- Aperture: ƒ/7.1
- Camera: ILCE-7RM2
- Copyright: © Tim Maher 2015
- Exposure bias: -7/10EV
- Flash fired: no
- Focal length: 55mm
- ISO: 2500
- Shutter speed: 1/50s
Markets the world over get going at first light and I prefer to get to them as the stall holders are setting up for the day, before the crowds arrive and disturb the peace. With the combination of the sun being barely up as well as the narrow covered alleyways, there wasn’t much light about when I got to Tupiza market in Bolivia. Some daylight spilled through the cracks directly or filtered through the coloured corrugated plastic, creating an interesting colour spectrum as well as high contrast. I was looking forward to seeing how the Sony A7RII would cope with the tricky conditions. Having a tripod with me would have made my life a little easier technically but would have made my presence a lot more irritating to the stall holders on a tight schedule to be up and running on time. Keeping a low profile and being able to move out of the way quickly when you’re in someone else’s space can be more important than the technical benefits provided by a tripod. After I helped to lift clear a couple of the trolleys whose wheels got stuck in the open drains, I was a welcome distraction rather than a pain.
As usual, I had my camera set to manual, trying not to go below 1/50th with the Steadyshot on, whilst wanting as much depth of field as the light would allow to accentuate the details, all the time keeping an eye on the auto ISO reading (with a half press of the shutter) so the noise levels would stay as low as possible. Deciding on the right exposure always requires a bit of give and take, a balancing act that only gets harder when in lowlight situations. Knowing the strength and weaknesses of your camera gear is what allows you to stretch the parameters to achieve the best result. Like I knew I could go below 1/50th and still get reasonable sharpness from the impressive in-camera stabilisation, but there were two other considerations. Firstly, with so much resolution to hand I’m very aware of needing to keep an extra sharp eye on camera shake (which is also why, by default, I always have the EFC shutter set to on. As a side note, since it is not possible to set the EFC setting to a custom or function button, I try to make it the last thing I’ve accessed in the Menu, so that when I press Menu again it is right there); and, secondly, I wanted to avoid blurring as much as possible the movement of whoever or whatever was coming down the alleys. Similarly, with a f/7.1 aperture and my focus point two thirds of the way down, I knew that the middle two alleys would be in relatively sharp focus… But I still wanted to keep my ISO as low as possible so as to keep the ‘grain’ from becoming so noticeable that it interfered with the sharp lines of the shuttered stalls and all the rest of the details. Knowing that the sensor on the A7RII allows for being able to push cleanly out of the shadows, it was an easy decision to use the exposure dial to underexpose by -7/10, which in this case was more to lower my ISO to an acceptable level than to not blow out my highlights.
I have versions of this shot with no-one in the background and it’s still a strong picture because of the colours and the lines; it just makes it that little bit more special having someone walking through. And just to show how much can be done to a raw image in Capture One, here’s a version of the same image before any adjustments, with a screenshot of the adjustments I made:
Doesn’t look like much, does it. Not always, but that is often the way when shooting raw, especially if you’re comfortable enough with your visualisation process to make the necessary adjustments in-camera so that you can bring out the elements later in post. And it really doesn’t take me long to achieve these results in Capture One. The Keystone tool to correct my lines; some liberal use of the amazing Color Balance tool in Shadow, Midtone and Highlight; very little change to Exposure; very aggressive with the Shadow and Highlight sliders in the High Dynamic Range tool; possibly overly keen with the Clarity and Structure sliders in the Clarity tool but not too worried at this stage because only exporting lores jpg’s; Vignetting tool worked great to give the sense of more light spilling in from the sides… And that’s it! I selected several other frames from the same situation, copied the adjustments over to them, checked that they worked okay, making slight alterations to each one where necessary, then exported all to the relevant folder. Quick and easy. It also helps that Capture One has an amazing processing engine. Hope you like the result!