Photoessay: Bauhaus nights

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Think of this series as a proof of concept for the previous post – not only do we now have very fine tonal control with few limitations on execution, but smaller form factors are beginning to catch up (good luck trying to identify which were shot with the phone). I started with one image first, and then couldn’t help seeing more and more of these – so I grabbed what I could, and curated them down into what I think of a series of strange sentinels in the night; they feel isolated but with suggestions of internal life. Unrelated, and curiously, it seems few people use curtains or blinds even in private residences (I obviously did not shoot these) – perhaps this is a holdover from the days of socialism…? MT

This series was shot with mostly with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 85/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls. There are also a couple of images from the iPhone 11 Pro in here, too.

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Photoessay: Geometric color

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Today’s architectural mishmash is a hodgepodge of abstracted geometries and colours from a variety of locations and a variety of styles, scales and palettes; other than poor assortment jokes, the only thing they have in common is a decomposition into pure form. I admit I like the idealism, the abstraction and the inherent optimism of having a structure that appears perfect and un-messed by its occupants, even if this is completely at odds with why it was built. In another life, I was probably a magpie, a collector of shiny things…now I am merely an accumulator of abstract colours and shapes. It harms nobody. It costs nothing. Some others may derive joy from it. That’s not a bad thing, surely. MT

Shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, some SOOC, some Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Recurring theme

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I was recently re-curating my set of work from Germany in late last year, when I found something I hadn’t previously noticed: this recurring theme of looking upwards (slightly, or a lot) at a building’s edge with a symmetrical midline and a graphically 3D left-right split formed of textures and light. I didn’t intentionally go out of my way to shoot any of these, nor did I have an intentional theme beyond whatever was already sitting in my subconscious – and being eleven out of 200 or so final images, is easily not noticed especially if not sequential – but somehow this compositional layout kept popping up. I have been having the nagging feeling of late that there are only a certain fixed number of compositional layouts for any given angle of view/focal length, and effetely all compositions shot with that can be distilled into one of these categories. I don’t have any concrete way of describing this yet, but I’ll put up a post once I do. As for this particular layout – my guess is there’s something about the converging lines that creates tension and draws your eyes into the centre of the image; the symmetry provides inherent balance which remains calm and aesthetically pleasing. Beyond that, microtextures in the subject itself leave points of interest to hold your attention and reward further viewing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part II

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Both this and the previous set were shot within a single very productive hour. Though diverse in style, there is some crossover in style and content (expected given the location). To be honest, this kind of productivity is extremely rare; especially given I am by no means new to photography, the subject, or the location and am not trying to ‘check boxes’. I only shoot what I see or find interesting these days; there’s more than enough of my own work and that of others that being repetitive is rather pointless. That said, when one is shooting ‘in flow’ – you lose track of time and everything but what’s in your viewfinder. You remember pretty much every single image you shot, but that total number invariably lands up more than you expect (my total count was about 750 for that hour, pared down to perhaps 40-50 final selects). Those of you who’ve seen my earlier work will see shades of quadrants, Idea of man, wimmelbild and probably some hints of the previous negative-space-heavy photojournalistic style I used prior to this site. If nothing else, you are the sum total of your path-dependent history… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part I

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A little while back, between meetings and a lull in the protests during elections…I found a magic hour early by the Kowloon side of the harbour. Almost completely absent of people, but with a clear, intense blue sky and strongly directional light that highlighted the geometric, abstract forms of the buildings around the Space Museum, Cultural Centre and Museum of Art. It felt like wandering around a giant child’s building blocks. Compositionally, each became an exercise in pure spatial balance; I didn’t see window or roof or wall so much as shapes of a certain visual weight that needed to be offset by other spatially opposed shapes of equal prominence. I felt them best presented in the midcentury, high-contrast monochrome style that Brasilia was first photographed in; the forms had the same sort of monumental weight tempered by idealist curves. Curiously, though I’d passed this location many times on my countless visits to Hong Kong, this is actually the first time I’d had the opportunity and the light to shoot here. I have to say it exceeded my expectations – and yielded more than just geometry, as you’ll see in part II… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: Upwards

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Today’s set is the result of a sore neck in New York – there’s so much verticality so close to you that you’re always craning upwards to see what the light is doing at the peaks. Street level is mostly shady given the angle of the sun and the blockage of surrounding structures, but there’s inevitably a lot of interesting contrast at the tops of the buildings – not to mention such a dense urban wimmelbild of shapes and textures. Perhaps it can get a little repetitive, but I find the homogeneity quite interesting – it’s the same, and yet it isn’t. The challenge lies in giving each frame its own personality – especially when the preference tends to involve shooting at a certain time of day for the right kind of shadows. And no, I didn’t always correct the keystoning – sometimes, that’s a large part of what creates that sensation of towering into the distance. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z and my custom JPEG picture controls, and a Fuji XF10 and Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Portman

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As you can probably imagine, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels in my time – some memorable, some less so. Some newer, some older. But one of the most architecturally interesting has to be John Portman’s Hyatt Regency in San Francisco. I’m sure there’s a proper classification/ term/ era for it, but it felt nothing so much like a representation of the neofuturisitc optimism of the late 70s or early 80s; from the inverse pyramid to the ‘turbolifts’, funky lighting and exposed buttresses, almost like stepping into a Star Trek set. You almost expect to hear a klaxon and see the whole thing flash red at times. It also retains some sizing traits I associate with mid-century architecture – long, narrow-ish corridors, largely unadorned surfaces, none of the grandiose scale and ornateness of the earlier part of the century, and none of the bare expansiveness of space of the 2000s. Whilst the rooms have undoubtedly been redecorated countless times, they still manage to retain a sort of southwestern charm. At the right times of day the skylights project interesting shadows, too – more so thanks to the hardness of light and relative lack of clouds in this part of the world. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 Z and my custom JPEG picture controls.

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Photoessay: homogeneity

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If most structures are designed to fit in with their surroundings, it stands to reason they’ll be a visual average of the buildings on either side, or a sort of mirror; factor in stylistic changes, function and the trends of the time of construction, and the mirror also includes dilution. Eventually, we have mirrors of mirrors. It even happens at a variety of scales, with similar distorted vignettes in every pane of glass. I actually struggled to find the right word for the title. What I’m trying to describe isn’t so much uniformity as an averaging towards the same; yet it’s not entropy because it’s an ordered state. And it’s not replication because the structures aren’t exactly the same; they can’t be since they were constructed individually and had to fit whatever their immediate surroundings of the time were. Perhaps the best description is starting with a collection of random objects, replacing one by one with a mirror; the mirrors are not symmetrically placed, and little of the original chaos remains – but just enough that there is a very diluted flavour left… MT

Shot with a variety of hardware in a number of cities over several years.

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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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Photoessay: Architecture, digested

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I’ve always found Architectural Digest to be a slightly odd publication title; I realise it’s in the same condensed vein as Reader’s Digest in the sense of being a distilled essence of the things you probably want to know. To me, the word has always carried implications of something chewed up, softened and mushed into waste products. Certainly dimensionally collapsed, or in the process of being. Hence today’s long-period curation around the theme unearths and presents perspective-flattened, distilled architectural details; the kind of images that the PR department hates because they’re ‘too abstract’ and ‘not whole building’ but architects themselves love because the details they fought the client to keep actually get appreciated. I’m with the architects on this one – if they can distill the character of the building into one or two interesting vignettes, it ought to be worth highlight. MT

Shot over a long period of time with a wide variety of hardware; mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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