It is hard to believe it is already the end of July and my year has hardly begun. I had so much planned for 2020 with sold-out workshops in Tuscany, Fuerteventura and Venice too. Like many of us, I’ve been in lockdown since March and just a few weeks ago we were finally allowed to escape these shores and travel to other countries deemed to be no riskier than the UK.
I contacted a model, Kate Ri on Instagram to see if we could coordinate a location to shoot but unfortunately, her travels in Belgium, Holland and Spain didn’t tie up with my forthcoming plans in those countries. So I did a bit more research and decided to shoot with her in her home country of Poland. It seemed like a sensible thing to do. I booked the flights, an AirB&B apartment in Łódź, a hire car from the airport and I set off for Warsaw. What could possibly go wrong?
Fujifilm X100v & GFX50s cameras, GF23-64mm & GF110mm lenses, Tiffen Black Pro Mist 1/2 strength filter, Novo tripod, Benro ball head, RRS quick release plate, Billingham 307 camera bag.
Godox AD200Pro with X2T-f transmitter, fresnel head, Scatterflash kit, Matthews compact stand
GoPro Hero 8, Fujifilm XA-7, XF18-55mm lens, Amazon Basics tripod, Insta360 pole and tripod base, Pola Pro ND filters, Sony micro audio recorder, Rode lavelier microphone.
You will soon get to see the BTS movies that we shot when I’ve worked out how to cut it all together :) All the kit went into a Think Tank Logistics Manager and the Billingham.
One of my shoot locations was this beautiful old house on Piotrkowska, a famous street in the heart of Łódź. Kate acted as fixer and translator for me and together as well as capturing a few stills we shot a short BTS movie for Scatterflash. Both of these shots were taken with the Godox AD200Pro with the fresnel head and I used a Scatterflash kit for the shot on the left to create the magical light. GFX50s, GF32-64mm lens, ISO 100, 1/125th second exposure at f/5.6 for both shots.
Left top and bottom: A couple of shots of Kate taken in the morning sunlight that graced my apartment. Right: A simple shot lit using a Godox AD200 with Scatterflash from the left of the frame.
Beautifully simple photographs of Kate taken with the GF110mm lens. Left: ISO 200, 1/125th at f/2 Right: ISO 1250, 1/60th at f/2.2
A part of my strategy of shooting portraits that have eye contact is to have a strong and deep connection. It usually takes time to develop the rapport to pull this level of connection into the lens. I didn’t set out to take so many shots with eye contact but Kate’s professionalism made my work easy. Left: GFX50s, GF32-64mm, ISO 1250, 1/60th second at f/4 Right, top & bottom: GFX50s, GF110mm ISO 1250, 1/60th second at f/2
The hallway, stairs and landing of the house location were green. It was a calm green and the paint surface was quite chalky.
GFX50s, GF110mm lens at f/2, ISO 1000, 1/125th second exposure for both images.
Out and about
I didn’t take the GFX out on the streets because I always use it with a tripod and the combination of expensive camera and big tripod would draw too much attention. I took my X100V for all my shoots out and about.
I really like the X100V camera. I’ve had several X100 models in the past but they all had their quirks or issues. Not the ‘V’ though. At last the X100 system has the lens it deserves and there are other refinements too that just make me feel really confident in this cameras ability to produce the goods. I shoot it in manual mode, run the flash sync up to 1/1000th second and I lift the ISO ring into its locked up position and use it for exposure adjustment. The 4 stop ND filter that is built in is so useful too. I’m on a roll with this camera now. All the shots below were taken with the X100V.
I didn’t use any cash for the whole trip as I used the debit card of my Transferwise bank account via my iPhone for all the transactions. This system works a treat everywhere, in corner shops, restaurants and petrol stations etc. The £250 contactless transaction limit when using my phone combined with a no fee/ low fee multi currency debit card is a game changer.
Far fewer of my business transactions these days are in GBP. I get paid royalties in USD, some workshop and webinar fees in EUR and I pay for web hosing, cloud storage, gateway fees, website plugins, and all those pesky small monthly amounts in USD. I have no need to convert money via GBP anymore. I went straigt from USD to Polish Zloty for this trip as required without any transaction or cash handling fees.
Above: These are the kind of places that excite me. Little courtyards full of character that sit behind the oppulent frontages of Victorian houses. It’s interesting that the word Victoriana is in common usage in Poland describing objects and buildings from a glorious past. I used the X100V at ISO 200, 1/1000th second, f/2.8
BTS: A behind the scenes shot showing my light position. You can see the Godox AD200 at 1/32 power on the Matthews stand and the flash is fitted with a Scatterflash kit to give the light a dappled texture.
These stairs went a short way up to a hay loft over an old stable. The door at the top was padlocked but the stairs themselves seemed like a great spot for a quick shot. ISO 160, f/2 at 1/500th second with the four stop ND filter. The Godox AD200 flash was on 1/2 power and fitted with an Alto Scatterflash.
There is massive building development underway in Łódź but there are still a few run down classic buildings in the ‘Old Town’ area of the city. It has a Havana vibe and the textures are wonderful. I used natural light for these casual shots of Kate. All shots: X100V, ISO 250, 1/125th at f/2
I pushed the sensitivity up to give me a fast shutter speed. This was to reduce subject blur on Kate’s movement. ISO 1000, 1/500th second at f/2
I was using the ISO dial in the locked raised position on the X100V to tweak the exposures throughout the shoot. It’s a great way to keep the control of the exposure while shooting in full manual mode. I wanted to shoot at f/2 because this lens is superb wide open and a shutter speed of 1/125th was spot on to keep camera shake at bay. Left: ISO 800 Right: ISO 200
Simple beauty portraits like these work so well with the 23mm lens of the X100V. There is an intimacy created by the short camera to subject distance but the distortion is well handled. These are the kind of shots that I’d miss being able to take if I had chosen the Leica Q2 with its fixed 28mm lens instead of the V with its 35mm equivalent lens. It was a close call and I feel I made the right decision.
None of the shots in this post has been near Photoshop. I love to keep it real. There is a real feeling of authentisity with this way of shooting. It feels so analogue and fresh. I can be lazy too, burning through 300 pictures from the day’s shoot selecting 100 or so to tidy up and rename. 90 minutes later and the set is complete.
The great thing about shooting film and optical printing back in the day is there was no cloning. Just dodging and burning. I shot film professionally from 1984 until 2001 hand printing everything in my own lab. These days of course its trendy to shoot on film but if the negs are scanned and Photoshopped the benefits and integrity of the medium are lost.
X100V, ISO 160, 1/500th second at f/2
Next we headed off to EC1 Łódź – Miasto Kultury. A redeveloped power station with big open spaces to shoot in. We avoided the security cameras and set about capturing some casual shots like this and the fashion styled shots below using flash.
I lit Kate with the Godox AD200 and the ‘Crunch’ Scatterflash gel. Flash was on 1:1 full power. X100V, ND, ISO 160, 1/125th second at f/2.8
Settings as above. Once I have my settings dialed in I leave them set and just move the light between locations.
A BTS set showing the Crunch Scatterflash and the relationship between light position and subject.