Photoessay: Evening in Manchester

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For reasons I can’t explain, the weather on this particular evening kept making me expect Sherlock Holmes (or his modern equivalent) to pop out from behind a corner, especially as the sun set. Not a bit of fog in sight, and I wasn’t in London, but perhaps it was the combination of the architecture and a slight drizzle. Unfortunately, the only afternoon/evening I had free to shoot wasn’t exactly the best for light, but we learn to make do (and curate ruthlessly, knowing that the locals will always be playing with a light advantage). This was the first time in some time I was travelling light – just one X1D and a couple of lenses. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have my photography brain switched on since that wasn’t the point of this trip, but this is the specific reason I’m posting this set: almost everything you see here in photoessay form is the curated result of a conscious effort at taking pictures; very rarely do I not do this. However, I recognise that this is probably closer to the way most readers’ photographic opportunities arise – a spare hour here and there – and I thought it might be useful to see what can be done even with limited time. MT

These images were shot in Manchester with a Hasselblad X1D-50c and 90mm, and post processed with PS Workflow III and the Weekly Workflow. See more on your journeys with T1: Travel Photography and the How to See series.

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Photoessay: travels in hard light II

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Trying the sun on for size

Monochrome, today. The variation of weather in Istanbul can be spectacular; one moment you have brilliant sunshine, and barely 30min later: hail. I suppose such are the joys of a maritime climate. Regardless of weather, Istanbul seems to be one of those places that has realities of so many different eras that it’s almost timeless; the modern overlaps with the ancient in the sort of organic way that can only happen over centuries – millennia, even – of continuity. I was there at the time of the constitutional referendum; there were fears that it might get ugly, but the reality is life would continue as normal – daily ups and downs being relatively minor blips in the grand scheme of things – short period transience and a sort of lack of definition for individuals, and a much slower erosion for the surrounding environment. What holds it together? The framework is left in the shadows, and only when you look closer (at these images, too) is it clear that things are not always as they seem.

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and Monochrome Masterclass.

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Photoessay: travels in hard light I

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Today’s images are a mix of subjects from around the world that have benefitted from one thing in common: the kind of strongly directional light that makes shadows so solid they seem real. For want of a better term, I’ve always had this feeling of ‘something more’ when encountering this kind of scene: perhaps it’s the mystery of what isn’t revealed; perhaps it’s the transient objects implied by the shadows – and their absence. It takes light at the right angle relative to the subject (some of these were shot early or late in the day, others near noon) and a particularly clear sky for the light to be intense enough to produce that hard black edge. The world somehow seems just that little bit more vivid – whichever city we may be talking about (in this case, Tokyo, Gothenburg, Doha and Lucerne). MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D and 55-250STM, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Prague monochromes, part III

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On this visit to Prague, I was struck by the feeling that a lot of the people I observed were looking for something: it wasn’t so much a definite journey or objective or quest, but just a general sense that something was missing. Perhaps it was the tour groups that outnumbered the locals, or perhaps it was the subtle shift in the proportions of businesses: set up for and transacting mainly with locals vs. visitors. Don’t get me wrong; I realise that I too am a visitor, but there’s something about the mass hoards that gets my goat. Maybe it’s because they wonder around bovine and gawking and oblivious to consideration of anybody else, or maybe it’s because once you have too many of them – the whole feel of the place changes, and then it no longer becomes the place that motivated you to visit and experience it. I don’t think this is specific to Prague in any way, though I’d always felt the Czechs managed to hold on a little bit longer than some other places. In an odd way, once the balance flips in favour of tourists vs locals, the place feels the same as any other city that caters for tourists – other than the setting. In effect, a very large theme park. What I saw, and tried to capture, was transition. Maybe this is the new normal, everywhere…MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50C, and H6D-50c, various lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Scattered

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I think of this set of images is a reflection of one’s rather scattered – but oddly consistent – state of mind when you see and grab an image on the way to doing something else. Being a full time photographer, I’m used to focusing 100% of my energy on shooting alone – to the exclusion of everything else. Since going pro in 2012, this is actually the first time in years I’ve actually been capturing a good proportion of my off duty images when photography wasn’t the primary objective of my day or trip. You can’t really turn your photographic eye off, but it feels as though you’re a lot more scattered and rushing to get the shot – even though the total number of photograph opportunities is of course much lower. Conversely, being in the zone really distorts your perception of time, often in both directions – moments stretch out but whole events and sequences land up passing in the blink of an eye. In essence, that’s what I feel like I’m left with here after curation: scattered glimpses of lives that are moving in different frames of reference to your own, momentarily intersecting for just long enough for you to know that you’re not going the same way. MT

Shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 100mm and X1D-50c and 90mm and post processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: living Tokyo vignettes

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The choice of title is a deliberate, non static one: the suggestion of motion in each of these images contributes to the feeling that we are viewing something transient, temporal and busy. Despite the density and size of the population, Tokyo somehow can still manage to feel quiet and isolated and times – I put this down to having something to do with the very ordered nature of society and the existence of very formal structures/expectations that mean nobody is in Ginza before about 11am since nothing is open, or Maronouchi is rather dead after 9pm and on weekends as everybody has gone home. It’s possible to make images that make the place feel quite cold and inhuman even though most of the time, this couldn’t be further form the truth. This set looks for a little chaos and humanity. You’ll probably also notice it’s quite cinematic, despite being mostly shot with relatively slow lenses. MT

This series was shot with a Canon 100D, 24STM and 55-250STM lenses, an X1D-50c and 90mm, and a H6D-100c and 100mm. Post processing was completed using the techniques in the weekly workflow and PS 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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Street photography with the Olympus E-M10 Mark III

Traditionally, I always bring a new camera to the streets to shoot for review. For the recently launched Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III (full review here), I decided to shoot a different variety of sample shots which included sports, outdoor portrait and landscape. I am all game when it comes to doing something different to keep my reviews fresh. Still, since I had the E-M10 Mark III with me for a few more days, I had to satisfy the itch to have my shutter therapy on the streets. [Read more…]

Medium telephoto lenses for street photography

Given how widely practiced it is, its no surprise that street photography has many rules-of-thumb, and one of them has to do with focal lengths – the traditionally preferred ones have been on the wider end such as 28mm, 35mm and 50mm. However, I’ve often found myself using an unconventional focal length of 90mm. While the wider focal lengths may be more suited for environmental portraits and story telling, using a longer focal lengths allows me to break away from that stereotype and to create a more dramatic outcome.

In this article, I will explore why medium telephoto is my preferred focal length and the advantages of using tighter framing in street photography. It’s important to not that since I primarily shoot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 these days, “medium telephoto” here refers to 90mm in 35mm terms.

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Drama in Street Photography

If you look at the pool of street photographs online (one that seems to be growing exponentially each day), the images that stand out tend to have some drama in them. Drama, as I define it here, can be the split-second when something interesting happens, the creatively incorporating visually stunning lines and perspectives or something completely unpredictable and random yet beautifully captured in a photograph. The presence of drama in a street photograph elevates its status to something standout and noticeable, compared to the otherwise ordinary, uninteresting and cliché shots which have been done to death. To define the characteristics of these “dramatic traits”, is not easy and there’s enough room for experimentation to let each photographer inject his or her own style/perspective.

As a follow up to the article on street portraits, today, I’m going to share my usual process in looking for and adding the elusive element of drama to my street photography. [Read more…]

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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