Differences between eye and camera: practical implications

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Why is it so difficult to get sunsets to appear ‘right’? Read on for the answer.

Many photographs do not work. Subsequently, we find out they do not work because there is a difference between what you saw and what your audience sees in the image. Sometimes this comes down to lack of skill in translating an idea, but often it’s more subtle than that: the camera doesn’t see what we see, and we need to be both highly aware of that and how to compensate for it. Yesterday’s photoessay is a good example: it’s no big deal to make a monochrome image, but our eyes only perceive a lack of color under very exceptional circumstances. Yet it’s these differences that make some images stand out, and others not really ‘work’.

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Photoessay: a different kind of KL cityscape

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Ordered cubism

I personally find one of the most challenging things to do is make compelling and different images in a situation that is a familiar one: your home city, your usual equipment with nothing particularly special or capable of making a distinctive look (or another way of looking at it is a general purpose tool with a very versatile shooting envelope), challenging weather, and to top it off, conditions that are not ideally conducive for creativity*. These were shot during a private workshop as examples; I have to simultaneously apologise to and thank my student at the time: firstly, I felt I could have made better images with a bit more sleep, but the conditions pushed me to really look for something different. In the end, I think this set fit the bill: I am happy because these are images that I have not only not produced in some form or other before, but images that I never conceptualised because I was not looking in those places either – even though it wasn’t my first time there. Enjoy! MT

*Prolonged lack of sleep from a newborn and a small apartment full of relatives.

This series was shot with a Nikon D810 and 24-120/4 VR, which is probably about as flexible as you can get.

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Avoidable photographic errors

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Gratuitous header image.

Rule number one: there are no rules. A ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be a mistake if it helps convey the message or story or feeling intended by the photographer. I can easily think of multiple examples that go against every scenario described below. That said, for the most part, I’ve found these ‘mistakes’ to hold true. And if you want to achieve something very specific, then you either won’t be reading this article in the first place, or you’ll know when to bend the rules. The general viewing public probably has some preformed opinions of what is right/good, but these are born out of as much ignorance as conditioning by companies trying to sell more software or lenses or something else. There are rational reasons why these opinions may not necessarily be right in the context of fulfilling creative intention.

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One place available: Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss: Hanoi, Jul 21-26

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Due to one of the participant’s work commitments, I now have one place open for the Cinematic Photography Masterclass with Carl Zeiss in Hanoi, from 21-26 July – click here to book and for more details! MT

After the jump, a few snippets of thought from previous Masterclass participants…

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Review: The Olympus E-M5 Mark II

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 My usual deployment: handheld video, with HLD-8 battery grip, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35 Distagon rin an adaptor, and a Zoom H5 audio recorder. I am working on fixing the hard/sharp/uncomfortable edges of the battery grip with a silicone putty compound called Sugru, and will post the results in a future post.

Better late than never (or, I finally get around to trying out the second coming): the Olympus’ E-M5 Mark II. Many of the long-suffering readers of this site will know that I had a period of enthusiasm for M4/3 gear (and specifically the original E-M5) before that abruptly came to a halt in early 2014. The reasons were simple: firstly, camera technology has moved on; what was an impressive size/quality ratio in 2012 is not in 2015. Secondly, my output requirements have changed; the cameras have never had sufficient resolution to make a meaningfully-sized Ultraprint. Thirdly, there was no real solution to the shutter shock problem of the E-M1, which produced unusable images under basically every shooting condition – from 1/90s to 1/350s*. We were amongst the first to use the original E-M5 for video because of its stabiliser, and continued to use the E-M1s for video (including all of the workshop videos after The Fundamentals), Olympus and I then parted ways, and it appears they found new champions less demanding of their equipment. But, why the change of heart for me?

*I demand critically sharp pixels and can achieve them with the same camera under other conditions. Different users may have different thresholds of acceptability and different levels of shot discipline and not see any problems. On top of that, I tested >80 E-M1 bodies including >70 at Olympus Malaysia HQ, all of which exhibited the problem. The initial review unit did not, because it was a preproduction unit with a shutter module from a different batch. A firmware update was subsequently released with EFC, but it only works in single shot mode.

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The Q&A post: answers, part III

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Delving deeper into the abstract…

The final part of the epic. Find parts one and two here, the rest after the jump.

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The Q&A post: answers, part II

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Gratuitously painterly header image.

Continued from part one. Read on…

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The Q&A post: answers, part I

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Jazz time – put some music on. This is going to be a loooong post.

From an earlier post where I opened the floor to the readers, here are the answers. There were some enjoyable ones in there I really had to think hard about; I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of questions submitted, but decided to answer pretty much everything with the exception of speculative or ‘what should I buy’ posts about equipment. There is no way to answer these meaningfully without understanding the output objectives and skill level of the person wielding it; give a skilled photographer anything and it’s possible to make a compelling image, there is also the recommended gear list, and if it’s not on there, then there’s probably a reason.

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Photoessay: Tokyo cityscapes

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Skyline

We’re nearing the end of the images from the last trip to Tokyo. Today’s images are a continued evolution of the urban theme into something a bit more widespread; an attempt to capture the combined endless scale and whimsy of Tokyo. There are bits you might find surprising and challenging to your preconceptions of Japan – anything with space or trees or emptiness, for instance – but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? It is me giving in to my endless fascination for man-made light, texture and reflection in complementary colours. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, D750, 24/3.5 PCE, 45/2.8P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II; you can also travel vicariously to Japan with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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New Ultraprint offer: Motion at Rest, Venetian Cinematics 2

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Motion at rest – 15×12″, edition of 20

The next two images on offer are from Venice; after a decent amount of sitting time, the proofs are definitely something that I’d like to have on my own wall. Motion at rest is a study in contrasts between hard and soft light and forms; it is identifiably Venice without being a cliche. Venetian Cinematics 2 is all about the red umbrella: that transient instant of passing a stranger in a rainy alleyway where you perhaps register their presence but not at a particularly conscious level; later on you may stop and wonder what might have been. It is in essence the intrigue of the city at the human level.

Read on for more information and to order. I’ve also got a Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass (21-26 July inclusive) which is open for registration – click here to book and for more information.

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