POTD: Seeing stars

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The Milky Way Galaxy

I posted this image on the site’s Facebook page yesterday and received both a record number of likes, shares and responses/ questions – some doubting the authenticity of the image – so I thought it’d be a good candidate for reviving POTD.

Here’s the backstory: the image was shot out of an airplane window at 32,000 feet while returning from the USA tour; my wife was in the window seat and idly wondered if she could see stars, after the crew turned off the cabin lights for the night to encourage passengers to sleep (I suppose to theoretically help them get over jetlag). She stared for a while, acclimatising her night vision, and said there were quite a surprising number. I finished editing the batch I was working on, and joined her at the window. I could actually make out a very faint band of something running through the middle; I thought it might make an interesting photography experiment.

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POTD: When color might have been preferable

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Postmen. Leica M-Monochrom, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE

One of those times where color would actually have been better. The bright blue and red uniforms of the motorbike postmen in this shot stood out well against the gray tarmac…I reached for a camera instinctively, nailed focus and exposure, but didn’t realize I was holding the M-Monochrom instead of the M9-P! Still, the geometry of this shot is its saving grace, I feel.

Today is going to be a busy day. Many people wonder what photographers do in the time they’re not shooting – well, here’s my schedule:

1. Client meetings
2. Test prints from M-Monochrom, 50 APO and D800E for clients, and if I have time, a quick article/ note on the site about relative print quality
3. Have to buy a light, strong, compact tripod in preparation for a trip (did I mention those are all oxymorons?). Tripod choice is another minefield I’ll probably write about at some point.
4. Retouching work for another client
5. Chase payments once Europe wakes up
6. Intersperse with replying email and comments to the site – between the two, I get an average of about 100-150 per day, which eats up a good couple of hours in replies. My laptop keyboard is now mirror smooth! :)

I think I need an assistant. MT

POTD: Construction site cubism, and a minor site organization change

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Construction site cubism. Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8

I’ve also archived the most interesting posts for each category under their respective headers, so it should be much easier to find older articles/ posts in future. Let me know if it works or doesn’t work for you. MT

POTD: After lunch

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Stall owner washing and packing up utensils after the lunch rush, Kuala Lumpur. Down some grimy, dirty, little back alley whose name has been long forgotten by all except those whose lives revolve around there. Beautiful light from the holes in the roof and gaps between the buildings, though.

Leica M-Monochrom, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE. Look out for my full review (in three parts) starting from tomorrow.

POTD: Contingent relationships

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The legend goes that if you place a lock here with your partner and keep one key each, then you’ll be together for as long as the lock is in place. Taking this at face value, there are a) contingent relationships, because there are locks on locks since the bridge railings are out of space (or maybe mistresses); b) polygamous/ polyandrous relationships, because I’m sure some locks come with multiple sets of keys, or foreigners misunderstood the instructions; c) relationships that ended quickly because of poor foundations, like those who bought cut price locks and had them rust away; and d) those which were forgotten because of misplaced keys. Malostranska, Prague, Leica M9-P and 28/2.8 ASPH.

POTD: Primary colors

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Primary colors. Nikon D700, 28-300VR.

Here’s a good example of an image that wouldn’t work at all in black and white…to be the subject of an upcoming article! MT

POTD: Dessert

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Pisco sour sorbet, poached melon and a jelly I don’t remember decorated with local nuts and flowers. By chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of Ristorante Malabar, Lima, Peru. Leica D-Lux 5 and two LED panels.*

*One of the reasons I switched to LED panels for food photography is the matter of dessert: there’s no way you can photograph ice cream with halogens or flashes without getting more than say three or four frames before visible melting sets in. And this obviously isn’t good, though a hint of melting actually helps the viewer know that it is in fact ice cream, and not say, mashed potatoes masquerading as ice cream.** One of the most refreshing, palate-cleansing deserts I’ve eaten – a perk of running a food photography workshop in conjunction with his culinary class…

**Food photography in-joke: mashed potato is actually quite frequently used to substitute for ice cream, for this very reason. MT

POTD: Impromptu conference

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Taxi drivers checking out a new ride, new arrival or old friend passing by a rank. Leica M9-P, 50/2.5 Summarit-M

POTD: Urban geometry

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Outtake from a recent architectural assignment. Look out for a future On Assignment post about shooting buildings. Leica D-Lux 5.

Although most architectural images are shown with nothing but the building, in a vaguely abstracted product-shot-kind-of-way, I personally find the images I like best are the ones which have some human scale or context included; it’s otherwise tough to gauge scale of the building, how it fits into its environment, and more importantly, how does the end user perceive it? Do they use the intended main entrances and traffic routes, or like water, do people find a path of lower resistance? Are there flow routes that the designers didn’t envision, i.e. connections between two back streets? Does the vehicular circulation work? How does the facade look from a human perspective? Once again, it comes back down to understanding something about your subject before you shoot it. MT

POTD: A classical portrait

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Nadiah. Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8

Sometimes, everything just comes together serendipitously. In this case, my wife (and muse, but that’s to be the subject of a future post) and I were attending a small function at a rather quirkily-decorated space in downtown Kuala Lumpur. I was going light, so I just carried the OM-D and two lenses; the 45/1.8 and 20/1.7. Just off the space, there was this small room separated by a partition; not only were there some nice details – like the Adams-family-esque hand – but the light was also beautifully directional yet soft. It just happened to be overcast outside, and with the sun at a low angle so the light went all the way into the room; see why I keep saying 99% of photography is light and timing? I grabbed my wife and shot a few frames to create what I think is one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve ever shot. MT

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