On Assignment: the TBM breakthrough

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Today’s post is about a job I did at the start of January – the world’s premier maker of tunnel-boring machines, Herrenknecht (there are actually quite a surprising number) hired me to document the operation and breakthrough of their first variable-density boring machine*, which happened to be at work underneath Kuala Lumpur as part of the greater Klang Valley subway/ mass transit project. Up til this point, we have a pretty pathetic train system and monorail that doesn’t cover more than 3-4km; we don’t have a unified public transport system which combine with poor traffic management creates legendary jams**.

*Kuala Lumpur has a mix of rock and clay underneath it; you need a special machine to bore through both simultaneously – the machines for rock are too slow with clay and it also clogs the outlet ducting, and the machines for clay simply won’t cut rock.

**In the past, it has taken me up to 2 hours to travel the 1.5km from home to office at the wrong time. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just walk, try doing that in 35 C heat, 80+% humidity and the business suits that you’re expected to wear – not that clothes mean you’re any more or less competent at doing an office job…

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Photoessay: Living the Australian Dream, part II: signs of life

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Dinner out

This set continues my ‘Australian Dream’ mini series – think of it as a small exhibition in instalments, or a little series of observations on the Australian psyche from an outsider’s point of view – well, not a total outsider because I did live there during my childhood. Today we add the protagonists. To quote Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

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Photoessay: Living the Australian Dream, part I: the landscape

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The set

Interestingly, the notion of the ‘Australian Dream’ is much like the American one: a land of opportunity, space, freedom, big skies, friendly people and a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle. Though I grew up in Melbourne until I was 9, I haven’t been back in nearly 18 years; I was surprised by how much the place had changed, and at the same time, how much it hadn’t. There was a sense of international polish about it that wasn’t there before, or perhaps I hadn’t noticed it.

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Photoessay-review: the Nikon AFS 70-200/4 VR and Havana cityscapes, part I

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This will be the first in my new review format for ‘light’ reviews – pieces of equipment that perhaps don’t necessarily need a full blown magnum opus, but benefit from some context in deployment and typical usage. A short piece on the D4 will follow next.

One of the few lenses in the Canon system I’ve long been jealous of is their 70-200/4 IS (in addition to the 17TSE). Until not so long ago, Nikon users have been missing a light/ compact high quality telephoto option. Sure, there’s been the 70-300/4.5-5.6 VR, but that was only a decent performer up to 200mm; anything else was emergency territory. And it simply wasn’t that good on the D800E, nor a pro build. Finally, we have the AF-S 70-200mm f4 G VR ED IF (what a mouthful). I’m going to address two questions in this review: firstly, is it any good, and secondly, f2.8* or f4? I suspect the latter question is going to be of interest to many still sitting on the fence.

*It’s important to note there are two versions of the 70-200/2.8 G VR. I’ll go into the differences in more detail later.

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Tested: the 2013 Nikon Df

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My initial thoughts on the Nikon Df (which can be found here) were not positive, mainly due to the way the camera was marketed and executed. I’ve changed my mind somewhat after using it for the last week or so. However, it is simply a camera that does not work for me, even though it should tick every single box – I love my F2 Titan, D800Es pay for most of my bills, I’ve used or owned just about every lens produced in the last ten years, and I admit to secretly coveting the D4′s sensor – but there you go. It is a camera which doesn’t quite make up the sum of its parts.

Note: This is not going to be written in the style of my past reviews. For a start, there aren’t any images. And there’s a good reason for that.

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On Assignment: shooting a car

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It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these – partially because of respect for client embargos, partially because my recent assignments have been so hectic that I haven’t had time to pause for breath let alone b-roll; however, I’m hoping to rectify that today with a report from one of my larger recent shoots. In Malaysia, Nissan is phasing out the current 2013 Teana to make way for the all-new 2014 model. I was brought in originally with the intention of consulting on the 2014 campaign creative direction and shoot for the new car, however, at the last moment I got roped into the final campaign for the current car, too. And that shoot will be the subject of today’s post.

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Photoessay: New York City street colour

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Today’s photoessay is a set of images shot with the Nikon Coolpix A on the streets of New York City during my earlier workshop trip this year. NYC on a blue sky spring day is seriously difficult to beat. Not much to add, other than enjoy! MT

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If you’d like to learn how to make images like this, you’ll be pleased to know that one last seat has opened up for the Prague workshop (2-5 Oct) due to a participant’s conflicting work commitments. Now available at the special price of $1,900 instead of $2,150!For full details and to make a booking, click here. Thanks! MT

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On Assignment: architecture by night

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Sometimes, one is given some pretty sweet assignments. Quite near the top of that list is a commission to photograph beautiful buildings by one of the country’s – arguably the world’s, too – leading architects with the rare thing of a completely open creative brief. This is the position I found myself in a couple of months ago, camera bag in one hand, Mother Of All (somewhat portable) Tripods in the other, and sheaf of permission letters and permits from Hijjas Kasturi Associates tucked away safe inside the camera bag just in case.

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FD Shooting with the legends: the Nikon AI-S 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor

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The Noct-Nikkor is perhaps one of the most legendary – if not the most legendary – of the lenses in the Nikon pantheon. Hitting the market in its first AI version in 1977, it was designed to do two things: firstly, be shot wide open, and secondly, push the limits of the F mount’s relatively narrow diameter with a lens that would collect enough light to shoot relatively slow film at night, and without a tripod. Although based on a traditional double-gauss design, the lens incorporated one enormous technological advance for the time.

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FD Shooting with the legends: The Nikon F6

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Many thought this camera would never see the light of day, or it would do so as some strange film-digital hybrid with interchangeable backs. In 2004, however, Nikon gave the world one last hurrah in its long lineup of film cameras – the F6. The camera differs from its predecessors in many ways – firstly, it’s the only single-digit (pro) F body to lack interchangeable prisms; apparently this feature was so seldom used on the F5 that it was dropped. (Too bad, because the super-high eyepoint sports finder for that camera was a thing of beauty; easily the largest and brightest finder I’ve ever seen on a 35mm SLR.) It also revered to the F4 and previous designs that made the vertical grip a detachable unit, as opposed to the built-in on the F5. One can only suppose the F5 required a built in because of its insatiable hunger for AA batteries. The F6 uses a pair of CR123A lithiums; it lasts a bit longer, but two of those things still costs quite a bit more than a whole set of AAs for the F5.

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