Photoessay: May Day in Havana

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Against the crowd

And now for something a bit different, both from an experiential standpoint and a content one. As part of the Havana Masterclass, I arranged a massive demonstration of communism to create a realistic photojournalistic scenario we attended the 1st of May parade at Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – perhaps the biggest socialist event in the entire Cuban calendar. Rather than being observers of the parade, as I’d expected, we got sucked into the enormous number of participants – I would say easily in the hundreds of thousands, covering the entire length and width of Plaza de la Revolucion and beyond. And as you are no doubt aware, the best images are made when you’re not just watching it, but actually in it.

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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: Small format Fukuokan monochromes

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Most of these are square because I was under the influence of Hasselblad at the time; with your primary camera set up to shoot black and white squares, it’s difficult to break your shooting rhythm to see much of anything else. However, this set was shot entirely with a Leica(sonic) D Lux 6. I think what’s interesting here is when I used the DL6 over the ‘Blad: mainly in situations where a) I wouldn’t be fast enough with MF; b) when it was too dark and I didn’t have the 400 back already on the camera; c) when I needed longer or wider perspectives I didn’t have as most of the time I was only carrying 50 or 80mm lenses. There’s still very much room in the bag (pocket?) for a smaller format and a smaller camera, even if you have to give up image quality: a shot is better than no shot at all. Admittedly, at these sizes and this presentation format, it’s not easy to tell what camera was used. Regardless, it’s always about the images: enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: Vignettes from a Sudanese wedding

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Recently, I was a guest at a rather interesting (and crazy) wedding celebration – a close Sudanese family friend’s daughter. Needless to say, I brought a camera – the OM-D and 45/1.8 – but to use strictly in an unofficial capacity. If you get the impression that the feel was very much 1001 Arabian Nights, that’s because it’s not too far off the mark. Enjoy! MT

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On Assignment: concert photojournalism

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Tompi. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

I recently played the role of official photographer for a producer friend’s concert – it was a moderately large affair featuring a good number of famous local musicians. The nice thing about this event was that it was large enough to have professional acts, decent lighting and good organization, but not so large that I didn’t have access to everything – and I mean everything, including the stage itself during the performance*.

*One thing a good concert photographer should never do is interfere with the act; so even though the stage might be open to you, one should never get between the performers and the audience unless it’s absolutely necessary, and even then only for the shortest possible period of time. Oh, and remember that the shutter sound carries quite clearly through any microphones that have been placed near equipment.

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Through the legs. Nikon D700, 28/1.8G

Although I’m not normally a huge fan of the types of music being played, I have to say this was one of the more enjoyable events I’ve attended and shot; I guess I’d be the restless type of concertgoer who’s only happy with a camera in hand and backstage pass – not so much to meet the artists, but to shoot. Although it’s the first photojournalism assignment I’ve done in quite some time – and the first concert assignment in many years. (In 2005/6 I was the house photographer at one of the jazz clubs in Kuala Lumpur, but I eventually stopped because I wasn’t getting enough sleep after gigs and before work the next day.) This job made me realize just how much I missed photojournalism.

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Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

There were a number of photographers there from other local/ national media and international agencies; the locals were mostly using midrange APS-C bodies, kit lenses and off-brand flashes; you could tell the major agencies by their standard issue pro bodies and f2.8 zooms. Interestingly, the proliferation of lower end cameras amongst media/ newsmen – at least in Malaysia – has been getting increasingly common as these organizations seek to cut cots. I can understand the bodies passing the threshold of sufficiency and being capable of producing great results in the hands of any competent photographer, but the use of slow kit zooms just hamstrings the ability to create a picture that preserves the ambient light and feel of the scene without resorting to a flash.

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In the moment. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

From experience, I know that when wearing my photojournalism hat, the lighter you can go, the better. I was carrying my D700/ MB-D10, 28/1.8 G and 85/1.8 G for close distance coverage; the OM-D and 100-300 rode shotgun for more reach. (I was also carrying the 12/2 and 45/1.8 as backup in case the D700 developed a problem, plus an SB900 for balanced fill which I didn’t land up using. My motto is go light, but not so light that you have no insurance when it comes to equipment failure.) Many of you will know that the new Nikon 28/1.8 G has proven itself to be a very capable lens even on the demanding sensor of the D800E; I’m pleased to report that both the 28 and 85 f1.8 G lenses performed flawlessly on the D700, both in terms of focusing accuracy and optical performance. The 85/1.8 G does exhibit some moderate flare with strongly backlit point sources (the hood makes almost no difference here), but I personally don’t mind it as I feel that it adds to that atmosphere and pictorial value of the image somewhat.

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Keyboards. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

The big surprise of the night was the OM-D and 100-300 combination, however. I didn’t use AF-C; most of the time careful timing, a short burst and the extended depth of field for a given FOV due to the smaller sensor was enough. It’s rather counterintuitive for DSLR shooters, but I find that with the OM-D, just depressing the shutter all the way down and trusting the camera’s AF system yields a considerably higher hit rate than using AF-C, or worse, AF-Tracking. The 100-300 delivered excellent optical performance, even out to the 300mm limit; due to the lighting conditions I was working wide open the whole time. The lens did hunt somewhat above 200mm, but so long as I was in the ballpark, focusing was reasonably fast.

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Blue note. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

So far, no surprises – I’d shot with the 100-300 in good light conditions, and been pleased with the results. The OM-D, on the other hand, seems to excel under tricky mixed-light or strong-color situations; to get a sufficiently high shutter speed – I was in the 1/45-1/60s region most of the time, at 300-400mm equivalent – I was solidly in the ISO 3200 to ISO 6400 band. In all honesty, I don’t feel the files were noticeably more noisy than the D700 for a given ISO; the only place where the smaller sensor made itself known was in dynamic range – the D700 had probably two stops extra on the OM-D. I can definitely see where the 75/1.8 would be useful though – 100mm was a bit long at times, and the extra 2 1/3 stops (probably more in transmission) would have pushed image quality even higher still.

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Strumming out. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

All in all, a very satisfying nights’ work. Come work delivery time, the litmus test is always the client; I’m happy to say that this one passed with flying colors. “I can’t stop looking at the pictures, they’re amazing!” was the text message I got a few days after delivery. So, anybody else need a concert photographer? MT

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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One – Ramli Sarip. Nikon D700, 85/1.8 G

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This is what rockers do. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

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The loud pedal. Olympus OM-D, 100-300

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Thank you to my band. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

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The hair. Nikon D700, 85/1.8 G

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Olympus OM-D, 100-300

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Backstage with the fans. Nikon D700, 28/1.8 G

Photoessay: Kowloon in color

Shot on a particularly rainy night in Kowloon, post-typhoon with a Leica M9-P and Zeiss ZM 28/2.8. Surprisingly, both functioned fine despite the moisture and humidity. I must be one of the few strange photographers who actually like shooting in the rain – it’s not masochism, despite what it might appear as. Three simple reasons: one, there’s a lot more texture and color from the water, reflections and umbrellas; two, the light is a bit more diffuse; three, nobody pays you any attention - everybody is simply too busy trying to keep dry. And this makes street photography significantly easier. MT

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Photoessay: Macau, part two

A continuation of the set from Macau. Shot in the tail end of a typhoon with a Leica M9-P, Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon and ZM 2/50 Planar lenses. MT

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.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!

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Photoessay: Macau, part one

Part one from Macau; immediately post-typhoon and still very, very rainy, not to mention humid. This set was shot with an Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8 and Panasonic 20/1.7 lenses. Images can be clicked on for larger versions, or to go to the flickr hosting page where exif data is available. Enjoy! MT

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The curious thing about outbound Macau customs was that there were none…take whatever you will from that (and the country).

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.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!

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Photoessay: Hong Kong life in monochrome

The first set from my recent Hong Kong and Macau workshop. Click for larger versions or EXIF data via the flickr landing page. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with a Leica M9-P, Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon, ZM 2/50 Planar, Olympus OM-D and 45/1.8.

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Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.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!

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Photoessay: Master Baker Daniel Jorda at the World Gourmet Summit

Master Baker Daniel Jorda is from the small neighborhood of Trinitat in Barcelona, and a third generation chef. In addition to running his own bakery, he also works with Michelin-starred chefs to produce custom breads to complement their meals; having tried them personally, I have to say that his work has the perfect balance of softness, crustiness, and flavor. Most importantly, it never seems artificial or forced – the bread is always rustic, but somehow perfectly controlled.

This short photoessay covers the class he gave at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore a few months back. Series shot with a Leica M9-P and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE. MT

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