Texture is shadows, and shadows are texture: at the micro level, surface irregularities are thrown into relief and colors are intensified. This latter effect is an interesting property of raked lighting: since the pits in the surface structure of an object are in shadow, the overall reflected luminosity is lower. However, there are also small portions that appear brighter because some light may reflect off surfaces at precisely the right angle. End result: microcontrast is higher, colors are deeper/richer and textures are made to appear more real (if such a thing is possible). I love old buildings like these because they are perfect subjects for this kind of light: some surfaces are rendered smooth by centuries of paint; others by centuries of wear; and still others show the marks of etching of pollution etc. It’s an interesting study in color, form and texture…MT
The price of escape?
I’ve previously written about this topic about a year and a bit ago – however, as with everything, we get itchy fingers and hardware evolves. (It’s also one of the few remaining hobbies I have outside photography.) I made what could be seen as a rather reductionist change (single output, single source) from the spread I was juggling before. Personal audio is one of those things that I think people either land up using quite heavily by virtue of personal needs (e.g. long public transport commutes, time on airplanes etc.) or never really venture into – the situation for use has to be right. It also seems to be one of those things that more photographers than not have some level of interest in; I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s the gadget factor. There’s a whole discussion around sufficiency and enjoyment and practicality that almost mirrors that of photography; the critical difference for personal audio is that user skill has no influence over the output result, unlike photography. Personal audio listening is an entirely consumptive pursuit, not a creative one. But of late, I can’t help wondering if there are some things we can take away as photographers, too.
Probably the easiest way to ‘wimmelbild‘ a scene is to add reflections: the more reflections, the more layering and the more complexity can be built in. Of course it then becomes difficult to create structure in the image that allows space for a clear primary subject, and then find a physically/spatially possible way to actually insert that subject – it’s no good if your free space is on the ceiling, for example. The light in Lisbon on severals of the days I was there was just so conducive to creation of these types of images I couldn’t help myself – strong, intense colors, clean plate glass (or car glass) and one or two clear human subjects meant that it was a wimmelfetishist’s dream. I’m sure somebody is going to say I’m being overly pretentious about this, but there’s surely got to be a metaphor in here for life – every person surrounded by complexity and layers of thought, or places surrounded by unseen/ unacknowledged history. It’s a bit more personal than idea of man because the images need the specific individuals to work, and somewhat different to the ‘traditionally expected’ street photography – I find that it’s much more contingent on the environment and finding the right individual to fit your expectation of a story than vice versa. Enjoy! MT
In the last few days since Kevin Raber at LL published his editorial, I’ve received at least 100 emails asking ‘is it true?’ and ‘is this the end?’ Hopefully by now the internet hysteria has died down and most of us can take a collective deep breath and look at the situation with a bit more objectivity, it’ll become clear that the sky isn’t falling. Indeed, it’s quite likely to be the opposite. However, knowing how quick people are to accuse, react and generally come to (often wildly incorrect) conclusions without complete information, I have to state my position clearly upfront:
- Yes, I am a Hasselblad ambassador but am not involved at all in the operations, finances or strategic decisions of the company. I use the cameras, answer questions, and that’s really about it.
- This post was neither solicited nor compensated for by the company or any other party, and solely represents my own opinions.
- Whilst I am only a photographer now, I did work in M&A, private equity and at senior operational positions for the better part of 10 years beforehand. So I do know something about the issues at hand.
- I am of ethnic Chinese descent (why this is important will become clear later on).
- We’ll look at the situation with as much commercial objectivity as possible.
With that, let’s get on with the analysis.
I had an odd feeling walking around Prague on this last trip – something that was not there the first time I visited in 2011, nor subsequently. Perhaps it was the sheer number of tourists; perhaps it was the lack of locals. But I couldn’t shake the sensation of walking around in a very big museum; everything preserved just so, architecture restored to beyond its original heights, yet somehow just tipping over that point where the residents live in the buildings to the residents living for the buildings. The stage itself was nicer than it had ever been; but somehow…something was missing. A degree of isolation came into play, and perhaps the friendliness was just a tad more forced than the last time I was here. Chalk it down to collective fatigue; perhaps: when everything is special, nothing is special anymore. Just soft people trying to fit into a rigid environment.
I’ve written previously about what exactly contributes to the ‘medium format look’. However, I think to some degree we also need to both define what constitutes the hallmarks of smaller formats, but more importantly figure out where each format’s strengths lie. Having now shot what I’d consider ‘enough’ with a complete MF system wth lenses ranging from ultra wide (24mm, or 18mm-e) to moderate tele (250mm, or 180mm-e) I think I’ve built up a much more complete picture. No doubt this will change if the recording medium size increase further – with the 54x40mm sensors, for instance – but I think it’s fairly safe to extrapolate based on the differences between subsequent smaller formats.
Intense light, hard shadows, either end of the day: don’t be afraid of the dark, and let some of the negative space define the object’s form – or imagined form. Without shadows, we have no texture, no depth, no spatial separation. It’s interesting just how much of a suggestion of soft and hard you can get out of it even though all of the subjects are physically rigid – clean, dense shadows suggest crispness and hardness; feathering and irregularity suggest a certain yielding texture. Do buildings have personality? I think so, especially if they stand in contrast to their surroundings. Does this sense of texture contribute? Probably. MT
I said at the start of 2016 that the overall market for photographic services (commissioned work, art, education) was getting lumpier and smaller: I don’t think that’s changed. If anything, it’s gotten worse. I suspect this is an underlying societal change more than anything: people are simply getting bored. So where does that leave us in 2017?
Arisen from nought
Despite the implied humble origins of the structure, it manages to be dominant, powerful and solid. The architecture is stark, yet functional, and in a way – beautiful for it. It also asserts the feeling of man’s imposition of dominance and order over nature.
Wet departure, Hong Kong
Bad weather is usually the bane of any available light/ documentary photographer – in this case, just the right amount of bad came together for a much stronger sense of atmosphere than if on a sunny day (that bit of atmosphere between subject and distant background helps, too)
I thought I’d try a little exercise to round off the year: aside from the usual introspective new year’s resolutions, I felt that a retrospective curation of work done the previous year might prove to be interesting from both an analytical standpoint and a higher level view of where I’m headed creatively. However, as with every curation exercise – there was a serious struggle to get it down to a manageable number, topped of by questions around emotional bias, wildly different subjects, and some images having significantly more sitting time than others (e.g. January vs December captures). I shot close to 50,000 frames in total, which is significantly less than in previous years, but tempered by the fact that a lot of that was controlled, deliberate single-shot capture off a tripod (‘conventional’ medium format style). Overall productivity remains the same, I think.