On Assignment: the International Lutheran Seafarers’ Mission

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In the second half of 2014, I was hired for a rather unusual documentary assignment. Amongst very many other things, the German Lutheran Church runs an international mission for seafarers around the world, with various stations and representative pastors in major ports. For their 2014 annual report (yes, I know it’s 2015 – I just haven’t had a chance to write and post up til now), they decided to produce a story on this as one of their featured activities. Even more unusually, rather than choosing a major home port such as Hamburg, the story was focused on Asia – the port of Singapore, to be specific. It’s not too far from Kuala Lumpur, so I got on an airplane. The report has obviously now been published, and I’m free to post the write up.

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Photoessay: Hong Kong Urbanscapes II

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Following on from the previous photoessay, I’d like to present part two as a counterpoint – both visual and metaphorical. Whereas the previous photoessay was semi-decay and urban wear and tear, this series of images is the shiny, soulless face of modernity. We are still devoid of humans because the environment has almost become inhumanly clinical, yet somehow there remains a sort of stark beauty in what is left behind. Enjoy the idealised utopia!

This series was shot with a Leica Q and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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Flying as a photographer, redux

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I spend a lot of time on airplanes. Probably too much; even more than when I was a Powerpoint monkey. And in that time, I think I’ve collected enough wisdom and experience that some of you in the audience might find it useful – especially if it isn’t your day job, travelling to shoot is a rare luxury. The last thing you want to have are either nasty surprises with airlines or the anxiety of missed opportunities…so here are a few useful tips.

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Reminder: “The Idea of Man” opening, Oct 2 at the Rangefinder Gallery, Chicago

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Endless possibilities of the imagination – from The Idea of Man

Today’s post is a gentle reminder for the opening party for my exhibition “The Idea of Man”, at 6pm on Friday 2 October at the Rangefinder Gallery at Tamarkin Camera, Chicago. The exhibition itself runs from October 2-31 and is open to the public. In answer to many queries, they are almost all Ultraprints and they will be for sale in small editions. See you all there! MT

Photoessay: Hong Kong Urbanscapes I

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I Maze

Ranging from the shiny and complete to the decrepit and the transformation process that takes place in between, today’s photoessay is a deliberately dehumanised look at the the urban landscape. It is a series that intentionally feels both cold and evokes a little deus ex machina feeling – actually not so easy to accomplish in a place like Hong Kong where it is usually impossible to achieve an image without some humans in it! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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OpEd: The career you really want

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Virtual banking, from The Idea Of Man series

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with some friends. One of them was in a senior role at a traditionally well-paid and respectable firm. He was contemplating a move to a new firm and a new position, with more responsibility, a bigger title and presumably also more pay. But the hesitation was palpable. In an unsolicited attempt to be helpful, I asked a slightly pointy question: what is it you really want to do? What would you do with your time and life if you had no other responsibilities or financial commitments? There was a pause, and then: ‘be a jazz bassist’. Changing firms in a similar role is already difficult enough at the best of times; changing industries is harder; doing a 180 degree turn out of finance into music is something else entirely. As somebody who’d done something similar, I felt it my moral duty to offer my completely unsolicited advice.

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Photoessay: San Francisco street monochromes

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The pizza man

Following on from an earlier article about light and mood in monochrome, I feel some examples are in order. Though these were all shot in San Francisco, they are from different eras in my career. Nevertheless, I believe the feeling I personally experience in San Franciso is consistent – one of possibility and excitement reinforced by the weather and tempered by something slightly along the lines of wondering if you’re going to live up to the standards of the city or stand out like a hick – there’s this sort of sophistication and modern edginess, I suppose. And nights are quiet rather than being lively (or I’m simply going to the wrong places). Enjoy! MT

This set was shot with a diverse range of equipment, but processed using the techniques covered in the Monochrome Masterclass workshop video.

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In search of the unicorn

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Nope, that’s not it.

The ideal [insert your obsession of choice here] doesn’t exist.

We all like to think ‘if only…’ and it might. Whether it’s cameras, clients, light or partners, there’s always something that could be better. Perhaps this is a reflection of the consumerist and entitled nature of modern society as a whole, or perhaps it merely shows that we as people are always changing. Ironically, it is this very ‘if only’ that keeps things interesting: if you were to make the ideal image (in your own mind, and subject to the constraints of personal bias) of whatever you framed whenever you pressed the shutter, you’d quickly run out of possible subjects. It is not a bad thing at all that a) everybody has different opinions and b) we ourselves are in a state of constant flux. I know for certain that I approach familiar subjects like family or watches very differently now than from when I did previously. But there is perhaps such a thing as ‘good enough’ – better than 80/20, certainly – and we should probably know when to appreciate it. Today’s post is going to be looking at the business side of photography.

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Photoessay: observations in Hong Kong

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Everybody is a tourist sometimes

Today’s images are a series of observations of people shot in Hong Kong – it’s not quite the traditionally expected street photography, though neither is it my more abstracted ‘idea of man’ series, either. They are the sort of vignettes of life you get as you pass through the city with an openly observational eye – varying in scale and intensity of personal contact; familiar and unusual. I think this juxtaposition of immense scale and the relative insignificance of the individual being at odds with the lack of personal space is very much Hong Kong, as is the very variety of situations one might encounter within a relatively small radius. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q Typ 116 and processed with PS Workflow II or the Cinematic workflow in Outstanding Images Ep.5, Processing for style.

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The output disconnect and the future of image viewing

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Kuala Lumpur skyline after rain. An example image for which there is no perfect output medium at present: web sizes we don’t need to talk about. Full resolution screens lack the tonal resolution to render the clouds in a transparent manner; print comes closest, but ultimately is a reflective medium and so lacks the dynamic range to represent the difference between the foreground trees in deep shadow and the light in the buildings.

Let’s take stock of where we are at the moment in terms of viewing options for images: there’s basically still only digital and print. On the digital side, displays have been steadily increasing in resolution and information density – and to some extent also size; we have 4K monitors in some laptops at 14″ and under, 8K in some televisions with an enormous jump to 50″+, and the majority of devices sit in the 2-4MP range somewhere between 12″ and 30″. There are also mobile devices with HD, QHD or even 4K (the recently announced Sony Z5) resolutions in sub-6″ screens; that’s an absurdly huge range of pixel densities. Everything from about 100PPI to 800+PPI. Clearly, preparing content for this is not going to be easy; viewing distances don’t necessarily have anything to do with perceived information density (say pixels per degree of observed FOV), either. You can hold your mobile at such a distance that it subtends the same angle as your 27″ 5K iMac, but the problem is the iMac will actually have double or more of the information density – just look at the number of pixels along the long axis. Or the converse might be true. As image makers, how do we manage this?

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