Saturday, September 19, 2009

Project 8

For the sequence project I had two opportunities to explore.  The first documented here is the Viktualienmarkt, Munich's primary market and a major tourist attraction in the center of town.  This is also the best place in town to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, or flowers.  The stalls have the best quality produce and the broadest range anywhere in the city, although be prepared to pay for the privilege of shopping there.  The second chance, I will document later in my blog is opening day parade at the Oktoberfest.

My goal for this sequence was to photograph the stall holders as they went about their job, either serving a customer or working to manage the stock on the stall.  For this I needed a fairly long focal length to enable me to grab images without the subject being aware of me, but also a fast lens as the day was fairly overcast and all of the stalls are undercover, meaning that the primary light source was going to be artificial, either tungsten or fluorescent. I also wanted to avoid using flash, again to avoid drawing attention to myself and to keep things as natural as possible. To that end I selected my 70-200mm f/2.8, a good portrait lens, although not the least conspicuous thing to haul around a market.  In the following text, my comments for each photo are in the paragraph ABOVE the photo.

First of all I mounted my 17-40mm f/4 wide angle zoom to take a few introductory shots to illustrate the market location and the its surroundings.  The image below is the Eastern side of the market, the Fleischmarkt (Meat Market) bordered by the Heiliggeistkirche.

Moving along a little I then trained my lens to the  west to capture the main section of the market.  As can be seen in this image the market stalls are more or less permanent, the market is here 6 days a week 52 weeks a year.

To try and provide a sense of the covered nature of the market and the tremendous range of produce available the shot below is a typical fruit and veg stall.

Finally the last of my "positioning" Shots is the may pole at the center of the market.  Every town or village in Bavaria has a may pole at its heart, this is Munich's. The pole is huge, around 30m high and decorated by signs symbolizing the primary trades of the city, the bottom one, displaying the beer brewing industry with the signs of Munich's 6 major breweries, the seventh sign commemorates 500 years of the Munich Reinheitsgebot.

So enough positioning, time to look for a subject to start the search for the "perfect" market worked image. The lady below was the first I can across, whilst the subject separation is OK, the background is uninteresting and I could not find a position that allowed a good view of her eyes.

This shot was an improvement, the framing is not bad, the bananas clearly show that this is a market as does the foreground.  This does not work because she is too much to the left of the frame and the person she is talkinh to is out of shot.

Onwards to the cheese counter, just standing downwind of this shot was enough to pick up the calories, the smell was submlime!  This shot could have worked had the eprson just entering the frame from the left not walked across my field of view.  This made me pan right to keep the shot and as a result I lost the interaction of the seller handing change to the purchaser

I decided to wait for another shot, but whilst I could get this image, good subject separation and surroundings, she is too small in the frame (OK I could crop), but also the light was very blue due to flourescent lighting.  White balance has helped here, but there are two sets of lighting here, daylight and artificial, rebalancing the artificial has given a blue caste to the daylight.

At a nearby fresh juice stand I got the next image.  Opposite problem, this time she was standing under a red light and again, I could not find a colour balance between the artificial light and the day.  The focus is also out on this shot, although the shallow depth of field provides a sense three dimensionality

This pair of images of the same person at a fruit and veg stall is part way to where I wanted to be, the seller is clearly interacting with a customer and the forground/background work well.  By this stage I ealized that getting the vendor and customer in shot at the same time was going to be impossible due to the stall always between the two people unless I moved to a wider angle lens, but this would lose the intimacy I was trying to achieve.

The next two shots were at a Turkish stall at which all of the staff had to wear a very colorful hat and red sweater, great colour punch and good framing opportunity.  In the first shot, she saw me and turned away, so time to choose someone else, the second shot is close to what I am looking for.  There is a sense of activity in shot and the colour balance is OK  If I did not find anything better this would be the shot

Next stop was a flower stand, with this elderly gentleman, wearing his traditional Bavarian felt hat.  Here I am managed to get the interaction of the vendor and customer, as well as the pumpkins adding a seasonal flavor to the image.  The background is not great, the blue green spoiling the shot for me.  I perserveered and the second shotis much better from a colour point of view, but is not very sharp so onwards

Thinking that perhaps a vendor was not the ideal image I tried a couple of shots of people relaxing in the many bars that dot the market, these sell local wines and spirits, very much in keeping with the idea that the market tries to sell fresh produce from nearby.  This couple were relaxing with a glass of wine and a beer.  Not what I was trying to achieve so back to plan A

The next 3 shots are all from the same stall, very busy with several staff working to serve many customers.  I like the sequence and suggestion of activity a sequence provides.  My angle on this stall was not so good and it was very dark, so longer shutter speeds and bumping the ISO.  The third shot is the best, the two vedors are in frame and clearly a transaction has been made as she hands a pracel towards a customer - nearly there, this would also be a good end point, but there were a few stalls I had not tried yet

This was just a shot in passing at a flower stall as the vendor prepares a bunch of flowers, the movement is good, would have been OK for some of the earlier projects, however, the focus is poor and I was not able to get any more shots as she was too busy with customers

I headed back to the cheese stall, the smell drew me!  This is another sequence of 3 showing the team working at the counter.  The third is great, the eye of experience is cast over the younger generation.  Still too BLUE, the lighting was horrible and I did not want to spend hours in Photoshop improving the balance

Over at a deli stall I took this image as the vendor handed two bottles of wine to a customer.  Framing is OK, light better, but I was not able to really get close enough for a good portrait shtot and soon after many custoemrs crowded in and that was that.  Patience is needed working in such a busy environment

My last stop, another deli style stall.  This picture illustrates the lighting on the stall, natural at the edges and very yellow tungston in the stall.  To get a good photo here I would have to get in close and frame tightly around the lady serving

The following two images are the same photograph with two different white balances.  The first is at is came out of the camera with Auto, the second applying a Tungsten setting in Lightroom.  The first is clearly too yellow, the second is not perfect, but I very much like the colour quality.  So why is this the best shot, to my eyes at least.  First I struggled to find an angle and ended up shooting from about 5-7m away and through some items hanging from the edge of the tent in which the stall was housed.  As these were only centimeters from the lens they are not resolved and simply blurred the left side of the image, framing the girl.  The background sheet of thick polythene provides a misty indistinct backdrop, although the man walking behind keeps the impression of a busy place. The foreground is interesting but does not distract from the figure who is working to gather items for a customer out of shot, but indicated by her confident look.  This was the shot I wanted, someone working, the sense of market activity, and a clear separation of the subject from the surroundings and background.

I will document the second, less complete, sequence in the next blog in this series

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