The test of time

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1957, from the Havana series

A little while ago, I wrote an article on images for posterity and what we would want to be remembered for vs what we might actually be remembered for. I’ve been wondering about why certain images are remembered and tend to stick in the minds of the viewers, or better yet, in common culture. I’ve had a hypothesis or two on that since, and wanted to share those thoughts. Though it isn’t the objective or necessity of every person taking pictures to make a different image for every single shot, I’m sure we all want to make something memorable. And some of us have to because well, that’s our job – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Photoessay: Seaside, Penang

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Sea eagle rock

Sometimes, we have very productive days inspired by our environments. This series was effectively shot in two afternoons – perhaps six hours total; it was just one of those days when everything came together – weather, location, possible subject matter. Perhaps it was brought on by me not particularly looking for anything and being receptive to possible scenes in a sort of photographic meditation/ relaxation; I’m one of those people who will shoot if idle just to see how things look and experiment a little. Half of these images were shot from a friend’s balcony along Tanjung Bunga north of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia*; the other half were from a little beachside cafe in Batu Ferrenghi.

*Penang is a very rich photographic location; we cover it in How To See Ep. 3.

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Photoessay: Uniformity

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Today’s photoessay is a slight evolution on the previous theme. We still remain in an urban setting, but we look only at the uniform, the monolithic, and the stark. They are almost dehumanizingly abstract and yet instantly identifiable as artefacts of our own ambition and desire for bigger, better, more. There is a sort of progression in entropy here – we start with aspirational order and end in decay. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the nature of all things, or perhaps it’s just a consequence of requiring scale for abstraction and visual interest – read into it as much or as little as you please. Enjoy. MT

This series was shot in several countries with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, 45 PCE, 85/1.8G and Voigtlander 180/4 APO lenses. Postprocessing and color management was done using Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Thoughts on achieving natural tonality

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Riddle of the day: what do a good magic trick and a good photograph have in common – or by extension, a good prestidigitator and a good photographer?

The answer is of course both of them distort your perceived reality. The magician makes you believe you saw something that’s physically impossible, or at very least completely unexpected. The photographer presents you with either something you may not have expected, or could not previsualize. Both are technicians in a sense, but the best of both professions are more than that – they’re also psychologists. At this point, you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with tonality. Read on to find out.

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Repost: HDR, the zone system, and dynamic range

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My eyes, my eyes! I had to work quite hard to make this as a) I don’t own any of those filter programs and b) I don’t do this kind of hyper toned, overlapping HDR. The actual, final version of this image is at the end of the article.

Note: I’m reposting this article as a refresher before I talk about something a little harder to define in the next one.

HDR/ High Dynamic Range photography is perhaps one of the greatest blessings and curses of the digital age of imaging. On one hand, we have retina-searing rubbish that’s put out by people who for some odd reason celebrate the unnaturalness of the images, encouraged by the companies who make the filters that make doing this kind of thing too easy – and on the other hand, there are a lot of HDR images out there that you probably wouldn’t have pegged as being anything other than natural. There is, of course, a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. I use HDR techniques in almost all of my images – I live in the tropics, remember, and noon contrast can exceed 16 stops from deep shadows to extreme highlights – we simply have no choice if you want to produce a natural-looking scene.

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Photoessay: Hruba Skala at Cesky Raj

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About all that’s visible from the road

Today’s photoessay continues the previous two from Hruba Skala at Cesky Raj. I would think of today as more of a general overview and contextual positioning of these unique rock formations in the general landscape around the Cesky Raj (Bohemian Paradise) area in the northern part of the Czech Republic. What isn’t immediately apparent from this (and all other) images of the rocks is that they’re really not that easily visible from the roads surrounding the perimeter of the area, nor does the general topography suggest where you might find them. Instead, you are driving hopefully through some forest and there are little hints of entrance on the right which suggest something much larger. It isn’t til you get down into the gorges and keep walking that the sense of scale is actually apparent. It is one of the most surreal places I’ve been because of this dichotomy between our ability to comprehend the scale (unlike say the Grand Canyon) and the actual size of it – you can go up and touch elements of it, but you’ve got to do some walking. In other words, it’s bigger than you think. And a challenge to capture, too. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45mm PCE lenses, a Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, a Voigtlander 180/4 APO Lanthar and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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An exclusive interview with Kazuto Yamaki, CEO, Sigma

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I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Sigma global CEO Kazuto Yamaki during his visit to Kuala Lumpur for the dp0 Quattro launch, courtesy of regional distributors APD. What followed was a most interesting and candid discussion during which it became clear to me that he has a very adroit handle on things and a remarkable philosophy. I believe Sigma is going to be one of the companies that not just survives the market slowdown, but may well come out benefitting from it. Here’s why.

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Composition is not independent of exposure

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Here’s a non-obvious thought: composition should be linked to exposure. On the face of it, this does not make any sense at all: how can something which is a technical property of the camera (exposure) control what we do with an artistic and subjective (composition) one? There are two things we need to take into account here. Firstly, our eyes and our cameras work differently, so there will be some gaps in translation. Secondly, photography – composition and all – still ultimately boils down to light, since a photograph is nothing more than a record of luminance, color and spatial position in two dimensions. The starting position is what changes the appearance of the recording even if everything else in the scene is static.

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Photoessay: Urban isolation

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The big C

Today’s photoessay is not quite varied Idea of man so much as man overwhelmed – we construct these grandiose environments for ourselves to use, but then land up almost being slave to them. It’s a slightly odd state of affairs in which I feel the human gets rendered somewhat irrelevant and overwhelmed. Who is the real master? Where did we lose control? MT

This series was shot in various places with various equipment (mostly a D810) and curated over a long period of time.

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A concise city guide for photographers – updated!

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Updated from the 2012 version: my concise city guide for photographers. I’ve added many cities to the list since the first edition, and things have of course changed. This guide is a shortlist of places I’ve been to personally that I think are worth visiting as a photographer, places to be avoided, and places if you like a challenge… It’s organized by city, in alphabetical order. Name links lead you to any other posts tagged from that location – usually photoessays – to help you get a better idea of what to expect. Certain destinations also have a vicarious travel/photographic guide in the form of a How To See episode – links for those are included, too. MT

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