Why most images are compromised (or, so much for the decisive moment)

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Following the previous article and questions ensuing, I felt this earlier (read: probably forgotten) post would be a good explanation of just how much of a grey area the whole idea of a ‘decisive moment’ is…

A photograph is an observation of a scene at a given moment in time. It’s an effectively instantaneous snapshot of the state of a scene or person or other subject, given the relative rate of change of those subjects. If we extend the duration of observation – i.e. with a long shutter speed – we might see some hints at that change in the form of motion blur, or eventually, averaging. If we get lucky, or observe for a long period of time, we might eventually be able to capture an interesting change or temporary state of the system; however, this assumes two further things. Firstly, that we can differentiate what is ‘interesting’ and have a good benchmark of what to look for; secondly, that we are aware and responsive enough to capture it. I think we can already see why there are some serious challenges here.

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Photoessay: inside waves

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Despite the appearances of curation, these images weren’t shot as a sequence or two; they’re the result of probably the lowest yield photographic exercise I’ve ever done. The fifteen images here required nearly 3,500 frames to realise – there were so many physical limitations in play I simply didn’t realise would be an issue when conceptualising the project. Ever since my first time snorkelling, I’ve always wanted to create images like this with views of a wave from underneath and inside. On top of that, close observations of stills of breaking foam really reinforced how much of a genius Hokusai was in his (accurate) representations – but how would they look from underneath, backlit? However, investing in a full underwater housing would be prohibitively expensive and have zero returns afterwards. On top of that, such housings are lens-specific and without trying it out first – I would have no idea what kind of angles of view would work; as it turns out there’s a reason underwater photographers prefer wide angles: there’s less crud between you and the subject, and even the seemingly clear water (as this was) still has a lot of suspended particles that rob contrast within short order. However, the kind of perspectives I was looking for were not really suited to a wide angle, so some careful alignment and positioning would be required. Bigger challenge: this is simply not possible when you are being knocked around by the waves and have no means to maintain either absolute or relative positioning. A lot of the time, I found it easier to shoot almost blind and focus on anchoring myself rather than operating the camera (and this showed in the number of mis-aimed or out of focus images I had). Lastly – this is nitpicking, but feeling the rather shallow and stiff half press position of the RX0 II was nearly impossible underwater (fail, Sony). On the plus side, the camera performed flawlessly otherwise, with no ill effects from the submersion or dynamic pressure, and with the battery lasting surprisingly long in burst mode – easily an hour or thousand frames at a go, with some in reserve (obviously using tethered power or changing batteries out there was not an option). Enjoy! MT

This post was shot with a Sony RX0 Mark II and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: NYC mornings

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Today’s set is a very stream of consciousness series grabbed on the way to another meeting; I had a briefcase and meeting materials in one hand and just a compact in the other, so things were about as fast and loose as it got. I still think the mood is captured rather accurately: a bright, crisp autumn morning with both deep shadows and intense patches of light in places. It was also one of the few times New York felt relatively empty and calm to me; there was a sense of space instead of the usual crowd and hustle. The city was quiet and taking in a few moments to breathe in the sunshine before the rush – dare I say I even felt shades of Tokyo in places. Must have been something in the light. MT

This series was shot with a Fuji XF10 and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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28 January Q&A answers, part III

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Continued after the jump from part II

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28 January Q&A answers, part II

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Continued from part I after the jump

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28 January Q&A answers, part I

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Here goes: after the jump, a distillation of answers to your questions from the 28th of January post. Thank you for contributing – some of these proved to be very interesting to think about! Remember, the most relevant answer may have already been given previously, sometimes in great detail…

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Photoessay: Urban graphic

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I didn’t have long in NYC on my last trip, much less free time to shoot (we were there for the watch company) – but the weather turned out to be binary. Either raining, cold and miserable (a set from that will follow soon, too) – or glorious intense sunshine and the kind of impossibly deep blue skies we never seem to get in the tropics because of the angle of the sun and ambient atmospheric moisture. Even the small interstitial spaces en-route to meetings proved photographically rich; probably a combination of the diversity of visuals, the newness of the environment or perhaps just having hard shadows to work with. Either way, I’m not complaining… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7 (with my custom SOOC JPEG picture controls) and a Fuji XF10 (processed with Workflow III).

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Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part II

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Continued from the daytime series

In a way, I actually found it more fluid to shoot the first set, even if the varying color palette here carries a bit more emotional weight. In some ways I also felt this set was a bit more stereotypical ‘New York’, given there’s not much control the photograph has over timing affecting light and mood – daylight is a lot more transient than neon. That said, I’m still quite happy with the individual frames capturing the mood of their particular corner of the city – sometimes a couple of blocks really does feel that different… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: NYC cinematics, part I

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Whilst of course there should be no reason to limit cinematic-style photography to just low light work with shallow DOF, there is definitely a tendency towards this as it’s much easier to create a controlled atmosphere with very directional light than during daytime. However, the conditions during my trip to New York late last year made for something similar while the sun was up: long shadows and strong sunlight, with intense contrast and pools of both mystery and stark exposure. It’s probably the first time I’ve been motivated to try cityscape cinematics with bright light. Even though I’ve been given similar light in dense urban environments before, I think NYC is unique in the layout of the streets and the way they cut light up into patches – this doesn’t happen with the more organic layouts of say, Tokyo or Lisbon. Admittedly, it wasn’t a photographically-focused trip – being customer events for the watch company – but I still got a couple of hours in. Naturally, this continued after dark… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Two theories

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I promise today’s post is only slightly off topic and still legitimately relates to photography. It takes the form of two theories (or perhaps more accurately, hypotheses). They are somewhat related, and over the last few years have personally changed the way I perceive many aspects of both idea creation and business. First question, before we get into the philosophy: how do you interpret the title image? Is it hoarding, a meticulous collection, somebody making the most of their situation, a choice to live in a certain era, or something else?

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