Peter Marshall, cityscape photographer and technical supporter at Phase One, recently visited China to hold the first POCP courses (Phase One Certified Professional) in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. As a cityscape photographer, he jumped at the opportunity to photograph some of the most iconic skylines in the world with the Phase One A-series and IQ280 digital back. Read on to hear his firsthand account of shooting cityscapes in high traffic areas and difficult weather conditions.
“When I go out to shoot, I like to keep it simple and lightweight. For this trip, I used the Phase One A-series and an IQ280 digital back. I love the process of using this camera; physically dialing in my settings. It has a fantastic analogue feel, supported by some of the world’s best sensor technology. Everything about the design and production of this camera is done to perfection – from the quality of the lenses to the feel of the grip. And although the IQ280 would not have been my first choice for the hot conditions and long exposures, as it lacks the long exposure mode that other Phase One digital backs feature, I was still amazed with the results it produced.
The first night in Hong Kong, I quickly learned that conditions here were very very different to other locations I have photographed around the world. The outside temperature was around 38 degrees Celsius, and humidity hovered around 70%. But the difficult part was the drastic change in conditions from the air-conditioned hotels, taxis and trains to the hot and humid outside air. Taking my cold camera out in the heat instantly covered everything in moisture, rendering the camera unusable. After that experience, I started carrying a towel and more lens cleaning equipment. This helped me dry off the moisture on the outside caused by heat change, and also ensured that my lenses were as clean as possible before exposing – problem solved!
I also underestimated how busy the fantastic locations my translator and local photographers found for me would be. Many times, I had to fight my way to the waterfront for the best spot for the image. Often, I had to balance my tripod on bins, rails or hang it over the water. This is when having a small, high quality system that I could rely on was a lifesaver. And with the manual controls, I could physically feel when my settings were in the right place instead of relying on a screen – which was sometimes out of view.
Although I shot many different locations during my trip, my favorite shot was the Shanghai skyline across the water. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of photos taken of this, and knew I wanted something a little different. I put on the super wide 23mm lens to isolate the other side of the river almost as if it were an island. After the first shot, it started to rain – a lot! As the other photographers ran for cover, I stayed out to get a few more shots. Although the system is not weatherproof, I knew I could rely on the quality build of the Alpa body and lens as well as the IQ Digital Back in these conditions nonetheless. Staying out while others took cover proved to be a great decision, as I found exactly what I was after. The lights mixed with the rain on the lens gave some great natural flare in my final image, and having the IQ280 allowed me to shoot at super low ISO. As my black frame started, I grabbed my camera and ran for cover with the others. The black frame helps reduce noise by capturing a second exposure to help map out noise when it is processed in Capture One. With some other systems, I would have to shoot this manually by covering the lens for the second exposure and apply it in postproduction myself. By shooting with the A-series and processing in Capture One, all of this is done automatically for me.
Looking at the photo while sheltering from the rain, I knew it was the one.
Learn more about the POCP Program that Peter teaches
Peter Marshall is both one of the technical supporters in Phase One and an instructor in the Phase One Certified Professional program. Peter seamlessly blends aesthetics with technical perfection in his landscape and cityscape photography, making him an inspirational Phase One personality.