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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Photoessay: Mechanical

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The functional, dirty innards of construction machinery have always fascinated me by simple virtue of the endless textures and colors they offer. More than that, as a subject matter they offer a wealth of compositional possibilities because the ideas ‘work’ all the way from wide-angle-context-in clearly identifiable subject, to highly compressed perspective abstract. On a wider scale the scenes present something perhaps a little different to most viewing audiences, yet familiar enough to not completely alienate; on the other hand, the tight vignettes might be something people working in the industry and with the machines see every day but not necessarily notice. It is of course our challenge to find, isolate and present these…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Around the wet markets

If you have been following my articles for a while now you may have noticed that I shoot a lot in local Malaysian wet markets. Even my mum finds it hard to believe that I spend so much time in actual markets though I go not with the intention to buy fresh meat and vegetables but to hunt for photography opportunities. Almost every new camera or lens review has featured a few sample photographs taken at various wet market locations in Kuala Lumpur. I want to explain my fascination with the wet market and why I keep returning to the similar spots early in the mornings.

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Photoessay: The textures of construction

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There are times on assignment when I find the work in progress textures to be at least as appealing as the finished product; perhaps more so because of their transient nature. The complete buildings will be visible for a long period, but the supports, underlayers, rebar, assembly jigs etc. disappear after a rather short amount of time, and not having been seen by many and appreciated by even fewer – sometimes only their architects. I’ve always thought this is a bit of a shame – without the underlying hardware, there’s no public face. So here’s a celebration of the unseen critical bits…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Brand (dis)loyalty, mirrorless and why it’s good for everybody

Switching camps has never been easier: with the increasing number of companies going mirrorless, photographers can now have their cake and eat it – at least in theory. With the whole premise of mirrorless being smaller, mechanically simpler and cheaper, there are several key implications for every company: firstly, new mounts and optics are needed to at least attempt to keep to the brief. Secondly, the form factors are going to land up much the same: EVF in the centre position (or off to the left); thin body with large mount since the final element has to be very close to the sensor and therefore large to avoid extreme ray angles and all of the things this implies; some sort of decent handgrip both to house the substantial battery to power an always-on sensor and display; not quite enough body real estate to place the buttons for all of the features demanded by today’s buyers; and lastly – a bonus feature. Basically: make it as attractive as possible to the buyer to adopt, but remembering that as a company, you are also going to have to convince your existing brand loyalists to reinvest heavily, too. I’m opening with fighting words, but there is a point to all of this especially with the last two big holdouts joining the game.

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Robin’s stylistic experiments: monochrome squares

It is no secret that I prefer to shoot in color for my street photography but I do have a special adoration for black and white for very specific situations. With the right lighting condition and sufficient contrast in the frame I tend to favor black and white. I then decided to do a specific outing just to shoot everything in black and white. Initially I did not plan to do square crops for all images in this series, but a few images called for square composition which worked well. For consistency, I cropped everything to square.

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Snapshots from Malaysia’ independence day celebrations

To all Malaysians, Merdeka!

The National Day celebration for Malaysia takes a different tone this year following a recent and significant shift in the political landscape (as documented by MT here). I braved the insane traffic and impenetrable crowds to experience Malaysia’s 61st Independence Day celebration. Following two full days of back to back intensive wedding shoots, I was physically and mentally exhausted, but that did not deter my spirit to get up at an ungodly hour in the morning and be at Putrajaya (the celebration venue) in time to get close enough to the action. I did not have any particular story to tell or a pre-determined outcome for this series of photographs. When the celebration started I knew I was too mentally drained to command anything out of the ordinary so I decided to just go with the flow, enjoy the immense positive vibes alongside fellow Malaysians, shout the word “Merdeka” repeatedly at the top of my lungs and maybe, maybe be lucky enough to get some interesting snapshots.

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Artist’s statement, 2018 edition

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…or, ‘statement of underlying principles and philosophies as relates to the way MT sees and captures the world’ – but that doesn’t quite read as smoothly.

We all start our photographic journeys with the intent and desire to capture something specific; we may or may not succeed at this to a level with which we are happy. Inevitably, the next step is to attempt to capture everything, almost indiscriminately; if done well, this produces a curation nightmare: the gates are open and we are now seeing opportunity everywhere. We may or may not (likely not) have the executional skill required to translate that vision into an image that is read as intended by our audience; we may not even know who the audience is yet. Fast forward through the GAS, and if you make it that far – the hard road is only beginning. Rapidly diminishing returns set in and serious dedication and practice are required to make any meaningful progress; the hardest part of which is developing an objective yet fair ability to self-critique one’s own work. Previously, I’ve detailed this process in the stages of creative evolution; I’ve discussed general underlying motivations for photography here, here and here (and probably elsewhere that doesn’t immediately come to mind). What I’ve not done much of is talk about why I personally photograph what I photograph now. Sure, it’s probably possible to form an overall picture of my philosophy if you’ve read enough of my articles, and there’s a massively antiquated raison d’être of sorts on my flickr profile – but as we change, so do our motivations. Or vice versa. And that complex balance is what I’m going to attempt to explain today. The overall picture may well diverge from your own approach, but hopefully some of the individual points might be useful.

Important note: notice none of the tenets is subject or location specific (let alone hardware-dependent). A consistent and solid approach needs to be as universally applicable as possible.

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Photoessay: traditional architectural vignettes

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Today’s images are a series of with traditional architectural subjects shot in Kyoto, at varying scales. There’s a deliberate variation in perspective and size to put the various elements in context with their environment; I have deliberately tried hard to exclude the usual cliched contrasts between old and new etc. but instead show the edifices as they are in use today. Kyoto is probably one of the few places in the world where you actually have to try very hard to avoid older buildings…yet there’s almost no dilapidation, and there’s a wonderful balance between authenticity of patina and maintenance – just look at the first building; the lantern and copper gutters are clearly aged, and the wood is seasoned, the bamboo faded with time and sun, yet the walls are perfectly painted and the sign is clean and crisp – I have rarely seen this anywhere else outside Japan (except perhaps some of the restored areas of Prague and Havana). It’s the underlying tension between this precision and contrast that makes it such a photographically rewarding subject… MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Design, photography and visual priorities

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The previous post out of the archives was intended to cue up your thinking for today’s discussion: taking things one step further and exploring the relationship between design, photography and composition.

Some of you probably know that beyond photography, I’m involved in design work on two fronts – as lead designer at Horologer MING, my watch brand, and as a consultant at Hasselblad. There is a popular misconception that design is mainly about a few things: style, function/ usability/ UI/ ergonomics, and differentiation. In reality, design is really about making a set of coherent choices in an environment where there are choices to be made I’d argue that beyond and above this, there’s really only one overarching principle that should be the basis of all good design: I think of it as one of composition.

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