The fuss about fifties

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It seems there are perhaps as many roads to Rome as there are 50mm lenses and their approximate equivalents – these are just some of the examples I’ve owned and/or used in the last five years, and is by no means extensive. Off the top of my head, missing are the ubiquitous Nikon 50/1.4, which I’ve owned in three versions; the 55/1.2 pre-AI; the 50/2.8 Micro-Nikkor; the Leica 50/2 Summicron; the Hasselblad CF 4/50 FLE, the Pentax 645 55/2.8 SDM – I could find images of these lenses I’d shot previously – and we haven’t even talked about other brands or extending the envelope downwards, to say 45mm or equivalents in other formats (e.g. 25mm on M4/3, or 35mm on APSC). So why the fascination with and proliferation of lenses around this range?

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Photoessay: Silent in Kuala Lumpur

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Urban environments are characterised by people: creators, masters, users. They are odd when empty simply because they were never intended to be empty. What is left can be whatever you want it to be; sinister, lonely, a mere abstraction of form and color. Sometimes I wonder about the whole creative circle underlying these locations and objects: somebody had to design and make them, and they had to find the inspiration from somewhere else. We then in turn find something of interest in their forms – but probably not what the original creator intended, especially when taken in concert with environment and other unplanned or juxtaposed objects. Or perhaps I’m thinking too much. Make of these what you will…MT

This series was shot over a period of time with a wide variety of hardware and processed with the fine art technique in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.

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Time for a bit of a rethink

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This year has felt like a year of big changes for me – aside from the arrival of a new family member, my photographic focus has also changed. This is true of both professional and personal work; the former has become increasingly freestyle and less considered, and the latter has done the opposite and become more deliberate and structured. I’ll frequently go out with a tripod on a walk but haven’t used it on my last two assignments. I’ve set up flash still lifes at home, but opted for natural light during my last portrait (!) shoot. I’ve made three system changes (so far) and it’s only August. The problem is, none of them quite sit right. And I think this means it’s time to go back to the beginning. [Read more…]

Photoessay: Prague nightscapes

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Not your typical postcard

Today’s photoessay is a series off nightscapes from Prague. I’ve always found night photography requires a bit of an ‘inertial hump’ to get over – especially if you’re out hauling the tripod for some long exposures; there’s an optimum window just after dusk when the sky is a dark blue and not totally black, balancing off with the ambient illumination of the buildings. It means you have to carefully plan your locations and/or route in order to be at the right place at the right time; on top of that, I find the actual shooting window is pretty small – perhaps two hours at best unless you’re living at extreme latitudes in summer.

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Kuala Lumpur reader meetup – Sat 8 Aug

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I’ll be doing an informal reader meetup for those of you in Kuala Lumpur this Saturday (8 Aug) at 10am, Plan B, Bangsar Village I – feel free to drop by and say hi…MT

Off topic: a creative frame of mind

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Not conducive.

This post will not make any sense at first, and certainly not the title image – but I’ll get there. As a photographer – and a person trying to find something different and visually/aesthetically pleasing under sometimes challenging situations, it’s important to be aware of things that can limit or aid us. From a general life standpoint, the things that inspire us also tend to be the ones that put us in a good mood – and in what way is that bad? Having spent time in a wide range of places which cover all portions of the inspiration scale, there are definitely places that stand out as being better than others – but often for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. But you do notice it in the way the locals smile, have a spring in their step, tend to be encouraged and happy to run their own small businesses, and generally seem happy. In contrast, places that stifle or are not conducive to creativity tend to be missing that ‘zing’: everything is transactional ends at the next buck.

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Photoessay: Details of a forest

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Explosion

Perhaps this set should have been called ‘seeing the wood for the trees’ – often in a situation where there is so much going on, it’s not easy to pick out and compose for individual details. There’s a sort of cognitive deception going on – there appears to be a lot of areas of interest, but in reality you’ve got to be very careful because it’s really the juxtaposition and perceived density that makes the scene interesting – without the context, you don’t know it’s one tree of many, or that the level of detail continues on to increasingly smaller scales, or that a particular rock formation is out of place. A good rule of thumb is that the detail of interest must be markedly different from the surrounding areas in order to stand out and hold audience attention. That of course means including the surrounding areas…

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There are no absolutes: erosion and hope in the photographic industry

Is an image good? Bad? Ugly? Beautiful? Art? Everybody has an opinion, and those are based on the expectations formed by the biases created as a result of one’s own existence and experiences. What is considered beautiful in one culture may be hideous in another, or unremarkable. Art is in the eye of the beholder (or more importantly, the person signing the cheques). For anything that is subjective, there can be no absolutes. Take taste, or ambient temperature, for instance. There are preferences, nothing more. It is therefore perplexing that the whole industry is so hung up on both comparisons and seeking the lowest common denominator.

Advance warning: this post may be considered a rant by some.

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Photoessay: Abstract rocks of Hruba Skala

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Hrubá Skalá is a tiny little village around a castle, located in the Český Ráj (Bohemian Paradise) area of the Czech Republic. It’s about an hour or so north of Prague and very much in the countryside; farmhouses there change hands for EUR 20,000 or thereabouts. It also contains some of the most interesting rock formations on earth – a mixture of limestone and sandstone towers in fantastic shapes that remained whilst the surrounding soil eroded away. In places they protrude out of the forest forming a cliff line; in others they are so near to each other that canyons which never see any light are formed. Walking between them is quite otherworldly – not just because of their scale, but because you pretty much have the place to yourself.

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Exhibition announcement: “The Idea of Man”, Oct 2-31 2015 at the Rangefinder Gallery, Chicago

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I’m pleased to announce my second exhibition of 2015: The Idea of Man, which runs from October 2-31 at the Rangefinder Gallery at Tamarkin Camera, Chicago. Though the previously intended book didn’t happen (yet, we’re working on it) – a good selection of the images will make it into this exhibition as Ultraprints, which will be for sale in a limited run of 10 per image.

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