Photoessay: Window seat VI

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I actually thought about calling this one folds and ridges but then found a better set for that title which I’ll post in due course. It’s remarkable how short of a few lighting cues (and ensuing hints at climate) – the topography of earth looks much the same regardless of where you are. The images come from very different latitudes and continents, but all benefit from a harder monochrome treatment; a couple are a little hazy thanks to some pretty serious atmospherics. I left them in anyway, because I personally like the transition/inversion between land in a sea of clouds and land in a sea of…water; there is a nice conceptual symmetry here. My one regret is that I have nothing from the US in this set as the one flight I was scheduled on that was supposed to take me over the Grand Canyon in daytime got delayed by 9.5 hours and well into nighttime (thank you, American Airlines, for the soggy sandwich, incremental ‘rescheduling’ and total lack of compensation or even courtesy) – I guess that gives me a reason to go back. Or perhaps try for a change of scenery and see if I can get on one of those transpolar flights… MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Window seat V

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’m trying something a little different with the sequencing of this series. They aren’t all from a single flight – not even close – instead, the curation and ordering was done as an evolution of mood through ambient light and atmosphere rather than matching similar. I’d like to think this might be the view out of the window of a hypothetical flight where one got very lucky with seating, aircraft cleanliness and having the right focal lengths handy;. As frustrating as mist and cloud is when trying to get a clear aerial image (it reduces contrast, which you’re already battling for as you’ve lost some on the several layers of window and all of that atmospheric dispersion, leading to heavy postprocesing requirements and in turn the risk of color correction going out of the window or being downright impossible as there’s no channel information remaining) – I think on the whole it does add to that surreal sort of mood one feels when flying. It magnifies and reinforces the detachment from reality/ground/scale that’s already present thanks to altitude. As far as possible, I’ve tried to retain that look here. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; SOOC is nigh on impossible for aerial work as there’s just too much atmospheric effect to cut through.

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Photoessay: Window seat IV

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

Sometimes you get extremely lucky on a single round trip – and one of short duration on a budget airline, no less! I don’t think I’ve ever had this high a yield on a total flying time of about six hours before – at least not when the purpose of the flight wasn’t photography and I wasn’t able to direct the pilot. Most of what made the images interesting was the variety of weather conditions; no doubt because we were flying during monsoon season (which could itself be amply felt) with the heat and humidity required to create spectacularly dense/large clouds quickly, and the winds to whip them up into spectacularly interesting formations. For some of the ground locations – such as the lake that looks like a section through a brain – I can only imagine how much more spectacular they might have been at the right time of day (possibly at the expense of the clouds). It always pays to pick a window seat!

This series was shot with a Nikon D3500 and processed with Workflow III.

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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: 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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