The un-camera camera

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Levels of commitment

What on earth is an ‘un-camera’? I think I’d better start by explaining the title of this post a bit better. I often find myself in a bit of a conundrum: I’m sure you are undoubtedly all aware of my role with Hasselblad and longstanding affinity for their hardware. I’m sure many of you are aware that I continually push the envelope for what’s possible with medium format and achieve some pretty unique results in the process. On top of that, I have the added benefit of having access to pretty much anything I need from the product catalog. I also still have a full Nikon system kicking around. So: what possible justification could I have for yet another camera?

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Photoessay: Hard edges

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Today’s series is a visual evolution of monochrome geometry and form interpreted from hard architectural shadows in an urban context. Some light is harder than others; some shadows curved in a more pronounced way; sometimes organic elements intrude – including people. It’s a deliberately stark choice of style for a rather stark subject, I think. MT

This series was shot with various cameras and lenses including a Canon 100D, Hasselblad 501CM/CVF-50c and H5D-50C, and H6D-50c, various lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Crystal ball gazing: Predicting the photographic ecosystem in 10 years, part II

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That impending sense of something looming just out of view…

Today’s article continues from Part I in the previous post: where will photography land up in the next ten years?

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Crystal ball gazing: Predicting the photographic ecosystem in 10 years, part I

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During a recent flight and some (unusual) downtime, my mind started to wander idly towards both how much photography has changed in the last ten years, and idle speculation towards how photography would change in the next ten. The pace of change has been rapid, limited by technology; but I think the next big shift is that it’s going to be limited by the operator. Let me explain why: for hundreds of years, the fundamental principle of using photosensitive chemical media and printing onto non-photosensitive ‘permanent’ media has not changed; whether that media is larger or smaller, celluloid or glass or paper or something else. The process of photographing was destructive in a way: you had only one chance to fix the chemicals to preserve the graphic interpretation of luminance – i.e. the photograph – during which if you messed up, there were no do-overs. The biggest change from a single-use chemical medium to a digital one has really been getting the public used to the concepts reusability and easy post-capture manipulation*. Whilst the start was slow due to a) incumbency of film and film devices; b) cost of entry; c) output options – like a runaway train, we’ve now lost control of our collective visual output. Where does this leave us in another ten years?

*Always a popular/controversial topic: but reality is that manipulation in many forms has not just been around since the very beginning, but is very much at the core of the whole photographic process: you could not even view the image without applying some chemical changes, which might make areas of different brightness more or less visible. In reality, nothing has changed other than your average consumer can now do it at will and with greater ease and flexibility than before. Taste, as always, remains a subjective matter.

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Discussions: On going pro

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Something different for the first post with Robin: a transcribed discussion between us about the realities of ‘going pro’ in the current market environment. I think it’s pretty clear that the last ten years have been rather turbulent times for the industry, both for service providers/ creatives and the hardware manufacturers; consolidation has been the underlying theme but also a drop in barriers to entry and a real extension of possibilities at the high end – but only in very rarefied air. It’s become harder than ever, I think, and I’d definitely have liked to have the benefit of experience of somebody who managed to make the shift stick in recent times and who understood the climate; Robin and I have decided to publish this conversation in the hopes that others in the audience might find it useful too. Think of it as sitting in on a conversation rather than a traditional article in the in the usual style of the site.

Advance warning: this may be a lengthy post. MT&RW

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Welcoming a new partner: Robin Wong

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I have some very big news for you today. Robin Wong – M4/3 expert, street shooter, fellow Malaysian and all round nice guy – will be joining the site as a contributor. I believe our strengths and coverage are complimentary but not really overlapping, which means extended coverage and a different perspective for our loyal readers, and yes, including new product reviews (which is something that I of course cannot do in my current position). Robin is somebody I’ve always enjoyed a strong relationship with and wanted to collaborate with, though this would of course have been problematic whilst he worked for Olympus. Thus for purely selfish reasons, I was quite happy with the news of his going independent. Having done the same thing myself more than five years ago now, and under quite different – and ironically, easier – professional photography market circumstances, I’m glad to he sees enough potential to make the jump and happy to be able to support him. In the coming weeks you’ll see of course new content from him, and a reshuffling of the site to accommodate an archive for his work. Robin’s existing site will of course continue on as an archive of previous work.

Please join me in welcoming him on board! 🙂 MT

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On photographing architecture

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This feels like an appropriate post given it follows both discussions around inspirations and a photoessay on buildings: good architectural photography is a bit of both, I think. (I also realise that I’ve never really written about architectural photography, or its close cousin, interiors – though there are subtle but significant differences between the two.) The subject has to be inspiring enough to motivate the photographer to spend a bit more time in, around and using the building to better understand how the intentions of the architects translate into practice; and on top of that, we must work around limitations in access, vantage points, light – and of course an immovable, living object that’s still in use. In short: it’s not quite as easy as one might think after casually getting a good image or two; read on to understand why and how to work around it.

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Photoessay: Architectural snippets, Singapore

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I like to think of this kind of image as little microcosms of environment – not quite a full wimmelbild, but more a degustation of the little area in which the image was captured. The images presented today are on a few different scales – everything from fairly intimate upwards. I think they’re fairly representative of the mood and feel of the immediate vicinity, at least from the perspective of an observer who’s just passing through. I honestly don’t know how to categorise images like this: not traditional architecture and not really pure abstract – they have no commercial application and appeal only to a very particular narrow aesthetic. Why do we make images like this? Because they appeal to us at some personal level; I suppose what speaks to me here is the compressed intricacy that can only be as product of evolution as opposed to planning – especially the little unexpected signs of life that suggest adaptation, humanity and real people as opposed to purely hard materials. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Discussion points: Influences

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From the series ‘Only The Clouds are Truly Free’, inspired by the work of Magritte

Following on from the previous article on finding inspiration – it makes sense to throw another question out to the audience – who are your inspirations? Hopefully, you might find something you’ve not seen before. The more I’ve been asked this question, the more I’ve found myself allowing increased weight to non-photographic themes: creativity is a fluid, difficult-to-define thing, and sources can be pretty much anything: other photographers; artists in different media; music; a season; muses; objects; locations; even (ahem) hardware.

I’ll go first, after the jump. MT

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Photoessay: John Rylands, Manchester

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I had a very small amount of time between meetings during a recent visit to Manchester; one of the buildings on my to-shoot list is (was, I guess) the John Rylands Library. It’s an interesting mix of new and old, much in the same kind of style as the British Museum, and to a lesser extent, the Louvre. The new part is very new; stark, minimalist and somewhat Escheresque in places; the old part is very much Gothic (though built in the late 19th Century, and opened in 1900). The detailing and finesse of the stonework is both delicate and extremely detailed; it’s an absolutely beautiful building to photograph. It’s also sensitively lit inside, too. Whilst photography is permitted, tripods aren’t, so one has to be either very steady – or find something to brace against*. The oculus/ring/gallery in the last shot is a personal favourite feature: you almost expect a portal to another dimension to open from time to time (but only during visiting hours, 10am-5pm Monday-Friday, closes 2pm Saturday). MT

*I can’t help but think an E-M1.2 and 12-100 with its incredible stabiliser combination would have been perfect here.

This series was shot with a preproduction Hasselblad X1D, 45 and 90mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. Roam vicariously with T1: Travel Photography. and the How to See series.

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