The final article in this series on printing leaves behind the technique and even the images to consider a far deeper philosophical consideration: art vs. the process vs. the result. To make a successful image, there are three primary considerations: the idea, the execution, and the display medium. Most photographers struggle to manage more than one of these – there are a lot of people who are very good at shooting brick walls and test charts and can remember ever single custom function of their cameras, but cannot compose at all. Similarly, there are a lot of people who point and shoot with their phones but are quite gifted compositionally; yet they are frustrated by their inability to capture what they imagine. And both groups almost never think about how the finished work is to be presented and viewed.
Today’s photoessay is a very special one for me: firstly because I’ve always wanted to photograph in Japan in the Autumn because of the extremely vivid colours and semi-perfected nature*; secondly, because photographing them was a very meditative and pleasant experience for me. I’ve actually never had the chance to shoot unhindered, unhurried, and unencumbered in this way before; I had the luxury of sitting, looking and just feeling the scene and the light before photographing; sometimes for hours. As a result, I was in a very different – not to be cliched, but ‘zen’ is a pretty apt description here – state of mind when creating these; as a result, they’re quite different to my usual work. In addition, the first six images in this set will go into the first ever ultra print run – to be announced in the next day or so. You’ll be able to experience these images in a way that puts you in the scene, with detail that’s immersive and colour that’s both transparent and saturated. All of these images were shot under ideal conditions, too – medium format digital back, great lenses at optimum apertures, base ISO on a tripod – which means image quality is really about as good as it gets. In all honesty, an 800-pixel jpeg doesn’t even come close – but such are the limits of the internet. I really don’t have anything else to add other than please enjoy! MT
*All of these images were shot in gardens and parks around Tokyo – the Rikyugien Garden, the Nezu Museum Garden, and the Edo Open-Air Architectural Museum. You may recognise some of them from the How To See Ep.2: Tokyo video – I discuss their creation and composition in significantly more detail there.
What you are seeing is not a capture or printing error. The irregular inner concave surface of the moon is due to variations in depth from craters; the moon itself is in the very extremes of Zone X in the actual image, yet there is still tonal separation present in the print.
Following on from my earlier article on pushing print limits, I’d like to show you the fruits our labour: the Ultraprint. I think the above image pretty much says it all: that is a photograph of the actual print, with a ruler for comparison. Scale markings are in millimetres, as shown.
Let’s again start with the simple question of ‘how many of you print’? For those that do, inevitably, your development is going to look something like this:
- Make your first print – marvel at how different it looks to the screen version
- Make larger prints, start to note that the detail still holds and in fact you’ve got much more resolution than you actually need even for the largest prints you’re willing to pay for/ have space to hang
- Pause for a moment and then decide to try making your own prints because it’s cheaper and more convenient
- Buy a home photo inkjet, find that it takes half a dozen tries to get one good print, add up the costs and find that ink and paper will bankrupt you in short order; worse still, lab results are still better
- Stop printing for a while
- Go back to using the lab because your print heads have clogged and the ink has dried up, and it would be cheaper to buy a new printer than replace the cartridges and heads and you really don’t want to go down that route again…
- Find a better lab – assuming you’re not happy with what you’re getting
- Start to wonder what you’re going to do with all of these 24×36” prints; you have rolled up tubes and prints all over your house
- Abandon printing or start selling your prints so you can make more prints
- Start wondering what’s next?
It’s been a little while since I posted any images from Kuala Lumpur; the truth is that I don’t actually shoot that much in my home city these days. Partially it’s because I feel I’ve really plumbed the depths of most parts of the city; partially it’s because I try to keep some potential in reserve for when I have to go out and review a camera – finding new material in a city in which you’ve shot close to 200,000 frames is actually quite tough.
It’s been a long, long time since I last shot slide film. 2006, to be exact; I stopped for two reasons: one, I was shooting (and developing) through about a third of my pay every month in film; secondly, scanning was beginning to take up all of my spare waking hours. And even then, I was never that happy with the results. But then, every so often – and I was a much, much worse photographer back then (not that I’m that good now, mind you) – you’d get one slide back that was so immersive, so detailed, so crisp that it was like peering into a little world of its own. And then you’d feel the itch to do it all over again. Sometimes this would happen a few times per roll, and then you were well and truly done for.
And now for something a little different – what if I took the abstraction of man to the next logical step? The idea of a person, not the specific individual? What interests me is the way man interacts with his environment, leaves his mark, but is ultimately temporal; more so in modern society where the multitudes of us land up mostly being nameless, faceless and somewhat commoditized. What does generic man look like in native habitat? I’m sure it’s soulless, clinical and a little cold, but hey, I can’t help it if that’s the way I see the world sometimes.
Not to flog a dead horse, but I want to pick up from where the one of the earlier articles hinted and left off: the topic of ‘soul’ in street photography, and what that means in terms the increasingly grey ethical area for photographers. There are also legal implications involved, and we’ll discuss those in passing – individual territories have different regulations, so it’s really in your best interests to check before shooting.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that there are a few subjects that tend to be universally attractive to a wide audience – and I’m not referring to cats, bikinis or brick walls (or strange combinations of all three). They tend to be of the type clouds, water, trees, fireworks etc. I’d like to explore that a bit more in today’s article.
I have a theory as to why we as a species seem to be universally attracted to things like clouds, fireworks, water, trees and flowers; that will be the subject of a much longer philosophical elucidation soon, but in the meantime, consider what all of these objects have in common. For today, just enjoy the clouds and their endless variety.