Photoessay: Observer and observed

IMG_8722b copyHunter and spotter – from the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass

What I’ve always found amazing is how completely inconspicuous and transparent mobile phones are. They’ve become such an ubiquitous part of daily life that they’re not noticed; like hats in the 20s and 30s. Not having one is the exception. Surprisingly, I’ve also found that aiming your phone at something to take a picture – complete with awkward stance, delicate ‘I’m-going-to-drop-this-thing-becuase-the-ergonomics-are-bad’ finger poses and device held at arms’ length – is completely ignored even though it’s a lot more obvious than using a camera discretely. Have we learned to filter it out during the few short years of mobile photography? Evidently so. I’ve gone from seeing a cameraphone as completely useless to a curiosity and masochistic challenge to an interestingly stealthy way of observing the world: it has properties that cannot be replicated by other cameras, which in turn result in fairly unique images. First of course is ubiquity and stealth; second is silence; third are generally fast/intuitive interfaces (tap to focus, expose AND shoot!). You can get in close and not be seen. Or be seen and nobody feels intimidated, at least in my experience. I find this odd since you’re far more likely to post on FB with your iPhone than your 4×5… In any case, I present today a series of what I’d think of as observations – both as observer, and observed, and an observer observing the observers. Enjoy. MT

This series was shot with an iPhone 6 Plus and processed using the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. [Read more…]

Photoessay: Monochrome life in Venice

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Venice in winter is grey, with occasional Canaletto skies when the clear window happens to coincide with sunset. But for the most part, light is meagre but nicely angled. Life continues as normal for the inhabitants and tourists, though; in fact, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to spot a local at all; they’re a minority in their own city, which is a little sad. The unifying theme throughout these images is that with the exception of one or two, all of the protagonists are locals. They’re a little bit more elegant, don’t carry backpacks or cameras, and walk with purpose rather than dissembly – here’s to the Venetians.

This series was shot during the Venice Masterclass with a Ricoh GR, Pentax 645Z, 55/2.8 and 150/3.5 lenses, and post processed mostly using the low key and balanced workflows in The Monochrome Masterclass.

[Read more…]

On assignment photoessay: Construction, part II

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I’m presenting the second part of the Construction photoessay today – here, the individuals slowly recede into the context of the greater project and become important contributing parts of the whole. The ‘context’ is so large it often overwhelms everything else – I personally find the coordination part of the work amazing because once you’re on site, it’s very easy to get lost in the details. Large prints would of course work best to show the scale of many of these developments, but there are still limitations to the internet :) [Read more…]

On assignment photoessay: Construction, part I

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This series of images comes from my body of work from the last year-plus for client Chun Wo in Hong Kong; they are the largest local construction company and are mainly involved in large infrastructure projects, including the airport and Central-Wanchai bypass that spans most of the prime waterfront. As many of you will have seen from previous photoessays and posts, my brief with them is an ongoing on that covers several aspects: 1) documenting work in progress in the greater context of Hong Kong, as a historical record; 2) documenting and celebrating the workers who make it all possible; 3) recording the finished projects. Earlier in the year, we held a successful charity exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center which showcased a limited selection of the work – something like ~100 out of about 1,500 images delivered. I’ve been asked many times if we could share some of those images online for those who weren’t able to make it in person, so here we are. [Read more…]

Photoessay: Monochromes from Luzern

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Escaping boxes

Today I present a small selection of black and white images from a lazy afternoon in Luzern, Switzerland – there was definitely a feeling of summer malaise amongst both visitors and tourists, and even the hardware felt like it was taking a day off. All in all, not a bad way to decompress after an assignment. I went out with a very lightweight kit (especially after said previous assignment) of just the 5DSR, 40 STM and Leica Q; landed up reading a book by the lake in the company of a rather good Hoyo Des Dieux and actually relaxing a bit for a change. Despite that, if you’re a photographer in a foreign city, there’s simply no way you’re not going to take photographs of any sort even if you need a breather from taking photographs – such is the nature of obsession I guess. Enjoy! MT This series was shot with a Canon 5DSR, 40 STM, Leica Q 116 and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass ‘balanced’ workflow. [Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

It’s all about light: making mood and strong images in monochrome

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Rush hour

A couple of days ago, we looked at the inexact science of color and emotion: I don’t think anybody is going to argue that the mood and feeling of an image is influenced heavily by the dominant color palette, both in terms of the color of incident/reflected light and the color of the subject elements themselves. But how does this translate to black and white images? Obviously, it’s very possible to do since not every monochrome image feels the same. Even within the same sort of general lighting – say low key – it’s possible to produce variations in mood. How?

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Photoessay: The Verticality Project, part II

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XXVI, Hong Kong

Today’s photoesssay is a continuation of the Verticality Project photoessay. I see this as an ongoing study of architecture. The aim is to replicate the feeling you get when you stand at the base of one of these things and look up: a sense of overbearing monolithic massiveness. The choice of a black and white square with no building base is deliberate: the sense of size remains because off the perspective, and the mood is maintained regardless of the color of the sky.

The majority of these were shot in San Francisco and Chicago, with a Pentax 645Z. Enjoy! MT

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Monochrome landscapes from Queenstown

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Lake Hawea

As you might have gathered, Queenstown turned into a very landscape-photography oriented photography trip; the colors of the landscape were magical, but the variation in light and contrast was even more so – naturally lending itself to fantastic black and white images. Since it was winter, the sun traces an arc across the sky but never shines directly downwards from above – the upshot of this is you can shoot at all times of day. Naturally, I took advantage of it. I drove, stopped where the light arrested me, shot, and moved on. And on one day, spent most of the afternoon in the Arrowtown River delta – formerly the site of the Queenstown gold rush, but now the the home of some pretty spectacular trees – and a riot of colour that will be the subject of a future photoessay. Nevertheless, I felt black and white suited the subject matter quite well, as the trees in winter have this stark beauty to them that I felt was best captured without that sense of ‘life’ that colour imbues.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: London architecture in mono

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Pillar and shadow

Summer is a good time for architectural photoigraphy. From a photographic standpoint, colors of course become more intense, but the contrast is also helpful for monochrome photography, and with the right filters (film or digital), extra punch and contrast can be given to skies. Given London’s relatively high latitude, even during the height of summer the sun doesn’t go perpendicularly overhead as it does in the tropics – which means not being quite so restricted about shooting during noon.

[Read more…]


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