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.

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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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Photoessay: separation in Singapore

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Big city, bright lights, teeming crowds…yet the quest for individuality is perhaps stronger than ever. Yet we’re social creatures, so we want to fit in. But where? How? Here more than ever, people felt transient, subservient, temporary. Native is not native and you’re on the way somewhere else. The stage stays; the actors change. Here more than ever, I’ve always felt like I was just passing through – even the times where I was based here for months. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III.

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Photoessay: People of Penang, with the Hasselblad X1D

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I’ve spent the last week producing some material for Hasselblad with a pair of preproduction X1D prototypes; I’ve teased the results of that in this post and the full content is in final production right now. In the meantime, I wanted to share some images from that shoot and thoughts on use of the X1D for street photography/ documentary. The portrait samples go up first because I’ve received quite a lot of mail asking about a) bokeh; b) available light performance; c) people.

Additional X1D coverage can be found here: announcement, first shooting impressions, teaser

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Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes III

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Yin-yang tribute to Fan Ho

I actually prefer to think of these as little stories, or vignettes – I suppose that should really be the objective of street photography; to capture an transient and narrative element of life in a documentary way. That little slice of time might not be significant to anybody other than the main players, but it’s no excuse for a lack of story. I’m going to complete my version of the story by adding titles…even if audience preferences may differ 🙂 Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D5500, 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, and Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also get your weekly dose of PS right here

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Photoessay: Tokyo solos

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There are times when you shoot to push the envelope; others when you need to work to an objective, and still others when you feel like but shooting with no particular objective in mind in more of a meditative state. We tend to default back to habit – which can result in some very similar images to ones we’ve made before, but also a sort of liberation where you shoot ‘in flow’ and almost let the environment do the driving. This was one of those times – I present nothing too serious or deep today: just a series of individual (or are they?) Tokyoites. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D5500 and Sony A7RII and post processed with PS Workflow II.

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Photoessay: 28mm in Tokyo

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Camouflage (urban jailbreak)

People, an urban centre, 28mm, and monochrome – is there a more ‘classical’ recipe for what might be traditionally classified as street photography? Perhaps, perhaps not. The whole genre is so fluid that I think it is impossible to define anyway; I instead think ‘snippets from the quotidian’ is probably more accurate in this case. They are vignettes and observations of the repeated, the mundane, and the boring. But the pace of the world changes so fast that who knows what the same activities will look like in twenty or fifty years? MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: After the establishing shot

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You might think the title for this post is curious: that’s because it is. In cinematography, a wider angle is used as an establishing shot to provide the overall context for the scene, location and any human dialogue that is to follow. The tighter head shots are frequently interspersed with equally tight cutaways to detail: it is a deliberate device to focus the attention of the audience very specifically on whatever specific object or action that is desired by the director. These cutaways always serve a purpose as they typically contain explanations or clues to the later storyline. In a way, they form a narrative or logical bridge of sorts. Compositionally/ visually, they are tricky to get right: too much visual texture and the scene is too busy for the audience to instantly register only one thing; too plain and it’s a starkly boring scene. It’s even more difficult to pull off as a candid still for the simple reason that the action is not planned; you have to anticipate and hope you’re in roughly the right place at the right time, then rely on instinct and experience to make any last-minute changes to composition as it happens. It is a slightly lighter photoessay than usual for the simple reason that these images are very difficult to make in practice…Enjoy! MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR, post processed with the Cinematic workflow from Making Outstanding Images Ep.5. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: life in Hanoi, part II

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One at a time, please

The series of images presented today is the conclusion of the cinematic Life in Hanoi set from a couple of days ago. During the curation, two visually very distinct groups of images emerged: the first, which felt a bit more structured and ‘formal’, and the second, which – to my mind – is a bit more freeform and organic, with higher visual density. These hold closer to the ‘story in a frame’ of traditional photography. Personally, when I looked at the scene – and the subsequent images – a caption came immediately to mind – perhaps not the same one as you might have read, but it would be nevertheless interesting to hear the differences of perspective. Enjoy. MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR.

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Photoessay: life in Hanoi, part I

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Today’s photoessay is a little out of sequence – it is the first set of little snippets of life captured during the Hanoi Cinematic Masterclass earlier in the year, but which until now have somewhat defied curation into a finished set (I blame that more on my schedule than anything). They are perhaps not cinematic in the traditional dramatic sense, but I do think they do make for interesting standalone viewing. I suppose that’s what unifies them: being a small window into another place. Enjoy. MT

Images shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon 5DSR. [Read more…]