Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes

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Yin-yang tribute to Fan Ho

I actually prefer to think of these as little stories, or vignettes – I suppose that should really be the objective of street photography; to capture an transient and narrative element of life in a documentary way. That little slice of time might not be significant to anybody other than the main players, but it’s no excuse for a lack of story. I’m going to complete my version of the story by adding titles…even if audience preferences may differ🙂 Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also get your weekly dose of PS right here

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Photoessay-gallery: the story of sushi

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Regular readers will know that Tokyo is one of my favourite destinations both as a city and a photographic locale. Sushi is inseparable from Japan, and probably the only food I could eat every day without getting bored. I’ve visited Tokyo at least once a year for the last ten years; almost every time I shot at Tsukiji Market, the clearinghouse for a huge portion of the high grade seafood caught. It didn’t occur to me to try to curate these visits into a coherent documentary until before my last visit; at the same time, I found out that Tsukiji was going to close and be relocated to a new site in preparation for redevelopment for the 2020 Olympics. It would be the end of an era in more ways than one – and most of the proprietors I spoke to inside the market sadly agreed that things would never quite be the same again. Tsukiji is in so many ways an insular community unto itself, and a Tokyo institution. Today’s presentation is my tribute to that: a reasonably complete journey of fish to sushi, via Tsukiji.

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Photoessay: Urban jungle, Tokyo

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One of the things that I think strikes every visitor to Tokyo is the sheer density of the place: no space is wasted, and every single available nook and cranny fully utilised – and then some. I find this makes for a very chaotic appearance on the surface – and of course a huge number of quasi-abstract photographic opportunities – but with a little more contemplation some underlying semblance of order begins to poke through – you can almost see what they were thinking when they built bits of the city.

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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: 28mm in Tokyo

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Camouflage (urban jailbreak)

People, an urban centre, 28mm, and monochrome – is there a more ‘classical’ recipe for what might be traditionally classified as street photography? Perhaps, perhaps not. The whole genre is so fluid that I think it is impossible to define anyway; I instead think ‘snippets from the quotidian’ is probably more accurate in this case. They are vignettes and observations of the repeated, the mundane, and the boring. But the pace of the world changes so fast that who knows what the same activities will look like in twenty or fifty years? MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Autumn near Bandai

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Today’s photoessay is a quick landscape reminiscence from the end of last year; and I mean quick in both execution and conception. I captured these in approximately an hour, from two locations – one, not far from the ryokan at which I stayed during my visit to the Sigma factory outside Aizu, Japan; two, at a bridge overlook again very close to the Sigma factory (for which I requested a quick vehicle stop after seeing what was underneath it, and the unique perspective afforded by the height of the bridge). Nevertheless, I find we often encounter these single very strong locations that yield a large number of views and images (something similar happened in the Arrow River Delta outside Queenstown, New Zealand); they feel like brief chance encounters with random strangers with whom you just ‘click’ and promise to keep in touch with again; whether or not that transpires is another matter entirely. Many are in fact a sort of portrait of the location (even if ‘landscape portrait sounds rather odd). But for those moments, it was fun. I can only hope that in this series some of that magic of the cool breeze, clear sky and rustle of dry leaves carries through. MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII and Zeiss FE 1.8/55, and a Leica Q. Postprocessing via 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: Aizu nights

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Aizu-wakamatsu is a relatively small town in the northern part of Honshu, Japan, that at one point was the seat of power of a regional military force before changing power after several civil war struggles. Whilst the town proper including the castle (destroyed in the the late 1800s and rebuilt in concrete in 1965) has seen several cycles of prosperity and decline, the hot spring resort area nearby of Aizu Higashiyama has seen relatively little change for several centuries – being popular with all. It is this little area which we explore in today’s photoessay – by night, because that was the only free time I had during this trip. Sometimes you feel like a walk after dinner, and happen to bring a tripod…MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia and 1.8/55 FE and post 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: People of Tokyo II

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As usual, it is impossible not to be in a place like Tokyo and do at least some street photography; the very difference in the way people act and the things they do already attracts our attention because it breaks the pattern which we’re used to seeing. Furthermore, Japan’s tolerance for photography in general as a society and the close proximity in which people usually find themselves makes things even easier. It is however impossible to avoid people on phones: I still think this is the ‘hat-and-newspaper’ of the 21st century; just as life-documenting photographers eighty years ago could not avoid that cliche – which now seems quaint to us – we are locked into the era of the cellphone. It is harder to find somebody not using one. I’ve always said the best street work should be pretty close to documentary in nature, though much more personal in significance. If phones are the nature of reality today, so be it. That of course doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty else going on. I did get a feeling of longing and melancholy I didn’t observe the last time I was there; the usual conspicuous isolation was even stronger on this visit. A sign of the times for society, perhaps? MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, Nikon D5500 and 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR II, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia and 1.8/85 Batis lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. 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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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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