Photographic maturity

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I am immature enough to know that a giant farting cloud elephant is not that interesting to most people and of zero photographic merit other than it exists and was captured in its transience; but I am mature enough to know that I like a window seat on an airplane because looking out helps pass the time, and occasionally you see things like this that give your inner five year old some joy. I also know that it matters not one whit what I shot this with so long as it looked like the intended farting elephant. (Side note: I have been photographing seriously for nearly 20 years now, nine of them as a full time pro. I’ve shot all the things I’ve wanted to shoot, worked with all the people and companies I’ve wanted to, and probably quite a bit beyond – in short, I have the luxury of knowing what I want to do/be/shoot as photographer.)

The journey for every photographer involves a few things:
– Figuring out what it is you want to photograph [motivations]
– Figuring out how you want to present it, or your [style]
– Seeking affirmation
– Not needing affirmation
We’ve discussed the first two items at length here before. We haven’t discussed the last two – and I think it’s about time we did, having firmly felt that I have been sitting in the final category for some time now. Right about after leaving Hasselblad and shifting my primary focus away from the photography industry to watchmaking, actually. It’s no coincidence that once you stop worrying about something, you feel increasingly liberated as to what you can ‘get away with’; it’s the gift and curse that the amateur fails to appreciate compared to the professional. There is fundamentally no need for the amateur to care what anybody but themselves thinks of their own work – yet most do, more intensely than the pro whose paycheck is dependent on client affirmation. Why?

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Alternate theories of inspiration

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Anachronism

What do photography, food, time and EDC objects have in common? If you can answer this to your satisfaction, then you probably don’t need to read the rest of today’s article. In the past I’ve talked about the more systematic approach to composition from a structural/ compositional point of view – the Four Things – and how to translate an idea into an image. Both deal with the mechanical part of arranging the elements in your frame and ensuring that they are ‘read’ in the expected way by your audience, they don’t really deal with something a bit higher up the food chain: where do the ideas come from in the first place?

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Photoessay: Slanted II

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Assorted scales, assorted perspectives, assorted structures, assorted purposes, assorted locations; the one idea to which all of these images were curated is a sense of tension against regularity and order created by light. The tension is transient and exists for only as long as the shadows stay in place; I admit I’ve become addicted to the heavy sort of shadows that create start new virtual forms that project in odd planes against the regular three dimensions. I like the way areas are thrown into ambiguity, the way the virtual momentarily outweighs the physical and the entire structure becomes something else. Sometimes they are regular, sometimes they aren’t; all the time, the camera and a photographic presentation has the ability to make them more real than real. If you are there for that moment, then the forms are yours alone – come back tomorrow for something different. MT

Shot with various hardware over the last couple of years, mostly processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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The limitations of language, redux

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Cloud I.

I have a bit of a problem. In fact, it’s becoming an increasingly large one. Put simply, I’m running out of words to describe the things I’m seeing and the visual concepts I’m trying to explain; and I don’t know if the vernacular even exists. I suspect it doesn’t, but then again, I’m sure there are English speakers with greater vocabulary than me for whom it does. A large portion of you probably think this is stating the obvious; it is. But we reach a point beyond which it becomes impossible to progress further without some sort of common baseline accurately and consistently describe what it is we’re intending to convey; or more specifically, to ensure that what I’m saying and imagining are the same things as what you’re hearing and seeing in your own mind.

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Creative envelope

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I’ve discussed the meaning of shooting envelope at length in the past. This is a practical, quantitative limit which effectively determines the conditions under which you can get an image of acceptable quality – usually, we apply it specifically to situations with one core constraint; either that the image must be made handheld, there are moving elements that have to be frozen, distance limits etc or something else. It applies indirectly to creative limits, too – if you want to make an image under certain creative (as opposed to physical) constraints, then one must seriously consider strengths and limitations of various possible bits of hardware. Put simply: I think of ‘creative envelope’ as the hardware’s ability to support the limits of my imagination. And this factor more than anything else has always been the underlying driver of purchasing decisions for me. I just realise I’ve never really explained it until today, undoubtedly leading to a lot of incorrect accusations of being a gear whore. What I intend to do today is explain the key factors that I consider for my own needs – yours may of course vary or change priority depending on what you prefer to shoot. I’ll also throw in a curveball: my best or most enabling purchase in each category to date.

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Photoessay: Design objects

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At the Trienniale in Milan, there is a collection of everyday use design objects from the 20th century that represent perhaps the best and worst of their eras: things that were wildly over designed and over made and overoptimistic for what they would be used for; elaborate celebrations of new technology (like digital calculators) that clearly took a lot of effort and would eventually prove to be quite transient. There are objects that appear to have transcended time because they are still sold and used today; undoubtedly in use because of both form and function, and a testament to how good the original design was. Both sides are very interesting: not just as objects, but as social commentary of the era and what people thought the future might be like. Some were uncannily accurate and foresightful, and some perhaps didn’t even consider the actual use cases or human ergonomics…but all were at least interesting in form and color. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Driver’s seat

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As a person who can spend hours shooting a single interesting car – having an entire museum full of dozens (possibly over a hundred, I didn’t count) of them made me both more excited than the proverbial kid in a candy store, but also highly anxious about potentially missing something or not really doing a particular line or detail justice. There was just so much to take in – nobody does car design quite like the Italians, and outside of Ferrari there’s probably no better representation of the diversity of vintage to modern style than Alfa Romeo. Clearly, something has been lost in the modern production process – it is understandably impossible to beat aluminium panels by hand over formwork at an industrial scale – but whatever automated process has replaced this, the lines of modern cars just can’t seem to replicate the understand elegance that continued up to about the late 60s. The 8C came very close, but clearly had compromises engineered in for safety, limitations of metal pressing etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge advantages to the modern production methods – such as symmetry (most of these cars were clearly NOT symmetric left to right, visible when standing at the front or rear centrelines) and interchangeability of parts – but there really was something special about the metal on show here. I initially went as a petrolhead and spent most of my time looking at the lines and proportions as a designer; to figure out exactly what it was in the ratios, angles and curves that make an object visually appealing – and moreover, if I could somehow apply that to watch design. For sure, it’s a much smaller object with much less external detailing and complex curves are significantly more difficult to model in CAD than regular shapes, but I’m pretty sure there’s something fermenting at a subconscious level. Time will tell…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Repost: Design, photography and visual priorities

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Today’s repost is specifically intended to cue up your design sensibilities in advance of the next two photoessays, and put into context why I find these things so darn fascinating.

Some of you probably know that beyond photography, I’m involved in design work on two fronts – as lead designer at Horologer MING, my watch brand, and as a consultant at Hasselblad. There is a popular misconception that design is mainly about a few things: style, function/ usability/ UI/ ergonomics, and differentiation. In reality, design is really about making a set of coherent choices in an environment where there are choices to be made I’d argue that beyond and above this, there’s really only one overarching principle that should be the basis of all good design: I think of it as one of composition.

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Photoessay: Navigli

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The Navigli is a series of canals around Milan originally dug and used to transport marble for the Duomo; it’s now a bohemian area full of restaurants, bars, and boutiques that only seem to open at 6pm. Sheltered from any actual tidal effects and even most of the ambient wind by buildings and banks, the canal’s waters have an interestingly slow, inky mirror quality to them.  I went relatively early to try and balance the ambient sunset (overcast) with the lights of the buildings, but landed up making a critical miscalculation as it turns out nobody eats til much later, and consequently it’s either light or people/activity (and of course food) – but not both. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Blue gulf

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Flying in and out of Doha is pretty spectacular – not just because of the flight path around Doha itself, but the route taken up the Arab Gulf thanks to Qatar’s…’issues’ with its neighbours. The  intense blue and cyan colors of the sea contrast spectacularly with the desert sand; made even more intense by sunshine unblocked by clouds. The amount of terraforming and reclamation that’s happened in the whole area is an impressive testament to the money flowing out of the ground – and modern engineering. Oddly enough, it reminded me of the set I shot over the Sunset Coast of Western Australia. I always try to fly this route simply because the view is spectacular and occupies at least an hour of the flight; fortunately this time I lucked out with a plane with windows that were both new/clean and didn’t have that annoying dimmable LED shade that looks clear, but actually is completely impossible to shoot through. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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