Photoessay: Life in the fishbowl

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With the amount of glass (all flawlessly clean, of course) in Tokyo, the number of tourists and the close proximity of everything…I can’t help but wonder if the residents sometimes feel like they’re living in a giant exhibit, periodically interrupted by gawking visitors with cameras from another realm. They take it with remarkably polite stoicism, unlike say, Venetians, who suffer the necessity of paying tourists with the bare minimum of tolerance. I suppose having industry other than tourism helps; that feeling of the ability to say ‘no’ – even you never do. Even if they didn’t – I certainly felt like I was part of the show. If not diving with the sharks, then at least snorkelling in the aquarium. 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: Life, observer and observed

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Alternative title: observing people observing the world. Actually, I feel about as detached from these images as the subjects feel detached from their surroundings. In a strange way I feel this coldness of mood works quite well for the given subject matter and creative intent; on top of that, color would have inevitably suggested moods or emotions that are neither appropriate nor sufficiently sangfroid. Actually, on second curation – I can’t help but see can alternative interpretation in a lot of situations. Missing is that feeling of intense focus implied by observation; rather there’s just a sort of blank mechanised obliviousness. This is probably not helped by the predominantly low key tonal palette; I’ve always liked that possibility of ambiguity and mystery suggested by it (regular readers will probably notice a distinct lack of high key monochrome here) – eyes you can’t see tend to mask the thoughts of the individual. MT

Shot over a period of time with a Nikon Z7, Olympus Pen F and various lenses; images are SOOC JPEG using my Nikon Z7 picture control pack, or specific Pen F settings.

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Photoessay: Scattered

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I think of this set of images is a reflection of one’s rather scattered – but oddly consistent – state of mind when you see and grab an image on the way to doing something else. Being a full time photographer, I’m used to focusing 100% of my energy on shooting alone – to the exclusion of everything else. Since going pro in 2012, this is actually the first time in years I’ve actually been capturing a good proportion of my off duty images when photography wasn’t the primary objective of my day or trip. You can’t really turn your photographic eye off, but it feels as though you’re a lot more scattered and rushing to get the shot – even though the total number of photograph opportunities is of course much lower. Conversely, being in the zone really distorts your perception of time, often in both directions – moments stretch out but whole events and sequences land up passing in the blink of an eye. In essence, that’s what I feel like I’m left with here after curation: scattered glimpses of lives that are moving in different frames of reference to your own, momentarily intersecting for just long enough for you to know that you’re not going the same way. MT

Shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 100mm and X1D-50c and 90mm and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Lisboan melancholy

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Despite the sunniness of the weather and the outward happiness and enjoyment of most, there was definitely something brewing under the surface: a slight undercurrent of unhappiness or unease. Perhaps a reflection of an economy still not fully robust and recovered, or a city that felt a little bit too big for the number of actual residents; quiet lanes and grand old buildings that had seen better days that were waiting for restitution that might not come. Or uncertainty over the future, mortgages, employment, the rising costs of living – the social divide that’s not unique by any means to Lisbon. Or maybe it was just because the next day was Monday. It’s the juxtaposition between that mood, the facial expressions, the body language, the dress as though expecting rain – and the wonderful warm sunshine that I found so intriguing. That tension followed me subconsciously through the city that day, and here is the result…MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50mm and 100mm lenses in Lisbon, Portugal, with a couple of supporting images from a Leica Q. Postprocessing follows Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III and The Weekly Workflow.

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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…]