On Assignment photoessay: Automated building

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Some time back, I was given a rather interesting commission by a large local industrial conglomerate: to photograph their automated building facility. The factory uses an automated system to lay up wall, floor and ceiling units for modular buildings according to plan; these precast slabs are then simply installed on site, with reinforcement, connections, conduits for piping and electricals etc. all laid up and ready to go. The surfaces are finished during the production process, and unlike cast in place or brick-types, do not require additional plaster or skimming for a very consistent and precise finish. Interestingly, I was told that below a certain scale this is a more expensive process for building than traditional manual labor, but the overall quality is much higher (and it begins to make sense for large developments). From a photographic standpoint, the completed slab stockyard was very enjoyable – no end of shadows/ geometries/ strong colors/ details and all of the things that make for interesting vignettes and artistic experimentation; the factory was much more challenging due to the lighting.

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On-Assignment photoessay: Welders

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I am pathologically attracted to welding. It’s the photographers’ analog to a moth being drawn to a flame, or in this case either an oxyacetylene torch or plasma arc. My theory is that it has to do with a) light and b) unusual light. How often do you see somebody focusing intently on what is essentially a continuously powered, almost unidirectional flash? You can’t help but look. The radiating shadows created by that harsh light create all sorts of leading lines that force your eyes to the source: man and fire. It’s visually epic in a Metropolis sort of way; the Rocketman-esque helmets do nothing to detract from this, making the whole thing simply impossible to turn away from. It’s probably the reason my eyes have floaters, and some of my sensors have burn marks. But in monochrome it also tells a timeless story of man’s desire to build something great from the sum of much lesser components. And for nothing if that reason, we must bear witness to these things coming to life. MT

Shot over a very long period of time over a large number of construction and heavy engineering assignments, with various hardware from 6×6 film to micro 4/3 to MF digital and everything in between…

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On-Assignment photoessay: gentle curvature

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On some assignments you sacrifice your favourite camera strap, pray to the weather gods to grant you favour and be prepared to shoot everything in a half-hour mad rush around blue hour if it all goes to hell. This was one of those: a last minute call from a long-standing client with barely a 2.5 day deadline to deliver completed, retouched images. Normally I don’t (well, can’t) accept assignments on such short notice, but I happened to have a free day and the subject was quite interesting. The only problem: weather up to that point had been really terrible; one camera strap later and I think we lucked out. All shooting was complete within a 12 hour window – including the night images (done late the previous evening) and aerials (the morning of). Light was good, winds were calm and a couple of aerial stitches were achievable – thankfully, as there was no physical vantage point for the angles the client wanted, and limited aerial vantage due to surrounding buildings and construction cranes. The building itself is quite unusually shaped – there are no real external straight edges which gives it a very strange feeling at ground/podium level, as well as a means to defeat site setback regulations at street level to maximise internal floor space. Not all of it was completed in time, so there was no chance to photograph inside the rooftop glass-roofed area, which judging from the drone – had pretty extraordinary shadows from the window frames and columns. As an aside, I personally found the results much more interesting in monochrome as they brought out key features and played real volumes nicely against projected shadows, but unfortunately those weren’t part of the client brief – perhaps for a future photoessay, though… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, Z7 and DJI Mavic Pro 2 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part II

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As promised – the continuation of the previous set of images shot at the same time at the same location, but curated and psotprocessed to very different objectives. You’ll notice that there are very few overlaps; different mood, different images. Perhaps the biggest change is in the handling of light and shadows: the very hard tropical sun that creates black hole shadows that works so well for monochrome is tricky to manage in color; especially when it comes to foliage (of which there is plenty here). There’s a lot of midtone dodging required to ensure the tonal transitions from highlights to shadows are natural; but not so much that things look flat. Some portions never quite get sun at this time of year due to the orientation of the plot, meaning we had to get creative in post again to ensure coherency – highlight dodge, midtone burn (the opposite for the areas in direct sunlight). I personally like the Magritte-esque clouds, and the eveningscapes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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On assignment photoessay: Development details, part I

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Today’s set is the result of an interesting client brief earlier in the year: shoot details of the development for several objectives: a) the usual promotion via social media, advertising etc; b) developer portfolio and award entries; c) for use as decor in the development itself. The latter is the biggest challenge of the lot, because you have to find angles and light that people who live there every day won’t see or won’t mind seeing or would like to discover through the images; and on top of that do it in a limited period of time – the small window between completion and handover. That leaves us at both the mercy of the weather (and thus light) during that window, as well as not really having time to ‘live in’ the development itself. Nevertheless – I actually landed up delivering two sets of images; monochrome for decor to both render the scenes somewhat abstract and era/time-independent, and color, for portfolio. Here’s the interesting bit: the two sets almost don’t overlap at all, though in totality they are both self-coherent. I present both sets here (and in the next post) for you to see yourself just how much the mood and feel changes… MT

Shot with a D850, 19 PCE and Sigma 100-400 (unfortunately there aren’t really any equivalents in the Hasselblad system yet) and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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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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Working with multiple systems and formats in the field

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A typical assignment for me may involve a) quite a variety of objectives, and b) quite a variety of hardware. Whilst the obvious solution would be to go with one complete system and suitable backups, this isn’t always possible for any number of reasons – from weight to lack of coverage in that system to cost or practical versatility. I had a recent email discussion with a reader and fellow pro over how to manage this in the most efficient way possible – both from a cost and logistic standpoint, but also a creative one. Often, suitable equipment for a broad range of optimal coverage* may require a significant shift in shooting mindset between different bits of hardware; for obvious reasons this becomes quite a bit more challenging when you’re working under pressure. I thought it might be an interesting topic to examine further…

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part II

Behind the scenes at Koenigsegg

In the previous post I brought you the results of the aerial shoot for Koenigsegg; today’s long series of images is the second part covering the story of the making – behind the scenes at the factory. Almost everything is made in-house, and a tour of the compact but comprehensive facility will yield everything from CNC machines turning engine blocks, to people laying up complex carbon wheels, to a paint shop, alignment jigs, leather stitching and cutting, wiring and electronics and everything between. Even though the cars are astronomically expensive – EUR2m and up from what I understand – I actually wonder how Christian can still make money given the amount of specialised labor involved, and the length of time required to complete one car – they make fewer than 30 per year. The attention to detail is quite mind boggling – if you order a clear coated car, for instance, it’s not merely the epoxy matrix of the carbon that’s polished, but a dozen layers of clear lacquer applied by hand over the top, polished between each application, and each carbon panel’s seams must line up perfectly: and be symmetric on both sides of the car. Today is really a celebration of non plus ultra – both in the subject, and in using the H6D-100c to shoot it. Note: lighting looks natural, but is really a careful balance between ambient and a single Broncolor Siros 800L triggered wirelessly, and mounted on a voice activated light stand*. Enjoy! MT

*A tall assistant.

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and a single Broncolor Siros 800L balanced against ambient. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part I

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Today’s photoessay contains the stills from the video of the shoot – there are also high resolution versions available for your pixel peeping pleasure at Hasselblad.com. There aren’t that many images simply because the setup for each one was quite extensive, and we were limited to a small window of time where ambient was dark enough for a long exposure, and bright enough to have some trace; too dark and I also had problems composing. You’ll notice a few other tricks in this series – there’s high speed sync flash involved, a little PS merge in one case (we only had one car!) and some interesting lighting…enjoy! MT

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics, and Angelholm Airport for air traffic control. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, several Broncolor Siros 800Ls and a DJI Matrice 600 drone. Postprocessing was completed using Workflow III.

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On Assignment: Above and Beyond – a collaboration with Koenigsegg

Above and Beyond: Ming Thein x Hasselblad x Koenigsegg from Ming Thein on Vimeo.

This one has been some time in the making – planning started at the beginning of the year, with the shoot in May to balance weather and sunset/sunrise times, for release only now – today’s video and post is a taste of what goes into a production of this size. Please click the link above to watch it in full 4K glory.

In a nutshell, the concept is pretty simple – but as far as I can tell, unique to date – long exposures, cars, aerial perspective, twilight, Swedish locations for a Swedish car and camera, high speed sync flash to freeze. It is a way of visually describing the journey: the light trails are the past, the history, and the future; they’re not smooth because there are bumps in the road and and paths can diverge significantly due to small changes in causality*. The clearly frozen car is the here and now, and the moment we should be enjoying: it’s the immediate manifestation of the present, with viscerally clear details. The past and the context fade and blur away, dtails blurred by the biased lens of memory. After a little discussion with Christian von Koenigsegg and his team – they bit, and we were in business. Since we were going for the best of the best all around – the only choice was to use the flagship H6D-100c and DJI M600, of course.

*Physics reference.

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