I am taking a short break from blogging, YouTube and almost everything else for the next 2 weeks. That means no new blog post, no YouTube videos, and any other updates until early next year 2021. The break is much needed, and before I go offline I thought it would be great to catch up, chat with you beautiful people about how life has been for me in this awkward 2020 and also moving forward, I do intend to implement a few changes on my content and vlogging/blogging approach. 

For those of you who prefer to watch me talk while multitasking doing something else, here is the video version (click). 

I have been posting regularly to my YouTube channel since July 2019, and I ensured I updated two new videos every week without fail continuously for the past one and a half years. I was actually impressed at my own consistency and how I kept up with these updates, despite some challenges that I faced along the way. For those of you who are not aware, it is extremely crucial to post as regularly as possible to YouTube to get the algorithm to work on your favor to grow the channel. 

What some people may not realize is how exhausting it is to have to come up with fresh content and ideas, week after week, and persistently filming new videos. Oh you have no idea what happens behind the scenes, people just easily assume that I spend 10-15 minutes talking in front of the camera and then just like that - BOOM there is a new video! If only life is that easy. From scripting to finally publishing a full video, sometimes it takes me more than a week. If it is a simple video, I can complete everything within a day or two, but if it is a full on camera or lens review, I will take several days or even more than a week sometimes to just thoroughly test the gear and get sufficient sample photographs. Only through the photographs I can analyse the performance of the camera or lens and plan what I want to say for my review. I am not like some other reviewers who touch the camera for an hour and start making a full video review, which tells you nothing about the camera's actual real life, practical performance. I shoot and shoot and shoot before I start talking. 

Oh don't even get started on the post-editing part. I am very new to YouTube and video production, I learn as I go. It takes me a lot more time to edit something as I have to find tutorials and learn it while I am doing it. 

My point is, I am tired. And I do need to have a hard pause. I need to breathe, and I need time to just figure things out, what works, what does not and how to strategize this channel moving forward. 

Do not get me wrong, I love what I do, from start to finish, in every single video, and I am always inspired and touched by the kind and warm comments from people who watch the video. I have very positive comments on how my videos helped some people understanding their cameras better, or some may not even know about certain features or tips on OM-D cameras until they watched my video. I am truly glad I have contributed in whatever small ways I can, and because I know my videos do have a small impact in the community, that I still continue making them and I thoroughly enjoy the entire process. 

But I am human, and I get exhausted. I just need some time off. 

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

The year 2020 has been especially weird for most people. My photography business took a huge hit. I guess there will always be a part of me that wondered how things could have been, if there was no Covid-19. 
I started going full time doing photography in the year 2017, immediately after I quit my day job in Olympus Malaysia. 2017 was the year I started to get my feet wet, I did get just enough jobs to get by, and I was still figuring things out. It took some time for the business to grow. The year 2018 was a better year and I was finally getting more jobs in 2019, and I can slowly see the business has become sustainable and I have returning clients who valued my work. At the start of 2020, finally, huge opportunities started to land - I have secured some relatively huge contracts. I genuinely thought to myself early this year, this was it, this year 2020 was going to be the year that the business takes flight. I was finally seeing the fruition of all my hard work, and that reality was so close within grasp. 

Who knew the Covid-19 pandemic hit so suddenly, without warning, and just like that, my entire calendar of shoot was wiped empty. The government implemented a full lockdown in March, we were not even allowed to step foot outside the house with the exception of emergency or getting essential needs (groceries, food, medical supplies, etc). All non essential work and activities were cancelled, no events, no weddings, nothing. We can't even walk freely at the park, you will get fined and sent to jail. We were forced to stay home, and obviously any photography business, or any business at all, took a huge dive. 

The lockdown was partially lifted in June, and we have multiple partial lockdowns happening again from time to time, with varying restrictions in place. I did get some jobs coming in, thankfully there was still some income, but I have to admit the horror - 2020 was the worst year for my photography business since I started out in 2017. I got the least amount of jobs, and the shoots that I had did not pay well. 

I should stop complaining at this point, because I know some people had it worse than me. I should be thankful that I still get to do what I love to do - photography. Some of my friends have to quit what they do, and did something else to survive. Some lost their jobs, some had severe pay cuts. Every one is struggling and there are no happy stories. 

I was fortunate to have started my YouTube channel way before the lockdown and just managed to grow it in time to generate some income by the time the pandemic hit. It was not much, but any small amount is still good to help sustain myself. 

I am extremely grateful to you beautiful people, each and every one of you who are here. I appreciate you just being here. I thank many who have generously bought me coffees and kindly contributed to my PayPal, those have helped me tremendously through these challenging times. You have no idea how meaningful it is to know that the community truly cared, and I do have people who support me and believe in me, and I will be forever thankful. I have said many,  many times, there is no Robin Wong without you beautiful readers! (or now, I should say audience, which encompasses YouTube viewers).

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

Moving on, starting fresh next year 2021, I do want to make some changes to my blogging/vlogging approach. I acknowledge that many of you come to my YouTube channel for tips and tricks on how to optimize the use of Olympus cameras and lenses, and also explanation on how some Olympus specific features work. Whatever tips and tricks that I know I believe I have shared them completely in my videos, and if you have been with me ever since my blogging days you will know I don't hold back. I share everything here. I am not saying I will stop making tips and tricks videos, if I have something to share, of course I will still make those videos. What I am trying to say here is - I need to move on from these type of content. 

I want my blog and channel to be even more photography focused. I want to discuss the core of photography, I want to shoot more and share more photographs. I want to talk about the process of photography and I want to bring you along my shutter therapy journeys. I am a professional photography, I shoot for a living, I also shoot just for the fun of it, my lifestyle revolves around photography and I want to share that joy with you as much as I can. Yes there will be still gear reviews (which photographer does not like gear?) but more importantly, I must emphasize on photography as the central content, moving forward. 

I am sure at this point some people will be asking - Hey Robin, are you still going to be an Olympus Visionary in 2021? Honestly, I don't know the answer. And to be blunt, I'd say, if they wanted me to continue to be a Visionary, I should have heard from them by now. I have not had any news, so seriously, if I were to be honest with myself, I'd say, I don't think I will be a Visionary any more. You know what, that is perfectly fine with me too!

I am truly honored and privileged to have become an Olympus Visionary for the past 2 years, the ride has been insanely fun and fruitful. I have met so many talented and amazing photographers along the way, I have travelled to some really fun parts of the world and I have contributed actively to Olympus, and I am extremely happy and proud of the work that I do as a Visionary. It was a chance of a lifetime, like a dream come true if you ask me, and I would not have asked for more. But I cannot be an Olympus Visionary forever, and I believe at some point, I do have to move on. Now may not be such a bad time!

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

Again I would like to thank you guys for staying with me, for believing in me, and for supporting me on my photography journey. I feel truly blessed to have the community standing behind me, and I am glad I can make content that does contribute something, even if it is something small. Shutter therapy must go on. 

I do have some surprises coming for early January, do stay tuned for that. I won't tell you what those are, if I did, then they won't be surprises, right? I am excited to share them with you, and I can't wait for 2021!

Until then, Merry Christmas, have a wonderful celebration during this holiday season, and I will see you again early next year!

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Several months ago Olympus came to me with the opportunity to be featured for the Global PRO Gallery. The task was to shoot some sample images with the newly launched (then) Olympus M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens, specifically images that are not wildlife, animal or sports centric. I really appreciate the trust in my capability as a professional photographer and was honored to be selected to shoot for the PRO Gallery, unfortunately this came at the worst of times. Malaysia was under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all events were cancelled, no non-essential activities were allowed, there was very little I can do with the lens with so many restrictions in place. Nevertheless I did a mini project with the lens, and submitted my images, and thought it would be awesome to share them here. 

Here is the video version of this article, for those who prefer to watch, than read an article. 

Disclaimer: I don't own the Olympus M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens, it was on loan from Olympus, about the same time I was reviewing the lens before it was launched. I had it for a while longer to do the shoot for the mini project, and I have since returned the lens to Olympus after that. All images were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, also loaned from Olympus. Ultimately the images were submitted and did not make it to the PRO gallery. 

Credit: Tang Chun Cheuh