Ming Thein

Differences between eye and camera: practical implications | Ming Thein

Many photographs do not work. Subsequently, we find out they do not work because there is a difference between what you saw and what your audience sees in the image. Sometimes this comes down to lack of skill in translating an idea, but often it’s more subtle than that: the camera doesn’t see what we see, and we need to be both highly aware of that and how to compensate for it. Yesterday’s photoessay is a good example: it’s no big deal to make a monochrome image, but our eyes only perceive a lack of color under very exceptional circumstances. Yet it’s these differences that make some images stand out, and others not really ‘work’. There are a few important properties of the eye/brain combination to note: firstly, we have an incredibly wide dynamic range, but it isn’t linear. Highlights seldom clip to white or oversaturate, though blacks go black fairly quickly. Also, our vision switches to luminance-sensitive rods at lower brightness levels, meaning that the darker it gets, the more desaturated and flat things appear. A camera mostly maintains linear tonal response across the entire tonal range, and thus the final output will look different to both what we see and our idea of how a scene of that given brightness should look…….

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Fujinon XF Lenses

Do you love my work and want to support me? If you’re planning on buying camera gear, you can check out above-noted links. Prices remain the same for you, but a small percentage of your purchase value is valued back to me. Thank you!


 

It’s all about light: making mood and strong images in monochrome |
Ming Thein

A couple of days ago, we looked at the inexact science of color and emotion: I don’t think anybody is going to argue that the mood and feeling of an image is influenced heavily by the dominant color palette, both in terms of the color of incident/reflected light and the color of the subject elements themselves. But how does this translate to black and white images? Obviously, it’s very possible to do since not every monochrome image feels the same. Even within the same sort of general lighting – say low key – it’s possible to produce variations in mood. How? As usual, the answer to this question goes back to light. Specifically, quality of light: diffusion, direction, primary and secondary sources, fill or reflection from surrounding objects, and the texture of your primary subjects themselves: what are they reflecting or absorbing? As you can see, there’s a huge amount of possibility here for variation – and control. The two main things to consider are direction and diffusion. A backlit image will feel very different to a side lit or front lit one; or worse, one lit from direction along the same axis as the camera (think direct flash)……..

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The fast compact normal conundrum | Ming Thein

I’ve been receiving a lot of email lately. This in itself is not unusual, but it appears that something I quietly bought has stirred the pot somewhat. You see, I’m now a Fuji user (again; I owned the first original X100 in Malaysia, and an X20 and XF1 and XQ1 since). The Fuji fanboys have always said I was biased and paid by the other companies not to use Fuji; the other fanboys have now started emailing me saying I sold out. Sorry guys, the simple truth is nothing so exciting. I bought an X-T1 at retail from my usual dealer in KL with my own money. Two things changed: firstly, ACR in its very latest iteration appears to have changed something in the soup to make X-trans file workflow at least acceptable, if not perfect; secondly, the fast compact normal conundrum demanded a solution. We have no end of choices when it comes to compacts. We have fewer choices with large sensor compacts, though this has been continually improving to the current embarrassment of riches, with even Sony squeezing full frame into what I’d consider ‘compact enough’. …..

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Fuji X100T

Do you love my work and want to support me? If you’re planning on buying camera gear, you can check out above-noted links. Prices remain the same for you, but a small percentage of your purchase value is valued back to me. Thank you!


 

The difference between photography and most other art forms |
Ming Thein

I’ve struggled a bit for a title to today’s essay. Through the course of my investigation into other forms of art – perhaps investigation is a bit too strong a word; meandering or exploration is probably closer – I’ve noticed that photography stands apart for two reasons: perception, and origin. They’re really one and the same if you dig a bit deeper, and this also applies to a lesser extent to its derivatives – film/ video, mixed media etc. I suspect I may open a can of worms with this piece, but I’m also hoping it’s going to provoke some interesting discussion below the line in the manner of some of the classic posts of old. Let’s start with the simpler of the two: origin. Photography is what I think of as a secondary medium. For the most part, the output is a recreation or representation of something, where the something – the originating object, subject or scene – is clearly defined and recognisable in its original form. There is no attempt to suggest that a photograph is anything other than a facsimile of the scene, with adjustments for the bias of the observer – the photographer……..

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The future of photography lies in education | Ming Thein

Over the course of the last few months, I’ve had a number of interesting conversations with quite a number of people involved in various areas of the photographic industry – from the corporate juggernauts that make the hardware, to the niche manufacturers, to professional photographers, to amateurs, clients/ image buyers and everything in-between. I suspect the nature of my work and involvement with the greater photographic community means that I have a little more insight into the big picture than most, and what I’m seeing honestly concerns me. For the longest time, most of the money circulating in the industry was from selling film and supplies, then hardware; and finally closely followed by selling images. Digital has eliminated the first cash cow, upped the average revenue per sale/ item/ buyer (pick your metric) of the second, and I think it’s difficult to gague what’s happened to the third: on one hand, the average ticket price of a job has fallen, but on the other, there are a lot more small jobs, more photographers who perhaps are not full time pros, and more people still who’ve found a new passion thanks to overall lowered costs of entry*.

*Hardware has gone up, come down again, image quality potential has shot through the roof, but pros no longer have to burn through hundreds or thousands of dollars of film and processing on each job. The per job cost has definitely fallen……..

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Thoughts on the Photokina 2014 | Ming Thein

Fuji

Not much of interest here: a mildly warmed-over X100T, another color of XT-1, an X30 and a couple of lenses. The X30 has now grown so large you might as well get a small mirrorless camera instead. If I display a palpable lack of enthusiasm for Fuji, it’s mainly because whilst they build a great camera body – the X-T1’s ergonomics are superb, barring flat buttons – the lenses are merely good, and they still haven’t really addressed the workflow problem. ACR still does a terrible job with the files, and Silkypix is still unusable for a professional workflow and large quantity of images. I think it’s very telling that a lot of the ‘pros’ who use Fuji do not shoot raw. Shooting JPEG leaves far too much image quality on the table……

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Fuji X100T

Do you love my work and want to support me? If you’re planning on buying camera gear, you can check out above-noted links. Prices remain the same for you, but a small percentage of your purchase value is valued back to me. Thank you!


 

Beyond the numbers: what’s next? | Ming Thein

Since the beginning of the medium – supposedly the view from Niepce’s window in 1826 or thereabouts – we have been chasing more. More is supposedly better. More of what? More of everything: resolution, clarity, size, maximum aperture, focal length, width…anything that can be quantised. It is arguable that the sufficiency was achieved for the capable photographer quite some time ago; what’s more interesting is that sufficiency has also been met and far exceeded within the reach of the typical consumer, too. And I think finally, several years afterwards, people are beginning to realise it, too. So: where does photography go from here?……

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Landscape photography, part two: applied landscapes | Ming Thein

In the previous article, we looked at some of the fundamental principles of landscape photography. Today, we’re going to question more of those assumptions and see how those principles apply equally to a very diverse range of subjects. Let’s start with what is, on the face of things, a fairly obvious question: At what point does a landscape turn into a cityscape turn into architecture turn into urban reportage/ flaneur photography? If you have an expansive natural scene with one remote house on it, is it still a landscape? I think nobody would argue with you on that one. Two houses? A small town? Maybe it’s a question of scale, or visual dominance? What about a physically small scene with predominantly natural elements – that’s a landscape, surely. But what if the scene is man-made with merely the inclusion of natural elements? I’m sure a carefully-planned Japanese garden is definitely landscape material. Regardless of the answer, I think we can all agree that the lines become increasingly blurred……

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Landscape photography, part one: a few principles | Ming Thein

I’ll be straight up honest here: I’m not known as a landscape photographer. Far from it, in fact. But that hasn’t stopped me from experimenting, and as we all know, experimentation is the key to artistic development and evolution: applying what you learn in one discipline to your others can result in something unique, and vice versa. I think the relationship between landscape, cityscape and architectural photography is pretty obvious. Might I approach a watch or food plating as a landscape in future? Why not! Or treat a landscape as an abstract? Certainly. Let’s start – as usual – by throwing the rule book out of the window. Warning: I’m going to make some people very angry here. Forget the rule of thirds, fifths, golden proportion, whatever – if your subject doesn’t fit the composition, it doesn’t fit. And there’s simply no way the rule of thirds can apply universally across multiple aspect ratios; a square will have very different balance properties to a 16:9 cinematic…..

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Why photography satisfies | Ming Thein

My earlier article on why we photograph led me to spend a little more time thinking specifically about what it is about the photographic process that is enjoyable. It seems that it’s engaging on many levels – firstly, there’s the anticipation of buying new equipment, and continually pursuing gear – I suppose you could call that the ‘collectors’ itch’. As much as I see cameras as tools, I admit there’s a certain satisfaction in finding, acquiring and owning/ using something rare; the F2 Titan, for example. Like every other accessory or object we choose to use – it signals something about the tastes of the owner. (There’s also the ego-stroking fact that it promotes jealousy amongst other photographers, but I’m going to ignore that and say it really is all about the image. Then there’s the simple tactile pleasure of handling some of the objects and paraphanelia associated with the hobby – I’m talking about things that go beyond cameras and lenses, though these are certainly the two main categories; but tripods, flashes, bags, filters, grips, cases, straps…the list goes on. There’s a reason why cameras like the Leicasonics and [Hasselblad Lunar] make some sense even if they are just rebadged/ redesigned base cameras; it’s the materials and tactile feel. I doubt you could say a basic, entry-level DSLR is an especially nice thing to use – frankly, it’s soulless – but to somebody coming from a compact – the sound and feel of a real shutter is a significant improvement on a recorded noise, or nothing – at least until they realize that stealth and silence are golden, and then we go back around in a circle again in search for the smoothest, most quiet shutter available. Personally, I still like the feel of a good mechanical shutter…

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