Photoessay: studies in blue

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On an incredibly blue day in central Hong Kong, I could not help but do some modern Magritte-inspired elements involving the urban environment, layered reflections and the occasional cooperative cloud – there is a sort of sameness to the series, but at the same time a little closer attention will reveal that these images are really quite distinct. I think they are really focused variations on a theme. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116 and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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The test of time

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1957, from the Havana series

A little while ago, I wrote an article on images for posterity and what we would want to be remembered for vs what we might actually be remembered for. I’ve been wondering about why certain images are remembered and tend to stick in the minds of the viewers, or better yet, in common culture. I’ve had a hypothesis or two on that since, and wanted to share those thoughts. Though it isn’t the objective or necessity of every person taking pictures to make a different image for every single shot, I’m sure we all want to make something memorable. And some of us have to because well, that’s our job – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A visit to Zeiss and thoughts on the Milvus line

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The mothership

I was fortunate enough to spend the last three days at Zeiss with Lloyd Chambers (update: his blog entry is here) – with a level of access that I suspect that has never been granted before to independent external parties. They were gracious and first class hosts – I don’t think I’ve had that many types of non-alcohlic beer before. We asked every question we could think of and more, and received answers which we had never expected and at a level of depth that has left me deeply, deeply impressed with what the lens team is doing out in Oberkochen. This may seem like a strange way to talk about the new announcement, but bear with me for while; there is method to the madness. :)

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Recognizability, uniqueness, creativity and style

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Tokyo, 2007

Today’s article was inspired by a comment made by one of my readers a couple of months back: “It is interesting to look at your posts around 2 years back. I originally found the blog through reviews (surprise) but kept reading due to the good available light photography. Now a lot of the photos from back then look quite dated in comparison to your recent work, especially the processing.” I don’t know if it’s just the processing, or the fact that the processing is now entirely subservient to the idea, not locked into what is required for a certain look or style. I’ve always had an internal conflict between making images that are recognisably ‘Ming Thein’, not getting stuck in the same mould, and to a somewhat lesser extent, making images that are different from everything else. To anybody serious enough about photography that they seek to make a name for themselves – be it through commercial or gallery work* – I suspect this is not a unique conundrum. So what can we do?

*Arguably the same at times

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Photoessay: Seaside, Penang

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Sea eagle rock

Sometimes, we have very productive days inspired by our environments. This series was effectively shot in two afternoons – perhaps six hours total; it was just one of those days when everything came together – weather, location, possible subject matter. Perhaps it was brought on by me not particularly looking for anything and being receptive to possible scenes in a sort of photographic meditation/ relaxation; I’m one of those people who will shoot if idle just to see how things look and experiment a little. Half of these images were shot from a friend’s balcony along Tanjung Bunga north of Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia*; the other half were from a little beachside cafe in Batu Ferrenghi.

*Penang is a very rich photographic location; we cover it in How To See Ep. 3.

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OT guest contribution: The pathology of ‘fanboyism’ and a little advice to MT

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A representation of photographer logic; image suggested by MT.

A first for me: today’s post is an article courtesy of guest contributor, psychologist and photographer Dr. P.L., a London-based practitioner of some note who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid spam from said fanboys. I have asked him to keep the terminology as readable to the non-psychology layperson as possible.

I write this piece as a concerned reader and friend of MT: of late, I’ve started to notice a lot of hostility starting to creep into the comments, which must be addressed lest it be to the ultimate detriment of all.

Photography is a pursuit that is attractive to individuals who a) are creative, or believe they are creative; b) tend to be somewhat analytical; c) in general prefer to operate somewhat independently. As much as teamwork is required for a Crewdson-style production, ultimately there is still only one creative vision and one person aiming the camera. A) is necessary to be able to distil scenes of interest from the common. B) tends to be the case because some technical proficiency is required for the degree of control required to reliably translate vision to output. Photography is also an anthropological and psychological pursuit: we are reflecting ourselves in our observations, whether we share them with others or not. And more often than not we are observing others, too. I believe herein lies an explanation as to why photography seems to generate so many fanboys – and so much irrationality.

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Photoessay: Uniformity

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Today’s photoessay is a slight evolution on the previous theme. We still remain in an urban setting, but we look only at the uniform, the monolithic, and the stark. They are almost dehumanizingly abstract and yet instantly identifiable as artefacts of our own ambition and desire for bigger, better, more. There is a sort of progression in entropy here – we start with aspirational order and end in decay. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the nature of all things, or perhaps it’s just a consequence of requiring scale for abstraction and visual interest – read into it as much or as little as you please. Enjoy. MT

This series was shot in several countries with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, 45 PCE, 85/1.8G and Voigtlander 180/4 APO lenses. Postprocessing and color management was done using Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Thoughts on achieving natural tonality

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Riddle of the day: what do a good magic trick and a good photograph have in common – or by extension, a good prestidigitator and a good photographer?

The answer is of course both of them distort your perceived reality. The magician makes you believe you saw something that’s physically impossible, or at very least completely unexpected. The photographer presents you with either something you may not have expected, or could not previsualize. Both are technicians in a sense, but the best of both professions are more than that – they’re also psychologists. At this point, you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with tonality. Read on to find out.

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Repost: HDR, the zone system, and dynamic range

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My eyes, my eyes! I had to work quite hard to make this as a) I don’t own any of those filter programs and b) I don’t do this kind of hyper toned, overlapping HDR. The actual, final version of this image is at the end of the article.

Note: I’m reposting this article as a refresher before I talk about something a little harder to define in the next one.

HDR/ High Dynamic Range photography is perhaps one of the greatest blessings and curses of the digital age of imaging. On one hand, we have retina-searing rubbish that’s put out by people who for some odd reason celebrate the unnaturalness of the images, encouraged by the companies who make the filters that make doing this kind of thing too easy – and on the other hand, there are a lot of HDR images out there that you probably wouldn’t have pegged as being anything other than natural. There is, of course, a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. I use HDR techniques in almost all of my images – I live in the tropics, remember, and noon contrast can exceed 16 stops from deep shadows to extreme highlights – we simply have no choice if you want to produce a natural-looking scene.

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Photoessay: Hruba Skala at Cesky Raj

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About all that’s visible from the road

Today’s photoessay continues the previous two from Hruba Skala at Cesky Raj. I would think of today as more of a general overview and contextual positioning of these unique rock formations in the general landscape around the Cesky Raj (Bohemian Paradise) area in the northern part of the Czech Republic. What isn’t immediately apparent from this (and all other) images of the rocks is that they’re really not that easily visible from the roads surrounding the perimeter of the area, nor does the general topography suggest where you might find them. Instead, you are driving hopefully through some forest and there are little hints of entrance on the right which suggest something much larger. It isn’t til you get down into the gorges and keep walking that the sense of scale is actually apparent. It is one of the most surreal places I’ve been because of this dichotomy between our ability to comprehend the scale (unlike say the Grand Canyon) and the actual size of it – you can go up and touch elements of it, but you’ve got to do some walking. In other words, it’s bigger than you think. And a challenge to capture, too. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45mm PCE lenses, a Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, a Voigtlander 180/4 APO Lanthar and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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