Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part I

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Whilst of course there should be no reason to limit cinematic-style photography to just low light work with shallow DOF, there is definitely a tendency towards this as it’s much easier to create a controlled atmosphere with very directional light than during daytime. However, the conditions during my trip to New York late last year made for something similar while the sun was up: long shadows and strong sunlight, with intense contrast and pools of both mystery and stark exposure. It’s probably the first time I’ve been motivated to try cityscape cinematics with bright light. Even though I’ve been given similar light in dense urban environments before, I think NYC is unique in the layout of the streets and the way they cut light up into patches – this doesn’t happen with the more organic layouts of say, Tokyo or Lisbon. Admittedly, it wasn’t a photographically-focused trip – being customer events for the watch company – but I still got a couple of hours in. Naturally, this continued after dark… 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: Dresden cinematic

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In keeping with the seasonal theme, and one of my favourite parts about travelling to Europe during the winter season – the Christmas markets are interesting hives of human activity. People are relaxed and happy; they’re doing interesting things or having interesting interactions and the light gets cinematic fast since ambient is pretty much nonexistent by the time things really get going. It felt like the right time and subject for which to reprise the cinematic style a little, too – and an excuse to see what this new 85/1.8 Z can do (in short: I like it, very, very much). Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked – but there’s always next year, and I’d much rather the feeling of potential left to explore than a subject being completely tapped out…

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part II

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Continued from part I. Think of this as Act II…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part I

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The first part of this series is a sort of composited rush from one city (Tokyo) to the next (Kyoto) – it’s admittedly a bit discontinuous since the curation was made of a set of discontinuous 2.4:1 widescreen frames grabbed without the premeditated intention of being put together into a story; that said, I think they flow together quite well. If there’s one thing missing it’s a critical objective or action or something of that nature – but perhaps also quite indicative of what happens when one passes through a city with non-photographic objectives in mind. Shooting 2.4:1 is quite challenging without any guidelines – there is no mask or crop mode in the D850 for this, and one simply has to guess (it’s roughly half the frame height, plus a bit; I use the limits of the AF area’s outer box as a guide). 2.4:1 compositions really only work in two instances: when you’ve got a very full (‘wimmelbilt’) frame that spreads out horizontally, or a very empty one. The latter tends to be good for tighter human images, which this set is deliberately lacking – it’s about the place, not so much the people. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Thaipusam 2017 cinematics, part II

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This is the peak of the event: handover of the offerings at the temple inside the cave (and at the top of 272 steps); the exit of trance and seeking of blessings by both participants and visitors. There are just as many exhausted devotees as ones dancing in religious fervour. I’ve always been careful to be highly respectful and not intrusive when photographing the ceremonies; we are privileged to be allowed to observe (and in a way, participate) in what is a very sensitive and private ceremony. Every year I’ve attended, I’ve been called over by one of the participants in trance to receive blessings in turn – and in a way, it feels as though I’ve been given permission to be there. I guess I’ll be going back again next year. MT

Additional coverage and full size sample images are here at Hasselblad.com The video is here.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with the cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 4 & 5.

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Photoessay: Thaipusam 2017 cinematics, part I

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Part one of the photoessay covers the ascent: arrival, preparation and the activities at the base of the steps to the cave temple. Relief, chaos, trepidation, anticipation…the full gamut of emotions can be seen, but it’s not over yet – even after having trekked the better part of 13km from the departure temple. To be continued tomorrow in part II. MT

Additional coverage and full size sample images are here at Hasselblad.com The video is here.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with the cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 4 & 5.

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Front bokeh

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Technically: out of focus foregrounds. Whilst much emphasis is placed on the way a lens renders out of focus areas – the oft-overused ‘bokeh‘ – it’s almost always used to describe the areas that fall behind the focal plane. I think we can generally agree on a few things – ‘good’ bokeh doesn’t distract from the subject with uneven or sharp luminance transitions, double images, harsh rendering, rings or irregular textures in the ‘highlight balls’, patterns, bright edges, coloured fringing etc.; too much bokeh might be pretty but completely negates any sort of context other than what mood can be inferred by the feel of the light and some bokeh is always preferable to none because it helps with subject isolation. However, few outside cinematographic circles talks much about the way the foregrounds render. For that matter, few outside cinematography actively seek to use out of focus foregrounds as part of the underlying structure of their compositions. I think that’s a shame, and here’s why.

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Photoessay: melancholy and longing in Hanoi

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Words and thoughts flow from left to right, at least for those who think and read and write in western languages – a glance to the left in an image is an acknowledgement of origin, or perhaps one of longing depending on the expression of the protagonist. In the east, it might be interpreted as looking ahead in anticipation; except the expressions say otherwise. I have no idea why so many of my images from the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass were of people looking melancholy and to the left, but there you go – perhaps there was something missing, or perhaps it was my subconscious curating something I wasn’t aware of at the time. MT

This set was shot with various equipment including an E-M5 II, 5DSR, Zeiss Otus 85, Zeiss Otus 55 and Contax Zeiss 100-300 using the Cinematic technique in Outstanding Images Ep.4 and processed with Outstanding Images Ep.5. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series. [Read more…]

Photoessay: After the establishing shot

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You might think the title for this post is curious: that’s because it is. In cinematography, a wider angle is used as an establishing shot to provide the overall context for the scene, location and any human dialogue that is to follow. The tighter head shots are frequently interspersed with equally tight cutaways to detail: it is a deliberate device to focus the attention of the audience very specifically on whatever specific object or action that is desired by the director. These cutaways always serve a purpose as they typically contain explanations or clues to the later storyline. In a way, they form a narrative or logical bridge of sorts. Compositionally/ visually, they are tricky to get right: too much visual texture and the scene is too busy for the audience to instantly register only one thing; too plain and it’s a starkly boring scene. It’s even more difficult to pull off as a candid still for the simple reason that the action is not planned; you have to anticipate and hope you’re in roughly the right place at the right time, then rely on instinct and experience to make any last-minute changes to composition as it happens. It is a slightly lighter photoessay than usual for the simple reason that these images are very difficult to make in practice…Enjoy! MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR, post processed with the Cinematic workflow from Making Outstanding Images Ep.5. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Tokyo cinematics II

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Continued from part one.

I frequently get asked if it is possible to work in the cinematic style with a wide lens; the answer is of course yes. There are a couple more considerations over the more traditional conception of the genre that is heavily dependent on longer focal lengths to split the scene into planes and blur the unimportant portions; it is true that the latter is much easier with a longer focal length due to simple rules of physics. However, use of the wide perspective is also important for several reasons, with the main one being trying to create a feel of involvement and immediacy for the audience. It can also be used in tight quarters and to create the impression of distance between observer and scene/subject. In all situations, the frame has to perceptually appear level – otherwise a very strong (and distracting) tipping sensation is produced. The wider the lens, the more care you need with levelling and keeping subjects away from the edges of the frame to avoid geometric distortion drawing attention to itself. Lens choice is also fairly critical because any out of focus areas are unlikely to be drastically out of focus; there will be a lot of transition zones. I personally prefer a smooth rendering here rather than a crisp one because it’s very difficult to reduce the prominence of background or foreground distractions after capture. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, and post processed using the Cinematic workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep.5. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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