I'm Founder & Managing Editor at the InkyPassion blog - Ask me anything!
I'm Nicholas Yeo, the founder & managing editor at InkyPassion - a blog featuring news, reviews and high quality photography of Fountain Pens.
My passion for fountain pens started with a deep fascination with stationery at a young age. Teachers and friends fondly remember me as the child with a bag full of stationery and paper products. Stationery was to me what toys and games were to other children – a bookstore was my wonderland.
In 2008, I took the plunge and bought my first serious fountain pen at the NBC Japanese Stationery store in the basement of Raffles City – it was a Lamy Vista. My love for fountain pens was kicked off, and the purchase was followed by three Safaris, a Cross ATX and a Lamy 2000 which I purchased from retailer Fook Hing Trading Co.
Beyond fountain pens, I'm also passionate in Journalism & Photography. I've won TODAY's News Picture of the year and have done freelance projects for the likes of Mediacorp, Ogilvy PR, Fook Hing, Eyewise Vision Clinic & more.
For this AMA session, you can ask me questions like:
Leave your comments and I'll do my best to answer everything!
NOTE from the community manager: This AMA session is scheduled to go live on Saturday 19th September from 8pm to 10pm! If you have any questions you can post them first and Nicholas will answer them once the AMA begins. Remember to subscribe to this thread by clicking the button below so you will get updates on answers! It's a community discussion so please be nice! Rude/tasteless/vulgar comments will be moderated/deleted.
EDIT: This AMA has officially ended, a huge thank you to everyone for your support! I believe we've learnt quite abit from Nicholas today :) If you have more questions you can still post them and it will get answered over time. Do watch out for more AMAs from Grouphunt in the future!
Nice to meet you, as a fellow student I'm most curious about:
a. That's a great question, really. School work is my top priority now, and I've slowed down posting in the past weeks. I imagine it will be challenging because I'm also separated from my equipment. I have considered bringing my light tent and gear to hall, but the place is called Pulau NTU for a reason!
b. I do not think I'm disciplined at posting new content but I try my best. At times, there aren't many interesting pens in the market, there is little news to report. I think it's fine to wait, and focus on providing quality content rather than things that everyone already knows about.
c. I am fortunate to have been able to purchase most of the pens I have reviewed thus far. I also get pens on loan from collectors. I am still waiting for big brands or shops to send me things. As you may imagine, it is impossible to purchase everything to review it. I must draw the line between owning pens and reviewing them!
d. Fountain Pens are definitely a luxury, not a necessity. This is why my parents do not believe in buying me things like that. They don't discourage me though, because there are worse addictions. On that note, I have to make my own money if I like to buy a pen. Fortunately, I have been pretty resourceful thus far.
e. If I had a choice between photography and pens, I would choose photography. It's more likely to feed me, but collecting pens is a bottomless pit!
Hi Nicholas, thanks for agreeing to host this session with us!
Here are my questions:
Cheers, and have a fantastic session this Saturday!
a. I hope to work at a news agency in the future. I am a natural "kaypoh", and I love to know what happens around the world. I guess working at a newspaper or magazine would be fun. During my internship I enjoyed reviewing technology products and covering breaking news events.
Inky Passion is unlikely to be a full-time endeavour. I think that it is really difficult because the fountain pen industry is a really niche market. I think that it is promising, nonetheless. I am more than happy to be invited to cover events if I am free. I think the main objective of my site is to tell people things they do not yet know. I do not want to repeat things that people are familiar with, to me that isn't news.
b. For fountain pens, I must say that there is definitely a sweet spot. For about 250 dollars you can buy yourself a decent fountain pen with a gold nib or a specialty nib. Something that you can use on a daily basis and which will last you for many years. Fortunately or unfortunately, we almost always succumb to temptation. I, for one, am just in way too deep.
I think that the Lamy 2000 is definitely an iconic fountain pen. I'm not amused with Lamy after sales, but I must say that the concept of the 2000 is very appealing to many. It is a great pen for daily use and it can withstand the rigours of use and abuse.
Another great pen is the Pilot Capless. I own a Namiki Capless Raden - Capless can be had for less than 200 dollars (not the Namiki version) and they usually write pretty well. It is definitely the most refined and no-frills mechanism if you want a fountain pen without the hassle.
I think Sailor also makes the list. Their pens are not big on design, but they have some of the most exciting nibs. I have recently inked up a Pro Gear with a Concorde Nib. It writes medium strokes and double broad or larger when flipped upside down. Sadly, production has slowed down after the elder Nagahara passed away.
c. My favourite inks are almost always blue in colour. I love blue-purple inks and sky blue inks. Iroshizuku Ama-iro is one that I like, followed by Caran d'Ache Caribbean Sea, which is now discontinued. I also use black ink very often, and Iroshizuku Take-sumi is a very smooth black ink.
d. When I was working at the newspaper, I took a photo of the late Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at NDP 2012. That year, everyone thought he had died, so when I got a good picture of him, the photo became viral on Facebook. It was shared on the PAP Facebook page and even by Minister Tan Chuan Jin.
My favourite photo is the one I took in India at the Agra Fort. I had a really grand photo of a man crouching to take a photo below a magnificent arch. I took a photo of someone taking a photo. It showed the grandeur and immense beauty of the attraction.
Hi Nicholas, how do you maintain and store your pens collection? Do you take special care for your pens such as the raden?
a. I store most of my pens in the Pilot Somes Leather Pen Boxes. I also have another glass/wood box from Fook Hing, they carry a good variety of boxes! I would recommend using dessicant around or near to your fountain pen boxes and paper. If you expose the pen boxes to humidity, they eventually turn yellow or get mouldy. As for paper, it gets hydrated and you experience bleedthrough and feathering. For papers I often place them inside ziploc bags with silica gel. As for pens, make sure you empty the ink and wipe them clean before storage. Even fingerprints can corrode the metal plating when left for long periods.
b. Maki-e is surprisingly resistant to damage although it appears rather exclusive. Apparently, maki-e lacquer does not get scratched as easily as resin. That being said, please do not expose maki-e artwork to UV radiation or sunlight for prolonged periods. I do not consider the Namiki Raden VP a pen which needs to be babied. It isn't a collector piece, so just wipe it down once in a while and it will be fine. That being said, for pens which are collectibles, I do not let them bump into each other. Pen wraps are great - I use the Pilot Pensemble 5 and I also have some other wraps like the Aston leather wrap.
Hi Nicholas, nice to find this running...
Current affairs: what are in your opinion the top 3 news that define the year for Singapore so far (excluding the general election)?
Hey Nicholas! You photos are awesome. What's your setup? Also, any tips on taking close up shots of FPs?
a. I actually use a Canon 70D and full frame lenses - the 40/2.8, 100/2.8L, 16-35/2.8L, 24-105/4L, 70-200/2.8L. I sold off a Canon 5D Mark III when I enlisted in the army. Technology moves so fast that one moment, you've got the latest gear and the next it is obsolete. I told myself that I would do with the money instead, hence the 70D. It serves me well though - I recently shot a photo of Lina Chiam here: https://sg.news.yahoo.com/ge2015--tearful-reunion-in-potong-pasir-102425834.html during a freelance job for Yahoo News.
I am still waiting for a next generation 5D from Canon. As you may notice, those are all full frame lenses I am using. As for my photography style, I like fast primes. I used to use a 50/1.4 but I find that Canon's 50/1.4 is one of the worst lenses ever made. I might consider the new 35/1.4L or a nice 50mm I've broken three copies, fixed it twice and given up ever using that lens ever again. A simple search about the 50/1.4USM servo ring issues would bring up many threads!
b. I think the most important thing when taking closeup shots of fountain pens is that you must clean the pens well and beware of leaving fingerprints. I really dislike seeing fingerprints, dust and other particles in my photographs. I try to handle my pens with microfibre cloths, and to clean them before photographing them. Most of my pens are uninked when I photograph them.
Thanks for the tips!
Curious to know more about why you say the 50mm/1.4f is not a good lens?
Also, regarding fountain pen pics, any lighting tips? What f stop do you normally use when shooting close up?
a. The 50/1.4 is amazingly fragile. In fact, I think it should never leave the house. The front element on the lens sticks out, and if you should ever bump the lens into anything even very lightly, you're done for. Focusing gets stuck. Also, the lens is made of low quality materials and over time the focusing helicoid bends out of shape and obstructs the main assembly.
b. I would suggest that you use a light tent and have good lighting when photographing pens. Also, try larger f-stops when you shoot closeups! If you shoot at f/2.8 for example, you get rather shallow depth-of-field. When shooting nibs, I often use larger apertures because I want to get the entire nib and engravings clearly.
Hi Junee, congratulations on your new Nakaya! It is a beautiful pen and I hope to own one myself someday.
a. I use a Canon DSLR, Pocketwizards, Speedlights and also a light tent to photograph my pens. I often try to achieve a clean white background to match the look of my website. I use the Canon 100mm f/2.8L lens, which is sufficient for most photos.
b. If I were to save one pen, it would definitely be my Celluloid Omas Paragon. Apart from this precious pen, I think I'd grab my Namiki Chinkin Matsu because it is rather pricey.
I hear celluloid is an easily combustible material. I would not recommend owning too many celluloid pens in a collection because they look pretty but they aren't the best when it comes to longevity. I've seen dramatically warped vintage celluloid pens.
The material gives off vapour, which is why manufacturers moved towards using Cellulose Acetate instead of Cellulose Nitrate. You can tell Cellulose Nitrate by its fragrance - it has a smell of camphor.
c. The most expensive pen I have bought is definitely the Omas 360 Lucens. It is followed by the Namiki Chinkin Matsu. If you thought these are out of this world, then I may just shock you again. That being said, just so everyone knows, I do not use my parents' money to buy pens. I do jobs here and there and this funds my hobby.
d. I'm interested in having nice food, watching documentaries and also travelling. You may have seen some of my photos from India. Many people are reluctant to visit the country but I really liked it, especially when I was up in the mountains in Kashmir. Someday I hope my job involves me seeing the world. I hope it doesn't involve being in a war-zone, though!
e. My favourite genre is actually Jazz. I dare say that I am not very mainstream. Adele, John Mayer, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran are good but we all get bored with those radio songs sometimes. I do also like Chinese songs, especially those by Jay Chou. Most people would be surprised, because I am very bad at Chinese.
For jazz, I really like Charlie Haden, he is a rather famous bassist. There are two albums I really like - Jasmine, Last Dance. Those two are collaborations between Haden and a pianist named Keith Jarrett. Jarrett has a very bad habit of humming as he plays the piano, but his lyricism is just unmatched. Listen to the song "For All We Know" and others! I would say jazz is nice because there is so much spontaneity in the music, yet everything is strung together like a journey. You're on the road, and then you go off the road, and back on. It's dynamic like that.
Hi Nicholas - Quick questions:
1) What's your morning routine like? 2) Before Inkypassion, did you run any blogs prior? How do you find time to constantly post and produce content, while juggling your studies?
a. Interesting question! I don't enjoy getting up in the morning unless I am on an assignment. When I do get up, I almost always never eat breakfast and would rather stay in bed and listen to music. Somehow the system is only running at 50% efficiency in the morning. Yes, it sounds like a rather sedentary lifestyle!
b. I've never run any blogs before Inky Passion. I hope you like the site though! I've had some experience in news reporting for online platforms and I have reviewed pens on FPN as well. I thought that I would consolidate my reviews on one site and also share news. I am indeed worried that I will be too busy with school to create content, and hope that I will be able to spend my weekends on writing reviews.
Hey Nic, what's it like interning at Mediacorp? And just curious, how did you come up with the name Inky Passion for your blog?
a. Interning at Mediacorp was a really enriching experience. During my time at the newspaper, I was fortunate to have experienced many breaking news events - whether it is fires, murders, court cases or chasing around celebrities. I also enjoyed reviewing tech gadgets like new cameras, phones and so on. Sometimes you have to work irregular hours, especially during huge nationwide events like elections. News doesn't just happen from 9AM to 5PM!
b. I came up with Inky Passion rather quickly after one page of random scribbles. Before that, searching up the name would bring me to tattoo sites. I am fortunate to have acquired the domain name. Many fountain pen related domain names are already taken up, so I had to search for something different - I think inks are really important and without them, using fountain pens would never be this enjoyable. I do not review inks often, so I do understand that the name is rather ironic. That being said, I think it is catchy and memorable.
a.) Ohhh..any surprising stories that isn't known to the public that you can share with us? How are the news of murders taken in the newsroom?
b.) I personally think its catchy! If you didn't mention it, I would never have thought of the tattoo angle..
a. There aren't really very exciting or surprising stories which aren't known to the public. The country is too small and word usually gets around. I think the chinese media is more liberal in reporting suicides though! Murders aren't nice, I covered one at "The Arcade" at Raffles Place. An Indonesian man (moneychanger) carrying a huge amount of cash was robbed, slashed and the entire building had blood trails all over the place. The family came down from Batam and they were obviously distraught. It is awful having to take photos of such things. I think the story didn't make front page anyway - Singapore doesn't want to look bad having a murder right in the CBD. That being said, I think some years later there was another attempted robbery at Raffles Place as well. The suspects were apprehended by members of the public.
b. Thank you for your kind comments!