Photoessay: The texture of geometry

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Every image but the last one in this series is a (limited) study in interior texture of one city – Berlin. It’s interesting that despite the difference in eras, buildings, purposes, constructors, architects, designers and users – there remains a very strong Bauhaus feel to all of these places. It really felt as though one was surrounded by the minimalist, functional spirit. I’ve personally found this kind of interior to be very finely balanced – too minimalist and it feels spare and clinical; too many details and it loses the Bauhaus-ness. Even though many of these details are ornamental and not even rectilinear, the order of detail and plain, pale colors manage to suggest and retain the feeling of functional minimalism to a global level of coherence I’ve not really seen elsewhere. I suppose one could put Japan into that category, but as distinctive as such places are, it doesn’t feel as consistent because there is a much wider spread of ages of buildings (or at least ages of design). I feel there’s also a potentially deep conclusion to be made here on the convergence of culture, vision and design, but right now it eludes me… MT

This series was shot with an iPhone 11 Pro, with processing via Photoshop Workflow III.

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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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Photoessay: Window seat VI

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I actually thought about calling this one folds and ridges but then found a better set for that title which I’ll post in due course. It’s remarkable how short of a few lighting cues (and ensuing hints at climate) – the topography of earth looks much the same regardless of where you are. The images come from very different latitudes and continents, but all benefit from a harder monochrome treatment; a couple are a little hazy thanks to some pretty serious atmospherics. I left them in anyway, because I personally like the transition/inversion between land in a sea of clouds and land in a sea of…water; there is a nice conceptual symmetry here. My one regret is that I have nothing from the US in this set as the one flight I was scheduled on that was supposed to take me over the Grand Canyon in daytime got delayed by 9.5 hours and well into nighttime (thank you, American Airlines, for the soggy sandwich, incremental ‘rescheduling’ and total lack of compensation or even courtesy) – I guess that gives me a reason to go back. Or perhaps try for a change of scenery and see if I can get on one of those transpolar flights… MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Window seat V

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’m trying something a little different with the sequencing of this series. They aren’t all from a single flight – not even close – instead, the curation and ordering was done as an evolution of mood through ambient light and atmosphere rather than matching similar. I’d like to think this might be the view out of the window of a hypothetical flight where one got very lucky with seating, aircraft cleanliness and having the right focal lengths handy;. As frustrating as mist and cloud is when trying to get a clear aerial image (it reduces contrast, which you’re already battling for as you’ve lost some on the several layers of window and all of that atmospheric dispersion, leading to heavy postprocesing requirements and in turn the risk of color correction going out of the window or being downright impossible as there’s no channel information remaining) – I think on the whole it does add to that surreal sort of mood one feels when flying. It magnifies and reinforces the detachment from reality/ground/scale that’s already present thanks to altitude. As far as possible, I’ve tried to retain that look here. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; SOOC is nigh on impossible for aerial work as there’s just too much atmospheric effect to cut through.

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Photoessay: Cliches and observations

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During the time I was in Berlin, I found it difficult to escape the history and cliches of the war – though nearly 80 years ago, the memory seems to be still raw in the collective mind of the city, if not really surfacing when actually talking to the locals. I can’t help but think the aftermath and societal guilt is something that has become so deeply rooted now that it will forever become part of the city. I suppose in a way this is rightly so, but I couldn’t help shake the feeling that the Berliners took everything just a little too seriously as a result – and any fun was very much hidden underground (there’s probably something in that, and bunkers, too). I don’t pretend to understand or appreciate any of this beyond the most superficial level afforded to a visitor, nor do I honestly ant to care the baggage. All in all, a very curious-feeling and not easy to visually capture experience, to say the least. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and 85/1.8 S lenses, using my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls.

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Photoessay: Geometric color

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Today’s architectural mishmash is a hodgepodge of abstracted geometries and colours from a variety of locations and a variety of styles, scales and palettes; other than poor assortment jokes, the only thing they have in common is a decomposition into pure form. I admit I like the idealism, the abstraction and the inherent optimism of having a structure that appears perfect and un-messed by its occupants, even if this is completely at odds with why it was built. In another life, I was probably a magpie, a collector of shiny things…now I am merely an accumulator of abstract colours and shapes. It harms nobody. It costs nothing. Some others may derive joy from it. That’s not a bad thing, surely. MT

Shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, some SOOC, some Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Recurring theme

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I was recently re-curating my set of work from Germany in late last year, when I found something I hadn’t previously noticed: this recurring theme of looking upwards (slightly, or a lot) at a building’s edge with a symmetrical midline and a graphically 3D left-right split formed of textures and light. I didn’t intentionally go out of my way to shoot any of these, nor did I have an intentional theme beyond whatever was already sitting in my subconscious – and being eleven out of 200 or so final images, is easily not noticed especially if not sequential – but somehow this compositional layout kept popping up. I have been having the nagging feeling of late that there are only a certain fixed number of compositional layouts for any given angle of view/focal length, and effetely all compositions shot with that can be distilled into one of these categories. I don’t have any concrete way of describing this yet, but I’ll put up a post once I do. As for this particular layout – my guess is there’s something about the converging lines that creates tension and draws your eyes into the centre of the image; the symmetry provides inherent balance which remains calm and aesthetically pleasing. Beyond that, microtextures in the subject itself leave points of interest to hold your attention and reward further viewing. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part II

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Both this and the previous set were shot within a single very productive hour. Though diverse in style, there is some crossover in style and content (expected given the location). To be honest, this kind of productivity is extremely rare; especially given I am by no means new to photography, the subject, or the location and am not trying to ‘check boxes’. I only shoot what I see or find interesting these days; there’s more than enough of my own work and that of others that being repetitive is rather pointless. That said, when one is shooting ‘in flow’ – you lose track of time and everything but what’s in your viewfinder. You remember pretty much every single image you shot, but that total number invariably lands up more than you expect (my total count was about 750 for that hour, pared down to perhaps 40-50 final selects). Those of you who’ve seen my earlier work will see shades of quadrants, Idea of man, wimmelbild and probably some hints of the previous negative-space-heavy photojournalistic style I used prior to this site. If nothing else, you are the sum total of your path-dependent history… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: A magic hour, part I

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A little while back, between meetings and a lull in the protests during elections…I found a magic hour early by the Kowloon side of the harbour. Almost completely absent of people, but with a clear, intense blue sky and strongly directional light that highlighted the geometric, abstract forms of the buildings around the Space Museum, Cultural Centre and Museum of Art. It felt like wandering around a giant child’s building blocks. Compositionally, each became an exercise in pure spatial balance; I didn’t see window or roof or wall so much as shapes of a certain visual weight that needed to be offset by other spatially opposed shapes of equal prominence. I felt them best presented in the midcentury, high-contrast monochrome style that Brasilia was first photographed in; the forms had the same sort of monumental weight tempered by idealist curves. Curiously, though I’d passed this location many times on my countless visits to Hong Kong, this is actually the first time I’d had the opportunity and the light to shoot here. I have to say it exceeded my expectations – and yielded more than just geometry, as you’ll see in part II… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 16-50 DX pancake and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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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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