Today’s series of images is both literal, and not – what’s there is clearly defined, but what’s clearly defined is the product of a little optics and imagination. I’m always drawn to these kinds of subjects because they’re both not literal or ordinary, and of course use the best strengths of the photographic nature of rendering to produce something visually unique. That, and there’s a large amount of information and layering in here which creates a recursive wimmelbild of sorts. One practical note on execution: you need the right balance of luminance between actual subject and reflected subject, plus the correct alignment of reflecting surfaces – it’s not always so easy to find…enjoy! MT
Following on from the previous article on the process of turning an idea into an image – I thought it’d make sense to present another completed ‘idea’ for reference. Gravitation is relative was a day-project conceived with two students from the Prague Masterclass last year; our talent happened to be the 2016 Czech National Pole Dancing champion – so it made sense to develop a concept taking her talents into consideration. Given Prague has a reputation for being a bit crazy, it actually made sense to see how we might integrate both location and model into something a bit different. Street pole has been done many times, but I think perhaps not quite presented in the same way we intended: with a little visually plausible break from reality. The title reflects this, and is in turn a little play on the nature of gravity itself. Note: I added a coda of outtakes after the main sequence of images; this is to demonstrate how a few differences in execution (timing, presentation) can make a big difference to the impression of the final outcome. They may of course work with a different title; feel free to suggest one in the comments. MT
Today’s series is a continuation (and partial overlap of) the Through the looking glass post of last week. It’s a little less human and a little more physical; a metaphor for a place undergoing accelerated change and perhaps a little cultural dilution at the same time, too. I can only hope that feeling of authenticity doesn’t eventually disappear entirely. Note: no double images were used here; merely strategic reflections. MT
I see this series as a somewhat looser development of the original Idea of Man; relaxed to fit the people and where possible, looking for natives rather than visitors – insofar as a rolling cast of visitors have now become the natives. Unlike the original series, you’ll notice there are identifiable individuals in some of these images; I felt that was necessary to be able to differentiate between local and tourist – which is nearly impossible to do on the basis of silhouette or profile or shadow alone. Personally, what really made this set work was the very hard shadows; not only does it lend an additional degree and visual interest to certain compositions and scenes, but metaphorically it also introduces ambiguity and uncertainty – which certainly tied in to my feelings about Prague during this recent trip, and this despite many of these images being shot outside the main area of attraction. More than ever, I felt like the city was in danger of losing its identity and becoming a giant theme park. Let us hope future visits prove this wrong. MT
I think of this set as Idea of Man, with inspiration by Saul Leiter. The whole thing comes together to be a little bit surreal, but more intense than you’d expect with full-fat color left in. I’ve deliberately used longer perspectives in most of these images to intensify that feeling of stacking, and having the world vying for your attention. To my eyes, it has the same level of distraction from your intended focus as a walk through a really cosmopolitan city would do in real life; especially one that’s somewhat new and unfamiliar to you. In such situations, the familiar catches your eye, as does the very unfamiliar; there’s the constant tug of war between trying to figure out and experience the new, and putting it in context with that which you already know. And before you’ve managed to place things in your own mind, something else (usually unexpected) cuts through the stage and demands your eye. MT
We often talk about the painterly qualities of an image, but without the right quality of light, and to some extent, subject matter – it isn’t possible to create the same controlled contrast and muted tones that the style relies on. Fortunately, Prague in autumn has both low angle light (i.e. not that intense) but clear skied (directional, not diffused) days in abundance – and old, pastel-painted buildings. The buildings themselves appear almost graphic and illustrated a lot of the time: they’re either newly restored or rehabbed or well maintained, and so lack the sort of surface defects that often mar the graphic illusion I sought. My biggest problem was actually too much dynamic range… MT
Texture is shadows, and shadows are texture: at the micro level, surface irregularities are thrown into relief and colors are intensified. This latter effect is an interesting property of raked lighting: since the pits in the surface structure of an object are in shadow, the overall reflected luminosity is lower. However, there are also small portions that appear brighter because some light may reflect off surfaces at precisely the right angle. End result: microcontrast is higher, colors are deeper/richer and textures are made to appear more real (if such a thing is possible). I love old buildings like these because they are perfect subjects for this kind of light: some surfaces are rendered smooth by centuries of paint; others by centuries of wear; and still others show the marks of etching of pollution etc. It’s an interesting study in color, form and texture…MT
I had an odd feeling walking around Prague on this last trip – something that was not there the first time I visited in 2011, nor subsequently. Perhaps it was the sheer number of tourists; perhaps it was the lack of locals. But I couldn’t shake the sensation of walking around in a very big museum; everything preserved just so, architecture restored to beyond its original heights, yet somehow just tipping over that point where the residents live in the buildings to the residents living for the buildings. The stage itself was nicer than it had ever been; but somehow…something was missing. A degree of isolation came into play, and perhaps the friendliness was just a tad more forced than the last time I was here. Chalk it down to collective fatigue; perhaps: when everything is special, nothing is special anymore. Just soft people trying to fit into a rigid environment.
Intense light, hard shadows, either end of the day: don’t be afraid of the dark, and let some of the negative space define the object’s form – or imagined form. Without shadows, we have no texture, no depth, no spatial separation. It’s interesting just how much of a suggestion of soft and hard you can get out of it even though all of the subjects are physically rigid – clean, dense shadows suggest crispness and hardness; feathering and irregularity suggest a certain yielding texture. Do buildings have personality? I think so, especially if they stand in contrast to their surroundings. Does this sense of texture contribute? Probably. MT
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We’re pleased to offer a new video in time for your holiday season viewing and vacations: T1: Travel Photography!
Shot on on location in Prague, T1: Travel Photography focuses on making the most of your trip photographically – and how to come home with unique images that represent what you saw and experienced. It covers everything from pre-trip planning to post-trip workflow, camera maintenance, field tips and everything in between. The location city is both beautiful yet widely seen and visited, making getting something different an interesting challenge. Join us in this video for a unique blend of philosophy, technique and composition/seeing.