Photoessay: Waking Coonoor

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Half an hour before we were to meet our contact from the wildlife preservation department, we arrived in Coonoor, the Nilgris range, India, to find the town sleepy and barely stirring. Sunlight was just hitting the very tops of the highest buildings upslope, and the few residents stirring were dragging their feet – a massive contrast to the scene a couple of hours later, which was so different you could not imagine the place empty. As we did a quick walk through, I felt like I was observing the aftermath of the night before…a sort of crime scene worker, if you will. What follows is from the body of evidence, filed under ‘environmental context’. MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, and post processed with PS Workflow II.

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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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Photoessay: Chicago stories

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You will pay…or the Don will make you pay

I’m going to try something a bit polarising today: a set of images with an imagined narrative, and knowing how many of you dislike titles, I’m almost certain that my read of the narrative is going to be completely different to yours. This may be down to cultural context, personal context/ biases, or my subconscious including ambient elements that were in the scene but not captured. Feel free to offer an alternative interpretation. MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, D810/ Zeiss 28 Otus, A7RII/ Zeiss 85 Batis and 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: The Idea of Man, Chicago, part II

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Continued from part I

I was in Chicago at the end of last year for my exhibition of the same name at the Rangefinder Gallery; what we showed was actually only 27 of the 70+ images from that series, curated from a further 10,000+ images over the course of many years of shooting. However, I’ve always thought of Idea of Man as an ongoing project; our interpretation of the philosophy of life is as dependent on ourselves as it is on whatever we happen to be observing. And there’s always a place to go or culture to experience that is foreign to us, and may well raise new questions over what is ‘normal’, ‘expected’, and ‘individual’. Thus, the show must go on.

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Photoessay: The Idea of Man, Chicago, part I

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I was in Chicago at the end of last year for my exhibition of the same name at the Rangefinder Gallery; what we showed was actually only 27 of the 70+ images from that series, curated from a further 10,000+ images over the course of many years of shooting. However, I’ve always thought of Idea of Man as an ongoing project; our interpretation of the philosophy of life is as dependent on ourselves as it is on whatever we happen to be observing. And there’s always a place to go or culture to experience that is foreign to us, and may well raise new questions over what is ‘normal’, ‘expected’, and ‘individual’. Thus, the show must go on.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Germany, on the move

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Today’s photoessay comes from a much earlier trip in the year to Zeiss HQ in Germany; I had a lot of connections and a lot of transit time. The camera naturally falls to hand and one starts observing and recording. Having personally spent a lot of time in transit in a large number of countries around the world, I always find it remarkable how developed countries are quite similar – but somehow little things make a difference in implementation and efficiency of the overall system. Whilst German public transport lacks the brutal efficiency of the Swiss, it also lacks the unpredictability of the French and Italians, so I suppose that’s reason not to complain…MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 1.8/55 FE and 1.8/85 Batis lenses. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: life in Hanoi, part II

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One at a time, please

The series of images presented today is the conclusion of the cinematic Life in Hanoi set from a couple of days ago. During the curation, two visually very distinct groups of images emerged: the first, which felt a bit more structured and ‘formal’, and the second, which – to my mind – is a bit more freeform and organic, with higher visual density. These hold closer to the ‘story in a frame’ of traditional photography. Personally, when I looked at the scene – and the subsequent images – a caption came immediately to mind – perhaps not the same one as you might have read, but it would be nevertheless interesting to hear the differences of perspective. Enjoy. MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR.

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Photoessay: life in Hanoi, part I

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Today’s photoessay is a little out of sequence – it is the first set of little snippets of life captured during the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass earlier in the year, but which until now have somewhat defied curation into a finished set (I blame that more on my schedule than anything). They are perhaps not cinematic in the traditional dramatic sense, but I do think they do make for interesting standalone viewing. I suppose that’s what unifies them: being a small window into another place. Enjoy. MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR. [Read more…]

Photoessay: Monochrome life in Venice

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Venice in winter is grey, with occasional Canaletto skies when the clear window happens to coincide with sunset. But for the most part, light is meagre but nicely angled. Life continues as normal for the inhabitants and tourists, though; in fact, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to spot a local at all; they’re a minority in their own city, which is a little sad. The unifying theme throughout these images is that with the exception of one or two, all of the protagonists are locals. They’re a little bit more elegant, don’t carry backpacks or cameras, and walk with purpose rather than dissembly – here’s to the Venetians.

This series was shot during the Venice Masterclass with a Ricoh GR, Pentax 645Z, 55/2.8 and 150/3.5 lenses, and post processed mostly using the low key and balanced workflows in The Monochrome Masterclass.

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