Here are some of the film photography scans I took on my last trip to Ukraine last summer. I cancelled my return trip to Ukraine in July 2017 as wanted to concentrate on my Ironman triathlon training but managed to fit in another trip before the end of 2017 to catch up with my model friends. It feels like ages since I was last there!
When packing for Ukraine last time I planned to do strobist work so decided to take my Nikon F4 SLR instead of my usual Leica film cameras. The Nikon F4 has a flash sync speed of 1/125 instead of 1/50 so it is easier to balance ambient light and strobes. For the Nikon F4 I took the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 pancake lens as it is small and sharp and the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 Micro. All the film scans seem to be shot on black and white Kodak T-Max 100 so it looks like I was keeping it simple! All photos were home developed using Kodak Xtol and scanned with a flatbed Epson v800 scanner.
Nikon F4 and Kodak T-Max 100 Film Portraits
Nikon F4 vs. Leica Rangefinder – Any difference?
As I normally use Leica film cameras such as the Leica M3, M2, M4-P, M6, that are all rangefinder style film cameras I thought I would summarise how I find shooting with the more modern Nikon SLR that accepts auto-focus lenses.
I am short sighted and don’t wear glasses for photography so an SLR style camera is OK for me to use accurately if I use up close to a model (perhaps at =<1m distance) with a manual forcus lens such as the Voigtlander Ultron 40m f2. For longer distances I have to rely on auto-focus lenses to capture a subject in focus.
The Nikon F4 is quite chunky and heavy with the 4x AA batteries in the battery grip vs. a solid yet more compact Leica film camera. When I am packing small I would always pack a Leica as both the cameras and lenses are smaller.
Leica cameras such as my 1950s design Leica M3 are built to last and just keep going. That said they do need recalibrating now and again to be able to capture accurately focused images using fast lenses with a shallow depth of field. The Nikon F4 too is built like a tank. I dropped my F4 down a flight of concrete stairs on a workshop in Zurich and to my amazement both the camera and Nikkor 60mm Micro lens continued to work when I caught up with it! You couldn't do that with a modern camera (I think!).
For image quality with film cameras it is down to the lens and choice of film probably more than the camera body itself. If you select a good lens for the Nikon F4 I would say I probably could not tell the difference vs. a photo taken with a Leica film camera. I think I compose better with a rangefinder camera like a Leica and probably work faster with it but in terms of sharpness I think generally speaking the images would be quite similar in most cases with both cameras.
Lastly if I could pick only one film camera I would chose a Leica M3 as I prefer cameras that don't rely on batteries, that are as small as possible, it's simplicity and the magnified viewfinder for accurate focusing.
Full details of the trip
For full details of this trip to Ukraine please see my Ukraine Models (#2) linked below.
I wrote this on the plane and bus when travelling back from Ukraine in July 2016. I then managed to lose the majority of what I had written as it didn’t sync from my iPhone to the PC. It took me 6 months to then re-write this amongst all the other shared and not yet shared blog posts and the piece is probably half as long as the original I lost. Apologies!
After an enjoyable model photography trip to Western Ukraine in May 2016, as soon as I got back to England I booked a follow up trip planning to be bigger and better than the first.
Ukraine is an amazing place for me as I can walk the street in a town centre and perhaps 7-8 out of every 10 girls aged 18-25yr (say) look ‘good’. By that I mean well presented in nice clothes, dresses and skirts paired with high heels, often long shiny hair and with a slim elegant figure that catches the eye. Walking everywhere is popular and fast food is not yet that common so most people tend to be much slimmer than we see in the west. Models I photo in the UK that are slim are often labelled ‘too skinny’ yet to the Ukranian girls these slim girls merely looks ‘pretty’ and normal size. I guess our eyes get used to the body shapes we see around us each day. To me the UK is like the US. The people that are interested in keeping in shape are super in shape (and this is proving very popular for fitness models on Instagram) and then everyone else is now bigger than historically what was the average size. The problem for me as a model photographer in the UK is there are so few super in shape models in England that the demand for them is sky high from fellow photographers (which is most people now everyone has a camera!). The girls become mini-celebrities in the model world fueled by Instagram so I never actually get to shoot with most of them. In contrast I can go to Hungary and shoot Miss Universe within 4hrs of a contact making a telephone call. This inbalance which is why I shoot mostly overseas and favour Ukraine, Poland and Hungary (of the countries I visit most).
Back to the trip..!
As I used to work in Ukraine most of my Ukraine ‘models’ prior to 2016 were/are just normal girls, often studying, doctors, dentists and lawyers seeming the most popular of those I meet. In May I collaborated with the local model agency and started to work with girls that both looked nice but also had some professional experience in front of the camera working on contracts with larger agencies overseas such as IMG and Woman Management Paris. In May I think I only filled the time I had remains with agency models and spending the rest of the trip photographing model friends from previous visits.
After successful model photography trips to Hamburg, Budapest and Sopot working solely with model agencies this time I asked the Ukraine model agency to supply all the girls / models for my visit (with a few friends added at the end to fill gaps). Normally I work with the same faces each visit but this time I met 11 new faces of the 14 girls I photographed with and 16 photoshoots in all across 3.5 days. This was a great decision and I met some really high standard models and potentially faces to look out for in the future. Some of the girls really brought a fashion feel to the photographs with their own style and posing, others were just extremely beautiful people. There was a really selection of looks and personalities which I think helps to produce a diverse set of photos. Some girls were just great from the first photo and others needed warming up a bit but I think every model produced either a few or a lot of good images. They seemed happy and my big grin showed I was too! One model even asked “Do all English people smile as much as you?” I replied “If they came to Ukraine probably yes!” 🙂
The one thing I am starting to appreciate the more model photography I do is don’t underestimate the power of makeup! I now ask all models to bring makeup and I either direct the look I want, apply additional makeup or do all their makeup for them from scratch. I don’t yet own makeup but I feel I might have to soon invest. Not all girls own a lot of makeup in Ukraine so I was using none mainstream approaches to get the look I desired, lipstick for eyes lips and cheeks or eye pencil for eyes, cheeks and lips! I basically used whatever they had.
For my style of model photography the hair and face is normally the key part of the image with clothes always being secondary. If a model has a good face I could wrap them in a hotel towel and they will still look good. I light for the face and the rest of the photo is often less important to me.
As with previous visits language is always a slight barrier but my Ukrainian is very slowly starting to improve as I pick up new words each day just by being in constant contact with the people there. As with previous visits I can normally get by with a smile and hand signals for the most part but it is nice to learn new phrases and improve my communication.
Clothes Designer from Kiev
Ahead of the May trip to Ukraine I contacted a clothes designer in Ukraine on Instagram commenting nice clothes and we should collaborate or words to that effect. To my amazement and to a cut a long story short, the designer travelled 13hrs on a train from Kiev to meet me and brought her clothes (and steam iron!) along too. She was even still finishing sewing garments on the train from Kiev. I spent a full day with Eva and we worked with local talent to model her clothes for photos. I have done clothes shoots in the studio before but it is often product photography so headless photos and I just concentrate on lighting the garments. As mentioned above I only light for the face for my own work. Shooting models on location with one speedlight proved quite tough as if the face looked good the clothes didn’t and vice versa. The only problem with all my overseas model photography trips is I am using the most basic (Leica cameras are of course very nice but I mean using mostly small cameras and small lenses) and minimal equipment (maybe a speedlight). When I shoot in the UK I get to play with all my big lights (which I love) and it’s pretty hard to make a bad lit photo.
Eva looked amazing to my English eyes even though she was not a model so I managed to persuade her to have a photoshoot before she left. The photos we made together were some of my favourites from the whole trip. (*If I see a beautiful person, guy or girl, anywhere, I always have an overwelming urge to talk to them and try to make some photos together. I know inside me that if they let me take their picture they will like the photos and that gives me the confidence to approach them. One of my life long goals is to photograph the most beautiful humans on the planet. To me a beautiful person captured on film in flattering light is as good as it gets). 🙂
I had my usual digital Leica M240 camera (which still needed the rangefinder calibrating) and the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens that has been permanently attached for quite a while. I know if I use the lens at f4 I can sharp photos despite the misaligned rangefinder due to the depth of field. I knew I wanted to do strobist work so decided to take my Nikon F4 SLR instead of a Leica film camera as the F4 has a flash sync speed of 1/125 instead of 1/50 so it is easier to balance ambient light and strobes. For the Nikon F4 I took the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 lens as it is small and sharp.
Here are some digital Leica M240 example photos and I will write a second blog to share the Nikon F4 film scans.
Example Photos – Leica M 240
Sorry this post was so late. I still have the film photos to share from this visit to Ukraine too. To follow!