Life after Olympus

I left Olympus Malaysia not too long ago, which came as a surprise to many, and subsequently Ming Thein on this awesome photography site as an active contributor. Since then, I’ve been asked by many curious people how my life has been, what I’ve been doing, which manufacturer I’ve jumped ship to (Sony? Fujifilm? *gasp*) and how the hell I can still afford that expensive cup of coffee? [Read more…]

Off topic: Presenting the MING 17.01

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Many of you might be aware of my historical preoccupation with mechanical watches: it’s arguably what started me photographing seriously in the first place. Which is why after nearly two years in gestation (and just in this form) I’m very proud to present my latest project: the 17.01. It’s the first of a new line of watches designed by me, made in Switzerland and funded by a group of fellow collectors, but brought to life with the aid of individuals who’ve been in the industry for a long time. To avoid the bunch of cliches that are typically used during new watch launches: it’s an honest watch that tells the time reliably and has the benefit of experience behind it – nothing more, nothing less.

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Welcoming a new partner: Robin Wong

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I have some very big news for you today. Robin Wong – M4/3 expert, street shooter, fellow Malaysian and all round nice guy – will be joining the site as a contributor. I believe our strengths and coverage are complimentary but not really overlapping, which means extended coverage and a different perspective for our loyal readers, and yes, including new product reviews (which is something that I of course cannot do in my current position). Robin is somebody I’ve always enjoyed a strong relationship with and wanted to collaborate with, though this would of course have been problematic whilst he worked for Olympus. Thus for purely selfish reasons, I was quite happy with the news of his going independent. Having done the same thing myself more than five years ago now, and under quite different – and ironically, easier – professional photography market circumstances, I’m glad to he sees enough potential to make the jump and happy to be able to support him. In the coming weeks you’ll see of course new content from him, and a reshuffling of the site to accommodate an archive for his work. Robin’s existing site will of course continue on as an archive of previous work.

Please join me in welcoming him on board! 🙂 MT

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The design process

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Not a camera, but a watch is as good an example as any – perhaps more so, especially when you’re producing just one and it has to satisfy the most demanding client: the designer.

Whenever a photographer ‘has some ideas about camera design’, they often forget they’re only seeing one small portion of the puzzle. Inevitably, there are significant other considerations beyond the obvious – sometimes to the point of being physically impossible or functionally incompatible with their own intended result. At this point, having significantly more involvement in the design process will allow me to clarify why some things are the way they are, why some things should or don’t change, and where manufacturers shouldn’t have any excuses. Think of it as a candid ‘message from the other side of the fence’.

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Off topic: on coffee

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Anybody who spends any length of time in the creative industry will soon realise that it’s really coffee, not money, that fuels everything from ad campaigns to shoots to postproduction. Models don’t shun it like energy drinks because you can have it without sugar, and in small (espresso) volumes, and it’s still just as potent. It’s also legal and relatively easy to obtain when travelling, and you can bring your own without being questioned about what those pills or powders are. I’ve long been reliant on the drink (finance and consulting run on it, too) but only in the last couple of years developed more than a passing interest in it. Like the drink, think of today’s post as a little refresher/ break from the photographic content…

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Some big changes…

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You may be aware that earlier this year, I visited the headquarters of two companies in the camera and drone spaces: this was of course part of a greater plan. I’ve also been a little quiet on the picture-making front because behind the scenes, there’s been a lot of work going on that’s much closer to my previous profession in nature: operations and corporate strategy. I’ve recently returned from Gothenburg with a new business card and a tag to open the doors of a place I’d only imagined not so long ago. In short: I’ve been appointed the new Chief of Strategy for Hasselblad. What does this mean in practical terms – for the site, for my own work, and more importantly, for Hasselblad? I’ll attempt to answer those after the jump, along with my rationale behind accepting the offer.

Quick update: I’ve been seriously overwhelmed by the amount of positivity and support in the last couple of hours. Thank you all so much!

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Off topic: On customer service

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Pro photographers have to be two things: able to deliver (i.e. technically and creatively competent) and fully aware that the whole business hinges critically on being a relationship game: if anything, this is more important than the execution. We are not just service providers, but in a way also providing confidence and reassurance on a product that is both intangible and highly subjective. Uncertainty can be self-reinforcing and the beginning of a negative spiral. Yet the longer I’m in this business, the more shocked I am by what I’m seeing – especially at the ‘developing’ end; both from a country/locality point of view and an immature service provider’s point of view.

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Forum thinking, part II

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Clarity at dusk

Firstly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everybody who contributed in the comments to the previous discussion – your ideas and support have been most helpful in clarifying my own thoughts. Fundamentally, the challenge is really one of time: how can I balance off increasing family demands against the site (which in many ways is really another child) and perhaps at the same time, make changes that both buy me time and give you something more? It isn’t a question of monetisation because all of those options require more administrative time and don’t buy time elsewhere. Having had some further time to think, here’s what I think we’ll do going forward:

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Forum thinking

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One of the best things about this website is the people I’ve met through it. At this point, my motivations for continuing to create content and engage with the community are pretty evenly split between the pleasure I get from interacting with a huge range of people with common interests, and the satisfaction I get from writing. A look at the comments below the line on any one of the more popular recent posts* – that were not entirely gear or review related shows that there’s some very insightful and intelligent discussion starting off the back of the original article, almost always covering viewpoints or interpretations that I hadn’t initially considered – and whilst I do try to be as comprehensive as possible when writing, it’s of course impossible to be exhaustive. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn something from these discussions, and I think one of there reasons we enjoy the quality and size of community we do here is because such discussions are both self-curating and self-encouraging. I have been told repeatedly that as far as photography goes, this community is pretty unique on the internet for both erudition, engagement and civility. The next question is of course: how do we grow this?

*For example, soul; soul, redux Photokina 2016; would they be famous now; bucket list; trouble with choice; state of play; social media – for a small selection

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Off topic: personal audio, updated

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The price of escape?

I’ve previously written about this topic about a year and a bit ago – however, as with everything, we get itchy fingers and hardware evolves. (It’s also one of the few remaining hobbies I have outside photography.) I made what could be seen as a rather reductionist change (single output, single source) from the spread I was juggling before. Personal audio is one of those things that I think people either land up using quite heavily by virtue of personal needs (e.g. long public transport commutes, time on airplanes etc.) or never really venture into – the situation for use has to be right. It also seems to be one of those things that more photographers than not have some level of interest in; I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the gadget factor. There’s a whole discussion around sufficiency and enjoyment and practicality that almost mirrors that of photography; the critical difference for personal audio is that user skill has no influence over the output result, unlike photography. Personal audio listening is an entirely consumptive pursuit, not a creative one. But of late, I can’t help wondering if there are some things we can take away as photographers, too.

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