Photoessay: Prague monochromes, part I

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I actually shot very little black and white in Prague; a few hundred from the Ricoh GR, and a couple of rolls with the ‘Blad; of course they were all of varying subjects with a heavy architectural emphasis, but I did get some very satisfying street images out of my time there. Despite the very strong luminance contrast available – October at these latitudes means all-day shadows and intense sun with blue skies – I just found color to pack a little something extra in most situations. That said – this set would not have worked in color at all.

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It’s interesting to see how the residents of the city responded to being photographed: they just ignored it. I suspect with the huge number of tourists present – in fact, some areas like the Charles Bridge seemed to have easily ten times more tourists than locals – desensitized people to the presence of cameras. Interestingly, this has two consequences: firstly, you can pretty much shoot as you wish, whenever/ whatever/ whoever, with any equipment; secondly, it becomes very difficult to find a representative local. I suppose you identify them by being the people who are not taking photographs of everybody else…

This series was shot with a Ricoh GR, sometimes with the 21mm converter, and an Olympus E-M5 with the 14-42 X pancake or Leica 50/1.4 ASPH via an adaptor. Enjoy! MT

These images were made during the October 2013 Making Outstanding Images Workshop in Prague; I will be holding three more of these in Melbourne, Sydney and London later this year. Click here for more info, and to sign up.

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2014 Making Outstanding Images Workshops: Melbourne, Sydney and London – click here for more information and to book!

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. awesome atmosphere, contrasts and scenes

  2. Hi Ming,
    I know Prague quite well and your pictures, beyond being beautiful, brilliantly render the beauty and character of the city .
    And Happy New Year!

  3. Neat Idea. Almost all my Prague shots are in colour. I was actually thinking of making some B+Ws.

    http://alphawhiskey.slickpic.com/photoblog/post/PragueAndKarlovyVaryASnapshot

  4. Fabulous light in the bartender shot…

  5. Let’s see if WordPress posting issues are resolved …

    Mark, I’m sure Ming will give you a good response. My experience with scanning B&W film (Sony NEX-5N with an adapted Canon FD 50/3.5 macro) is that the resulting files will be low-contrast and the histogram will be a bit offset, depending on your exposure, and this is true whether you use a dedicated scanner or a camera scanner. You will need add some contrast; I do it with the tone curve, but the global contrast control may work well too. You will also need to shift the histogram, and I usually do this with the exposure control, but there may be better ways of doing this. These two things will interact, so you may go back and forth between contrast and exposure shift.

    Acros is thought to be scanning friendly.

  6. Carlos El Sabio says:

    Ming, super work as always. I was fascinated by the shadow in _G002874 coming from the man’s feet. It looks a hand reaching toward him.

  7. Great set.

  8. Nice work, love the mono and the blog.

  9. Wonderful photos, Ming. Each one brings back a memory but also reminds me how you saw differently than I did. It makes me nostalgic for sure!

  10. Sergey Sorochanov says:

    The photos are spectacular! Especially loved the one with the “muzeum”. Could you tell me why do you tend to use the E-M5 instead of the E-M1 for travel photography ? Is it just the size thing ?

  11. That first shot is terrific. For some reason It brings to mind your “yin-yang” shot of London town hall.

    Speaking of Acros (as you did in your answer to the previous post) your enthusiasm for this film tempted me into trying some, and I’m waiting for the negatives to come back. I always shot Tri-X until now when it came to black and white, and I’m curious to how Acros will compare.

    Slightly off the topic (although it is film related), but…I’ve always had a local store turn my negatives into a DVD, but I’ve never been that happy with the results. I just sold off some camera stuff which I don’t use and I’m looking into getting a scanner which has a dedicated strip for negatives and slides. Do you think a scanner plus some post processing work can produce a respectable version of what we see on the light table? Any thoughts much appreciated if you have the time.

    • Iskabibble says:

      Mark,

      Acros is an amazing film. There’s nothing else out there like it. The finest grain film you’ll ever see with an inherent beauty that somehow is not there with other films. Acros is one of Fujifilm’s great achievements. I will be so sad when Fujifilm discontinues this film.

      • They won’t discontinue it, they’ll just keep putting the prices up.

        • Fujifilm has been shedding films like crazy. Acros will go along with the rest. It’s just a matter of when. We lost 5 films from Fuji this year alone. We are down to a SINGLE color negative film in 120 format now. Not even a 100 or 160 speed film! We are down to a single 100 speed monochrome film in 120 now. Not even 400!!

          Fujifilm says that they are committed to film but just look at them and compare their actions to Ilford. Fujifilm, which is a multibillion dollar company cant even keep a basic line of films in production. Anyone who trusts Fujifilm now is borderline delusional! And I say this as a 100% Acros fan. I have 20 boxes or 100 rolls in my fridge and will be buy another 20 boxes first week of 2014.

          • It’s sad, to say the least. I called up Fuji here to order some Acros a little while back, only to be asked by the other person on the other end of the line ‘what’s Acros?’

    • Thanks. Acros will be less ‘gritty’ than Tri-X, and whether you like that or not is a matter of personal taste. I do find the film and emulsion itself easier to handle as it’s less prone to curling and scratches.

      I wasn’t happy with scanner or lab CDs; hence my (still) trying to produce a DSLR-based scanning rig. This is what I’m using to produce all of the digitised film versions you see here.

  12. Iskabibble says:

    Whatever happened to your film scanning device that you were preparing? Is that behind schedule or did I miss an announcement somewhere?

  13. William Jusuf says:

    Nice mood .
    I love those photos esp the last one with the shadows

    I feel like looking at BW film neopan 100 or maybe 400

    Great series, Ming

  14. Excellent pictures. It rememberse when I was there! Very nice place and good beer hehe

  15. Excellent BW images Ming. My favourite is the guitar player.

  16. I love the photograph of the street performer and the one below it. They are beautiful.

  17. Hi ming,

    Nice photos again – my fav will be the performing dude in front of the graffiti wall.

    Do you intend to make video on your B&W workflow at some later stage ? I would be keen for that.

    Any recommendations for a home printer ?
    Cheers
    Arpit

    • Thanks. B&W conversions are covered in the intro workflow. The ‘punchiness’ of your monochromes are also highly dependent on quality of light; if anything more so that for color.

      I don’t print at home. It just doesn’t make sense – either my inks will dry up or the output is too small or sheet paper choices are limited. I leave that bit to the expertise of my printmaster.

  18. Absolutely beautiful photography. I’m curious. How often do you use snap focus when using the Ricoh?

    • Thanks Tom. Quite rarely, actually – it was more useful with the smaller sensor of the earlier GRDs; the APSC sensor requires a bit more care because DOF is shallower than you think, and the sensor is capable of such acuity which makes any OOF areas very obvious.

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