Photoessay: Dresden cinematic

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In keeping with the seasonal theme, and one of my favourite parts about travelling to Europe during the winter season – the Christmas markets are interesting hives of human activity. People are relaxed and happy; they’re doing interesting things or having interesting interactions and the light gets cinematic fast since ambient is pretty much nonexistent by the time things really get going. It felt like the right time and subject for which to reprise the cinematic style a little, too – and an excuse to see what this new 85/1.8 Z can do (in short: I like it, very, very much). Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked – but there’s always next year, and I’d much rather the feeling of potential left to explore than a subject being completely tapped out…

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Image licensing 101, redux

A recent correspondence with a debutant pro photographer prompted me to revisit the whole topic of intellectual property and licensing vs pricing: it was clear that he had no idea what he was getting himself into, assuming a job is a job with a fixed price and then handover of images. Whilst this is for the most part true and can be true even for extended commissions, it would be silly to leave revenue on the table and undermine the value of one’s own work. In short, if a client commissions work for a certain purpose but wishes to use it beyond at a later stage – you are within your rights to seek additional licensing fees but only providing you set that out clearly to begin with, and there is documented evidence of parties’ agreement. But before we discuss licensing, we should spend some time on the basics of intellectual property.

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Photoessay: PAM, part II

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Continued from part I

The way bright sunshine projects through the space through its various apertures and orifices is the kind of thing that is practically begging for a high contrast monochrome series – in person, the actual interior is much more similar to the first set of images in brightness as the concrete reflects and diffuses a lot of those hard beams. I imagine it’d be a very different space on an overcast day, with none of the drama and detail seen at the time I shot it. The horological side of me couldn’t help but think some of those floors would be great with calibrated scales to allow the light to be used as a sundial of sorts… MT

This set was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 and my custom SOOC JPEG profile pack.

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Photoessay: PAM, part I

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What happens if you have a group of architects design a building entirely for themselves? The PAM (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia – Malaysian Institute of Architects) building in Kuala Lumpur is precisely that. I got a tour from one of the people involved in its creation, which proved both insightful and the kind of thing you hope never to face yourself as a creative – i.e. when your client  is also an expert in your field, has a vested interest and there are many of them! It’s full of the kinds of features architects love like exposed concrete and structural finishes; open spaces, voids and plenty of natural light and air circulation. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of thing that tends to get heavily diluted by commercial considerations because it’s financially unviable – the actual usable floor area yield of this building is far below what would be needed to make it a profitable exercise for any developer. Still, I’m glad such proofs of concept exist, if only to showcase some ideas that might make it into more public use. But by far the most impressive thing about the building is the way light plays inside the structure as the sun progresses; though it appears externally solid, it’s internally very porous and light – just not the kind of place for tricophobics, as you’ll see in the second part of the presentation. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 and my custom SOOC JPEG profile pack.

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Brave new world: the surprising iPhone 11 Pro

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Field dispatch, Berlin, December 2019: I normally don’t write things on the road, both because I prefer to see where I’m going and because I find observations on anything need some sitting time; think of it as a curation of thoughts. But I’ve been slapped upside the head a little bit on this trip. Firstly, it isn’t a photographic one – it’s a spend-time-with-the-family one; even so, I’ve been paring down gear more and more of late to the point that a Nikon Z7 and two lenses is about the most I’ll do. In this case, the 24-70/4 S and the 85/1.8 S. Both are excellent but I find myself hardly using both the camera, and when I do, the 24-70 is left feeling lonely. Why? Well, I picked up the iPhone 11 Pro shortly before I left.

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Photoessay: Neighbourhood

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On the basis of the adage that we tend to avoid or overlook the things closest to us…I undertook a rather narrow challenge: images visible from my building only, without leaving. I realise of late I’m falling into the trap of taking things for granted – you see them without really noticing, because you see them every day. (Creative use of teleconverters notwithstanding.) On one hand, the restriction to familiar subjects would be immensely constraining, but on the other – being able to see the same subjects under a very wide variety of light conditions, plus access to all of your hardware (no “I wish I brought X” syndrome) should balance things out. All in all – an interesting exercise, which I think I’d repeat in future if based in a single place for any length of time… MT

Shot with a variety of hardware, but mostly either a D3500 or Nikon Z7 and my custom JPEG profiles.

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A massive (but silent) change

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I’ve long been one of the strongest proponents of tripod use for the simple reason that doing so forces you to slow down. This slowing down has the combined benefits of making you spend more time observing your subject and its surroundings to increase awareness and in turn create a stronger or more interesting implied story; it forces you to spend more than a breath looking at the composition in the viewfinder and being aware of elements that might be imbalanced or distracting or intrusive, or that should be included. In fact, I almost always land up working off the rear LCD rather than the finder as it has the convenience of touch functions, the precision of live view focus, and tends to be larger*. So why is it that I actually haven’t used a tripod outside of macro and product work in the studio for over a year now?

*My preference still remains for an eye level finder when working quickly, though – both for immediacy and stability of having the camera braced against your face; arms’ length with an LCD is not stable and such situations usually don’t yield time for another try if you happened to shake. We have recently seen the jump from ‘good enough’ EVFs to very good EVFs that have improved resolution, color accuracy, black point and dynamic range enough to be quite transparent; once again with the benefit of focusing on the sensor as well as magnification for manual focus. I’d say we’re about on par at this point, at least in FF-land. But I digress.

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A compact death

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In the last few years, our ‘serious’ compact (larger than tiny sensor) options have dwindled to just a small handful: the Ricoh GR, Canon GX, Panasonic TZ and LX, and the Sony RX100. I don’t know if the RX0 qualifies, but I suppose since it has a 1″ sensor – and anything else is thin on the ground. But that’s really about it – what used to be an abundance has now turned into a paucity. Even at the low end, other than all-weather mild-submersible things – it’s been quiet. I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of smartphones, either – because there are some capabilities unique to larger sensor compacts that mean there’s probably an opportunity here to a camera brand willing to take a small risk*. Here’s my thinking…

*That unfortunately probably means nobody, in the current market.

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Photoessay: Slanted

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A series of rises and falls today; topology and mountaineering in urban shadow. An energetic, driving baseline as opposed to something more melodic; think EDM over Mozart (not that I listen to either, to be honest). The beat links the frames together across subject and scale, with occasional visual riffs and explorations of a motif but sticking with this same theme. I’ve probably said this somewhere before, but photography (and any visual art) have always been like music to me; a landscape of texture focused one of our senses. Crucially, both have limitations – music is temporal and one-way only; photography has only two dimensions. But both also have the ability to effect a presentation that transcends the limitations of reality by encouraging us to suspend disbelief and just appreciate what’s put in front of us; we can only see what we are shown. MT

This set was mostly shot with a Nikon D3500, 18-55 kit and SOOC JPEG, with a guest appearance from the Z7 and Pen-F.

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Where will all the photos go?

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Every day, billions upon billions of new images are made; one recent statistic put forth that there were more images made in the last year or two than the entirety of human history before that. It shows, too – in the early days of photography the bar for both content and technical quality was pretty low, given that it was amazing that there was an image at all; these days, there are so many repeats of ‘iconic’ images that they have become cliched and passé. Even though the rise of social media and broadband has enabled content to be consumed at a faster than ever rate, the math only goes one way: the rate of content being generated is increasing faster than the population, and the number of hours per day remains fixed – it is therefore easy to see that either less time is spent viewing a single image, or eventually people will get nothing done except scrolling instagram*. We already know the effect this has had on both the hardware market (positive, then saturated, then people get bored faster) and the professional market (terrible) – so the question I’d like to discuss today is a more fundamental one: what will happen to all of these images in the long term?

*Arguably, this is already happening.

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