Kate Ri photographed in Łódź, Poland

Jul 31, 2020 | Flash, Fujifilm X, GFX, Location | 18 comments

Late start

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.

Why Poland?

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?

Photography kit

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.

Lighting kit

Godox AD200Pro with X2T-f transmitter, fresnel head, Scatterflash kit, Matthews compact stand

Video Kit

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.

Kate Ri lit with a Scatterflash and Godox AD200

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.

Kate Ri nude in Poland

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.

Beautiful Kate Ri

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

Kate Ri on the stairs black and white

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

Kate Ri against a green wall

The hallway, stairs and landing of the house location were green. It was a calm green and the paint surface was quite chalky.

Kate Ri beauty

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.

Zero cash

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.

Kate in an old part of Lodz

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.

Kate Ri BTS with Scatterflash
Kate Ri lit with a Scatterflash

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.

Kate in beautiful tunnel light

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

Kate Ri captured with the Fujifilm X100v

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

Kate Ri in Lodz, Poland

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

Kate Ri soulful, natural portraits

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.

Kate Ri close up

X100V, ISO 160, 1/500th second at f/2

Kate Ri with some super cool sunglasses

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.

Kate Ri lit with Scatterflash

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

Kate Ri in Lods lit with Scatterflash

Settings as above. Once I have my settings dialed in I leave them set and just move the light between locations.

Behind the scenes with Scatterflash

A BTS set showing the Crunch Scatterflash and the relationship between light position and subject.

18 Comments

  1. Nan Li

    Your work is always inspiring. I really love the x100V shots. They look absolutely stunning. I bought a V too after it was launched. Initially I planned to bring it to Fuerteventura to shoot with you. Unfortunately, your workshop was postponed and I had to cancel it because the new dates wouldn’t fit in with my schedule. I will keep an eye on your 2021 workshops, and look forward to learning from you again in new adventures.

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Nan Li,

      Let’s hope 2021 proves to be a year of healing and new adventures. Stay safe and I look forward to shooting with you next year.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien

      Reply
  2. andrew bennett

    Jaw-dropping images yet again. A couple of questions. Love that these haven’t been Photoshopped, it’s something that I’m aspiring to. But did you use Lightroom/Capture One or similar? If so, what adjustments did you make? Also, love Kate’s outfits. Were they hers? Did you decide on the looks before the shoot?

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Andrew.

      I shot the GFX50s in Pro Neg S mode with Highlight tone at -1 and shadow tone at -2. Then in Lightroom, I have my XMP preset that is auto-applied to GFx50s files that emulates the in-camera settings. Pro Neg S, highlight slider to the left and shadow slider quite a long way to the right. I then tweak the lighting balance a bit if required using the radial or gradient tools. I then create two virtual copies, one goes to Acros G and the other gets a LUT applied and faded back as required.

      The X100V had Classic Neg in the camera but unfortunately, Lightroom still hasn’t got it for the raws from this camera. So I had to make do with Classic Chrome in Lightroom and push the black level to the right a bit too. I had to straighten every shot because I was hand holding the camera and I was seemingly never level. All my GFX shots were on the tripod with the camera levelled before shooting using the green level display. Once I was happy with the files I added one of two LUTs that suited the shot.

      The clothes were all Kate’s as I had a full case with my cameras and lighting kit etc. I sent her 4 detailed moodboards and I wrote a brief. Kate brought a suitcase full of clothes and we sorted them into outfits at the start of the shoot. We then used the Airbnb apartment that I had hired as our base and we went from there with the necessary styling out to the location.

      I hope this is of some use,

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  3. Paul Harrison

    Excellent, looking forward to the BTS

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thanks, Paul,

      Me too :)

      Damien.

      Reply
  4. Jay Mijares

    Stunning and inspiring images, Damien! I’m really missing your workshops this year…

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Jay, Thank you.

      I’m missing them too, so I thought I’d try this one mini-adventure outside my comfort zone to pick me up again. I look forward to spending time with you on some adventure or workshop in 2021.

      Take good care my friend.

      Damien.

      Reply
  5. Chris Elliott

    Great Start to a Saturday morning! Keep thinking of the 100V and this has made my mind up. Now to get my hands on one. Lovely shots: kept wishing I was there but stay at home is the current PH policy and stay local to avoid CV as we have none on our Island.

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Chris,

      Stay safe my friend. Once there is a vaccine you’ll be able to travel again without the fear etc.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien

      Reply
  6. Patrick McGownd

    Outstanding, Damien. I truly enjoy spending time with your work.
    I should be getting an X100V shortly and I will then bring it to Tuscany 2021.

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Patrick,

      The compliments are very welcome. I just had to get out and get back up to speed with shooting. Out of my comfort zone was important too. New country, uncertain times, new model etc. It went to plan. I will consult with you re possible dates for Tuscany 2021 once we have Covid 19 out of the way or under control.

      Have fun with your X100V and I am happy to do a mini set up session over Skype if that would be useful.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
  7. Juergen E. Dechert

    Lot’s of stunning pictures, gorgeous model, great locations and plenty of background information – amazing educational stuff (… perfect as always ..) !!! Thanks a lot Damien !!!

    Reply
    • Damien

      Thank you Juergen for your kind words.

      Best regards,

      Damien.

      Reply
    • Dave

      Great images Damien. I really love the image on the small stairs.
      Excellent work as always.

      Dave

      Reply
      • Damien

        Hi David,

        Thank you for your praise. The small stairs shoot was a good one :) Sometimes the simplest shots are the best.

        Cheers,

        Damien.

        Reply
  8. Gordon

    Unsurprisingly another great set of images Damien. The accompanying commentary was also interesting. Shots like these are always inspirational, one thing is clear, I need to up my game.

    Reply
    • Damien

      Hi Gordon,

      Thank you for your kind words. Sometimes the simplest of pictures to take are the most beautiful. Stay inspired and keep your photography fun.

      Kindest regards,

      Damien.

      Reply

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