A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet in Bergamo with one of the most talented Swedish artists and photographers, Elinleticia Högabo, and her group of Swedish models. Elinleticia had to be in Milan to attend to the Leica/Vogue exhibition as one of the exhibiting artists, so she decided to move her whole equipe to Bergamo (a town close to Milan) for a week. She’s one of those artists who need to be constantly producing new material to “stay in the spot”, and she likes to share her models and styling with other photographers during what she calls the “Högabo Workshops”. I made a rule not to miss any opportunity to transform a “virtual contact” into a real friend, so when I read that Elinleticia was up to a meeting in Bergamo I changed my agenda and fit a few days in Milan with my family.
When I arrived I found a white van waiting for me at the train station. Inside there was Elinleticia, full of hugs and excitement, together with her art/and/life partner Freddi Högabo, and five gorgeous and fun Swedish models. I had with me my gorgeous and fun X100T with the teleconverter. It was eight in the morning and my day could have not started better.
At first I enjoyed the opportunity to watch Elinleticia at work. She approached every concept with a clear mental picture, and yet there was a lot space left to inspiration and improvisation. She moved a lot, very freely, and seemed to look for simple solutions that could work out quickly. I know what tremendous results she gets, so I was really impressed. Sometimes I get too cerebral about my portraits, and I’m really glad when I can see great photographer working in a more spontaneous way.
The weather was perfect, we were in a field with tall, shiny grass, and I had two gorgeous models available, Kristine Kikki Gierow and Andrea Palmqvist Gillman, plus a an artist at the level of Elinleticia who was going to check my production afterward. So, obviously, I slightly panicked…
I put the teleconverter on, I went for a shallow depth of field with a f/2.5 and let the camera choose shutter speed and ISO. Since I was on a sunny day I knew I didn’t have to worry about those. White balance was on Auto as well, because I find the X100T to guess it right 99.9% of the times. I was shooting RAW format, but yet I went for the Color Chrome film emulation and had the emulation preview turned on, because I’m a big fan of Color Chrome and I knew that was the mood I was looking for. Set the focus on Manual, because I knew shooting through the foliage would have tricked the AF most of the times, and used the back dial to zoom in for precise focusing.
There are two main prerogatives of rangefinders-like mirrorless cameras, which I love when it comes to hand held, inspirational, improvised, complex natural lit, fashion portraits. The first one is that the camera doesn’t cover most of my face like the big DSLRs do. This means I can keep a direct empathic contact with the models. They can see me smiling while I’m shooting, they can see the whole of my facial expression actually, which usually turns into them knowing what works and what doesn’t just by looking at me. This to me is a great time saviour, and a huge mood-keeper when things work. The second one is common to all the mirrorless with a good EVF, and it is the ability to show in realtime how the final exposure looks like. In complex lit scenarios, like hard sun coming through the foliage, the EVF is my best buddy, since it allows me to quickly and precisely change the exposure and to always have the correct amount of light hitting where I want it to hit: the eye, the mouth, the chin, at the same time controlling how much contrast I get on the shadows.
The first twenty minute session with Kikki and Andrea in the grass, foliage, and olive trees had passed and the group moved on to the very top of Bergamo. At its summit, the town of Bergamo becomes as rocky and stony as only a very old medieval town can get. That’s were my second twenty minutes session with the two incredible Annika Forslund Rimbléus and Aicha Coulibaly took place.
Working with a group of models which are used to pose together for an artist means the models have already found their way to interact with each other. While with Kikki and Andrea everything was kind of sacral and mystical, it took me only five seconds to realise that Annika and Aicha had a whole different way to interact with each other. With them everything was more physical, strongly sensual, and constantly evolving. For the second session I closed the aperture to F/4 because I wanted to shoot some close-ups and still have both of the girls recognisable. The APS-C sensor is a great plus in these situations, due its larger depth of field at the same F number of a full frame sensor.
So, how did the X100T perform in the two sessions? Impeccably.
1)The MF, with the quick-access magnification button, helped me out sorting complex shots like the eye through the foliage with a 100% hit at every frame.
2) The AEL/AFL button set on “focus only” gives quick access to AF while in MF mode. Worked flawlessly in all the situations in which I needed the AF to kick in.
3) The EVF with exposure and film emulation preview on provided the best tool for controlling how much light and how much contrast my final images would have. Again, 100% hit, no shots over or under exposed, plus I avoided the situations with too much contrast.
4) The X100T form factor helps a lot keeping the mood and building up the photographer-model relationship.
5) And the picture quality? Well, I was very satisfied with it. Elinleticia loved them. The models loved them. And two of the pictures (1, 2) in this set have already been accepted by the Vogue Italia photo editors to be published on the PhotoVogue platform.
I really love the X100T and, as the my every-day companion of my creative process, I try to trust it (more than test it) with every possible idea or project I might be working on. So far it hasn’t failed me in any field. I couldn’t be happier with the camera.
And I couldn’t have been luckier with the day. I met with one of the most talented artists/photographers around, Elinleticia Högabo, who was so amazing to share her styling, make-up, models, and vibe with me. Half a day spent with her and the five muses Annika, Aicha, Kristine Kikki, Andrea, and Theresia have been enough to trigger something in me, something I was craving for since at least one year. A huge thanks to Elinleticia, because sharing (so much!) isn’t an easy or common thing in the business, and I’ll always be thankful for her generosity.