This humble, small blog of mine, simplyROBIN which I have started and actively maintained since 2005 (and picking up pace in photography world on 2008 onward) has made an unexpected turn some time in 2010 that became some sort of an unofficial Olympus gear reviewing site. I never did intend to review any photography equipment in the first place, but the opportunity came and as most sane photographers would react, it was impossible to turn the invitation down. Consequently, something I have never expected has happened: this blog has become one of the important references when it comes to Olympus gear review, and have been mentioned many times in online discussions, may it be in photography forums or Flickr groups. In addition, the audience has grown exponentially over the years, and I have come to appreciate the interactions I have had with all you beautiful people who took some time to leave a comment or feedback, and even dropped me an email to say hi. Life indeed has been more colorful ever since.
Nonetheless, one of the most popular misconceptions that happened was me having an Olympus OM-D E-M5 and all the accompanying lenses that I have been reviewing over the past one or two years. From dozens and dozens of emails I have replied, many were shocked to find that I do not even own any of those Olympus equipment that I have reviewed, and they started to wonder why I have not switched fully over to the micro 4/3 system since I was one of the fore-front runner in praising micro 4/3 system's amazing performance and impressive optical quality. Lets face it, I was one of the loudest guys out there proclaiming how great Olympus lenses are, and I am not ashamed to admit that I have come to love and become a fan of Olympus system. Now comes the plain, straightforward truth: I simply could not afford getting micro 4/3 system. My engineering pay (typical to Malaysians) was not sufficient to fund a full change of system (not just a lens and a camera, but also some important dedicated lens such as macro, tele-photo, etc).
The second part of the most popularly asked questions has something to do with what I have mentioned about me being an underpaid and overworked Malaysian engineer. Why don't I advertise on this blog to generate some income? For so long I have held on to the belief that I can truly be myself and spoke whatever I wanted free from the clutches of monetary gain or advertising influences. I wanted to be in full control of this place and its contents, and I wanted it to reflect only my own thoughts and opinion. This is after all, a personal blog, and placing advertisement in any form would somehow dilute and pollute that idealism. It was a privilege that I fought hard to keep: the ability to say what I wanted to say and do what I wanted to do here. In contrary to popular belief I was not exactly that fanatical about the readership or page-ranking of this blog in any way, because I would rather have 5 regular readers who follow my site because they truly can relate to the photographs that I share here and what I write, than 50,000 readers who came here just for my gear review entries. If I was crazy about fan-collecting and expanding my readership, why don't I have twitter account, 500px, Flickr, Facebook Fanpage or Tumblr? Heck I do not even have a Google+ which is the most favorable hang-out (pun intended) venue for photographers these days. I only had one online outlet for my photographs and thoughts, which is solely this blog.
I think I can only kid myself when I have spent so much time and effort (you have NO idea) to keep this blog alive, and not expecting anything in return. This blog is the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning (even before I take my morning pee) and the last thing I check before I go to sleep at night. I have poured out a huge part of myself into this blog, and that was directly affected by my obsession with photography. I have spent countless hours replying comments and emails, and I have enjoyed every single process, no matter how tiring or time-consuming they were. I wanted to say that I have successfully created a small online community but the truth is more closer to me tapping into the already existing photography societies and somehow managed to steal a small portion of their attention toward my blog. Either way, my presence in the online photography world has slowly and steadily gained more recognition, which is a nice welcome. In contrary to that, it would be false to use this to validate my photography work or anything else that are published here, and I hope people do not see me negatively in that way. At the end of the day, it was always a nice feeling when you know a lot of people do actually care and truly appreciate what you have contributed and done!
I think most of you who do follow my blog would find that I have been contradicting myself all this time. On one hand I was always saying the tools are not that critical in creating great images and the photographer is the one deciding how the results will turn out to be. On the other hand, I was reviewing Olympus latest equipment like any other gear-head or measurebators out there. It was such a contrast to hear myself saying "the tool does not matter" and then "oh this latest 75mm F1.8 is possibly the sharpest lens on this planet". I find it strange no one has pointed this out, or barked at me even the slightest bit. I do feel guilty sometimes after all the gear talk and pixel-peeping. To balance things off, I always made sure I shot even more photographs with whatever gear I have in my usual shutter therapy sessions or other arranged photo-shoots with friends. Ultimately, I want to be known as the photographer who shoots nice photographs, instead of the blogger who reviews Olympus gear. For now, I will settle for the latter (people start calling me the Olympus guy), but hey, being an accomplished photographer takes a hell lot of effort and time. It does not happen over-night.
I think I am digressing too much here, but what I was trying to get to, was the new intention that has sparked recently: to take the advantage of my blog readership to earn a few extra bucks. Yes, I am contradicting myself again, congratulations Robin Wong. I know I have just mentioned (and probably have done so a trillion times over) on why I keep this place advertising free, but the truth is, I am not poor, but VERY poor. There were moments that I was so low in cash that I ALMOST decided to sell ALL my photography equipment and give up photography. I am not kidding. Sometimes, other things in life come as higher priorities than a selfish hobby such as photography. I do take in paid photography assignment from time to time but it was obviously still not sufficient (they pay freelance photographers peanuts here). Therefore, in all honesty, you cannot exactly blame me for having the temptations of turning this blog into a money making machine (now that I have written it, it sounded a lot dirtier than I thought). I am well aware of the fact that whenever advertisements are placed into a blog, there will be some compromise in terms of the content quality that the blog delivers. That is the missing puzzle that I must figure out for myself, and sort it out, if I were to start earning from this blog.
I have explained earlier on the importance of staying true to myself here, and I would genuinely like to keep it that way. However, I also need to eat. Sometimes, I also want to buy that new lens. Do you know how painful it is to be able to review a new equipment unit, loaned to you for just a few days, and then that was taken away from you, and you have NO way of getting it back? It was like waving ice-cream in front of a kid, and letting him have a lick, and immediately snatched it away from him. Ok that was not the best way to describe my situation but it certainly did feel that way.
I plan to have some advertisements up here soon. I am not sure how this will change things but I am willing to give it a try. I do hope you all will stay with me as I go through these changes. I am not expecting to earn much but hey, that few extra bucks can mean a lot when you do not have much. Every little bit counts.
Advertisements on blog or not, rest assured, shutter therapy goes on.