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.
Following on from the previous article on improving the digital B&W workflow process, it’s only fair that I show you some examples. I’ve chosen near-field landscapes – effectively, trees – as the test material, because I’ve always felt that this has been the most difficult subject to capture in a convincingly natural way*.
*Yes, I know, nature is in colour and monochrome images are by definition unnatural, but bear with me here.
Today, we’re taking a little break from the travel-themed images I’ve been posting of late, and return to nature somewhat. I’ve always found something compelling about trees; I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s some deep-rooted part of our subconscious that calls for an occasional visual break from the uniformly geometric concrete we live in, and an embracing of the naturally fractal and chaotic world for a change instead. Judging from the feedback on previous images and photoessays, I’ve also found this to be the case with a lot of other people, too.
Today’s photoessay is a very special one for me: firstly because I’ve always wanted to photograph in Japan in the Autumn because of the extremely vivid colours and semi-perfected nature*; secondly, because photographing them was a very meditative and pleasant experience for me. I’ve actually never had the chance to shoot unhindered, unhurried, and unencumbered in this way before; I had the luxury of sitting, looking and just feeling the scene and the light before photographing; sometimes for hours. As a result, I was in a very different – not to be cliched, but ‘zen’ is a pretty apt description here – state of mind when creating these; as a result, they’re quite different to my usual work. In addition, the first six images in this set will go into the first ever ultra print run – to be announced in the next day or so. You’ll be able to experience these images in a way that puts you in the scene, with detail that’s immersive and colour that’s both transparent and saturated. All of these images were shot under ideal conditions, too – medium format digital back, great lenses at optimum apertures, base ISO on a tripod – which means image quality is really about as good as it gets. In all honesty, an 800-pixel jpeg doesn’t even come close – but such are the limits of the internet. I really don’t have anything else to add other than please enjoy! MT
*All of these images were shot in gardens and parks around Tokyo – the Rikyugien Garden, the Nezu Museum Garden, and the Edo Open-Air Architectural Museum. You may recognise some of them from the How To See Ep.2: Tokyo video – I discuss their creation and composition in significantly more detail there.
Contrary to popular belief, I do shoot pedestrian subjects. Quite often, actually; it’s one of those ways you can condition yourself to see differently and pay more attention to light, form and composition. At the end of a long assignment some time ago, I took one of the Hasselblads, the 120/4 CF Makro-Planar and a few rolls of Acros out with me for a quick excursion to the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Park; I’d evidently gone at the wrong time of year since nothing much seemed to be in bloom. Still, I came back with a few interesting images from that outing – and all in all, was pretty satisfied with the output especially given that I hadn’t shot any film for going on two months at that point in time*.
*Work really does get in the way sometimes.
During my last trip to Tokyo – the workshop and the couple of spare days I had – one of the things I’d always wanted to do is find a bit of urban oasis in the concrete jungle of the city. It seems that the Japanese apply the same sort of perfection to their landscaping as they do to just about everything else – even though it seems at times that some parts of the composition may be chaotic, it’s probably intentional. On a more practical note, the gardens were used to provide easy perspective practice for that portion of the workshop. We visited Koishikawa garden near Iidabashi station – a little mini-enclave with several distinctively different areas to provide some variety.
Personally, I was just happy to enjoy the flawless green grass of the Imperial Palace East Garden – open to the public, and supposedly with regular lunchtime concerts (though I was there at the appointed place and time, I guess it must have been the wrong day). One of the photographic ideas I continued to explore here (and you may have seen some evidence of this in my past work already) was layering and the use of projected surrealism – spot the Monet-a-like, and homages to Chinese painting in the fish. Though I like this for my personal work, I’ve yet to see any commercial potential here…
Thoughts and comments welcome as always; you can click the images to view larger versions via the flickr landing page, plus EXIF data if you click on the right column (‘The photo taken with an XXX’).
If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (email@example.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or learn how to achieve a similar look with our Photoshop workflow DVDs. You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!
Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved