Street photography, soul and ethics, revisited – a personal view

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Man, or the idea of man?

Not to flog a dead horse, but I want to pick up from where the one of the earlier articles hinted and left off: the topic of ‘soul’ in street photography, and what that means in terms the increasingly grey ethical area for photographers. There are also legal implications involved, and we’ll discuss those in passing – individual territories have different regulations, so it’s really in your best interests to check before shooting.

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Photoessay: Amsterdam street colour

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Street photography is something I’ve always done solely for myself – there is no direct commercial application (though arguably some of the techniques probably apply to reportage). For me, it didn’t come about from following a popular trend or other external influence: I just wanted to capture the essence and feel of daily life in a place when I travelled; nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes we find a unique and fun moment or two; sometimes it’s a case of the locally familiar being unfamiliar to us – and therefore interesting. But above all, aesthetics and timing still matter. Enjoy! MT

These images were made during the October 2013 Making Outstanding Images Workshop in Amsterdam; I will be holding three more of these in Melbourne, Sydney and London later this year. Click here for more info, and to sign up.

This set was shot with a Ricoh GR, Olympus OM-D E-M5, the Panasonic 14-42/3.5-5.6 X pancake, and the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH.

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FD Photoessay: Prague monochromes, part II

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The second part of the monochrome photoessay from Prague was shot on film, with a Hasselblad 501C and my favourite B&W film – Fuji Acros 100. To be honest, given the tight quarters, I’d have preferred to have had something either a little wider or a little longer – preferably both – to give me some additional ability to add context, or compress (especially with buildings clinging to hills in the background). Nevertheless, we make do with what fits inside our camera bags – after making provisions for film, I didn’t have any space left for lenses!

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Photoessay: Prague monochromes, part I

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I actually shot very little black and white in Prague; a few hundred from the Ricoh GR, and a couple of rolls with the ‘Blad; of course they were all of varying subjects with a heavy architectural emphasis, but I did get some very satisfying street images out of my time there. Despite the very strong luminance contrast available – October at these latitudes means all-day shadows and intense sun with blue skies – I just found color to pack a little something extra in most situations. That said – this set would not have worked in color at all.

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Now available: How To See: Tokyo & Street Photography!

For your holiday viewing pleasure…I’m pleased to offer up the next two instalments in the workshop video series: How To See Ep2: Tokyo, and Street Photography Ep1.

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Coming *very* soon: How To See Ep2: Tokyo and Street Photography Ep1!

For your holiday viewing pleasure…I’m pleased to offer up the next two instalments in the workshop video series: How To See Ep2: Tokyo, and Street Photography Ep1.

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FD Photoessay: Life in Amsterdam

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Sometimes, the film photography gods deign to make life easy for you: you happen to be in the right place at the right time, with the right light, interesting subjects, lots of opportunities, carrying the right camera and lens combination, just enough film to get you through a day with a roll left over as insurance, and even airport security guards who’ll hand check your film so they don’t have to make multiple passes through x-ray machines. The last European trip and workshop tour was one of those occasions for me. I went with my usual small digitals (OM-D, Ricoh GR) for teaching, and the Hasselblad 501C with one magazine, a few boxes of Acros 100, and the 80/2.8*. And I came back with a huge number of keepers. It’s interesting to note that despite its size, shutter noise and conspicuity, the Hasselblad never attracted negative attention – usually curiosity or nostalgia. In that sense, it’s actually an excellent street photography tool in the modern age. No more words are required, I think – other than for me to say ‘enjoy!’ MT

*Some of the rolls were pushed to ISO 200 due to lack of light; with Acros this also has the benefit of deepening your shadow tones. There doesn’t seem to be any grain penalty that I can discern, though – anything up to ISO 800 is fine, but the shadows just keep getting denser and denser. Digitized with a D800E, 60/2.8 macro and my custom rig.

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Photoessay: Semiclassical NYC street photography, part two

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Today’s photoessay continues my exploration of NYC’s streets in black and white. Perhaps I’m being masochist in continuing this series after the dissenting opinions expressed in the comments in Part one (found here) – but once again, photography is subjective interpretation and each observer has their own views and preferences. I happen to like the precision and perfection others call ‘clinical soullessness’ – and I’d argue that the lack of imperfection is a style and skill of its own; consistently being able to find ‘perfect moments’ in a sea of uncontrolled chaos is extremely difficult indeed – which anybody would know if they’ve tried it. Enjoy. MT

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Photoessay: Semiclassical NYC street photography, part one

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Given how ingrained certain locations are in the popular photographic consciousness due to heavy presentation in a particular style by multiple photographers – Paris and NYC in black and white of course come to mind – I think it’s possible to do one of two things: either avoid that style altogether and try to find your own, or explore a little in the genre and see what falls out. I had a chance to try both the last time I was in New York; to be honest, I found B&W with moderate contrast to suit the timeless feel of the location a bit better – as opposed to expressing the fleetingly temporal nature of life. There’s of course no right or wrong. (My attempt at individual style can be found here, in the NYC cinematics photoessay.)

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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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