Photoessay: Abstraction and reflection in Chicago

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Only one place in Chicago…

I think without reflections, urban photography and architecture would be pretty boring. There’d certainly be no opportunity for the sort of ‘continuity errors’ that make for interesting juxtapositions and impossible geometries; the kind of thing that adds depth, complexity and texture to a scene. These were shot in Chicago with a GR, 645Z, D810 and Otus 85 and processed with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! MT

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Portraiture, part two: candids, reportage, street, and the ‘happiness barometer’

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Chopper

In part one we looked at why images of people fascinate us, and the nature of portraiture. However, this only covers half of the possibilities for ‘images of people': instances where the subject is a conscious and cooperative part of the process. What about the other possibility: where the subject is not aware the photographer, or only aware of them in the most fleeting of moments before any conscious self-image or rapport can be built?

The images in this article are all candid: unposed, unplanned, and with subject unaware. Even if it appears they may be looking at the camera in certain situations, it is a result of conscious timing, observation of something behind me, and/or a particular moment rather than catching a long stare. None of them showed any acknowledgement of my presence before or after the shot was taken, which was actually quite surprising in some situations. They saw me, but my presence didn’t register.

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Thoughts on portraiture

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Style

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.

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Photoessay: the arches of Prague

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The nun at dawn

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

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses, the 45 PCE, and mostly the AFS 24-120/4 VR. It was processed with PS Workflow II.

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Photoessay: Cinematic in Tokyo

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Not in Kansas anymore

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.

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Photoessay: a few unconventional landscapes

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I – floating tree

Today’s photoessay is a little shorter than the usual, for the simple reason that it wasn’t easy to make these images – the opportunities didn’t always present, and even then, they had to be teased out. I’m exploring what the definition of landscape really is: do we have to have near/mid/far all the time? In the same plane? In a ‘literal’ sense? I think if you’ve read the articles on what makes an interesting image from the previous two days, this set may make a little more sense. The upshot is that I’m seeking to present a series of images that are unquestionably about nature, a bit larger than just a single detail (but not necessarily expansive) and perhaps with some deliberate ambiguity of scale: after all, nature itself is recursive and fractal. Needless to say, they do all work much better as prints, which are available on request as usual. Enjoy. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810 and various lenses.

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Photoessay: Venetian nights

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An alternative to the Venetian Cinematics

Evening falls early in Venice in the winter; on a grey day, you can start thinking about blue hour come half past three in the afternoon. Coming from a country where sunset and sunrise vary very little through the course of the year (I’m pretty much on the equator), it’s a little disorienting – but very productive for photography once you get used to the time difference. I always find one of the more interesting things about higher latitudes the fact that changing daylight hours result in the visually unexpected: everything closed and empty streets with sun out, for instance (late in the evening) or normal activity in what appears to be the dead of night. There is a progression here from the active to the inactive and empty; the difference is in the presence or absence of people – not the light. I admit it was difficult to resist a cliche or two, but for the most part, I stuck to the brief…MT

This series was shot with a Pentax 645Z, 55/2.8 SDM and A 150/3.5 lenses.

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Photoessay: dead tree beach

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Skeleton and ghosts. The monochromes in this set were processed to be as natural as possible using my ‘balanced’ workflow in The Monochrome Masterclass.

Today’s photoessay comes from a beach near Banting, on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia and about an hour and a half’s drive out of Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been to this location in the past; those of you with exceptional memories might remember it from the Panasonic GM1 review and early large format landscapes. Truth is, I’d been meaning to come back to this location for a long time, earlier in the day, to have some more time to work with it before the fast-moving tide ended play*.

*It’s a mangrove beach, which means extremely shallow gradients and even quicker tides – I’ve seen it come in at about a foot every three to four seconds. Not somewhere you want to be stuck in the middle of a long exposure!

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Photoessay: Life in Tokyo

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Sardines observing sardines

Tokyo ranks extremely highly on my top places in the world for street photography – the sheer visual difference notwithstanding, it is also an extremely tolerant society to photography, and photography of random people in public. Everybody is doing it to the point that nobody notices anymore; however, unlike in other parts of the world where camera phones dominate, there are plenty of people using more serious equipment, too. Blending in has never been much of a problem. That difference I mentioned earlier is eroding somewhat, though. Once again, globalisation has meant that a lot of the more unique ‘character’ areas of the city are becoming clones of international streets (or vice versa) or even other parts of Tokyo; the area around almost any major railway station is the same, for instance – an agglomeration of fast food eateries, convenience stores, and one or two major chains plus a business hotel. It’s a formula that probably works for practicality, but not so much to keep the world an interesting place for its inhabitants.

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Photoessay: The boats of Venice

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Endless repetition

Venice is a city of water. Perhaps the city of water. And in such a city, a boat is a necessity, not a luxury – today’s photoessay is a little celebration of the the Riva, a tribute to the workhorse vaporetto, a nod to the cruise liner that dwarfs the city it arrives at, and a grudging acknowledgement of the ubiquitous gondola. They’re so ubiquitous that it’s near impossible to make an image of Venice that doesn’t have one in it somewhere, in some form – whether literal or represented only – and even more difficult to have that image not turn into a cliche. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Pentax 645Z and Ricoh GR.

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