Nikon recently commissioned German photographer Max Leitner to travel to Warsaw, Poland, and capture the city’s contemporary architecture using the new full-frame Nikon D850.
However, all is not as it seems in the resulting images. Max aimed to challenge people’s perspectives and create optical illusions, and to do this incorporated professional freerunner Benni Grams into his compositions.
Max’s locations ranged from the interiors of Warsaw’s Polin Museum and Museum Katynskie, to exterior shots of the city’s diverse buildings, bridges and recently renovated subway system.
Max spoke to us about his project and how he packed his kit bag to capture these unique urban environments.
Why did you choose the Nikon D850?
The new flagship D850 proved to be the perfect companion for this unique architecture shoot. The camera’s combination of speed and ultra-high resolution meant I could capture Benni’s split-second flips and tricks and the surrounding architecture, all in crisp detail.
Meanwhile, the ISO range of 64–25600, extendable from 32 to 102400 (equivalent), meant I could shoot in low light and the full spectrum of locations Warsaw presented.
What lenses did you use, and why?
The AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is one of my all-time favourite lenses – it lives on my camera body. The non-distortional quality means there is no shot I want to take that’s too wide or too challenging.
It allowed me to capture the full extent of the buildings around the city with an edge-to-edge sharpness that can even surpass that of equivalent fixed focal-length lenses. It also has a super-fast aperture which helped me showcase the nuances of Benni’s gravity-defying skills.
I think the ideal field of view for the urban environment is 24mm, which is why I packed the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED. The great thing about this prime lens is its ability to ‘work’ the space.
It helped me get creative in working the scale between foreground and background, and framing Benni strategically against massive architecture. The lens’ optical design delivered incredibly sharp images within a variety of locations, while the Nano Crystal coat helped reduce ghosting and flare.
I also took the AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR because its Vibration-Reduction system helps create steady and clear images. Also, you can shoot in all kinds of conditions due to its optical design, without compromising on resolution and contrast. This was particularly handy when the rain started falling.
Finally, I also took the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G because it’s so reliable. It has a single focal length and fast aperture – meaning I could let a lot of light into the shot, drop my ISO, increase my shutter speed and freeze Benni’s freerunning skills in the scene.
I could discover angles and lines that challenge the viewer’s perspective, with a nice separation between a sharp subject in the foreground and a softer background.
What other essentials did you take?
On many shoots I carry a variety of lenses, often times even more than on this project. Since carrying expensive equipment should happen in a comfortable way, I chose Compagnon Bags to carry my gear.
On this shoot I brought along a (now funded) prototype bag which in the end proved to be the perfect solution for long days in the urban environment.
For all shoots that require perfect alignment of architectural lines, I always bring along a big sturdy carbon-fibre tripod with a geared head. Recently, I have partnered with Arca Swiss to use their compact D4 geared head. The great thing about gears in a tripod head is that the most minute adjustments can be made with the uttermost precision.