Photoessay: Tokyo street monochromes

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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: Motion in Tokyo/ The Idea of Man II

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I view The Idea of Man project as mostly complete; the story is tight and stylistically consistent. But I’ve been thinking a lot about its sequel in the time since the exhibition; to begin with – is there one at all? Where does one go from the story of the individual finding their place in the world? The answer came to me after some long exposure urban landscape: it’s in community, in groups, in the flow and interaction of individuals. And that idea will be at the core of The Idea of Man II.

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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: Urban jungle, Tokyo

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One of the things that I think strikes every visitor to Tokyo is the sheer density of the place: no space is wasted, and every single available nook and cranny fully utilised – and then some. I find this makes for a very chaotic appearance on the surface – and of course a huge number of quasi-abstract photographic opportunities – but with a little more contemplation some underlying semblance of order begins to poke through – you can almost see what they were thinking when they built bits of the city.

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Photoessay: Ethereal forms in Tokyo

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Every time I visit Tokyo, I can’t help but think the city’s districts tends to take two very divergent forms: either a sort of incredibly dense chaos born of years of layering without any possible initial foresight, with some entropic decay thrown in for character –  or a very precise order that’s almost identical to what was laid out by the architect’s draftsman. The first sort of neighbourhood is interesting because of the history literally layered in. The second sort is both dystopic and utopic in a way; are we looking at an impersonal bad dream that’s become reality, or something else? Moreover: where do the humans fit? There is a sort of stark minimalist beauty in the abstractions of form created by transient light, too. The shadows must have their time in the sun, too. MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 85 Batis, Contax-Zeiss 2.8/85 MMG, Nikon D5500 and 55-200/4-5.6 VR II. You can learn the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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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: People of Tokyo II

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As usual, it is impossible not to be in a place like Tokyo and do at least some street photography; the very difference in the way people act and the things they do already attracts our attention because it breaks the pattern which we’re used to seeing. Furthermore, Japan’s tolerance for photography in general as a society and the close proximity in which people usually find themselves makes things even easier. It is however impossible to avoid people on phones: I still think this is the ‘hat-and-newspaper’ of the 21st century; just as life-documenting photographers eighty years ago could not avoid that cliche – which now seems quaint to us – we are locked into the era of the cellphone. It is harder to find somebody not using one. I’ve always said the best street work should be pretty close to documentary in nature, though much more personal in significance. If phones are the nature of reality today, so be it. That of course doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty else going on. I did get a feeling of longing and melancholy I didn’t observe the last time I was there; the usual conspicuous isolation was even stronger on this visit. A sign of the times for society, perhaps? MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, Nikon D5500 and 55-200/4-5.6 DX VR II, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia and 1.8/85 Batis lenses and post processed with The Monochrome Masterclass workflow. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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Photoessay: Tokyo cinematics II

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Continued from part one.

I frequently get asked if it is possible to work in the cinematic style with a wide lens; the answer is of course yes. There are a couple more considerations over the more traditional conception of the genre that is heavily dependent on longer focal lengths to split the scene into planes and blur the unimportant portions; it is true that the latter is much easier with a longer focal length due to simple rules of physics. However, use of the wide perspective is also important for several reasons, with the main one being trying to create a feel of involvement and immediacy for the audience. It can also be used in tight quarters and to create the impression of distance between observer and scene/subject. In all situations, the frame has to perceptually appear level – otherwise a very strong (and distracting) tipping sensation is produced. The wider the lens, the more care you need with levelling and keeping subjects away from the edges of the frame to avoid geometric distortion drawing attention to itself. Lens choice is also fairly critical because any out of focus areas are unlikely to be drastically out of focus; there will be a lot of transition zones. I personally prefer a smooth rendering here rather than a crisp one because it’s very difficult to reduce the prominence of background or foreground distractions after capture. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Leica Q 116, and post processed using the Cinematic workflow in 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: Tokyo cinematics I

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The lights of Tokyo always form an irresistible backdrop to some interesting characters; for what must be the fourth or fifth year running, I’m back (I’ve honestly lost count) at what I consider to be the best season – autumn, before the weather gets unpleasant, the skies are still blue, and there’s an orange leaf or twenty. An unusually warm summer this year resulted in not much of an autumn – the leaves weren’t anywhere near as extensive as in 2013, and in 2014 I was a week too late – ah well, the vagaries of nature. Nevertheless, Tokyo is so extensive that I feel as though you could live there your entire life and barely scratch the surface photographically. On this trip, I tried out some different hardware for cinematic work compared to my normal 55/85 Otus – I wanted to see if smaller, lighter could also apply to cinematic work albeit with slightly reduced maximum apertures. I used the Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis (Sonnar) and the Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar, an older Contax design. What I found was the Sonnar actually produced a more pleasing rendering for this purpose – the Batis is razor sharp but I somehow prefer the softer, more rounded properties of the older lens – especially for out of focus foregrounds and skin. It is stronger at middle and close distances because of this; the Batis excels at longer distances because it differentiates between planes more easily. Neither is as good as differentiating as the 85 Otus, but that’s also a faster and better corrected (apochromatic) lens – the price we pay there is occasionally nervous bokeh and some onion rings under certain conditions. I digress: it is of course about applying the right tool to the right situation to get the desired images…enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Sony A7RII, Zeiss 1.8/85 Batis, Contax Zeiss 2.8/85 Sonnar MMG and Zeiss 2.8/21 Loxia and post processed using the Cinematic workflow in 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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Last spot for the Tokyo Masterclass from 9-14 November

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Shinjuku, Tokyo: best suited to cinematic, urban, architecture and street; (more examples of what you might capture are here, here and here) think this is probably the best season to visit Tokyo – the trees are bright orange, the light is angled, and you’ve missed the grey winters, the cherry-blossom chasing hoardes, and the typhoons of summer.

Due to a last minute cancellation, I have one place left for the Tokyo Masterclass from 9-14 November, with some special incentives. More details after the break.

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