Photoessay: Nightfall, Prague

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I don’t believe this city ever sleeps. When it gets dark, it’s simply a change of mood; in fact, some parts look better when you don’t see the less salubrious bits. When you get a good evening though, it feels as though you are walking in a fairy tale at American theme park sizes – really quite surreal. The challenge is of course how to not make another tourist cliche; I think I got too caught up by the obvious beauty at times and consequently failed abjectly with this set. Perhaps it will require another visit to rectify. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Night falls on the coast

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A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.

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Photoessay: Reflections on Prague

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Today’s series of images is both literal, and not – what’s there is clearly defined, but what’s clearly defined is the product of a little optics and imagination. I’m always drawn to these kinds of subjects because they’re both not literal or ordinary, and of course use the best strengths of the photographic nature of rendering to produce something visually unique. That, and there’s a large amount of information and layering in here which creates a recursive wimmelbild of sorts. One practical note on execution: you need the right balance of luminance between actual subject and reflected subject, plus the correct alignment of reflecting surfaces – it’s not always so easy to find…enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Dissolving Prague

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Today’s series is a continuation (and partial overlap of) the Through the looking glass post of last week. It’s a little less human and a little more physical; a metaphor for a place undergoing accelerated change and perhaps a little cultural dilution at the same time, too. I can only hope that feeling of authenticity doesn’t eventually disappear entirely. Note: no double images were used here; merely strategic reflections. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Idea of man in Prague

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I see this series as a somewhat looser development of the original Idea of Man; relaxed to fit the people and where possible, looking for natives rather than visitors – insofar as a rolling cast of visitors have now become the natives. Unlike the original series, you’ll notice there are identifiable individuals in some of these images; I felt that was necessary to be able to differentiate between local and tourist – which is nearly impossible to do on the basis of silhouette or profile or shadow alone. Personally, what really made this set work was the very hard shadows; not only does it lend an additional degree and visual interest to certain compositions and scenes, but metaphorically it also introduces ambiguity and uncertainty – which certainly tied in to my feelings about Prague during this recent trip, and this despite many of these images being shot outside the main area of attraction. More than ever, I felt like the city was in danger of losing its identity and becoming a giant theme park. Let us hope future visits prove this wrong. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Facade

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I tend to think of these structures and images as representing the blunt end of modern architecture – they’re the somewhat generic barriers thrown up to segregate a space from the outside world in a somewhat arbitrary and identity-less manner. The spaces promise all sorts of things but in reality must be reusable and take on the inscrutable identity of their many corporate inhabitants. The whole concept of ‘identity’ is somewhat nebulous in any case: how do you translate the personality of a collective of individuals who are mostly there solely because the job pays, not because they have any great vision for the company? Answer: you don’t. And whilst architects continue to play with abstract geometries, geometric forms and more glass, every building seems to get just that bit more anonymous. I can’t think of any better way to show this than the effective blending of one building into the next…MT

This series was shot with a mix of cameras (mostly a Hasselblad H5) and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Through the looking glass

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I think of this set as Idea of Man, with inspiration by Saul Leiter. The whole thing comes together to be a little bit surreal, but more intense than you’d expect with full-fat color left in. I’ve deliberately used longer perspectives in most of these images to intensify that feeling of stacking, and having the world vying for your attention. To my eyes, it has the same level of distraction from your intended focus as a walk through a really cosmopolitan city would do in real life; especially one that’s somewhat new and unfamiliar to you. In such situations, the familiar catches your eye, as does the very unfamiliar; there’s the constant tug of war between trying to figure out and experience the new, and putting it in context with that which you already know. And before you’ve managed to place things in your own mind, something else (usually unexpected) cuts through the stage and demands your eye. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Painted shadows, part I

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We often talk about the painterly qualities of an image, but without the right quality of light, and to some extent, subject matter – it isn’t possible to create the same controlled contrast and muted tones that the style relies on. Fortunately, Prague in autumn has both low angle light (i.e. not that intense) but clear skied (directional, not diffused) days in abundance – and old, pastel-painted buildings. The buildings themselves appear almost graphic and illustrated a lot of the time: they’re either newly restored or rehabbed or well maintained, and so lack the sort of surface defects that often mar the graphic illusion I sought. My biggest problem was actually too much dynamic range… MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Shadows and details

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Texture is shadows, and shadows are texture: at the micro level, surface irregularities are thrown into relief and colors are intensified. This latter effect is an interesting property of raked lighting: since the pits in the surface structure of an object are in shadow, the overall reflected luminosity is lower. However, there are also small portions that appear brighter because some light may reflect off surfaces at precisely the right angle. End result: microcontrast is higher, colors are deeper/richer and textures are made to appear more real (if such a thing is possible). I love old buildings like these because they are perfect subjects for this kind of light: some surfaces are rendered smooth by centuries of paint; others by centuries of wear; and still others show the marks of etching of pollution etc. It’s an interesting study in color, form and texture…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, and H6D-50c, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: On reflection, Lisbon

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Probably the easiest way to ‘wimmelbild‘ a scene is to add reflections: the more reflections, the more layering and the more complexity can be built in. Of course it then becomes difficult to create structure in the image that allows space for a clear primary subject, and then find a physically/spatially possible way to actually insert that subject – it’s no good if your free space is on the ceiling, for example. The light in Lisbon on severals of the days I was there was just so conducive to creation of these types of images I couldn’t help myself – strong, intense colors, clean plate glass (or car glass) and one or two clear human subjects meant that it was a wimmelfetishist’s dream. I’m sure somebody is going to say I’m being overly pretentious about this, but there’s surely got to be a metaphor in here for life – every person surrounded by complexity and layers of thought, or places surrounded by unseen/ unacknowledged history. It’s a bit more personal than idea of man because the images need the specific individuals to work, and somewhat different to the ‘traditionally expected’ street photography – I find that it’s much more contingent on the environment and finding the right individual to fit your expectation of a story than vice versa. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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