It might actually be better to start off with the corollary: why the wrong gear is frustrating, or at best, obstructive. First principle: what’s good for you isn’t necessarily good for somebody else, and vice versa. This may seem obvious, but the number of people who are chasing and lusting after hardware that simply doesn’t make sense for them is quite mind boggling – the internet seems to be full of them. Of course, it’s highly likely that those who have found camera nirvana are simply out there making pictures and have stopped thinking about the whole gear train – it seems much more productive to me to spend time making pictures instead of scouring fora for obscure solutions and rumour sites hoping for magic bullets. It boils down to this: most people make different images. Considering this objectively, it means that for different objectives, different tools are required. Yet what I can’t understand is the obsession with finding a one-size-fits-all; the manufacturers want to do this because it makes economic sense, but the whole point of having choice is so we as consumers do not have to.
A Scandinavian winter. A dark afternoon with rapidly disappearing light and heavy skies. A new/old photographic-related friend, and a camera you’ve just had time to take out of the box and verify works at all – what do you do? Find something to shoot, of course: anything will do. I would say this short set is not so much a proper photoessay as a breaking in experiment: you have to do something that’s sufficiently valid from a creative standpoint that you can accurately assess whether the tool is working for you or not. What I have now is a problem of presentation: the test worked better than expected, but raised a whole different challenge because it now feels as though every medium except the very best monitors can’t quite convey the tonal/hue subtlety; and certainly not at web sizes or data rates. It probably means a catch 22 for future image-making: the transparency and subtlety that I find so beguiling doesn’t translate well to the most common display medium, discouraging such images. But at the same time, we’re not covering any new ground by repeating what’s already been done…frustrating, no? MT
This series was shot with a Hasselblad H6D-100c, 35-90 and 100mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. We cover more edge cases in the Weekly Workflow, and you can travel vicariously with T1: Travel Photography or the How To See series.
Imagine you’re hired to do something on the basis of the work you’ve previously done: the client likes your previous work, and wants you to do the same for their brief – within limitations, of course. You have of course taken care to show only the kind of work you want to do, so that there’s no possibility for misunderstandings. But yet the inevitable happens: as the job progresses, the scope changes, and suddenly you’re being asked to do something that’s either a duplicate of what’s been done before – by somebody else – or worse, a mishmash of incoherent ideas that were clearly a case of design by committee and completely unsuitable for the original subject or brief. Sound familiar? Sadly, this is far too often the state of play in most creative industries, not just photography.
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
Stairway to heaven. In the larger version it’s clear the solitary figure is elderly; we’ve got the manmade foreground/environment to emerge from, and the metaphorical representation of utopia in blue sky/perfect clouds…
After the last few posts on ideas, projects and distillation, I thought it’d be a good idea to revisit this earlier article around how to take things further: finding that extra something to elevate an image into something really memorable. Of course there are no rules, because if there were, an image be easily repeatable and at odds with the very nature of an outstanding image being exceptional. But perhaps we can learn to recognise and use this…
Most of the regular readers here will be familiar with the concept of ‘the four things’ – this is to say that there are a few elements that are independent of content that every image must have in order for it to leave some sort of impression on its audience. The framework is both a useful checklist and teaching tool to get a photographer to a certain level of proficiency; however, it can be restrictive in the sense that it is still somewhat formulaic. And that’s half the challenge here: if you can fulfil a list of objectives to make an outstanding image, then what is the function of the photographer? Surely these things could be programmed into an algorithm and left to its own devices to make the next hundred great photographs of the century? Wrong. There’s still one last element which will never foreseeably be automated or predicted or planned.
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 article has proven to be another one of those significant challenges to write, once again for reasons of limitations of language to describe visual elements. On top of that, there are three conceptual leaps that have to be made: abstract idea, to descriptive language/ elements to characterise and quantify the specific unique traits of that idea so we conceptually understand it, then the final translation to a visual idea that can be understood by a wider audience than just the creator. There are really two questions at hand here: firstly, what is the idea, and secondly, what’s needed to convey it – and what do we need to avoid overdoing that results in dilution or confusion?
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’ve recently been asked by a couple of people about curation – specifically, the process I use when putting together a portfolio, photoessay, exhibition or something similar. Turns out that whilst I’ve talked about the importance of curation in the past, and evaluating images individually and against each other in Photoshop Workflow II, I’ve never actually addressed about the process as a whole. It’s actually a pretty interesting topic that isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
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