Drone diaries: differentiated aerial perspectives

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More months, more flying. I’ve come to believe that real appeal of aerial photography lies solely in one thing: the ability to see familiar places or objects or classes of objects from a drastically and otherwise physically inaccessible perspective. An image shot from a slightly elevated level with gimbal only slightly down is not that different to standing on a hill or building; an image shot from some altitude and entirely top down is at the other end of the scale. Most of the really interesting drone images I’ve seen or personally captured seem to fall into the latter category. We are coming dangerously close to the automated and the formulaic, here. Or are we?

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E-shutter firmware for the Hasselblad X1D

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A couple of you guessed correctly in the comments of my earlier post – we’ve been working on an electronic shutter firmware for the Hasselblad X1D. Whilst we are still limited by the underlying sensor hardware*, there are significant increases to the shooting envelope afforded by an electronic shutter that is both completely silent and completely vibration free. Used within limitations, it can be a very useful tool. The above image was shot at a performance (without disrupting it) – on the X1D, and Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar**, with focus peaking on. Hit rate for critical sharpness was about 70-80% – which is to say, possibly higher and easier than focusing it on a native Nikon DSLR.

*The total sensor readout time remains at 300ms; if there is motion in the frame, you may see rolling shutter artefacts regardless of the shutter speed, especially under phased lighting such as LED or fluorescent. Similarly, flash is disabled as there is no way to sync with a 300ms rolling shutter. High ISO is limited to 3200 for the moment (sensor native).

**Yes, you read that correctly. I also used the 55 Otus and 2/135 APO.

The firmware also improves stability adds resizable focus points (35, 63 or 117 boxes) and can be downloaded immediately on the Hasselblad website here. Happy to answer any questions in the comments below, and a list of compatible lenses and a rough assessment of performance on 44x33mm – as so far tested by me – follows. MT

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Photoessay: Hagia Sophia, part II

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(continued from part I)

Hagia Sophia is not only an incredible piece of engineering and architecture – but also one of faith. Constructed in its current form between 532 and 537 AD, it has served as church and mosque (and now museum). Even today, you can’t help but be inspired, humbled and in awe of the work behind it; given its sheer size, it would still take a significant effort to build with modern construction techniques, and that’s excluding the huge amount of specialised handwork required for decoration and outfitting. I’m pretty sure very little of what we build today at that scale will still be around in 1500 years. The question of faith is quite interesting, too: the sheer resources and determination to construct something of that size places huge demands on the population of the city and its rulers. There was probably no economic return model, either – unlike say the European market towns of the Middle Ages. What impressed me the most wasn’t so much the sheer size or unsupported internal volume (though this was still significant) – but the detail given to every surface. Not all of it was completed by 537, and renovations and restoration have been pretty much ongoing non stop thanks to wars, earthquakes and simple entropy – but it’s nevertheless what makes it a truly colossal undertaking, and because of this I think of the renovations as much a part of the building as anything else. Other buildings like the Pyramids might be larger, but they simply don’t have the same kind of finishing requirements, or continual evolution and sense of being an active, alive part of history rather than merely a passive observer. (And I can’t think of anything modern except perhaps the Sagrada Familia that comes close, and even that is still not finished after more than a hundred years.)

I had the opportunity to shoot it for perhaps a few hours total; nowhere near enough time to do justice to the structure (and obviously not around the scaffolds, tripod restrictions etc.) – even so, there are so many images this photoessay will be split into two parts. Enjoy! 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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Photoessay: Hagia Sophia, part I

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Hagia Sophia is not only an incredible piece of engineering and architecture – but also one of faith. Constructed in its current form between 532 and 537 AD, it has served as church and mosque (and now museum). Even today, you can’t help but be inspired, humbled and in awe of the work behind it; given its sheer size, it would still take a significant effort to build with modern construction techniques, and that’s excluding the huge amount of specialised handwork required for decoration and outfitting. I’m pretty sure very little of what we build today at that scale will still be around in 1500 years. The question of faith is quite interesting, too: the sheer resources and determination to construct something of that size places huge demands on the population of the city and its rulers. There was probably no economic return model, either – unlike say the European market towns of the Middle Ages. What impressed me the most wasn’t so much the sheer size or unsupported internal volume (though this was still significant) – but the detail given to every surface. Not all of it was completed by 537, and renovations and restoration have been pretty much ongoing non stop thanks to wars, earthquakes and simple entropy – but it’s nevertheless what makes it a truly colossal undertaking, and because of this I think of the renovations as much a part of the building as anything else. Other buildings like the Pyramids might be larger, but they simply don’t have the same kind of finishing requirements, or continual evolution and sense of being an active, alive part of history rather than merely a passive observer. (And I can’t think of anything modern except perhaps the Sagrada Familia that comes close, and even that is still not finished after more than a hundred years.)

I had the opportunity to shoot it for perhaps a few hours total; nowhere near enough time to do justice to the structure (and obviously not around the scaffolds, tripod restrictions etc.) – even so, there are so many images this photoessay will be split into two parts. Enjoy! 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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Off topic: Presenting the MING 17.01

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Many of you might be aware of my historical preoccupation with mechanical watches: it’s arguably what started me photographing seriously in the first place. Which is why after nearly two years in gestation (and just in this form) I’m very proud to present my latest project: the 17.01. It’s the first of a new line of watches designed by me, made in Switzerland and funded by a group of fellow collectors, but brought to life with the aid of individuals who’ve been in the industry for a long time. To avoid the bunch of cliches that are typically used during new watch launches: it’s an honest watch that tells the time reliably and has the benefit of experience behind it – nothing more, nothing less.

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Opinion: Sensible perspectives on film and digital in current times

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Today’s post has been a long time brewing. The recent resurgence in the popularity of film is undeniable, to the point that there are both new brands and revivals of old ones happening on a fairly regular basis. It seems to be not so interesting for the big guys – look at the continual Fuji price increases as prime exhibit – but this has meant that there business is more open to the enthusiasts and those creating film specifically for the demands of those markets (such as JCH Street Pan). Anybody who gets off their comfortable chair to put money and action where their mouths are deserves a round of applause, in my book. Given all of this – it’s only natural that there have also been a lot of people rising to the defence of the medium, in the comments here, and sometimes much more aggressively over email. In the interests of saving much angst, it’s probably about time I make my personal position on film clear, and more importantly, the rationale behind it.

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Field test: the Scarabaeus camera clip

The Scarabaeus is a German hand-made camera holster system that clips to the waist belt allowing quick access to the camera. Generally, special holster for quick access camera attachment systems can be useful for street shooters. Ming Thein and myself have had one each to try out for the past several weeks. . In this article, I shall share my experience using the Scarabaeus camera clip in street shooting scenario. MT will add his thoughts towards the end, having also road tested it.

Disclaimer: the Scarabaeus was sent to us by photoscarab.de; we agreed to try it out to provide feedback because it seemed like an interesting idea and solution to the problem for those who don’t like neckstraps, but still sometimes need their hands free.

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Photoessay: Rhythmic geometries

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I see the images in this post as a sort of musical score: the suggestion of an overall harmony (wave) interspersed with little details and textures is too strong to ignore. I don’t know any of the correct musical terminology for this kind of thing, but I do know that I feel the same way about these abstract compositions as I do when I listen to a piece of classical music: there’s a strong underlying structure linking the whole score together, but at the same time also little diversions and explorations into variations that hold your attention and get you thinking. There is a similar change of scale here – not all the instruments play at the same time in every image; you might not have the same range of scale, but you do have the same sensation of layering and interplay of shadow. When the piece shifts into the next movement, not all of the elements may make it through intact, but enough do that you can recognise continuity in style; a sort of design language. MT

These images were shot in Singapore with a Hasselblad X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with either PS Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow or The Monochrome Masterclass. See more on your journeys with T1: Travel Photography and the How to See series.

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Work in progress

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Whilst both images in this post are themselves work in progress – parenting probably never ends, even if at some point you are less involved in the day to day operation of things and are more of a board member than an executive, and the golf ball building is undergoing renovation – that’s not specifically what’s going on here. To be honest, I’ve not been shooting as much as I would like of late, because the majority of my time has been allocated to five projects this year, some very early results of which are in this post. The Mirrorless Bag and Travel Duffel you’ve seen already. Another project will go live in a couple of weeks or so (and there’ll be a photography related post on that later, though the project itself is not photography related), and the other two you’ll probably see either at the end of this year or early next – those are somewhat moving targets due to the complexity of what’s involved (and yes, they are photography hardware related).

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Seeing and familiarity

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Everything must be evaluated before we have expectations of it

A few months ago, I explained why I believe there is no such thing as an absolute decisive moment; and examined how my own point of reference has shifted over time – both of these posts lead to some discussions in the comments over the whole question of why we seem to shoot better when taken out of our usual environments. I think that answer is fairly simple, and has to do with the same underlying principles of subject isolation: if something looks different, it will stand out, and if we can observe/see it, we can notice, compose for and photograph it. But the first part of that flow – the ‘standing out’ – can only happen if we either train ourselves to continually and consciously evaluate every portion of a scene, or we are thrust into a place where there is no familiar frame of reference so our minds cannot subconsciously pattern recognise and dismiss. The real question for a photographer is: how can we control this to some extent?

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