Photoessay: From the streets of KL, #72

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Connected isolation

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted any of the more conventional street photography with identifiable individuals. I suppose that’s a consequence of a change of creative direction towards images that are perhaps less literal and more everyman; photographs that can ask a question and make you have cause to contemplate them for a long time without really having an answer. Images that stick tend to be ones that are graphically shocking (could be positive or negative) or those that require some further digestion. Nevertheless, I still do make these images but instead curate them even more heavily than usual; today’s set perhaps more so because they’re made in what is a very familiar environment to me. What’s interesting is that many of these still come from a very small radius of places I’ve covered literally hundreds of times – I suppose that continual change is one of the joys of photography. This set spans some time, and as a result, quite some equipment too – from a first-generation RX100 to the CFV digital back to the D810. Postprocessing was mostly with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: a different kind of KL cityscape

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Ordered cubism

I personally find one of the most challenging things to do is make compelling and different images in a situation that is a familiar one: your home city, your usual equipment with nothing particularly special or capable of making a distinctive look (or another way of looking at it is a general purpose tool with a very versatile shooting envelope), challenging weather, and to top it off, conditions that are not ideally conducive for creativity*. These were shot during a private workshop as examples; I have to simultaneously apologise to and thank my student at the time: firstly, I felt I could have made better images with a bit more sleep, but the conditions pushed me to really look for something different. In the end, I think this set fit the bill: I am happy because these are images that I have not only not produced in some form or other before, but images that I never conceptualised because I was not looking in those places either – even though it wasn’t my first time there. Enjoy! MT

*Prolonged lack of sleep from a newborn and a small apartment full of relatives.

This series was shot with a Nikon D810 and 24-120/4 VR, which is probably about as flexible as you can get.

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Photoessay: From the streets of Kuala Lumpur, part 57

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Reminiscences of the last supper

I honestly have no idea how many times I’ve posted images from KL. It might be 56 or 30 or 128. I don’t think it matters, anyway. I find quality of vision, and the ability to see, follows a bit of a camel hump: you need some time in a place in order to not be surprised and enraptured by every little thing that breaks your version of normality; a little objectivity and distance helps with quality. A bit more time, and you’re comfortable enough to explore, and have found things off the beaten path to the casual visitor; too much time and you’re jaded. The bigger the city, the longer this takes; but for a relatively small metropolis like the one I live in, that’s not very long at all.

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On Assignment: the TBM breakthrough

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Today’s post is about a job I did at the start of January – the world’s premier maker of tunnel-boring machines, Herrenknecht (there are actually quite a surprising number) hired me to document the operation and breakthrough of their first variable-density boring machine*, which happened to be at work underneath Kuala Lumpur as part of the greater Klang Valley subway/ mass transit project. Up til this point, we have a pretty pathetic train system and monorail that doesn’t cover more than 3-4km; we don’t have a unified public transport system which combine with poor traffic management creates legendary jams**.

*Kuala Lumpur has a mix of rock and clay underneath it; you need a special machine to bore through both simultaneously – the machines for rock are too slow with clay and it also clogs the outlet ducting, and the machines for clay simply won’t cut rock.

**In the past, it has taken me up to 2 hours to travel the 1.5km from home to office at the wrong time. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just walk, try doing that in 35 C heat, 80+% humidity and the business suits that you’re expected to wear – not that clothes mean you’re any more or less competent at doing an office job…

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FD Photoessay: Urban abstracts in monochrome

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It’s been a little while since I posted any images from Kuala Lumpur; the truth is that I don’t actually shoot that much in my home city these days. Partially it’s because I feel I’ve really plumbed the depths of most parts of the city; partially it’s because I try to keep some potential in reserve for when I have to go out and review a camera – finding new material in a city in which you’ve shot close to 200,000 frames is actually quite tough.

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Places still available for Melbourne and London workshops

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From the Prague 2013 Making Outstanding Images workshop.

A few places are left for the Melbourne and London Making Outstanding Images workshops. Please click here for more details and testimonials from previous workshops, or if you’d like to register, please send me an email.

Reports from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and three.

2014 workshops now open – KL, Melbourne, London

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From the Prague 2013 Making Outstanding Images workshop.

I’m pleased to announce dates and details for the first half of 2014’s workshops, starting with the first Masterclass in Kuala Lumpur during the Thaipusam festival, followed by Melbourne and London! Click on for more details, or if you’d like to register, please send me an email.

Reports from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and three.

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Diametric opposites: my upcoming exhibition

Leica Starhill exhibition poster v1 jan13

I’m happy to present my upcoming exhibition sponsored by Leica and Keat Camera at their Starhill Gallery store in Kuala Lumpur – starting from this Friday 18th of January, and running for a month til 18 Feb. If you’re in town, you’re welcome to join the opening reception on Friday 18th at 7.30pm; I’ll be there giving personal tours. Thanks! MT

KL reader meetup! Saturday 8 Dec, 3pm

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It’s been a while since the last one, which makes it high time for a reader meetup! This time we’ll have a theme – classic cameras. Bring along your favourites; the rarer and filmier the better. Anybody turning up with modern digital only is buying drinks. 🙂

Location: ACME, Troika, near KLCC
Time: 3pm, Saturday 8 December

Leave a comment below or on the Facebook page if you’re coming. If we’ve got less than five, then we’ll take a rain check and do it another day when more people can make it…

See you all Saturday! MT

Workshop report: Intro to Wildlife, Nov 2012 Kuala Lumpur

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Too close. RX100

The final workshop for this year was something a little different to my usual travel/ street or photoshop and lighting sessions: an introduction to basic wildlife photography techniques. Five curious photographers (including one who flew in from Hong Kong) discovered that wildlife photography is actually quite serious physical labor, and that rain isn’t the most pleasant environment to shoot in – but it does yield rather pictorially interesting results.

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Sleep with one eye open. OM-D, 100-300

We covered basic long lens techniques, tripod and monopod use; stalking birds and getting close; dealing with troublesome lighting and high contrast situations; animal portraiture; getting the right AF settings, and finally touching on species behaviour and what constitutes an interesting animal photograph. I even shot with a compact at one point to prove that you really can get close with the right technique – no more than 100mm. The session was split into two half days – between rain, exhaustion and other commitments it seemed like a smart thing to do – and in-between, images were reviewed and critiqued for feedback and general compositional good-practice reminders, which apply to all subjects.

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To prove you can do birding with a compact. RX100

Ultimately though, wildlife photography is polarizing: you either like it, or you don’t. There are plenty of things about it that most certainly aren’t fun – hauling heavy equipment around and being eaten by mosquitoes, for instance, or being ‘blessed’ by the birds from above – I think we all got bombed at one point or another – even physically handling the lenses requires some practice. However, the biggest challenge is inevitably patience: in the real world, you might well spend days, or weeks, on location and not see the particular species you’re looking for; the making of ‘Planet Earth’ is highly recommended for a taste into the world of the wildlife photographer/ cinematographer.

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Hidden. OM-D, 500/4P

We shot at a ‘safe’ location where the birds are captive in a large open-air aviary and relatively tame; they’ll still fly away if you get too close or move suddenly, but at least they’re still in the general area; it’s understandably completely useless to try and teach in a situation where there is no subject material! That said, if you’ve ever been curious, taking a trip to the local zoo or bird park with a decently long lens – say rent a 400 or 500mm – will tell you very quickly if wildlife photography is something you want to pursue farther or not.

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Part of the park. RX100

For the curious, I was using an Olympus OM-D with a Nikon 500/4 P generously loaned to me by one of my students on the first day (1000/4 equivalent, and an old familiar lens of mine – I used to do most of my wildlife work with one) and the Panasonic 100-300/4-5.6 on the second day (200-600 equivalent). I have to be honest and say that whilst having that much reach was great, it could often be too much; manual focusing is a lot easier than you’d expect on such a combination because the depth of field transition is quite fast. The second day was liberating from a weight standpoint; I was not envying David with his 1Dx and 600/4! That said, in a fast moving environment with say charging buffalo, I’m pretty sure I’d want the latter combination. MT

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By popular demand, I will be doing a US tour over late March/ early April, stopping at San Francisco (two sessions), New York and probably Boston. Please send me an email if you’d like more details – things are still in the planning stages, which means plans can be kept a bit fluid. Thanks!


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

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Cloverleaf. OM-D, 100-300

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The thinker. OM-D, 100-300

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Scarlet ibis. OM-D, 500/4P

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Duck with halo. OM-D, 100-300

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Lost in a manmade world. OM-D, 100-300

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Sheltering from the rain. OM-D, 100-300

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Grooming. OM-D, 500/4P

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Untitled. OM-D, 500/4P

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Vigilant. OM-D, 500/4P

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Hidden peacock. OM-D, 100-300