Leica CL 35mm & 50mm Portraits (+iPhone Portraits!) – Poland
Summary of my latest trip to Poland for model photography; Leica film cameras, Hasselblad 501C, Leica CL 35mm & 50mm portraits and an iPhone5! Yes MrLeica starts using an iPhone for photoshoots!..
Before I start I want to apologies for the lack of new blog posts this year. I was doing really well for the months leading up to Christmas but for the last 3 months I’ve not had chance to post anything. There are several blogs in the pipeline but I need to finish them so this jumps the timeline as it is my most recent trip.
Poland photoshoots recap
Flying home from 2.5 days in Poland for my first overseas model photography trip of the year. I’ve not shot as much recently as all my time has gone into Ironman training (endurance triathlon)(similar to my 2017). I can only focus at one thing at a time but luckily by the time I was due fly to Poland I had reached the point of becoming over trained (and sick). A photography break and catching up with familiar faces was just what I needed!
Hasselblad camera – time to show what it can do!
After getting my Hasselblad 501C serviced (at last – it’s been out of action since 2017 so I’ve been using 500CM bodies instead) I could finally use my super smooth fully refurbished Hassy again. I didn’t overthink the other cameras or lenses for Poland (for once). Based on some of my best previous work (in terms of image quality and personal favourites) I knew I wanted to use the Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens on the Hasselblad 501C with the Hasselblad 45 degree prism viewfinder plus the “normal” Acute Matte screen (not split screen). The Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f4 CF and Zeiss Planar 60mm f3.5 CF lenses have both also given amazing results in the past but the 60mm can be a little wide and the 180mm a bit long especially for indoors! The 120mm Zeiss Macro-Planar setup gives a great one lens setup for most portraits for me and I also find this lens/ setup the easiest to focus (up close). There was a little bit of space left in the camera bag so I chose the old 80mm Zeiss Planar f2.8 C lens as a slightly wider lens option and mainly because it is my smallest Hasselblad lens. (The older Zeiss C lenses are a smaller design to the Zeiss CF lens I use). I tend not to use the 80mm focal length favouring 60mm or 100mm on the Hasselblad but it’s nice to mix it up. I’ve never shot with the old Zeiss C lens so it will be interesting to see the lens results vs. the impressive CF lenses i’m used to.
Hasselblad camera film backs / accessories
For the Hasselblad 501C I took two Hasselblad camera film backs. A standard Hasselblad A12 film back that captures the classic Hasselblad 6×6 film format and also a Hasselblad A16 film back that gives a 6×4.5 film format. The A16 film back was also newly refurbished with new light seals so it would be nice to use it again. I find a rectangular crop sometimes suits portraits better than a square, especially vertically. Having the Hasselblad prism 45 degree viewfinder (in addition to the standard WLF) it would be easier to shoot the Hasselblad camera on it’s side for vertical crop portraits. If you work with 6ft catwalk models a prism viewfinder is also better than the WLF as you can have the camera at eye level vs. having to look down into the WLF (therefore needing steps!). I’ve just picked these things up from experience of shooting models with different Hasselblad kit over the years! To keep the camera steady I find the Hasselblad viewfinder prism eye cup pressed against my head plus the use of a monopod gives me the best balance between stability and speed of use. A Hasselblad on a sturdy tripod would of course be more stable but it is too slow for model photography in most cases.
Leica film cameras
This Poland trip was all about the Hasselblad camera so I packed the Leica M3 and Leica M4-P film cameras more as backup film options. I didn’t really need 2 Leica film cameras but the M4-P had film loaded to finish and works with off camera flash. The Leica M3 has the best viewfinder for 50mm portraits (for me)(magnified view for easy focusing). The original plan was to take the small and contrasty Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens but experience has taught me you always need more light. As such I packed the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens. My number one Leica lens (most used).
Digital Leica camera
For previous model photography photoshoots I have taken both the Leica M240 and the Leica CL. Mainly to do a comparison between the two cameras. This trip was less about testing gear and just trying to get some nice photos. (Mainly with the Hasselblad!). To pack light I therefore took the Leica CL as my digital camera and as the main lens I went for the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii. To me this performed as one of the best in my M lenses on the Leica CL photoshoot testing. (35mm on the Leica CL cropped sensor is about 50mm on the Leica film cameras so I could frame an image on the CL then shoot it on film without needing to move myself). Again I’ve learnt this the hard way! (Such as using the Leica 90mm Marco-Elmar-M f4 lens on the CL then having say a 35mm lens on the Leica M3. Completely different views so you have to walk back and forth closer/ further from the model between every photo. It doesn’t work for my style of ‘hybrid’ shooting.
Leica camera bag + Hasselblad gear
Leica Elmar 50mm f2.8 lens
Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH lens
Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii lens
Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera
Hasselblad A12 film back (6×6)
Hasselblad A16 film back (6×4.5)
Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 C lens
Zeiss Macro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens
Hasselblad Prism viewfinder + WLF
Hasselblad Acute Matte D split screen
Hasselblad Acute Matte normal screen
LED bike light
120 film (Fomapan, Kodak, Ilford)
35mm film (Fomapan, Kodak, Ilford)
As a list kinda guy I normally write down everything to take so I don’t forget. I can be very organised (you have to be trying to organise multiple models that you may never have met to meet in a different country) but also super relaxed and a bit dumb at times (“head in the clouds”!). When I took the Leica CL overseas last time I didn’t take a battery charger as I didn’t plan to use the camera much. It was just for the occasional travel photo (not for model photoshoots). Packing the Leica CL for Poland I completely overlooked the battery charger. Just as we were taxiing down the runway to take off my heart suddenly sunk as I realised! No charger! I’d spend over 3 months organising 9 trusting/ expecting models in Poland and now I was flying to meet them with a digital camera where the battery was likely to run out on the first afternoon! ****!
Luckily I had packed a fair amount of 35mm film for the Leicas and 120mm film for the Hasselblad. With only 2 Leica CL batteries to last me around 20hrs of shoot time I had to get smart. If you’ve never shot a model before they rarely produce the best images from the first frame. I couldn’t shoot film start to end of every model session as it would be a waste of film and I would run out. I had also planned to use the Leica CL to meter the light so hadn’t packed a handheld Sekonic light meter. That meant if the Leica CL died I couldn’t shoot any film camera confidently to get the correct exposure. (I probably could have guessed it within a few stops but it’s not ideal when working with professional models). For model photography I enjoy showing the girls the images as I shoot as it boosts their confidence. This is especially true for newer models/ non-models. After they see their photos on the camera LCD and they like what they see they seem to up their game and the photos really start to flow from there on (normally with the best towards the end of the session).
Real time photos
In line with keeping the Poland photoshoots pretty simple I wasn’t using any fancy camera settings (not that I ever do)(Leicas only have a few buttons!). There were no elaborate lighting set-ups using off camera flash (I took speedlights as a backup but didn’t use them). All the photos were with available light / continuous light and it was a case of what you see is what you get. This works well when shooting film as there are less surprises. That also meant I could use an iPhone! Using my old iPhone5 (my iPhone6+ recently died) I shot photos of each model to show them how the photos were looking. I would then juggle (use) the iPhone (set to B&W mode), the Hasselblad, the Leica M3/M4-P and the Leica CL and shoot a few photos with each.
iPhone portraits / photo advantages
One great advantage of using the iPhone is there is zero editing required and the model gets the photos straight after the shoot to use for their Instagram etc. It doesn’t get faster or more efficient than that! (Quite the opposite to shooting film but both have their benefits). What was more surprising is some of the iPhone photos were quite good and the models liked the results. I think to a non-photographer a photo is a photo. People don’t care how it was taken as long as it looks good.
Leica CL battery life – saving battery!
The Leica CL battery life is not as long as the Leica M240 I’m used too. To extend the Leica CL battery life I didn’t review any of the photos on the rear LCD other than the initial preview pop up to check my exposure. I turned the camera off between shots and I tried not to use it outside in the cold for long. By day 2 I realised the cold weather sessions on the hotel balcony drained the battery much faster so between shoots I had the Leica CL on the radiator to defrost! (*I’m not sure if it helped or not). The second and final charged Leica CL battery lasted just until the end of the 9th and final model shoot where we did a mini video montage of the photo playback and then the battery died. Timed to perfection or I must walk on water! I feel lucky doing what I do in life and this was another fortunate occasion. Phew! I played it cool throughout the trip so no one was any wiser as to why I was using what cameras / phone. I don’t think they care as long as they get photos.
Keep it short
I’ll try not to blab on for ages (sorry I’ve already doubled the word count above since first writing!)(this is why I have so many half written still to finish blogs!) like most of my blogs but it felt great doing what I do again. Making people happy with pictures and loving the process in between. Flying home with a smile.
Thanks to all the girls. A mix of new faces, models and never modelled (discovered and handpicked via Facebook and Instagram) and experienced pros /familiar faces too. Nobody cancelled last minute and I was so impressed with I think everyone’s efforts. Many photos far surpassed any expectations I may have had for each model. I really hope the Hasselblad photos come out as nice as they looked in camera! (Especially). Thanks again, it’s the people I meet and work with that make these trips so memorable and special. A big thanks to Monika too for having me.
Even with full days of back to back model shoots I still managed to run twice a day to get some fresh air and stop me getting twitchy! The perfect mix for me. (My tired feet need a rest now but I’m dying to get back on the bikes to put some more miles in!) (I’m pretty sure you are not interested but if you want to track my life outside of photography I setup an additional Instagram account to record my training – @mrleicarunsbikesexplores ).
After thought – get creative within the same 4 walls
During the trip I didn’t really think about it during the fast pace of one in one out model photography but of around 20hrs of photoshoots 19hr45 were shot within the same 4 walls and on a small balcony. Trying to make photos for 9 models within the same small space look different (especially when I’ve stayed in the same room before) was a tall order. Once I post enough pictures to Flickr and Instagram you might start to see the same background on different photos but overall I seemed to cope OK. The tight crop of my Hasselblad portraits was well suited to this type of scenario as a wider view would show too much of the same hotel room in every photo. It just proves that you don’t need grand locations (say Iceland!) or a fancy fully kitted out studio (with all the latest lighting gear) to make nice photos. (I do like the idea of shooting models in Iceland using massive lights but it’s far easier logistically to find a hotel room in a city location where there is a supply of potential models!).
As I always write, and it’s so true, looking forward to the next model trip!
Leica Lightroom preset – Digital photo editing
All the Leica CL digital black and white photos were edited by applying my MrLeica Lightroom Leica M8 B&W preset. I then tweaked with the contrast to suit each image to my taste. 8 of the 9 models received all their photos with the B&W Leica M8 preset look, 1 session I decided to keep in colour.
Film photos blog post to follow once I’ve developed the film. It normally takes a few months or more to develop, scan, edit the film photos but I will be sure to post individual images to Flickr and Instagram (@MrLeicaCom) as I process them.
More Leica CL/ Leica Posts
- Leica CL (Digital)
- Leica CL vs M240
- Leica CL + M Lenses
- Leica M240 vs Leica CL – Polish Models
- Best Leica Film Camera? – The Leica M Camera Buyers Guide!
- Leica M 50mm Lenses Compared (x11) +Leica Lens Guide!
You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
- See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
- See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE