Photoessay: Architecture, digested

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I’ve always found Architectural Digest to be a slightly odd publication title; I realise it’s in the same condensed vein as Reader’s Digest in the sense of being a distilled essence of the things you probably want to know. To me, the word has always carried implications of something chewed up, softened and mushed into waste products. Certainly dimensionally collapsed, or in the process of being. Hence today’s long-period curation around the theme unearths and presents perspective-flattened, distilled architectural details; the kind of images that the PR department hates because they’re ‘too abstract’ and ‘not whole building’ but architects themselves love because the details they fought the client to keep actually get appreciated. I’m with the architects on this one – if they can distill the character of the building into one or two interesting vignettes, it ought to be worth highlight. MT

Shot over a long period of time with a wide variety of hardware; mostly processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Quotidian objects, in monochrome

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There is nothing special about any of the subjects in today’s images. This is deliberate. Moreover, one recurring theme – my dining table and chairs – I see every day. On the back of the last post, the challenge comes in noticing something new in the quotidian; to that end, every single one of these subjects I’ve seen at least once, more likely dozens of times – or more. The images were shot at different times, in different moods, with different light, and different hardware; what remains consistent are my stylistic choices. I have many images of these subjects with different presentations; but the dominant style tends to be the one shown in this post: contrasty, monochrome, and graphic – but with a little delicacy in texture. They were curated after the fact to both an overarching concept, and a style – not shot specifically with an idea in mind. Though I can and have worked both to a brief and curated to a brief – I prefer the latter because I feel it gives me more room the explore and find the best presentation for the subject, even if I tend towards a single presentation style anyway. MT

This series was shot with mostly a D3500 and kit lens, SOOC JPEG with some Pen F, RX0M2 and iPhone thrown in for variety.

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The pricing game, redux

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In this kind of world, what am I actually worth?

Following on from an the previous post on understanding licensing, I thought it’d be instructive to also revisit the remaining elephant in the room for any photographer – especially newly-minted ones – is the question of how much to charge. Attached to that comes the mechanics of it all: invoicing, accounting, collecting payment, and the big one: licensing. Oddly, I find that this part of the business is something that seasoned pros are the most reticent to discuss; perhaps it’s part self-protectionism, perhaps it’s the cultural omerta towards money (at least in Southeast Asia, everybody seems to judge you by how much you earn, but to ask outright would be a major social faux pas*) or perhaps it’s because some of us are afraid to admit how little we’re actually charging.

*Nobody is likely to tell you the truth anyway; culturally, it’s like asking a lady her age in the West. It’s the age-old dilemma of one’s ego wanting to show their success, but simultaneously being afraid of being a target of jealousy. Whilst boastfulness is never a desirable trait, I think we need to be proud of our work and position as professionals and craftsmen – like every other form of social posturing, others tend to judge your implied relative value on external appearances.

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Photoessay: Submerged I

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I’m not a diver, much less an underwater photographer. But when the hardware capabilities are present already (as a consequence of other things) – then why not try them out? My daughter was glad to oblige as model, happily jumping in repeatedly and holding poses underwater. Unfortunately things proved more difficult for yours truly as it turns out I couldn’t find the goggles with corrective diopters, making viewing the screen difficult. In the end I landed up composing blind and guessing the FOV; most of the time I was too close, and I a) see why superwides are preferred for underwater work and b) have a new respect for people who can compose when both you and your subject are moving. Next milestone, increase my hit rate…  MT

Shot with a Sony RX0 II and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Diagonal non-sequitur

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Trying something a little different today: a series of images that are linked thematically by type of light and overall presentation, but have little to nothing to do with each other subject-wise. It is thus a logical non-sequitur but not a visual one; the intention is for the audience to get almost lulled into a sense of rhythmic monotony until you realise the subjects, their sizes/scales and even physical layouts are wildly different. I realise this is completely at odds with any traditional curator logic, but this particular group of images had been sitting in my posting folder for so long challenging me to find a way to use them that I somehow overlooked their core similarities in visual style. MT

This series was shot mostly with a Nikon Z7 with custom SOOC JPEG profiles, or Nikon D3500.

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How not to photograph an eclipse

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It’s actually quite rare we get a) an eclipse visible from tropical latitudes and b) a solar one that happens during daytime. I personally have actually never seen an eclipse despite both trying and having some background training as an astrophysicist many moons ago; the last time was stymied by heavy cloud around sunset, and basically landed up indistinguishable from a normal sunset (albeit a few minutes earlier). So the event of the 26th of December was something I was rather looking forward to when I found out both a) and b) would be satisfied, and weather patterns of late have tended towards relatively clear days up to early afternoon. So how did it go?

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Photoessay: Dresden cinematic

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In keeping with the seasonal theme, and one of my favourite parts about travelling to Europe during the winter season – the Christmas markets are interesting hives of human activity. People are relaxed and happy; they’re doing interesting things or having interesting interactions and the light gets cinematic fast since ambient is pretty much nonexistent by the time things really get going. It felt like the right time and subject for which to reprise the cinematic style a little, too – and an excuse to see what this new 85/1.8 Z can do (in short: I like it, very, very much). Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time as I’d have liked – but there’s always next year, and I’d much rather the feeling of potential left to explore than a subject being completely tapped out…

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, the Z 85/1.8 S and my custom SOOC picture controls.

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Photoessay: PAM, part II

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Continued from part I

The way bright sunshine projects through the space through its various apertures and orifices is the kind of thing that is practically begging for a high contrast monochrome series – in person, the actual interior is much more similar to the first set of images in brightness as the concrete reflects and diffuses a lot of those hard beams. I imagine it’d be a very different space on an overcast day, with none of the drama and detail seen at the time I shot it. The horological side of me couldn’t help but think some of those floors would be great with calibrated scales to allow the light to be used as a sundial of sorts… MT

This set was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 and my custom SOOC JPEG profile pack.

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Photoessay: PAM, part I

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What happens if you have a group of architects design a building entirely for themselves? The PAM (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia – Malaysian Institute of Architects) building in Kuala Lumpur is precisely that. I got a tour from one of the people involved in its creation, which proved both insightful and the kind of thing you hope never to face yourself as a creative – i.e. when your client  is also an expert in your field, has a vested interest and there are many of them! It’s full of the kinds of features architects love like exposed concrete and structural finishes; open spaces, voids and plenty of natural light and air circulation. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of thing that tends to get heavily diluted by commercial considerations because it’s financially unviable – the actual usable floor area yield of this building is far below what would be needed to make it a profitable exercise for any developer. Still, I’m glad such proofs of concept exist, if only to showcase some ideas that might make it into more public use. But by far the most impressive thing about the building is the way light plays inside the structure as the sun progresses; though it appears externally solid, it’s internally very porous and light – just not the kind of place for tricophobics, as you’ll see in the second part of the presentation. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70 and my custom SOOC JPEG profile pack.

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Brave new world: the surprising iPhone 11 Pro

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Field dispatch, Berlin, December 2019: I normally don’t write things on the road, both because I prefer to see where I’m going and because I find observations on anything need some sitting time; think of it as a curation of thoughts. But I’ve been slapped upside the head a little bit on this trip. Firstly, it isn’t a photographic one – it’s a spend-time-with-the-family one; even so, I’ve been paring down gear more and more of late to the point that a Nikon Z7 and two lenses is about the most I’ll do. In this case, the 24-70/4 S and the 85/1.8 S. Both are excellent but I find myself hardly using both the camera, and when I do, the 24-70 is left feeling lonely. Why? Well, I picked up the iPhone 11 Pro shortly before I left.

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