Photoessay: Monolumpur, part II

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Expand scale, pull out. Frame wider, environmental context. Continuation of testing, continuation of viewing my home city again with (hopefully) fresh eyes. This time, seeing if I’ve gotten the blend right: this set is a mix with the Pen-F, whose SOOC JPEG monochrome toning has been my benchmark for laziness thus far. I think I’ve managed to find something with the Nikon that keeps the overall global contrast profile, but manages to extend a bit more into the highlights for a smoother rolloff and less abrupt clipping. Shadow information is there, but has been crushed a little to fit my stylistic preferences. Even given there’s some selective curation here in light and sequencing – I think you’d be hard pressed to tell which is which… MT

This series was shot with an Olympus Pen F, 12-60/2.8-4 and Nikon Z7, AF-S 70-200/4 VR and MT’s special sauce in-camera monochrome JPEG profile.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


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  1. I see

  2. “Shadow information is there, but has been crushed a little to fit my stylistic preferences.”
    I’m curious if your stylistic preferences have changed over time? I’ve landed up with the notion (which might be incorrect) that a few years ago you would have usually preferred for shadows to be less ‘crushed’.

    • Yes and no; more like a big circle. I started with crushed shadows because it looked more natural than clipped highlights (and with early cameras you had to choose; you couldn’t have both). I moved to more of everything as hardware capabilities expanded. But some subjects still work better with a stronger, more graphic base note – i.e. the very dark shadows – so this has always stayed in the repertoire…

    • I saw the same Tom. My guess it has to do with the gear used. For me the main difference in iq is highlight and shadow information and color range. you just have more of that with larger sensors. one reason i love mf especially for landscape work (the higher resolution is welcome, too, but not my main concern nor is sharpness). but if you know your gear why not make something a feature that others would call a flaw 🙂

  3. A nice set of photos to contemplate on my early commute. As others have noted, it’s not easy to spot the difference between the Nikon an the Pen at first glance.

  4. I like these Pictures, or better to say this way of developing, much more than Monolumpur 1, i have do admit. To find something to look at in the shadows, even only a hint of light or structure, makes the dark zones of the photo more misterious and indeed interesting for me.
    I like this series a lot, and yes, hard to tell which ist the pen and which is the Nikon.
    Comparing the Raw files may be a lot easier to see what photo is made with the Olympus and what is made with the Nikon, especially in the dynamic range and the grain in the shadows i expect? Or ist the difference between FF and MFT not that big?

    • Thanks. The difference is big – at least three stops – my exposure and processing choices narrowed that deliberately. But in this case it’s visible in the way highlights roll off…

  5. Devoid of all life, the beauty of a bleak and desolate landscape ….

    • Feels that way sometimes!

      • And I keep asking myself: what could have driven a person that far ….

        • Positive: seeking beauty in the unlikely
          Negative: having enough of the kind of humanity that surrounds him…

          • “seeking beauty in the unlikely” +1
            “having enough of the kind of humanity that surrounds him…” Well let us hope that the human condition improves .

            • We always hope it improves, but sometimes I feel we really have to fight it given the temptations of the current world and the things we have to do to acquire them…

              • It is relative, I would say. Of the three Southeast Asian cities I have some familiarity with (KL, Bangkok and Singapore), I find KL as holding out the promise of a relatively stress free and contented life.

                I retain a graphic memory of the face of an unhappy Chinese cab driver in Singapore (perhaps there are no happy human beings in Singapore, local population) when I asked him whether he frequented Marina Bay Sands or such fancy places: “Sir, they will throw me out if I tried that. They’ll say: what have you come here for. The Government is not interested in us. They only want us to work, pay taxes and die. The Government is interested only in attracting the rich foreigners”.

                KL is not there; not yet by any means! The only complaints I heard are that standards (education, behaviour, etc) have eroded over time.

                And then, at the end of the day, each thinking type has to answer the question: just what will make me content; and perhaps decide firmly on that!

                That said monochrome is contagious as Robin seems to have caught it too. Some human kind, mostly sullen, appears in those attractive shots.

  6. Nice thing about you Ming, you never let a cloud go to waste!

  7. Great work, MT! The final image is fantastic and a great way to finish off the set!

  8. Great set! How do you like the 12-60mm Panaleica? I remember you using the Nikon 24-120mm quite a bit, so you have a fairly good idea how lenses like this usually perform. I have the 12-40mm Olympus but would like a little more reach, but not willing to compromise too much with sharpness.

    • It’s really excellent; probably the best of the all-in-one zooms. Bonus benefit of focusing extremely close, too.

      • Thanks for the reassurance. 🙂 I have my sights set on a second-hand one, might as well pull the trigger. I can always go back to Olympus, they are rather easy to find on the second-hand market, Panaleica not so much.

  9. “Shadow information is there, but has been crushed a little to fit my stylistic preferences.”

    By crushing the shadows you are effectively hiding the most visible difference between the m4/3 and the FF sensor; shadow noise. My frustration with my E-M1.2 sensor is the speckling I get when trying to lift backlit faces or otherwise darkened faces exposed to prevent backgrounds from blowing out. My similar D750 images didn’t do that.

    • Actually, it’s down to where you choose to put that tonal range – it can also be in highlight transitions, rolloff, and of course clipping. What a larger sensor does in the highlights is very different to M4/3. Similarly, at larger viewing sizes, the resolution advantage becomes obvious as the tonal transitions are much smoother (more discrete steps to describe the transition).

  10. Kristian Wannebo says:

    Aah, lovely – my favourites are most of the lower half!

    And those clouds!

    I also enjoyed Part I very much,
    but these happen to be more within my personal range of tastes.

  11. Bravo !!!

  12. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I wish I knew even a tenth as much about photography as you do, Ming. Tell us – do you print all your photos? – where do you store them all?

    • I am sure he can’t print them all. Ming, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what becomes of our images. I am thinking of printing “books” of the images that mean the most to me for my family. Do you know of a good resource for choosing archival quality inks and papers?

    • I print some; I don’t print everything by any stretch. Deciding if you’re going to commit to printing is probably the most solidly affirmative curation possible…

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