Photoessay: San Francisco street monochromes

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The pizza man

Following on from an earlier article about light and mood in monochrome, I feel some examples are in order. Though these were all shot in San Francisco, they are from different eras in my career. Nevertheless, I believe the feeling I personally experience in San Franciso is consistent – one of possibility and excitement reinforced by the weather and tempered by something slightly along the lines of wondering if you’re going to live up to the standards of the city or stand out like a hick – there’s this sort of sophistication and modern edginess, I suppose. And nights are quiet rather than being lively (or I’m simply going to the wrong places). Enjoy! MT

This set was shot with a diverse range of equipment, but processed using the techniques covered in the Monochrome Masterclass workshop video.

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In search of the unicorn

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Nope, that’s not it.

The ideal [insert your obsession of choice here] doesn’t exist.

We all like to think ‘if only…’ and it might. Whether it’s cameras, clients, light or partners, there’s always something that could be better. Perhaps this is a reflection of the consumerist and entitled nature of modern society as a whole, or perhaps it merely shows that we as people are always changing. Ironically, it is this very ‘if only’ that keeps things interesting: if you were to make the ideal image (in your own mind, and subject to the constraints of personal bias) of whatever you framed whenever you pressed the shutter, you’d quickly run out of possible subjects. It is not a bad thing at all that a) everybody has different opinions and b) we ourselves are in a state of constant flux. I know for certain that I approach familiar subjects like family or watches very differently now than from when I did previously. But there is perhaps such a thing as ‘good enough’ – better than 80/20, certainly – and we should probably know when to appreciate it. Today’s post is going to be looking at the business side of photography.

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Photoessay: observations in Hong Kong

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Everybody is a tourist sometimes

Today’s images are a series of observations of people shot in Hong Kong – it’s not quite the traditionally expected street photography, though neither is it my more abstracted ‘idea of man’ series, either. They are the sort of vignettes of life you get as you pass through the city with an openly observational eye – varying in scale and intensity of personal contact; familiar and unusual. I think this juxtaposition of immense scale and the relative insignificance of the individual being at odds with the lack of personal space is very much Hong Kong, as is the very variety of situations one might encounter within a relatively small radius. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q Typ 116 and processed with PS Workflow II or the Cinematic workflow in Outstanding Images Ep.5, Processing for style.

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The output disconnect and the future of image viewing

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Kuala Lumpur skyline after rain. An example image for which there is no perfect output medium at present: web sizes we don’t need to talk about. Full resolution screens lack the tonal resolution to render the clouds in a transparent manner; print comes closest, but ultimately is a reflective medium and so lacks the dynamic range to represent the difference between the foreground trees in deep shadow and the light in the buildings.

Let’s take stock of where we are at the moment in terms of viewing options for images: there’s basically still only digital and print. On the digital side, displays have been steadily increasing in resolution and information density – and to some extent also size; we have 4K monitors in some laptops at 14″ and under, 8K in some televisions with an enormous jump to 50″+, and the majority of devices sit in the 2-4MP range somewhere between 12″ and 30″. There are also mobile devices with HD, QHD or even 4K (the recently announced Sony Z5) resolutions in sub-6″ screens; that’s an absurdly huge range of pixel densities. Everything from about 100PPI to 800+PPI. Clearly, preparing content for this is not going to be easy; viewing distances don’t necessarily have anything to do with perceived information density (say pixels per degree of observed FOV), either. You can hold your mobile at such a distance that it subtends the same angle as your 27″ 5K iMac, but the problem is the iMac will actually have double or more of the information density – just look at the number of pixels along the long axis. Or the converse might be true. As image makers, how do we manage this?

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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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