Photoessay: Florentine nights

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Even in the off season (and what now seems like another lifetime ago) – Florence felt like it could easily challenge New York for the title of ‘city that never sleeps’. Thanks to jet lag, we’d go out for a late bite or an early walk and still find crowds; you had to go quite far off the regular thoroughfares and find small residential alleyways before approaching anything deserted. And even then, somebody would come along soon enough. Being a pedestrian scale city following a layout from the time before cars, it’s hard to imagine the city without people – just like Venice. I for one never thought I’d say this, but sometimes, you actually miss the crowds. MT

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

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Photoessay: Wrinkles (or, window seat VII)

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The scale of terrestrial features from the air never fails to remind us that no matter what we do, humankind is nothing more than a minor surface blemish on the skin of the earth – we might change it, but on the scale of geological time nature always wins and carries on without us. I suppose in that vein this series of images are some very macro closeups of pores, wrinkles, hairs, cuticles and the like – along with one rather isolated and dodgy looking facility next to a rocky outcrop in Iran… MT

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

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Photoessay: Duomo

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It’s hard to believe these were shot not quite six months ago. The world today is a very different place, and some places have been hit harder than others – like Italy. Looking back, I am thankful to have visited in times of vibrance and life, even if it meant crowds, queues, noise and my wife getting pickpocketed. Hang in there, Italy. MT

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

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Creative envelope

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I’ve discussed the meaning of shooting envelope at length in the past. This is a practical, quantitative limit which effectively determines the conditions under which you can get an image of acceptable quality – usually, we apply it specifically to situations with one core constraint; either that the image must be made handheld, there are moving elements that have to be frozen, distance limits etc or something else. It applies indirectly to creative limits, too – if you want to make an image under certain creative (as opposed to physical) constraints, then one must seriously consider strengths and limitations of various possible bits of hardware. Put simply: I think of ‘creative envelope’ as the hardware’s ability to support the limits of my imagination. And this factor more than anything else has always been the underlying driver of purchasing decisions for me. I just realise I’ve never really explained it until today, undoubtedly leading to a lot of incorrect accusations of being a gear whore. What I intend to do today is explain the key factors that I consider for my own needs – yours may of course vary or change priority depending on what you prefer to shoot. I’ll also throw in a curveball: my best or most enabling purchase in each category to date.

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The beginning of the end?

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Yesterday, Olympus announced that it was selling off the camera business – which for most photographers probably seems a bit strange seeing as that’s their primary association with the company; after all, if a camera company doesn’t make cameras, what’s left? As it turns out, medical and scientific divisions account for nearly 78% of revenue; scientific a further 13+%, and cameras – just 6.1%. It’s also the only loss making division – and loss making for some time. And let’s not even begin to talk about the corporate scandals of the last few years. From a corporate point of view, no matter how storied, you look at the numbers and it becomes pretty difficult to justify continued operation especially in light of a global photographic market that is itself contracting and stagnating. I’m going to try and answer three questions now: what happens to Olympus next? What does this mean for M4/3 and its user base? And what could this signal for the rest of the industry?

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Photoessay: Design objects

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At the Trienniale in Milan, there is a collection of everyday use design objects from the 20th century that represent perhaps the best and worst of their eras: things that were wildly over designed and over made and overoptimistic for what they would be used for; elaborate celebrations of new technology (like digital calculators) that clearly took a lot of effort and would eventually prove to be quite transient. There are objects that appear to have transcended time because they are still sold and used today; undoubtedly in use because of both form and function, and a testament to how good the original design was. Both sides are very interesting: not just as objects, but as social commentary of the era and what people thought the future might be like. Some were uncannily accurate and foresightful, and some perhaps didn’t even consider the actual use cases or human ergonomics…but all were at least interesting in form and color. MT

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

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Photoessay: Driver’s seat

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As a person who can spend hours shooting a single interesting car – having an entire museum full of dozens (possibly over a hundred, I didn’t count) of them made me both more excited than the proverbial kid in a candy store, but also highly anxious about potentially missing something or not really doing a particular line or detail justice. There was just so much to take in – nobody does car design quite like the Italians, and outside of Ferrari there’s probably no better representation of the diversity of vintage to modern style than Alfa Romeo. Clearly, something has been lost in the modern production process – it is understandably impossible to beat aluminium panels by hand over formwork at an industrial scale – but whatever automated process has replaced this, the lines of modern cars just can’t seem to replicate the understand elegance that continued up to about the late 60s. The 8C came very close, but clearly had compromises engineered in for safety, limitations of metal pressing etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge advantages to the modern production methods – such as symmetry (most of these cars were clearly NOT symmetric left to right, visible when standing at the front or rear centrelines) and interchangeability of parts – but there really was something special about the metal on show here. I initially went as a petrolhead and spent most of my time looking at the lines and proportions as a designer; to figure out exactly what it was in the ratios, angles and curves that make an object visually appealing – and moreover, if I could somehow apply that to watch design. For sure, it’s a much smaller object with much less external detailing and complex curves are significantly more difficult to model in CAD than regular shapes, but I’m pretty sure there’s something fermenting at a subconscious level. Time will tell…MT

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

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Repost: Design, photography and visual priorities

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Today’s repost is specifically intended to cue up your design sensibilities in advance of the next two photoessays, and put into context why I find these things so darn fascinating.

Some of you probably know that beyond photography, I’m involved in design work on two fronts – as lead designer at Horologer MING, my watch brand, and as a consultant at Hasselblad. There is a popular misconception that design is mainly about a few things: style, function/ usability/ UI/ ergonomics, and differentiation. In reality, design is really about making a set of coherent choices in an environment where there are choices to be made I’d argue that beyond and above this, there’s really only one overarching principle that should be the basis of all good design: I think of it as one of composition.

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Photoessay: Navigli

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The Navigli is a series of canals around Milan originally dug and used to transport marble for the Duomo; it’s now a bohemian area full of restaurants, bars, and boutiques that only seem to open at 6pm. Sheltered from any actual tidal effects and even most of the ambient wind by buildings and banks, the canal’s waters have an interestingly slow, inky mirror quality to them.  I went relatively early to try and balance the ambient sunset (overcast) with the lights of the buildings, but landed up making a critical miscalculation as it turns out nobody eats til much later, and consequently it’s either light or people/activity (and of course food) – but not both. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Blue gulf

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Flying in and out of Doha is pretty spectacular – not just because of the flight path around Doha itself, but the route taken up the Arab Gulf thanks to Qatar’s…’issues’ with its neighbours. The  intense blue and cyan colors of the sea contrast spectacularly with the desert sand; made even more intense by sunshine unblocked by clouds. The amount of terraforming and reclamation that’s happened in the whole area is an impressive testament to the money flowing out of the ground – and modern engineering. Oddly enough, it reminded me of the set I shot over the Sunset Coast of Western Australia. I always try to fly this route simply because the view is spectacular and occupies at least an hour of the flight; fortunately this time I lucked out with a plane with windows that were both new/clean and didn’t have that annoying dimmable LED shade that looks clear, but actually is completely impossible to shoot through. MT

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

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