Photoessay: Trees revisited

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Following on from the previous article on improving the digital B&W workflow process, it’s only fair that I show you some examples. I’ve chosen near-field landscapes – effectively, trees – as the test material, because I’ve always felt that this has been the most difficult subject to capture in a convincingly natural way*.

*Yes, I know, nature is in colour and monochrome images are by definition unnatural, but bear with me here.

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Photoessay: Random household objects in monochrome

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The hand

In an ideal world, the art of seeing and composition should be independent of one’s surroundings, subjects or location. Or at very least, one should attempt it. Even though it’s almost always easier for us to previsualize compositions when we are in an unfamiliar or new environment – that which is different always stands out the most – it’s good practice to see what can be found closer to home. I like to give myself this challenge on a fairly regular basis to keep things fresh; after all, if you can find a new and compelling image in a very familiar situation, it’s all the more likely you’ll be able to make one when you’re on assignment or travelling.

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Photoessay: Semiclassical NYC street photography, part two

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Today’s photoessay continues my exploration of NYC’s streets in black and white. Perhaps I’m being masochist in continuing this series after the dissenting opinions expressed in the comments in Part one (found here) – but once again, photography is subjective interpretation and each observer has their own views and preferences. I happen to like the precision and perfection others call ‘clinical soullessness’ – and I’d argue that the lack of imperfection is a style and skill of its own; consistently being able to find ‘perfect moments’ in a sea of uncontrolled chaos is extremely difficult indeed – which anybody would know if they’ve tried it. Enjoy. MT

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Photoessay: Semiclassical NYC street photography, part one

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Given how ingrained certain locations are in the popular photographic consciousness due to heavy presentation in a particular style by multiple photographers – Paris and NYC in black and white of course come to mind – I think it’s possible to do one of two things: either avoid that style altogether and try to find your own, or explore a little in the genre and see what falls out. I had a chance to try both the last time I was in New York; to be honest, I found B&W with moderate contrast to suit the timeless feel of the location a bit better – as opposed to expressing the fleetingly temporal nature of life. There’s of course no right or wrong. (My attempt at individual style can be found here, in the NYC cinematics photoessay.)

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Photoessay: San Francisco monochromes, part two: channeling Winogrand

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One of the exercises I did at the last round of US workshops was an exploration into finding style. Naturally, having taken both of the groups in San Francisco to see the Garry Winogrand exhibition that was on at SFMOMA, there was more than a healthy curiosity amongst the groups to attempt to shoot replicate his way of shooting. I of course had to demonstrate. Whilst I don’t particularly care for his off-center/ misaligned/ ‘loose’ framing and various forms of blurring, I do appreciate his sense of timing and getting into the moment and the scene. Plenty of shooting from the hip or with the tilt screen and a wide lens ensued; the OM-D and 12/2 was weapon of choice. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: San Francisco monochromes, part one

I can’t really say these have a common theme other than reporting on life in the city; however, subjects, light and various urban geometry cooperated at times to make some images I was rather fond of. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: Fukuoka without people

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What is a city without its people? What if a person from several thousand years ago were simply transported into the present day and dropped in any moderately-sized metropolis without any explanation – especially on a Sunday, when only a few brave souls are to be seen wandering the streets, purposefully running the gauntlet or perhaps acting as keepers of the strange world? Nature appears to have taken over in places, though the square rocks remain. Even the animals mostly avoid the place. Strange movable objects line every path. Did something bad happen here? Would they view the cities as strange landscapes? Or recognize them as artificial constructs? Perhaps they would wonder why anybody would leave nature to be all squashed together in square rectangular blocks…or maybe they wouldn’t even view the blocks as fit for human dwelling. To question, to wonder, to dream, to adapt, and go forth out to explore out of curiosity even if it makes us feel a little bit scared. That is what makes us human.

Or, perhaps, I just scared the Fukuokans off with the mighty clap of my Hasselblad mirror :P MT

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Photoessay: Monochrome vignettes from Shwedagon Pagoda with the Leica M Typ 240

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Perhaps the most famous landmark in Burma, Shwedagon Pagoda has been a focal point for life in Yangon for a very long time – it has reputedly existed in some form or other for the last 2,600 years. It reached its current height of approximately 114m in the late 1700s after the most recent rebuilding as a result of multiple earthquakes. It is thought of as the most sacred location for Buddhists in Burma, with the relics of multiple past Buddhas housed within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from Gautama – the one traditionally thought of as Buddha. An exact replica exists in Naypyidaw (the new capital of Burma).

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B&W samples from the Leica M Typ 240

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Quite a number of readers have asked about the Leica M Typ 240‘s potential for black and white usage. I think perhaps a more accurate description of the question would be: do the M 240′s files convert well to black and white? And if so, how do they compare to the output of the M Monochrom? I’m going to answer this in the context of raw conversion – there will be some users who only employ out of camera JPEGs, however, like the Monochrom, the M 240 requires processing of a DNG file to get the most out of it. And yes, there is a very significant difference.

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Last day to enter – win the multispectral Sony NEX-5!

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Today is the last day to enter the Mingthein.com black and white challenge. The prize is a Multispectral Sony NEX-5 (complete with kit lens and everything else a new one comes with, except the strap which I can’t seem to find) that shoots in UV, IR and Visible light – modified by yours truly. It is an outstanding machine for B&W photography, and has no anti-aliasing filter to boot.

I’ve created a new group on Flickr here: The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge specifically for this purpose.

1. Like the site’s Facebook page – title your submission with your Facebook username so I can check. Entries without Facebook usernames will be disqualified.
2. To submit an image, enter it in The Mingthein.com B&W Challenge Flickr group pool.
3. Your image must be in black and white; toning is NOT allowed.
4. Any subject, medium or cameras is fair game. You can shoot large format sheet film if you are so inclined.
5. Postprocessing is allowed, but anything overly done will almost certainly not win on aesthetic grounds.
6. Judging will be by me and the anonymous donor of the camera; our decision is final. The best image will win. And yes, it’s subjective etc – but this is a photography contest, photography is art, and art is a matter of taste.
7. Images will have a better chance of winning if they meet most or all of the important factors; you can find a lengthy discourse here…
8. You must own the rights to the image you submit.
9. The competition will run until the end of January 2013; closing time is 00:00 1 Feb 2013, GMT+8 (i.e. the end of the 1st of Feb when it hits midnight in Kuala Lumpur; easier to give the people in odd timezones a fair chance)
10. Multiple entries are allowed, but I’m going to restrict the pool to one per person per week: think carefully before you submit. You can remove and replace if you shoot something better.
11. You will need a flickr account to post images to the pool, but it’s free to sign up.
12. By entering, you give me and the mingthein.com site the right to re-post your image as part competition announcements and posts.
13. The winner will be announced in the first couple of weeks of February 2013 – depending on when I can meet up with our donor for the judging. We’ll ship the camera to you by EMS shortly thereafter.

Shoot me an email if there are any questions. I think that’s about it – good shooting, and good luck! MT

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