Photoessay: Urban plants of Istanbul

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Today’s photoessay is a little whimsical: on a previous trip to Istanbul, I noticed myself photographing a lot of urban-texture type vignettes, drawn to the juxtaposition of textures and colors. But the common theme I failed to consciously register at the time was that almost all of these images had some elements of nature hiding in the frame – as though a second level of metaphysical contrast also somehow made its way into the frame. Ironically, in most of these cases – the plants have survived time much better than their environment and seem to be thriving in a way that contrasts quite dramatically with the patina in the rest of the city. I think maybe I was just pleased to see signs of nature still extant amongst the concrete. The set itself is a sort of ‘second pressing’ curation – a lot of singles that didn’t obviously fit any of the other sets previously published, at least until I noted the plant theme. There are of course a few surprises in the images if one is to look closely… MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III (and the Weekly Workflow). Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Why SOOC still isn’t really workable

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Of all the 1500+ posts I’ve made here, I can’t recall ever exploring why SOOC (straight out of camera) images are – let’s not say ‘bad’ – but inherently compromised, at least given the current state of technology. No matter how ‘natural’ a company claims its out of camera rendition to be, something will always be missing for the simple fact that no current camera can read your mind.* Every situation/ scene/ composition is different; every photographic intent is different and every single set of ambient parameters (light, subject position, etc) varies from image to image – maybe not very much, but enough that it doesn’t take a whole lot of change to make a very different image than the one you intended. Two things here: intention, and uniqueness. And uniqueness is at the core of why we find ourselves compelled to make a photograph at all: something stood out enough to make us sit up, take notice and either want to remind ourselves of it again later, or share it with the world.

*I am leaving myself room for some seriously heavyweight machine learning algorithms in case this article is read in posterity. And more on the machine learning later.

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Leica M mount lenses on the X1D

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f1.4, medium format, comparable size and weight to ‘pro’ M4/3. What’s not to like, other than the price?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been shooting with the rather unorthodox combination seen above. I’ve found it answers two questions/ solves two problems for me: firstly, the desire for something that operates in the way you want (i.e. transparently) and that makes you want to shoot with it; and secondly, the small/light question. (There’s also a whole separate discussion on the concept of practical equivalence and envelope that I’ll discuss at some later point). But the journey getting here wasn’t quite so straightforward, unfortunately, and this combination is not a Swiss Army knife – it’s got some pretty big limitations. But when it delivers, I find that it delivers something quite special by the truckload.

Additional X1D coverage is here: long term review; assessment with Nikon F mount lenses; field use in Iceland.

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On viewing and presentation methods

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Phantom lamp, Chicago

A little while ago, a reader sent me an email with a question (and great idea for a post): what’s the best method image viewing and presentation, especially when considering different audiences? It’s not an easy one to answer, and honestly, perhaps something that’s given very little to no consideration by most photographers. This is obviously problematic because it’s the final, critical link in the creative chain: if the audience isn’t seeing what you captured, much less what you intend – why are you bothering to show it at all? I would personally rather not show an image than show one that conveys the wrong overall impression. Perhaps the differentiation isn’t quite so clear cut, but I think you get my drift.

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Photoessay: Urban aerial

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Nowhere is our collective societal impact on the planet quite as marked as when you view earth from the air – and whilst there’s probably some truth to those who think we’re going to ruin it through pollution, over extraction, global warming and the like – honestly, it’s much more pleasant to look at the view and just allow yourself to be a little bit amazed by what’s below you. I’ve always had a slightly odd feeling looking at places from the air – there’s scale, and at the same time, there isn’t. Small towns seem very much smaller; constricted, limited almost; large cities seem either daunting or filled with endless possibility. It may be a question of distance – if you don’t see the grittiness, it’s the latter. If you’re too close to the ground, it’s the former. Whatever it is – sometimes we literally need some perspective… MT

This series was collected over about a year and shot with a mix of cameras including the Hasselblad H6D-100c; H5D-50c and DJI Mavic Pro. All images were processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Concert photography: Robin’s view

Just as I was returning from my short holiday to Phnom Penh, I was invited to shoot the dress rehearsal of an unusual rock concert, Let’s Rock, at KLPAC (Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre). The concert featured lead vocal performances from three prominent local singer-songwriters, Nick Davis, Bihzhu and Fuad (from Kyoto Protocol) and was backed by the KLPAC Symphonic Band orchestra, a 20 member strong choir group from the Young Choral Academy and a 4-piece band. They covered iconic rock songs from the 50s all the way to the present day hits: such as Elvis Presley, Beatles, Queens, Guns and Roses, U2, Coldplay and many more legendary rock artists! I was privileged to be there at the dress rehearsal and was blown away by the concert. The photographs have been unexpectedly well received and are circulating around. In this article, I wanted to share some crucial tips on managing a challenging live stage shoot.

Note: MT previously wrote about concert photography here.

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A blast from the past II: revisiting the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Of all the cameras that I’ve reviewed in the past, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart. It seems appropriate to follow the previous revisitation of the very first E-1 by revisiting the E-M5. The E-M5 was a game-changer for the mirrorless interchangeable camera world, pushing the boundaries for capabilities and setting high standards for other mirrorless manufacturers to follow. It’s been 6 years since the release of the E-M5 and I want to explore the significance of the E-M5’s role in changing the perception towards mirrorless cameras as a serious tool. I spent a day with the E-M5 for my shutter therapy and all the images shown are fresh out of the trusty, old E-M5.

MT also reviewed the original E-M5 some time back, here, and wrote about how it was a game changer for him professionally at the time, here.

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A blast from the past: Robin Wong on the Olympus E-1

Between the chase for stratospheric megapixel numbers, lust over new gear releases and pushing the limits of imaging envelopes, I sometimes take a step or two back and relive the experience of shooting with cameras from yesteryear. In this case, the first ever Olympus Four Thirds DSLR, the E-1 which was introduced in 2003. While accessorizing my outfit with a vintage-looking camera matches the overall retro-fashion look that seems hip these days, my purpose of shooting with the dinosaur E-1 was more simplistic. I wanted to slow down, and just enjoy shooting without having the camera get in the way. After all, have I not repeatedly talked about going back to the basics and getting the fundamentals right? Even MT has a great, must-read article about shot discipline, which emphasizes critical timing and technique relevant to all gear choices.

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Firmware 2.0 for the Olympus E-M1 Mark II

Olympus has announced firmware upgrades for their OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and PEN-F cameras. Olympus Malaysia provided me with the early version of Firmware 2.0 for my E-M1 Mark II about a week ago and I’ve had some time to test it out. There are no major changes but there are small yet relevant improvements that can make a difference. In this article, I explore the improvements that firmware 2.0 brings to the E-M1 Mark II, and how it affects my photography.

Olympus has made the following feature additions or enhancements to the E-M1 Mark II via the firmware upgrade:
– Smaller AF target area for both Single-AF and Continuous-AF
– Focus Stacking compatibility for M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO lens
– Indication of 1 to 1 magnification view on image reviews
– Improved buffer of Pro Capture Mode to 35 pre-burst frames from previously 14 frames only.
– In camera fisheye lens distortion correction (de-fishing)
– New Flicker Scan Aid function allows for easier removal of flickering when using electronic shutter.
– New Art Filter added: Bleach Bypass

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Review: the Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 ASPH for Micro Four Thirds

Here’s another one to add to the glut of high grade, fast aperture, Micro Four Thirds, prime lens reviews: the Panasonic Leica Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH lens. At first, I decided not to review this lens mostly because I prefer to work with longer focal lengths. Also, the Panasonic 12mm F1.4 lens has been around since 2016 and there are already several reviews available. The lens has been sitting in my camera bag for a while now, as I went along shooting on the streets. I’ve used it for certain shots – out of curiosity or when I needed a wide angle lens. Eventually, I’d used it enough that it made sense to review it – if for nothing else, but the sake of completeness.

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