Photoessay: Abstract rocks of Hruba Skala

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I

Hrubá Skalá is a tiny little village around a castle, located in the Český Ráj (Bohemian Paradise) area of the Czech Republic. It’s about an hour or so north of Prague and very much in the countryside; farmhouses there change hands for EUR 20,000 or thereabouts. It also contains some of the most interesting rock formations on earth – a mixture of limestone and sandstone towers in fantastic shapes that remained whilst the surrounding soil eroded away. In places they protrude out of the forest forming a cliff line; in others they are so near to each other that canyons which never see any light are formed. Walking between them is quite otherworldly – not just because of their scale, but because you pretty much have the place to yourself.

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Photoessay: People of Venice

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A touch of longing

Today’s photoessay is perhaps best thought of a series of vignettes of the locals living in Venice – there may be one or two tourists that got caught in the mix, but I doubt most of them would buy raw meat at the butcher’s. There was a deliberate effort on my part to exclude people who were obviously tourists and focus on individuals; that wasn’t actually too difficult since it was a) winter and b) I was in many of the neighbourhoods that pretty much only saw residents. Those who attended my Venice Masterclass in November 2014 may recognise some of these images from the final day’s curation and processing session; in fact, you might even have been there at the time of capture… Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Ricoh GR, 21mm converter, 645Z and 55/2.8 SDM and processed with a mixture of PS workflow II and the ‘fine art’ style in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5: Processing For Style.

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Repost: Defining cinematic

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Given we’re in the first day of the Cinematic Masterclass with Zeiss in Hanoi, it seems only appropriate that I bring back this classic post for another round – with new images, of course! 

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Photoessay: Painterly in Venice

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Lamps and gondolas

Soft, diffuse light from an overcast sky; directionality to darkness brought on by narrow alleyways; perpetual twilight indoors necessitating the use of artificial incandescent light all the time. Sounds like a photographic nightmare? Not quite; I’ve revised my initial philosophy of ‘you always need great light to make a great image’ to ‘there’s no such thing as bad light: just inappropriate light for the subject and vice versa’. November in Venice is almost nothing but this kind of light – one can either put the camera away entirely and stay indoors, or make the most of it by finding the right subjects.

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Photoessay: people of Prague, II

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Do we fear what we cannot see?

Part two of the People of Prague photoessay is to me the more exciting bit: it expands the more literal ‘people in sauce’ environmental slices of the previous series of images to explore my favourite personal project, the idea of man. When photographing I’m always looking out for spontaneous ideas as they evolve around me, but I think it’s important to be open to both the literal and the conceptual even if only for practice. And you never know when the former might develop into the latter (the sequencing of this photoessay is the same: we pick up roughly where the last one left off, and take it further). This particular series explores life at two scales, both individual and group; the latter is not something I’ve done much of up to this point simply because the opportunities aren’t always there. There’s also been plenty of feedback going around in the comments on other photoessays on the use of captions; personally I think if done right they can be used to suggest alternative lines of thought and potentially different interpretations of the scene. A little ambiguity is not a bad thing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot mostly with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo

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Photoessay: people of Prague, I

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The slight oppressiveness that is impossible to define

Let’s call this set a mix of environmental portraiture and street photography. People in their native element with minimal interference on the part of the photographer. I did stop and talk to some of them; it seems the Czechs in general are very friendly. Others didn’t notice me; I was just another tourist of many. Being a conscious observer in such an environment isn’t a bad thing; you blend in. And people don’t change what they do. This set is the first part of two reinterpretations of ‘people in sauce’ – we’ll talk about my hypotheses on what it means in a future article. We actually had precious few days of good light during the Prague Masterclass – meaning the majority of these images were actually shot on one day – but it was enough. I am continually reminded of just how rich a hunting ground this is when the light is right…enjoy! MT

This series was shot almost entirely with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with the exception of one image with a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also cover street photography techniques in S1: Street Photography and How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Praghitecture

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Predawn rooftops I

Today’s photoessay are a selection of buildings from Prague in a mix of styles I’d consider to be somewhere between modern European and ‘restored classical’. I think the Czech Republic manages to strike a good balance between keeping the bones of history intact, modernising it to fit current needs and creating something new – there are exceptions, of course (one of which you will see in this photoessay). I could have spent a lot of time shooting nothing but architecture here – I had teaching obligations so I didn’t, but you get the idea…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, 24-120/4 VR, Zeiss Otus 85 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO and postprocessed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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Photoessay: small humans, Prague

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The underlying economy

In today’s photoessay, the people of Prague play a secondary role in the proceedings: they are there to provide a sense of scale and a little humanisation to the various urban tableaux. The idea behind this series is that whilst people usually take centre stage, even in a very established human-scale city* they eventually play second fiddle to the spectacle of the environment around them. Ironically, even though we created the environment to serve us, it has outlasted us and in some ways rendered us merely transient. I have thus shrunken the people accordingly. Enjoy!

*Unlike very large modern cities like say, New York

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, Ricoh GR and Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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The idea of a ‘5’

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Drawing down on ghosts. Vysehrad fort, Prague

Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.

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‘Connection’ exhibition report – and finally, a book – available to order now!

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One big bit of news today: I finally have a book out, at an affordable price, for a good cause! Following on from the Connection exhibition with Chun Wo Development earlier this month at the Hong Kong Arts Center, we’ve also produced a book containing all the images from the exhibition. Like the print sales and corporate sponsorships from the exhibition itself, all proceeds will go to the Lifewire and Construction Workers’ Association Fund charities; we managed to raise over HK$1.8 million net so far. The former is probably one of the first crowdfunding platforms for providing healthcare to the underprivileged, and the latter is for the families of construction workers injured on the job. Click through for the ordering link and images from the exhibition.

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