Photoessay: hard line

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Great light and crazy architecture one morning in Tokyo – best to make the most of it. I thought of hitting multiple destinations, but the truth is anybody who’s been to Tokyo will know there’s so much of interest architecturally everywhere that it doesn’t really matter where you go. I suspect this is because underlying land costs in Tokyo are so high that anything you put up on the site will be (relatively) cheap in comparison; unlike in other parts of the world where construction is equal to or greater than the real estate. Even straightforward buildings have a personification of that Japanese obsession for imperfection, and as a result usually sport one or more very nice details to break pattern. Okay, I just can’t help myself: I like graphic subjects. MT

With the exception of one image (D850), this series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Repost: format strengths and why different sized media render differently

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MF tonality and separation: in the full size image, the airplane is in a clearly different focal plane to the tree and hangar – even though it was shot at f8.

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.

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Photoessay: Tokyo Teleport

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When you have a subject with a title this good, one is simply compelled to use it – even if it means some heavy curation, some redaction, and some vicious cuts. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved the alien-dystopian-ness of this series, combined with the motion and slightly shadowy figures. It’s both surreal and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, with solid blocks contesting against ephemerally transient reflections and ghosts. If it gets chaotic, just go with the flow. Welcome to both yesterday and the future. Embrace the cliche. Welcome to Japan. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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In praise of crappy hardware

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I’ve had the privilege and frustration of working with both the best and worst hardware of a wide variety of types. I say this independent of cost, as often it isn’t a good indicator for suitability to a given task – in fact, this is increasingly true as cost increases and your tools get more specialised. It’s also not always true given reliability issues, customer support and other general electronic weirdness and histrionics. Perhaps crappy is an unfair term that probably does the hardware in this discussion a disservice. If you haven’t noticed, the industry has been changing silently but surely: the midrange has gone high end, the high end has gone stratospheric, the bottom end is gone, and the midrange has gone downmarket. We now have multiple $3000-4000 FF ‘pro’ lenses released as par for the course and nobody blinks an eyelid (compare that to just a few years ago when only the Otuses were in that territory, and the same lenses were in the $1000-2000 range). We have the ‘low’ end of medium format now below the high end of full frame – $4000 Fuji GFX50R vs $7000 Leica M10 – and we have some true bargains at the beginner level. We have entry points into full frame at sub-$1000 (albeit in older hardware, though still available to buy new). That’s a psychologically significant number; it’s the price point of the Nikon D70 and Canon 300D back in the days of the first actually affordable DSLRs in the early 2000s. What if we go lower still?

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Photoessay: Life in the fishbowl

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With the amount of glass (all flawlessly clean, of course) in Tokyo, the number of tourists and the close proximity of everything…I can’t help but wonder if the residents sometimes feel like they’re living in a giant exhibit, periodically interrupted by gawking visitors with cameras from another realm. They take it with remarkably polite stoicism, unlike say, Venetians, who suffer the necessity of paying tourists with the bare minimum of tolerance. I suppose having industry other than tourism helps; that feeling of the ability to say ‘no’ – even you never do. Even if they didn’t – I certainly felt like I was part of the show. If not diving with the sharks, then at least snorkelling in the aquarium. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Exploring Kampung Datuk Keramat

On rare occasions, I wander off my usual street shooting grounds and explore new locations at random. This time, I went to Kampung Datuk Keramat, an old Malay town which still retains its charm and character. Unlike Kampung Baru, another Malay settlement I have shot before, Kampung Datuk Keramat is not right in the middle of the city but about 5 kilometers away from the CBD. This results in very interesting backdrops as you always have the concrete jungle and skyscrapers in the background. This allows for very interesting framing by juxtaposing the old wooden structures and low rise residential buildings against the towering modern behemoths.

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Photoessay: winter at the Nezu garden

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Trying something a bit different with this set; both because I’ve seen the Nezumuseum garden at its best and because it was just a different time of year to my normal trips to Tokyo. Landscapes in monochrome, especially high frequency ones (grass, leaves, trees etc.) tend to be challenging because they quickly devolve into something very messy looking and ‘hard’, as there’s not much spatial room for midtone transitions; having the benefit of color gives you a little more latitude to play with in this regard. However, I suspect here I was inspired subconsciously by the sort of high contrast and chaotic Japanese street photography genre to try and create something a bit different to the usual color explosions. Winter is a bit of a masochistic time to visit a garden like this, which is best in spring or autumn; it never really snows enough in Tokyo to blanket things into nice soft contours, either. But there is something sober and slightly dark about the scene that I find pleasantly contemplative. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70/4 S. No post processing, just the monochrome picture control from the Z7/D850 profile pack…

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Thoughts on travel photography, 2019 edition

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There are two kinds of travel photographers*: those who travel to photograph, and those who document their travels. I used to be firmly in the former category: you pick a destination and plan your entire itinerary based around photographic objectives; you try to sit/stay/transit via positions that maximise every possible photographic opportunity. You depart at times when light and seasons are likely to be most cooperative. Your equipment is 90% of your total baggage weight, and you’ll recycle your underpants if it means you can bring both the gimbal head and the ball. You pack every bit of gear you own just in case – you can always leave it in the hotel, but you might not be able to get a spare on location. And then you carry everything on the off chance you might miss an opportunity. You fly airlines that are lenient on hand luggage, but must balance that off against who cleans their windows best (or has A330s/A340s with that CrystalVue coating). I’ve done that round first on holiday, then on commissioned jobs, on workshop tours, and finally on misguided attempts to take a break from commercial work. Of late, I find the way I work changing; and that’s meant some big changes in the way I approach the idea of travel photography. Oddly though – my yield isn’t lower. If anything, I’d say quality is higher. Let’s try and figure out why.

*There may well be a third kind, but I’ve yet to find it.

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Shutter therapy in Perth, part II

Continued from Part 1

Perth makes for a marvellous backdrop for monochromatic street photography thanks to constantly clear skies, deep shadows cast by direct sunlight and the urban architecture filled with people going about their day. Due to limited time, I didn’t dedicate any shooting sessions to black and white work but shot everything in color and converted some of the shots in post. However, most of the images shown here were shot with the intention of being presented in black and white.

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Shutter therapy in Perth, part I

Recently, I was in Perth to shoot portraits for an old friend as well as to take some time off and indulge is some shutter therapy. Perth is not new to me – I spent several years completing my Civil Engineering degree at the University of Western Australia and nearly migrated to Australia permanently. I also picked up photography while I was in Perth, and spent a considerable amount of time shooting around the beautiful city. Back then, I was running around with a compact point and shoot Kodak and DSLRs were starting to gain popularity. When the opportunity to revisit Perth presented itself, I was quick to jump at it.

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