a collection of ideas and sayings designed to force you into looking at things in a different way. Eno’s a musician, but it can apply to anything.

    Not directly related to the topic at hand, but I imagine you’d be interested if you don’t know already : Nick Brandt’s new book is out now (or very soon) and apparently he used MF digital for it. I’ve only seen a couple of preview photos from it, and they look pretty incredible. I remember your extremely enthusiastic reviews of his earlier books, with which I agree totally. Actually, the new book might give you a creative shot in the arm when you read about how he got the pictures. Talk about going the extra mile; he went the extra marathon!

    • I agree with finding the thing that moves you – at least even if it’s the same thing as before, find a new interpretation fo it to avoid stagnation and repeating history. Not always easy if we are drawn to the same things; it’s thus necessary to have new experiences and new things to interpret to add to our big list of preferences, interests and biases…

      Problems to solve: sometimes this feels unnecessary, and was already a big part of the client work etc. Not something I care to repeat unless I particularly care about the specific problem, I think.

      Nick Brandt: I know, as I consulted on the production/execution part while the project was still in the concept stages more than two years ago 🙂

  12. This is a most interesting article. We recently went to Key West and the Bahamas. I packed my camera but mistakenly packed the wrong charger. This forced me to use my phone exclusively for photos. As a byproduct, I was more deliberate in choosing what photos to make. The results were rather satisfying.

    • Bingo: the way you see doesn’t change with your hardware. With fewer execution options, you focus on the vision/ idea…the trick is to dial that in all the time, independent of equipment.

    • Replying to Geesrd : How interesting! A similar sort of thing happened to me some years ago. I flew up to northern Japan and after landing realised that I had somehow dropped my charger and spare battery on the plane. Not necessarily a big deal if you use something like a Nikon D4…but I was using a Sigma DP3 Merrill. So to make the (only!) battery last until I got the charger and spare back, I was very, very picky about what I shot, and the results were quite pleasing.

      • It’s not even an issue with any not the current Nikons, Z-series included – I’ve seen as high as 1,750 images on a battery with 25% remaining. The D850 is probably 30% over this.

  13. André Dumas says:

    It’s called evolution. Simply. What next will be interesting.

  14. Ming. Thanks for sharing.

    It’s almost an ideal topic for a coffee talk. Responding to your experience would be a rather long story from my side which I don’t think I can express in writing that easy.

  15. Werner Walther says:

    It’s like ‘Tevye the milkman’ – one side and the other side – the medal always has two sides.
    There is a saying “better a small part of a well performing company, than 100% of a poor performance company, etc., etc.

    1. A higher quaiíty conventional camera & equipment means more fun than a poorly performing digital equipment. But, this means a different approach to photography: 36 pictures, no series function, much less post-processing, and not at home, as Jean Pierre pointed out.

    2. On the other hand digital photography and cellphone photography are authenticity, and, if technically often not satisfying, people are happy with that, so many happy moments are conserved and remembered with that. And, even with much information lacking in the photograph, people still can see, what is on the picture. We can see also on Picasso’s “Child with Dove” the child and the dove, and that’s really far away from a 24 MP picture of a “Child with Dove”.

    But, deep in my heart, I am a kind of street photographer or ‘situation photographer’ and I’ll go back to one of those ‘Porsches among the cameras’, and I’ll take it with me, again 24/7, and I’m convinced, Ming, that you are back again, after 6 months, or a year.

    • 1. At least now we can have good and compact digitals now – so we have flexibility and options. 🙂

      2. The whole authenticity thing is questionable, I think. Any photographic record is a subjective interpretation simply because of what we don’t/can’t show the audience – and even if the record were complete, we can’t control what’s noticed and what isn’t. So…authenticity is what we choose to deem acceptable, I suppose.

      I like nice equipment as much as the next person because of the satisfaction it gives as a tool – a crappy camera is just frustrating to use (and doesn’t encourage experimentation and creativity). Something you want to handle more often does mean you’re more likely to make images with it and this improve creatively…

  16. Werner Walther says:

    Hello, Ming, you are saying:
    “There was a time when I could not go anywhere without a camera. Not a camera, but a camera: the kind of thing that required its own bag, compromises and weight allowance.”

    As a non professionel, or semi professionel at best, I got this problem solved with the LX 7 by panasonic (less than 300 grams in the pocket of a shirt). Always with me, 20 of 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. And I was lucky to have approx. 40 Europe wide travels (I am living in Europe) from 2014 to 2019. Between 2014 and November 2017, I took approx. 50.000 shots. This has to be divided by approx 10 or 15, as I always took the serial function (11 per second), and 1 or 2 of these 10 or 15 shots are technically ok, even under the worst conditions. These means a selection of approx. 3.500 pictures – confirmed by 40 travels, average 100 motives = 4.000 estimated.

    And of all these pictures, there are 6 or 8, but not more than 10 or 12, that are really unique, never seen, never produced by other photographers. I have not curated them properly until now, but I’m starting this now.

    In November 2017, I had been robbed on a motorway in Spain, and my little camera went with that.

    I have not replaced it yet. But, I recovered my two Canon A1 and AE1 cameras (with a 50/1.4; a 28mm and a 135/3.5 lens) and went back to taking photographs with them. Just yesterday, I bought in Munich 10 Fuji 36 pictures/400 reels for the months to come. The other digital cameras, I own are just the cheap shot-and-run, you can use them for documentation on the job, but not for ambitious photographic situations.

    I am using this equipment, as I had always other priorities over buying the Panasonic LX 100 II, or the Leica equivalent (car repair, Children studying etc.). But I’m happy with that again. It will try my tears, until I can buy the LX 7 – replacement.

    All the best for your readers, and for you and your family, Ming, sincerely from Germany, Werner.

  17. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Well, for a start, I suspect you have been invaded by a dreadful new disease that infects computers and changes half the words because it has AI and thinks you don’t have any “I” at all. There are several words in the post which I think are wrong, and it’s not a bit like you, so I’m blaming the AI creature that’s been stalking all of use lately.
    Putting “teasing” to one side. Yes, of course it’s possible to go stale and want to do something different. I was reading only the other day the comments of a former sporting hero who was at the top of his career and announced he was quitting. He’d done everything he wanted to, won everything he wanted to, and simply wanted to move on.
    He also said he’d forbidden his son from attempting to follow in his footsteps – which I thought was sad, because as fathers we have no right whatsoever to dictate to our children what they should or should not choose to do with their lives. That’s speaking from the heart – and from my own life experience – but it’s something I believe very deeply and strongly.
    But back to photography. Ming, it’s an endless road. I doubt it is possible to claim “I’ve done it all”. In my case, I can’t even pretend to claim “there’s no point in repeating it – I’ve already done it perfectly!”; because I know I need to practice more, before I can say such things.
    I started with a second hand Kodak “Box Brownie” that I was given in August 1950. I stayed with film for over 50 years – mostly black and white. A while back I added digital, then stopped using my film camera, and finally decided to quit film. Why? Because film never gave me the ability to process and print my own stuff – I could NEVER have justified the cost of the necessary equipment to do that at home. But with digital, I can post process and print – practically entirely in colour – on this desk! And I decided to have MY sea change by throwing myself totally into digital.
    And guess what I found in my camera shop this morning, when I went to pick up some printing paper, and another high speed memory card? The counter was awash with Ilford 400 ASA B&W 35mm roll film. The guy behind the counter told me this stuff is simply walking out the door – there’s a whole new gang of people out there who HAVE to use the stuff, can’t get enough of roll film and enlargers and DIY developing & printing! A new generation of “have nots” has emerged – fed up with digital – tired of cellphone cameras – wanting to get into being creative in a whole new genre and medium.
    At that point, I had a huge difficulty restraining myself from collapsing with laughter!
    But there’s something in that, for you, Ming. Some kind of “hint” as to what the answer to your question might be.
    [PS – I love this site!]

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Sorry – boo-booed. I DID process & print my own B&W stuff in film days, but could NOT do colour at home. The price differential is too huge. And after 50 years of B&W, I wanted to focus on colour.

    • Death and rebirth. I do feel I’ve done most (it not all) of what I want…or maybe I just haven’t encountered the next thing that appeals to my creative side yet.

      Film – hahaha!

  18. In very general terms, it sounds like a classic case of burn-out. I would just put the camera down for some time and you will eventually know when it is time to safely pick it back up and enjoy it. And hopefully you will also try and remember that there is a difference in life between optimum and maximum.

    All the best,


    • It probably is. But then there’s the momentum of the machine and all of the other parts that must continue turning, and one can reduce the throttle but never stop completely – restarting that inertia would probably prove nigh on impossible.

  19. While I don’t shoot even 10% of the breadth of subjects you shoot, and I don’t do it professionally, for my one subject these days (dance), I’ll often just observe for a while until I feel a need to take a photo. Part of it is that I really love dance, and watching it is its own reward for me. And another part of it is that I object to what I’d call drive-by shootings where the photographer drops in, takes some photos with just a superficial understanding of the subject and moves on. I know that’s the constraint of professional photography on a schedule, but looking at their results also shows the lack of depth of understanding of the subject.

    The worst assignments are when someone asks me to cover something, and I have to force myself to take photos. The results are acceptable (but not great) most of the time, but it’s a really unsatisfying way to work.

    • I think drive by is possible to do reasonably well if you understand the subject well enough; you could probably do it with dance, for example. But for the unfamiliar (me) – I’d have to put in a lot of effort to get anywhere near same understanding and familiarity with specific technique as you.

      Forcing yourself – I’ve done it more times than I want to remember; it does neither party any favors. But it takes some time to both learn and accept that saying no can be the right thing to do, especially if you’re dependent on the work.

    • Andre, it makes so much sense what you output these days compared to the past. Coming from the fine art stills, which very of very high standard, and now working closer and closer into shooting a living art form (ballet) as a sort of documentary is exciting to follow.
      Love your latest years work a lot.

      • Typo: “Coming from the fine art stills, which very of very high standard, and” … should be which ‘is’ ….

      • Typo “Coming from the fine art stills, which very of very high standard, and now ….. ” … should be ‘which were of very high standard’ …

      • Thanks Gerner! I hope more than anything that my love for the art of dance comes through most!

  20. richard majchrzak says:

    i was wondering what it will be after you sold your ‘blad. that is what: Zen Nothingness to start with. good beginning , I like it.

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