The evolution of street photography

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Self reflection.

My initial idea for this post was to examine where street photography is going today; on further reflection, I think it’s perhaps more a question of addressing some overdone stereotypes perpetrated by camera collectors and social media warriors – not photographers – to see if we can get a bit more understanding into a) why those stereotypes exist, and b) if we want to produce visually different and better work, what needs to change. Read on, but only if you don’t believe everything should be shot from close range and monochrome contrast is solely binary.

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Photoessay: people of Prague, II

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Do we fear what we cannot see?

Part two of the People of Prague photoessay is to me the more exciting bit: it expands the more literal ‘people in sauce’ environmental slices of the previous series of images to explore my favourite personal project, the idea of man. When photographing I’m always looking out for spontaneous ideas as they evolve around me, but I think it’s important to be open to both the literal and the conceptual even if only for practice. And you never know when the former might develop into the latter (the sequencing of this photoessay is the same: we pick up roughly where the last one left off, and take it further). This particular series explores life at two scales, both individual and group; the latter is not something I’ve done much of up to this point simply because the opportunities aren’t always there. There’s also been plenty of feedback going around in the comments on other photoessays on the use of captions; personally I think if done right they can be used to suggest alternative lines of thought and potentially different interpretations of the scene. A little ambiguity is not a bad thing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot mostly with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo

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Photoessay: people of Prague, I

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The slight oppressiveness that is impossible to define

Let’s call this set a mix of environmental portraiture and street photography. People in their native element with minimal interference on the part of the photographer. I did stop and talk to some of them; it seems the Czechs in general are very friendly. Others didn’t notice me; I was just another tourist of many. Being a conscious observer in such an environment isn’t a bad thing; you blend in. And people don’t change what they do. This set is the first part of two reinterpretations of ‘people in sauce’ – we’ll talk about my hypotheses on what it means in a future article. We actually had precious few days of good light during the Prague Masterclass – meaning the majority of these images were actually shot on one day – but it was enough. I am continually reminded of just how rich a hunting ground this is when the light is right…enjoy! MT

This series was shot almost entirely with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with the exception of one image with a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Chicago and Tokyo Masterclasses, Chicago Portfolio Review open for booking

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Shibuya, Tokyo:  best suited to cinematic, urban, architecture and street; (more examples of what you might capture are here) think this is probably the best season to visit Tokyo – the trees are bright orange, the light is angled, and you’ve missed the grey winters, the cherry-blossom chasing hoardes, and the typhoons of summer. Images like Lone Tree were made around this time of year. It’s a little tricky to time the autumn leaves precisely, but generally +/- a week or two is fine. Please note that Tokyo will be a little more guided  location-wise than Chicago simply for ease of logistics and because of the language.

I’m pleased to announce two more Masterclasses for 2015, and a new Portfolio Review format – these will probably be the last two for the year, and in two of my favourite and most photographically rich cities:

Chicago and Tokyo!

Read on for more details and to book.

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How to choose equipment

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How do you spontaneously prepare for situations like this? Or compose around your limitations?

This is a question that all of us have to address at some point or other – and one whose answer is not exactly straightforward. Having fielded this many times from students, random persons and more often than not, myself, I feel fairly qualified to answer it in a way that I feel yields the best compromise…

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Review: The Canon 5DSR, part I – solo

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This is both the first extended review I’ve done in some time, and the first one of a Canon product. Regular readers will know that I only review things that are interesting, and to be interesting, they have to expand the envelope somehow. I am curious as to whether the 5DSR will do this –
I sold my 645Z a few months back because I could not justify ow ning a second system against the need for a larger home for my family; but I won’t deny that I missed its resolution and print flexibility, especially for making larger Ultraprints.

I come to this review as primarily a Nikon D810 shooter. I make no secret of the fact that I have not that much experience with Canon other than a serious evaluation period in 2007 where I decided if I should switch (pre D3); I didn’t because local support at the time left a lot to be desired. However, I also come to this review with an open mind: I’ve tried many other systems previously to expand my toolkit including Leica M, Pentax 645, Hasselblad V and M4/3. And I can guarantee you that I have no self-interest either way, since these experiments have come out of my own pocket. The 5DSR was also purchased at retail and is NOT a loaner. I don’t care what the name plate on my camera says: I care only that it lets me make the images I want to make and doesn’t get in the way, and my clients are the same. If anything, I am biased towards image quality. That said, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some forum keyboard warrior ‘expert’ asserts I’m now on the Canon payroll.

Note: I will present few full-size samples because I simply don’t have the bandwidth, nor do I trust that they won’t be reused without permission – it’s happened before. Given the limitations of web JPEGs, please go according to what I say and not what you see. Any perceived oversharpening is thanks to Flickr’s overzealous resizing algorithms and not blindness on my part. Read on if you have an open mind. Finally, a special thank you must go to my last client for allowing me to share some of the images from that assignment at the Crawick Multiverse and Garden of Cosmic Speculation. I literally collected the camera a few hours before heading to the airport and this was the first time I’d shot with it properly – no pressure…

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Photoessay: small humans, Prague

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The underlying economy

In today’s photoessay, the people of Prague play a secondary role in the proceedings: they are there to provide a sense of scale and a little humanisation to the various urban tableaux. The idea behind this series is that whilst people usually take centre stage, even in a very established human-scale city* they eventually play second fiddle to the spectacle of the environment around them. Ironically, even though we created the environment to serve us, it has outlasted us and in some ways rendered us merely transient. I have thus shrunken the people accordingly. Enjoy!

*Unlike very large modern cities like say, New York

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, Ricoh GR and Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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The idea of a ‘5’

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Drawing down on ghosts. Vysehrad fort, Prague

Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.

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‘Connection’ exhibition report – and finally, a book – available to order now!

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One big bit of news today: I finally have a book out, at an affordable price, for a good cause! Following on from the Connection exhibition with Chun Wo Development earlier this month at the Hong Kong Arts Center, we’ve also produced a book containing all the images from the exhibition. Like the print sales and corporate sponsorships from the exhibition itself, all proceeds will go to the Lifewire and Construction Workers’ Association Fund charities; we managed to raise over HK$1.8 million net so far. The former is probably one of the first crowdfunding platforms for providing healthcare to the underprivileged, and the latter is for the families of construction workers injured on the job. Click through for the ordering link and images from the exhibition.

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Understanding AF and MF: focusing aids tested

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Right after the question of ‘what X should I buy?’ comes ‘how do you manually focus your lenses?’ in popularity. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to dismiss everything under the sufficiency banner; contrary to the trends in image quality, we’ve gone the opposite direction away from sufficiency. There used to be a time when viewfinders were actually very good for acquiring focus manually; there was no choice because there was simply no other way to focus, either. That required a few things: firstly, a focusing screen with adequate coarseness (sometimes also referred to as ‘snap’); the same distance between flange and focusing screen and flange and imaging plane; adequate magnification, and fast lenses – to compensate for the coarseness of the focusing screen making it somewhat dark. Looking through the viewfinder of an F2 or a Hasselblad is a revelation compared to the drinking straws of modern finders. It seems we barely have the latter these days. So what can we do?

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