Photoessay: last of the Icelandic singles

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I have a slightly embarrassing confession to make: there are images that I can’t let go of, but probably should. They are remnants from my trip to Iceland nearly a year ago, but standalones that really didn’t fit in with any of the other series. It’s a sort of artefact of the site setup that posting single images is tricky because it breaks pattern too much unless there’s a whole thought catalog to go with it; the unfortunate result is that I’ve got a whole graveyard folder of images that work independently, but can’t really be curated into a photoessay or series. Some find life again as featured images, others land up illustrating specific posts, and yet others still – like this one – are held together tenuously enough by some rather weak thread that perhaps I can still post them. I admit it: I couldn’t curate these anywhere, nor could I let them go, but there’s still some emotional attachment. I’m sure somebody will use it to beat me over the head to remind me of curation discipline, and I’d probably deserve it. In the meantime…MT

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

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Creativity by the yard

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The split

I’ve heard it said more than once that the world is divided into three kinds of people: those who create, those who support, and those who criticise. The former see the world differently and as a result land up being mostly societal misfits; at least until you become successful (which is nearly never, since the deck is stacked against you for reasons I will explain later). The corporate world wants to have the output and the commercial results, but is unprepared to support the infrastructure and requirements. The second group forms the majority of the population: ‘support’ can mean anything from consumption and patronage to supplier of key enablers such a services, environment or tools. And the latter – some serve as useful moderating reality checks and balances, but most just become bitter and jealous internet trolls. Today’s post is several things: an exploration of these roles, a series of suggestions from the point of view of a creative, and perhaps an apology (excuse?) for my wandering attention.

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Photoessay: a slight dystopia

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This set of images is one that’s once again benefitted from some significant curation: at the time of capture, I didn’t quite see the common thread that must have been running through my subconscious. There is, however, a definitely dystopian undertone in all of the images: it’s almost as though the aliens are about to arrive, have arrived, and then zombified the population. Timing matters: I seems to have caught some rather unflattering decisive moments. I’d like to think unintentionally, but static woman in the stream of people was very much a deliberate curation choice. Or maybe it’s not zombification so much as choose your own adventure: you see whatever you wish to project, and isn’t that where the fun lies in interpreting an image? MT

Shot on a Panasonic GX85, 42.5/1.7 and 35-100/4-5.6 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Architectural vignettes of Constantinople

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There’s a deliberate choice to the title of this post: my guess is that all of these structures were in existence when Istanbul was still Constantinople, and they’ll continue to exist beyond whatever the next name change might be (if at all). The people change, society changes, the administration does too – but for the most part, the urban landscape remains for pragmatic reasons: both because there’s another level of civic/cultural pride that extends back through history, because it’s impossible to imagine a city without some of them, and because many still serve practical functions today. This is probably the very best of architecture: the kind of edifice that continues to serve far beyond the originally intended purpose of its creators and architects – even if only to serve as a reminder of identity. MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III (and the Weekly Workflow). Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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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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The habits of successful photographers, part I

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Sormcloud, or an image for me and me alone. I like it, regardless of what anybody else thinks: the ability to create this to my liking, present it and not give a damn is quite high on the elements I’d consider photographically ‘successful’.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is ‘how do/did I/you make a career from photography?’ People are inevitably displeased when I tell them there is no formulaic answer or one size fits all – for the simple reason that each set of circumstances is different, and the industry keeps changing at an ever more rapid pace. The question itself probably needs to be broken down into two portions anyway: being a successful photographer is not the same as being a commercially successful photographer, though there can and usually is some significant overlap. If the definition of success – at least from an artistic point of view – is to make images that oneself is happy with, then it’s somewhat easier to define a roadmap here – and we will do so below. If it’s seeking popular affirmation, then I’m the wrong person to ask else I’d be shooting cats/ bikinis/ coffee etc. with a million filters. As for the commercial part – I’ve served enough repeat clients and communicated with enough pros at the top of their game to be able to identify things we all do in common; whilst it’s not a guaranteed recipe, it’s probably a good starting point. Hopefully some of you might find it useful. MT

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Photoessay: Urban plants of Istanbul

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Today’s photoessay is a little whimsical: on a previous trip to Istanbul, I noticed myself photographing a lot of urban-texture type vignettes, drawn to the juxtaposition of textures and colors. But the common theme I failed to consciously register at the time was that almost all of these images had some elements of nature hiding in the frame – as though a second level of metaphysical contrast also somehow made its way into the frame. Ironically, in most of these cases – the plants have survived time much better than their environment and seem to be thriving in a way that contrasts quite dramatically with the patina in the rest of the city. I think maybe I was just pleased to see signs of nature still extant amongst the concrete. The set itself is a sort of ‘second pressing’ curation – a lot of singles that didn’t obviously fit any of the other sets previously published, at least until I noted the plant theme. There are of course a few surprises in the images if one is to look closely… MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III (and the Weekly Workflow). Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Why SOOC still isn’t really workable

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Of all the 1500+ posts I’ve made here, I can’t recall ever exploring why SOOC (straight out of camera) images are – let’s not say ‘bad’ – but inherently compromised, at least given the current state of technology. No matter how ‘natural’ a company claims its out of camera rendition to be, something will always be missing for the simple fact that no current camera can read your mind.* Every situation/ scene/ composition is different; every photographic intent is different and every single set of ambient parameters (light, subject position, etc) varies from image to image – maybe not very much, but enough that it doesn’t take a whole lot of change to make a very different image than the one you intended. Two things here: intention, and uniqueness. And uniqueness is at the core of why we find ourselves compelled to make a photograph at all: something stood out enough to make us sit up, take notice and either want to remind ourselves of it again later, or share it with the world.

*I am leaving myself room for some seriously heavyweight machine learning algorithms in case this article is read in posterity. And more on the machine learning later.

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Leica M mount lenses on the X1D

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f1.4, medium format, comparable size and weight to ‘pro’ M4/3. What’s not to like, other than the price?

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been shooting with the rather unorthodox combination seen above. I’ve found it answers two questions/ solves two problems for me: firstly, the desire for something that operates in the way you want (i.e. transparently) and that makes you want to shoot with it; and secondly, the small/light question. (There’s also a whole separate discussion on the concept of practical equivalence and envelope that I’ll discuss at some later point). But the journey getting here wasn’t quite so straightforward, unfortunately, and this combination is not a Swiss Army knife – it’s got some pretty big limitations. But when it delivers, I find that it delivers something quite special by the truckload.

Additional X1D coverage is here: long term review; assessment with Nikon F mount lenses; field use in Iceland.

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On viewing and presentation methods

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Phantom lamp, Chicago

A little while ago, a reader sent me an email with a question (and great idea for a post): what’s the best method image viewing and presentation, especially when considering different audiences? It’s not an easy one to answer, and honestly, perhaps something that’s given very little to no consideration by most photographers. This is obviously problematic because it’s the final, critical link in the creative chain: if the audience isn’t seeing what you captured, much less what you intend – why are you bothering to show it at all? I would personally rather not show an image than show one that conveys the wrong overall impression. Perhaps the differentiation isn’t quite so clear cut, but I think you get my drift.

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