Full circle

1/11/20: Final update to the recommended gear list

Almost 20 years ago to the day, a teenager made an unwise camera choice* to record what he was experiencing in case he might later forget. In reality, the choice was really to consciously notice the world around him and single out the bits that mattered – starting immediately with the things he was involved in, which at the time was the crazy period of growing up known as ‘university’. He’d used the family camera before, of course – for the obligatory vacation and landmark images and with the admonition not to ‘waste film on pictures without people in them.’ University represented freedom and the first time he could decide what to aim the camera at – back then, merely his friends’ silly poses and an image or two without people that he felt compelled to take, but wasn’t sure why. It wouldn’t be until much, much later that the process was a conscious one and more importantly, transcended the medium.

*APSC Fuji 1010 Tiara, if you must know. It was battery hungry, the film was expensive and the image quality was questionable. But hey, it was small and unobtrusive, and the really cool looking Ricoh GR1v was way too expensive for a student, even then.

I had no idea that the decision to start seeing the world around me would not just sustain me through the creative depression of the corporate wilderness for the better part of a decade, but take me to places I’d never even dreamed of. It would give me a respite in lunch-hour sized chunks from the sheer mind numbing boredom of audit. It would bring me to the attention of the watch collecting community – in lieu of actually being able to afford anything at the time – and brand principals in the early days of online forums, and later supply my first professional job. It would take me through a part time contributor position at a magazine that would lead to editor, disagreements over commercial/editorial integrity and the formation of this site, to write the truth and present it how I felt was right, independent of influence or dependency on advertising. It would lead me to make ‘pictures without people in them’ for companies and individuals I’d never thought I’d be involved with, let alone creatively contributing to. It would put me in a position to take user feedback and personal experience to directly develop better products with just about all of the major camera manufacturers – and it would leave a lot of things tainted in the harsh light of reality. It would train me to think like an entrepreneur and be self sufficient, and give me the ability to present the best face of my projects to the world. It would give me a meditative reprieve from times when I didn’t want to dwell too much on my immediate situation. It would lead me to question and seek to understand art, human psychology, my own motivations, and what truly motivates us; it would help me to understand the meaning of balance in more ways than one. Above all, it would make me close friends around the world. For all of that, I’ll always be thankful.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride, as anybody close to me will confirm. I’ve had my fair share of uncertain income, business mistakes, taking on jobs I wasn’t entirely sure I could pull off and unpleasant surprises from clients, unrelated individuals, industry peers and entities and everything in-between. I’ve been the target of jealousy and smear campaigns and entitlement and copyright infringement. Some of that frustration I’ve shared here before. Months of drought alternated – often back to back – with months so full I barely had time to sleep and was running on pure adrenalin. I’ve held anywhere between three and six ostensibly full time jobs at any given time, for most of my full time professional photographic career since 2012 – a close friend once joked that I was doing the work of six for the pay of two and a half, which is not far from the truth. I entered professional photography at a rapidly changing time and probably the last period to really make a run of things before fragmentation into quantity, the whole social media influencer mess; my guess at the time was I’d have 3-5 years before I’d have to figure out what to do next.

During the times I’d previously dabbled in trying to turn pro, I’d figured out that I would have to have a diversified approach: a professional portfolio that was focused enough to look specialised but with enough skills to take on pretty much any job; a public presence to build reputation and audience; something with more consistent income like teaching or education (which turned into workshops and videos); and something to put all of the pieces together to deliver unique value: this would be the consulting side for the camera companies. It seems that the strategy worked a little too well, because to this day people seem to assume all I do is reviews – even though that’s less than 5% of the content of this site. But they played an important part since validation is by far the most commonly searched-for thing photographically. Why that’s the case, I’ll never know – everybody has different objectives and opinions are therefore of at best relative value.

As it turns out, my workload split itself pretty much equally between professional work, education, consulting, and this site. In the last eight and a half years, I shot 202 assignments excluding those for my own watch company; led nearly 50 workshops around the world including smuggling six Americans into Cuba in 2014; produced close to 200 hours of educational video and two years of the weekly photoshop workflow series; wrote 1,815 posts (and owe Robin Wong a big thanks for another 80+) and replied to nearly 100,000 of your comments. At peak, there were nearly a quarter of a million unique visitors every month, and there have been just shy of 30 million visitors to date. I had half a dozen exhibitions internationally and nearly fell out of a plane making a series that in the end, never got shown. I worked with Hasselblad, DJI, Zeiss, Olympus, Leica, Sigma, Sony, was ambassador for three of those brands and nearly started my own camera company. I wore out three keyboards writing this site, and a further four Wacom tablets in retouching and post processing. Lastly: I don’t have an exact number, but my best guess is I shot more than two million images.

That’s a lot of work – an entire lifetime, for some; certainly a career’s worth for me. (And for increasing numbers of dishonest others, a place to steal content to farm ad revenue.)

If things are starting to take on a tone of finality, that’s because this is the point at which I confirm the suspicions you’ve been having: MT the writer and mingthein.com are both going into retirement. Between the demands of my ‘other’ job, not being able to travel, and trying not to repeat myself – I’ve run out of things to say. There really isn’t anything meaningful which we have not covered on this site in the usual rational, systematic fashion with plenty of images – there are certainly subtleties on subtleties about approach and theory and philosophy that we could continue to debate, but at that point, I’d be writing dissertations for an audience of at best, one. The truth is, I’ve said everything I wanted to say and more; I’ve done enough thinking and dissection about how and why I shoot that the whole enormous mass has become intuitive – and I want to go back to applying that and shooting the things that interest me, for me, without feeling the need to create content for the entertainment of somebody else. The internet has a nasty habit of a short attention span: they tend to look at things in tl;dr terms and not bother to use the search function. There is admittedly quite a lot of frustration in having a comment taken out of context and applied without relativity; a really good example is the inability to decouple equipment from process from creative objective. Yes, I go through a lot of gear. No, it isn’t for the sake of having the Next Best Thing or some sort of placebo – it’s because I’m in search of what I think of as envelope; the ability to achieve very specific creative objectives, which change – and therefore so must the tools.

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But it does get tiring having to explain this all the time. I’ve always said that the very best position to be in as a photographer is an amateur: a person who engages in the activity for the love of it, without the constraints of shooting to a client’s expectation – be that a social media audience or a paying employer. This is my chance to go back to being an amateur, at least for a little while. The whole COVID situation has enforced a strange motivation on us creatives: at the start, I had one of my most productive periods because there wasn’t a lot else to do being under lockdown and unable to leave the house. But it was productivity in a different avenue – I did a lot of designing, and almost no writing or photographing. I’ve long come to accept that creativity needs multiple outlets; a single medium isn’t enough to fulfil one’s vision. But for photographers, the last few months has been a bad period not just professionally but also creatively: when you’re constrained to the same familiar environment you’ve probably already photographed to death within the first few months of moving in, what’s left? You’re forced to either not shoot, reshoot the same images, or try to see something different in the familiar. Many documented the personal process of lockdown, including myself; but after a while, routine looks the same. But the process of doing it felt oddly familiar: it was like starting to shoot all over again, and I kinda liked it.

The first time you do anything creative is difficult, because you’re not just grappling with trying to get the desired outcome from the building blocks you’ve got, but also the entire mechanical process of things. There are experiments that yield results that move you for reasons you don’t quite understand, and unfortunately cannot repeat; and others that fail completely. It was really that feeling of challenge and constraint again, and with the very same initial backdrop of documenting my personal sphere: it’s very easy to make different images of different subjects you’ve never seen before; it isn’t so easy to make different images of subjects you see all the time, but likely fail to notice. I found myself being forced to real see again, and in the process realised how much I’d been stuck in my comfort zone. The weight of experience becomes a tangibly corporeal thing that can sometimes hold you back from experimenting because of the expectations attached. Ironically, it seems the task of exiting my comfort zone would happen within the most comfortable of zones.

Except this time I had the vocabulary and technique to get the images I saw in my mind’s eye; but I just need that eye to see differently. I needed to not care about who would see the images (i.e. nobody); what I would use them for; what else I had to do with my time – in short, nothing more than whether I liked the result or not. All of the rational means of assessing and curating I use like the four things aren’t so much ignored as practiced and internalised to the point of becoming intuitive. I have had, and can have, pretty much whatever hardware I want; I can extract the full potential from that hardware. I needed an irrational, emotional thing to match an irrational, emotional process – something limited and constrained, but not constraining; something tactile and encouraging but not emotionless and functional. Yes, I did buy something; no, I’m not going to say what it is so I can avoid the risk of having it ‘spoiled’; I don’t need the affirmation of the internet that I made the right choice – I know I made the right choice for me. I enjoy the process of using it and it enables and encourages the kind of images that I’m making now – the images in this post – that move me but require no justification to anybody else. Odd as it may sound, the lack of negative emotional connotations for my tools is very important to me. It’s one of the reasons I have very few holdovers from previous collaborations/jobs/engagements; the creative in me needs a new, clean tool for a new job, and the businessman needs fiscal efficiency and low wastage.

There will always remain the need for dichotomy and contrast, however: I will still continue to produce work for my long-standing clients, and I’m fairly sure this creative loop will result in better work than before. I will still produce all of the images for my watch company because there’s a certain nice continuity between seeing a design that doesn’t exist, to translating it through physical process into an object, to being able to highlight detail and intent. As much as I hate retouching dust (now worse than ever with the kind of resolution media asks for and the insensitive cropping that accompanies it) – we aren’t going to move to CG imaging. Hell, I don’t even composite images – I’ve had more than one client surprised when they find out all of the watch images are a single shot in-camera and you can really see the same thing with your own eyes if the lights are set up right. It is a hard-won and exceptionally masochistic lost art that I have no intention of relinquishing.

At the same time as the world around us is changing and I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to travel to the places I have with the freedom we had previously – the immediate world around me is also changing. My daughter is growing up, and as much as I never quite understood the obsession and lack of objectivity that comes with photographing one’s children – it’s starting to make a little more sense to me. The last coupe of years have seen less photography and documentary of the younger one, offset against being busy with other things or directly involved and not having free hands or mental space to shoot – but I have the sudden realisation that time has skipped a gear and now seems to be progressing faster again. It’s certainly time to for me to put a bit more effort once again into trying to freeze her personality in a defining moment or two. She’s also turned into a bit of a camwhore, but I guess the outcome was always binary with a photographer father: either comfortable with being in front of the lens, or avoiding it entirely. At times I’m probably almost more self-conscious than she is about the camera.

In a post-pandemic world, I’m left wondering if faces are going to become a very personal thing; a mask lends a degree of not just immunological protection but also personality protection; it’s almost like the anonymity of the internet. We’re seeing a lot of bad behaviour that’s a lot harder to do if you know the person in front of you, and they know you; it’s just no longer personal anymore. Maybe if we go back to being able to travel again, we’re never quite going to have the same experience because people won’t look different; the subtle cues we get from the faces and expressions around us will be lost behind the mask. It makes me really want to take up portraiture; not just of the people I know or posed models, but a wide variety of subjects – almost more to feel what’s really going on at the present moment than to make an interesting image. I’ve said previously that portraiture is really the record of the relationship between the photographer and subject; but perhaps it can be more – it’s also the unspoken thoughts and emotions behind what was held back.

MM005335

There are professions that are always going to be a bit morose no matter how you view them – an undertaker, for example – but photography isn’t one of them. Anything creative (except perhaps accounting) should come with a sense of liberation and the satisfaction of having made order and beauty out of incoherent parts. When that joy is no longer present, then I sincerely believe you’re doing it wrong. There is a tricky balance between focusing entirely on photography and not having any meaning to photograph and focusing on other things and failing to see; the pro almost inevitably errs on the former side, and the majority of the population, the latter. The hobbyist gets lost in the camera store. I look back at the highlight reel of my own work, and realise the images that spoke to me then and still speak to me today are almost all spontaneous, and produced during those fleeting periods where curiosity balanced opportunity – the last day of a work trip set aside for personal meandering; the free afternoon of a workshop; the time when the weather was crap and we shot documentary on the assembly line instead of on location.

Planned images are limited by one’s means and imagination. Serendipitous ones are unlimited by chance and one’s subconscious. I need to travel again, but not hold any preconceptions about what I’m going to see, or inhibitions against photographing it. Development of any kind – creative or otherwise – can only happen if the right things are broken down in the process. It means leaving your comfort zone and trying something new; of not being afraid that the next step may lead down a dead end. Professional photography, this site, teaching, consulting – has gone from being dangerously scary with a side of doki-doki excitement to business as usual; nobody told me what I was supposed to do, but I eventually found a comfortable process. It’s probably going to be harder to break those habits than anything.

I feel like the only obvious thing left is the question of what’s next – Horologer MING is now no longer a new venture; at some point in the last year I got the distinct feeling we’d transitioned from being the new kids to having our own defined niche in the industry establishment. The plan was already brewing during peak photography for me; by 2016 the wheels were in motion and in 2017, our first model was released to much nail biting and eventually success. In the three years since our public debut, we’ve released 16 models, been shortlisted for and won the industry’s biggest award, and become both commercially viable and sought after. We won’t make the mistake of growing too fast and being unable to uphold the level of collector engagement we started off with; instead, we’ll aim for a sustainable point that lets us have meaningful conversations with our buyers, make watches that continue to interest us personally and have the resources, time and mental overhead to make interesting images and drive engaging cars. I’ve come to realize that the spark required to keep one’s enthusiasm alive is maintained both by not fixating too much on one thing and being open to cross-disciplinary inspiration; it’s hard to keep an open mind if you can’t see beyond your immediate situation.

I’m not ruling out another publicly shared/photographic project in future, but right now I have no idea what form that might take – or if it will happen at all. I’ve been so caught up in the ‘business as usual’ of keeping this site/ client commitments/ teaching/ consulting etc. running that I’ve frankly not had a lot of time to think about a major change in format or direction. Perhaps it will eventually come after some time off, and probably like most inspiration – come at the least expected point. The truth is, I’ve been a photographer for so long at this point – longer than I haven’t been one – I can’t stop being one. It isn’t possible to turn off the seeing, it isn’t possible to completely lose that impulse to frame and capture – even if it diminishes from time to time. I do know this, however – it’ll have to be something that lets me make images in line with my creative and personal benchmarks first and foremost; I will always be the “client”. The curation thus remains simple and there is nothing to defend, apologise or make excuses for – or be overly sensitive of an external opinion about.

I started off wanting to record my experiences. At around the same time, I acquired more than a passing interest in watches and cars; I got a ‘real’ job to pay for that and realised it wasn’t at all what I wanted to do, even if I was quite successful at it. I didn’t really become ‘me’ until I accepted that I would have to take some risks and do an unlikely combination of things to make the puzzle work; it came back to photography, and then watches. Even my watch collecting journey has gone in a circle from affordable to knowledgable and off the deep end to back to now producing accessible pieces with the benefit of knowledge obtained after coming back from the abyss – it is somehow therefore fitting that the ‘retirement camera’ is also the descendant of the one that resulted in my biggest previous creative shift, and a company I’d worked with previously. My fate indeed has as strong sense of deja vu about it – but I’m okay with that, because it feels like I got a second chance. Some of you may be disappointed that this post doesn’t contain a sort of retrospective ‘best of’; I’d argue the opposite because it’s instead a glimpse into what’s to come. I’ll leave a clue: it’s really about photographing light first, transients second, and everything else as a supporting actor. Light and timing transcend the subject from what it is most of the time, into what it could be.

It’s been an intense eight and a half years. Thank you to all of you for the support*, encouragement, challenges and friendship – it’s time for me to start making pictures for myself again, and I hope you all continue to do so too. New comments will be disabled from the end of September and I will no longer be replying, but the archive listings will be updated and site itself will remain active for the foreseeable future – producing it was a huge undertaking and there’s a lot of emotional attachment here. It only makes sense to leave it up as a resource – perhaps inspiring some people, perhaps rewarding others with a kernel or two of insight. If it accomplishes that much – I’ve achieved far more here than I set out to do. MT

*And a special thank you to the patrons who’ve donated monthly to keep the site running – I will manually cancel the subscriptions on 1 September. I will continue to remain online in a more stream of consciousness format @mingthein on Instagram.

Finally, for the next two weeks until the end of September (extended by popular demand) all workshop videos at the teaching store will be 50% off with the code FULLCIRCLE50 (not combinable with other bundles). I’ll also be making the Weekly PS Workflow Archive available for purchase as a set here (92 episodes and 120+ hours of material covering a huge range of examples of both my own and reader images). This is the ideal (and last) chance for you to complete your set if you are missing videos. 🙂 

MING 18.01 H41

MING 18.01 H41 diver, August 2020 / 3rd anniversary release. In a 40×12.9mm grade 5 titanium case with matching bracelet, synthetic diamond coated bezel, ceramic superluminova X1 and 1km depth rating. Available while stocks last at www.ming.watch

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

Comments

  1. GD Morris says:

    As you get ready to shut your invaluable contributions down I just wanted to write one more time to wish you all the best and thanks for 8+ years of good writing and terrific photography. Be safe.

  2. Paul Broich says:

    Dear Mr. Ming Thein,
    even though I have been photographing for more than 50 years, I have always found suggestions for an alternative view in your diverse contributions. Their statements had content and often had an inspiring effect on me. Especially your pictures of Prague, where I lived for several years, offered me not only beautiful memories, but also showed me how many perspectives I could not get. I have others for that, and I am sure you would like them, because my artistic approach is not very far from yours. I wish you a lot of creativity and joy in your new work. Although times are difficult, I believe in your success and hope for a different or different encounter in this medium. Should you ever be able to pick up a new blog with photographic content, I would be very happy to take an account using my address.

    All the best.
    Paul Broich

  3. I haven’t read your site on a regular basis. Sometimes I’d visit a couple of times during a week and sometimes not at all for some months, but it was always a delight to come back and see your beautiful pictures, read your thoughts on photography and – of course – your reviews that I always trusted because they were not biased but written from a user’s perspective with lots and lots of expertise.

    I will miss new content but I am happy to see that you leave the old articles online and I wish you all the best for you and your family and future ventures.

  4. Hi Ming. It’s been an absolute pleasure reading your blog over the years. Your photographic work is impeccable. Your posts have consistently been in a class of their own. And your video collection is a true masterpiece. You’ve covered everything I could ever wish to learn about photography, & then some. A true photographic legend. Well done, thank you, & all the best!

  5. Jay Swartzfeger says:

    I had to stop back once more before the lockdown to thank you, Ming

    He’s riding off into the sunset toward wider horizons… what a gentleman.

  6. Ming, when I first read this, I felt both vindicated (I had feared this was coming for a long time – but only for selfish reasons) and relieved. I wish you all the best, and I’m sure you will *create* your own way just as much as finding it … I wasn’t able then to pick the right words, and still find it difficult, but with time running out, I’ll just have to try …

    I thank you for all you’ve given us: images, insights, and proof that extraordinary people exist and thrive in spite of our narrowminded world with its petty problems, increasingly worrying limitations and recent upheavels. You’ve paved a way into the depts of what photography can be as thoroughly as noone else I’m aware of, and that alone is a legacy to treasure and admire.

    On a more personal note, I’d be happy and honoured to meet you should you ever find it feasible to connect when you’re in Lucerne – of course, this may have to wait until we can do so without endangering each other’s health, safety and freedom of movement.

    All the best to you and your loved ones – as much as I regret losing you as a voice, I’m glad for you as a person that again, you find the courage to move on when others just stick around and complain.

    Stay safe.

    M.

    • Thank you, Matthew – perhaps I’ll be back in another form once I’ve figured out what’s next in this creative evolution, but for now it’s time to go exploring 🙂

      And yes, see you in Lucerne – I need few excuses to visit since I’m already in that neck of the woods fairly often, but just the ability to do so now…

  7. Ming, Thank you for a great resource filled with passionate beautiful work and incisive, intelligent commentary. I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors. I know you will be successful. Besides photography, one other thing we share in common is back and spine issues. I know how hard these can make life. I pray that you find treatments, strategies and exercises that relieve the pain and allow you to return to %100. If you ever want to discuss these issues feel free to use my email. I always tell people that when you’ve seen one back problem, you’ve seen one back problem. I have been around the block several times with this and spent a career in pharma. I would be honored to help in any way possible.

    Thank you again for your fabulous work.

    • Thanks Stuart. I’m fortunate that most of the time I’m 100%, though pushing it for longer periods of time starts to bring twinges – and I need to remember to get up and move more often than before (which is no bad thing, I guess). The offer is much appreciated and I’ll get in touch if needed 🙂

  8. Thank you for creating this wonderful website Ming, I’ve been visiting for many years. Your thoughtful words and inspiring images have brightened many days. A true example of the internet at its best. Wishing you every success in your future.

  9. Ming,
    Your articles inspired me for my photography but also triggered thinking processes re. creativity and where I stand in my life very often. I think you are doing good moving forward and escape repetition.

    I wish you and your family all the best.

    Regards
    Marc

  10. Paul Rodden says:

    Great article. As always: helped me reflect on my own journey.
    One thing which has struck me this year in social media is it seems you’re not alone, but you’ve seen sense, and are putting down the ‘pen’.
    Apart from gear reviews, photography YouTubers seem to have reached saturation point, but seem determined to scratch around for things to comment on. Each one seems to have exhausted the tips, tricks, and ‘how to’s, in their genre, and there seems to be nothing left. What they haven’t done, someone else has, comprehensively.
    Wishing you and your family all the best for the future, and thank you (and Robin) for all your really thought-provoking articles, rather than the shallow pap found in many places…

    • Thanks Paul. Knowing when to exit is probably also not a bad thing – nothing lasts forever and you don’t want to go from writing ‘everything is awesome’ reviews to making paranormal detection equipment like some others…:P

  11. “The weight of experience becomes a tangibly corporeal thing that can sometimes hold you back from experimenting because of the expectations attached”
    That’s such a great sentence! Something I’m experiencing in my work (not a photographer).
    Thank you for all the work you’ve put in this website. I’ll definitely miss it as a place where I would read something beyond hardware and “touch” your personal experience. From hardware point of view you made me discover the m43 that led me to sell my 5DII for which I had lost my love (stupid AF, banding in low light, magenta shift at higher iso… I still hold grudge).
    From personal experience, I loved to see the consistency of your pictures, loved to read your questioning, and how you attempted (often than not successfully) to rationalize or explain you rationalization (which is not always the same). I think you felt that the photography trend was changing at the right time.
    Best of luck with your future project(s).

    • I think it happens in every industry and to every person who really cares about their work. It’s probably also the origin of the old wisdom of not mixing work and pleasure; at least if kept separate there’s an outlet in which to experiment that doesn’t carry the same expectations. Plenty of explanations of rationalisation, if the underlying logic didn’t make sense…I probably would not have done it. 🙂

  12. Paul Bingham says:

    Thanks so much Ming for your blog. It was a Herculean task. I knew it had to come to an end because you are human. And over time we are constantly changing. Well, certainly the creatives are. When the world really opens up you will be back in some form – me thinks? Or not! Most distinguished is the phantasmagorical experience of words and images over time. I salute you!

    All the best to you and your family.

    • Thanks Paul. More down to the changing and evolving part than the being human (or perhaps because of it). It felt like the right time to move on to the next creative phase…

  13. Thank you for leaving the page up as I shall enjoy dipping into it. Good bye.

  14. Congratulations that you found something you love and that pays ur income 🙂 I wouldn’t worry though about the future for professional photography – there will always be a place for everyone if one looks for it long enough xx

  15. Johan Adriaan says:

    Dear Ming, gosh, your intelligent essays will be sorely missed. I enjoyed your insights and I learned a lot from your photos (I think!). A big thank you and all the best to you and your family.

  16. Thank you very much for all your efforts and generosity in sharing your insights and expertise. When I upgraded my 30+ year old Nikon gear about 5 years ago, I found your reviews very helpful and I’ve enjoyed your many essays.

    all the best to you and your family

  17. calummcfarlane says:

    Hi Ming, just one more reader who has enormously enjoyed your site over the years. I found it via your review of the original E-M1 (which I still have and use!), I stayed a semi-regular reader for the philosophy and technique – and gorgeous images. Semi-regular because, as you know only too well, there aren’t enough hours in the day to read / do / think about everything you want to, especially if you are a parent. So I console myself with the fact that I have years of catch-up reading to do. I commend you for having had the conviction to a) run this site in the way that you have and b) recognise (and act on!) the need to step away, rather than just carrying on for the sake of it.

    With all best wishes for your future endeavours
    Calum

    PS You might even get me onto Instagram, something no-one else has yet achieved!

    • Thank you! (And the nice thing about IG is you can view it without having to join or contribute…it IS mostly people showing off and really badly filtered stuff, but there are some exceptions. Those tend not to get any traction at all, haha)

  18. Steve Gombosi says:

    Ming,

    I just wanted you to know how very much I’ve enjoyed your observations and especially your lovely images over the years. You’ll be sorely missed. Best of luck to you and your lovely family in the future!

  19. Hi Ming, am I right in thinking that your SOOC JPEG profiles are not included in the 50% reduction and also that they will remain available to purchase into the future? I am strongly weighing up moving back to Nikon from Sony as I don’t like how their cameras handle and the A&Riv is just too many MP and too expensive for my tastes compared to the Z7. Thanks.

  20. That’s two of the giants moving on; you, and just now Kirk Tuck. Both of you wrote of life as well as photography. Both of you I aspire to be 1/10 as good as in the short time left me. The work of you both I now have the compulsion to download so that I can reference it in the future…though I may never, it’s so nice to know that it’s there.

    Thank you for sharing the gift of your meticulous analytic mind, the artful concinnity of your prose, and above all the clarity of your photgraphic vision. You connected.

    That is a rare and wonderous thing to celebrate.

    Now…go build watches and be as present as you possibly can be as your daughter grows up. And sneak a great photo onto instagram from time to time. You will be missed. So missed.

    Peace.

  21. Jeremy Coles says:

    Hi Ming. An exciting journey – thank you for sharing it with us over the years. As always thought-provoking insights, comments and photographs (with a nice theme and twist) right to the end. I’ve always seen your site as an educational place and not entertainment; I admire your energy and appreciate your enthusiasm. Your new ‘freedom’ already speaks of an entirely new enjoyment and perspective within photography and life in general. Well deserved. Good luck with your ongoing and future adventures. Best wishes, Jeremy

    • Thanks for the support, Jeremy – yes, the aim has always been education, but it’s always easier to learn if lessons are enjoyable (or have big consequences, but the latter are usually very costly in other ways, and best avoided…)

  22. I was at first taken aback by this development. I don’t know exactly when I started to read your writings (and see your photos) but it was sometime around early 2013. Back then I read a wide range of photographic web sites. Over the years I’ve culled that down considerably; yours made my cut.
    Always succinct, usually engaging, punctuated with illuminating reviews. I could go on. Over the years I’ve re-read previous reviews to gain insight why I am still using such and such lens or camera body. Anyway I could go on…
    During this virus nightmare I have been doing a lot of self assessment. At my age I feel even if I don’t get sick I am being robbed of precious time I’ll never get back. This has caused a great deal of introspection and revisiting photographic projects I’ve taken on over the past 12 years. This review has left me happy seeing just how much I’ve gotten to be with special people, travel, see, photo, edit and print.
    I hope that as you transition your energy and purpose you find happiness, peace, and maybe even a little money. Be safe. And if you ever fire this site back up, even just occasionally, shoot out an email to the list; I’d pop over in a heartbeat.

    • 2013 sounds about right; it was about a year after I started. Thanks for the compliments, though your reading pattern also indicates why it doesn’t make sense for me to continue: people only want to read gear reviews; I find that less and less relevant as my own creative requirements influence the assessment of equipment and that’s probably not useful for most people. On top of that, I no longer have access to loan equipment and buying stuff to review so people can violently disagree with you is completely pointless and extremely unpleasant. I’ve said all I want to and have to say about the creative side, and other things are placing increasing demands on my time, so it’s about time to move on…

      • I started out drawn to reviews. However in recent years after experiencing gear saturation getting out of the upgrade cycle I have been more drawn to seeing how other photographers take photos (subjects, lighting, etc.). I like returning to your 2013 and 2014 reviews to see how you shot with a particular camera or lens; not the specs.
        I fully understand getting out of the review business, particularly when it is coming from your own pocket. Today so many reviews now on YouTube have evolved into performance routines. Fitting into that mold would get old fast.
        Finally I particularly enjoyed your shots from 35,000 feet. I always marveled at how you were able to get on so many flights with great clouds or clear weather over interesting landscapes.

        • That makes sense; but judging from the emails I get, few look at the methodology as much as the final endorsement of their own choices, though!

          I still don’t see how you can review image quality on YouTube – how does a compressed still in a video tell you anything? But such popularity just reinforces that people are no longer looking for logic here…we might as well say ‘this camera is good because it looks nice’.

          Flights: I think this one is really just playing the statistics and trying not to fly overnight where possible – I flew a lot in the last eight years; most of it long haul. 🙂

  23. Micke Pettersson says:

    All the the best Ming to you and your family. I´ve really enjoyed the thougts and writing along with the teaching store. Thank you and happy shooting into the future.

  24. Robert Brown says:

    Mr. Thein,

    I’m a long time reader and avid fan, though I’ve never posted.

    You have been one of the bright spots on the internet. I’ve never done anything to repay you (except buying both of the bags you helped design).

    Thank you for your amazing work and generosity. I will miss you greatly.

    As a fellow watch enthusiast, I wish you great success.

    Best regards to you and your family.

  25. I’ve been a longtime lurking visitor that has been able to learn from and enjoy your photos and writing. I wish you and your family the best as you move forward focused on other endeavors than this site. Thank you for taking these years to share, teach, and inspire!

  26. I feared this day would come but I can’t fault you at all for it. Your writings have made me a better photographer and your images will remain benchmarks for me. All the best in wherever you choose to go from here and I wish you the best of health. Thank you for taking the time to share all that you have!

    p.s. I procrastinated buying more of your videos but I’ll have to snap to it now.

  27. Frederick Saunders says:

    Thank you for creating and sharing the work on this site. I have enjoyed both your images and your writing in equal measure, since 2012. Best wishes for your future endeavours… if I ever want a companion for my trusty Sinn I’ll know where to go!

  28. Jayant Mahto says:

    I had an empty feeling in my stomach when I started reading your article. Felt a little sad as I read through but I do understand (I think) your journey. Good luck with your future endeavors.

  29. Dr Martin Jones says:

    In these strange and troubled times where we reflect on how insignificant we are, I wish you well on your journey.

  30. I hope you thought this one through. 🙂 Ming, my heart sank a bit, I’m not going to lie. Photography needs people like you, if anything, to continue to inspire and keep it… alive. Seeing Kirk, now you, moving on, I can’t help but think there’s this mass exodus from the art of photography going on, and that in turn, is causing the true greats, like yourself, to rethink photography. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but, I’ll say this much. It’s a bug that you’ll never be able to shake, and you wrote about it better than anyone else I can name off the top of my head.

    This is my first comment to you, hopefully it won’t be my last. 🙂

    Carl Garrard
    (Photographic-Central)

    • Plenty of thinking, trust me. I’m not quitting shooting, I’m just no longer making content for public entertainment online. Not having to do so enables me to shoot more than before, and still have time to run my other business. Pro photography especially in today’s environment – COVID, local clients in an immature market selecting on price AND being on restricted budgets, inability to travel – is no longer financially viable at the level it once was. And even if you could clone yourself, it isn’t scalable. The writing was on the wall even when I started; I just wanted to try it because of “the bug”, and having lasted three years longer than I expected to – I’m happy to move on to the next chapter.

      • Carl Garrard says:

        I had to try ;). Going to miss you writing Ming, that’s the bottom line. Glad for you though, to do whats best, free up time for other things etc. My girl is 9 now, and gotta tell you, the time flies by. You’re probably enjoying every second of it, and now you have more free seconds. Congrats, and you’ll be missed.

  31. Richard Stockton Dunlap says:

    The watches are perhaps even more beautiful than the photographs, which is high praise indeed. As for the name, you have noted that “It would probably have been a much easier sell to purchase an old name and some claim to history, rather than picking an Asian name while acknowledging we were 100% fresh off the boat, but that would have been disingenuous.” But your name also recalls a proud heritage, and a rather appropriate one, given your appreciation of science, technology, and art: the Ming Dynasty proceeds in a new era and a new medium. Effective marketing, to be sure! I wish you very well, sir.

    • Thanks Richard. Wasn’t the intention to capitalize on that – plenty of expectation there in itself – just using my own name 🙂

      • Richard Stockton Dunlap says:

        Hence, the perfect combination in the world of commercial advertising: the name is entirely and self-evidently authentic; it also happens to be suffused with an extraordinary artistic pedigree (e.g., ‘Ming Vase’)–thus an ideal moniker for a luxury brand.

        • But you’d be surprised how much stick we get from the consumers in an industry that’s extremely anglocentric…”I like everything but the name” is something I’ve seen too many times to count. I don’t think they’d be too pleased if somebody went up to them and said “you’re a great person, but your name means I don’t want to even think about interacting with you” – but that’s effectively what I’m getting frequently and publicly…

          • Richard Stockton Dunlap says:

            I am indeed surprised, and also very sorry to hear about this, a disappointing and frankly inexcusable attitude based upon ethnocentrism and ignorance, which amount to the same thing. I suspect that you will be thanked one day for your current efforts to overcome this, establishing new markets and prevailing within those already in place through the quality of the product; and I remain convinced that such anglocentric voices are simply mistaken. It’s a great name! The early success of the brand suggests that you will prevail; and the name, once criticized, will be seen as one of its many strengths: ‘The Ming Watch’.

            • Nah, attention spans in the era of social media are about as long as it takes to swipe right or down. The more I see how the game is played, the more I’ll be happy with comfortable survival without the pressure of notoriety. If we can bring some beauty to the world in the process, all the better.

              • Richard Stockton Dunlap says:

                Perhaps you are right. Here’s to ‘comfortable survival’, with some beauty… and a bit of happiness. You have brightened many lives with this site. Cheers, RSD

  32. Cecelia Campochiaro says:

    Many, many thanks for all the great years of images and commentary. I will miss you dearly–which seems odd given that we’ve never met in person. I hope our paths will cross someday.

  33. I posted only a few weeks ago how coming here is a breath of fresh air and always inspirational, especially when coming from the gear sites online and YouTube. I hope it wasn’t something I said! (kidding). A great loss for all photographers, I hope the images and blog can stay up as inspiration and motivation. Good luck for the next stage.

  34. Simply, thank you. However the future may unfold for you and those closest, I wish only the best – meaningful work and good health.

  35. I’ve enjoyed your posts, for the visual as well as the textual content (yours is the only site I follow where I actually am compelled to read your words – I try to follow those with visual content here). All the best for your future and how you fill it. I do hope you will still post here – with whatever content is around the corner for you. Enjoy!

    • Thanks – always conflicted if the words or images should take precedence; I try not to distract too much if there’s something that has to be written! 😉

      The corner has already been rounded – http://www.ming.watch is my next project, and has been for the last three years. It’s now just mature enough that I need to choose where I spend my time…

  36. I do hope that the teaching store might remain open long enough to finish purchasing the rest of the series that I began purchasing. (The 50% sale is of little help this week or two because I have been financially flattened to an all-time low.)

    And probably more than that, I do hope eventually you will be refreshed and feel motivated to again teach those in-person workshops (naturally I hope that such a future development would coincide with personally having cash ready to participate). I’m convinced that I would have grown from being on site. participating with you teaching one of your workshops, in ways that I still haven’t grown in years self-taught.

    It is disappointing indeed to know that you won’t be sharing here, for an indefinite time. I’m sorry for the cranks you have occasionally met, but there are many readers including me who will miss you.

    • Thanks Tom. We’ll keep it up for another month or two so people can also download whatever they might have deleted, misplaced or not yet had a chance to. Workshops, the site, everything else here – it’s not just a question of motivation but also time; I simply have other commitments now that are more interesting and whose economics are better suited to the current situation. Had I remained a photographer, I’d probably be forced to pack up sooner or later anyway: 90% of my business is outside the country, and thanks to COVID, we have been banned from travelling until at least next year, and probably longer. It hasn’t been easy on anybody, and I hope your situation improves…

  37. Larry Cloetta says:

    Ming, I have not read all the comments, but am sure there is nothing much I can add outside of yet another, “thank you and best wishes” going forward. It’s been the most thoughtful and insightful photo web presence there was for the last few years, but you are right, after a while there isn’t that much more that needs to be said.
    I would add that, even though I fully understand the decision to stop writing gear reviews, it should be mentioned that, while you were writing them, they were uniformly the best, most interesting and most useful equipment reviews to be found anywhere.
    No matter what life holds for you going forward, this site is something of which you can be proud, forever.
    Thanks a million.

    • Thanks Larry. That was the aim of the reviews, but also one of the reasons I had to stop: to actually test equipment properly requires a lot of time, which I didn’t have. It also didn’t help that local access to gear was increasingly restricted and I had to buy it since almost all of the local brand principals expected either fan-boyishly blind reviews in return, or a whole bunch of free work.

  38. From now on, when times call for me to focus, I will add your name to my usual thought of “What Mr. Miyagi would think about this?”. Thank you. Thank you a lot.

  39. Brandon Feinberg says:

    You have played a huge role in developing my thoughts on photography over the years and have been a huge influence on me. Thank you for all your efforts on this site. I have just entered into a new phase in life and I am starting a career working as a ship officer. I was thinking I was in need of a watch to commemorate the milestone. I can’t think of a watch I would be more honored to wear than one of yours. I will reach out in that regard after the first pay check ;). Best of luck on all your endeavors.

    • Thank you, Brandon, and congratulations on the new move! Hopefully it comes with a lot more opportunities to shoot in new places, too – as well as shooting on board, which should be quite interesting (and something I’ve been fortunate enough to do a couple of times).

  40. Ming, Thanks for all your hard work and great writing. You will always be inspiring.Put your photos on Apple Tv and your darling daughter can watch them all day.Good luck Neal

    • Haha, thanks Neal. I think she’d much rather watch the usual bunch of children’s brain-melting cartoons, though – and we’re trying to control her screen time…

  41. Brett Patching says:

    Like so many others here, you have played a very important part in my development as a photographer. You put names to sometimes fuzzy aspects of making pictures, helping me to focus explicitly on elements before my finger gets near the shutter release. I know your time at Hasselblad ended on a very sour note, but I still think that the 907X and CFV II 50C is an exciting and obvious camera and back. Your posts about printing with Wesley Wong have been really informative, and he has been so kind to answer some of my questions too. I could sense that your time with us at mingthein.com was coming to an end, and I wish you and your family all the best. Danes, with quite a history of sailing, say good wind going forward (close to that anyway) when friends leave, so good wind Ming. Cheers, Brett

    • Thanks Brett. I never got to shoot with the final 907X, though there is a large degree of curiosity as to whether they actually executed it properly in the end or not…

  42. When I read the title of this post, in my head I started to play a piece of music that has been following me for the last (at least) 20 years. This piece is names «First Circle», and your pictures have been often leading me to hearing it again.

    From First Circle to Final Circle.

    Thank you.

  43. “Perhaps, it wouldn’t be a good thing if it didn’t come to an end”

    Thanks Ming for all the knowledge you’ve imparted to the community, personally I don’t think I would be a quarter of the photographer I am now if it weren’t for your many articles and workshop videos through the years.

    On a previous comment on a diff post, I had mentioned the idea of “craftsmanship”, and your thoughts about being an amateur more or less encapsulated what I had in mind.

    IMO, sometimes, in order to move two steps forward, we have to move one step back for a moment. And really, to invest ourselves, free of the conditions that come from being a public figure, or a blogger, or beholden to a corporate interest or client.

    Looking forward to future endeavors, teachings, and ability to inspire us to be a bit better.

    P.S. Thanks one more time for the PS Workflow Archive, if it wasn’t a sad occasion I would say Xmas came early for me this year!

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