The photographer as philosopher

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Some time ago, I was exchanging emails with a reader who posed an interesting thought which has stuck with me since and definitely bears further examination (and I paraphrase to retain context): Where does the work of a photographer begin and end? Have we partially taken over the job of philosophers to interpret the world?

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Photoessay: Window seat III

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’ve attempted to sequence these in some semblance of causal plausibility, but honestly – there’s no way one could do that unless the images were from the same flight (which these weren’t, but they were from the same continuous trip). As always, with these things – sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t; I had one flight recently that ended my blank streak (seat with no window or awkwardly positioned one; seat with dirty scratched glass but great light; seat with great window but clouds and rain; night flights; etc.) and it seemed that got things flowing again. I’ll say one thing though – repeated experiences with aircraft that have electronic/ LCD-dimming shades have left me with a preference for plain windows; you just can’t shoot through those things because somehow everything lands up as though smeared with vaseline. Oh how I wish for a chance to shoot through one of those 30×20″ Gulfstream windows… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: California light

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I’m pretty sure I’ve remarked previously on the particular quality of light that places of moderate latitudes by a sea seem to have – the other two that come to mind are Lisbon and Tokyo. I think it’s characterised by a few things: a clear and directionality of shadow (but not quite the same harshness one gets from direct overhead light in the tropics); coloration at either end of the day from the evaporated moisture in the air filtering light from low angles creating the kind of skies people pay a lot of money to emulate with filters; and lastly, a sort of almost overintensity of color. Everything feels saturated and hyper-real, but at the same time not garish. A tricky thing to reproduce digitally, especially in colours which reside almost entirely in one channel – the reds of cars parked in bright sunshine, the intense blue of a late afternoon sky – yet these are the little subliminal visual cues that tell us where we are, and make us long for the sea. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Why most images are compromised (or, so much for the decisive moment)

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Following the previous article and questions ensuing, I felt this earlier (read: probably forgotten) post would be a good explanation of just how much of a grey area the whole idea of a ‘decisive moment’ is…

A photograph is an observation of a scene at a given moment in time. It’s an effectively instantaneous snapshot of the state of a scene or person or other subject, given the relative rate of change of those subjects. If we extend the duration of observation – i.e. with a long shutter speed – we might see some hints at that change in the form of motion blur, or eventually, averaging. If we get lucky, or observe for a long period of time, we might eventually be able to capture an interesting change or temporary state of the system; however, this assumes two further things. Firstly, that we can differentiate what is ‘interesting’ and have a good benchmark of what to look for; secondly, that we are aware and responsive enough to capture it. I think we can already see why there are some serious challenges here.

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Photoessay: inside waves

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Despite the appearances of curation, these images weren’t shot as a sequence or two; they’re the result of probably the lowest yield photographic exercise I’ve ever done. The fifteen images here required nearly 3,500 frames to realise – there were so many physical limitations in play I simply didn’t realise would be an issue when conceptualising the project. Ever since my first time snorkelling, I’ve always wanted to create images like this with views of a wave from underneath and inside. On top of that, close observations of stills of breaking foam really reinforced how much of a genius Hokusai was in his (accurate) representations – but how would they look from underneath, backlit? However, investing in a full underwater housing would be prohibitively expensive and have zero returns afterwards. On top of that, such housings are lens-specific and without trying it out first – I would have no idea what kind of angles of view would work; as it turns out there’s a reason underwater photographers prefer wide angles: there’s less crud between you and the subject, and even the seemingly clear water (as this was) still has a lot of suspended particles that rob contrast within short order. However, the kind of perspectives I was looking for were not really suited to a wide angle, so some careful alignment and positioning would be required. Bigger challenge: this is simply not possible when you are being knocked around by the waves and have no means to maintain either absolute or relative positioning. A lot of the time, I found it easier to shoot almost blind and focus on anchoring myself rather than operating the camera (and this showed in the number of mis-aimed or out of focus images I had). Lastly – this is nitpicking, but feeling the rather shallow and stiff half press position of the RX0 II was nearly impossible underwater (fail, Sony). On the plus side, the camera performed flawlessly otherwise, with no ill effects from the submersion or dynamic pressure, and with the battery lasting surprisingly long in burst mode – easily an hour or thousand frames at a go, with some in reserve (obviously using tethered power or changing batteries out there was not an option). Enjoy! MT

This post was shot with a Sony RX0 Mark II and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: NYC mornings

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Today’s set is a very stream of consciousness series grabbed on the way to another meeting; I had a briefcase and meeting materials in one hand and just a compact in the other, so things were about as fast and loose as it got. I still think the mood is captured rather accurately: a bright, crisp autumn morning with both deep shadows and intense patches of light in places. It was also one of the few times New York felt relatively empty and calm to me; there was a sense of space instead of the usual crowd and hustle. The city was quiet and taking in a few moments to breathe in the sunshine before the rush – dare I say I even felt shades of Tokyo in places. Must have been something in the light. MT

This series was shot with a Fuji XF10 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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28 January Q&A answers, part III

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Continued after the jump from part II

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28 January Q&A answers, part II

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Continued from part I after the jump

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28 January Q&A answers, part I

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Here goes: after the jump, a distillation of answers to your questions from the 28th of January post. Thank you for contributing – some of these proved to be very interesting to think about! Remember, the most relevant answer may have already been given previously, sometimes in great detail…

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Photoessay: Urban graphic

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I didn’t have long in NYC on my last trip, much less free time to shoot (we were there for the watch company) – but the weather turned out to be binary. Either raining, cold and miserable (a set from that will follow soon, too) – or glorious intense sunshine and the kind of impossibly deep blue skies we never seem to get in the tropics because of the angle of the sun and ambient atmospheric moisture. Even the small interstitial spaces en-route to meetings proved photographically rich; probably a combination of the diversity of visuals, the newness of the environment or perhaps just having hard shadows to work with. Either way, I’m not complaining… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 (with my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls) and a Fuji XF10 (processed with Workflow III).

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