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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Photoessay – Architectural details of Aalen and Schwäbisch Gmünd

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A few more images from my time in Germany earlier in the year – there are a lot of geometrically simple yet interesting architectural details dotted around the towns of Aalen and Schwäbisch Gmünd; of course I suspect they might be rather more depressing without the benefit of such strongly directional autumn light. I would consider this set to be mainly studies of form and texture; distillation of a scene into almost unrelated and non-contextural component elements and nothing more. Regardless of the subject, the aesthetics of an image boil down to this – every compositional element has different visual weight and presence that’s contingent on color and the amount of image it occupies, in addition to relativity to the rest of the frame. Sometimes it’s nice to be free from the expectations and preconventions a particular subject might imply – portraits must include the eyes, for example; or buildings a sense of scale. Enjoy, and lastly, Happy New Year! MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis and 2.8/35 PC Distagon. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Gold and Silver Forum, Schwäbisch Gmünd

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During my previous trip to Zeiss HQ in Oberkochen, the group was taken to the nearby town of Schwäbish Gmünd for a demo session with the new lenses; I passed on the models and wandered around the town with Lloyd Chambers instead. Needless to say, this rather unique building caught my eye I and landed up producing a series of studies of it. It is the Gold and Silver Forum located on the banks of the Josefsbach stream in the centre of town; I was made to understand that the reason behind it was the area being historically a centre for fine metalsmithing several hundred years ago. Today, it serves as a public space to take in the sunshine and a meal. Personally, I think the most interesting part is the way the faceted facade reflects light and simultaneously creates the illusion of having many layers and great complexity thanks to the play of projected shadows on the underlying building’s core. This was accentuated by the hard light of that particular day. The facade itself is quite a challenging subject simply because it’s difficult to fully abstract without focusing overly on a single set of apertures, and pulling out loses the shadow gradation on the structure beneath. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss Batis 1.8/85, Contax Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon and a Leica Q. Postprocessing was with the ‘commercial’ technique in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5: processing for style.

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Photoessay: Shells of glass

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The world is acquiring a sort of homogeneity. I see it when I travel, I see it in the city changing around me. But curiously the little things that used to give a place character – the things that sat silently in the background, like a style of roofing or a type of tile or even brickwork – are slowly giving way to these soulless edifices of concrete and glass. They are the pinnacle of big corporate anonymity: nobody knows what goes on inside, nobody knows who the real owners or the real powers that be are, and the organisation has no personable name or face. Much like the buildings they inhabit: they take on a chameleon-like character and merely reflect the world around them but offer no soul of their own. What goes on within is kept secret behind a mirror. Layers are hidden inside other layers with yet more layers within. Welcome to the fragile brave new world; it’s like walking on shells of glass. MT

This series was shot with various assorted hardware in several cities – from a Canon 5DSR to a D810 and Zeiss Otuses to an iPhone, but all processed with Photoshop Workflow II. [Read more…]

Photoessay: Tokyo architecture mono, mid 2015

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To infinity

Today’s photoessay is a very limited architectural snapshot from Tokyo. I’m there roughly once a year, but the place changes so often that there’s always something new (and usually unrecognisable) from visit to visit. That is of course a very good reason to go back. This set is in monochrome I suppose as sort of contrarian approach to something constantly changing – monochrome still life or landscape tends to invoke something timeless rather than temporal; perhaps change is timeless. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D810 and D750 and processed with techniques covered in the Monochrome Masterclass and PS Workflow II videos.you can also travel vicariously to Japan with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Hong Kong Urbanscapes II

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Rebirth

Following on from the previous photoessay, I’d like to present part two as a counterpoint – both visual and metaphorical. Whereas the previous photoessay was semi-decay and urban wear and tear, this series of images is the shiny, soulless face of modernity. We are still devoid of humans because the environment has almost become inhumanly clinical, yet somehow there remains a sort of stark beauty in what is left behind. Enjoy the idealised utopia!

This series was shot with a Leica Q and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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