The rise and decline of popular photography

H610J-B9993428 copy

I don’t normally write counterpoint articles, because honestly, you’re not going to change people’s minds most of the time; nor do I write ones in agreement because most of what can be said has been by the original author. However, Paul Perton’s post on DearSusan about the world hitting ‘peak photo’ – in much the same sense as ‘peak oil’ – struck a chord for a few reasons. First and foremost – I think it’s true, but not necessarily for the reasons stated in the original article. Secondly, I have to correct some inaccurate assertions made about myself. I’m also selecting my post title very carefully here, too: decline, not fall, because we’re in a period where interest in pictures, picture-making, picture-showing and the photographic ecosystem for the vast majority of people* seems to have dropped off; it’s not a case of decreased growth; everybody I speak to at all points of the value chain says the market** is actively contracting, has been for some time, and will continue to do so in future. What I’m interested in understanding is why, and what this means for the rest of us who instead doubled down and got more serious.

*Audience, creators, consumers. **Pros, manufacturers, retailers, studios etc.

[Read more…]

Review: the 2018 Panasonic Lumix G9

When it comes to Micro Four Thirds, Panasonic is well respected for their expertise in video while Olympus for photography. This is especially true for the flagship cameras such as Panasonic GH5 and Olympus E-M1 Mark II. Therefore, when Panasonic launched their new Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 recently, it seemed like they were targeting the photography crowd, considering the very similar photography specific features the G9 has in comparison to the E-M1 Mark II.  In this article, I explore the stills shooting capabilities of the Panasonic G9.

As always, this is an independent review and neither Ming Thein nor I are associated with Panasonic Malaysia. The Panasonic G9 and several Panasonic lenses were on loan and have been returned at the time of writing this review. This is a user experience review, and my opinion may be subjective. I was not able to test all features of the camera and shall only focus on the highlights of the G9. I am not adequately equipped to do a video review for this camera. All images shown here were shot in RAW,  except the sequential burst shots which were shot in JPEG (for my sanity). The RAW files were converted to DNG directly via Adobe DNG Converter and post-processed in Capture One Pro.

You may find all the primary images (and a few extra samples) online on Google Photos here. 

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Watercourse

X1D5_B0002671 copy

Being an island, water is of course unavoidable pretty much everywhere you go in Iceland – it shapes the country and often emerges in spectacular form from the least expected of places. Volcanic rock is of course extremely hard and resilient, but eventually the water wins; what I found most mind-boggling about the landscape wasn’t the scale, spectacle or extremes – but the fact that it will continue to change dramatically. What we see is but an instantaneous snapshot of a work in progress that will only get more spectacular with time, assuming a) we as the human race are still around to see it, and b) we haven’t somehow messed it up ourselves. I do realise the irony in that thought – and I’m sure many people will point out that I’m directly contributing to b) by merely visiting. Yet without more of us going and exploring to know what ought to be preserved, we can’t preserve it – or more importantly, give the landscape enough visibility in the wider social context so that people are aware that it needs to be preserved. Curiously, quantum mechanics is correct again even at this scale: we influence the outcome by measuring (recording) it…MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

[Read more…]

Street photography with the Olympus ZD 17mm f1.2 PRO – an addendum to the review

Some of you who read the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens review here, must be wondering why there were no street photography images, since the 35mm equivalent is a classic focal length for street photography and it is widely known that I do love shooting on the streets. The culprit was bad weather, thanks to a spell of rain over the last couple of week combined with overcast skies. Lighting is crucial for all photography and with cloudy weather I would have had flat, uninteresting and dull looking images. Fortunately, I did have a little time left with the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens before returning it to Olympus, so I went out to do some street shooting when the weather cleared. This article shall be an extension to the Olympus 17mm F1.2 review, with more sample images shot with the lens.

[Read more…]

Exhibition: Idea of Man, part II at the Ilford Galerie, Kuala Lumpur

_8B13391 we'll face it together copy

I’m pleased to announce my first exhibition for 2018, and the second instalment in the long-running Idea of Man project – part II premieres together with the opening of the Ilford Galerie in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a continuation of my exploration into the transience of modern life – human figures are anonymous, on the move, and in a built environment, there is separation but no individuality, and every situation is a familiar one which we have probably been in at one time or another. They could be us. The perspective is one of conscious observer rather than participant: a deliberate acknowledgement of human nature in self-awareness and our tendency to as “why me – and how am I any different?”.

The event starts a 1pm on Saturday, 20 January and features prints made by my usual partner in crime, Wesley Wong. Please come and say hi if you’re in town.

IOM2 opening

__________________

Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

__________________

Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop videos, and the individual Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

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

Creative integrity – or, the Struggling Artist Myth explained

H51-B0006603 copy

For the past six years, I’ve shot for pay full time, and occasionally for the better part of the preceding ten years before that. During the last six, the proportion of images of any sort shot with my own creative vision as primary motivation vs those shot with somebody else’s – i.e. for a client or as part of a commercial assignment – has swung from 100-0 to perhaps 5-95. This is expected, and both good and bad. It’s what actually had me stumped in my early pro days: every time I met a successful or established photographer, they almost never had a camera with them – or if they saw something spontaneous, they’d use their phone to shoot it. I wondered why, especially given their access to ‘better’. I think I know the answer to this, and to be honest: I’m not sure I or anybody else is going to like it. Read on if you dare.

[Read more…]

Favorite images of 2017 (or The Year in Review), part II

 

GX85_1000452 copy
June, Ginza, Tokyo. GX85, 35-100mm

Though this looks like part of a Koenigsegg from the previous post, it’s pure coincidence – I shot this through a window at the Nissan salon in Ginza whilst walking past on the way to another meeting. The textures and shades of red really appealed – and I’m actually surprised the M4/3 sensor didn’t cook the color channel.

(Continued from Part I)

[Read more…]

Favorite images of 2017 (or The Year in Review), part I

X1D3-B0002093 copy
January. John Rylands Library, Manchester. X1D-50c, 45mm – place aside, think of the concept of a library: the preservation and sharing of knowledge – which itself needs to be nuanced, detailed, solid, and illuminating at the end of the visit: this scene translates all of that into architecture, and subsequently a physical location. What could be more appropriate?

Let’s indulge in a little retrospective curation today. Being the start of the new year, I generally find it useful to review my output from the previous year for a couple of reasons: firstly, to see how things have moved in general (often, you have the intention to shoot something but not necessarily the opportunity or discipline) and secondly, to determine where to go from here. It always makes sense to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, not to mention an awareness of just how much of photography is down to serendipitous luck. I suspect we’ll find that the planned/ commissioned work is pretty much as expected with few wildcards, but the spontaneous stuff is both less in overall volume (simply due to not having time or opportunity) but higher in spontaneity (because the few opportunities that remain are really NOT planned.) It also doesn’t help that the more you shoot – the higher the thresholds get. There’s simply a lot more history to overcome: what you produce now needs to be ‘better’ than what you did previously in the same subject or style category; yet it’s precisely this sort of precuration that kills experimentation. And we’re not even counting what I think of as the ‘craftsman’ type jobs where the client defines precisely what they want, and there isn’t much scope for creativity – those of course almost never hit the radar.

Interestingly, I landed up with more images from more recent shoots – which suggests that there’s definitely temporal bias even after a few months; either that or I’ve simply forgotten work from earlier in the year. Even so, there are only 29 images in this set, each of which I think would pass the ‘would I print and hang it’ test. With that preamble out of the way, let’s go to some images. I won’t leave much commentary other than precisely what appeals to me in the image and a little context. Even so, it’s going to be a fairly long post – so I’ve broken it into two parts. MT

[Read more…]

Review: The Olympus M.Zuiko 17/1.2 PRO

Firstly – Happy New Year! I hope 2018 proves to be fruitful and fulfilling – both photographically and otherwise. Now on to the business at hand…

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens was launched in September 2017 and together with the Olympus 25mm and 45mm F1.2, completes the PRO F1.2 lens trinity. My review unit of the Olympus 17mm F1.2 was on loan from Olympus Malaysia during the final week of 2017. I acknowledge that 35mm (equivalent) is a classic, popular and highly revered focal length especially for environmental portraits, documentary and journalism work as well as traditional street photography.  Frankly, 35mm is not my favourite focal length to work with – I generally prefer either the wider or longer end for my photography needs. Therefore, this review was exceptionally challenging for me and required more effort than usual.

Some disclaimers before we move on – the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens was on loan from Olympus Malaysia solely for review purposes only and will be returned soon after. Neither myself nor MT are associated with Olympus in any way, and this review was conducted independently. This review is based off user-experience and presented from my point of view and is therefore, subjective. All images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and post-processed with Capture One Pro.

A gallery of all the images shown in this article with EXIF data intact can be viewed on Google Photos Album here.

[Read more…]

Discussion points: photographic rules

_RX100_DSC1102bw copy

Much has been written about photographic guidelines or rules that are supposed to guarantee you – or at least lead to a high chance of success – an interesting or balanced image. I’m not about to reinforce those, but neither am I about to dismiss them completely. Instead: let me offer you an alternative take on The Pantheon of Photographic Dogma like ‘the rule of thirds’ and ‘best light at dawn and dusk’ and ‘blur only your backgrounds’ etc. Important: it is not to be confused by the limitations imposed by the physiology of the way we see: we cannot help notice bright colours because this is the way our brains and eyes are wired. We cannot help but notice abrupt highlight clipping (but not black shadows) – because we cannot change the way the cells in our retinas are laid out. Apply some scepticism to internet pundits who can’t differentiate between man-imposed rules and those which are physiologically limited. With that, let’s move on to the discussion background.

[Read more…]