To be a specialist, you have to be a good generalist

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Here’s today’s provocation of the day: there is really no such thing as a specialist. I’m going to explain why, using photography as the background context. The general expectation is a specialist in one particular topic or subject or tightly defined discipline should be familiar with and understand how to handle the vast majority of variations encountered around that topic or subject. They would probably have to keep up to date with new developments or changes and do enough experimentation to answer any self-doubt or uncertainty: an expert sports photographer, for instance, would know how to deal with indoor arena lighting, outdoor high noon and night games – and still produce an image that would pass muster for their clients. An aerial photographer would know how to deal with haze – either to minimise in post, or to use as a feature of the image. Yet I keep encountering this odd resistance…even amongst supposedly educated and image-savvy people. Why?

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The shooting experience

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In the past, I’ve written about our own emotional/ personal motivations, concepts of idealised hardware and even why hardware itself can be a strong creative motivator. I’ve also talked about the appliance-camera and the ideal format. We’ve defined the concept of a shooting envelope – i.e. the breadth of scenarios under which a camera can deliver most or all of its maximum image quality potential – and the degree to which that’s operator dependent (i.e. heavily). I’ve even talked a lot about what makes sense from a commercial and business standpoint, but I don’t think I’ve ever really examined the experience of the process as a whole – as an enthusiast and hobbyist and somebody seeking enjoyment in both the journey and the results. That’s the purpose of this article.

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Announcing the Hasselblad Online Store

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Today, the Hasselblad Online Store goes live for the USA, UK, Germany, France and China, with a 5% discount on the X1D, 45 and 90mm lenses for the first week. This initiative is something we’ve been working on for some time now – it isn’t as easy as you might think to have multiple distribution and warehousing points, logistics, invoicing etc. across multiple territories, but now that things have started we plan to roll out to more countries in the near future. Why? The aim is simply to allow more photographers access to the cameras – something in conjunction with the rental program. A Hasselblad isn’t exactly mainstream, and even within our largest markets there aren’t that many dealers, which in turn limits purchasing options somewhat. We want to remove these barriers and increase accessibility and consistency of customer experience in the long run.

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Photoessay: life in Istanbul

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I did a little curation experiment with this set: it’s been more than six months since I shot these images in Istanbul, and perhaps four or more since I last looked at them. What’s interesting is that my memory has definitely warped over time: both in terms of what left the strongest impressions, and what I felt made the strongest images. This far away from the time of capture, we are definitely over what I think of as the ‘objective’ period – it’s so long ago you might as well almost be an independent observer. This means the immediate contextual bias is gone and emotion doesn’t drive selection – but rather the reverse; i.e. the image serves as an emotional mnemonic. I do notice now that the majority of the images seem to carry a very bittersweet feeling – there’s a suggestion of positivity through light, color or something else – but the posture of the people seems tense and at odds with that. I can’t say if that was an accurate portrayal of society at the time of my visit (it may well have been, given the referendum was happening at the same time) or merely a reflection of my own mental state. MT

Series shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c and various lenses, and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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To photography competition entrants

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“…we who are about to die, salute you!”

Whoops, wrong scene, wrong side of the dock.

I’ve been on the judging panel for a few competitions this year – and on discussion with fellow judges, found we were encountering the same things across not only different competitions, but different geographies. Today’s post is intended to be a little behind the scenes guidance on what makes an image stand out to a jury, and hopefully win you a prize. It is of course impossible to turn this into a formula: the very nature of competition means that the benchmarks shift every year, and so does the whole idea of ‘different’. There’s so little QC these days it’s almost easier to judge competitions by people who don’t mess up than those who excel; that said, there are fortunately still a few who manage to surprise us. Read on for the breakdown.

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Photoessay: Suburban geometry, part I

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Am I the only one who finds it odd that a) we are of organic, irregular shape and yet b) create our environments to be as regular and inorganic as possible – even with the possibilities long afforded to us by modern manufacturing methods, we stick to at best a greatly reduced and simplified facsimile of nature? Furthermore, all suburban environments have become so similar I don’t know whether to think of it as fairness, aspiration to the same standards or a homogenous dystopia. Case in point: these images were shot in no less than six cities, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance (and there is also a massive curation bias that is involved in removing any localising elements, of course). This is especially true as configurations and details simplify into what is cheapest to build, easiest to maintain or least likely to cause offence. Chasing uniqueness in the photography of urban exploration has become a challenge not so much to find unusual locations so much as a race against the shadows for the flaneur – perhaps, much as it should be. MT

This series was shot with an assortment of cameras and lenses over a fairly wide period of time, but all post processed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow.

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Photoessay: cityscape Istanbul

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At the macro level, the structure of a city has always seemed much cleaner and more organised than when you get in it – there’s a sort of fractal perfection of the wimmelbild kind where the overall visual density is quite homogenous within all of the areas that can be build upon. It’s as though we seek to fill and exploit every possible space available to us – and in doing so, make something that’s always reminded me of a carpet or a lawn: from a distance, regular, but close up, completely random. I’m sure if we were to take the site of any of the world’s major cities and start again, the result would be extremely different from what we have now (and in some cases, perhaps wouldn’t exist at all – building below sea level, for instance, is probably not a such a good idea in the long run). At a more pragmatic level, we never quite made it to the far side of the strait – next time…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part II

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Continued from part I

Much further east, but still considered ‘eastern’ relative to other parts of the world – I shot these in Tokyo a month ago (at the time of writing) and very much remembered how I felt: the usual excitement of being in Tokyo, the anticipation of a reset in culture and scenery, and some slight dread for my wallet thanks to the camera havens of Shinjuku. Aside from that, certainly not what I seem to have captured: a sort of ‘quiet resignation to the task at hand no matter how bad or what it is’ – rather than the same sort of slightly uncertain edginess in Istanbul. Cultural? Perhaps. Or perhaps somebody in the audience is going to tell me there are things I have deeply repressed…MT

This series was shot in Tokyo with a Panasonic GX85, various M4/3 lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part I

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Every image is a reflection of the photographer’s state of mind at the time of capture; we see and interpret the world through a lens of personal bias. We either notice things that are extremely in sync with us – or extremely opposite. It is difficult to say whether the collective feeling exists or we are simply applying tunnel vision to only notice what we want to see. Going back to curate through one’s archives tends to yield very telling glimpses into your psyche at the time, and something much easier to see objectively in hindsight. These images were shot more than six months ago, but reviewing the entire set yields an almost manic split between the bright, cheerful and happy, and the downright depressing. I honestly don’t remember what I was feeling at the time – probably not strongly positive or negative – but mainly that the environment was so different that it was rather difficult to ‘be a mirror’ and let the images come rather than looking for them. What’ll be interesting is the counterpoint part II post… MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Off topic: Presenting the MING 19.01

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Many of you will know that I’ve recently brought my interest in watches full circle with the launch of my own watch brand earlier in the year. We were surprised and humbled by the response, but also fortunate as we had another project in the works at the same time: something at the other end of the spectrum, and our flagship: the 19.01. Whilst the 17.01 was designed to be an honest watch that brought a lot of the features valued by collectors to a more accessible price point, the reality is there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I simply couldn’t because of production cost restrictions. This is not the case with the 19.01, which was designed without compromises ad to be something very special in a world that’s already got a lot of very special watches. This is of course not a simple task, and required something special aesthetically, mechanically and stylistically consistent with previous designs so as to fit within the MING lineup.

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