Review: The 2014 Leica X Typ 113

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Photokina 2014 saw the release of an updated Leica X model – the typ 113. I’ve decided to review it for two reasons: firstly, to make another attempt at overcoming my personal lack of enthusiasm for the 35mm FOV, and secondly, out of curiosity to see how good the new lens is – it’s now a newly-designed 23/1.7, changed from the previous 23/2.8 which I believe is a derivative of the M-mount design. The sensor remains the same as the X2 at 16MP, and APS-C. Finally, some design updates complete the package – leaving the X looking more like a mini-M than ever.

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Photoessay: May Day in Havana

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Against the crowd

And now for something a bit different, both from an experiential standpoint and a content one. As part of the Havana Masterclass, I arranged a massive demonstration of communism to create a realistic photojournalistic scenario we attended the 1st of May parade at Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – perhaps the biggest socialist event in the entire Cuban calendar. Rather than being observers of the parade, as I’d expected, we got sucked into the enormous number of participants – I would say easily in the hundreds of thousands, covering the entire length and width of Plaza de la Revolucion and beyond. And as you are no doubt aware, the best images are made when you’re not just watching it, but actually in it.

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Derivative works and photography

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Influenced by the architect? Surely. Created by him? About as much as it was created by Apple, because it was shot on an iPhone.

I originally wanted to call this article ‘is anything truly original?’ – however, I think that’s the concluding question I’d like to leave the reader with rather than the opening one. There has been a lot of debate recently – both in the comments here, offline amongst my usual correspondents and in various places on the internet about why a) photography is perhaps not perceived as ‘highly valued’ as other art forms; b) obviously derivative works and the creative value – or lack of – contained therein; and the greater question of whether c) the medium as a legitimate creative art form rather than merely a recording/ documentary one. Perhaps the biggest question is in the title: ‘but is it art?’

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Photoessay: Urban vignettes

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Late night negotiations

I’ve put together this set as a sort of compilation of singles that worked at the time, but perhaps needed company to work as a photoessay; the problem is, it’s not exactly the kind of thing you can go out and look to shoot specifically: it either happens, or it doesn’t. It’s taken me some time to accumulate a decent number of images to present as a series here. I like to think of them as little slices of life, with both a bit of whimsy and perhaps something to make you think; beyond that, there also has to be something aesthetically pleasing about them – a sense of balanced tranquility, if you will. Enjoy! MT

Shot with various cameras over the last year and a half, including some I was merely testing and others I no longer own.

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One place left for the 24-29 November Venice Masterclass

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Just a gentle reminder that I’ve got one last spot available for the 2014 Venice Masterclass – it runs from 24-29 November – atmospheric enough to be different, not so cold to be unpleasant, and few enough tourists that we can still make images that are unique – but best of all, is customised for each participant to focus on what you want to learn, and will challenge you photographically in ways you never thought possible. You’ll spend six intense but inspiring days with a group of fellow enthusiasts, solo, and in individual sessions with me; your photographic brain will be rebooted.

More details on the program are here. See these posts on the recent San Francisco and Havana Masterclasses earlier this year. Please email me if you’d like to book, or for more info. Thanks, and looking forward to seeing you all in Venice! MT

Workshop report and 2015 poll: Outstanding Images Chicago, Masterclass San Francisco

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As has become customary post-workshop, I’m pleased to present the report from the Chicago Making Outstanding Images Workshop and San Francisco Masterclass in early September this year. Following the previous London and Havana reports, I’d like to share some of the best images from my students instead of showing too many photographs of people photographing – I think those aren’t quite as demonstrative of what can be achieved in just a few days. Since next year’s workshop schedule is still very much open, I’m going to finish up with a poll to see where you’d like me to go next.

Finally, a spot has recently opened up for the November 24-29 Venice Masterclass due to one participant’s last minute work commitments. Please email me if you’d like to book, or for more info.

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Photoessay: interior detail whimsy

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I’ve always been a big fan of minimalist ‘design’ photography that matches the philosophy of the object being photographed; usually something sculptural with few external features in light materials on a light background with subtle use of light to highlight the contours of the object. It’s not something I’ve done much of because my product photography style leans more towards one of ‘controlled richness’, however this doesn’t mean one can’t experiment. Today’s photoessay is a little experiment over the course of many months/ cameras with some injected fun randomness; it’s a break from my usual work. The EXIF data of some may surprise you. Enjoy! MT

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System thinking

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Choices, choices, choices. From the ultimate image quality shootout.

We have a rather strange hardware problem: on casual observation, simultaneously too much choice, but at the same time, when all things are taken into account, a lack of it. It isn’t the problem of the perfect camera not existing, but rather that we have to jump through a lot of hoops for a complete solution. There are digital systems with sensor sizes ranging from 2/3” (Pentax Q) to 645 (Phase One, Hasselblad) – and to make things more confusing, surprising amounts of interchangeability*. So what is a serious photographer to do?

*Practically, this is nothing more than an illusion and a bunch of empty promises: even if you can do it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea.

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Photoessay: Dengue, personalized

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Dengue fever isn’t fun, as we discovered a couple of months ago. Perhaps the worst thing about it is the fact that there’s actually very little modern medicine can do for you other than paracetamol to alleviate the high fever, saline drips and other fluids to help rehydrate…and if things get really bad, a blood transfusion to boost your platelets and white blood cell count – falling counts are a consequence of the virus and dangerous because secondary infection or haemorrhaging. Beyond that, you’ll feel very easily fatigued for weeks afterwards. Everybody else can’t do much but watch and help you through the normal ablutionary tasks that suddenly become enormously difficult with low energy levels. My wife was unfortunate enough to have gotten it a few months ago – right before we were supposed to go to London, which resulted in me travelling alone – and she describes it as an incredibly bad non-stop fatigue – once the discomfort of the fever goes away, and before the itchiness of the tertiary rashes set in.

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Digital maturity

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State of the art – but for how long?

We’re now into ten years into the mainstream DSLR revolution started by the Nikon D70 and Canon 300D; that’s a decent amount of time by any measure, and by consumer technology standards, an eternity. I suspect many readers of this site will remember those cameras well – they probably marked the point of switching from film, a revival in interest in photography, or the beginning of a new passion. For me, it was the latter: I go into the digital game in late 2002, with a Sony compact that I carried pretty much everywhere (and made zero memorable images with). A bridge camera followed in 2003, and was swiftly replaced with a D70 on release day in 2004. I would say that was personally the opening of the floodgates: I had good enough, and I didn’t have the inconvienience or cost of film. The rest was up to me.

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