Discussion points: An ideal format?

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Flexible? yes. Practical? Not exactly…

Today’s post will be the first in the experimental ‘discussions’ theme proposed a little while back.

We all know there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ format or system – there are myriad considerations for selection, based on creative properties and technical ones – for example, depth of field, dynamic range, ‘graphic-ness’, color depth, shooting envelop, ability to deploy under certain conditions that might be weight restricted, system completeness for specialised lenses, camera movements etc. And this is before we even get into any thoughts around cost (for hobbyists) or return on investment (for pros). In most cases, we’re left either stuck with a single system that fills all needs but perhaps not perfectly, or multiple systems and formats and the inconvenience of both overlap and lack of it. For example – I love to create graphic images with a lot of compression and infinite depth of field, but this requires a narrow angle of view and thus longer equivalent focal length. I could do it with my H6D-100c, but the sensor on that is so large that I can clearly see a difference in focal plane at f8 and just 150mm-e, with a subject 100m away. Clearly, this is not workable – so I also have an E-M1.2 and Canon 100D with their respective telephotos for that kind of work. The graphic intent of the output means that limited dynamic range and crushed blacks aren’t so much a problem as desired most of the time.

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New Hasselblad X lenses!

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No, that’s not a new lens in the picture above, but two pieces of news: firstly I have a XH adaptor in hand and am running tests with the existing H lens lineup. So far: they work exactly the same as on the H cameras, with identical image quality, just without AF (for now). No surprises there, as the H6D and X1D share the same platform.

More interestingly, several new lenses were announced today that will round out the X platform in and of itself – a 120/3.5 1:2 macro; a 35-75mm zoom; and 22mm and 65mm primes. I was involved in some of the planning around these lenses and the aim was to balance quality with size and other properties such as parfocal zooming and magnification ratio; such optical design considerations are a delicate balance between size, performance, price and design complexity.

I have an X1D again and am expecting to have samples of the new lenses to test as soon as they are available. MT

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More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.

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Photoessay: Nightfall, Prague

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I don’t believe this city ever sleeps. When it gets dark, it’s simply a change of mood; in fact, some parts look better when you don’t see the less salubrious bits. When you get a good evening though, it feels as though you are walking in a fairy tale at American theme park sizes – really quite surreal. The challenge is of course how to not make another tourist cliche; I think I got too caught up by the obvious beauty at times and consequently failed abjectly with this set. Perhaps it will require another visit to rectify. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Why the right hardware is liberating

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It might actually be better to start off with the corollary: why the wrong gear is frustrating, or at best, obstructive. First principle: what’s good for you isn’t necessarily good for somebody else, and vice versa. This may seem obvious, but the number of people who are chasing and lusting after hardware that simply doesn’t make sense for them is quite mind boggling – the internet seems to be full of them. Of course, it’s highly likely that those who have found camera nirvana are simply out there making pictures and have stopped thinking about the whole gear train – it seems much more productive to me to spend time making pictures instead of scouring fora for obscure solutions and rumour sites hoping for magic bullets. It boils down to this: most people make different images. Considering this objectively, it means that for different objectives, different tools are required. Yet what I can’t understand is the obsession with finding a one-size-fits-all; the manufacturers want to do this because it makes economic sense, but the whole point of having choice is so we as consumers do not have to.

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Photoessay: Night falls on the coast

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A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.

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The paradox of all creative professions

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Imagine you’re hired to do something on the basis of the work you’ve previously done: the client likes your previous work, and wants you to do the same for their brief – within limitations, of course. You have of course taken care to show only the kind of work you want to do, so that there’s no possibility for misunderstandings. But yet the inevitable happens: as the job progresses, the scope changes, and suddenly you’re being asked to do something that’s either a duplicate of what’s been done before – by somebody else – or worse, a mishmash of incoherent ideas that were clearly a case of design by committee and completely unsuitable for the original subject or brief. Sound familiar? Sadly, this is far too often the state of play in most creative industries, not just photography.

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In China…

…I will be, from 21/2 until 24/2 – please excuse slow replies as I have no idea how restrictive the Great Firewall is going to be. I will of course deal with email, comments and posts as soon as I can. However, posts will continue as normal, thanks to the power of scheduling. 🙂 MT

Photoessay: Reflections on Prague

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Today’s series of images is both literal, and not – what’s there is clearly defined, but what’s clearly defined is the product of a little optics and imagination. I’m always drawn to these kinds of subjects because they’re both not literal or ordinary, and of course use the best strengths of the photographic nature of rendering to produce something visually unique. That, and there’s a large amount of information and layering in here which creates a recursive wimmelbild of sorts. One practical note on execution: you need the right balance of luminance between actual subject and reflected subject, plus the correct alignment of reflecting surfaces – it’s not always so easy to find…enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Repost: The idea of a ‘5’, or that extra element

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Stairway to heaven. In the larger version it’s clear the solitary figure is elderly; we’ve got the manmade foreground/environment to emerge from, and the metaphorical representation of utopia in blue sky/perfect clouds…

After the last few posts on ideas, projects and distillation, I thought it’d be a good idea to revisit this earlier article around how to take things further: finding that extra something to elevate an image into something really memorable. Of course there are no rules, because if there were, an image be easily repeatable and at odds with the very nature of an outstanding image being exceptional. But perhaps we can learn to recognise and use this…

Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.

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Project-photoessay: Gravitation is relative

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Following on from the previous article on the process of turning an idea into an image – I thought it’d make sense to present another completed ‘idea’ for reference. Gravitation is relative was a day-project conceived with two students from the Prague Masterclass last year; our talent happened to be the 2016 Czech National Pole Dancing champion – so it made sense to develop a concept taking her talents into consideration. Given Prague has a reputation for being a bit crazy, it actually made sense to see how we might integrate both location and model into something a bit different. Street pole has been done many times, but I think perhaps not quite presented in the same way we intended: with a little visually plausible break from reality. The title reflects this, and is in turn a little play on the nature of gravity itself. Note: I added a coda of outtakes after the main sequence of images; this is to demonstrate how a few differences in execution (timing, presentation) can make a big difference to the impression of the final outcome. They may of course work with a different title; feel free to suggest one in the comments. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, 50, 100 and 150mm HC lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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