Photoessay: Over water, from above

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A set like this takes a long, long time to come together – you are at the mercy of both situational opportunity and the weather. On top of that, sometimes you don’t realise you’re seeing things in a particular way until you’ve done it for a very long time and then start to recognise patterns in the images you prefer, and the images you keep taking the next time you’re in the same situation. Whilst most of these were shot from passenger aircraft (also putting you at the mercy of window cleaners and seat allocations at check in), some used drones, helicopters or charters. All of these have one thing in common: none of them were deliberate captures, as in I didn’t make a dedicated trip just to shoot for this project or make this kind of image. They’re the b-roll and the extras we get on the way because something touches us at a subconscious level and we feel compelled to capture it. What I do notice common to the images of this set is a sort of distant dreamy calm; I have to admit this is a very foreign feeling to me, but not unpleasant… MT

Shot with a wide variety of hardware. Mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III

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Photoessay: Window seat II

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One day, I promise I’ll do a post of images shot through dirty windows, but it’s just not as interesting most of the time – and it’s difficult to not make it come across more like a hipster filter. I don’t know if I’m the only person to spend most of the flight anxiously gazing out of the window in case I miss something interesting (and annoying the passengers around me who are trying to sleep by having the only open shade in the cabin) – but at least the scrolling scenery makes the flight go a bit faster. As we’ve discussed in the past, picking the right side of the aircraft is crucial – you don’t want to be shooting into the sun simply because all of the crap that’s going to reflect off the micro scratches in the windows, robbing contrast and leaving all sorts of strange artefacts. I’m also increasingly finding myself torn between a larger format for better color (not dynamic range in this case; the windows lower contrast to the point it doesn’t really matter much) or a smaller format for higher shutter speeds (f2.8 on M4/3 is sufficient to keep everything in focus at infinity, and lenses are usually very sharp cross-frame by this point too) as the light falls. I’ve had good and bad results from both options in pretty much equal measure. The one thing I haven’t been able to do consistently yet – because of the aircraft motion – is get a decent image in very low twilight or at night; there’s both simply no way to get enough shutter speed or block out light from the cabin. As with all things, more practice is required…MT

Shot over far too many flights with a wide variety of hardware, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III – you can’t do SOOC JPEG for these because there just isn’t enough contrast thanks to all that glass and perspex.

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Photoessay: Urban aerial

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Nowhere is our collective societal impact on the planet quite as marked as when you view earth from the air – and whilst there’s probably some truth to those who think we’re going to ruin it through pollution, over extraction, global warming and the like – honestly, it’s much more pleasant to look at the view and just allow yourself to be a little bit amazed by what’s below you. I’ve always had a slightly odd feeling looking at places from the air – there’s scale, and at the same time, there isn’t. Small towns seem very much smaller; constricted, limited almost; large cities seem either daunting or filled with endless possibility. It may be a question of distance – if you don’t see the grittiness, it’s the latter. If you’re too close to the ground, it’s the former. Whatever it is – sometimes we literally need some perspective… MT

This series was collected over about a year and shot with a mix of cameras including the Hasselblad H6D-100c; H5D-50c and DJI Mavic Pro. All images were processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Drone diaries/ Photoessay: Over Iceland

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I’m going to start this post with a confession: I lost/crashed a drone during the making of these, which is why there’s no video of me flying through the sea arch at Hellnar, or of that double sided beach where the waves pound a narrow strip of rocks. (I do have the stills from the Hasselblad though, which I’ll post in the near future.) Feeling confident after the flight low over the surf and through the arch, I went a bit further out to sea to do a flyby of the coastal cliffs, and an orbit of a sea stack. Mistake number one: I wasn’t high enough, and the signal was looking a bit ropey. That should probably have been enough of a clue that something was going to go wrong. Mistake number two: I underestimated the winds between the cliffs and the rocks – and there’s not really any way to judge wind speed remotely, other than sponginess of controls and lack of manoeuvring overhead as the bird uses more and more of its available reserve power to fight the wind. Mistake number three: I was flying sideways so the gimbal and camera would be pointed in the correct position to film, which meant that I didn’t really have much idea of what was behind me (the Mavic doesn’t have rearward or sideways sensors). What I surmise happened is that I got too close to the cliffs behind me, and a gust of wind did the rest. Game over.

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Photoessay/ Drone diaries: Postcards from Europe, part I

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Today’s images are a series shot from various parts of Europe – mainly Sweden and Switzerland. Some were captured as part of scouting for another shoot with the much larger M600/H6D-100c combination, and some were simply because the weather looked incredible and there was no reason not to fly*. The packing penalty for including the Mavic in my travel bag is so small that I think I’ll probably make a habit of this in future – sometimes there are really incredible mornings where you’d like to see the place come alive in the light… MT

*Be sure to check local regulations first: in Switzerland, for example, no-fly zones within a certain distance of an airport are marked as are restricted zones with height ceilings. There are also weight category restrictions. Sweden requires a permit full stop.

These images were shot with a DJI Mavic Pro and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow.

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Drone diaries: differentiated aerial perspectives

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More months, more flying. I’ve come to believe that real appeal of aerial photography lies solely in one thing: the ability to see familiar places or objects or classes of objects from a drastically and otherwise physically inaccessible perspective. An image shot from a slightly elevated level with gimbal only slightly down is not that different to standing on a hill or building; an image shot from some altitude and entirely top down is at the other end of the scale. Most of the really interesting drone images I’ve seen or personally captured seem to fall into the latter category. We are coming dangerously close to the automated and the formulaic, here. Or are we?

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part I

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Today’s photoessay contains the stills from the video of the shoot – there are also high resolution versions available for your pixel peeping pleasure at Hasselblad.com. There aren’t that many images simply because the setup for each one was quite extensive, and we were limited to a small window of time where ambient was dark enough for a long exposure, and bright enough to have some trace; too dark and I also had problems composing. You’ll notice a few other tricks in this series – there’s high speed sync flash involved, a little PS merge in one case (we only had one car!) and some interesting lighting…enjoy! MT

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics, and Angelholm Airport for air traffic control. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, several Broncolor Siros 800Ls and a DJI Matrice 600 drone. Postprocessing was completed using Workflow III.

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On Assignment: Above and Beyond – a collaboration with Koenigsegg

Above and Beyond: Ming Thein x Hasselblad x Koenigsegg from Ming Thein on Vimeo.

This one has been some time in the making – planning started at the beginning of the year, with the shoot in May to balance weather and sunset/sunrise times, for release only now – today’s video and post is a taste of what goes into a production of this size. Please click the link above to watch it in full 4K glory.

In a nutshell, the concept is pretty simple – but as far as I can tell, unique to date – long exposures, cars, aerial perspective, twilight, Swedish locations for a Swedish car and camera, high speed sync flash to freeze. It is a way of visually describing the journey: the light trails are the past, the history, and the future; they’re not smooth because there are bumps in the road and and paths can diverge significantly due to small changes in causality*. The clearly frozen car is the here and now, and the moment we should be enjoying: it’s the immediate manifestation of the present, with viscerally clear details. The past and the context fade and blur away, dtails blurred by the biased lens of memory. After a little discussion with Christian von Koenigsegg and his team – they bit, and we were in business. Since we were going for the best of the best all around – the only choice was to use the flagship H6D-100c and DJI M600, of course.

*Physics reference.

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Photoessay: Doha to London

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Doha

I always try to get a window seat if I’m flying, and if there might be the slightest chance of anything to see (night photography from an airplane has so far proven highly challenging, with few exceptions – either your ISO is cranked so high that any subtle tonality in the widespread blue palette completely disappears, or you have motion problems). In those cases, it’s probably advisable to take an aisle seat if you’re the insomniac type, or stick to the window if you prefer not to be climbed over by your neighbour. Usually, the Middle East to European routes have something worth seeing; you overfly desert, mountains, and cities, and there’s at least eight hours of boredom to kill. I can’t imagine what else the answer might be if not photographic, to the point that I’ll try to sit on the ‘correct’ side of the plane for light and likely opportunities – beats 20 reruns of Friends at any rate. Whilst perhaps airline travel doesn’t quite have the same immediate connection with the changing landscape as driving or taking the train, it simply happens at a much faster pace and larger scale – which sadly is all too often overlooked by most travellers.

The opening image proves again that the adage ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ is true: whilst the H5D was on my lap as usual for takeoff, I had completely the wrong lens on (100mm) – iPhone to the rescue. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. Roam vicariously with T1: Travel Photography. and the How to See series.

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Drone diaries: Watch out, he’s got an aircraft…

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“Oh no, he’s gone and done it now…”

For a long time, I resisted. For two reasons: firstly, the flight technology hasn’t quite matured to the point that I’m comfortable enough with my own flying abilities to not crash or injure something or destroy the aircraft; secondly, the camera quality really wasn’t worth bothering with – especially when you’re used to something with let’s say, a little larger sensor. The first problem has recently been solved; the current generation of consumer-level drones packs so much guidance technology in (GPS positioning, radar, obstacle avoidance cameras, subject tracking and recognition cameras etc., inertial navigation gyros) that it’s really quite difficult to crash or hit something: it just won’t let you, unless you decide to turn all of the aids off. The second has also been solved to some degree, though not in the Mavic Pro I’ve started flying recently.

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