Macro At The Night Market – Putu Mayam

Outdoor macro is hard enough in the daytime with a close-up lens’ extreme shallow depth-of-field. It requires very precise focus. At night, at the pasar malam, it can be a nightmare.

I not only need to light the subject but also to handle the side effect of a curious crowd attracted to the lights like moths to a flame.

Is a challenge but doable if you can find a stall with tables. The ‘assam laksa’ stall usually has some tables and chairs to dine in. They won’t mind you shooting other food there provided you order from them, and explain what you are going to do.

Putu Mayam is the popular Indian vermicelli dessert made from rice flour, steamed with coconut milk and fragrant pandan (screwpine) flavoring. The string hoppers are eaten with grated coconut and golden (gula melaka) coconut palm sugar.

Because the ingredients are nicely textured, the aim was to light it in such a way to create dimension while highlighting the textures of the coconut shavings and golden sugar crystals.

Two Litepanels units were deployed.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f9, 1/60 sec.

Into The Crowd

Saturdays are ‘pasar malam’ (night market) nights in Tanjung Malim town. The town is usually quite quiet after 5pm and thus was interesting to see a crowd for a change.

Made my way to the front of a crowd gathered around a stall. Was wondering out loud what strange satay this man was selling when this young lady turned around. I thought she whispered “Fish”.

Confirmed moments later with her family members that it was fish indeed. Nice to see a Malay (or maybe Indonesian) hawker attracting so many Chinese customers. All waited patiently as he grilled what looked like mini fishball satay sticks.

Photography Notes: For street photography, the ‘half-press’ AF focus lock is superior to any other focus methods including DMF and MF. Your mileage may vary, though.

When the girl turned around unexpectedly, I pan left to lock focus on her left eye and quickly re-compose to keep the satay man back in frame. All took place within 3 seconds or so.

Without fiddling with manual focus, I was able to catch the spontaneity of her reaction and the semi-candid moment. The result; an unconventional and more interesting capture.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 200, f4, 1/320 sec.