Photoessay: vignettes of melancholy and longing

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Here’s a slightly unusual (and personal) curation, matching my usual mood: I hugely cut down the amount of travel I’ve been doing (after pretty much ten years of non stop, at least twice a month work trips), starting in the second half of 2017 and continuing on to 2018. But the last couple of months have reminded me precisely why I made that choice: yes, you get to do some fun stuff, but it’s also fatiguing, you don’t see your family (worse, if your wife happens to have an opposite travel schedule which means you’re never in the same place at the same time), hotels are soulless, and working off a laptop with a malfunction keyboard (hello, double alphabets) and trackpad (goodbye, click!) when you’re used to a dual screen 27″-32″ setup is positively claustrophobic (and unproductive). Hell, I even miss my car and my polar bears. Sometimes these feelings concentrate, and leave you with an odd sort of creative inspiration that makes you search the back catalog and realise that at some point – many points, really – in your previous travels, you’ve felt exactly the same way. And it somehow made you a little creative at the time. And I have to say, in an odd way – that cheered me up. MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Autumn again

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Autumn in Japan these days seems to come later and later – the end of November or early December, in some areas further south. It probably ranks second only to the cherry blossoms as the season for landscapists to chase; I can’t say I did that but I did time the visit to coincide with some color in at least one of the locations we visited. It’s perhaps also my favourite season of the year as it’s the one I see the least of, living in the tropics – we get summer and an approximation of winter (monsoons) and spring isn’t that different, but the leaves never turn, the landscape doesn’t become warm, and the city isn’t redolent of reminiscence of the year that’s just passed. I’m sure I’d probably get bored of it if I lived at higher latitudes, but for now, please enjoy a (even) more abstract set than my usual landscapes. MT

This series was shot in various parts of Japan in the last year, with a Nikon D850 and 24-120 VR, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Cityscape Hong Kong

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It turns out this one was a lot tougher than I expected – mainly because of the sheer volume of starting material. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to Hong Kong during my photographic career; and inevitably you land up staying somewhere with a relatively interesting view or two even directly from the hotel room, let alone once you start wandering at street level. The sheer density and rate of change of the city means that these two elements themselves are constants in the overall impression left; only on top of that can you layer the other details. The interesting thing is the details become recursive at multiple scales, resulting in a very dense urban wimmelbild of texture; it was tough to decide where to draw the line between cityscape and street during the curation. It’s also equally easy to get lost in the concrete canyons and forget that there are actually a lot of open green areas around the islands, and of course water. Regardless – there’s a lot to see here, and I’m pretty sure there are no end of arguments as to exactly what constitutes a ‘comprehensive’ interpretation of Hong Kong…

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Cityscape Chicago

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Following on from the previous Cityscape Singapore post – I’ve decided to repeat the curation exercise with all of the other locations I visit frequently to see if my short and long term impressions remain constant. Today’s candidate is Chicago. My expectations prior to visiting were perhaps clouded (oddly) by the 1920s to 1950s period of neo-gothic architecture and pop culture elements; I wasn’t disappointed on arrival, but found the contrast between that and the very modern designs quite compelling. Somehow the city’s architects have managed to integrate both in a harmonious way; perhaps it’s because a lot of consideration is given to the surroundings of any single building before the plan is greenlit. It may well be the same case in other cities, but I can say there’s absolutely zero of this sensitivity in Kuala Lumpur – often plots are developed into their own mini-cities that do not play nicely with the neighbourhood at all, but rather force their way in. It is this preservation of continuity that I found rather intriguing as a visitor…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Cityscape Singapore

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Another photoessay today with the benefits of multiple visits and longer curation – perhaps the start of a mini-project for me to revisit the archives with the benefit of separation and objectivity for places I’ve paid multiple visits to. The purpose would be both to curate something of a set ‘representative’ of the personality of the place – as far as that’s possible with a dynamic entity like a living city (especially in the case of somewhere that rapidly develops such as Singapore or Tokyo), as well as to see how my own personal feelings and impressions have changed over time. To some degree we might also be seeing the effect of different approaches to photography – from more casual to more formal/structured/deliberate and back again; tripods and not; preference for 28 vs longer lenses etc – it may well turn into some interesting insights into one’s own observational preferences over time…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS 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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Photoessay: Mechanical

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The functional, dirty innards of construction machinery have always fascinated me by simple virtue of the endless textures and colors they offer. More than that, as a subject matter they offer a wealth of compositional possibilities because the ideas ‘work’ all the way from wide-angle-context-in clearly identifiable subject, to highly compressed perspective abstract. On a wider scale the scenes present something perhaps a little different to most viewing audiences, yet familiar enough to not completely alienate; on the other hand, the tight vignettes might be something people working in the industry and with the machines see every day but not necessarily notice. It is of course our challenge to find, isolate and present these…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: The textures of construction

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There are times on assignment when I find the work in progress textures to be at least as appealing as the finished product; perhaps more so because of their transient nature. The complete buildings will be visible for a long period, but the supports, underlayers, rebar, assembly jigs etc. disappear after a rather short amount of time, and not having been seen by many and appreciated by even fewer – sometimes only their architects. I’ve always thought this is a bit of a shame – without the underlying hardware, there’s no public face. So here’s a celebration of the unseen critical bits…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment and processed with PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: traditional architectural vignettes

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Today’s images are a series of with traditional architectural subjects shot in Kyoto, at varying scales. There’s a deliberate variation in perspective and size to put the various elements in context with their environment; I have deliberately tried hard to exclude the usual cliched contrasts between old and new etc. but instead show the edifices as they are in use today. Kyoto is probably one of the few places in the world where you actually have to try very hard to avoid older buildings…yet there’s almost no dilapidation, and there’s a wonderful balance between authenticity of patina and maintenance – just look at the first building; the lantern and copper gutters are clearly aged, and the wood is seasoned, the bamboo faded with time and sun, yet the walls are perfectly painted and the sign is clean and crisp – I have rarely seen this anywhere else outside Japan (except perhaps some of the restored areas of Prague and Havana). It’s the underlying tension between this precision and contrast that makes it such a photographically rewarding subject… MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120VR and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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