On-assignment photoessay: Preparations

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When on assignment, there are images you shoot to the brief, and the bonus ones you shoot for yourself: sometimes they aren’t really corporate safe or commercial-clean, but they have a something – texture, light, grit – that appeals to something personal. I always try to respond to these scenes in an instinctive way: just shoot, sort them out later, and package separately for your client in the hopes they might use them, or at least see and appreciate even if they don’t (because they don’t fit the look and palette you’ve already established). Still – I think all photographers need to feel moved in this kind of way; if you don’t, then the desire to experiment and create might not be as strong as it should be… MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7/24-70 and D850/70-200/4, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: nocturnal impressions of Hong Kong

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You know a place has something on you if you want to go out and shoot to relax after spending the whole day…shooting on assignment. In this case a very different sort of work, and the kind of thing one can shoot in flow/ stream of consciousness; you react instinctively and don’t think too much about the scene. I look at the structure and the main highlights – note, not subjects, since the image is more of a vignette of a feeling than a specific description of a subject – balance the composition, and then shoot accordingly. There’s one kicker: I shot everything at ISO 64, handheld, relying on the stabiliser of the Z7 and the large amount of ambient light. I must have been inspired by Robin’s experiment some time back, but in this case I was deliberately seeking out motion, layers and wimmelbild to convey the impression of busyness and activity, but with the sort of surreal detachment that a monochrome presentation suggests. The emotional impact of color is not present, and one feels a bit colder and more objective or separated from the scene; an observer rather than a participant – which matches my feelings in places like this. I shot something like 500 frames that evening. This is my selection. MT

Images shot with a Nikon Z7 and 24-70, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. There are also one or two camera JPEGs in there, and I now have a very similar SOOC picture control pack available here.

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MT’s scrapbook: block form

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An afternoon walking around Singapore yielded a lot of recursive cubism – order, almost-order and chaos made to look like order. Society here is known for its regulation and discipline, and it’s almost as though that same discipline is imposed on its architectural forms. Of course this is a deliberately curated (and thus biased) set, and granted, most are older buildings; the newer ones seem to still be full of straight lines, but with a conspicuous allergy to right angles. Surely we must be close to the point technologically where non-rectilinear forms of architecture are economically viable (I suppose Gardens by the Bay and the Henderson Waves are good examples of this, and located in Singapore too). Sometimes I also wonder if it’s a sort of physical manifestation of digital influence…of course, it’s more likely that economics is the underlying driver, but there’s no cost to philosophising. MT

The Scrapbook series is shot on an Olympus PEN F, with unedited JPEGs straight from camera bar resizing (and of course some choice settings).

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MT’s scrapbook: still life interludes, part I

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Two questions to address today – firstly, what differentiates the scrapbook series from photoessays, and secondly, why do they tend to be monochrome? What I post here in the form of photoessays are much more tightly curated series around a certain subject or theme, shot with the sole purpose and intention of photography, and sequenced into a storyline from a much larger set. The images are individually post processed and made consistent. The scrapbook series is more spontaneous – there is never a narrative because they’re single snippets grabbed here and there and then sorted into something visually coherent (which isn’t the same as a storyline). They’re opportunistic as opposed to planned or sought; sometimes single, sometimes in a mini-sequence. And there’s no post processing; what you see is a resized SOOC JPEG. They also tend to be monochrome, both as a concession to prioritise the light and also because there’s no need to correct for accurate color. It’s my compromise to keep my hand in practice, but for times when I don’t have the time to commit to something more focused. Today: more long shadow play, with a candid guest appearance from some Mapplethorpian bananas… MT

The Scrapbook series is shot on an Olympus PEN F, with unedited JPEGs straight from camera bar resizing (and of course some choice settings).

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Robin’s stylistic experiments: monochrome squares

It is no secret that I prefer to shoot in color for my street photography but I do have a special adoration for black and white for very specific situations. With the right lighting condition and sufficient contrast in the frame I tend to favor black and white. I then decided to do a specific outing just to shoot everything in black and white. Initially I did not plan to do square crops for all images in this series, but a few images called for square composition which worked well. For consistency, I cropped everything to square.

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On-assignment photoessay: the face of construction

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Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had the chance to shoot quite a number of contextual portraits of the people behind construction – some I’ve presented previously, and thus are not shown here. Almost all of the images in this set are new, and the result of a much larger curation project I’ve been meaning to do for some time. Even as extensive as a single shoot for this client tends to be – thousands of images over a week or so – the subject matter and light conditions are so diverse that you seldom have a chance to shoot a thematically and visually consistent sequence; thus the only way to make a project like this work is over a longer period of time. It also ties in nicely with some monochrome portrait experiments I’ve been doing over the last couple of months. Interestingly, the main challenge with this body of work overall was not opportunity, but the fact that construction workers in Hong Kong seem to all be exceedingly shy… MT

Images shot with various hardware over the last three years, but all post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Transient glimpses

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All photography is of course transient; most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else or timeline of another object’s point of view – other than self-documentary, there really isn’t such a thing as a continuous statement simply because a photograph lacks causality when viewed in isolation. Yet something about the people and subjects featured in this set – shot in the rain and winter in Tokyo and Kyoto – seemed to me especially poignant and fragile. It’s as though there’s both a sort of contemplative melancholy brought on by the season (and probably also lack of sun), but simultaneously an appreciation of the fleeting fragility of the moment. Perhaps introspection is the most appropriate description of the mood here. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Experience Japan vicariously in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part I

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Every image is a reflection of the photographer’s state of mind at the time of capture; we see and interpret the world through a lens of personal bias. We either notice things that are extremely in sync with us – or extremely opposite. It is difficult to say whether the collective feeling exists or we are simply applying tunnel vision to only notice what we want to see. Going back to curate through one’s archives tends to yield very telling glimpses into your psyche at the time, and something much easier to see objectively in hindsight. These images were shot more than six months ago, but reviewing the entire set yields an almost manic split between the bright, cheerful and happy, and the downright depressing. I honestly don’t remember what I was feeling at the time – probably not strongly positive or negative – but mainly that the environment was so different that it was rather difficult to ‘be a mirror’ and let the images come rather than looking for them. What’ll be interesting is the counterpoint part II post… MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: travels in hard light II

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Trying the sun on for size

Monochrome, today. The variation of weather in Istanbul can be spectacular; one moment you have brilliant sunshine, and barely 30min later: hail. I suppose such are the joys of a maritime climate. Regardless of weather, Istanbul seems to be one of those places that has realities of so many different eras that it’s almost timeless; the modern overlaps with the ancient in the sort of organic way that can only happen over centuries – millennia, even – of continuity. I was there at the time of the constitutional referendum; there were fears that it might get ugly, but the reality is life would continue as normal – daily ups and downs being relatively minor blips in the grand scheme of things – short period transience and a sort of lack of definition for individuals, and a much slower erosion for the surrounding environment. What holds it together? The framework is left in the shadows, and only when you look closer (at these images, too) is it clear that things are not always as they seem.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and Monochrome Masterclass.

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Photoessay: Prague monochromes, part III

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On this visit to Prague, I was struck by the feeling that a lot of the people I observed were looking for something: it wasn’t so much a definite journey or objective or quest, but just a general sense that something was missing. Perhaps it was the tour groups that outnumbered the locals, or perhaps it was the subtle shift in the proportions of businesses: set up for and transacting mainly with locals vs. visitors. Don’t get me wrong; I realise that I too am a visitor, but there’s something about the mass hoards that gets my goat. Maybe it’s because they wonder around bovine and gawking and oblivious to consideration of anybody else, or maybe it’s because once you have too many of them – the whole feel of the place changes, and then it no longer becomes the place that motivated you to visit and experience it. I don’t think this is specific to Prague in any way, though I’d always felt the Czechs managed to hold on a little bit longer than some other places. In an odd way, once the balance flips in favour of tourists vs locals, the place feels the same as any other city that caters for tourists – other than the setting. In effect, a very large theme park. What I saw, and tried to capture, was transition. Maybe this is the new normal, everywhere…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, and H6D-50c, various lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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