Stepping back for context: wider street portraits

My photography buddies often ask me if I get tired of shooting the same streets in Kuala Lumpur, and my answer has always been the same: no, because I do things differently each time. While the background and setting remain the same, we can choose to vary our choice of subjects and the way we approach them. I have been shooting portraits of strangers for a while now, and I see my style changing progressively. Some of the changes are subconscious as you cannot do the same thing all the time and expect different results.

For a while now, my most used lens on the street was the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens as it gave me medium telephoto coverage, a tight perspective for close up headshots and provided sufficient control over depth of field. It was a huge challenge to approach strangers and get so close for my shots, and I was happy that I pushed through this process and overcame self-doubt when talking to strangers on the street.

In contrast to that, I have been moving myself further away from the usual head and shoulder shots and decided to pursue a wider environmental style of portrait. Instead of 45mm F1.8, my most used lens now is the 25mm F1.8 on the streets.

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Photoessay: Life in Osaka

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Today’s images are a stream-of-consciousness style set of observations of life in Osaka. I wanted to see if there were any perceptible differences from the audience side given these were not shot in my usual way, but rather a series of quick grabs whilst I was there for reasons other than photography, and with photography not as my primary objective. The usual (heavy) curation took place after the fact, which may perhaps dull the value of the exercise as the same biases are therefore applied to both more deliberate and these opportunistic sets. Is the way we see so immutably hard coded by force of habit and practice, that even when we are not trying, the result is indistinguishable? I leave you to let me know. MT

This series was shot with a Canon G1X Mark III and Nikon D850/24-120VR, and postprocessed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Postcards: My quiet hometown, Kuching

I was born and raised in Kuching, the City of Cats situated in Borneo. Kuching is a small city and drastically different from Kuala Lumpur – where I am based currently. There are no extensive highways, skyscrapers or excessive concrete structures. The air is cleaner, the sky is always blue and people there are generally friendlier as well. Many photographer friends are willing to pay good money to travel far to see and shoot different places and cultures. While I always encourage them to travel, I also remind them to slow down and look at what they have around them. I love my hometown, I grew up there and I know it well. Knowing your subject is critical in improving your photography. What place would you know better than your own roots?

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Photoessay: Transient glimpses

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All photography is of course transient; most of it is nothing more than a vicarious disconnected glimpse into the life of somebody else or timeline of another object’s point of view – other than self-documentary, there really isn’t such a thing as a continuous statement simply because a photograph lacks causality when viewed in isolation. Yet something about the people and subjects featured in this set – shot in the rain and winter in Tokyo and Kyoto – seemed to me especially poignant and fragile. It’s as though there’s both a sort of contemplative melancholy brought on by the season (and probably also lack of sun), but simultaneously an appreciation of the fleeting fragility of the moment. Perhaps introspection is the most appropriate description of the mood here. MT

This set was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and processed with the Monochrome Masterclass Workflow. Experience Japan vicariously in How To See Ep.2: Tokyo.

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Tips from street photography workshops

One of the more rewarding experiences as a photographer is the opportunity to conduct photography workshops. I have been conducting workshops for Olympus Malaysia, and recently Panasonic Malaysia, that focus primarily on an introduction to photography – conducted in the form of a photowalk. Workshop participants are usually new-comers to photography and are looking to learn how to use their newly purchased cameras. Not only do I have to share photography tips and tricks, but I also have to be able to walk the talk and demonstrate, on the spot, how certain shots are executed. It is easy to talk, but shooting and showing instantaneous results is the challenging part. I’ve compiled a series of photographs below that were shot over the course of a few workshops, and used to demonstrate certain techniques live.

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Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part II

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Continued from part I. Think of this as Act II…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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Photoessay: Cinematic vignettes from Japan, part I

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The first part of this series is a sort of composited rush from one city (Tokyo) to the next (Kyoto) – it’s admittedly a bit discontinuous since the curation was made of a set of discontinuous 2.4:1 widescreen frames grabbed without the premeditated intention of being put together into a story; that said, I think they flow together quite well. If there’s one thing missing it’s a critical objective or action or something of that nature – but perhaps also quite indicative of what happens when one passes through a city with non-photographic objectives in mind. Shooting 2.4:1 is quite challenging without any guidelines – there is no mask or crop mode in the D850 for this, and one simply has to guess (it’s roughly half the frame height, plus a bit; I use the limits of the AF area’s outer box as a guide). 2.4:1 compositions really only work in two instances: when you’ve got a very full (‘wimmelbilt’) frame that spreads out horizontally, or a very empty one. The latter tends to be good for tighter human images, which this set is deliberately lacking – it’s about the place, not so much the people. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon D850, 24-120/4 VR and post processed with the Cinematic Workflow in Making Outstanding Images Ep. 5. Visit Japan vicariously with How To See Ep. 2: Tokyo.

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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: 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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