Photoessay: Wrinkles (or, window seat VII)

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The scale of terrestrial features from the air never fails to remind us that no matter what we do, humankind is nothing more than a minor surface blemish on the skin of the earth – we might change it, but on the scale of geological time nature always wins and carries on without us. I suppose in that vein this series of images are some very macro closeups of pores, wrinkles, hairs, cuticles and the like – along with one rather isolated and dodgy looking facility next to a rocky outcrop in Iran… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Window seat VI

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I actually thought about calling this one folds and ridges but then found a better set for that title which I’ll post in due course. It’s remarkable how short of a few lighting cues (and ensuing hints at climate) – the topography of earth looks much the same regardless of where you are. The images come from very different latitudes and continents, but all benefit from a harder monochrome treatment; a couple are a little hazy thanks to some pretty serious atmospherics. I left them in anyway, because I personally like the transition/inversion between land in a sea of clouds and land in a sea of…water; there is a nice conceptual symmetry here. My one regret is that I have nothing from the US in this set as the one flight I was scheduled on that was supposed to take me over the Grand Canyon in daytime got delayed by 9.5 hours and well into nighttime (thank you, American Airlines, for the soggy sandwich, incremental ‘rescheduling’ and total lack of compensation or even courtesy) – I guess that gives me a reason to go back. Or perhaps try for a change of scenery and see if I can get on one of those transpolar flights… MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Window seat V

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’m trying something a little different with the sequencing of this series. They aren’t all from a single flight – not even close – instead, the curation and ordering was done as an evolution of mood through ambient light and atmosphere rather than matching similar. I’d like to think this might be the view out of the window of a hypothetical flight where one got very lucky with seating, aircraft cleanliness and having the right focal lengths handy;. As frustrating as mist and cloud is when trying to get a clear aerial image (it reduces contrast, which you’re already battling for as you’ve lost some on the several layers of window and all of that atmospheric dispersion, leading to heavy postprocesing requirements and in turn the risk of color correction going out of the window or being downright impossible as there’s no channel information remaining) – I think on the whole it does add to that surreal sort of mood one feels when flying. It magnifies and reinforces the detachment from reality/ground/scale that’s already present thanks to altitude. As far as possible, I’ve tried to retain that look here. MT

This series was shot with a variety of hardware over a period of time, and mostly processed with Workflow III; SOOC is nigh on impossible for aerial work as there’s just too much atmospheric effect to cut through.

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Photoessay: Window seat IV

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

Sometimes you get extremely lucky on a single round trip – and one of short duration on a budget airline, no less! I don’t think I’ve ever had this high a yield on a total flying time of about six hours before – at least not when the purpose of the flight wasn’t photography and I wasn’t able to direct the pilot. Most of what made the images interesting was the variety of weather conditions; no doubt because we were flying during monsoon season (which could itself be amply felt) with the heat and humidity required to create spectacularly dense/large clouds quickly, and the winds to whip them up into spectacularly interesting formations. For some of the ground locations – such as the lake that looks like a section through a brain – I can only imagine how much more spectacular they might have been at the right time of day (possibly at the expense of the clouds). It always pays to pick a window seat!

This series was shot with a Nikon D3500 and processed with Workflow III.

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Photoessay: Window seat III

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Continued from the previous series of Window Seat photoessays…

I’ve attempted to sequence these in some semblance of causal plausibility, but honestly – there’s no way one could do that unless the images were from the same flight (which these weren’t, but they were from the same continuous trip). As always, with these things – sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t; I had one flight recently that ended my blank streak (seat with no window or awkwardly positioned one; seat with dirty scratched glass but great light; seat with great window but clouds and rain; night flights; etc.) and it seemed that got things flowing again. I’ll say one thing though – repeated experiences with aircraft that have electronic/ LCD-dimming shades have left me with a preference for plain windows; you just can’t shoot through those things because somehow everything lands up as though smeared with vaseline. Oh how I wish for a chance to shoot through one of those 30×20″ Gulfstream windows… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S, 50/1.8 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Window seat II

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One day, I promise I’ll do a post of images shot through dirty windows, but it’s just not as interesting most of the time – and it’s difficult to not make it come across more like a hipster filter. I don’t know if I’m the only person to spend most of the flight anxiously gazing out of the window in case I miss something interesting (and annoying the passengers around me who are trying to sleep by having the only open shade in the cabin) – but at least the scrolling scenery makes the flight go a bit faster. As we’ve discussed in the past, picking the right side of the aircraft is crucial – you don’t want to be shooting into the sun simply because all of the crap that’s going to reflect off the micro scratches in the windows, robbing contrast and leaving all sorts of strange artefacts. I’m also increasingly finding myself torn between a larger format for better color (not dynamic range in this case; the windows lower contrast to the point it doesn’t really matter much) or a smaller format for higher shutter speeds (f2.8 on M4/3 is sufficient to keep everything in focus at infinity, and lenses are usually very sharp cross-frame by this point too) as the light falls. I’ve had good and bad results from both options in pretty much equal measure. The one thing I haven’t been able to do consistently yet – because of the aircraft motion – is get a decent image in very low twilight or at night; there’s both simply no way to get enough shutter speed or block out light from the cabin. As with all things, more practice is required…MT

Shot over far too many flights with a wide variety of hardware, and post processed with Photoshop Workflow III – you can’t do SOOC JPEG for these because there just isn’t enough contrast thanks to all that glass and perspex.

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Photoessay: Window seat

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On the last two overseas trips of 2015, I lucked out on the airplane: not only did I have some spare air miles to put me in the front of the plane, but the aircraft itself had what appeared to be new windows marked with ‘DO NOT POLISH: CRYSTALVUE COATED’. Interestingly, whatever coating they did apply to the windows appears to have worked: very little dirt stuck, there were almost no swirly marks, and transmission – even at an angle when shooting downwards to the ground – was remarkably good. Less color correction than usual was required. Please put your seats upright and stow your tray tables… MT

Side note: in case you’re wondering why months go past between the time I shot something and the time it’s published here, it’s because I find that that duration is optimal for me when it comes to improving objectivity of curation. Unless it’s something very time-sensitive, I generally like to have some ‘sitting time’ to be sure that the final set presented is really what I want.

This series was shot with a mix of the Canon 5DSR and 40/2.8 STM Nikon D5500 and Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, and post processed with Intro to Photoshop Workflow (not Workflow II: reason being above average color correction is always required for aerial work, necessitating reversion to the previous workflow that incorporates this). You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying postprocessing in the Weekly Photoshop Workflow series.

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