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
‘Quality of light’ is one of those phrases I use often, but perhaps should explain a little better. Similarly, we are all guilty of overusing the ‘good light/bad light’ phrase; but what does it (and we) actually mean? To a certain degree, we photographers are programmed both with preconceptions of what constitutes favourable light – based on our own or others’ historical work – and what constitutes ‘bad’ light. At the same time, we also have our own aesthetic biases and preferences – some of us may prefer flatter or more diffuse light as a consequence of spend childhoods at extreme latitudes, or be predisposed towards hard contrast because we’re tropical people. Here’s the kicker, though: I believe there is no such thing as truly bad or wrong light; there is only suitability for a given subject and set of aesthetic preferences.
Something a little less intellectual today: nothing more than boats at rest along the Douro, running through Porto. I honestly have trouble finding the romance in the whole notion of sea travel (it just seems a slow way of moving anything that can economically be transported by plane, and an inefficient mode of relaxation since space, supplies and locations are constrained) – but they are undeniably attractive objects to photograph. As always, the challenge is how not to repeat something that’s been done before – and I think you can tell from the emergence of the little blue and white dinghy that my thoughts continually strayed to the graphic and abstract… MT
Now that the dust has settled on the biannual equipment celebration that is Photokina, we can (somewhat) more objectively opine and speculate on a) interesting individual releases and company activities and b) the industry as a whole. What I’m seeing are three trends:
- The effects of the sensor monopoly held by Sony, which aren’t good;
- A few courageous companies pushing the envelope wildly;
- The conservative ones iterating in ever small increments.
I actually believe this is a signal of the start of maturity and perhaps a bit more rational sense for photographers as a whole – or, perhaps not. There wasn’t really anything from anybody that made me itch and reach for the wallet, and I suspect the same is true for most people; partially because a lot of the more interesting releases already happened (5DIV, D5, D500, X1D, X-T2, X-Pro2 etc.) earlier in the year, and partially because just about everybody is dependent on one sensor maker.
Today’s series is a continuation of the Australian aerials – this time exploring the abstracted textures of the coastal interface and immediately surrounding areas on both water and land. The myriad fractal textures generated by wave action are both infinitely varied and fascinating; each has its own aesthetic strengths. I actually had a very hard time curating it for this precise reason: it’s very difficult to prefer one abstract over another because each had some unique merits of its own. Nevertheless, I think the color flow works here, even if some of the finer textures can only be appreciated in a large print, including schools of marine mammals and the occasional tire track to lend a sense of scale. It also makes me wonder just how different this area would be in a few months given time and tide… MT
Despite how this may appear, no, I have not lost my mind. I’m simply (rationally) moving along the things I haven’t used in six months or more; photography for me must run as a business, too. Which is why it’s best for me to allow other people the opportunity to enjoy the stuff I’m not using – plus I’m feeling the slight guilt of underutilisation, and the Alpa FPS is really, really expensive…
In summary, here’s what’s available:
Nikon AI-S 58/1.2 Noct-Nikkor, with original hoodSold pending payment Leica Q Typ 116 (review), with extrasSold Nikon F2 TitanSold Carl Zeiss Contax/Yashica 2.8/35 PC Distagon AEGSold Novoflex C/Y to Sony E adaptorSold
Full details after the jump, and first come first served. I don’t expect these items to stick around very long. Prices are in USD.
My biggest challenge with projects and assignments of this scale is always adequately capturing them and conveying that scale – too wide or too far away, and you lose identifiable detail; too close and you don’t get a feeling for the immensity. There’s no way you can keep an identifiable and isolated human figure in the shot and show the whole extent of a 3km+ long project; even with a silly-sized print from a camera of extremely high resolution. This is where the narrative comes into strength, but also poses challenges. It’s much easier to give a complete impression of something by detailing critical parts; however, with the narrative in mind, you’ll find that there are certain ‘filler’ images required for continuity that might not necessarily stand on their own – and similarly, certain hero shots just don’t flow with the rest of the sequence. This of course leads to a very focused curation, which may well change massively should the intended message also change.
When is a photograph not a strictly a photograph?
This is a little question that I’ve bumped up against now and again with increasing frequency as I produce personal work that’s less literal and more abstract. I think at simplest, what we have here is a continuum from ‘straight’ untouched images of literal objects that happen to be taken from an unusual vantage with unusual light that contributes to them feeling abstracted, surreal or both, to the opposite end where there is so much manipulation going on that we are no longer sure that what we are looking at can be classified as photography instead of mixed-media art. Some ‘conceptual’ commercial work can fall into this latter category, too. What is clear is that none of these images are in any way attempting to represent themselves as transparent photojournalism. The question that I’d like to address is not so much the definition of photography as at what point we must start to unburden ourselves of conventional notions of image-making and really start trying the crazy stuff.
There is a subliminal connection between shadows, mystery, uncertainty and something sinister; probably because we can’t necessarily be certain about what we cannot see. Of course, this can be used photographically to great effect in creating abstraction, geometry and structure – without shadows, we have no way in presenting the illusion of three dimensions in a medium that has two. What I find oddly paradoxical about these images is that the shadows don’t really have that dark and closed-in feeling; perhaps it’s the hard edges and delineation between light and dark that if anything makes the sunniness more obvious – for want of a better term, there’s a positive feeling here. There cannot be shadows without light and all that…MT
I recently attended two exhibitions. First was a semibiographical retrospective of Yves St Laurent at work by French photographer Pierre Boulat, and the other was Steve McCurry’s ‘Iconic Photographs’. Both were in Asia, but held at two of the top galleries in the region – Galeri Petronas and Sundaram Tagore, respectively. There was no faulting the presentation or hanging in either case. For both shows, print quality was frankly disappointingly mediocre. I’m prepared to give Boulat some latitude since he was working in relatively early film days and under ‘documentary’ conditions; McCurry’s film work often has obvious motion blur and focus misses, and his digital compounds that with oversharpening haloes – all of which land up being distracting from the image. He should really have tighter control on his post production, or stop outsourcing altogether – as the recent cloning scandal demonstrates. It’s not so much the use of postproduction enhancement, but the addition or removal of elements in what is expected to be work of a documentary nature. All of this has raised two questions in my own mind: firstly, if either photographer was starting out fresh today, would they have anywhere near the notoriety and fame, and secondly, has the game changed so much that we modern photographers have little hope of making a truly widely-recognized ‘iconic image’?