Photoessay: Serious Tokyo

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I can only surmise this is a cultural thing, or I’m going to the wrong places – in the ten years or so I’ve been regularly visiting Tokyo, the majority of people, the majority of the time – appear to have quite a load on their minds. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s because they don’t see a way out from whatever they’ve been doing for the last 30 years – oddly, though Japan once felt so societally, culturally and technologically different from the rest of the world as to be light years ahead like some porto-future, I keep getting the impression that everywhere else seems to have caught up in the last couple of decades. There is no longer this sense of wonder when I arrive, but more like a comfortable familiarity and a search for something hidden – which I can never quite quantify, but occasionally find in the form of something very traditional (think hundreds of years of continuity) or reinterpreted (hundreds of years of continuity but with modern influences). I’ve always found it interesting that Japan can be such a philosophical paradox: on one hand, so traditionally rigid, and on the other, still rather freeform and kooky. Or perhaps I’m just not being allowed into the wilder karaoke and hostess bar places… MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Diminishing returns and cutoff points

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The look of money evaporating in frustration

Written as a counterpoint to the earlier justification for being a lens hoarder, I have a feeling this is going to be one of my most unpopular posts ever. It will be widely circulated by I will be metaphorically burned at the stake for it, because it will not make me popular with camera companies, fanboys, enthusiasts or anybody who has a single bone in their body that appreciates a good piece of hardware – I know I do, and it pains even me to write it. But the common sense logician in me demands a stage, so here we go.

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Photoessay: On the verge of anonymity

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An experiment of sorts, today: more ‘stream of consciousness’ style photography, but this time shot through my left eye instead of my (usual) right. The idea is to test the hypothesis of left-brain-right-brain influence on structure, order and general perception; personally, I think using the non-dominant eye tends to result in somewhat more organic overall structure and composition. That, and significantly more skew for some reason – I didn’t seem to hold the camera straight in any of these. It’s also been a long time since I’ve had the time to go out on my own for a day or two with no objective other than to wander around and shoot the streets; Tokyo is of course a great place for this with no end of possible material. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, and an X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Travel to Tokyo vicariously with How To See Ep.2: Tokyo, learn to be stealthy with S1: Street Photography and see how to capture the essence of a location with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Urbanscapes and details, Prague

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Just a few urban vignettes from Prague for today’s post; for the most part, they have a warm, summery mood (albeit shot towards the end of autumn), though you may find a few exceptions. Despite having visited and shot here in every season, I personally find the city really only ever has two moods – gloomy, wintery and very Soviet-bloc Eastern Europe, or warm and bohemian, and dare I say it, just a little quirky and fun. Both have their charms. Of late there’s been this odd giant theme park feel about the place, probably not helped by the massive influx of visitors. I think that must have been kicking around in my subconscious when I shot the first two images – at least that’s the only explanation I have for the inclusion of slightly incongruous foreground and the great wall… 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 can also travel to Prague vicariously with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Entropy from a distance in Porto

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And to put into practice yesterday’s theory on wimmelbild: some images from Porto which I think best illustrate the concept. Porto itself is a curious city, because it looks very different from a distance vs. close up, and in ‘good’ sunlight vs overcast cloud. From further away – ideally, the opposite bank of the river – and in the evening sun, the romance is present. You can imagine the traders and merchants and intrigues over your glass of wine from the terrace on the side of the hill; but when it rains and you’re in the middle of the old city being panhandled by people who look as though they match the state of the buildings, it’s quite another matter entirely. Parts of the town felt as though the inhabitants were the last of their tribe, passed on and were never replaced; children went elsewhere or simply never existed. Many of the buildings do not appear straight because they were not actually straight – who knows how many are structurally unsound. Restoration is possible, and has happened in places, but within the limits of conservation set out by UNESCO – and the limits of the current Portugese economy. Chaos? Entropy? Decay? Wimmelbild? Perhaps all of the above. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, HC 24, 50 and 100mm lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: hardware

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This post is a shameless gear p*** interlude, made with mostly recent but also some older images from the archives. I like my hardware as much as the next photographer, and have no problem admitting that some designs are more beautiful than others. Product photography is as much my thing as any other discipline – why not make them a legitimate subject in their own right, too? MT

Shot with various cameras and processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III.

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Discussion points: An ideal format?

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Flexible? yes. Practical? Not exactly…

Today’s post will be the first in the experimental ‘discussions’ theme proposed a little while back.

We all know there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ format or system – there are myriad considerations for selection, based on creative properties and technical ones – for example, depth of field, dynamic range, ‘graphic-ness’, color depth, shooting envelop, ability to deploy under certain conditions that might be weight restricted, system completeness for specialised lenses, camera movements etc. And this is before we even get into any thoughts around cost (for hobbyists) or return on investment (for pros). In most cases, we’re left either stuck with a single system that fills all needs but perhaps not perfectly, or multiple systems and formats and the inconvenience of both overlap and lack of it. For example – I love to create graphic images with a lot of compression and infinite depth of field, but this requires a narrow angle of view and thus longer equivalent focal length. I could do it with my H6D-100c, but the sensor on that is so large that I can clearly see a difference in focal plane at f8 and just 150mm-e, with a subject 100m away. Clearly, this is not workable – so I also have an E-M1.2 and Canon 100D with their respective telephotos for that kind of work. The graphic intent of the output means that limited dynamic range and crushed blacks aren’t so much a problem as desired most of the time.

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Photoessay: Nightfall, Prague

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I don’t believe this city ever sleeps. When it gets dark, it’s simply a change of mood; in fact, some parts look better when you don’t see the less salubrious bits. When you get a good evening though, it feels as though you are walking in a fairy tale at American theme park sizes – really quite surreal. The challenge is of course how to not make another tourist cliche; I think I got too caught up by the obvious beauty at times and consequently failed abjectly with this set. Perhaps it will require another visit to rectify. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C and H6D-50C, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Why the right hardware is liberating

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It might actually be better to start off with the corollary: why the wrong gear is frustrating, or at best, obstructive. First principle: what’s good for you isn’t necessarily good for somebody else, and vice versa. This may seem obvious, but the number of people who are chasing and lusting after hardware that simply doesn’t make sense for them is quite mind boggling – the internet seems to be full of them. Of course, it’s highly likely that those who have found camera nirvana are simply out there making pictures and have stopped thinking about the whole gear train – it seems much more productive to me to spend time making pictures instead of scouring fora for obscure solutions and rumour sites hoping for magic bullets. It boils down to this: most people make different images. Considering this objectively, it means that for different objectives, different tools are required. Yet what I can’t understand is the obsession with finding a one-size-fits-all; the manufacturers want to do this because it makes economic sense, but the whole point of having choice is so we as consumers do not have to.

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Photoessay: Night falls on the coast

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A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.

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