Poland Models – 2019

Poland Blog Diary (Written September 2019)

September is normally busy for me for photoshoots as I try to catch the end of the summer and warm weather.  A couple of weeks ago I was in Ukraine and Hungary and it was still really warm, mid 30s and humid.  Now I fly to Poland and the forecast is mid 20s so still very nice. 

Leica CL Lightroom Preset

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Aim for the trip?

Apart from the obvious answer of fly to Poland to have fun and take new photos I always like to be testing too.  If you’ve read my blog posts before you will know I’m always using the model photography as an excuse to test something.  I like to experiment with new/ different gear and it helps keep it interesting for me.  Yes this started as a Leica blog but when I ran out of Leica related gear to test I moved onto other analogue camera brands and lenses, and film stocks.

So what will I be reviewing in Poland this time?  Quite a lot actually!  

Leica M3 B&W Portrait

Nikon mount lenses on a Nikon SLR film body 

In no particular order I want to try out the following lenses.  Two are new purchases and one was potentially my favourite lens of all time.  (Pre-Leica).

Samyang 85mm f1.4 lens

This lens makes the most boring subjects look amazing.  I was an early adopter of the first lens released by Samyang. These lenses also go by the name Rokinon depending on where you live.  The mighty 85mm f1.4 prime which is sharper than the Nikkor 85mm f1.4D wide open at f1.4.  Samyang approached me after seeing my images and I shot with them for a period.  They soon released the 14mm f2.8 wide (amazing), the 35mm f1.4 (amazing) and the 24mm f1.4 (a little soft wide open).  The lenses proved quite popular at the time DSLR video was starting to catch on so Samyang then started releasing their f1.5 T lenses.  I moved to Leica soon after so I’ve not used the Samyang lenses since.  Once I got back into Nikon but SLR cameras like the F4 and F5 I favorited autofocus lenses so again the manual focus Samyang lenses were not used.  Getting the Nikon FE2 with split screen has reignited my passion for Nikon mount manual focus prime lenses. An SLR is a different shooting experience to a rangefinder camera such as a Leica so it is nice to experience both. 

The test is to just enjoy using the Samyang 85mm f1.4 lens on the Nikon FE2 to see what creative images I can make.  I will use the lens at f1.4 only and use the shallow depth of field aspect in my photos. 

Kodak Vision3 50D Portrait

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f3.5 lens

Why did I buy this lens? You may know that I already own it’s sibling, the Leica M mount tiny Voigtlander 21/4 lens. So why?  Well, shooting wide with a rangefinder camera is a different experience to using a wide lens on a SLR. On a Leica camera I have to use an external viewfinder to compose a 21mm lens.  The nature of rangefinder cameras mean you cannot see the distortion before taking a photo and the close focus distance is 0.7m which can really limit creativity.  I wanted to try the Voigtlander 20mm Skopar for the what you see is what you get experience. I used to love shooting wides but since going to Leica I do it much less now.  The 20mm Voigtlander lens is compact so easy to carry everywhere. Again I’m hoping to use the lens as a creative tool on my Nikon FE2.  The 20mm focal length is less useful for model photography but I can use it to start capturing those images I see where the view is always wider than the lens I have with me.

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f3.5 Portrait

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 lens

There is a lot of fuss made about this lens so I wanted to buy it to try on the Nikon FE2.  I already own the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AIS which is a great lens but a bit soft wide open for me.  The Nikkor 55mm f2.8 macro lens is sharp but too slow to use in low light on a film camera.  The reason to buy the Voigtlander 58mm Nokton is to hopefully give me a Nikon SLR equivalent to match my much loved Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH.  The Nokton will focus closer than the 0.7m of the Summilux 50mm so again I can be more creative with it. Getting closer than 0.7m help create an even more shallow depth of field and nice bokeh and helps to fill the frame with smaller objects.

Leica M240 vs Leica CL revisited 

After using the Leica CL over the Leica M240 for a year now I wanted to revisit the Leica M240.  The Leica M240 is full frame yet the Leica CL has a 1.5x crop APS-C sensor.  Surprisingly I’ve not really noticed the lack of full frame in the images.  Full frame gives a greater shallow depth of field with fast lenses so to make the most of this I packed my two best lenses for the job.  The Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 and Leica Summicron 90mm f2 Pre-ASPH.  I also have the Leica 75mm Summicron APO but for buttery smooth the two older Leica lenses are better. The 75 APO is a crazy sharp lens.  

90mm Summicron Headshot

The plan is to use the Leica M240 as my main digital camera in Poland and the Leica CL is just as a backup (is the plan).  I brought less lenses than normal and plan to use the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 wide open for as many images as possible. It will help keep my setup simple and get the best out of the full frame sensor.

Leica M240 Noctilux Portrait

Leica M3 vs Nikon FE2?

For 35mm film Poland is all about the Nikon FE2 and the three mentioned prime lenses. That said I bought the Leica M3 along to compare the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 vs the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4.  I plan to use both lenses wide open and I’m interested to compare both my hit rate (accuracy using a rangefinder vs SLR at f1.4) and image sharpness. The Leica M3 is planned to be my back up film camera. 

Leica M3 Fashion Portrait B&W

Shoot mostly colour film

After reviewing some of the black and white film images developed from Ukraine and Hungary I wished on many occasions that I had shot colour film. Without the colour the photo seemed to capture only half of the memory in my head.  (I’m sure if I had shot colour I would wish they were black and white.  Never happy!)

With that in mind I packed various colour film stocks to try out in Poland.  Shooting more colour will make the images less samey than Ukraine and Hungary and keep things interesting for me.

Expired Fujicolor C200 Film

Less gear, more focus

I toyed with the idea of bringing the 4×5 Intrepid large format camera but I thought I would keep that for my next trip when I will be working at a slower pace.  I’ve currently gone off the Hasselblad 501c favouring 35mm film and fast lenses.  Taking less cameras meant I could pack some of my larger heavier faster lenses which are normally replaced by smaller lighter slower equivalents. 

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm Film Portrait (2019)

Get outside more

When selecting some of my past photos to print as photo books recently I realised those photos that interest me tend to be shot outside.  In Poland I often shoot inside the hotel so I was determined to do more outside photos to make it more interesting. 

Summicron 90mm Portrait

Final Camera Bag List


Well that was the plan! How did it go!?

After spending ages messaging models before leaving England I had 15 girls booked across 4 days.  

It all looked very promising for a productive trip after putting the time and effort in beforehand.

7 Cancellations (New PB!)

From the total of 15 girls booked a record number of 7 managed to cancel once I arrived in Poland. Some explanations sounded plausible while others were completely lame and lacked any creativity! No photos for them in future (I tried to tell myself).

Leica M3 vs Leica M240 :)

10 Photoshoots in 4 days 

Luckily for every let down there is a super star who either came for photos at short notice or recommended a friend or friend of a friend. Of the 10 shoots 5 girls were new faces for me so great to discover new talent and make new contacts. I worked with a mixture of catwalk agency models, ex models and non models. This provides great variety to the images in terms of body shape and experience. 

Leica M240 + Summilux 50

12 Rolls of film

Across the 4 days I shot 12 rolls of 35mm film. 8 rolls of colour film and 4 black and white. Shooting outside more inspired me to shoot more colour film. I shot a range of film stocks including Kodak Vision3 50D (3 rolls), Kodak Colorplus 200, Fujicolor C200 and Fuji Superior 400. I also shot some Ilford Pan F 50 black and white. Using these ISO 50 films I’m hoping I can see the best possible results from the camera lenses (in terms of sharpness and resolution).

Nikon FE2 vs Leica M3

From memory I shot 10 of the 12 rolls of film on the Nikon FE2.  Of those photos I used the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 perhaps 70%, the Samyang 85mm f1.4 20% and the Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f3.5 10% (and mostly for walkabout non model photos). The Samyang was shot at f1.4 for all images. The Nokton 58mm was used at f1.4-f2 as occasionally it was too bright to use f1.4.  I’m interested to see how the lenses performed!

The Leica M3 was faster to focus but I was concerned that the rangefinder looked slightly off. I think I got faster at focusing the Nikon FE2, using the split screen for distance subjects and without when up close.  The Leica M3 was more of a backup camera for this trip. 

Leica M3, Poland

Leica M240 beats Leica CL – 4:1!

After having used the Leica CL for almost all my digital photography over the last 12 months it was a bit of a surprise when I favourited the M240 in Poland. It would have been a 5:0 defeat by the M240 (5 32GB SD cards filled vs none) but after day 1 I was worried I had calibration issues.  Some images from the Leica M240 were not sharp, especially with the 50mm Summilux and Noctilux.  That spoilt my plan of shooting wide open for super shallow DOF. Strangely I was getting sharp images from the 90mm Summicron at f2 so I used this setup as much as I could.  As the days past I realised it was user error not camera error so on the last day I shot the Noctilux 50mm f1 wide open for all photos on the M240.  They are not sharp on the camera LCD but hopefully the images will still be nice.

Trying to recreate an old digital image

One of my favourite photos from Poland is from when I used to travel there for work.  I had no model connections at the time so I used to photograph anything that caught my eye.  The photo I refer to is of an old style Polish train taken with the Samyang 85mm lens wide open at f1.4 on a Nikon D700 DSLR.   The photo looks quite vintage to me but I always wish it was a film photo not digital. After organising a model shoot at the same station (which was awesome!)(loved it!), afterwards I tried to recreate the same photo.  The light was not as good as on the digital photo (I think) but luckily the trains have not changed.  I shot a series of train images on film and hopefully I got something I like.  I was keen to capture these older style trains before they all get replaced with new ones. 

Gdansk Railway SOOC
(Digital original)

A quick summary of this visit to Poland (General)

Despite the cancellations I was never not doing something and always felt busy.  I managed to fit in three runs, a sea swim and a walkabout to shoot more of the Sopot/ Gdansk area. The hotel provided some unexpected variety as I had two days in a room similar to what I’m used to then two days in a different building. Different is great for me as I get new light to play with!

Leica Noctilux f1 Portrait

Camera gear choice – Thoughts

Taking less cameras and lenses worked well for me. I didn’t need the Leica M3 but it was good to have a film backup option. The Leica CL too acted more as a comfort blanket for if needed. Shooting mostly 50mm/58mm on both cameras made it easy and fast.  Having the 85mm/90mm option gave a useful longer lens choice but if I was travelling light I would take just 50mm/58mm for portraits.  Specifically the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm and Leica Summilux 50mm.  I think the Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm will become my new carry everywhere lens for the Nikon SLR setup. I will write a review for this lens when I get chance and once the photos are developed.

Leica Noctilux Photographer

Thanks, you are awesome!

A big thanks to models Mary, Teresa, Paulina, Ola, Dominika, Agata, Karolina and Dorota and to Monika for having me again.  Thanks again also to the girls I didn’t shoot who kindly recommended model friends to help back fill some of the many cancellations. 

Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Portrait

September 2021 – Update

I found this draft write up that I’d written on the flight home from Poland in 2019. It was different times then. I travelled most months so was shooting more photos than I ever had the time to post. In this article I share every photo I edited yet it was a small number. Colour film is generally a big disappointment to me but you occasionally get a few gems.

As I’d shot mostly colour film I had less film keepers than if i’d shot B&W. Also I was more dumb back then and shooting everything wide open results in too soft looking images on colour film and an easy chance to misfocus if a rangefinder is not spot on accurate. If I did the same trip today (2 years later), I’d use mostly B&W film and stop lenses down more. Well we can see once I get to travel again! I’ve really miss my little overseas adventures so i’m looking forward to getting back to it as soon as I can!

Expired film + Expired chemicals

I did get to Poland in 2020 and by that time I has started Patreon. You can find behind the scenes videos shot in Poland with the models last year if you look through the 200 or so posts on there. I’m also on YouTube now too so come and say hi!

I will try to dig out a few more draft model trip write ups to share. To avoid missing them you may want to Follow the blog.

More Polish Model Trips!

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