Photoessay-WIP: Architectural leftovers, part I

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Today’s series of images is going to be a bit looser in curation than previously; it is the beginning of an idea which I intend to explore further in the future. We tend to photograph very new, very old, and generally well-kept buildings in a sort of formalist style which everybody thinks of as ‘architectural’; it is not too different to the artist’s perspective-controlled rendering. We aim for the vantage points as the architect imagines them, even if they are almost impossible due to access and sight lines being blocked by existing structures. We focus on that which is aesthetically beautiful, unusual, functional, or generally an ‘ideal’ of the type. What we don’t do is acknowledge the ugly, the incomplete and that which is in generally poor repair. It isn’t the same as a picturesque ruin; I suppose it’s the brutally functional edifices that are built to a budget. The kind of thing you pass every day and don’t linger by because it’s somehow unpleasant. The leftovers. What results if we treat them with respect? It isn’t going to be pretty, but it could be dignified. MT

This series is ongoing and was/ will be shot with pretty much everything under the sun.

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On assignment photoessay: Chinese University of Hong Kong Library

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One from the archives for today – I thought I’d posted this a long time ago, but turns out it sat in the ‘draft posts’ folder. Oops!

Inspiration begets inspiration. At least that’s my own theory of creativity. If you’re in photographically inspiring surroundings, it’s unquestionably easier to make an interesting image than otherwise – or at very least feel that you’ve got far more possibilities to hand. There are some assignments where one must fall back onto professionalism and the motto of the US postal service* to get the job done, but then we also have those where you couldn’t stop shooting even if it were forbidden. This assignment was most certainly the latter, and appropriate given the subject was the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s new library space – which in itself is presumably meant to be inspiring to its students.

*Come rain, come shine, dogs be damned etc.

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Places still available: Singapore Architectural Masterclass, 1-6 July 2016

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I still have places available for the Singapore Architectural Masterclass from July 1-6, 2016. It won’t be your typical masterclass: there’s a bit of a twist. In fact, this will be structured a little differently to the usual Masterclasses and about as close to a crash course in architecture photography and an actual commissioned assignment as it gets. By the end of the week, you’ll be turning in both an assignment and a portfolio. Interested? Click here for details, and to book.

Photoessay: Minimalist Lisboan architecture

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Clean and colourful – this is modern Lisboan architecture in a nutshell, I think. There’s an element of brutalism to it; perhaps that’s the result of minimalism when scaled up. Still, on a sunny day the bright/ light colours go a long way to softening things, and the simple forms are relatively unthreatening. A few traditional references remained, too – the new cobblestones, the tiled walls; I suspect the more ornate ironwork and mouldings were simply too expensive to replicate. Can’t help but wonder whether the whole mood changes in winter, though – there were already hints of it at the Calatrava-designed Oriente station, which has perhaps not fared as well as expected – elegant from a distance, but overly massive at anything other than platform level, and with rusting pillars and a leaky roof above. MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, with some from the Leica Q 116. Postprocessing with Photoshop Workflow II. For a more in-depth architectural photography experience, there’s also the Singapore Architectural Photography Masterclass from 1-7 July.

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Open for booking: Singapore Architectural Masterclass, 1-6 July 2016

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All images from this post were shot in Singapore.

This will be something a bit different: like last year’s Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass, this will be a themed offering. I’ve been asked for architectural-based classes several times now, so here we go: presenting the Singapore Architectural Masterclass from July 1-6, 2016. It won’t be your typical masterclass: there’s a bit of a twist. In fact, this will be structured a little differently to the usual Masterclasses and about as close to a crash course in architecture photography and an actual commissioned assignment as it gets. By the end of the week, you’ll be turning in both an assignment and a portfolio. Interested? Read on for details and to book.

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Photoessay: Ethereal forms in Tokyo

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Every time I visit Tokyo, I can’t help but think the city’s districts tends to take two very divergent forms: either a sort of incredibly dense chaos born of years of layering without any possible initial foresight, with some entropic decay thrown in for character –  or a very precise order that’s almost identical to what was laid out by the architect’s draftsman. The first sort of neighbourhood is interesting because of the history literally layered in. The second sort is both dystopic and utopic in a way; are we looking at an impersonal bad dream that’s become reality, or something else? Moreover: where do the humans fit? There is a sort of stark minimalist beauty in the abstractions of form created by transient light, too. The shadows must have their time in the sun, too. MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 85 Batis, Contax-Zeiss 2.8/85 MMG, Nikon D5500 and 55-200/4-5.6 VR II. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: the towers, Chicago

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After the previous verticality projects, I wanted to try to find a different but still coherent approach to photographing large buildings from the human perspective at street level – this is harder than it sounds, given you have little room to back up in most cases. At the same time, overt geometric distortion from the use of a wide lens is not always acceptable. With the exception of two images, the rest were shot from fairly close to the base of the buildings with minimal or no perspective correction and the intention of preserving just enough of the uniquely identifiable aspects of the architecture. Locals or architecture fans should be able to identify the edifices, or I should go back to the drawing board. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, D810/ Zeiss Otus 28, A7RII and Zeiss Batis 85 and post processed with PS Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: An exercise in masochism

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In the unlikely event you might have gotten the wrong impression from the title, let me set the record straight: the masochism refers to attempting to photograph architecture with an iPhone. There are far more reasons not to do so than otherwise – lack of perspective correction, for one. But there might still be reasons why you would: the intellectual exercise; practicing the discipline of composition and light (you definitely don’t have much else at your disposal), only having the wrong focal length on your other camera (or no other camera at all), or because…well, sometimes we all get lazy. Or have to make Instagram fodder. Curiously, I find that the typical clean blue skies I prefer for architecture do not play well at all with iPhones; they land up turning into a noisy mess. I suspect on these smaller sensors, the blue channel is taking a serious hit – worse still if you’re adjusting exposure to avoid clipping in some other area. Something to watch for when postprocessing, and selecting subjects. MT

This set was shot almost entirely with an iPhone 6 Plus (there might be some 5S in there) from various places around the world over the last year or so, and processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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New Ultraprint offer: In the round

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In the round, Vysehrad, Prague

There are a lot of stories that begin with ‘it was a dark and stormy night…’ – but in this case, it was true. Myself and another masterclass participant had been freezing and moistening ourselves in a windy horizontal rain shooting from the top of Vysehrad, which is a castle/monastery/fort complex on top of a hill overlooking Prague. We were about done for the day, packed up, heading down back towards civilisation and hot goulash, but got diverted. We’d walked past this building earlier in the (overcast) day, which was striking for its shape and size, and I remarked that it would be great with the right light – turns out we got it. With the wide mixture of light sources on the building (halogen), surroundings (sodium vapour) and sky (light pollution from the city reflecting off low level rainclouds), I couldn’t have lit it better myself even if given free reign. This was the result – an accurate but highly atmospheric portrait of stories in the night.

Read on for more information and to order.

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Photoessay: Abstracted forms, Chicago

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It is only natural that one is drawn to photographing architecture in what must be the most accessible living history in the world – Chicago has a human scale to it that New York does not, space to stand back and see the progression of styles and evolution of engineering from a couple of centuries back to today, and moreover experience the buildings in a human-scale way. It also has the opposite effect of highlighting the abstraction, and in a way coldness – of today’s architectural forms. I suspect it’s because we no longer build to an accessible scale: we just build to a final desired size. From a building user’s perspective, I’m not sure I like this. The detailing and intimacy of historical structures is gone; I suppose the cost is significantly lower, but sadly this isn’t at all reflected in the current purchase price of apartments. As a photographer however, it does make for some interesting images. This is a slightly shorter phototessay than usual simply because I did not find that many opportunities for the graphic compositions I wanted…until next time! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon, 1.8/55 FE, 1.8/85 Batis and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Images in this set were processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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