Thoughts on portraiture

H61C-B0005666bw copy

I have never been a portrait shooter – and as much as I find satisfaction (the reasons why we will discuss in due course) in a well-executed portrait, I don’t think it will ever be the mainstay of my photographic repertoire. The reason is both simple and complex: a portrait is not a photograph of the physical person – it’s a visual representation of your relationship with that person. A sort of mirror, if you will; even though all subjects reflect light and thus the environment to some degree, there are more and less reflective ones. Highly polished objects can land up being entirely representations of their surroundings only, with the merest interference of interpretation; one of the tenets I live by in watch/jewellery photography has always been ‘light for the reflection’. That’s not really relevant to portraiture, or is it?

[Read more…]

On-assignment photoessay: the face of construction

_8513695bw copy

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the chance to shoot quite a number of contextual portraits of the people behind construction – some I’ve presented previously, and thus are not shown here. Almost all of the images in this set are new, and the result of a much larger curation project I’ve been meaning to do for some time. Even as extensive as a single shoot for this client tends to be – thousands of images over a week or so – the subject matter and light conditions are so diverse that you seldom have a chance to shoot a thematically and visually consistent sequence; thus the only way to make a project like this work is over a longer period of time. It also ties in nicely with some monochrome portrait experiments I’ve been doing over the last couple of months. Interestingly, the main challenge with this body of work overall was not opportunity, but the fact that construction workers in Hong Kong seem to all be exceedingly shy… MT

Images shot with various hardware over the last three years, but all post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Workaday life

X1D3-B0001662 copy

Alternate title: another day, another dollar. As otherworldly as some bits of Tokyo might be to the casual visitor, like every city – there are more than the fair army of salarymen keeping everything running below the surface. The job is thankless, uncelebrated, mostly unnoticed, but necessary to keep the big wheel turning. We do it because we have to, and in doing so, a sort of Stockholm syndrome emerges: not exactly love or affection, but we still take pride in our work. Are they happy? Sad? Indifferent? Perhaps the sort of bittersweet melancholy that comes from celebrating small triumphs and mourning little losses. Individually our problems are our own; collectively, they’re the mood of a society. Every time I visit Tokyo, the word that sticks in my head is ‘stoicism’ – even if there are little escapes here and there. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III. Travel vicariously and make the most of your trip with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, or T1: Travel Photography.

[Read more…]

Major firmware updates for X1D and H6D

You asked…we listened. V1.21 brings quite a few extra features, and is available immediately for download here. The changelog of major items is as follows:

For the X1D:

  • AF support is now present for all HC lenses (except the 120 macro) – firmware is lodged under individual lenses on the download site
  • Interval timer
  • Bracketing
  • Manual eyedropper WB tool
  • Auto ISO shutter speed limits (with both 1/fl multiple and 1/shutter speed options, of course)
  • Custom button options now include interval timer, manual WB, bracketing etc.
  • Long press of the AF-D button during playback goes to 100% actual pixel view at the focus point
  • During EVF playback, the rear display acts as a touchpad to scroll/browse images
  • During rear screen playback, LV now starts immediately when switching to the EVF to reduce capture time.
  • Tethered image import for Phocus over USB

For the H6D (all three versions):

  • Manual eyedropper WB tool
  • Setting profiles
  • Tethered image import for Phocus over USB
  • Audio notifications – H4/5 users will remember this as confirmations that an image is shot, camera ready, over/underexposure etc. in addition to the usual focus beeps
  • Long press of the True Focus button during playback to go to 100% actual pixel view
  • Use of rear screen as touchpad for browse/scroll when a HDMI monitor is connected

I think you’ll agree this is a solid set of additions – auto ISO limits, playback functions and manual WB are particularly useful. Lastly, yes, I am testing an XCD 21mm at the moment… MT

Photoessay: XPAN-eriments, part I

X1D5_B0003188 copy

…Or, evolutions of a scene. I admit to having more than a passing curiosity towards the original XPAN cameras* – mainly because of the very unusual panoramic format, and the relatively accessibility compared to say a 6×17 with movements. Whilst I work a lot in 16:9 for a more cinematic feel and a perspective that perhaps matches natural human vision more closely than the taller 3:2 and 4:3 formats – going wider is rare and either requires stitching or throwing away so many pixels you are limited in your printing options. The latter is less of an issue with the latest generation of 35mm cameras and MF, but one simple problem remains: it’s very difficult to compose for this aspect ratio if you have no means to visualize it. Few cameras have 16:9 previews or lines, and almost none have wider. My H6D-100c has 16:9 and Cinema 2.4:1, but only because I sacrificed a focusing screen and scored it with a razor blade. Other than that, it’s pure guesswork. Given that focusing screens are not readily available for any of my other cameras, I didn’t want to add any more confusing lines to the H6D’s finder, and scoring lines on an EVF is probably a bad idea, experiments had not really progressed further – until recently, when we got a whole slew of aspect ratios with the most recent firmware. This of course means it’s time for some experiments.

*For those unfamiliar – a 35mm rangefinder in two versions co-developed with Fuji and also sold as the TX1 and TX2, but with a 65x24mm film gate for a 2.7:1 aspect ratio; close enough to 6×17’s 2.83:1. There were native 30, 45 and 90mm lenses – no coincidence we also have these on the X1D. It took normal 35mm roll film to give 20-21 panoramic frames per 36 exposure roll, and could also shoot normal 24x36mm frames – but why on earth would you buy the camera to do that? They are fairly rare now and finding a lab to do the development, even rarer. Of course there’s always DIY, but for reasons explained earlier here it’s no longer really an option for me.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: last of the Icelandic singles

X1D5_B0001644 copy

I have a slightly embarrassing confession to make: there are images that I can’t let go of, but probably should. They are remnants from my trip to Iceland nearly a year ago, but standalones that really didn’t fit in with any of the other series. It’s a sort of artefact of the site setup that posting single images is tricky because it breaks pattern too much unless there’s a whole thought catalog to go with it; the unfortunate result is that I’ve got a whole graveyard folder of images that work independently, but can’t really be curated into a photoessay or series. Some find life again as featured images, others land up illustrating specific posts, and yet others still – like this one – are held together tenuously enough by some rather weak thread that perhaps I can still post them. I admit it: I couldn’t curate these anywhere, nor could I let them go, but there’s still some emotional attachment. I’m sure somebody will use it to beat me over the head to remind me of curation discipline, and I’d probably deserve it. In the meantime…MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Architectural vignettes of Constantinople

H61C-B0002076 copy

There’s a deliberate choice to the title of this post: my guess is that all of these structures were in existence when Istanbul was still Constantinople, and they’ll continue to exist beyond whatever the next name change might be (if at all). The people change, society changes, the administration does too – but for the most part, the urban landscape remains for pragmatic reasons: both because there’s another level of civic/cultural pride that extends back through history, because it’s impossible to imagine a city without some of them, and because many still serve practical functions today. This is probably the very best of architecture: the kind of edifice that continues to serve far beyond the originally intended purpose of its creators and architects – even if only to serve as a reminder of identity. 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.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: From the mountains

X1D5_B0001923 copy

Following on in the series of Icelandic landscapes, today we go inland a bit and bring you a series from the volcanic mountains. Strongly directional light, unfiltered by clouds, plus ‘sharp’ underlying topology that’s relatively new (and thus in places uneroded) in geological terms leads to some very interesting textures. I found the challenge when working in this kind of landscape to be one of context: interesting textures and shadows only remain interesting when seen against other elements to gauge relative ‘hardness’ and size; isolate one element and you somehow the whole thing doesn’t work; yet often light wasn’t dramatic enough to really make a single small element clearly pop against a much larger canvas. 90mm (about 70mm-e) turned out to be the most useful focal length here; mountains are relatively far apart, so some compression is required to avoid emptiness; yet some width is also required because of sheer scale. I kept wondering if some shift might be useful to give the mountains a bit more weight, but to be honest – we’d probably need far more than possible without a technical camera and large format lenses. MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Urban plants of Istanbul

H61C-B0002257 copy

Today’s photoessay is a little whimsical: on a previous trip to Istanbul, I noticed myself photographing a lot of urban-texture type vignettes, drawn to the juxtaposition of textures and colors. But the common theme I failed to consciously register at the time was that almost all of these images had some elements of nature hiding in the frame – as though a second level of metaphysical contrast also somehow made its way into the frame. Ironically, in most of these cases – the plants have survived time much better than their environment and seem to be thriving in a way that contrasts quite dramatically with the patina in the rest of the city. I think maybe I was just pleased to see signs of nature still extant amongst the concrete. The set itself is a sort of ‘second pressing’ curation – a lot of singles that didn’t obviously fit any of the other sets previously published, at least until I noted the plant theme. There are of course a few surprises in the images if one is to look closely… 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.

[Read more…]

Leica M mount lenses on the X1D

IMG_0612b copy
f1.4, medium format, comparable size and weight to ‘pro’ M4/3. What’s not to like, other than the price?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been shooting with the rather unorthodox combination seen above. I’ve found it answers two questions/ solves two problems for me: firstly, the desire for something that operates in the way you want (i.e. transparently) and that makes you want to shoot with it; and secondly, the small/light question. (There’s also a whole separate discussion on the concept of practical equivalence and envelope that I’ll discuss at some later point). But the journey getting here wasn’t quite so straightforward, unfortunately, and this combination is not a Swiss Army knife – it’s got some pretty big limitations. But when it delivers, I find that it delivers something quite special by the truckload.

Additional X1D coverage is here: long term review; assessment with Nikon F mount lenses; field use in Iceland.

[Read more…]