Balance and composition beyond photography

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A combination of arts and senses in the appreciation: the feeling of weight; the design, composition and balance of visual elements; the subtle sound of the movement and even the sensation of temperature when you pick it up. Yet I doubt few will home in on any single one of these elements – but if you did, and only looked at the design for typography or prose, for instance, you might find quite a lot lacking…

I have a little hypothesis which I think many of you will appreciate. It’s somewhat off topic, so those of you expecting a how-to or review may want to skip today’s post. The creative person is not limited to one field: often, they have interests in other subject matter, and will try to apply themselves in a similar fashion. Musicians who enjoy photography or painting; chefs who sing; singers who cook. And often one tends to be not only good at the other, but there’s also a translation of style of sorts between the different disciplines, too. I can’t cook, or play music, but I do appreciate those two skills and can comment to some degree, in the same way that I can comment on design work which I do in addition to photography. And like my photography, people have noted my design work tends to be balanced, precise, and structured, but not necessarily simple…

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Off topic: credibility

I’ve recently been accused by several people of ‘not being objective’ and ‘losing credibility’ since representing a brand, and I’d like to address those critics today. Firstly, I don’t get paid for doing so. I enjoy a somewhat higher level of support and some loan equipment, but I still have to buy a good proportion of my own hardware. Secondly, the whole of photography is subjective in itself – equipment is only fit for purpose or not, there is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ since no two people shoot the same way or same subjects. Sure, we can do quantitative measurement – but as most people (correctly) point out, there’s more to it than numbers. Thirdly, if the only thing you associate me with is equipment reviews, then I breathe a sigh of relief: you might be missing out on 90% of my site, but the gear-related questions and emails I don’t have to answer leave me time to focus on making pictures and the philosophy of photography. Lastly, the philosophy of photography and image-making and human psychological response has nothing whatsoever to do with hardware beyond its necessity as a tool for achieving a certain expression – you cannot have a compressed perspective with a wide angle, but two 500mm lenses are going to give you the same perspective regardless of pedigree.

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Sep 2016 Garage sale: all gone, thanks!

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Despite how this may appear, no, I have not lost my mind. I’m simply (rationally) moving along the things I haven’t used in six months or more; photography for me must run as a business, too. Which is why it’s best for me to allow other people the opportunity to enjoy the stuff I’m not using – plus I’m feeling the slight guilt of underutilisation, and the Alpa FPS is really, really expensive…

In summary, here’s what’s available:

  1. Nikon AI-S 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, with original hood Sold pending payment
  2. Leica Q Typ 116 (review), with extras Sold
  3. Nikon F2 Titan Sold
  4. Carl Zeiss Contax/Yashica 2.8/35 PC Distagon AEG Sold
  5. Novoflex C/Y to Sony E adaptor Sold

Full details after the jump, and first come first served. I don’t expect these items to stick around very long. Prices are in USD.

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Aesthetics beyond the image

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Opening questions: What is beauty? What is elegance? What is ugliness? What is refinement? What’s the difference between functionality and art? What do we prefer one object over another, given choice, and identical function/ consumption of resources? These are not easy questions to answer: they require us to address fundamental challenges of not just personal preference, but also identity. We like something because we choose it over something else; we find that beautiful but that preference is a consequence of personal biases, needs, requirements and ultimately – experiences which make our personality and preferences the way they are. Yet our instinctive responses to things are often both immediate and quite strong: the like or dislike is established within moments of contact, and whilst prolonged exposure might breed some latitude born of understanding and tolerance, it’s unlikely to change love into hate. I want to address a very difficult set of questions today: what is the aesthetic sense? How can it be developed? Does it matter for photography, and if so, how does it make us better (or worse)?

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Off topic: Just in case

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That proverbial sink

I was playing equipment tetris* for a job recently – a regular occurrence. It occurred to me that most of the hardware I was packing was ‘just in case’; contingency planning if something happens to go pear shaped or I encountered a situation at the very edges of the envelope. There are of course no excuses for not delivering what the client wants, at least if you intend to keep your clients. This means I basically had two complete Hasselblad medium format kits – including backup lens coverage – a set of filters, double the number of batteries and triple the number of cards, critical backups, etc. Add a spare tripod head and brackets to the mix, plus a day bag to work out of, and you’re soon seriously encumbered. This wasn’t even a job requiring external lighting, which brings the packed weight to somewhere in the 50kg region once you include stands and modifiers. In practice, for that once in a blue moon occurrence, you’re glad when you have it – but the rest of the time, your back is cursing you. The rest of the time, you shoot with one body and the zoom. There’s probably got to be an easier way, right?

*Attempting to fit in various camera bodies, lenses and accessories into the smallest possible volume for that amount of gear, but the largest possible volume that would pass for carry on – my record is 24kg overweight for hand carry, at which point Air France forced me to buy another seat. At full price. In one of the front cabins, because the rear one was full – and with a penalty fee for cancelling the old one. I definitely didn’t want to repeat that.

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Off topic: thoughts on turning 30, or – the trouble with choice

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The barrier: mental, physical, or simply too much confusion?

How many careers will the average 30 year old have by the time they retire – if they can even afford to retire? My guess is anywhere north of five. This is a stark contrast with my parents’ generation, where working with the same company for life wasn’t unheard of – and 20+ year stints were pretty common. A move after anything less than five years was seen as ‘unstable’. When I began my career 14 years ago, that timetable was down to three; these days, a year is just fine. Are we learning faster? Probably not. Are we getting more impatient? Definitely. Tomorrow, I’ll turn 30. I am aware that this is probably a bit younger than most in the audience, if the workshop demographics are anything to go by, but I’m both here and I’m not; having graduated and started work at 16, I’m now on my second career and the vast majority of my friends and peers are in their 40s and 50s – which puts me in a rather unique observatory position (or eternal no-mans’ land, depending on how you look at it). If you’ll permit me the digression – I promise we will talk photography at some point later in the piece – I’d like to share some thoughts.

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Choosing gear: a webinar in collaboration with DearSusan – 3 or 4 June 2016

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Regular readers will have noticed I’ve gone through a year of pain and bleeding cash whilst searching equipment-wise whilst trying to figure out the best creative and professional fit equipment-wise. After a discussion with Pascal Jappy – the founder of DearSusan – first at a Zeiss event last year and then more recently; we came to the conclusion that it might be useful to offer a little guidance for those still navigating the process (which includes Pascal, actually). Choosing the right gear is important for two reasons: you want the most suitable tool for your creative objectives and shooting style, whilst avoiding expensive experimentation and system swaps. The logic is pretty simple: the less you worry about the hardware, the more time you want to shoot and the more time you actually spend doing it – which presumably is the objective of photography for most people.

The nice but confusing thing is of course that we have choices: the same thing isn’t ideal for everybody, and no, I’m not going to say medium format is the only long term answer. :) Pascal and I have come up with a framework to help objectively determine the best setup for your creative and personal needs – and will guide you through it, with live interaction in a webinar format.

There are two available dates for the webinar:

A spot in either session costs US$27. Sessions will last approximately 1-1.5 hours and the number of participants will be limited to allow maximum interaction for everybody.

Please click here to book.

Thanks and see you this week! MT

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And we have a winner!

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The random number bots have spoken, and Mark A. drew the lucky straw. Congratulations, and Izzy Flamm from B&H will be in touch (or should have been already) very soon to send you your gift card. Thanks to everybody for participating! MT

Creator or consumer?

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Entropy is the way of all things

I have a theory: there are only two kinds of people in this world when it comes to content and creative output. Either you are primarily a consumer, or primarily a creator. We also have to take two other parameters into account: quantity and reach; total impact is determined by both – little quantity and widespread reach is probably about the same as high quantity and narrow reach, with high quantity and high reach of course having the greatest net output. A consumer is a person who has little quantity or reach; certainly less than the media they consume. A creator is a person whose output exceeds their input (reflagging and distribution doesn’t count; that’s not creating anything new). Of course, a much simpler way of looking at this is by time: do you spend more time reading and watching, or making/ shooting/ posting/ writing/ sharing?

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Photographic étiquette, part one

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There are some things you must just do, or must not do, as a photographer. Today’s post is to help all of you navigate that minefield…

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