Photoessay: hard line

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Great light and crazy architecture one morning in Tokyo – best to make the most of it. I thought of hitting multiple destinations, but the truth is anybody who’s been to Tokyo will know there’s so much of interest architecturally everywhere that it doesn’t really matter where you go. I suspect this is because underlying land costs in Tokyo are so high that anything you put up on the site will be (relatively) cheap in comparison; unlike in other parts of the world where construction is equal to or greater than the real estate. Even straightforward buildings have a personification of that Japanese obsession for imperfection, and as a result usually sport one or more very nice details to break pattern. Okay, I just can’t help myself: I like graphic subjects. MT

With the exception of one image (D850), this series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: Tokyo Teleport

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When you have a subject with a title this good, one is simply compelled to use it – even if it means some heavy curation, some redaction, and some vicious cuts. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved the alien-dystopian-ness of this series, combined with the motion and slightly shadowy figures. It’s both surreal and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, with solid blocks contesting against ephemerally transient reflections and ghosts. If it gets chaotic, just go with the flow. Welcome to both yesterday and the future. Embrace the cliche. Welcome to Japan. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: winter at the Nezu garden

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Trying something a bit different with this set; both because I’ve seen the Nezumuseum garden at its best and because it was just a different time of year to my normal trips to Tokyo. Landscapes in monochrome, especially high frequency ones (grass, leaves, trees etc.) tend to be challenging because they quickly devolve into something very messy looking and ‘hard’, as there’s not much spatial room for midtone transitions; having the benefit of color gives you a little more latitude to play with in this regard. However, I suspect here I was inspired subconsciously by the sort of high contrast and chaotic Japanese street photography genre to try and create something a bit different to the usual color explosions. Winter is a bit of a masochistic time to visit a garden like this, which is best in spring or autumn; it never really snows enough in Tokyo to blanket things into nice soft contours, either. But there is something sober and slightly dark about the scene that I find pleasantly contemplative. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Photoessay: Cityscape Tokyo

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The more you visit a city, the more your impressions change; that initial freshness and impact wears off into a sort of routine of the favourite places you like to visit while you’re there. Layered on top of this are the changes to the place itself, since no city is static – least of all somewhere like Tokyo. The latest instalment in the Cityscape series of retrospective curations has taken the longest to put together simply because I’ve got so many images from this place, from (at least) annual visits spanning the last 12 years. I realise that most of the early impressions no longer resonate with me as much as images shot in say the last four or five years, at most. This is the Tokyo I have in my mind now – one of density, activity, anonymity, details – but it won’t be the Tokyo I remember next year as I’m actually here at the moment with my family, and for the first time, our four year old – new memories are being made, new impressions formed, and it’s still too new to know what will stick. MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Autumn again

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Autumn in Japan these days seems to come later and later – the end of November or early December, in some areas further south. It probably ranks second only to the cherry blossoms as the season for landscapists to chase; I can’t say I did that but I did time the visit to coincide with some color in at least one of the locations we visited. It’s perhaps also my favourite season of the year as it’s the one I see the least of, living in the tropics – we get summer and an approximation of winter (monsoons) and spring isn’t that different, but the leaves never turn, the landscape doesn’t become warm, and the city isn’t redolent of reminiscence of the year that’s just passed. I’m sure I’d probably get bored of it if I lived at higher latitudes, but for now, please enjoy a (even) more abstract set than my usual landscapes. MT

This series was shot in various parts of Japan in the last year, with a Nikon D850 and 24-120 VR, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: traditional architectural vignettes

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Today’s images are a series of with traditional architectural subjects shot in Kyoto, at varying scales. There’s a deliberate variation in perspective and size to put the various elements in context with their environment; I have deliberately tried hard to exclude the usual cliched contrasts between old and new etc. but instead show the edifices as they are in use today. Kyoto is probably one of the few places in the world where you actually have to try very hard to avoid older buildings…yet there’s almost no dilapidation, and there’s a wonderful balance between authenticity of patina and maintenance – just look at the first building; the lantern and copper gutters are clearly aged, and the wood is seasoned, the bamboo faded with time and sun, yet the walls are perfectly painted and the sign is clean and crisp – I have rarely seen this anywhere else outside Japan (except perhaps some of the restored areas of Prague and Havana). It’s the underlying tension between this precision and contrast that makes it such a photographically rewarding subject… MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Stolen moments

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In my mind, this set feels vaguely voyeuristic – stealing snippets of time from my subjects, without any of them noticing. Photographing around corners, street furniture and other foregrounds; taking small glimpses into unguarded moments of an individual – what were they thinking? What were they feeling? Where did they come from? Where are they going next? Perhaps the uncertainty of continuity combined with the strong individual emotions and expressions is what drew me to these scenes; the kind of tensions precipitated by something seemingly trivial to an outsider, yet intensely important to a single person. I didn’t set out to shoot these; they just happened across the course of a week and about seven thousand frames. Sometimes our minds pick up on recurring themes we aren’t consciously aware of. In this case, both photographer and subjects were lost in the moment – they in their lives, me in that intense blink of observation. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: The anonymous flaneur, part I

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Leading on in the spirit of the previous post, I present a set of observations of anonymous individuals passing through the stage of life, without leaving anything more than a transient wisp. Are we equally observing each other, or are we preoccupied in our own bubbles? The more people around us, seemingly the more impermeable and discrete those bubbles become. As there’s less and less personal space we seek to defend it more closely. Is human nature wanting what we cannot have? MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Life in Osaka

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Today’s images are a stream-of-consciousness style set of observations of life in Osaka. I wanted to see if there were any perceptible differences from the audience side given these were not shot in my usual way, but rather a series of quick grabs whilst I was there for reasons other than photography, and with photography not as my primary objective. The usual (heavy) curation took place after the fact, which may perhaps dull the value of the exercise as the same biases are therefore applied to both more deliberate and these opportunistic sets. Is the way we see so immutably hard coded by force of habit and practice, that even when we are not trying, the result is indistinguishable? I leave you to let me know. MT

This series was shot with a Canon G1X Mark III and Nikon D850/24-120VR, and postprocessed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Transient glimpses

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All photography is of course transient; most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else or timeline of another object’s point of view – other than self-documentary, there really isn’t such a thing as a continuous statement simply because a photograph lacks causality when viewed in isolation. Yet something about the people and subjects featured in this set – shot in the rain and winter in Tokyo and Kyoto – seemed to me especially poignant and fragile. It’s as though there’s both a sort of contemplative melancholy brought on by the season (and probably also lack of sun), but simultaneously an appreciation of the fleeting fragility of the moment. Perhaps introspection is the most appropriate description of the mood here. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Experience Japan vicariously in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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