Fortitude: resolved, a film (or: Thaipusam 2017 with the H6D-100c)

Fortitude: resolved from Ming Thein on Vimeo.

Note: the video was shot in 4K, and will play at 4K if you click through to Vimeo, or use the full screen player and pick the appropriate setting.

Every year, a huge number of Hindu devotees gather at the Batu Cave temple outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the Thaipusam festival. It celebrates a significant event in the life and mythology of Lord Murugan: the gifting of a weapon to defeat evil. Participants burden themselves with offerings to Lord Murugan in various forms – from milk pots to portable Kavadi shrines and other offerings piercing their body. It is believed that the more significant the offering and the higher the personal suffering, the more blessings are accorded to the devotee in their struggle against their own personal challenges.

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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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Photoessay: Serious Tokyo

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I can only surmise this is a cultural thing, or I’m going to the wrong places – in the ten years or so I’ve been regularly visiting Tokyo, the majority of people, the majority of the time – appear to have quite a load on their minds. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s because they don’t see a way out from whatever they’ve been doing for the last 30 years – oddly, though Japan once felt so societally, culturally and technologically different from the rest of the world as to be light years ahead like some porto-future, I keep getting the impression that everywhere else seems to have caught up in the last couple of decades. There is no longer this sense of wonder when I arrive, but more like a comfortable familiarity and a search for something hidden – which I can never quite quantify, but occasionally find in the form of something very traditional (think hundreds of years of continuity) or reinterpreted (hundreds of years of continuity but with modern influences). I’ve always found it interesting that Japan can be such a philosophical paradox: on one hand, so traditionally rigid, and on the other, still rather freeform and kooky. Or perhaps I’m just not being allowed into the wilder karaoke and hostess bar places… MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Diminishing returns and cutoff points

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The look of money evaporating in frustration

Written as a counterpoint to the earlier justification for being a lens hoarder, I have a feeling this is going to be one of my most unpopular posts ever. It will be widely circulated by I will be metaphorically burned at the stake for it, because it will not make me popular with camera companies, fanboys, enthusiasts or anybody who has a single bone in their body that appreciates a good piece of hardware – I know I do, and it pains even me to write it. But the common sense logician in me demands a stage, so here we go.

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On Assignment: High speed rail underground

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I recently was commissioned to produce a status update of sorts and small vignettes of documentary covering work in progress for the construction of the HK-Guangzhou-Shenzhen high speed rail link. The vast majority of the Hong Kong portion of this lies underground, which makes sense given both the lack of space and need to have a terminus somewhere centrally downtown. Fortunately, Hong Kong’s underlying geology is very friendly to tunnelling – I’ve always had the impression a good chunk of the island and Kowloon peninsula is really hollowed out given the number of subways, tunnels, malls and utilities hidden underground.

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Photoessay: Urbanscapes and details, Prague

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Just a few urban vignettes from Prague for today’s post; for the most part, they have a warm, summery mood (albeit shot towards the end of autumn), though you may find a few exceptions. Despite having visited and shot here in every season, I personally find the city really only ever has two moods – gloomy, wintery and very Soviet-bloc Eastern Europe, or warm and bohemian, and dare I say it, just a little quirky and fun. Both have their charms. Of late there’s been this odd giant theme park feel about the place, probably not helped by the massive influx of visitors. I think that must have been kicking around in my subconscious when I shot the first two images – at least that’s the only explanation I have for the inclusion of slightly incongruous foreground and the great wall… MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. You can also travel to Prague vicariously with T1: Travel Photography.

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Drone diaries: Watch out, he’s got an aircraft…

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“Oh no, he’s gone and done it now…”

For a long time, I resisted. For two reasons: firstly, the flight technology hasn’t quite matured to the point that I’m comfortable enough with my own flying abilities to not crash or injure something or destroy the aircraft; secondly, the camera quality really wasn’t worth bothering with – especially when you’re used to something with let’s say, a little larger sensor. The first problem has recently been solved; the current generation of consumer-level drones packs so much guidance technology in (GPS positioning, radar, obstacle avoidance cameras, subject tracking and recognition cameras etc., inertial navigation gyros) that it’s really quite difficult to crash or hit something: it just won’t let you, unless you decide to turn all of the aids off. The second has also been solved to some degree, though not in the Mavic Pro I’ve started flying recently.

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Photoessay: Entropy from a distance in Porto

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And to put into practice yesterday’s theory on wimmelbild: some images from Porto which I think best illustrate the concept. Porto itself is a curious city, because it looks very different from a distance vs. close up, and in ‘good’ sunlight vs overcast cloud. From further away – ideally, the opposite bank of the river – and in the evening sun, the romance is present. You can imagine the traders and merchants and intrigues over your glass of wine from the terrace on the side of the hill; but when it rains and you’re in the middle of the old city being panhandled by people who look as though they match the state of the buildings, it’s quite another matter entirely. Parts of the town felt as though the inhabitants were the last of their tribe, passed on and were never replaced; children went elsewhere or simply never existed. Many of the buildings do not appear straight because they were not actually straight – who knows how many are structurally unsound. Restoration is possible, and has happened in places, but within the limits of conservation set out by UNESCO – and the limits of the current Portugese economy. Chaos? Entropy? Decay? Wimmelbild? Perhaps all of the above. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Optical finder or EVF?

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Continuing on from the ‘right tool’ discussion, I thought I’d address one of the recurring topics amongst photographers: optical finder, or EVF? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and oddly they seem to be converging towards the middle of late. That’s to say: optical finders on the whole are getting worse, and electronic finders are getting better. Where does this game end? Is there an ideal solution for you? Let’s take a look…

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Photoessay: hardware

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This post is a shameless gear p*** interlude, made with mostly recent but also some older images from the archives. I like my hardware as much as the next photographer, and have no problem admitting that some designs are more beautiful than others. Product photography is as much my thing as any other discipline – why not make them a legitimate subject in their own right, too? MT

Shot with various cameras and processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III.

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