The difference between photography and most other art forms

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A study of red drapes

I’ve struggled a bit for a title to today’s essay. Through the course of my investigation into other forms of art – perhaps investigation is a bit too strong a word; meandering or exploration is probably closer – I’ve noticed that photography stands apart for two reasons: perception, and origin. They’re really one and the same if you dig a bit deeper, and this also applies to a lesser extent to its derivatives – film/ video, mixed media etc. I suspect I may open a can of worms with this piece, but I’m also hoping it’s going to provoke some interesting discussion below the line in the manner of some of the classic posts of old…

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Photoessay: Monochrome landscapes from Queenstown

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Lake Hawea

As you might have gathered, Queenstown turned into a very landscape-photography oriented photography trip; the colors of the landscape were magical, but the variation in light and contrast was even more so – naturally lending itself to fantastic black and white images. Since it was winter, the sun traces an arc across the sky but never shines directly downwards from above – the upshot of this is you can shoot at all times of day. Naturally, I took advantage of it. I drove, stopped where the light arrested me, shot, and moved on. And on one day, spent most of the afternoon in the Arrowtown River delta – formerly the site of the Queenstown gold rush, but now the the home of some pretty spectacular trees – and a riot of colour that will be the subject of a future photoessay. Nevertheless, I felt black and white suited the subject matter quite well, as the trees in winter have this stark beauty to them that I felt was best captured without that sense of ‘life’ that colour imbues.

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A photographic manifesto

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I believe it’s very important to have a sense of purpose as a photographer. If it’s not clear exactly why you’re photographing, or what the aim of your output is, you run the risk of not only making weak images, but not knowing they’re weak, or even worse, not being able to step up and move on. However, only you can decide exactly what that purpose or aim is; and in the past couple of years since starting this site, I’ve realized two things: firstly, you’re going to evolve, so don’t be afraid to say ‘my objective has changed'; secondly, you’re not going to satisfy everybody (and some of those people are bound to be extremely rude and vocal about it, but really have nothing more than hot air). The latter is easy to rationalise but difficult to accept if you care about your work.

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Photoessay: The Dreamscape Project

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Sometimes – quite frequently, actually – I fin myself on an aircraft with not very much to do. I fly often enough and spend enough time in the air that I’m one of those people who will bother to try and find out the flight route in advance and pick the seat most conducive to photography on arrival or departure – assuming of course there isn’t an engine or wing in the way*. I’ve gotten some very satisfying images this way.

*Frequent travelers will know there’s always a tradeoff: the front of economy is usually blocked; the rear usually is noisy and has a lot of traffic en-route to galleys and toilets, and the view isn’t always clear because of the convection visible due to the engine exhaust heat. Or, you fly up front and land up bankrupt.

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MT x LC: On Ultraprinting

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Welcome to the second instalment of the Conversations between myself and Lloyd Chambers of the excellent site Diglloyd: today, we’re talking about printing. Background: in September, we managed to shoot together for a day at the Purisima Creek redwoods – the image above is the print we’re referring to and one I made that afternoon, and the location is one that’s familiar to Lloyd. It was my first time there. Following feedback from the first instalment, we’ve edited the conversation to make it a little more readable; again it will be posted on both our sites.

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‘Interstellar’, the movies, and the general creative state of play


Interstellar official trailer #3

I found time to watch a movie the other day. This is an unusual occurrence for me because it takes a huge chunk out of my day; but it was raining and I was on foot without an umbrella. Interstellar was showing, and happened to be something whose trailer did actually show promise. Plus I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan; I have no doubt that history will look back on him as one of the greats – both for his visuals and his storytelling. This post is not so much a review as some observations and musings after three hours in a theatre seat from the point of view of a photographer…

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Photoessay: On the slopes, Queenstown

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If you think about it, skiing must be one of the most pointless activities on earth – right next to motor racing. Both involve completing the same circuit (or piste) repeatedly. Sometimes with the objective of speed, sometimes with no objective at all. I’ve tried to figure out why we find it enjoyable, but honestly have no idea – perhaps it’s both the necessity of focusing on something to the exclusion of everything else, and the fact that it’s different enough from our normal activities that other parts of brains are stimulated. I remember having to work very hard at the basics before everything ‘clicks’ – and then you start moving at a much more intuitive level. I suppose it’s a sort of meditation, not unlike photography. Today’s photoessay is a series I shot at Coronet Peak, Queenstown, New Zealand a couple of months ago whilst taking a break from developing my landscape photography. I’m the sort of skier who learns off piste so he can fins something else to shoot; this time I used a Manfrotto Lino Pro field jacket to hold the gear – it’ll take a 645Z/55mm in one padded pocket, and a D810/Otus in the other. Enjoy! MT

Series shot with a Ricoh GR, Nikon D810 and Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus.

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Output objectives and creative development

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I was discussing printmaking with one of the regulars readers of this site recently when a thought struck me: one of the biggest turning points for me personally was when I started shooting with an eventual printability objective for all of my images. This happened around early 2012, before which I’d felt I was stagnating creatively somewhat – perhaps partially due to day job commitments (this was before I turned to photography full time) and partially because well, I didn’t have an output objective.

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Now available: How To See Ep.4: Melbourne!

Today I’m pleased to announce the latest episode in the How To See series of workshop videos: Ep.4, Melbourne, Australia. We actually filmed this back in April, but due to a large backlog of other work, didn’t have a chance to finish final grading and editing until recently…

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Opinion-review: the Panasonic LX100/ Leica D-Lux 109

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Sony has the RX100 series. Canon has their G Powershots. Nikon…never mind. But Panasonic has the ooseX series, and the accompanying Leica D Lux redesign; I reviewed its predecessor, the LX7/ D Lux 6 some time back, and owned an LX3 back when it was pretty much the only choice for a serious compact – variable aspect ratios and all. In the intervening years since the last generation, sensors have grown – even in compacts – and the bar has been raised. I’ve spent a few days with the LX100/D Lux 109 twins and have some rather polarising thoughts…

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