Photoessay: In the redwood forest

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At the end of last year, I spent an enjoyable day with Lloyd Chambers in the Purisima Creek Redwood Park about two hours out of San Francisco; being from a much more tropical part of the world, it was my first experience photographing in this environment and this subject. I have to say the very pleasant company, comfortable temperature, lack of people and generally clear forest floor made for a very enjoyable afternoon – and more importantly, one that was conducive to making photographs.

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Review of a rare bird: the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

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According to multiple sources, total production of this optic is somewhere between 700 and 1000 units in Nikon AI-S (unchipped F) mount; there were a few more made in Pentax K, and M42. The lens came out of the Cosina Voigtlander factory in the early 2000s, on the heels of the now-legendary 125/2.5 APO-Lanthar and more common 90/3.5 APO-Lanthar. All of these lenses had very short production runs, probably because it was right about the time the CV factory was switching over to produce the modern Zeiss lenses. This is a shame, because they’re relevant lenses more than ever. During my last trip to Tokyo in December, I found not one – but two of the very rare 180mm lenses. Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter says this is the first time he’s seen one for sale – let alone two. Naturally, it followed me home. The other lens found a home with one of the site regulars…

Samples were shot on a Nikon D750 and D810.

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Photoessay: Slices of architecture, San Francisco

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Today’s photoessay is about the details: those little interactions of texture, light and form that suggest identity. I find myself inexplicably drawn to these things when I’m in a city; perhaps because in some way they contain they are the observable and comprehendible essence of a place. An entire city is too much to process and consciously describe at once; but the details are how our brains subconsciously look for visual cues to our physical locations. San Francisco is full of these – from the fire escapes, to the reflected landmarks (of which there are many to begin with) and the colours and quality of light.

This series was shot almost entirely with a Pentax 645Z.

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Paranoia and suspicion: photographers are not terrorists

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I’ve been wrestling with a bit of a contradiction lately. On one hand, the proliferation of mobile phone cameras and social media has meant that there is no end to the number of throwaway images being generated and instantly shared online; on the other, it seems to be harder and harder for somebody with ‘serious’ looking equipment to take an image of anything without arousing suspicion. Is it just me, or is the world’s paranoia entirely misplaced?

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Anniversary time: into the terrible threes

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This rather appropriate cake was organised by my wife – at my own birthday last year…

Another year passes. Another productive, interactive, challenging twelve months. Time flies, doesn’t it? It seems not so long ago I was writing the two year anniversary post; the site is now three years old. It has reached a mature steady state; there’s a great regular audience, a large back catalog, and I’m pretty set on direction for the immediate future. We have about (my best guess) 2.1 million words and 4,000+ images in 970 posts; that’s about 15 paperback novels. I’ve worn out two keyboards in the production of the content – no joke. I believe the best is still to come – I know my point of view certainly changes with experience and time, and there’s some great stuff still in the pipeline. I also know that I want to bring things back to being about the images, about the photography, about the philosophy. After all, we’re all here to make images, right?

Without the readers (and their 51,000 comments!), without the community, without my partners, I’d be playing not very much to an empty house. So, that leaves me -us- to say a big thank you, and here’s to hopefully another great year! Cheers! MT

The mystery camera, revealed

After seeing the slew of positive, curious, speculative, accurate* and sarcastic reactions to the review/preview of the mystery camera from last week, it’s time for the reveal.

*Congratulations: the clues were deliberate.

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That medium format ‘look': what is it?

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Four

Today’s article attempts to answer a question which I’ve been asked quite a few times, both in comments and offline correspondence: what is the ‘medium format look’, and why do we find it attractive?

We must first assume that the output medium is sufficient to identify differences. Beyond the obvious very large print or Ultraprint, if you’re judging images at web sizes on a computer – or worse, a phone – sorry, you’re just not going to see it. A typical web image is less than 1% by area of a 40-50MP medium format camera. There is simply no way you can oversample that much resolution information in a meaningful way to those sizes, unless you’re heavily, heavily cropping, I suppose. How large would you have to go to see the difference? I’d say at least ~4MP (2560×1440, most 24”-30” monitors) or better yet, 4K. And that assumes the downsizing has been done in an optimal way, of course. It’s quite possible that some methods will completely throw away any resolution advantage whatsoever (line skipping, for instance).

What I’m going to attempt to do is break it down into five main categories – for digital – and please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments if you feel I’ve missed anything.

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Photoessay: Lakeside

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Cue the James Bond theme song

Today’s photoessay is a mixed bag of observations from the lakes of Queenstown, New Zealand, and beyond – some landscape, some whimsy, some people. All in all, I think actually quite a representative mix of the experience. And for a change, I think the captions are probably necessary for context precisely because they’re not exactly part of a greater sequence. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar, Pentax 645Z, 25, 55, 90 and 200mm lenses, and post processed with the new A2 Photoshop workflow II

The Black Island is available as a limited edition Ultraprint here.

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Now available: Photoshop Workflow II

 

Buy now: Video A2: Photoshop Workflow II (US$80, 4h10m in two parts with downloadable raw files)
A2 builds on and supersedes the original Intro to Photoshop Workflow for Photographers, using the new tools in ACR 8.x (PS CS6, CC, CC 2014) to streamline and significantly speed up postprocessing whilst simultaneously improving tonal quality and flexibility. The best way to describe the results are with the words transparency and clarity. Although the fundamental logic remains the same – it includes a large number of improvements and represents the current state of my workflow. It has personally reduced my own postprocessing time by about 20% compared to the methodology in the original Intro to Photoshop, leaving more time to shoot. New to this video is a full color management how-to and downloadable sample raw files. It is of course back-compatible with both the Monochrome Masterclass and Outstanding Images Ep. 4 & 5: Exploring and Processing for Style. It works on JPEG images if opened in ACR or opened in PS then acted on using the Camera Raw filter. It won’t work with Lightroom because there are still limitations to the software.

(And yes, there will be a reveal of the mystery camera at some point.)

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Review: The mystery camera

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A question of orientation

Post-CP+, and in a stunning reversal of recent events, I’ve been given a camera to test. Not just any camera; one that is not even currently available. It is light, portable and sits in a class of its own amongst all cameras I have used. I can’t say yet what this camera is, but I was told I can post a review and images from it so long as I don’t reveal anything about appearance or specifications for the time being. This is obviously a rather unusual state of affairs, but I felt that there were some greater lessons to be learned from such restrictions, so here we go. I’ll start by saying that this is a singular device: it is a professional’s camera ne plus ultra. You must know what you’re doing to get a decent image out of it, and if you do, it’ll reward you in unexpected ways. Read on, if you’re curious.

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