European Christmas Markets, Manchester / by Neil Alexander

Earlier last week, I took a trip into Manchester to shoot the Christmas markets, of which there are now so many it wasn't easy deciding where to start! In the end, I plumped for the main European one in Albert Square presided over the an extremely large illuminated Santa perched over the entrance to the Town Hall. The top most image is probably my favourite of the lot, just because it is a half second hand held exposure! I've got a technique for shooting relatively long exposures which seems to get me pretty reliable results, although this is the longest exposure I've made with it. Leant backwards against  a lampost, I first relaxed and slowed down my breathing allowing the crowds to breeze on by. I then put my camera onto burst mode and life it to my eye. Compose and burst about 5 or 6 frames. Normally the first few frames are soft but by frame 3 or 4 I get tack sharp images. Works pretty much every time. The secret is in the breathing. 

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester shot hand held at 1/2 second.

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester

The last time I shot the Christmas markets was a couple of years ago, and I wasn't too impressed with the results primarily because of the noise levels in the images. Shooting in such a dark environment requires my ISO to be racked up all the way to 3200, and even then it's often not fast enough if I need to stop down. 2 years ago the noise reduction algorithms in  Lightroom weren't anything like as advanced as they are in the latest version (3.6 I think) and it's now really quite easy to get a usable image out even shooting at this high level. Admittedly the Luminence slider does give some rather bizarre results on faces if over used but nonetheless it's amazing how the technology has advanced.

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester

Cheese sellers at the European Christmas Markets, Manchester

European Christmas Markets, Albert Square, Manchester

Anyway, that's all I've got to say today. There's more on this story over at Demotix here.

Hope y'all have a sharp Christmas and a focused New Year....

Neil