Ukraine Model Photography

July 2015
Matthew Osborne Photography

Morning Flight Home

The Plan

After almost two years since my last visit I finally got myself organised and booked a trip to Ukraine.  I used to travel to Uzhgorod in the west of Ukraine close to the Hungarian border so that was the obvious destination choice as have contacts there from prior visits.  I booked myself five nights stay in the centre of Uzhgorod and set about getting in touch with old model friends during the months leading up to the trip.  I wanted to ensure that if I went thre I would have models each day to work with.

As per my model photography trips to Poland I wanted to travel light so had the usual 10kg hand luggage only allowance.  Camera gear would be limited!  As per my last Nikon D800 blog post the camera bag consisted of:

Camera Gear

  • Billingham Hadley Digital bag
  • Nikon D800 DSLR camera
  • Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II lens
  • Nikkor 28mm f2.8 E series lens
  • Leica M3 film camera
  • Leica Summicron 50mm f2 DR lens
  • 5in1 reflector
  • 35mm B&W film – Ilford Delta 100, Ilford Pan F 50, Kentmere 100, Kodak Tri-X 400
  • 35mm Colour film – Kodak Portra 160

Film Choice

The weather forecast for my visit was bright and sunny so I chose to take mostly IS0 50/100/160 film for maximum quality with some ISO 400 Kodak Tri-X as a backup. From my experience the detail captured by Ilford Delta 100 (and Ilford Pan F 50) is far greater than that with Kodak T-Max 100 or Fuji Acros 100 hence my choice of film (Another blog in the pipeline).  For colour film for portraits Kodak Portra 160 is my go to film for 35mm. For 120 film I enjoy both Fuji Pro 400H and Kodak Portra.

Ukraine Photo Shoots

I had some models confirmed prior to leaving the UK but once I arrived word of mouth helped me fill my remaining time slots.  In total I photographed 12 different models in Ukraine, some new faces, some familiar ones, some agency models,  some not, some shoots lasting 3 hours and some lasting more than 10 hours.  We were lucky with the weather with sunshine for most of the trip.  Most photoshoots were in and around Uzhgorod within walking distance of the hotel but we also took a few trips further afield by car and did some photos in the hotel.

Thoughts on Camera Choice

For my last visit to Ukraine I had just purchsed my first Leica, the Leica M9 and my only lens, the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4.  At that time my preference was high constrast black and white in camera JPEG images.  The filmic look of the M9 really suited Ukraine for me and nearly ever photo I took was good enough to give to the models without really editing. I used to push all images through Lightroom, sharpen, resize and watermark and done.  For me this was the perfect digital photography workflow with minimum time spent at the PC.

For this trip the Leica M9 camera would have been my preference for the digital body but it needs the rangefinder recalibrating so is currently out of action.  The Leica M8 is great in good light but I was concerned I would have some low light shoots where it would struggle.  I therefore picked the Nikon D800.  As written in past posts it is no M9 and the wow images did not come thick and fast as they had with the M9 (with the lenses I had with me).  One reason was I enjoy shooting the Leica M9 lenses wide open whereas for the Nikon I often stop down manual focus lenses (now) so to get more keepers (with eyes in focus)(see previous post for details).  With no shallow depth of field to add interest to my photos I had to rely on composition, choice of location and use of light. Midday sun is not a models best friend so I tried to select locations accordingly depending on their face and skin. I had some shoots continue after dark and for these sessions the Nikon D800 saved me with it’s useable ISO 3200.  I even had to rely on the D800 pop up flash for some photos.   Pop up flash is not something that I would normally consider using but if I must use it then I feather or bounce light using my hand.  I actually quite liked the look for some photos so found myself using the pop-up flash even during the day to try to add the fashion look for some images.

Pop-Up Flash Portrait

Slovakia Photo Shoots

After five days of model photography in Ukraine I caught the bus back into Slovakia for my flight home.  The Ukraine model agency had tried to arrange a photoshoot for me with a local model in Kosice but she was unavailable so I had half a day to kill.  I decided to try my luck and stopped a tall model looking girl in the street to ask if she was free and wanted some photos.  To my delight she spoke English and was very helpful and was a sucessful model with model friends.  She had no time for photos but asked a few friends and within an hour I had two photo sessions booked for the afternoon and evening.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself as I feel like I walk on water.  As  soon as I stepped in the hotel door out the sunshine and the skies opened with a heavy downpour.  I had a powernap and woke to sunshine again ready for photos. Two unplanned photoshoots later with two great girls continuing until late into the evening made the perfect end to a perfect trip.  I now also have model friends in a new city/ country for ready future trips.

Next Trip

I am already thinking ahead for my next visit to Ukraine but before that I have another model photography workshop trip to run in Switzerland and go back to see my model friends again in Poland. Next time I will take the Leica M9 and see if I notice a difference in the images vs the Nikon D800.  It might just be another case of rose tinted glasses!

Low Light Photos – Leica M9 vs Nikon D800 – You do the Maths

I mention the Nikon D800 has the usable higher ISO to say 3200 but things are all relative.  I dont normally use the D800 at shutter speeds below 1/50 yet I can happily use the Leica M9 rangefinder at 1/25 or 1/10 if needed.  The M9 at ISO 800 at 1/10 gives roughly the same exposure as the D800 at ISO 3200 at 1/50.  If I then use the Voigtlander 40mm lenses on both cameras for a small compact setup the Leica M mount Nokton lenses gives me 40f1.4 vs 40f2 for the Ultron on the D800 so 1 stop brighter for the Leica. Suddenly when you do the maths you see why Leica cameras and lenses cost more money. Leica M cameras can do it all and argueably with sharper images when lenses shot wide open and within a smaller setup.

2013 vs 2015 – Biggest Difference

Despite me going on about the Leica M9 vs Nikon D800 does it actually matter?  If it were 2013 then yes but now we are in 2015 not so much.  In 2013 the Leica M9 photos were those I would use for my portfolio and be my memories of my trip.  In 2015 however the digital cameras for me are merely a way to get the model poses flowing and to give them instant gratification.  The models want some nice photos for their time and effort but they don’t care what camera I use or whether the bokeh was nicely rendered.  I use my digital cameras to give models images for their portfolio within a short time period.  For me however I only share a few digital example images until I have time to develop the film and then that is it.  All the images I then use will be film photos.  The majority of the photos I post to social media sites like Flickr and Facebook are film as that is my preference.  On that note the film photos from the trip taken with my 1950s Leica M3 rangefinder will be coming later this week all being well.

Coming soon! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Ukraine Model Photography”

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