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Tuesday, 01 September 2020


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Ming wrote a superb article in 2015 about the fanbois mentality that infects the current photo world:

"Of course, everybody knows the quality of your images is driven by the quality of your gear. You can’t make an award-winning image (whose rights you’ve now lost after entering the competition, by the way) without tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Red dot? Instant street photography masterpiece. Who cares about exposure? Who cares about focus? Who cares about subject? Hell, who cares if you actually shoot with the thing? You’re wearing it as a statement. I. Am. A. Photographer, with a capital P."

5 years later, no real change.....

While not photography related, I am going to miss Ed Brayton's "Dispatches from the Culture Wars". He recently gave up and passed away after a long fight with various serious illnesses.

I wish Ming Thein well. Honestly, I did not follow him closely at all. But I did real many of his articles during his Hasselblad period. He impressed me as a mature, disciplined, thoughtful person with a very distinctly Asian perspective (75% pragmatic, 25% aesthetic). He seemed like someone I'd befriend easily.

Coincidentally, I recently thought of Ming Thein as I've dived so deeply into the Hasselblad system world this summer.

Ming Thein will be successful with whatever he chooses to pursue in his next chapter. As I've learned, success and enjoyment in life often depends as heavily on what you decide not to do as what you do.


"Plus one more which I can't quite recall the name of right now. It'll come to me*...."


I do miss Michael Reichmann's acerbic voice, and Rob Galbraith's excellent forums which accommodated lots of interesting respondents.
I also miss Uwe Steinmueller's Outback Photo website, which was technically excellent with lots of good information on printing and HDR topics.


Fear not. I used to have a devil of a time remembering names, often forgetting them entirely. Now that I am in my mid seventies, I find that although I somtimes blank out on one, it just takes the clerk a bit to run to the basement files, I will remember them in just a minute or two.

Don't know why this is, just like it.

Bill Pearce

Jõrg Colberg's Conscientious is still going strong after a few metamorphoses - now at https://cphmag.com. It's certainly written-word-centric. I'm a bit ambivalent about the whole art photography ecosystem, but he's always worth a read.

With Michael Reichmann gone, do you go to PhotoPXL?
You have mentioned other websites here but not PhotoPXL before, so I wasn't sure if you were aware most of the former staff at Luminous Landscape has moved to PhotoPXL.

I wonder if that other one was Uwe Steinmueller? That was a terrific blog for its time, reviewing cameras from a use perspective, and also printing. I learned so much from that site. His premature death was a blow, as was Reichman's.

I think in decades hence interested parties will go back and sort through all the muddle, and noisy YouTube stuff, and light upon the gems that existed. These you mentioned will be noted,so will Uwe's....and so will yours. You will have left behind something notable and valuable. Not many do.

I can see why Ernest Borgnine would pop up he had a pretty distinctive face:

I know I’m the exception here, but I think Ming’s smart, but way too wordy and his images, while technically strong, lack emotion. I stopped reading his blog a long time ago.

What a shame. I first knew about Ming Thein here. Since then I visit his webpage often. Plenty of good reading material over there. One of the things I like about him is that he takes the time to participate on his readers comments. I once mentioned something about his beautiful city and a jazz club I used to go to every time I visited and as usual, he came back with a comment about the place. I follow him on instagram and I hope I get the chance to see some of his prints the next time I visit Kuala Lumpur.

Did you remember that name yet? I never could remember names even when I was young. Even when I really tried after meeting someone the name would just slip away. Most of my career the situation would often be a meeting or conference where I would meet a bunch of people at once, just impossible for me. Good thing I never went into sales. Recalling names I actually know has only slipped a little.

Ron Galbraith's was the first blog in my experience that perfectly balanced the technical and practical aspects of photography. From the regular and sometimes critical reviews of equipment to his SD card tests, his site was a must read for me. Galbraith, Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource and the pre-Amazon DPReview were "my jams," as the kids used to say.

Ming's blog has not been one I have read often but when I have read it, I have often enjoyed his perspectives. I wish him well.

I loved Ming's site and did send him my compliments. He was always one of the top ten/twenty entertaining persons on the www about technical photography.

I might also recommend "Festival," which we watched last night off of the Criterion Channel in a lovely print. This movie is by Murray Lerner, photographed by him and several others under field conditions at the Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1966. Glorious black and white, and the close-ups of the performers are especially fine. Very engaging, especially for those of us who came of age in this era.

The departure for different reasons of Michael Reichmann and now Ming Thein from the worthwhile commentariat of our photographic world leaves us all the poorer. There are many who can review and appraise new hardware and changing circumstances in our world but two such balanced and independent voices were significant because they were scarce sources of sanity, experience and moderation amid an hubbub of instant response, knee-jerk reactions and too-often less than disinterested stances. We can ill afford their silence and we must be especially carefully to hold onto those few that remain - so hang tough Mike Johnson !

This morning I was trying to recall the name of a certain well known photographer. I grappled with it for an hour until it finally hit me. Helmut Newton. Helmut Newton? Now how in the hell could I forget Helmut Newton?

Sometimes I really worry about myself.

Ming’s blog was one of my favorites, up there with TOP, Visual Science Lab and pre-paywall LuLa.

One site that I miss is Uwe Steinmueller’s Digital Outback Photo.

What I am really curious about is what Ming got himself as a ‘retirement camera’. He has good taste in tools and I was always interested in what he used, even if they were way out of my league/budget.

Would Mike or others like to suggest other websites?

I disagree with you rarely. Yes, Mings blog was slathered in truly technically superb images and articles. But he lacks humility and empathy. As you can see not just from his writing but specifically in his inability to make an engaging photograph of a human being.

Almost every image he has there has by his own admission, had significant work done to it in photoshop. It's... joyless.

If it was revealed that an AI algorithm had taken and developed his images, I'd be unsurprised.

Sad. His blog, Kirk Tuck's and your blog are the ones I read for the writing. Everything else is just news or technical info on most other sites.

The three of you are thinking writers with different styles. Y'all write more about photography than cameras, other equipment and "how to" stuff. I need not worry about another article about understanding the exposure triangle or why the exposure triangle is no longer valid. Not another article about why you should master manual exposure and why it is a "difficult" skill to acquire

"Certainly the internet had an innocence about it at the time that's not around anymore."

Hit the nail on that!


I appreciated your comment about difficulty in recalling names. I'm 75 and it's been going on for a few years. Yes, the name is still there, it just takes a while to retrieve it. Like you, I often "see" the face of the person whose name I'm trying to remember. It sometimes seems to me that "seeing" the face makes it harder to retrieve the name.


So this difficulty in recalling names but being able to visualize the person is a common thing is it. Good, glad you said it, and Phil above, I'm having the same experience. Weird that access to the face is different from access to the name.

Shutter Finger.

Ming Thein's style never really spoke to me, but he certainly knows what he is doing and he communicates well. His departure from active blogging is a serious loss in our valiant battle against the rise of internet bluster.

The only photography site that I really need for serious inspiration is yours. You are the Montaigne of photography. I also regularly vist Kirk Tuck's VSL and Thom Hogan's sansmirror, both offering solid, experience-based commentary, such a rare thing.

Beyond traditional blogs, I really like Sean Tucker's photography reflections on Youtube: they are thoughtful, subtle and intelligent.

I use mnemonics to help me remember names. A friends daughter whose name I can never remember (Katy)is brought to mind with 'American Grasshopper', Katydid, which may not be strictly correct but does the job

I miss Alec Soth's blog and it's continuation as Little Brown Mushroom Blog - I think he stopped posting in 2012. It helped me open the door to a different appreciation of photography. https://littlebrownmushroom.wordpress.com

I also miss the old format of Blake Andrews' "B". He still publishes interviews on occations (which are excellent) but the quirky old style was highly entertaining and at times thought-provoking.

“In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as remembering.”

William James

Posted re Ming Thein in response to Dandelion's comment under Blog Notes III (and to Ming) but I forgot to say that as Ming is cancelling patroen subscriptions, there an automatic pay rise to you Mike, as last man standing - no reflection on the quality of TOP in any way- just on the limitations of my budget!

Alec Soth was a regular reading of mine, as well as 5B4. Soth was quite interesting as he was writing from the standpoint of an upcoming star, had Magnum gossip, and was also a great appreciator of other people's work. This led to many interesting discoveries.

Same thing for 5B4, ran by the guy who would eventually found errata editions. Photobooks only, every day. This kept my credit card hot.

And of course I read TOP too, which must be where I found out about Saul Leiter early enough.

Regarding remembering names when you meet someone. I knew a guy who said he never remembered names after he was introduced to someone. He said it was because he wasn't even trying to remember and he chalked it up to: "I'm just bad with names."

So then he started saying before he was introduced to someone, "Hi, I'm Pete, I'm really good with names, what's your name?" and he would take the time to listen and make a note of their name, and it completely changed his ability to remember their name.

Me, when I'm introduced, if it's 'Josephine' I'll often say it and spell it, like the Car Talk guys used to do, and that helps me remember it.

It is difficult to find a good photography blog these days. I am sad to see Ming go. I thought his blog was excellent. If anyone has any decent photography blog suggestions, I'm all ears.

Mike, don't stop blogging. Please.

I still miss Gordon Lewis and Shutterfinger. I enjoyed how he thought about photography, how he wrote about it, and, of course, I enjoyed his photographs.

Ming Thein broke some seriously underreported news that people should have noticed but didn't. Notably, negotiations that Sony refused to make a square sensor for Hasselblad medium format. This one piece of news should have sent shockwaves through the photo press. There will never be a square true medium format sensor for 500 series... like, think about how stupid that is. Even at $20k or $30K it would be assured buyers, simply based on the fact people pay $10k for the miniature medium format 907x now.

Not a fan of Ming's here. Dull, soulless photography, but with lots of what I think were pretentious claims about it. Curiously enough he did link to an editorial piece he had shot about Hong Kong (I think) and it was really good, so clearly he could manage it when he wanted. It was interesting to read his early procession through an endless cycle of equipment searching for the ultimate quality, only, my reading between the lines, to have decided no one really cared that much the difference, if any, in outputs. I dread to think how much money he sloshed through. I assume getting a family has impacted that way of thinking.

My 74 year old brain has the same problem remembering names - I often comment "it's time to defragment my hard drive..."

A couple that I really miss:

Robert Monaghan’s massive medium format resource....


Was a comprehensive resource......wonder what ever happened to him.....

And Bob Atkins’ Canon site..... www.bobatkins.com Bob seems to have left the site up, but it hasn’t been updated in quite some time...... Hope he’s enjoying life!

I feel like photography gear sites have become echo chambers of negativity and reality defined by "facts" that are oft-repeated as truth.

But part of me knows that as much as it feels like it's worse - there are people that were just as obsessed (and vocal) about camera lenses and film grain and printing paper as people are obsessed with pixel peeping and video bit rates today. It just wasn't as easy to gather a bunch of like-minded people in one place and spread their obsessiveness.

I do wish there were more sites that are more about the image than the equipment, and that aren't dripping in needless pretension. I've always appreciated that TOP is as much about life as it is photographs and gear. Mike has been a part of my daily life for many, many years now.

It sometimes seems like a small world. I went to Toronto (from Maine, U.S.A.) for a Michael Reichmann workshop. And for a time I was a big fan of Uwe's forum. My enthusiasm and excitement was substantial. I tried to learn everything. But then I seemed to reach a point of saturation, and it occurred to me that reading and studying and even learning was not a substitute for actually doing. Which I still don't (as much as I should). The arcane bits pile up but don't coalesce.

Well it appears Kirk Tuck has thrown in the towel too. At least for now. So freaking sad.

Memory seems to be something that most of us (alte Kakers) are paying attention to. One thing I've noticed is that old memories can be retrieved faster than relatively fresh though not current stuff. I learned about coding when I worked with folks who developed the first image and video compression codecs in the 1990s (JPG, MPEG, all still in wide use). The basic idea, seen most clearly in the .zip (Lempel-Ziv/Huffmann) codes is that each time you identify a new complex block of information, you assign it a short code, put that mapping in a codebook, and use the code in the future to compress the message. The most common words, images, or blocks of information come up most quickly, and thus get short codes, giving better compression.

That works fine when the message is in, say, English, which hasn't changed too much over the past 100 years or so, but for things constantly changing, like names and philosophies, when new stuff comes along, all the short codes have been taken. Images and the processes of vision may not have changed as much over the past 60+ years as names have. Maybe that's why faces and images are easier to recall than names. Their codes are longer, and they are buried deeper in a crowded codebook.

It's not your fault, and you are not alone!

It’s the first time I comment here. I do it because I’m quite sad of Ming Thein decision of letting his blog go: it was always good food for thoughts.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to a “list” of good bloggers (not those screaming “best camera of the year!” in March.
Not so long ago I stumbled on grEGORy Sympson blog at www.ultrasomething.com and I got captured by his (usually short) writing and black and white photography.

Norman Koren, he was active and very helpful in the Canon FS4000 scanner and 20D DSLR period of analog digital evolution.

And now Kirk Tuck! Seems like the perfect storm for good writers/bloggers to hang up their swim fins.

Mike, you're our remaining hope- be well!

Oh, and it looks like Kirk has called it quits - again. What is it the fifth time? Will you announce it?

I used to follow Dave Beckerman's blog. I'm still amazed at how hard he worked day to day, and how excellent his prolific output was.
I did a Google search to make sure I had his name right and found that you featured him in a Random Excellence post in 2008:

Roger and Frances.

I got a bit bored with Ming's blog, I admit. As time went on, he seemed to drift away from photographic fundamentals into philosophising, with a - dare I say it? - a slightly self-important air, and no apparent sense of humour. I think he was probably right to call it a day. I liked his photos, though.

More generally, I miss the more personal approach that Phil Askey brought to DPReview, and Michael Reichmann and Dave Etchells to their sites. It all seems a bit corporate and bland now.

Apparently Kirk Tuck is closing down the Visual Science Lab too. I'll miss it.

Re. the blogger of merit whose name you can't recall—I submit it's BOB KRIST, who authored a good many travel-related columns. They were generally engaging, often instructive, and always well written.

Of course, there was also the famed Mountain Light man, Galen Rowell, but he's been gone for well over two decades now, so likely not your man.

Any hits? Tell us; just who is that missing blogger?

I just saw a post on Visual Science Lab where Kirk Tuck says he's going to take a break from his blog. The blog will stay up for access to previous articles, but he doesn't say if or when he'll return. He mentions TOP as having a similar audience and likely to get more readers.

My mistake—Galen Rowell's fatal plane crash was just 18 years ago, in August of 2002.

Here's one last guess: Famed nature photographer Frans Lanting. Right?

So, where's Waldo? I mean - where's Mike ? .....hope you are doing well and will be back in action soon. We are ready and we always appreciate your efforts.

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