Photoessay: The boats of Venice

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Endless repetition

Venice is a city of water. Perhaps the city of water. And in such a city, a boat is a necessity, not a luxury – today’s photoessay is a little celebration of the the Riva, a tribute to the workhorse vaporetto, a nod to the cruise liner that dwarfs the city it arrives at, and a grudging acknowledgement of the ubiquitous gondola. They’re so ubiquitous that it’s near impossible to make an image of Venice that doesn’t have one in it somewhere, in some form – whether literal or represented only – and even more difficult to have that image not turn into a cliche. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Pentax 645Z and Ricoh GR.

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Repost: Aspect ratios and compositional theory

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Round plate in a square frame. The composition is ostensibly balanced, but a little randomization is created by the uneven lighting. Leica D-Lux 5

Today’s article is a repost of a classic from two years ago (has it really been that long?) I bring it up again on the back of an interesting offline discussion I’ve been having with one of my email school students. How many people think about the relationship between idea, subject, composition and the final presentation format before hitting the shutter? The missing link is usually the last one – and almost always results in a necessary compromise in composition. But, there are ways to fill the empty space, as you shall see…

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Photoessay: In the redwood forest

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At the end of last year, I spent an enjoyable day with Lloyd Chambers in the Purisima Creek Redwood Park about two hours out of San Francisco; being from a much more tropical part of the world, it was my first experience photographing in this environment and this subject. I have to say the very pleasant company, comfortable temperature, lack of people and generally clear forest floor made for a very enjoyable afternoon – and more importantly, one that was conducive to making photographs.

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Review of a rare bird: the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

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According to multiple sources, total production of this optic is somewhere between 700 and 1000 units in Nikon AI-S (unchipped F) mount; there were a few more made in Pentax K, and M42. The lens came out of the Cosina Voigtlander factory in the early 2000s, on the heels of the now-legendary 125/2.5 APO-Lanthar and more common 90/3.5 APO-Lanthar. All of these lenses had very short production runs, probably because it was right about the time the CV factory was switching over to produce the modern Zeiss lenses. This is a shame, because they’re relevant lenses more than ever. During my last trip to Tokyo in December, I found not one – but two of the very rare 180mm lenses. Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter says this is the first time he’s seen one for sale – let alone two. Naturally, it followed me home. The other lens found a home with one of the site regulars…

Samples were shot on a Nikon D750 and D810.

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Photoessay: Slices of architecture, San Francisco

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Today’s photoessay is about the details: those little interactions of texture, light and form that suggest identity. I find myself inexplicably drawn to these things when I’m in a city; perhaps because in some way they contain they are the observable and comprehendible essence of a place. An entire city is too much to process and consciously describe at once; but the details are how our brains subconsciously look for visual cues to our physical locations. San Francisco is full of these – from the fire escapes, to the reflected landmarks (of which there are many to begin with) and the colours and quality of light.

This series was shot almost entirely with a Pentax 645Z.

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Paranoia and suspicion: photographers are not terrorists

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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?

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Anniversary time: into the terrible threes

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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

The mystery camera, revealed

After seeing the slew of positive, curious, speculative, accurate* and sarcastic reactions to the review/preview of the mystery camera from last week, it’s time for the reveal.

*Congratulations: the clues were deliberate.

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That medium format ‘look': what is it?

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Four

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.

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Photoessay: Lakeside

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Cue the James Bond theme song

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

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar, Pentax 645Z, 25, 55, 90 and 200mm lenses, and post processed with the new A2 Photoshop workflow II

The Black Island is available as a limited edition Ultraprint here.

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