Opinion: Sensible perspectives on film and digital in current times

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Today’s post has been a long time brewing. The recent resurgence in the popularity of film is undeniable, to the point that there are both new brands and revivals of old ones happening on a fairly regular basis. It seems to be not so interesting for the big guys – look at the continual Fuji price increases as prime exhibit – but this has meant that there business is more open to the enthusiasts and those creating film specifically for the demands of those markets (such as JCH Street Pan). Anybody who gets off their comfortable chair to put money and action where their mouths are deserves a round of applause, in my book. Given all of this – it’s only natural that there have also been a lot of people rising to the defence of the medium, in the comments here, and sometimes much more aggressively over email. In the interests of saving much angst, it’s probably about time I make my personal position on film clear, and more importantly, the rationale behind it.

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Photoessay: Rhythmic geometries

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I see the images in this post as a sort of musical score: the suggestion of an overall harmony (wave) interspersed with little details and textures is too strong to ignore. I don’t know any of the correct musical terminology for this kind of thing, but I do know that I feel the same way about these abstract compositions as I do when I listen to a piece of classical music: there’s a strong underlying structure linking the whole score together, but at the same time also little diversions and explorations into variations that hold your attention and get you thinking. There is a similar change of scale here – not all the instruments play at the same time in every image; you might not have the same range of scale, but you do have the same sensation of layering and interplay of shadow. When the piece shifts into the next movement, not all of the elements may make it through intact, but enough do that you can recognise continuity in style; a sort of design language. MT

These images were shot in Singapore with a Hasselblad X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with either PS Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow or The Monochrome Masterclass. See more on your journeys with T1: Travel Photography and the How to See series.

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Photoessay: Beyond human scale

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I’ve always thought of Tokyo as a city of extremes: the insanely vast urban sprawl vs minuscule personal spaces; the pursuit of the ultimate food-art vs the ubiquitous convenience stores and vending machines; incredibly opulent wealth and luxury beyond imagination, and more homeless people than you might think. The futuristic abuts horrible 1970s square-concrete; indecipherable quipu of power lines knot the tops of poles, yet streets are laid so precisely that there’s material used in the middle of intersections for better grip. At larger distances, this devolves into something both more homogeneous and at the same time, distinctive – as neighbourhoods are somewhat cohesive. Even somewhere like Omotesando, where architects compete for the most unusual structure, it seems that such very competition creates a different kind of uniformity: what would be exceptional somewhere else isn’t when taken in multiples. It’s this very dichotomy I’ve tried to capture here – and with as few visual cues to scale as possible. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

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Street Portraits

Today’s article makes a for a nice continuum from my thoughts on Shutter Therapy. A browse through that article and previous ones (on robinwong.blogspot.com) will show that there is inevitably a portrait or two, usually of strangers. In this article, I share my thoughts on shooting street portraits and also share some of my favourite photographs.

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part II

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In the previous post I brought you the results of the aerial shoot for Koenigsegg; today’s long series of images is the second part covering the story of the making – behind the scenes at the factory. Almost everything is made in-house, and a tour of the compact but comprehensive facility will yield everything from CNC machines turning engine blocks, to people laying up complex carbon wheels, to a paint shop, alignment jigs, leather stitching and cutting, wiring and electronics and everything between. Even though the cars are astronomically expensive – EUR2m and up from what I understand – I actually wonder how Christian can still make money given the amount of specialised labor involved, and the length of time required to complete one car – they make fewer than 30 per year. The attention to detail is quite mind boggling – if you order a clear coated car, for instance, it’s not merely the epoxy matrix of the carbon that’s polished, but a dozen layers of clear lacquer applied by hand over the top, polished between each application, and each carbon panel’s seams must line up perfectly: and be symmetric on both sides of the car. Today is really a celebration of non plus ultra – both in the subject, and in using the H6D-100c to shoot it. Note: lighting looks natural, but is really a careful balance between ambient and a single Broncolor Siros 800L triggered wirelessly, and mounted on a voice activated light stand*. Enjoy! MT

*A tall assistant.

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50 and 100mm lenses, and a single Broncolor Siros 800L balanced against ambient. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow.

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On Assignment Photoessay: Koenigsegg, part I

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Today’s photoessay contains the stills from the video of the shoot – there are also high resolution versions available for your pixel peeping pleasure at Hasselblad.com. There aren’t that many images simply because the setup for each one was quite extensive, and we were limited to a small window of time where ambient was dark enough for a long exposure, and bright enough to have some trace; too dark and I also had problems composing. You’ll notice a few other tricks in this series – there’s high speed sync flash involved, a little PS merge in one case (we only had one car!) and some interesting lighting…enjoy! MT

A big thank you to Koenigsegg for support and logistics, and Angelholm Airport for air traffic control. This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, several Broncolor Siros 800Ls and a DJI Matrice 600 drone. Postprocessing was completed using Workflow III.

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Discussion points: Critical features

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For most of the history of photography, we only had shot-to-shot* control over four things with our cameras: focal plane, exposure via shutter and aperture, and the moment of capture via the shutter release. There were of course myriad ways of implementing this – but eventually, either camera makers did what was easiest from an engineering standpoint, or buyers voted with their wallets – and the modern control paradigm was born. We have ergonomic grips, control dials for shutter and aperture (either on the top deck within fingertip reach, or on the lens barrel) and some means of controlling focus. Fundamentally, all images can be made with control over these parameters. Yet somewhere along the way, we’ve decided that we cannot live without tilting LCDs, live view, sensor shift and optical stabilisers, auto white balance, panorama stitching, eye tracking AF…the list goes on. I firmly believe that it’s possible to get far too distracted trying to master the technology and remembering which menu item and button was set to do what – and as a result, make an image that’s compositionally and creatively compromised instead of technologically enabled.

*One could also switch emulsion sensitivity, color/monochrome and focal length – I consider these secondary controls because not every camera permitted this between subsequent images.

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Photoessay: Prague singles

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Now, things get serious.

Inevitably, at the end of the curation process for a trip or assignment or shoot session – you’re left with a selection of images that doesn’t really fit any single coherent theme, but can stand alone individually and you’re perhaps a bit too emotionally attached to to throw away. They’re the kind of thing you shoot when you’re observing passively but perhaps not in full themed photographic attack mode. I haven’t thought of a good way of presenting these yet; the traditional photoessay structure doesn’t quite work, and there isn’t really that much to discuss with a single image in a post – I’d almost argue that if something requires that much text explanation, it isn’t a strong image in itself (or is exceptional, and those probably merit their own discussions). So – titles and all – here are a few single shot stories from Prague. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. You too may visit Prague vicariously with T1: Travel Photography.

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Shutter Therapy

Shutter Therapy is a phrase I created several years ago and one I use frequently throughout my articles. I don’t remember defining it, and, inexplicably, the phrase is now widely used by many friends and photographers, in Malaysia and around the world. With a little time on my hands post-Olympus Malaysia, I found myself introspecting on what Shutter Therapy was, what it signified when I started using the phrase, its origins and why I set time aside for some Shutter Therapy every weekend? This post is a result of that introspection and my attempt to answer these questions.

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Photoessay: Design goals

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Regular readers probably know that I have more than a passing interest in all things horological; firstly as an aspiring collector, then a photographer (this is what motivated me to begin, to be the story of another article), then a low-budget collector, and fortunately, somebody who has access to the industry through client relationships and options that might not be available elsewhere. Eventually, I realised that the temptation to design my own was far too strong; finding the right collaborator proved less easy, but I eventually realised that dream (more detailed story here). It is, unfortunately, both an addictive and frustrating process: inevitably, once you’ve lived with any design for any length of time, you start to appreciate what works and get frustrated by what doesn’t. It’s even more frustrating when you have ideas you might want to try, and know that you can (somewhat) easily execute them. Some CAD and some sitting time later, the design has matured and you are making some phone calls. The trick is not to overdesign: it is easy to make something that’s too fussy and just doesn’t work.

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