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?
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
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.
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
The Black Island is available as a limited edition Ultraprint here.
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.)
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.
This photoessay is actually composed of b-roll from another assignment; it fell outside the client’s brief. However, it’s about as easy to stop seeing and shooting things as it is for me to stop breathing for a long period of time – so I went ahead and photographed anyway, knowing that the images can’t be used for anything commercial. I’ve always found heavy industry to be fascinating – not just because it’s outside the sphere of normality for most of us, but also because there’s a big challenge in capturing and conveying the sense of scale of a place that’s unfamiliar and might lack visual cues for most. On top of that, throw in a whole bunch of interesting hardware, textures and abstract patterns, and you’ve got photographic nirvana. Some of the perspectives will be unusual because they were shot from a pilot boat on the harbour, or the bridge of one of the 1000-ft container ships. Enjoy! MT
I’ve always believed a strong image should be able to stand on its own without a title – after all, sometimes images and titles get separated (quite often, actually) – and if it isn’t self-explanatory to some degree without it, then the image itself isn’t clear. However, a good title certainly enhances impact of an image; it can explain, direct, add another layer of meaning, put into context, force the thoughts of the audience in a certain direction, create contrast or tension between perceptual reality and actual reality (visual content vs asserted content or vice versa) or merely serve as an easy method of reference to an image. I’ve frequently been asked how I pick a title for my images; today’s essay explores that in a bit more detail. There really isn’t a lot of science in it, though a large vocabulary probably helps, as does a ready store of cultural references. Firstly, I don’t think choosing – or perhaps more appropriately, creating a title can be entirely spontaneous and retrospective. In fact, it really all boils down to the fourth important thing.
Normally, we look at a camera from a holistic point of view and compare it to the competition or the class leader. This unfortunately doesn’t make sense for extreme outliers like the DP2Q; we’ll have to do something a bit different. This review will look primarily from the point of view of image quality, and whether we can live with everything else. This is the opposite from every other review I’ve written to date, and the reasons for this will become clear soon enough. The other big change will be considering workflow and software as part of the camera package: it’s impossible to do anything else, since unlike every other camera, there is no universal workflow we can apply. Those of you who do not like caveats, are unable to look at something objectively, or are not open minded, I suggest you save yourselves some angst and stop reading now.