MT’s scrapbook: still life interludes, part I

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Two questions to address today – firstly, what differentiates the scrapbook series from photoessays, and secondly, why do they tend to be monochrome? What I post here in the form of photoessays are much more tightly curated series around a certain subject or theme, shot with the sole purpose and intention of photography, and sequenced into a storyline from a much larger set. The images are individually post processed and made consistent. The scrapbook series is more spontaneous – there is never a narrative because they’re single snippets grabbed here and there and then sorted into something visually coherent (which isn’t the same as a storyline). They’re opportunistic as opposed to planned or sought; sometimes single, sometimes in a mini-sequence. And there’s no post processing; what you see is a resized SOOC JPEG. They also tend to be monochrome, both as a concession to prioritise the light and also because there’s no need to correct for accurate color. It’s my compromise to keep my hand in practice, but for times when I don’t have the time to commit to something more focused. Today: more long shadow play, with a candid guest appearance from some Mapplethorpian bananas… MT

The Scrapbook series is shot on an Olympus PEN F, with unedited JPEGs straight from camera bar resizing (and of course some choice settings).

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‘Investing’ in equipment

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By strict definition, an investment is something that is expected to appreciate in value over time, or deliver some sort of tangible return that together with the underlying asset value is grater than the initial amount spent. One of my pet bugbears when it comes to photographic discussions are the two inevitable questions: “is X worth it?” and “should I invest in X?” The problem is, if you replace X with any other depreciating mid-term consumable such as, I don’t know, frozen peas, you’ll instantly realise the whole question makes no sense whatsoever. But replace X with a camera or lens model, and it seems common sense goes out of the window. You wouldn’t put your savings into something that has no hope of making any financial return. Why should this be any different? My aim is by the end of this article, you’ll suffer from far less frequent confusion and buyers’ remorse (if any at all).

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part II

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As promised – the continuation of the previous set of images shot at the same time at the same location, but curated and psotprocessed to very different objectives. You’ll notice that there are very few overlaps; different mood, different images. Perhaps the biggest change is in the handling of light and shadows: the very hard tropical sun that creates black hole shadows that works so well for monochrome is tricky to manage in color; especially when it comes to foliage (of which there is plenty here). There’s a lot of midtone dodging required to ensure the tonal transitions from highlights to shadows are natural; but not so much that things look flat. Some portions never quite get sun at this time of year due to the orientation of the plot, meaning we had to get creative in post again to ensure coherency – highlight dodge, midtone burn (the opposite for the areas in direct sunlight). I personally like the Magritte-esque clouds, and the eveningscapes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part I

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Today’s set is the result of an interesting client brief earlier in the year: shoot details of the development for several objectives: a) the usual promotion via social media, advertising etc; b) developer portfolio and award entries; c) for use as decor in the development itself. The latter is the biggest challenge of the lot, because you have to find angles and light that people who live there every day won’t see or won’t mind seeing or would like to discover through the images; and on top of that do it in a limited period of time – the small window between completion and handover. That leaves us at both the mercy of the weather (and thus light) during that window, as well as not really having time to ‘live in’ the development itself. Nevertheless – I actually landed up delivering two sets of images; monochrome for decor to both render the scenes somewhat abstract and era/time-independent, and color, for portfolio. Here’s the interesting bit: the two sets almost don’t overlap at all, though in totality they are both self-coherent. I present both sets here (and in the next post) for you to see yourself just how much the mood and feel changes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Moving on

The short: I have elected not to renew my contract with Hasselblad/ DJI, which ended on 30 September 2018.

The long: the reasons for my departure are myriad. They mainly come down to a) increasing time demands of my watchmaking venture and family, and b) a difference between the company’s intentions for my role and where I believe I can add value/ what I feel passionate about.

I have spent the better part of the last few years fighting for things users want, need and find useful (thank me for electronic shutters, fast lenses and drone color later). But it’s been met mostly with internal resistance and a daily assortment of complaints, blames, demands and such from the user community. Worse, many insinuate that I am personally responsible for whatever grievance that individual has – which almost always could not be further from the truth. Some even get threatening. Bottom line: it isn’t worth my time or stress levels anymore.

However, I continue to remain in the Hasselblad family as an owner and user, as I believe the product still delivers the best image quality I’ve seen to date. A lot of the right roadmap was put into plan over the last two years (which you’ve already seen some of), and hopefully we’ll all get to see the rest of it.

Practically, this means I will of course no longer be representing either Hasselblad or DJI. For enquiries and service/ support going forward, please contact customersupport@hasselblad.com. My @hasselblad.com address is no longer active as of today.

In any case, I suppose it was a fun ride while it lasted – nearly three years since first signing as an ambassador at the start of 2016 – and there have been some truly memorable moments in my career that wouldn’t have happened without it.

One last thing: unsurprisingly, I have quite a number of cameras here, some of which I will be letting go of. Currently available:

  1. H5D-50c wifi body and back, complete (overhauled in March, including a new sensor), condition excellent, including extra battery; US$5,900 inc. Paypal, shipped via DHL or best offer On hold pending funds
  2. HC 50/3.5 II, as new, complete, US$2,200 ($5,150 new) inc. Paypal, shipped via DHL Sold

Please email me if interested.

Full review: The 2018 Nikon Z7 and Z 24-70/4

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Executive summary: the last bastions of mirrors have both joined the brave new world. Nikon’s effort feels like a D850 and an E-M1.2 met in a bar and had an illegitimate child. Yes, it’s expensive; yes, for the most part, it performs pretty much how you’d expect. It doesn’t feel like a first effort except for a couple of relatively minor things (as it shouldn’t given how long Nikon took to release it) – if anything, they should be commended for releasing it when ready rather than as soon as possible. And yes, I bought one.

I’ve now had a couple of days to do shoot my production/ retail Z7, 24-70/4 and FTZ adaptor, and my thoughts follow. More images to come as I have time to shoot with the camera; I rushed this out in the middle of a family vacation – the first one since before I started photography professionally.

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OT review: the 2018/9 BMW M2, midterm

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I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a petrolhead; at least to the extent possible in Malaysia given the heftiness of our taxes and limited market affordability leading to a fairly uninspiring range of choices for the motoring enthusiast. That’s partially offset by affordable petrol and lax speeding enforcement, but given the state of traffic in Kuala Lumpur – the opportunities to enjoy it are few and far between. Nevertheless, I’ve often made my transportation choices emotionally driven rather than rational; the last time I did the latter, it was competent but not very fun. My options boiled down to either something completely impractical but fun (like a Lotus Elise) but cheap enough to afford a second family car where I would spend most of my time (and thus itself have to be tolerably interesting) – or something that could do double duty and have four seats (but not necessarily four doors). Some of you may recall I had a Z4 some time back. It turns out the limits of the car weren’t that high, no matter what one did to the underlying oily bits – there remained this delayed feeing to the steering that felt too indirect and vague for my liking. And whilst the 2.0T motor put out a healthy ~300bhp at the crank after tuning and on the right fuel, there was always a feeling of fragility given how often it would knock if not on RON 98 or RON 100. Fast forwarding a bit though several sensible diversions, I arrived at the M2 after a) waiting a very long time for a manual transmission and giving up, and b) somewhat regretting the F56 Mini Cooper S I purchased previously.

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Photoessay: Mechanical

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The functional, dirty innards of construction machinery have always fascinated me by simple virtue of the endless textures and colors they offer. More than that, as a subject matter they offer a wealth of compositional possibilities because the ideas ‘work’ all the way from wide-angle-context-in clearly identifiable subject, to highly compressed perspective abstract. On a wider scale the scenes present something perhaps a little different to most viewing audiences, yet familiar enough to not completely alienate; on the other hand, the tight vignettes might be something people working in the industry and with the machines see every day but not necessarily notice. It is of course our challenge to find, isolate and present these…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: The textures of construction

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There are times on assignment when I find the work in progress textures to be at least as appealing as the finished product; perhaps more so because of their transient nature. The complete buildings will be visible for a long period, but the supports, underlayers, rebar, assembly jigs etc. disappear after a rather short amount of time, and not having been seen by many and appreciated by even fewer – sometimes only their architects. I’ve always thought this is a bit of a shame – without the underlying hardware, there’s no public face. So here’s a celebration of the unseen critical bits…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Brand (dis)loyalty, mirrorless and why it’s good for everybody

Switching camps has never been easier: with the increasing number of companies going mirrorless, photographers can now have their cake and eat it – at least in theory. With the whole premise of mirrorless being smaller, mechanically simpler and cheaper, there are several key implications for every company: firstly, new mounts and optics are needed to at least attempt to keep to the brief. Secondly, the form factors are going to land up much the same: EVF in the centre position (or off to the left); thin body with large mount since the final element has to be very close to the sensor and therefore large to avoid extreme ray angles and all of the things this implies; some sort of decent handgrip both to house the substantial battery to power an always-on sensor and display; not quite enough body real estate to place the buttons for all of the features demanded by today’s buyers; and lastly – a bonus feature. Basically: make it as attractive as possible to the buyer to adopt, but remembering that as a company, you are also going to have to convince your existing brand loyalists to reinvest heavily, too. I’m opening with fighting words, but there is a point to all of this especially with the last two big holdouts joining the game.

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