Would they be famous now? Or, the bar has been raised

I recently attended two exhibitions. First was a semibiographical retrospective of Yves St Laurent at work by French photographer Pierre Boulat, and the other was Steve McCurry’s ‘Iconic Photographs’. Both were in Asia, but held at two of the top galleries in the region – Galeri Petronas and Sundaram Tagore, respectively. There was no faulting the presentation or hanging in either case. For both shows, print quality was frankly disappointingly mediocre. I’m prepared to give Boulat some latitude since he was working in relatively early film days and under ‘documentary’ conditions; McCurry’s film work often has obvious motion blur and focus misses, and his digital compounds that with oversharpening haloes – all of which land up being distracting from the image. He should really have tighter control on his post production, or stop outsourcing altogether – as the recent cloning scandal demonstrates. It’s not so much the use of postproduction enhancement, but the addition or removal of elements in what is expected to be work of a documentary nature. All of this has raised two questions in my own mind: firstly, if either photographer was starting out fresh today, would they have anywhere near the notoriety and fame, and secondly, has the game changed so much that we modern photographers have little hope of making a truly widely-recognized ‘iconic image’?

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Regular forms

_Q116_L1120373 copy

Unconsciously, I must have been searching for Mondriansque architecture – with a touch of diagonal Rothko thrown in by the shadows. I can’t really think of a good reason why, but it came through in the post-shoot curation. Perhaps it’s because those two artists decomposed form into nothing mor than shape, colour and luminance, and for the last few years I’ve been seeing the world not as ‘tree’, ‘car’, ‘person’, ‘building’ but ‘triangle on rectangle’, ‘organic contrasty shape on circles’, ‘matte organic shapes, round on rectangle’ and ‘coloured regular/ recursive squares’ – which I suppose fits in with their gestalt. It feels like visual reductionism, but isn’t – because I don’t consciously search for purely clean forms to the exclusion of some of the more textured and wimmelbild aspects of reality. I also don’t think it’d have worked as well in a location with less directional light and more faded colour – a certain blockiness/ solidity is required. MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. Postprocessing follows Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

[Read more…]

A creative frame of mind, redux

_5R07384 copy

Things are not as they seem: experimentation, in capture and post

This is an alternative take on an earlier piece I wrote, also on a creative frame of mind: from a different frame of mind, no less. There are some professions where you don’t have to be in the right mood to do your job well. You can be an effective consultant, accountant or middle management without having to be particularly inspired; in fact, imagination is generally not a good thing when it comes to accounting and finance anyway. (At least that’s what Inland Revenue said; if you’re Prime Minister, that’s another thing entirely). However, for creative professions – photography, videography, design, writing, music etc. – there’s no question that your state of mind has a direct and very tangible impact on the outcome of the work. As a photographer, professionalism – the ability to deliver at a minimum standard that’s above your client’s expectations under effectively all circumstances – is the bare minimum. But inspiration is what really make the difference between workaday and brilliant. [Read more…]

Mid term assessment of Hasselblad H lenses (UPDATED 29/5)

AB0000297 copy

Having used the H5D-50c and a good number of lenses for a while now, I wanted to round off the post from a couple of days ago (which was my mid term assessment of the camera) with some more detailed comments on the lenses – especially since practical reviews of these things are not common, and I’ve been receiving a lot of email of late. This is understandable, since medium format glass is both a serious and not so liquid – at least compared to 35mm – investment and therefore not the kind of thing you want to make a mistake buying. For those who don’t know, Hasselblad H lenses are built by Fujinon in Japan. The good news is that what I’ve used is pretty much excellent across the board – there are some exceptions, but few. I’ve also added some rough numerical scores, relative to other lenses available at the time of writing. I’ve also updated the Camerapedia, too.

I know this post is probably for a very small audience, but why not read on and live vicariously…

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Mokhtar Samba and the African Jazz Project

_Q116_L1060499 copy

I have a dirty little secret. I like to shoot jazz concerts at small venues. Wednesdays, Thursdays and by special appointment. It’s something I did perhaps ten years ago, shortly after starting photography seriously; I’ve done it on and off a few times since when time and opportunity permits. The music came first; I’m very much tone deaf but can still appreciate it. The camera came along after being invited to shoot by some of the venue owners, and stayed since. Today’s set is from Mokhtar Samba and the African Jazz Project at No Black Tie in Kuala Lumpur from a couple of months back. You may recognise some of the images from the photographing concerts article. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus and Leica Q, and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

[Read more…]

New year’s resolutions, 2016

_7R2_DSC1107 copy
Strung out: this is the photography market at present. Some fruit, none of it low hanging, all of it complex, a complex tangle to reach it and the illusion of blue skies and possibilities.

If there’s one thing I take away from 2015, is that the photographic market is getting more and more complex. There are tradeoffs in every choice – from clients to specialisation to hardware. And for me, 2016 is going to have to be spent sorting a large chunk of that out. But first, let’s see how I did against my 2015 goals.

[Read more…]

Up to $300 off Zeiss lenses

I’m not normally one for advertising, but this is too good to miss. Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Zeiss lenses because of their optical performance – and I don’t think I’ve ever seen discounts on DSLR lenses before…

Click here to buy from B&H.

Name and shame: ‘Pentax Ricoh Indonesia’ stole my image UPDATE: resolved.

GR

One of my readers (thank you) brought this to my attention earlier today. It is with great disappointment that I have to do this, because clearly the company involved – AW Photo, unclear whether they are distributor or subsidiary or something else to do with Pentax Ricoh but claiming to be ‘Pentax Ricoh Indonesia’ – has used one of my images for commercial promotion purposes without permission or credit, from my review here. Note how the watermark is still in place – how could their web designer have failed to notice that? On top of that, the page was apparently last updated in October 2013 – that’s eight months of unauthorised use, and eight months in which HQ could have done something.

[Read more…]

Some good Nikon lens deals…

Just got this in the mail and thought I’d share it – there’s up to $400 off various lenses at B&H – like the 80-400 AFS, for instance; no body purchase required. Click here.

Purchases made through the link do give me a small referral commission that helps support the site. It doesn’t make any difference to the price for you, though. Thanks! MT

One day left to enter the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards

A gentle reminder: there’s one day left to get your entries in for the 2013 Maybank Photo Awards; each photographer can have multiple entries per category, the prizes are sizeable and the head judge is yours truly, so if you haven’t entered – and are an ASEAN resident – then you probably should! MT

Submit your entries via the competition page here.