Photoessay: Window seat VI

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I actually thought about calling this one folds and ridges but then found a better set for that title which I’ll post in due course. It’s remarkable how short of a few lighting cues (and ensuing hints at climate) – the topography of earth looks much the same regardless of where you are. The images come from very different latitudes and continents, but all benefit from a harder monochrome treatment; a couple are a little hazy thanks to some pretty serious atmospherics. I left them in anyway, because I personally like the transition/inversion between land in a sea of clouds and land in a sea of…water; there is a nice conceptual symmetry here. My one regret is that I have nothing from the US in this set as the one flight I was scheduled on that was supposed to take me over the Grand Canyon in daytime got delayed by 9.5 hours and well into nighttime (thank you, American Airlines, for the soggy sandwich, incremental ‘rescheduling’ and total lack of compensation or even courtesy) – I guess that gives me a reason to go back. Or perhaps try for a change of scenery and see if I can get on one of those transpolar flights… MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Window seat V

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’m trying something a little different with the sequencing of this series. They aren’t all from a single flight – not even close – instead, the curation and ordering was done as an evolution of mood through ambient light and atmosphere rather than matching similar. I’d like to think this might be the view out of the window of a hypothetical flight where one got very lucky with seating, aircraft cleanliness and having the right focal lengths handy;. As frustrating as mist and cloud is when trying to get a clear aerial image (it reduces contrast, which you’re already battling for as you’ve lost some on the several layers of window and all of that atmospheric dispersion, leading to heavy postprocesing requirements and in turn the risk of color correction going out of the window or being downright impossible as there’s no channel information remaining) – I think on the whole it does add to that surreal sort of mood one feels when flying. It magnifies and reinforces the detachment from reality/ground/scale that’s already present thanks to altitude. As far as possible, I’ve tried to retain that look here. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; SOOC is nigh on impossible for aerial work as there’s just too much atmospheric effect to cut through.

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Mountains and clouds

Recently I had a job that took me all the way up to Genting Highlands, which sit about 6000 feet above sea level. I was there over the weekend and most of my time was spent shooting for the job, leaving me no opportunity to roam around. Luckily, my hotel room overlooked the surrounding mountains. It was quite an experience staying in a place so high up that and close to the cloud cover. My view was constantly covered by thick mist but when there was a brief clearing, I quickly shot some images. Due to the mist and other atmospherics, I found that the colours were flat and dull resulting in me converting my images to monochrome and ensuring a more dramatic output.

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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: From the mountains

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Following on in the series of Icelandic landscapes, today we go inland a bit and bring you a series from the volcanic mountains. Strongly directional light, unfiltered by clouds, plus ‘sharp’ underlying topology that’s relatively new (and thus in places uneroded) in geological terms leads to some very interesting textures. I found the challenge when working in this kind of landscape to be one of context: interesting textures and shadows only remain interesting when seen against other elements to gauge relative ‘hardness’ and size; isolate one element and you somehow the whole thing doesn’t work; yet often light wasn’t dramatic enough to really make a single small element clearly pop against a much larger canvas. 90mm (about 70mm-e) turned out to be the most useful focal length here; mountains are relatively far apart, so some compression is required to avoid emptiness; yet some width is also required because of sheer scale. I kept wondering if some shift might be useful to give the mountains a bit more weight, but to be honest – we’d probably need far more than possible without a technical camera and large format lenses. MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Watercourse

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Being an island, water is of course unavoidable pretty much everywhere you go in Iceland – it shapes the country and often emerges in spectacular form from the least expected of places. Volcanic rock is of course extremely hard and resilient, but eventually the water wins; what I found most mind-boggling about the landscape wasn’t the scale, spectacle or extremes – but the fact that it will continue to change dramatically. What we see is but an instantaneous snapshot of a work in progress that will only get more spectacular with time, assuming a) we as the human race are still around to see it, and b) we haven’t somehow messed it up ourselves. I do realise the irony in that thought – and I’m sure many people will point out that I’m directly contributing to b) by merely visiting. Yet without more of us going and exploring to know what ought to be preserved, we can’t preserve it – or more importantly, give the landscape enough visibility in the wider social context so that people are aware that it needs to be preserved. Curiously, quantum mechanics is correct again even at this scale: we influence the outcome by measuring (recording) it…MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Icelandic seascapes

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Today’s series of images are some of the ones that stuck from my trip to Iceland a few months back – specifically, the seascapes. I was only there for a week, so seasonal weather variations were minimal. Nevertheless, we did get some drama in the skies (though no truly bad storms, thankfully). That said, I’m still one of those people who believes there’s no such thing as light that’s impossible to work with; better/worse, yes, but even the crummiest weather conditions can yield something visually interesting. Oddly, I have to admit that one of the scenes that spoke the most to me was the stones on the beach: constantly moist from spray and waves, they glistened, jewel-like. At a macro level, they look pretty perfect; at the micro level, despite being polished for years by the waves – none of them are quite. The closer you look, the harder it is to find perfection. I’m sure there’s probably a photographic moral in there somewhere. MT

Shot with the Hasselblad X1D Field Kit and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Night falls on the coast

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A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.

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Photoessay: Interpretations of ‘the tree’

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Today’s subject is a series of aerial interpretations of a tidal formation known as ‘The Tree’ by locals. It is formed of sandbars and the action between the high tide lagoon draining. Due to the nature of fluid dynamics, the current magnifies any irregularities in the channel creating a self-reinforcing turbulent flow which in turn digs certain channels deeper than others. Over time, this creates ever deeper channels – but also channels that may land up shifting when the various flows deposit runoff material and interact with each other in unexpected ways. The upshot of all this is the creation of a pattern that can only really be appreciated from the air both due to accessibility and scale (and there would be no vantage point from the ground). The rate of change is much faster than you might think, too: these images were shot at the opposite ends of the same day, yet there are formations that are visibly different over the course of barely twelve hours. MT

This series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Aerial scale, part II

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Continued from part I.

As promised – here’s the other half without obviously identifiable reference points. I often find that with aerial images, it’s either very easy to abstract or very hard to get a consistent sense of scale – especially when the subject matter is not something that jumps out at us as something our subconscious can pattern recognise. The landscape here is simply so randomly full of formations that you’d have trouble dreaming up. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the aim of the photograph. I don’t think one approach is better than the other, but it is an interesting cognitive exercise. Personally, when selecting images to fill the walls of the apartment we moved to earlier in the year – I found myself hanging quite a number of the less identifiable ones, and other images which were not an obvious choice based on my own screen preferences; proof printing plays a huge role here (assuming of course you print large enough!) Which do you prefer? MT

This series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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