Photoessay: An hour at the Blue Mosque

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Disclaimer: I spent a cumulative hour in total shooting it, hence the different times of day. It’s one of those buildings that – much like Hagia Sophia – dominates and encroaches into every frame and vista in the Sultanahmet district. You can’t avoid it, but like all large buildings – there’s a curious effect of perspective that occurs as you get closer; the upper tiers appear to recede (probably because the upper tiers are stepped in pyramid form to better transfer the roof’s weight through the half domes). Construction started in 1609 and reflects the predominant architectural styles of the time: nested domes and half domes to create a largely free-standing internal volume, but still a rather stocky rectangular/square base profile. I’ve always thought of this ‘hemisphere on a square’ type of architecture of being a very distinctive characteristic of medieval Turkey. Unusually, the mosque has six minarets instead of the usual four – folklore puts this down to the architect mishearing the Sultan’s request for gold minarets. Internally, a rather low chandelier provides illumination but diminishes the perception of lofting space because of the weight of the ironwork; the very warm incandescent lights largely negate the effect of the blue tiles cladding the entire internal space – you have to look hard to see them, and the impression is a ceramic rather than blue one. As with most of these (relatively) ancient buildings – I’m left amazed that something with such delicacy and intricacy could have been constructed that long ago, whilst my five year old apartment has a habit of springing random leaks. I’m left humbled and wondering if it’s cost, care/pride in work, or something else. MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and LR Workflow III (and the Weekly Workflow). Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Working with multiple systems and formats in the field

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A typical assignment for me may involve a) quite a variety of objectives, and b) quite a variety of hardware. Whilst the obvious solution would be to go with one complete system and suitable backups, this isn’t always possible for any number of reasons – from weight to lack of coverage in that system to cost or practical versatility. I had a recent email discussion with a reader and fellow pro over how to manage this in the most efficient way possible – both from a cost and logistic standpoint, but also a creative one. Often, suitable equipment for a broad range of optimal coverage* may require a significant shift in shooting mindset between different bits of hardware; for obvious reasons this becomes quite a bit more challenging when you’re working under pressure. I thought it might be an interesting topic to examine further…

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To be a specialist, you have to be a good generalist

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Here’s today’s provocation of the day: there is really no such thing as a specialist. I’m going to explain why, using photography as the background context. The general expectation is a specialist in one particular topic or subject or tightly defined discipline should be familiar with and understand how to handle the vast majority of variations encountered around that topic or subject. They would probably have to keep up to date with new developments or changes and do enough experimentation to answer any self-doubt or uncertainty: an expert sports photographer, for instance, would know how to deal with indoor arena lighting, outdoor high noon and night games – and still produce an image that would pass muster for their clients. An aerial photographer would know how to deal with haze – either to minimise in post, or to use as a feature of the image. Yet I keep encountering this odd resistance…even amongst supposedly educated and image-savvy people. Why?

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Shutter therapy in Phnom Penh

Life has been incredibly hectic lately, so when my friend Amir randomly asked if I was down for a short holiday to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I immediately jumped at it. It was not planned as a photography trip and we were there simply to catch up with old friends and drink as much cheap beer as we could. However, it’s inevitable that I squeeze time for shutter therapy, especially in a city I haven’t been to before.

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Photoessay: life in Istanbul

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I did a little curation experiment with this set: it’s been more than six months since I shot these images in Istanbul, and perhaps four or more since I last looked at them. What’s interesting is that my memory has definitely warped over time: both in terms of what left the strongest impressions, and what I felt made the strongest images. This far away from the time of capture, we are definitely over what I think of as the ‘objective’ period – it’s so long ago you might as well almost be an independent observer. This means the immediate contextual bias is gone and emotion doesn’t drive selection – but rather the reverse; i.e. the image serves as an emotional mnemonic. I do notice now that the majority of the images seem to carry a very bittersweet feeling – there’s a suggestion of positivity through light, color or something else – but the posture of the people seems tense and at odds with that. I can’t say if that was an accurate portrayal of society at the time of my visit (it may well have been, given the referendum was happening at the same time) or merely a reflection of my own mental state. MT

Series shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c and various lenses, and processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Suburban geometry, part I

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Am I the only one who finds it odd that a) we are of organic, irregular shape and yet b) create our environments to be as regular and inorganic as possible – even with the possibilities long afforded to us by modern manufacturing methods, we stick to at best a greatly reduced and simplified facsimile of nature? Furthermore, all suburban environments have become so similar I don’t know whether to think of it as fairness, aspiration to the same standards or a homogenous dystopia. Case in point: these images were shot in no less than six cities, but you wouldn’t know it at first glance (and there is also a massive curation bias that is involved in removing any localising elements, of course). This is especially true as configurations and details simplify into what is cheapest to build, easiest to maintain or least likely to cause offence. Chasing uniqueness in the photography of urban exploration has become a challenge not so much to find unusual locations so much as a race against the shadows for the flaneur – perhaps, much as it should be. MT

This series was shot with an assortment of cameras and lenses over a fairly wide period of time, but all post processed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow.

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Photoessay: cityscape Istanbul

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At the macro level, the structure of a city has always seemed much cleaner and more organised than when you get in it – there’s a sort of fractal perfection of the wimmelbild kind where the overall visual density is quite homogenous within all of the areas that can be build upon. It’s as though we seek to fill and exploit every possible space available to us – and in doing so, make something that’s always reminded me of a carpet or a lawn: from a distance, regular, but close up, completely random. I’m sure if we were to take the site of any of the world’s major cities and start again, the result would be extremely different from what we have now (and in some cases, perhaps wouldn’t exist at all – building below sea level, for instance, is probably not a such a good idea in the long run). At a more pragmatic level, we never quite made it to the far side of the strait – next time…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, various lenses and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III.

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Tips to improve your photography using what you’ve got

We constantly find excuses to justify the purchase of new, more expensive camera gear. However, it is important to remind ourselves from time to time that simply upgrading  gear does not improve our photography. The greatest weapon a photographer possesses is their vision – how they see the world around them, with their unique artistic sense and perspective.

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Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part II

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Continued from part I

Much further east, but still considered ‘eastern’ relative to other parts of the world – I shot these in Tokyo a month ago (at the time of writing) and very much remembered how I felt: the usual excitement of being in Tokyo, the anticipation of a reset in culture and scenery, and some slight dread for my wallet thanks to the camera havens of Shinjuku. Aside from that, certainly not what I seem to have captured: a sort of ‘quiet resignation to the task at hand no matter how bad or what it is’ – rather than the same sort of slightly uncertain edginess in Istanbul. Cultural? Perhaps. Or perhaps somebody in the audience is going to tell me there are things I have deeply repressed…MT

This series was shot in Tokyo with a Panasonic GX85, various M4/3 lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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Photoessay: Eastern melancholy, part I

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Every image is a reflection of the photographer’s state of mind at the time of capture; we see and interpret the world through a lens of personal bias. We either notice things that are extremely in sync with us – or extremely opposite. It is difficult to say whether the collective feeling exists or we are simply applying tunnel vision to only notice what we want to see. Going back to curate through one’s archives tends to yield very telling glimpses into your psyche at the time, and something much easier to see objectively in hindsight. These images were shot more than six months ago, but reviewing the entire set yields an almost manic split between the bright, cheerful and happy, and the downright depressing. I honestly don’t remember what I was feeling at the time – probably not strongly positive or negative – but mainly that the environment was so different that it was rather difficult to ‘be a mirror’ and let the images come rather than looking for them. What’ll be interesting is the counterpoint part II post… MT

This series was shot in Istanbul with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 50, 100 and 150mm lenses, and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Get more out of your voyages with T1: Travel Photography.

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