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.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: Serious Tokyo

100D_MG_2064 copy

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.

[Read more…]

On Assignment: The face of construction

H51-B0019585bw copy

Presenting something a little different from a recent assignment. Firstly, I know I’m not really known for portraiture, though I do quite a bit of it; I suppose it’s simply not something I’ve really publicised much. On this assignment, I had a few things to keep in play: firstly, finding the right faces amongst the workers; secondly, some of them being unwilling or uncomfortable to be photographed*. and thirdly, striking a good balance between a documentary in situ and something posed. Overriding all of this was the need for authenticity: no point in having a great looking portrait but one that doesn’t make sense either from the client’s standpoint (i.e. not representative of actual construction work) and vice-versa. I wanted to mostly avoid the kind of thing where you just have somebody posing and looking into the camera; that negates the documentary aspect to a large degree – and in my own mind always felt as though either the workers weren’t really working that much, or the whole exercise was forced. In the end, I think I managed a good mix everywhere along the continuum from a fleeting smile to posed to something more natural and mid-work.

*Far more often than you might think; either out of fear that they might be caught doing something wrong and censured later, or for Asian reasons of ‘giving face’ and not wanting the exact nature of their work to be known. There is an inexplicably strong desire to work in a corner office shuffling paper, it seems…

[Read more…]

On Assignment: Film noir

H51-B0000691 copy

Today’s images are from a recent shoot – and shakedown test – of my recently acquired Hasselblad H5D-50C and some other bits of new lighting equipment. The brief: film noir. The model is a local actress. Those of you who frequent my site will know that portraiture – especially of the posed and lit kind – is not something I do often (but at the same time, I do more of it than you might think) mainly because it’s somewhat outside my usual focus of corporate documentary and architecture/ interiors. That said, when everything comes together it can be rather satisfying; I’ve always viewed portraiture as a conversation during which you might just happen to have the lights set up and a camera handy – very few people are aware of the way they look, body position etc. to a degree that they can control it to produce a desired result. It’s much easier to talk to your subject and try to elicit the desired responses without them quite being fully aware of it – that way, the results turn out natural, too.

Images in this series were shot with the H5D-50c, 50/3.5 II and 100/2.2 lenses, and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. Lighting with six speedlights in two Lastolite Ezybox IIs.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: student portraits

11_7R2_DSC3489 copy
JJ, Latchezar and Pavel, Tokyo

I set myself a little project during the course of the last few Masterclasses: whilst my students are photographing, I’m photographing my students. I think of it as an exercise to hone environmental portraiture to some degree, and to keep my people-photography skills in practice. Portraiture is not something I talk much about because I think it’s far less about technique and execution than it is about building a relationship with your subject and then somehow translating that intangible into something visual. It is one of the few types of photography that perhaps relies more heavily on the subject than the quality of light – body language is far more critical than shadow direction; even if we can’t see the details, we have a feel for what the person’s posture might mean. The photographer must therefore be doing three things at once: keeping up the real connection between themselves and the subject – even if nothing is being said; being conscious of body language at a level higher than the casual observer, and beyond that, taking care of the four things. This series has been curated from the Tokyo, Chicago and Hanoi sessions. Enjoy! MT

Images shot with various equipment and processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow or Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

[Read more…]

Portraiture, part two: candids, reportage, street, and the ‘happiness barometer’

_5019808 copy
Chopper

In part one we looked at why images of people fascinate us, and the nature of portraiture. However, this only covers half of the possibilities for ‘images of people’: instances where the subject is a conscious and cooperative part of the process. What about the other possibility: where the subject is not aware the photographer, or only aware of them in the most fleeting of moments before any conscious self-image or rapport can be built?

The images in this article are all candid: unposed, unplanned, and with subject unaware. Even if it appears they may be looking at the camera in certain situations, it is a result of conscious timing, observation of something behind me, and/or a particular moment rather than catching a long stare. None of them showed any acknowledgement of my presence before or after the shot was taken, which was actually quite surprising in some situations. They saw me, but my presence didn’t register.

[Read more…]

Thoughts on portraiture

_5001019 copy
Style

Today’s article is the first of two parts focusing on portraiture and human subjects as the focus of an image. It is not something I’m normally associated with because I rarely choose to show my work here; it doesn’t mean I don’t engage in it for personal reasons (which are usually not shared, obviously) or professional ones (I do have clients whose mainstay subjects are primarily human). Whilst curating images for a recent assignment, I had a couple of little personal epiphanies which I’d like to share with you all.

[Read more…]

Photoessay: portrait of a chef – Fergus Henderson

Perhaps best known for his use of offal, bones, tails and other normally discarded parts of the animal, chef Fergus Henderson is one of the innovators of modern cuisine. His dishes are derivatives of traditional British food, usually paired with French wines. However, perhaps the most impressive thing about him is that he’s actually an excellent trained architect (from no other institution than the AA) but one day decided he preferred food – and despite being awarded a Michelin star for St. John restaurant in 2009, he was entirely self taught as a chef and has never worked in anybody else’s kitchen.

Henderson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1996, and has since undergone deep brain stimulation therapy which supposedly has increased his mobility in the kitchen – however, watching him work it’s clear that he wields most implements with difficulty (and in some cases, it’s just too dangerous) and relies on his deputy. However, when you talk to him, it’s clear that his disability has not diminished his ability, talent or passion for food – if anything, it’s enhanced it. He’s an animated, engaging speaker with a dry sense of humor and a disarming smile. I had the honor of running a food photography class with him once; it remains one of the most inspiring experiences of my photographic career to date.

All I can say is that I have enormous respect for the man, and his bone marrow and parsley salad (which he describes in strangely architectural terms) was quite excellent, too. MT

This series shot with a Leica M9-P, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE and Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium.

_DL52_L1000004 copy

_M9P1_L1015047 copy

_DL52_L1000029 copy

_M9P1_L1015029 copy

_M9P1_L1015066 copy

_M9P1_L1015054 copy

_M9P1_L1015056 copy

_DL52_L1000097 copy

_DL52_L1000091 copy

_M9P1_L1015089 copy

_M9P1_L1015088 copy

_DL52_L1000053 copy

____________

Enter the August 2012 competition: Compact Challenge – here!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the Flickr group!

POTD: A classical portrait

_5001019 copy
Nadiah. Olympus OM-D, 45/1.8

Sometimes, everything just comes together serendipitously. In this case, my wife (and muse, but that’s to be the subject of a future post) and I were attending a small function at a rather quirkily-decorated space in downtown Kuala Lumpur. I was going light, so I just carried the OM-D and two lenses; the 45/1.8 and 20/1.7. Just off the space, there was this small room separated by a partition; not only were there some nice details – like the Adams-family-esque hand – but the light was also beautifully directional yet soft. It just happened to be overcast outside, and with the sun at a low angle so the light went all the way into the room; see why I keep saying 99% of photography is light and timing? I grabbed my wife and shot a few frames to create what I think is one of the most satisfying portraits I’ve ever shot. MT

POTD: Surreal portraiture

_PM08399bw copy
Floating head. Olympus E-PM1 Pen Mini and kit lens.

Sometimes, the atmospheric conditions – early morning haze resulting in a vanishing horizon – and perfectly calm seas make for interesting photography; the kind where you don’t mind risking a camera in chest-deep water. MT