From the archives: The appeal of landscape

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I admit to being very late to the game in landscape photography – it’s something I’ve not really done seriously until pretty much this year; I suppose the main reason was a solid lack of opportunity. When you live in the tropics, then your shooting hours are limited: light is great in the morning and evening, but weather usually conspires against you with pollution, convection rain, or just general haze. Travel opportunities have changed that somewhat, however I think my quest to create images that are the kind of art you’d want to hang has lead me to look at new subject matter. This of course in conjunction with the ongoing quest to find subject matter that makes the most of the immersive experience of the Ultraprints and vice versa. Of late, however, I’ve found the process meditative (if frantic when light serves) and challenging in a good way: a successful image must parse a very three-dimensional and fractal subject into a limited reproduction medium, which forces you to carefully visualise the result and output medium.

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On assignment photoessay: Construction, part II

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I’m presenting the second part of the Construction photoessay today – here, the individuals slowly recede into the context of the greater project and become important contributing parts of the whole. The ‘context’ is so large it often overwhelms everything else – I personally find the coordination part of the work amazing because once you’re on site, it’s very easy to get lost in the details. Large prints would of course work best to show the scale of many of these developments, but there are still limitations to the internet 🙂 [Read more…]

On assignment photoessay: Construction, part I

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This series of images comes from my body of work from the last year-plus for client Chun Wo in Hong Kong; they are the largest local construction company and are mainly involved in large infrastructure projects, including the airport and Central-Wanchai bypass that spans most of the prime waterfront. As many of you will have seen from previous photoessays and posts, my brief with them is an ongoing on that covers several aspects: 1) documenting work in progress in the greater context of Hong Kong, as a historical record; 2) documenting and celebrating the workers who make it all possible; 3) recording the finished projects. Earlier in the year, we held a successful charity exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center which showcased a limited selection of the work – something like ~100 out of about 1,500 images delivered. I’ve been asked many times if we could share some of those images online for those who weren’t able to make it in person, so here we are. [Read more…]

Photoessay: San Francisco street monochromes

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The pizza man

Following on from an earlier article about light and mood in monochrome, I feel some examples are in order. Though these were all shot in San Francisco, they are from different eras in my career. Nevertheless, I believe the feeling I personally experience in San Franciso is consistent – one of possibility and excitement reinforced by the weather and tempered by something slightly along the lines of wondering if you’re going to live up to the standards of the city or stand out like a hick – there’s this sort of sophistication and modern edginess, I suppose. And nights are quiet rather than being lively (or I’m simply going to the wrong places). Enjoy! MT

This set was shot with a diverse range of equipment, but processed using the techniques covered in the Monochrome Masterclass workshop video.

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Photoessay: The devil in the details

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Today’s photoessay is I suppose about both intention and serendipity: architects intend for certain parts of certain buildings to work with their environment in a particular way, but also for them to be self-contained, individually functional and internally consistent. Whilst the macro environment is always taken into account during planning of the gross features, the way these features interact with the immediate environment cannot always be foreseen; for instance, take large reflective surfaces like glass and metal claddings. If the weather and skies change, so does the entire appearance of the surface. If the surrounding environment changes 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line with demolition of old buildings and erection of new ones – there’s simply no way this kind of thing can be envisioned at the planning stages. What I find interesting in effectively living in a forest of skyscrapers is that their personality keeps changing with light and evolution of the neighbourhood – on any given day, my surroundings can be really impressive or dull as ditchwater. What I’ve attempted to do with this photoessay is try to share some of that feeling with you – of course, there are limitations of screen in scale and gamut. The sequencing is deliberate and focuses more on abstraction and evolution of form and colour than subject – in this case, the specific individual subject doesn’t much matter anyway. Enjoy! MT

Shot with a wide range of equipment over several months, but mostly the Nikon D810 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II or The Monochrome Masterclass.

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Understanding native tonal response

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Sunrise over Lake Michigan

Continuing this little series on tonality, mood and monochrome, I’d like to explain a little about the idea of native tonal response: it’s something I’ve frequently referred to in reviews, but never fully explained. Unfortunately, there are a very large number of variables, so bear with me.

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Photoessay: Lakeside

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Cue the James Bond theme song

Today’s photoessay is a mixed bag of observations from the lakes of Queenstown, New Zealand, and beyond – some landscape, some whimsy, some people. All in all, I think actually quite a representative mix of the experience. And for a change, I think the captions are probably necessary for context precisely because they’re not exactly part of a greater sequence. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar, Pentax 645Z, 25, 55, 90 and 200mm lenses, and post processed with the new A2 Photoshop workflow II. 

The Black Island is available as a limited edition Ultraprint here.

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Photoessay: Nautical still life

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Captain’s table, with a view

Earlier this year, I was commissioned to shoot a documentary set for the International Lutheran Seamans’ Mission; an organisation that has stations around the world tending to the spiritual and more pedestrian needs of seafarers. I thought the brief was interesting – follow and document one of their mission leaders, on vessels of various sizes ranging from small wooden fishing boats to new 1000ft container ships – whilst interacting with the seafarers and looking for interesting vignettes. That will be the subject of a future On Assignment – the client has not yet published the annual report it was commissioned for.

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Picking a tripod

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This article continues from a discourse of why a tripod is the most underrated piece of photographic equipment.

There is a lot of obsession online over whether camera and lens A is better than camera and lens B – forgetting entirely that the creative vision and shot discipline of the photographer using the equipment is not just a great equaliser, but can very well turn the tables entirely. Tripods and heads are one of the very few areas in which this is not actually true – i.e. better equipment is better equipment and there are no equalisers – and are almost completely ignored. No amount of creativity or technique can make up for a poor tripod, but poor technique can certainly spoil a good tripod.

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Why the tripod is the most underrated piece of photographic equipment

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Pentax 645Z with L bracket on Gitzo 1542T and Arca-Swiss P0.

Chances are, a tripod is actually one of the first bits of gear you got at the start of your photographic journey: they’re usually given away free with DSLR ‘kits’ as ‘value added’ freebies (you’re actually charged for them, of course). Like most people, you probably even carried it with you on every photographic excursion for a while, and then eventually got lazy or frustrated with it and gave up. At that point, you probably also wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between a good tripod and head and a poor one. I’m fully guilty of this, of course. I even bought my tripod – a relatively cheap Velbon thing for all of about $60 that included a head, and was light and relatively small but tall enough to be reasonably ergonomic and not induce too much back pain – jackpot! Of course, I would later learn that the only thing that’s worse than no tripod at all is a bad tripod.

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