Photoessay: Studies of an old Jaguar

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Imagine this situation: you’ve been invited to photograph in an interesting private residence/art center/ architectural location* and after doing the obvious stuff, you come across something that is neither so obvious nor so well maintained, but very captivating nevertheless. Of course, you photograph it anyway. The ‘something’ in this case is what I believe to be a Mk IX Jaguar; in very proper British racing green and tucked away in the corner of a smallish garage whose other half is also filed with study models of about half of the landmarks of Kuala Lumpur, which its owner also designed. I initially struggled to find a vantage point for this because I wanted to put the whole car in context, until realising that it wasn’t necessary: the reductionist in me reminded me to look just at what was necessary to establish both, and disregard the rest. What follows I suppose are a series of interpretations of entropy – in which an object moves into its environment and over time becomes absorbed into the environment. Enjoy! MT

*The residence of noted local architect Hijjas Kasturi, Rimbun Dahun

This series with shot with a Nikon D810, various lenses and processed with Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Singles: Portraits of excavators

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Herd. The body shapes, the low contrast, dust in the air, and buckets waving like trunks combined to give the feeling of a family of mechanical elephants. I decided to work in monochrome for this one to reinforce that feeling and remove the distraction of color. The lead ‘elephantavator’ has deliberately slightly more contrast than its brethren.

Sometimes I make an image (or four) that doesn’t quite fit into a photoessay, but appeals to me in some way – this marks the beginning of a new series that will present just a single image or two with some thoughts as to what I saw and why they appealed – think of it as a bridge between the photoessays and something a little more explanatory. Enjoy!

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More images from the Leica Q Typ 116

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Today’s photoessay is a mismash of sorts: additional images from the Leica Q, which I’ve had a chance to shoot a bit more with over the last few days in between assignments and preparing for my exhibition Connection which is now open at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. (The original set of images was made with no more than about 8 hours of shooting time in total, excluding bench testing etc. I’ve not got much to add to my original review other than the initial impressions are continuing to hold: this is one responsive, fluid, transparent camera. The edges are better if you avoid focus and recompose, and mid-distance performance seems to be slightly better than infinity. There can be some odd internal reflections inside the finder if you have light coming in from behind, but that’s only happened twice. I’m still very much enjoying shooting with it, as I’m sure you can tell from this set, and the fact that the shutter has racked up close to 3,000 images in six days…enjoy! MT This set was shot with a Leica Q Typ 116, and processed with Photoshop Workflow II. [Read more…]

Photoessay: just outside the city…

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…Small slices of tranquility can be had. Even within city limits, for that matter. The Japanese are quite particular about their nature; like everything else, you get a sense of ordered chaos as an outsider – within defined boundaries, the wilds are allowed to run free. Go a bit further afield, and you might find something that’s actually a little more untamed. Still, there’s a different kind of compositional challenge to be had: see if you can eliminate any signs of man from an environment that might well be entirely artificial; regardless, autumn in Japan is quite a special time of the year because of the enormous variety of colours. It’s too bad timing such a trip is tricky and highly weather-depedant; we lucked out in 2013 when filming How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, but came a bit late last year. Today’s landscape images are a continuation of the unconventional landscapes from a couple of months ago from a slightly more conventional perspective. Half of them were shot in the Tokyo Botanical Gardens; the other half, on the side of a hillside and a river near Mt. Mitake, about an hour outside of Tokyo by train. I’m going to end with one comment on the last seven matched images really need to be viewed as large Ultraprints; hung sequentially the impact is like looking out of a window onto a garden in the full throes of fall. Any image from this series is available as an Ultraprint on request – just
shoot me an email
. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, AI 45/2.8 P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar lenses. Some images are stitched, all were processed withs PS Workflow II. You can also travel to Japan vicariously here, with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo…

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Daily meditations on photography, or, the purpose of instagram


For a very, very long time, I was against instagram simply because of the mediocrity it perpetuated: run any crap image of a cat through one of our filters and make a masterpiece! Slowly, things changed. You could upload images you didn’t shoot with your phone. You didn’t have to filter them, even if they still had to be square. They actually introduced an editor with control closer to Photoshop than a cookie cutter (vertical and horizontal keystone correction, anybody?). I caved, and as previously announced, have been using it for some time – more than a year, in fact. (You can find me here.) Whilst the purpose for the majority of users is clear – it’s a visual social network, of course – my own rationale for using it has been far less clear until recently.

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The abstraction of an idea

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After all the people have gone home

In a previous post, I tackled the general concept of an abstract photograph. I think it can be refined down something of the following: an image which is balanced equally across the entire frame such at that no one area attracts your attention more than any other area; the eye wanders, takes in the details, and never really lingers. By this definition, there is no subject since no one area or element of the photograph stands out more than any other; however, you could probably also argue that the entire frame is really the subject. Semantics is a funny thing, though, and this isn’t quite the definition of the term: we must think in terms of essences and summaries instead. An ‘abstract’ of a paper or article is really the core idea distilled down to the simplest possible terms; the objective elevator pitch rather than the marketing tagline. Today’s article tackles the visual equivalent of that: how do we take an idea and translate that into something visual?

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Photoessay: From the streets of KL, #72

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Connected isolation

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted any of the more conventional street photography with identifiable individuals. I suppose that’s a consequence of a change of creative direction towards images that are perhaps less literal and more everyman; photographs that can ask a question and make you have cause to contemplate them for a long time without really having an answer. Images that stick tend to be ones that are graphically shocking (could be positive or negative) or those that require some further digestion. Nevertheless, I still do make these images but instead curate them even more heavily than usual; today’s set perhaps more so because they’re made in what is a very familiar environment to me. What’s interesting is that many of these still come from a very small radius of places I’ve covered literally hundreds of times – I suppose that continual change is one of the joys of photography. This set spans some time, and as a result, quite some equipment too – from a first-generation RX100 to the CFV digital back to the D810. Postprocessing was mostly with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! MT

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Differences between eye and camera: practical implications

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Why is it so difficult to get sunsets to appear ‘right’? Read on for the answer.

Many photographs do not work. Subsequently, we find out they do not work because there is a difference between what you saw and what your audience sees in the image. Sometimes this comes down to lack of skill in translating an idea, but often it’s more subtle than that: the camera doesn’t see what we see, and we need to be both highly aware of that and how to compensate for it. Yesterday’s photoessay is a good example: it’s no big deal to make a monochrome image, but our eyes only perceive a lack of color under very exceptional circumstances. Yet it’s these differences that make some images stand out, and others not really ‘work’.

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Photoessay: a different kind of KL cityscape

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Ordered cubism

I personally find one of the most challenging things to do is make compelling and different images in a situation that is a familiar one: your home city, your usual equipment with nothing particularly special or capable of making a distinctive look (or another way of looking at it is a general purpose tool with a very versatile shooting envelope), challenging weather, and to top it off, conditions that are not ideally conducive for creativity*. These were shot during a private workshop as examples; I have to simultaneously apologise to and thank my student at the time: firstly, I felt I could have made better images with a bit more sleep, but the conditions pushed me to really look for something different. In the end, I think this set fit the bill: I am happy because these are images that I have not only not produced in some form or other before, but images that I never conceptualised because I was not looking in those places either – even though it wasn’t my first time there. Enjoy! MT

*Prolonged lack of sleep from a newborn and a small apartment full of relatives.

This series was shot with a Nikon D810 and 24-120/4 VR, which is probably about as flexible as you can get.

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Avoidable photographic errors

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Gratuitous header image.

Rule number one: there are no rules. A ‘mistake’ may not necessarily be a mistake if it helps convey the message or story or feeling intended by the photographer. I can easily think of multiple examples that go against every scenario described below. That said, for the most part, I’ve found these ‘mistakes’ to hold true. And if you want to achieve something very specific, then you either won’t be reading this article in the first place, or you’ll know when to bend the rules. The general viewing public probably has some preformed opinions of what is right/good, but these are born out of as much ignorance as conditioning by companies trying to sell more software or lenses or something else. There are rational reasons why these opinions may not necessarily be right in the context of fulfilling creative intention.

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