Today’s article is the first of two parts focusing on portraiture and human subjects as the focus of an image. It is not something I’m normally associated with because I rarely choose to show my work here; it doesn’t mean I don’t engage in it for personal reasons (which are usually not shared, obviously) or professional ones (I do have clients whose mainstay subjects are primarily human). Whilst curating images for a recent assignment, I had a couple of little personal epiphanies which I’d like to share with you all.
UPDATED 16/4: Announcing the Cinematic Masterclass in collaboration with Zeiss: Hanoi, Jul 21-26 and Jul 28-Aug 2, 2015
The fifth Masterclass will also be the first specialised one, on a topic I’m frequently asked to teach: the cinematic style of photography. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 21-26 of July 2015 inclusive. Better still, Zeiss has agreed to loan us with a suitcase of lenses*. As usual, the Masterclass is limited to just 8 participants, so please confirm early to avoid disappointment; read on to make a booking and for further information. For all of you who’ve been asking me for a Masterclass in Asia, here’s your opportunity :)
16/4 Updates: One place left for the first session. If there is enough demand, I’ll put on another session from 28 July-2 August, so keep those emails coming. *More importantly, Zeiss have updated me on lenses – the really good news is we will get the 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses in Nikon and Canon mounts, along with the 2/135 APO and 2/28 Hollywood Distagon… :)
At the start of March, eight enthusiastic photographers gathered in Prague for the fourth Masterclass. Four even enjoyed the previous ones enough they came back again for a second or even third round :) As has become a tradition, what follows is the Masterclass Report, which is not so much a bunch of photographs of people photographing and holding cameras, but instead a showcase of the participants’ work. Read on to see the kind of images we make.
Prague is one of those locations which never fails to captivate – it’s an interesting blend of Old World elegance, modern efficiency and very friendly people. One of the things that falls out of the Old World setting is an unusually large number of arches – as a load bearing architectural device to create an aperture in a structure supporting a large building, they were pretty much the only option available if you’re working in stone or brick. Photographically, they’re a great device for framing and adding layers of interest to an image – beyond the obvious use of placing the subject in the middle, you also gain the ability to stack them up to create areas of interesting texture through geometrical repetition. On top of all of that, they also act as light control devices – if you photograph them side-on, they can create directional light out of a very flat day especially if there are no other apertures on facing them on the other side. This set was shot during the March Prague masterclass, and includes some of my favourite images from the city. Enjoy! MT
Why do we photograph? For the vast majority of the population, it’s because we want to record or document something. However, if you’re reading this site, I suspect it’s either because you really, really enjoy it, or it’s your job, or perhaps both. And I suspect that even if you do do this for a living, you’d have to have fallen into the former category at some point in time in order to think that it might even have been a slightly worthwhile exercise to undertake the current masochism that is professional photography, over say, banking. I know I did. In fact, I enjoyed photography in the early days (looking back, probably around 2001-2002) to the point it was probably slightly unhealthy and obsessive. But it did provide a creative outlet and set the foundations for today. Bottom line: we shoot because we enjoy it.
This article will be a sort of evolution of the Compact Fast Normal Conundrum…
After a surprising number of enquiries about this image, I’ve decided to offer it as a print in a limited run of 20 12×12″ Ultraprints, and 10 20×20″ versions. As with all previous prints, they will be printed by printmaster Wesley Wong, personally checked and QC’d by me and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Both prints are on a matte fine art fiber paper – Permajet Portrait White 285 – which we have found after much experimentation to have the best blend of density, gamut, detail differentiation and transparent tonality. You can read more about the rationale behind Ultraprinting here and a view a comparison to a regular print here.
It is an indisputable fact that photographers are all obsessed with equipment to some degree. Though online forums are perhaps a poor barometer of public opinion because one only visits if you are looking for equipment reviews or spoiling for a fight with a troll, I’ve noticed the same thing here – after running this site for more than three years, the most popular posts are consistently the ones that are equipment reviews, to do with system choices, or hardware. Philosophy comes a very distant second – by a factor of three or more – and then only images, which are dead last. Surely I can’t be the only one thinking this ratio is a little odd, given that the whole purpose of the exercise is to produce images?
One of the most important things for the creation of a cinematic feeling image is control over light: control light and you can control what stands out, the order in which your audience reads an image, and beyond that, how they feel when they view it. This is of course significantly easier to do when the light sources in question are not random: it’s much easier to make a cinematic image with ambient neon than it is with pure sunshine, as there’s just so much more directionality and variation of color. Fortunately, I had a decent amount of both in Tokyo; I’ve always found it to be one of the most easiest cities in which to make these kinds of images for that reason.
Everybody knows the camera industry is suffering. We’re expecting tomorrow’s camera, yesterday, and the day after’s camera, tomorrow. And if it doesn’t have the 12-400/1.2 zoom that fits in a shirt pocket, well, I’ll be damned, I’m switching. How are our favourite businesses supposed to stay solvent? I have a solution.
So I attempted to buy the new Nikon AFS 300/4 PF ED VR today, for the third time. This seems like an odd thing to write, so please hear me out. Every sample of this lens I’ve tried, on every D810 body (now three of each) produces very strange double-image artefacts only with VR on. With VR off, the optics look consistently excellent. With VR on, I couldn’t get a single sharp image regardless of drive mode, shutter speed, EFC on/off, tripod or handheld. The funny thing is that I did not see this on any other body than the D810: the D800E was just fine with VR on, as were the D3, D4 and D750. I initially ruled this out as sample issues or QC, but now that I’ve tried several lenses from different batches and from different country stock with a range of bodies, I think there may be something much more serious afoot. I have reported my findings to Nikon and they are investigating…
I can only hypothesise that there is some very strange interference going on between the VR mechanism and the D810’s shutter unit. It appears plenty stable in the viewfinder – perhaps moreso than any other lens I’ve mounted – but the results are unusable. Is anybody else seeing this with their lenses, or is it just my bad luck with every sample and body?
There is a folder of full size samples here on dropbox.
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