On-Assignment photoessay: Welders

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I am pathologically attracted to welding. It’s the photographers’ analog to a moth being drawn to a flame, or in this case either an oxyacetylene torch or plasma arc. My theory is that it has to do with a) light and b) unusual light. How often do you see somebody focusing intently on what is essentially a continuously powered, almost unidirectional flash? You can’t help but look. The radiating shadows created by that harsh light create all sorts of leading lines that force your eyes to the source: man and fire. It’s visually epic in a Metropolis sort of way; the Rocketman-esque helmets do nothing to detract from this, making the whole thing simply impossible to turn away from. It’s probably the reason my eyes have floaters, and some of my sensors have burn marks. But in monochrome it also tells a timeless story of man’s desire to build something great from the sum of much lesser components. And for nothing if that reason, we must bear witness to these things coming to life. MT

Shot over a very long period of time over a large number of construction and heavy engineering assignments, with various hardware from 6×6 film to micro 4/3 to MF digital and everything in between…

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On-assignment photoessay: Monolithic

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There’s something about the visual gravity only the deepest registers the monochrome tonal scale can provide; those zones that make or break a good printer and convey tonal richness and texture. Whilst such work tends to be more the preserve of editorial and fine art photography and less so in commercial, I can’t help myself from seeing such subjects during the course of a cleaner, higher key commercial assignment. There are always structural and physical elements of such massiveness as require these tonal registers to do them justice; I shoot and file them away for later personal satisfaction. Overcast weather may be the bane of most commercial available light work, but it matters not a bit in this case. This particular set is the curation of several assignments; there’s a deliberate change in pace between the images where the monolithic element may be the entire frame, or just a small (but visually heavy) part of it. Or it may be an otherwise light-coloured subject but still somehow that sort of chalky, textured grey… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, D850, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/4 VR. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: Enter the Abyss

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The most challenging types of watch to design is where there are already rigid expectations set by the genre – pilot, diver etc. – to go outside this requires either not meeting functional requirements, or producing something that takes some acclimatisation by the market. You want to avoid being different simply or the age of being different as this inevitably leads to issues of design longevity/maturity as well as functional compromises. Our interpretation of a dive watch has had the longest and most painful gestation to date – with conceptual explorations starting in late 2017, not long after the 17.01 was launched. It’s taken us nearly two years to make something we were happy with, and in the end – we have also decided not to go to series production because it came too late in the brand’s overall design cycle. Even if we committed now, we wouldn’t see product until the end of next year at the earliest, by which time other launches with our second generation design language would have taken place and leaving the Abyss feeling a bit out of place.

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On-Assignment photoessay: gentle curvature

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On some assignments you sacrifice your favourite camera strap, pray to the weather gods to grant you favour and be prepared to shoot everything in a half-hour mad rush around blue hour if it all goes to hell. This was one of those: a last minute call from a long-standing client with barely a 2.5 day deadline to deliver completed, retouched images. Normally I don’t (well, can’t) accept assignments on such short notice, but I happened to have a free day and the subject was quite interesting. The only problem: weather up to that point had been really terrible; one camera strap later and I think we lucked out. All shooting was complete within a 12 hour window – including the night images (done late the previous evening) and aerials (the morning of). Light was good, winds were calm and a couple of aerial stitches were achievable – thankfully, as there was no physical vantage point for the angles the client wanted, and limited aerial vantage due to surrounding buildings and construction cranes. The building itself is quite unusually shaped – there are no real external straight edges which gives it a very strange feeling at ground/podium level, as well as a means to defeat site setback regulations at street level to maximise internal floor space. Not all of it was completed in time, so there was no chance to photograph inside the rooftop glass-roofed area, which judging from the drone – had pretty extraordinary shadows from the window frames and columns. As an aside, I personally found the results much more interesting in monochrome as they brought out key features and played real volumes nicely against projected shadows, but unfortunately those weren’t part of the client brief – perhaps for a future photoessay, though… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, Z7 and DJI Mavic Pro 2 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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On-assignment photoessay: From the workbench

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I shot for one of my toughest clients recently: ourselves. Whilst there’s no pressure, we all have the desire to do better with every set – and there’s the friendly internal competition given that there are no fewer than five photographers amongst the founders’ group. I am of course talking about the watch business; this set was photographed at the facilities of our production partners Schwarz-Etienne in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, whilst a series of 19.01s and 19.02s underwent assembly, regulation and final quality control. I’ve shot this kind of thing before for many other brands, of course – but it feels very different when it’s your own name on the dial and movement… MT

Images were shot with an Olympus PEN F and Panasonic-Leica 12-60. Post processing with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Image of yours truly at the bench shot by my co-founder Dr. Magnus Bosse.

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On-assignment photoessay: Preparations

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When on assignment, there are images you shoot to the brief, and the bonus ones you shoot for yourself: sometimes they aren’t really corporate safe or commercial-clean, but they have a something – texture, light, grit – that appeals to something personal. I always try to respond to these scenes in an instinctive way: just shoot, sort them out later, and package separately for your client in the hopes they might use them, or at least see and appreciate even if they don’t (because they don’t fit the look and palette you’ve already established). Still – I think all photographers need to feel moved in this kind of way; if you don’t, then the desire to experiment and create might not be as strong as it should be… MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7/24-70 and D850/70-200/4, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part II

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As promised – the continuation of the previous set of images shot at the same time at the same location, but curated and psotprocessed to very different objectives. You’ll notice that there are very few overlaps; different mood, different images. Perhaps the biggest change is in the handling of light and shadows: the very hard tropical sun that creates black hole shadows that works so well for monochrome is tricky to manage in color; especially when it comes to foliage (of which there is plenty here). There’s a lot of midtone dodging required to ensure the tonal transitions from highlights to shadows are natural; but not so much that things look flat. Some portions never quite get sun at this time of year due to the orientation of the plot, meaning we had to get creative in post again to ensure coherency – highlight dodge, midtone burn (the opposite for the areas in direct sunlight). I personally like the Magritte-esque clouds, and the eveningscapes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part I

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Today’s set is the result of an interesting client brief earlier in the year: shoot details of the development for several objectives: a) the usual promotion via social media, advertising etc; b) developer portfolio and award entries; c) for use as decor in the development itself. The latter is the biggest challenge of the lot, because you have to find angles and light that people who live there every day won’t see or won’t mind seeing or would like to discover through the images; and on top of that do it in a limited period of time – the small window between completion and handover. That leaves us at both the mercy of the weather (and thus light) during that window, as well as not really having time to ‘live in’ the development itself. Nevertheless – I actually landed up delivering two sets of images; monochrome for decor to both render the scenes somewhat abstract and era/time-independent, and color, for portfolio. Here’s the interesting bit: the two sets almost don’t overlap at all, though in totality they are both self-coherent. I present both sets here (and in the next post) for you to see yourself just how much the mood and feel changes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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On-assignment photoessay: the face of construction

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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.

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part II

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In the previous post I brought you the results of the aerial shoot for Koenigsegg; today’s long series of images is the second part covering the story of the making – behind the scenes at the factory. Almost everything is made in-house, and a tour of the compact but comprehensive facility will yield everything from CNC machines turning engine blocks, to people laying up complex carbon wheels, to a paint shop, alignment jigs, leather stitching and cutting, wiring and electronics and everything between. Even though the cars are astronomically expensive – EUR2m and up from what I understand – I actually wonder how Christian can still make money given the amount of specialised labor involved, and the length of time required to complete one car – they make fewer than 30 per year. The attention to detail is quite mind boggling – if you order a clear coated car, for instance, it’s not merely the epoxy matrix of the carbon that’s polished, but a dozen layers of clear lacquer applied by hand over the top, polished between each application, and each carbon panel’s seams must line up perfectly: and be symmetric on both sides of the car. Today is really a celebration of non plus ultra – both in the subject, and in using the H6D-100c to shoot it. Note: lighting looks natural, but is really a careful balance between ambient and a single Broncolor Siros 800L triggered wirelessly, and mounted on a voice activated light stand*. Enjoy! MT

*A tall assistant.

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and a single Broncolor Siros 800L balanced against ambient. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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