Psychologist, philosopher, tinker, spy

16_8A15558 virtual banking copy

Borrowing the title reference from the John le Carre novel and (later) movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – I think nicely encapsulates the multitude of hats the modern photographer must be comfortable wearing in order to be a producer of compelling images. I’ve said before that photography is both a dialog between photographer and audience and that the process of photographing is really an exercise in curating and excluding elements of the world according to one’s own personal biases, then sharing the results with an audience such that they might be interpreted in the desired way. The technical process of capture, and the creative one of composition, are no more than enablers to that translation: the capture allows recording and sharing; composition is arrangement with the intention of direction and influence over the audience. The whole photographic process – vision, composition, capture, presentation, viewing – is really simultaneously as much and as little as the sharing of an idea inspired by already extant objects.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Lisboan chiaroscuro

H51-B0003532 copy

Given the clear skies and very strongly directional light we experienced, in conjunction with the interesting shadows projected off oddly shaped roofs and down narrow alleyways…it would be a shame not to make the most of it to add a little ambiguity into the frame. Conventionally ‘good light’, yes, but who’s complaining? I do realise some of these stretch the definition of chiaroscuro a little – especially the somewhat wimmelbild reflection – but I felt they fitted the overall mood of the subject and this collection of images, so MT

This series was shot mostly with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, 50/100mm lenses and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow from Making Outstanding Images Ep.5.

[Read more…]

Off topic: credibility

I’ve recently been accused by several people of ‘not being objective’ and ‘losing credibility’ since representing a brand, and I’d like to address those critics today. Firstly, I don’t get paid for doing so. I enjoy a somewhat higher level of support and some loan equipment, but I still have to buy a good proportion of my own hardware. Secondly, the whole of photography is subjective in itself – equipment is only fit for purpose or not, there is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ since no two people shoot the same way or same subjects. Sure, we can do quantitative measurement – but as most people (correctly) point out, there’s more to it than numbers. Thirdly, if the only thing you associate me with is equipment reviews, then I breathe a sigh of relief: you might be missing out on 90% of my site, but the gear-related questions and emails I don’t have to answer leave me time to focus on making pictures and the philosophy of photography. Lastly, the philosophy of photography and image-making and human psychological response has nothing whatsoever to do with hardware beyond its necessity as a tool for achieving a certain expression – you cannot have a compressed perspective with a wide angle, but two 500mm lenses are going to give you the same perspective regardless of pedigree.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: dark matter

B0002505 copy

I initially thought about renaming this one something to do with shadows, but then realized that we have an association of vagueness and indefinition to the term shadow. This doesn’t quite fit the nature of these images; I wanted to go for something a bit more solid and dense. Filmic shadows were what came to mind at the time of capture. Despite the apparent contrast level, a high degree of dynamic range was required to be able to carefully control exactly where the inflection point of white to black lay (which in turn affects compositional balance). There’s probably potential for a mini-project here; further exploration is required. Who knew a 10m stretch of garden could be so productive? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad 501CM, 4/50 C T*, 4/150 CF T*, CFV-50C digital back and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

[Read more…]

Front bokeh

X1D2-B7023081 copy

Technically: out of focus foregrounds. Whilst much emphasis is placed on the way a lens renders out of focus areas – the oft-overused ‘bokeh‘ – it’s almost always used to describe the areas that fall behind the focal plane. I think we can generally agree on a few things – ‘good’ bokeh doesn’t distract from the subject with uneven or sharp luminance transitions, double images, harsh rendering, rings or irregular textures in the ‘highlight balls’, patterns, bright edges, coloured fringing etc.; too much bokeh might be pretty but completely negates any sort of context other than what mood can be inferred by the feel of the light and some bokeh is always preferable to none because it helps with subject isolation. However, few outside cinematographic circles talks much about the way the foregrounds render. For that matter, few outside cinematography actively seek to use out of focus foregrounds as part of the underlying structure of their compositions. I think that’s a shame, and here’s why.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Lisbon monochromes I

_Q116_L1110903 copy
He who watches the watchers

Few words today, just a series of singles from Lisbon in the style of Idea of Man. It’s too late to put them into the first series because that now has a mature and complete narrative; they don’t really fit the second series because I changed the presentation style – so they stand alone. You might wonder why I still photograph in this style given the first two statements; in this case, partially because I was demonstrating for a couple of students at the Lisbon Masterclass, partially because I felt the aesthetic suited the feeling at some of the starker and heavier locations – Oriente station, for instance. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c, various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

[Read more…]

Hasselblad X1D on location – ‘Modern Heritage’ mini-movie, and status update


Back in July, I had a chance to use a couple of very early production X1D cameras both to further firmware development, and to produce the travel video and images you see here. Most of my professional work is documentary and with available light, so it made sense to test the camera under this kind of situation; a little trip to the island of Penang was in order. The types of situations I encounter vary from stealthy reportage to long-exposure tripod setups; travel photography offers the same kind of opportunities – a little landscape, a little street, a little blend of both. This video was commissioned by Hasselblad as a sort of behind the scenes look into how a the X1D fits into the mould of versatility. There’s a bit more to today, though: after the jump, downloadable 100% samples, plus a production status update…

[Read more…]

Available to order: The ultimate photographers’ daybag, a collaboration with Frankie Falcon

100D_MG_1058 copy

100D_MG_1034 copy  100D_MG_1004 copy  100D_MG_1030 copy

I think we all have this problem: there is no such thing as the perfect bag. Unless, of course, you design it yourself. After receiving a lot of positive feedback (and desire) from people who’ve seen it, I’ve also decided it will be made in a limited run. In collaboration with bespoke UK bag maker Frankie Falcon, I’m pleased to offer my first hardware collaboration: The MT x FF Ultimate Photographers’ Daybag. Orders for the first (and limited) batch will run until 31 October 2016. Note: current backlog at 20/10 means orders placed now will ship early in November.

Click on after the jump to order and for the rest of the details…

[Read more…]


_64Z0573 copy
Not a people mover, and never meant to be. Similar things abound photographically: resolution, or bulk? Reach, or size? Ease of file handling, or quality? Edge resolution, or weight and filter size? Controllability or compactness?

The story of photography is really a series of compromises – I suppose the same can be said of life in general, though there are specific consequences and considerations when it comes to making images. At the risk of appearing to contradict myself*, I’m writing this post somewhere over the South China Sea, after having a little epiphany. The difference between life and photography is that compromises made in the former usually come with a mixed bag of consequence that are both unknown since we have affected causality and the flow of events by making a choice, but in photography, we almost always know what we’re giving up – or we think we have a fair idea of it. Surely this should make creative and technical choices in image capture easier to make?

*Forcing creative development through restriction is not the same as knowing you’ve stopped before you’re done.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Salt pans, Useless Loop

H51-B0008435 copy

Useless Loop, postcodes 6537, Western Australia, is located inside the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shark Bay; it’s a closed private town for the employees of the Solar Salt Operation Shark Bay – as whose name suggests, uses the sun’s heat over shallow ponds to evaporate seawater and leave behind salt. With a name like that, one can only imagine it might have been somewhat tricky to attract the initial employees. The salt pans themselves are kilometres vast, perfectly still without wind, and as glassy as a mirror. There’s a slight haze to some of them as the salinity increases and salt falls out of suspension, rendering the water murky. Each pond is at a different stage of evaporation, yet irregular in shape and fitted to the geography of the peninsula – giving the whole place the odd feeling of being like a giant insect’s wing, especially when viewed from the air. This series was shot through the open rear doors of a Cessna 203 at about 1500 feet during pretty ideal light and atmospheric conditions. Enjoy the transient colors – from the milky blues of salt reflecting clouds and sky to the deeper sea green of freshly flooded ponds, and the tans of the dams holding back the bay. I’ve always thought each individual pond felt like a window into alternate world, or perhaps the same place at a different time. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

[Read more…]