Photoessay: Bauhaus nights

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Think of this series as a proof of concept for the previous post – not only do we now have very fine tonal control with few limitations on execution, but smaller form factors are beginning to catch up (good luck trying to identify which were shot with the phone). I started with one image first, and then couldn’t help seeing more and more of these – so I grabbed what I could, and curated them down into what I think of a series of strange sentinels in the night; they feel isolated but with suggestions of internal life. Unrelated, and curiously, it seems few people use curtains or blinds even in private residences (I obviously did not shoot these) – perhaps this is a holdover from the days of socialism…? MT

This series was shot with mostly with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 85/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls. There are also a couple of images from the iPhone 11 Pro in here, too.

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Use the night

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The role of the camera is to present a perspective not otherwise visible; nowhere is this more obvious than night photography. Firstly, because we tend not to shoot much at night since most of us need to spend it sleeping to be functional for work the next day, resulting in both limited subject material and limited opportunity; secondly, because historically the results have always been lacking technically; and finally, because it requires us to train our minds to see in a different way than we normally do: what’s visible is made much more obvious by the ambient darkness, or what’s hidden. Yet shooting after the sun goes down is precisely the kind of thing that yields rich photographic results because it is less common, and therefore fewer images exist of activities that take place at night and are seen by fewer people. Beyond the subject matter itself, there’s the opportunity to present the same subject very differently: be it due to the change in ambient illumination color and direction, or integration long exposure and motion, or at a deeper level, reflecting the changes in ourselves and the way we observe and behave once the sun goes down.

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Photoessay: Nighthawk

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I think it’s very difficult to be in the US and not subconsciously influenced by Hopper, especially when walking around Manhattan; little vignettes rear their head and intrude into your field of view. One is powerless to do anything but raise the camera, and hit the button. Repeatedly. Then put your own twist and context on it, and try to parse it in a modern context. It’s actually quite easy to see where the painters of the era got their inspiration. Despite being painted nearly a century ago…it seems the mood hasn’t changed that much – or at least at the time these were shot, pre-COVID, that was the feeling I got. As with all of these things, I wish I’d had more time…what you see is but the briefest impression of a transient. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 50/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

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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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Historical challenge: Night Street Compact

Following up on the Low ISO Street by Night article (where I shot hand-held at ISO200 for the entire evening), I wanted to continue with the theme but switch things up – with a 10 year old point and shoot compact camera. In the previous article, the OM-D’s superior image stabilization was almost like cheating so let’s take that advantage away and replace it with a traditional tripod in this session. In 2008 I purchased, for RM299 (about USD70), a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8 for use at a construction site supervision (during my years as a geotechnical engineer). It has a tiny 1/2.5″ image sensor, no ability to shoot RAW, usable ISO with no higher than 200, just 8MP and a short, obsolete spec sheet. So what can we expect to get out of the Panasonic LZ8?

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Photoessay: Night falls

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With the benefit of an unusually clear evening in the usually quite overcast tropics, it’s possible to appreciate the subtle and wide variety of hues the evening sky transitions through – and the interesting interplay off the mirrored glass and water between artificial and reflected light. People often ask why I like to shoot in cities; it’s partially because of the difficulty in finding similar natural environments which are close enough to allow you to photograph in often, and partially because only the built environment gives you this kind of transition. It’s also a glimpse into somebody else’s imagination and vision to some degree; how did they envision their creation in the existing environment. Even if it’s merely a product of corporate averaging, we still get to see what the collective masses expect and deem to be ‘good’…MT

This series was shot in Singapore with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Aizu nights

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Aizu-wakamatsu is a relatively small town in the northern part of Honshu, Japan, that at one point was the seat of power of a regional military force before changing power after several civil war struggles. Whilst the town proper including the castle (destroyed in the the late 1800s and rebuilt in concrete in 1965) has seen several cycles of prosperity and decline, the hot spring resort area nearby of Aizu Higashiyama has seen relatively little change for several centuries – being popular with all. It is this little area which we explore in today’s photoessay – by night, because that was the only free time I had during this trip. Sometimes you feel like a walk after dinner, and happen to bring a tripod…MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia and 1.8/55 FE and post processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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New Ultraprint offer: In the round

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In the round, Vysehrad, Prague

There are a lot of stories that begin with ‘it was a dark and stormy night…’ – but in this case, it was true. Myself and another masterclass participant had been freezing and moistening ourselves in a windy horizontal rain shooting from the top of Vysehrad, which is a castle/monastery/fort complex on top of a hill overlooking Prague. We were about done for the day, packed up, heading down back towards civilisation and hot goulash, but got diverted. We’d walked past this building earlier in the (overcast) day, which was striking for its shape and size, and I remarked that it would be great with the right light – turns out we got it. With the wide mixture of light sources on the building (halogen), surroundings (sodium vapour) and sky (light pollution from the city reflecting off low level rainclouds), I couldn’t have lit it better myself even if given free reign. This was the result – an accurate but highly atmospheric portrait of stories in the night.

Read on for more information and to order.

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Photoessay: Prague nightscapes

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Not your typical postcard

Today’s photoessay is a series off nightscapes from Prague. I’ve always found night photography requires a bit of an ‘inertial hump’ to get over – especially if you’re out hauling the tripod for some long exposures; there’s an optimum window just after dusk when the sky is a dark blue and not totally black, balancing off with the ambient illumination of the buildings. It means you have to carefully plan your locations and/or route in order to be at the right place at the right time; on top of that, I find the actual shooting window is pretty small – perhaps two hours at best unless you’re living at extreme latitudes in summer.

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On Assignment: architecture by night

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Sometimes, one is given some pretty sweet assignments. Quite near the top of that list is a commission to photograph beautiful buildings by one of the country’s – arguably the world’s, too – leading architects with the rare thing of a completely open creative brief. This is the position I found myself in a couple of months ago, camera bag in one hand, Mother Of All (somewhat portable) Tripods in the other, and sheaf of permission letters and permits from Hijjas Kasturi Associates tucked away safe inside the camera bag just in case.

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