Photoessay: Salt pans, Useless Loop

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Useless Loop, postcodes 6537, Western Australia, is located inside the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shark Bay; it’s a closed private town for the employees of the Solar Salt Operation Shark Bay – as whose name suggests, uses the sun’s heat over shallow ponds to evaporate seawater and leave behind salt. With a name like that, one can only imagine it might have been somewhat tricky to attract the initial employees. The salt pans themselves are kilometres vast, perfectly still without wind, and as glassy as a mirror. There’s a slight haze to some of them as the salinity increases and salt falls out of suspension, rendering the water murky. Each pond is at a different stage of evaporation, yet irregular in shape and fitted to the geography of the peninsula – giving the whole place the odd feeling of being like a giant insect’s wing, especially when viewed from the air. This series was shot through the open rear doors of a Cessna 203 at about 1500 feet during pretty ideal light and atmospheric conditions. Enjoy the transient colors – from the milky blues of salt reflecting clouds and sky to the deeper sea green of freshly flooded ponds, and the tans of the dams holding back the bay. I’ve always thought each individual pond felt like a window into alternate world, or perhaps the same place at a different time. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Coastal texture

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Today’s series is a continuation of the Australian aerials – this time exploring the abstracted textures of the coastal interface and immediately surrounding areas on both water and land. The myriad fractal textures generated by wave action are both infinitely varied and fascinating; each has its own aesthetic strengths. I actually had a very hard time curating it for this precise reason: it’s very difficult to prefer one abstract over another because each had some unique merits of its own. Nevertheless, I think the color flow works here, even if some of the finer textures can only be appreciated in a large print, including schools of marine mammals and the occasional tire track to lend a sense of scale. It also makes me wonder just how different this area would be in a few months given time and tide… MT

This series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia from a light aircraft at about 1200ft, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Aerial aquatic studies

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Today’s photoessay continues the series over Australia – specifically, the westernmost patch of the vast continent about halfway north. Most of these images were shot over the bit of water between Francois Peron National Park and Dirk Hartog Island; they weren’t the primary objective of the shoot, but still – when you’ve got this kind of variation in the water, there’s just no way you can not shoot. I’ve always been amazed by just how much the texture and feel of water changes with light direction and incremental amounts of breeze; what’s under the surface is hidden or revealed, almost regardless of depth. (The black patches are seaweed and seagrass.) I suppose it’s one of those fractal subjects that once again has the power to hold your attention for a significant amount of time because there are never two identical instants. I’ve printed several of these at 24″, and I feel that’s just the beginning of the ‘right size’ to allow the images to breathe – of course, being shot on the Hasselblad there’s plenty of scope for enlargement…enjoy! MT

This was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in the Weekly Workflow.

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Photoessay: Australian ochre

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One of the most unique things about the Australian landscape has always been the color of the soil – a rich orange-red that I’ve not seen anywhere else on earth – I guess it must have something to do with the rich mineral deposits. It ranges anywhere from a dull brown pre-dawn or post-dusk, or a really electric orange if the light hits things right – surface features stand out in stark relief and if three wasn’t anything recognisable as a plant, we might well think we were on the surface of Mars. It’s even more surreal from the sky, because the features hint at nothing so much as a landscape of history: suggestions of water dried and geology shifted; there’s definitely a sense of agelessness here. What came before? What comes next? We can only wonder. Perhaps there is something in the Aboriginal dreamtime mythology that might provide some guidance here – it’s easy to see where it came from. MT

This series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, from anywhere between 500 and 1500 feet.

This was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in the Weekly Workflow.

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Photoessay: Australian sunsets

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Boats under sky. This image is available as a 16×12″ Ultraprint in an edition of 20, here. Please include your telephone number for the courier at checkout.

Everybody likes a good sunset – I suppose it’s an age-old thing programmed deep into our DNA from the days when surviving to the end of the day was worthy of a celebration; not getting eaten or dying of disease was probably a good thing. Today it may be nothing more than the relief of surviving the boss or excitement at the start of the evening’s entertainment, but the satisfaction factor hasn’t changed. Every photographer has probably tried it at least once, and probably more, no matter how much it pains us to admit it. So why deny it at all? If anything, I’ll be the first to admit that doing something different is extremely challenging given the nature of the subject matter and limitations of perspective and position. It’s even more difficult because the very intense colors of an Australian sunset challenge the dynamic range of pretty much every camera – even the medium format monsters, requiring very careful exposure to avoid clipping a channel. Sit back and enjoy, whatever time it may be in your part of the world. MT

This series is presented in approximately chronological order, and was shot at various locations along the Western Australian coast on the Indian Ocean between Geraldton and Francois Peron National Park. I used a Hasselblad H5D-50c and various lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and techniques in the Weekly Workflow.

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Photoessay: last of the Nilgiris landscapes

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Last of the Indian landscapes shot in the Nilgiris mountains around Ooty and Coonoor for today. They are standalones and I think actually work as a single set to demonstrate the diversity of the region – everything from untouched virgin forest to a hybrid cultvation of tea bushes to a little entropy and human evidence in the margins. Enjoy! MT

Except for one image, this series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50C and mostly the CF 4/150.

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Photoessay: the monochrome Nilgiris

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I was having a discussion about the presentation of landscape and color use the other day with one of my students – which in turn got me thinking about why we see so few modern landscapes that work in monochrome, typically unless the shooter is trying to imitate Ansel. My theory is that it’s much, much harder to make a compelling image of nature without color – there is the tendency for the scene to look dead, rather than vibrant and alive. You also lose all of the delicate color gradients in skies and the like – which further deadens the scene. But as with all monochrome, surely we could also use these properties to imply a sense of timelessness, surreality or detachment?

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Photoessay: Layers of dusk to dawn

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I have this habit of shooting against the sun at dawn and dusk – I think it must be a natural aversion to having the light source directly behind me, which it otherwise would have been had I been facing the other way. I didn’t consciously curate the images this way, but it turns out pretty much everything from the early morning and late night sessions in Ooty were shot contra-jour; there’s something about the light hitting the mist or dust or other particulates trapped between hills and creating nicely recursive (and slowly vanishing) layers into the distance. I could probably have used an EVF in some of these situations to avoid going temporarily blind… Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, CFV-50C and processed with Photoshop Workflow II.

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On-Assignment Photoessay: Curves in the garden

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This series contains more images from an unusual but highly rewarding assignment last year – documenting the work of landscape architect Charles Jencks, both at the Garden of Cosmic Speculation and the Crawick Multiverse. Both of these are cosmologically-inspired ‘built landscapes’ with features that reference various features of our universe, and best appreciated with time (no pun intended) – it can take some walking not just to see everything, but to get a feel for how the various elements come together and relate to each other. This was one of those rare assignments with an open brief – both intimidating and extremely satisfying at the same time because of potential scope and expectations. Fortunately, all went well. Today’s photoessay focuses on sculpted curves in the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Note that the changing hues of grass aren’t due to profiling or color mismatches – it was shot over a couple of days and was quite windy (as you can see from the sole long exposure) and light changed fast with the flow of clouds as a result. It isn’t the same as walking through it, but that’s not physically possible for most of us – enjoy, and bonus points if you can spot the smile in the landscape! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24-120VR, 24 PCE, 85 PCE, Canon 5DSR and CY Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon, and post processed with PS Workflow II.

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Photoessay: Window seat

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On the last two overseas trips of 2015, I lucked out on the airplane: not only did I have some spare air miles to put me in the front of the plane, but the aircraft itself had what appeared to be new windows marked with ‘DO NOT POLISH: CRYSTALVUE COATED’. Interestingly, whatever coating they did apply to the windows appears to have worked: very little dirt stuck, there were almost no swirly marks, and transmission – even at an angle when shooting downwards to the ground – was remarkably good. Less color correction than usual was required. Please put your seats upright and stow your tray tables… MT

Side note: in case you’re wondering why months go past between the time I shot something and the time it’s published here, it’s because I find that that duration is optimal for me when it comes to improving objectivity of curation. Unless it’s something very time-sensitive, I generally like to have some ‘sitting time’ to be sure that the final set presented is really what I want.

This series was shot with a mix of the Canon 5DSR and 40/2.8 STM Nikon D5500 and Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, and post processed with Intro to Photoshop Workflow (not Workflow II: reason being above average color correction is always required for aerial work, necessitating reversion to the previous workflow that incorporates this). You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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