Photoessay: Facade

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I tend to think of these structures and images as representing the blunt end of modern architecture – they’re the somewhat generic barriers thrown up to segregate a space from the outside world in a somewhat arbitrary and identity-less manner. The spaces promise all sorts of things but in reality must be reusable and take on the inscrutable identity of their many corporate inhabitants. The whole concept of ‘identity’ is somewhat nebulous in any case: how do you translate the personality of a collective of individuals who are mostly there solely because the job pays, not because they have any great vision for the company? Answer: you don’t. And whilst architects continue to play with abstract geometries, geometric forms and more glass, every building seems to get just that bit more anonymous. I can’t think of any better way to show this than the effective blending of one building into the next…MT

This series was shot with a mix of cameras (mostly a Hasselblad H5) and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Painted shadows, part I

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We often talk about the painterly qualities of an image, but without the right quality of light, and to some extent, subject matter – it isn’t possible to create the same controlled contrast and muted tones that the style relies on. Fortunately, Prague in autumn has both low angle light (i.e. not that intense) but clear skied (directional, not diffused) days in abundance – and old, pastel-painted buildings. The buildings themselves appear almost graphic and illustrated a lot of the time: they’re either newly restored or rehabbed or well maintained, and so lack the sort of surface defects that often mar the graphic illusion I sought. My biggest problem was actually too much dynamic range… MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Shadows and details

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Texture is shadows, and shadows are texture: at the micro level, surface irregularities are thrown into relief and colors are intensified. This latter effect is an interesting property of raked lighting: since the pits in the surface structure of an object are in shadow, the overall reflected luminosity is lower. However, there are also small portions that appear brighter because some light may reflect off surfaces at precisely the right angle. End result: microcontrast is higher, colors are deeper/richer and textures are made to appear more real (if such a thing is possible). I love old buildings like these because they are perfect subjects for this kind of light: some surfaces are rendered smooth by centuries of paint; others by centuries of wear; and still others show the marks of etching of pollution etc. It’s an interesting study in color, form and texture…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, and H6D-50c, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Architectural shadows in monochrome, Prague

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Intense light, hard shadows, either end of the day: don’t be afraid of the dark, and let some of the negative space define the object’s form – or imagined form. Without shadows, we have no texture, no depth, no spatial separation. It’s interesting just how much of a suggestion of soft and hard you can get out of it even though all of the subjects are physically rigid – clean, dense shadows suggest crispness and hardness; feathering and irregularity suggest a certain yielding texture. Do buildings have personality? I think so, especially if they stand in contrast to their surroundings. Does this sense of texture contribute? Probably. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, H6D-50c and various lenses and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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Photoessay: Night falls

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With the benefit of an unusually clear evening in the usually quite overcast tropics, it’s possible to appreciate the subtle and wide variety of hues the evening sky transitions through – and the interesting interplay off the mirrored glass and water between artificial and reflected light. People often ask why I like to shoot in cities; it’s partially because of the difficulty in finding similar natural environments which are close enough to allow you to photograph in often, and partially because only the built environment gives you this kind of transition. It’s also a glimpse into somebody else’s imagination and vision to some degree; how did they envision their creation in the existing environment. Even if it’s merely a product of corporate averaging, we still get to see what the collective masses expect and deem to be ‘good’…MT

This series was shot in Singapore with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Urban detail, Lisbon

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Today’s photoessay is a series of detail images from Lisbon – small vignettes and scenes which I feel give a reasonably representative flavour of the older parts of the city. Yes, there’s a modern surprise in there about halfway in, but in many ways, this is also typical: there’ll often be an unexpected bit of architecture or facade tucked away in amongst the antiques, too. I’m sure more than a week here would have yielded a tighter distillation, and there are almost certainly interesting local pockets I’ve missed out on, but I also felt I had the benefit some pretty exceptional light; interesting how those light coloured buildings tend to bounce, reflect and fill each other so there are actually very few really deep shadows – even in narrow alleyways. Lots of textures, too, ranging from what I think of as ‘cheery Mediterranean tile’ to ‘Eastern European patina’. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Two buildings and a break

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For some odd reason, I’ve always thought these two buildings* to be amongst the most difficult to photograph in Singapore – partially because they’re such iconic landmarks that there’s almost no angle or light or weather condition that hasn’t already been exploited; you’re almost afraid to take a photograph because there’s a high chance you’ll just be doing something unoriginal. On top of that, the structures themselves are oddly shaped and the perspectives available at ground level are somewhat limited so that they look very similar from a wide range of vantage points. In the end, I landed up going back to basics: what is the essence of the form and feel of the structure? The result was a series of abstracts of each building. I’ve left what appears to be an unconnected ‘conventional’ image to divide between them, for the simple reason that under the skin: the hardware and M&E doesn’t change. MT

*If you aren’t familiar with Singapore architecture, the two buildings are of Art Science Museum and the Parkroyal on Pickering.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 35-90mm and 150mm lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Regular forms

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Unconsciously, I must have been searching for Mondriansque architecture – with a touch of diagonal Rothko thrown in by the shadows. I can’t really think of a good reason why, but it came through in the post-shoot curation. Perhaps it’s because those two artists decomposed form into nothing mor than shape, colour and luminance, and for the last few years I’ve been seeing the world not as ‘tree’, ‘car’, ‘person’, ‘building’ but ‘triangle on rectangle’, ‘organic contrasty shape on circles’, ‘matte organic shapes, round on rectangle’ and ‘coloured regular/ recursive squares’ – which I suppose fits in with their gestalt. It feels like visual reductionism, but isn’t – because I don’t consciously search for purely clean forms to the exclusion of some of the more textured and wimmelbild aspects of reality. I also don’t think it’d have worked as well in a location with less directional light and more faded colour – a certain blockiness/ solidity is required. MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. Postprocessing follows Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Barriers

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Barriers are obstructions, blockages, things preventing us from getting what we want – or foreground hiding background that might be of desire or interest. They prevent elements from mixing and communicating. I would argue that whilst undesirable, sometimes it can be for our own good. But that does not prevent us from questioning why the barrier is there at all. Perhaps though, the barrier itself can be sufficiently distracting as to be interesting or monotony-breaking. This of course has very little to do with the subject matter in the photoessay – on the face of it. Though I felt quite excited to be in the architectural paradise of Chicago, there were times I also felt constrained by the massive blocking of the surroundings: people, traffic, thought, even air was being channeled through defined pathways by these giant deflectors – barriers. From some angles, they just looked intimidating. I would say enjoy, but that’s not necessarily the aim here…MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D810 and Zeiss 28 Otus, 180 APO-Lanthar, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 85 Batis. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Carflections, Lisbon

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This post is probably going to read as odd to a lot of people, and I apologise in advance if any local Lisboans are offended by it.

During the week or so I spent in Lisbon, one thing kept nagging at me: what is the ‘essence’ of the city? After a lot of walking around, I came to three observations: firstly, there were a lot of cars – especially for an ‘old’ city with narrower streets and lots of elevation changes. Secondly, ornate architecture, some in good repair, some not. Finally, a surprising absence of people – I’d expected more inhabitants, but as it turns out, population contraction and economics issues have meant that there is far more real estate available than people to fill it, let alone people to buy it. If Lisbon were viewed from space by another species, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that more than many other cities – except perhaps LA – that the dominant species was the car. And here we have the genesis of this photoessay, which I personally feel was quite representative of Lisbon. Visually, I feel the juxtaposition between classical/hard/strong/colorful buildings and more organic, curved and ‘cleaner’ cars is quite interesting; there’s a sort of flow between them that is suggestive of water and progression of time. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c with various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III

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