Photoessay: NYC mornings

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Today’s set is a very stream of consciousness series grabbed on the way to another meeting; I had a briefcase and meeting materials in one hand and just a compact in the other, so things were about as fast and loose as it got. I still think the mood is captured rather accurately: a bright, crisp autumn morning with both deep shadows and intense patches of light in places. It was also one of the few times New York felt relatively empty and calm to me; there was a sense of space instead of the usual crowd and hustle. The city was quiet and taking in a few moments to breathe in the sunshine before the rush – dare I say I even felt shades of Tokyo in places. Must have been something in the light. MT

This series was shot with a Fuji XF10 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Urban graphic

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I didn’t have long in NYC on my last trip, much less free time to shoot (we were there for the watch company) – but the weather turned out to be binary. Either raining, cold and miserable (a set from that will follow soon, too) – or glorious intense sunshine and the kind of impossibly deep blue skies we never seem to get in the tropics because of the angle of the sun and ambient atmospheric moisture. Even the small interstitial spaces en-route to meetings proved photographically rich; probably a combination of the diversity of visuals, the newness of the environment or perhaps just having hard shadows to work with. Either way, I’m not complaining… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 (with my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls) and a Fuji XF10 (processed with Workflow III).

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Open call for Q&A

We haven’t done one of these in a while: I’ll answer any reader submitted questions in a forthcoming future post; anything you wanted to know about photography, creativity or the business of it – just leave a comment below, or shoot me an email. Please do use the search function first, though – your answer might otherwise be in the form of a link to one of the ~1,800 or so previous posts. If there are too many questions, I’ll pick the most interesting ๐Ÿ™‚ MT

Edit: thanks for the questions so far; please keep them coming!

Comments closed as of 31 Jan 2020. Answers here, here and here.

Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part II

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Continued from the daytime series

In a way, I actually found it more fluid to shoot the first set, even if the varying color palette here carries a bit more emotional weight. In some ways I also felt this set was a bit more stereotypical ‘New York’, given there’s not much control the photograph has over timing affecting light and mood – daylight is a lot more transient than neon. That said, I’m still quite happy with the individual frames capturing the mood of their particular corner of the city – sometimes a couple of blocks really does feel that different… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part I

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Whilst of course there should be no reason to limit cinematic-style photography to just low light work with shallow DOF, there is definitely a tendency towards this as it’s much easier to create a controlled atmosphere with very directional light than during daytime. However, the conditions during my trip to New York late last year made for something similar while the sun was up: long shadows and strong sunlight, with intense contrast and pools of both mystery and stark exposure. It’s probably the first time I’ve been motivated to try cityscape cinematics with bright light. Even though I’ve been given similar light in dense urban environments before, I think NYC is unique in the layout of the streets and the way they cut light up into patches – this doesn’t happen with the more organic layouts of say, Tokyo or Lisbon. Admittedly, it wasn’t a photographically-focused trip – being customer events for the watch company – but I still got a couple of hours in. Naturally, this continued after dark… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Two theories

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I promise today’s post is only slightly off topic and still legitimately relates to photography. It takes the form of two theories (or perhaps more accurately, hypotheses). They are somewhat related, and over the last few years have personally changed the way I perceive many aspects of both idea creation and business. First question, before we get into the philosophy: how do you interpret the title image? Is it hoarding, a meticulous collection, somebody making the most of their situation, a choice to live in a certain era, or something else?

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Photoessay: Architecture, digested

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I’ve always found Architectural Digest to be a slightly odd publication title; I realise it’s in the same condensed vein as Reader’s Digest in the sense of being a distilled essence of the things you probably want to know. To me, the word has always carried implications of something chewed up, softened and mushed into waste products. Certainly dimensionally collapsed, or in the process of being. Hence today’s long-period curation around the theme unearths and presents perspective-flattened, distilled architectural details; the kind of images that the PR department hates because they’re ‘too abstract’ and ‘not whole building’ but architects themselves love because the details they fought the client to keep actually get appreciated. I’m with the architects on this one – if they can distill the character of the building into one or two interesting vignettes, it ought to be worth highlight. MT

Shot over a long period of time with a wide variety of hardware; mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Automation in photography: two sides of the fence

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Over the last few years, I can’t help but feel a lot of the thinking has been shuffled higher up the chain – be it when driving or making images. Cameraphones probably epitomise this, especially the iPhone: photography has been simplified so thoroughly that actual parameters are completely removed from the equation, leaving ‘focus here’ and ‘brighter’ or ‘darker’. Everything else is decided by a series of logical algorithms that are aimed at one thing and one thing only: a ‘nice’ picture, acceptable in the opinions of the largest number of people. There are tradeoffs made that accommodate the needs of the widest possible market – which for the most part, isn’t the creative experimenter. Results are acceptable, punchy, and well, homogeneously bland in a sea of literally hundreds of millions of the same devices with the same limited control. Yes, some of that control is now coming back and some of the UIs are starting to show the strain of accommodating feature creep, negating the literal point-and-click simplicity that drew so many people to cameraphones in the first place (along with convenience and social media).

Choice, has been removed. Is it bad? Well, I’m honestly not sure and arguments in both directions follow – but would love to hear your opinions in the comments.

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Photoessay: Quotidian objects, in monochrome

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There is nothing special about any of the subjects in today’s images. This is deliberate. Moreover, one recurring theme – my dining table and chairs – I see every day. On the back of the last post, the challenge comes in noticing something new in the quotidian; to that end, every single one of these subjects I’ve seen at least once, more likely dozens of times – or more. The images were shot at different times, in different moods, with different light, and different hardware; what remains consistent are my stylistic choices. I have many images of these subjects with different presentations; but the dominant style tends to be the one shown in this post: contrasty, monochrome, and graphic – but with a little delicacy in texture. They were curated after the fact to both an overarching concept, and a style – not shot specifically with an idea in mind. Though I can and have worked both to a brief and curated to a brief – I prefer the latter because I feel it gives me more room the explore and find the best presentation for the subject, even if I tend towards a single presentation style anyway. MT

This series was shot with mostly a D3500 and kit lens, SOOC JPEG with some Pen F, RX0M2 and iPhone thrown in for variety.

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The pricing game, redux

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In this kind of world, what am I actually worth?

Following on from an the previous post on understanding licensing, I thought it’d be instructive to also revisit the remaining elephant in the room for any photographer – especially newly-minted ones – is the question of how much to charge. Attached to that comes the mechanics of it all: invoicing, accounting, collecting payment, and the big one: licensing. Oddly, I find that this part of the business is something that seasoned pros are the most reticent to discuss; perhaps it’s part self-protectionism, perhaps it’s the cultural omerta towards money (at least in Southeast Asia, everybody seems to judge you by how much you earn, but to ask outright would be a major social faux pas*) or perhaps it’s because some of us are afraid to admit how little we’re actually charging.

*Nobody is likely to tell you the truth anyway; culturally, it’s like asking a lady her age in the West. It’s the age-old dilemma of one’s ego wanting to show their success, but simultaneously being afraid of being a target of jealousy. Whilst boastfulness is never a desirable trait, I think we need to be proud of our work and position as professionals and craftsmen – like every other form of social posturing, others tend to judge your implied relative value on external appearances.

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