In this episode of In The Passenger Seat, we have Ming Yang, who runs the Instagram page for his Daihatsu Copen called @financialmistakecopen.
As far as most car Instagram accounts go, Ming Yang definitely has a well-curated page with tons of experimental yet gorgeous photos for his 15-year-old Daihatsu Copen.
It looks like he has covered many photo spots in Singapore, and we are glad to have him share his creative outlook and some of his stories with his Copen.
First of all, what's your name and what do you do?
Hi, my name is Ming Yang and I work as a video editor in a film production house.
How did the Copen end up under your ownership?
I first chanced upon it many years back in a Straits Times ad.
What's your earliest memory of cars and what made you fall in love with them?
My earliest memory of cars was the Toyota RAV4. Being an SUV with a spacious and open boot, my family would pack the boot with cushions and we would make it so comfortable and fun that everyone preferred to sit in it rather than in the passenger seats.
I initially never saw the need to drive a car and very much preferred taking public transport. Also, I used to do a lot of street photography.
My love for cars began to grow when I realised how much I could personalise my ride. Then I began to appreciate other people's rides.
What drew you to the Copen?
The fun size of it was what drew me to it. My mother first owned one, and I liked it too. She still has it until today.
Both of ours were in red then, so I had a fun twin! Going to the petrol kiosk was memorable as the attendants would be confused as they saw double.
Lastly, the Copen is a fun drive, especially with its top-down.
When you finally got the keys to your Daihatsu Copen and took it out for its initial spin, what thoughts were running through your mind?
Fun and zippy! It was nimble, and I felt more connected to the road. It was quite an engaging drive. With the roof down, it became more of a relaxing drive.
Then, I hadn't quite grasped the idea of daily driving of a car and still preferred taking public transport. The Copen felt like an excellent car to own but not a necessity.
You seem to have travelled around Singapore with your Copen for many shoots; what was the most memorable one?
I've travelled around many places in Singapore for shoots. My memory sucks, so I can't quite remember which was the most memorable one. But I think it would be the one when I drove around the vicinity of Mt Faber.
It was a lovely relaxing evening as I drove around aimlessly, occasionally stopping for some photos. I even managed to photograph a peacock posing in front of my car on that day!
Mt Faber makes an excellent drive for JDM cars, similar to the Tōge in Japan. Windy roads with the occasional smiles and waves from the people walking by make it an enjoyable drive to experience!
You have many creative shots of your car; what are some tips and tricks you can share with our readers for their shoots.
The most important tip is to have a good attitude-the attitude of giving respect and being humble.
I am a firm believer that the camera you are most comfortable with is the best. It's 80 per cent the person holding the camera, 20 per cent the technology.
One should also learn from others on how they achieved the shot, the focal length they used, the height of the camera and what exciting things they picked out on the location.
It helped shape my mindset today towards taking the shot. I spend more time thinking about the shot than pressing the shutter.
It is crucial to critique our work and be open to people's critiques and suggestions.
There will always be someone better than you or someone who happened to have a creative spark on that day.
The day you feel you've reached peak creativity and are unwilling to take in any suggestions or critiques is the day that you have died as a creative.
I always keep my mind open and listen to every piece of advice, no matter how young or less experienced the other party may be.
I would share these tips with my viewers on Instagram Stories and keep them in my highlights from time to time!
The location also plays an important part, and there are two sides to it. One is a location that has been shot before, and the other is finding new places.
As for the latter, I like to use Google Maps to recce out locations before actually appearing there. It allows me to save petrol and time.
From there, I can shortlist possible camera angles and positions of the car before even heading down.
Once I reach the site, it is a speedy process of snapping a few photos before moving off.
The other is if the location is somewhere common that many people go to. I like to challenge myself to explore different angles that have not been done before.
There are many other creative ways to paint out a location. Look and walk around, and explore the surroundings. Looking at things from a different perspective helps!
I have this weird habit of closing my left eye when framing up a shot before pointing the camera.
There are very few Copens here in Singapore. How did you come across other owners?
It's mainly forming a WhatsApp chat together and exchanging contacts over Facebook!
Because the Copens are parked outside my place, random Copen owners would sometimes come by and ring my doorbell to ask for help!
Do you have any driving horror stories with your Copen?
None that I can recall. I think the worst was due to our small battery; once in a blue moon, the battery would die, and it happened once when I was just about to leave work to meet @fluidwickphotoworks for a photoshoot!
I felt so bad, but we still hobbled through the photoshoot while jump-starting the car a few times.
The occasional scare comes from the bumping of the undercarriage on speed bumps or sometimes the front of the bumper hitting the bottom of the slope!
Self-induced because I lowered the car, but I've gotten pretty used to it by now.
Do you prefer classic cars or modern cars? Why?
I feel classic and modern cars have their individual selling points, but I prefer classic cars because they are built with more characteristics and design.
In the past, it felt like the car brands were "doing their own thing" and designing what they felt was nice and people bought into the different design ideas.
Whereas now it feels like brands are manufacturing to meet market demands. Thus, leading to more overlaps and copying in design ideas between brands.
They still do have their signature look, but for example, the long strip of red brake lights are becoming almost a "standard" in modern cars across the brands.
I am also a sucker for pop-up headlights, which unfortunately cannot be made anymore due to safety regulations.
What are your thoughts on the car scene in Singapore? Are there areas of improvement you would like to see for car enthusiasts?
From my perspective, the car scene in Singapore is pretty supportive. I'm especially glad of the positive vibes that I've been getting from Instagram.
There is just so much bustle and chat going on online. I do miss the large car meets that we used to have, but at the same time, I am grateful that Covid has forced us to communicate more over Instagram, and that's where I've made many new friends!
If Covid didn't exist, I would be very comfortable hanging out with my group of friends and not meeting new people!
Do keep up with Ming Yang and his Copen on Instagram!
This article was first published in Motorist.