Photoessay: Patchwork abstract

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Today’s set was a tricky one to curate, and honestly tested the limits of my archival system. I’ve always been attracted to textural groupings like the ones you see here; the problem is they seem to come so rarely and are visually distinct enough that I never shoot enough of them within a single period to make up a coherent set. Then, you either land up losing them or not knowing where to file them because they’re so different from everything else, and by the time you’ve found the next image in the sequence – it’s been so long the way you see might have actually changed. Then you have to go back and curate again, looking for the order and evolution of texture and color, and being careful not to cast the net so wide as to lose the original intention. The idea of design and visual evolution as a texture feels…delicate, almost like the pastel tones in some of the elements; too much saturation/ reinforcement and the intent is lost. yet with others, the saturation is required for punch, but just shy of full to still be able to describe nuance. It is control, tension and pure punch all at the same time. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; some images SOOC.

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Photoessay: Morning at Charlottenburg

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Charlottenburg Palace was built at the end of the 17th century as the seat of King Friedrich I – and subsequently made even larger and more ornate by his son. It was heavily damaged during the second world war, and most of what stands today has been reconstructed or heavily rebuilt. It is currently a museum housing the crown jewels and an extensive porcelain collection; some rooms have been restored to their former state and serve as a snapshot of life in the period. Perhaps intentionally, the building lacks the sense of scale and massiveness that these kinds of buildings typically have; the rooms and passageways felt very much sized to human scale and not something you’d expect either of royalty or that level of wealth. That said, the decoration was so heavily done – in true baroque rococo style, of course – that that I wouldn’t be surprised if the undersides of the tables were also gilded. Still, it proved to be an enjoyable diversion for the morning, as well as yielding some interesting details thanks to strongly directional light streaming through the tall windows. 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: 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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Use the night

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The role of the camera is to present a perspective not otherwise visible; nowhere is this more obvious than night photography. Firstly, because we tend not to shoot much at night since most of us need to spend it sleeping to be functional for work the next day, resulting in both limited subject material and limited opportunity; secondly, because historically the results have always been lacking technically; and finally, because it requires us to train our minds to see in a different way than we normally do: what’s visible is made much more obvious by the ambient darkness, or what’s hidden. Yet shooting after the sun goes down is precisely the kind of thing that yields rich photographic results because it is less common, and therefore fewer images exist of activities that take place at night and are seen by fewer people. Beyond the subject matter itself, there’s the opportunity to present the same subject very differently: be it due to the change in ambient illumination color and direction, or integration long exposure and motion, or at a deeper level, reflecting the changes in ourselves and the way we observe and behave once the sun goes down.

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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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Photography, philosophy and psychology

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In a sense, this entire site has revolved around these three topics*: the way we experience it and share this experience with others (psychology, and to some degree, physiology), and the way we interpret it (philosophy) – expressed by means of a static, 2D visual medium (photography). Today I’m going to attempt to tie it together in a deceptively simple way in today’s post: photography is capturing a still image. Good photography is capturing something unique or transient and sharing it; really exceptional photography says something meaningful about the subject and the interpretation – and in a way that an external audience can understand.

*Despite what others may think about my views on or approach towards hardware: that is merely a means to an end, and I think sufficiently resolved now to the point of being effectively unimportant.

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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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