Photoessay: Praghitecture

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Predawn rooftops I

Today’s photoessay are a selection of buildings from Prague in a mix of styles I’d consider to be somewhere between modern European and ‘restored classical’. I think the Czech Republic manages to strike a good balance between keeping the bones of history intact, modernising it to fit current needs and creating something new – there are exceptions, of course (one of which you will see in this photoessay). I could have spent a lot of time shooting nothing but architecture here – I had teaching obligations so I didn’t, but you get the idea…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, 24-120/4 VR, Zeiss Otus 85 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO and postprocessed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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Review: The Canon 5DSR, part I – solo

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This is both the first extended review I’ve done in some time, and the first one of a Canon product. Regular readers will know that I only review things that are interesting, and to be interesting, they have to expand the envelope somehow. I am curious as to whether the 5DSR will do this –
I sold my 645Z a few months back because I could not justify ow ning a second system against the need for a larger home for my family; but I won’t deny that I missed its resolution and print flexibility, especially for making larger Ultraprints.

I come to this review as primarily a Nikon D810 shooter. I make no secret of the fact that I have not that much experience with Canon other than a serious evaluation period in 2007 where I decided if I should switch (pre D3); I didn’t because local support at the time left a lot to be desired. However, I also come to this review with an open mind: I’ve tried many other systems previously to expand my toolkit including Leica M, Pentax 645, Hasselblad V and M4/3. And I can guarantee you that I have no self-interest either way, since these experiments have come out of my own pocket. The 5DSR was also purchased at retail and is NOT a loaner. I don’t care what the name plate on my camera says: I care only that it lets me make the images I want to make and doesn’t get in the way, and my clients are the same. If anything, I am biased towards image quality. That said, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some forum keyboard warrior ‘expert’ asserts I’m now on the Canon payroll.

Note: I will present few full-size samples because I simply don’t have the bandwidth, nor do I trust that they won’t be reused without permission – it’s happened before. Given the limitations of web JPEGs, please go according to what I say and not what you see. Any perceived oversharpening is thanks to Flickr’s overzealous resizing algorithms and not blindness on my part. Read on if you have an open mind. Finally, a special thank you must go to my last client for allowing me to share some of the images from that assignment at the Crawick Multiverse and Garden of Cosmic Speculation. I literally collected the camera a few hours before heading to the airport and this was the first time I’d shot with it properly – no pressure…

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Photoessay: small humans, Prague

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The underlying economy

In today’s photoessay, the people of Prague play a secondary role in the proceedings: they are there to provide a sense of scale and a little humanisation to the various urban tableaux. The idea behind this series is that whilst people usually take centre stage, even in a very established human-scale city* they eventually play second fiddle to the spectacle of the environment around them. Ironically, even though we created the environment to serve us, it has outlasted us and in some ways rendered us merely transient. I have thus shrunken the people accordingly. Enjoy!

*Unlike very large modern cities like say, New York

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, Ricoh GR and Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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The idea of a ‘5’

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Drawing down on ghosts. Vysehrad fort, Prague

Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.

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‘Connection’ exhibition report – and finally, a book – available to order now!

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One big bit of news today: I finally have a book out, at an affordable price, for a good cause! Following on from the Connection exhibition with Chun Wo Development earlier this month at the Hong Kong Arts Center, we’ve also produced a book containing all the images from the exhibition. Like the print sales and corporate sponsorships from the exhibition itself, all proceeds will go to the Lifewire and Construction Workers’ Association Fund charities; we managed to raise over HK$1.8 million net so far. The former is probably one of the first crowdfunding platforms for providing healthcare to the underprivileged, and the latter is for the families of construction workers injured on the job. Click through for the ordering link and images from the exhibition.

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Understanding AF and MF: focusing aids tested

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Right after the question of ‘what X should I buy?’ comes ‘how do you manually focus your lenses?’ in popularity. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to dismiss everything under the sufficiency banner; contrary to the trends in image quality, we’ve gone the opposite direction away from sufficiency. There used to be a time when viewfinders were actually very good for acquiring focus manually; there was no choice because there was simply no other way to focus, either. That required a few things: firstly, a focusing screen with adequate coarseness (sometimes also referred to as ‘snap’); the same distance between flange and focusing screen and flange and imaging plane; adequate magnification, and fast lenses – to compensate for the coarseness of the focusing screen making it somewhat dark. Looking through the viewfinder of an F2 or a Hasselblad is a revelation compared to the drinking straws of modern finders. It seems we barely have the latter these days. So what can we do?

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Photoessay: Studies of an old Jaguar

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Imagine this situation: you’ve been invited to photograph in an interesting private residence/art center/ architectural location* and after doing the obvious stuff, you come across something that is neither so obvious nor so well maintained, but very captivating nevertheless. Of course, you photograph it anyway. The ‘something’ in this case is what I believe to be a Mk IX Jaguar; in very proper British racing green and tucked away in the corner of a smallish garage whose other half is also filed with study models of about half of the landmarks of Kuala Lumpur, which its owner also designed. I initially struggled to find a vantage point for this because I wanted to put the whole car in context, until realising that it wasn’t necessary: the reductionist in me reminded me to look just at what was necessary to establish both, and disregard the rest. What follows I suppose are a series of interpretations of entropy – in which an object moves into its environment and over time becomes absorbed into the environment. Enjoy! MT

*The residence of noted local architect Hijjas Kasturi, Rimbun Dahun

This series with shot with a Nikon D810, various lenses and processed with Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Fresh off the boat: Canon 5DSR and some early thoughts

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My Canon 5DSR arrived a couple of days ago. Surprise #1: it’s not a loaner. Surprise #2: I haven’t had time to shoot with it yet. For somebody who’s not known for having any particular interest in ‘the other side’, questions are bound to be asked. And I’m sure somebody will also mention the A7RII. But, there is a method to the madness – it’s not wanton equipment lust that I’ve fallen victim to, though my bank account will certainly need some time to recover from the shock of both a Leica Q and 5DSR within the space of a week. I would love to share images, but – see Surprise #2. Since early June, I’ve been back to back on assignments, the hanging, opening and related activities around my exhibition Connection in Hong Kong – during which we raised $2.4m for two charities in print sales, auctions and sponsorships – and I was back in Kuala Lumpur just long enough to attend the Q launch party, pick up the 5DSR and make sure my family still remembered me. Images will therefore continue to be forthcoming.

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Singles: Portraits of excavators

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Herd. The body shapes, the low contrast, dust in the air, and buckets waving like trunks combined to give the feeling of a family of mechanical elephants. I decided to work in monochrome for this one to reinforce that feeling and remove the distraction of color. The lead ‘elephantavator’ has deliberately slightly more contrast than its brethren.

Sometimes I make an image (or four) that doesn’t quite fit into a photoessay, but appeals to me in some way – this marks the beginning of a new series that will present just a single image or two with some thoughts as to what I saw and why they appealed – think of it as a bridge between the photoessays and something a little more explanatory. Enjoy!

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Managing the postprocessing workload

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The sigh of relief on completion

Today’s article is a practical one: how to efficiently deal with the postprocessing workload and overhead, especially when you’re shooting in enormous quantity. I originally wrote this on the back of several back to back assignments and trips, but for some reason it got buried in the deluge. Now that things are a little quieter, I’ve had a chance to revisit and amend. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s got the twin problems of shooting too much and then suffering from editing fatigue, in turn resulting in compromised selections and postprocessing…

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