Photoessay: Over water, from above

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A set like this takes a long, long time to come together – you are at the mercy of both situational opportunity and the weather. On top of that, sometimes you don’t realise you’re seeing things in a particular way until you’ve done it for a very long time and then start to recognise patterns in the images you prefer, and the images you keep taking the next time you’re in the same situation. Whilst most of these were shot from passenger aircraft (also putting you at the mercy of window cleaners and seat allocations at check in), some used drones, helicopters or charters. All of these have one thing in common: none of them were deliberate captures, as in I didn’t make a dedicated trip just to shoot for this project or make this kind of image. They’re the b-roll and the extras we get on the way because something touches us at a subconscious level and we feel compelled to capture it. What I do notice common to the images of this set is a sort of distant dreamy calm; I have to admit this is a very foreign feeling to me, but not unpleasant… MT

Shot with a wide variety of hardware. Mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III

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Back to basics: Rules of vision – part II

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Upside down, or?

Judging from the correspondence and comments flying around recently, it’s about time we did a refresher course here on the fundamentals of composition and image-making. As usual, there’s far too much obsession over hardware and not enough thought about what it’s actually being used for. This will be the first of several posts from the archives in this theme. That said, those people are unlikely to read these posts anyway…

Continued from part I – hopefully the first part has had time to settle and digest; let us press on…

We draw temporal inferences from direction of shadows
The length and direction of shadows also suggests time of day: this is one of the indelible subconscious rules dating back to the very beginning. It is a consequence of observing sunrises and sunsets and being able to judge approaching darkness accordingly, by both overall luminance of a scene and the shadows cast by the sun. Sadly, for a lot of us, this is somewhat academic as there are far too many offices with hours that extend beyond daylight and further have no natural light whatsoever…

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Review: The 2019 Sony RX0 Mark II, as a still photographer

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I admit to several things. Firstly, serious curiosity about the shooting experience of a tiny waist-level device (the RX0 Mark II has a flip screen). Secondly, the desire of every photographer to have hardware that’s small and of good quality. Finally, the usual healthy scepticism about the cost-to-value equation of such a device given Sony’s track record for a) price inflation and b) extremely short lifecycles. At $700, this is both the most expensive camera by volume I’ve ever bought, and one with one of the narrowest shooting envelopes (though not that far off the original APSC Ricoh GR, actually). So: why?

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Back to basics: Rules of vision (or, things we can’t help seeing) – part I

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Did you notice the sign above the man’s head? What about the house number? Or what appears to be a Cuban flag in the doorway? Or was the moving man the first ‘anchor’?

Judging from the correspondence and comments flying around recently, it’s about time we did a refresher course here on the fundamentals of composition and image-making. As usual, there’s far too much obsession over hardware and not enough thought about what it’s actually being used for. This will be the first of several posts from the archives in this theme. That said, those people are unlikely to read these posts anyway…

Regular readers will know that I hate arbitrary maxims labelled as ‘photographic’ rules simply because there is no such thing as a ‘universal scene’ or universal set of parameters for every image. Every composition is different, and every creative intention is different, which means the whole premise of there being a fixed set of laws that make a ‘good’ image or ‘image that works’ can only be nonsense. However, I do think there are some fundamental principles of human vision – and consequently psychological response to elements in an image – that we cannot ignore since they directly influence the response of our audience to the ideas we are trying to present. That is what I wish to address today: what are the autonomous/ subconscious/ reflex/ automatic – pick your preferred term – visual responses that we should be aware of and seek to utilise when we compose an image? Think of this post as the predecessor to The Four Things: it’s the underlying reason why some of the Things have to be the way they are.

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Photoessay: Tropical skies

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Dreamlike is probably the best description for this series: evocative of palm trees, sea breezes, long drinks and days of doing not very much. (I wish!) I find more than ever I need a break to disconnect and plan the next move, but there’s less and less time available in which to do so. So the only solution is to at least try to create the same feeling through reviewing images with those subjects – after all, if I’ve done a decent job at the time of capture, I should have managed to freeze and translate the way I felt at the time. And if it doesn’t work for me, then it’s doubtful it’d work for anybody else: but I feel myself relaxing already… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S. No post processing, just the custom color picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Adventures of the travelling audiophile: Endgame (nearly)

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First confession: I’m listening to them now.
Second confession: I seem to have come full circle; it isn’t the first time I’ve heard them. Not by a long shot; in fact, they may well have been the first
really exceptional bits of hifi I’ve heard.
Third confession: I don’t know when to stop; there’s the beginnings of diminishing returns, and then there’s $1,000 cables. I’m not quite there yet, thankfully. And I admit I’ve tried to find something better, but fortunately, failed miserably.

You might have noticed I’ve abandoned the in-ear setup from the previous instalments; part of the problem is one of prolonged comfort/sensitivity – namely my ears’ inability these days to feel good about something crammed in tightly for more than an hour or so – and part of the problem is sonic. In-ears also tend to have a very forward presentation that feels like MAXIMUM ATTACK all of the time, and moreso if you have a detailed, hard-hitting monitor. You don’t get the spatial separation and airiness of an open, over-ear can; much less the coherence of just one driver doing all of the sound generation. The problem with in-ears is they either require you to accept some fuzziness and interstitial connections between the notes and the accompanying lack of definition and precision (if a single driver), or have multiple drivers to cover multiple frequencies, then risk tonal imbalance and coherence issues. It’s not easy to get anywhere up to 12 (!!) drivers per ear to play nice with each other. And that doesn’t even start on the 2018 setups that use as many as three types of drivers – miniature dynamic, balanced armature and electrostatic – in each earpiece. I can’t help but think that’s a reliability nightmare waiting to happen too, given the number of tiny components in there. Having gone off the deep end here (to the point of commissioning my own monitors with their own configuration and tuning, and a modest six drivers per ear) – I’ve gone the over-ear route for the aforementioned reasons of coherence and comfort.

There’s only one problem with all of this: the travelling part. I just can’t do it with this setup, but I have the most amazing static listening experience short of probably some six figure speakers.

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On-assignment photoessay: Monolithic

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There’s something about the visual gravity only the deepest registers the monochrome tonal scale can provide; those zones that make or break a good printer and convey tonal richness and texture. Whilst such work tends to be more the preserve of editorial and fine art photography and less so in commercial, I can’t help myself from seeing such subjects during the course of a cleaner, higher key commercial assignment. There are always structural and physical elements of such massiveness as require these tonal registers to do them justice; I shoot and file them away for later personal satisfaction. Overcast weather may be the bane of most commercial available light work, but it matters not a bit in this case. This particular set is the curation of several assignments; there’s a deliberate change in pace between the images where the monolithic element may be the entire frame, or just a small (but visually heavy) part of it. Or it may be an otherwise light-coloured subject but still somehow that sort of chalky, textured grey… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, D850, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/4 VR. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Testing the E-M1 Mark II’s AF with updated FW v3.0

Back in 2017, I covered the first Let’s Rock mini concert here and when the gang returned for Let’s Rock 2 this year, I was privileged to be invited to shoot the dress rehearsal. The timing could not have been better, as the date of the shoot coincided with the release of the new firmware. I took the opportunity to test out the new and improved AF algorithm on the new Olympus E-M1 Mark II’s (as of firmware 3.0) while immersing myself in some awesome rock music. I equipped myself with the E-M1 Mark II, 45mm F1.8, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens and 12mm F2 lens but mostly used the 40-150mm PRO lens for this shoot.

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Photoessay: Tokyo life

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Trying something a little different with the curation this time: think of today’s presentation as a sequence of places visited and a journey rather than a similar collection of images. Note the rhythm of transition between indoors/outdoors; bright/dark; intimate and detached. It is a series of interactions between observer (me) and the environment and people around me; I experienced first and shot second, rather than focusing purely on photography. Trying to put my new approach to travel and image-making into practice… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and SOOC with my custom Z7 Picture Control profiles.

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What do the Sigma FP and the Hasselblad CFV-50CII/907X have in common? Hint: it’s in the title. Of course, modularity is nothing new, but for whatever reasons it’s been restricted to very niche applications in the past – medium or large format, cinema, or strange mutations like the Ricoh GXR. We’ve seen the CFV backs before, of course – but this is the first one with an integrated battery, electronic shutter and full controls, plus electronic system support. It’s only in recent years with the growth of mirrorless cameras that we’ve seen the first tentative steps towards true universality – in the form of adaptors. Any lens with a longer flange distance can be used on any body with a shorter one, so long as the lens has mechanical controls and the camera has its own shutter. There are some cross-platform fully electronic adaptations, but they obviously don’t work as well as something native thanks to the protocol reverse engineering required. Still, it’s impressive that they work at all – moreso when you consider the mount mechanisms and the electronics are crammed into something as thin as a couple of millimetres, in the case of the Sony E to Nikon Z adaptor. Adaptation is now commonplace on pretty much every format – from 1″ to medium format; but read on for the reasons I think these two specific “cameras”* might be the start of something greater.

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