Dan Rubin is a designer, photographer, and creative director based in London. Co-founder of both The Photographic Journal and webgraph, a design studio, and host of the Apple Event series “Meet The iPhone Photographer”, Dan speaks at conferences worldwide including An Event Apart, South by Southwest, UX London, and consults for startups and established brands around the world. Dan travels the globe on photographic commissions for select clientele including Barbour, Ducati, O2, Red Bull, Starwood Hotels, Travel + Leisure, Williams Martini Racing, and more. He recently attended Goodwood Revival with a Leica M3 and Leica M Monochrom and shares his impressions from the event below.
Q: These images are from Goodwood Revival, correct? Have you ever attended before? How did you come to shoot the event?
A: Indeed they are — this was my first time attending the Revival, though I’ve heard of Goodwood events before. It was an honour to be invited by Leica to shoot the event on film and digital, and help provide coverage on Instagram, too.
Q: How would you characterize the images in this portfolio and can you describe your photographic approach to capturing Goodwood Revival?
A: The event is different from the kinds of things I typically shoot — that provided a nice challenge, especially with the self-imposed constraint of just shooting with 50 mm lenses. The resulting images are a twist on my usual subject matter: rather than focusing on the crowds of people, I attempted to do the opposite, capturing momentarily-empty spaces, and individuals or small groups of people in period costume. I aimed at capturing details of the vintage cars and planes, and occasionally a behind-the-scenes feel, trying to avoid showing anything modern in my images that would give away the decade at first glance.
Q: You shot these with a Leica M3 and the new Leica M Monochrom. Can you tell us a little bit about shooting both digital and analog side by side?
A: I typically shoot film and digital so that in itself wasn’t a new experience; however, shooting two M-System cameras (both with 50 mm Summicron lenses) streamlined the process. Although I was switching cameras constantly, focusing, framing, and shooting was almost identical.
What was more noticeable was shooting B&W and colour together, when the B&W in question was the digital body. Normally, I’ll do the reverse — B&W film, and colour digital — which means when I’m shooting colour I know I’ll have a lot of flexibility during post-production. With my digital files locked to B&W, it felt more like shooting with two film cameras, which also helped make the digital post-production process much faster.
Q: How did you know when you wanted to use the M3 and when the Monochrom was best?
A: It was more a matter of colour vs. B&W, so the subject matter and light dictated that to a great extent. Many subjects I captured on both cameras, but whenever the focal point of a composition was colour, the M3 came up to my eye; when shape, shadow, and contrast featured prominently, the Monochrom was the answer.
Q: As a designer, how does Leica fit into your overall lifestyle and work?
A: I’ve always loved Leica as an example of a fantastic, consistent brand, as well as from a product/industrial design point of view. My grandfather had a Leica IIIc (which I’ve inherited) so there’s also a familial connection.
My M3 is the consummate travel camera, especially for street photography — compact, quiet, and reliable. I also love not having to worry about batteries when traveling, and the camera reminds me to slow down and take my time, which is always a good lesson for photographers of any age or experience level.
Q: What were your impressions of the new Monochrom?
A: I’ve felt strongly that the original Monochrom was one of the best digital cameras on the market to date, and the new Monochrom reinforces that opinion. The results don’t feel digital. Even when viewing the RAW files at 100%, it feels more like a high-resolution drum scan than a digital image.
This also affects how I approach shooting. With most digital cameras, I’m very particular about being in control of every setting, but with the Monochrom, I was happy to let the camera select the ISO, and many times the shutter speed too. This meant I could focus more on framing, focusing, and aperture, meaning at times I could shoot the Monochrom even faster than my M3 (which I’m extremely comfortable with).
Q: What film do you use in your Leica M3 and why?
A: For Goodwood I used my long-time favourite, Kodak Portra 400. I love the colours it produces, and it offers incredible latitude, which means I can meter less frequently, and handle a very wide dynamic range. My other colour favourites are Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Ektar 100, and Fujifilm 400H, though I’m also partial to the occasional roll of Ferrania Solaris or CineStill.
When shooting B&W, I love Kodak Tri-X 400, Fujifilm Neopan 400CN, and Ilford HP4/HP5. They all render quite differently, so my choice depends a lot on the subject matter and lighting.
Q: What about the M-System made it suitable for this event?
A: The small size made it easy to carry two cameras without being too obvious (and without holding too much weight), so I could move through the crowds and not draw attention. The M-System cameras have always been ideal for this, and at the Revival it was also nice to have cameras that weren’t distracting from the overall aesthetic of the mid-twentieth century.
Q: What lenses did you use? Do you have a favorite lens, and, if so, why?
A: Both lenses were 50 mm ƒ/2 Summicron: my own collapsible from 1953, and the modern version with the integrated hood (I swapped them between bodies throughout the day to see if I could tell the difference in the end results — only when shooting wide open at ƒ/2 are the differences immediately noticeable, a testament to the quality of design and build of Leica products over 60 years ago). There’s something about 50 mm that always makes me come back whenever I’ve experimented with other focal lengths, though I’m partial to 24 mm and 28 mm at times.
My favourite lens — as I’ve had the privilege of shooting with both — is a tie between the 50 mm Noctilux ƒ/0.95, and the Summicron ƒ/1.4 (the latter is on my ‘to-buy’ list in the near future, though I’ll gladly accept the former as a gift if anyone reading is feeling generous). Both render colour and contrast beautifully, with an intangible quality to the resulting image that I fall in love with every time.
Q: Do you have a favorite image(s) from this work? Please explain the story(ies) behind it/them.
A: The wing and shadow of the Spitfire — I’ve always loved the shape of those wings, and as I was standing next to it the sun slid behind a cloud and softened the shadows beautifully.
However, my absolute favourite is the Monochrom image of the man having a nap behind the grandstand — there’s no way to tell which century it was captured, which was my personal goal for the event and the memory of seeing him passed out makes me smile.
Q: What aspect of the Goodwood Revival did you like best? Looking back what are some of your favorite memories from the event evoked by your gallery?
A: My childhood was full of WWII aviation: scale models, shelves of books, and frequent visits to airshows and local airfields whenever bombers or fighters happened to stop by. While the scores of classic cars were amazing to see and hear, my absolute favourite experiences at Goodwood were watching the Spitfires, Hurricanes, and Mustangs (and at least one P-40).
Q: You uploaded images live to Instagram during the event. How does Instagram fit into your photographic approach?
A: It’s brilliant for documenting in real-time, or even in semi-real-time, as is the case with my feed (I prefer to take time to review, select, and edit my images before posting, so there’s always some measure of time-delay with my posts). There’s a big difference to sharing images from an event while it’s happening than posting a gallery or photo essay after the fact. Both are fantastic ways to share, just completely different in their scope and the story they each allow you to tell.
Before I was using Instagram for any commercial work, I was traveling frequently to speak at conferences and workshops on design, and it immediately became my digital travelogue, allowing me to share wherever I happened to be at the time. I love that it still fulfills that role, even for commissioned work.
Q: What do you like about Instagram as a platform to share your images?
A: The immediacy of Instagram, both of the speed of publishing and of the audience feedback, is one of the things that make it so great. Photography feels far less interesting to me when the result isn’t on display somewhere for people to see, to engage with — whether a magazine, a gallery, or online — and being able to complete that loop so quickly continues to make Instagram my favourite place to publish.
Q: What did you hope to accomplish in capturing this event? Do you think you achieved that goal?
A: My main hope heading into the Revival was that I’d be able to show some tiny slivers of what it was like to be there, while doing justice to the theme of the event by hiding any obvious markers of the modern age. Based on that loose brief, I think I was able to hit the mark.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like our readers to know?
A: Shooting film is great, but having a great pro lab to develop and scan your work takes it to another level. I can’t say enough good things about UK Film Lab in Derbyshire, my lab for over a year now. Christian, Erica, and their team do a brilliant job, and working with them has improved my film photography immensely.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
A: Among other projects, I’m currently planning multiple large-format film shoots in Iceland, Norway, and the Faroe Islands during the midnight sun next year, and later this year I’ll be producing a series of stills and short films on the Leica Q. As I write this, my M3 and I are headed to Stockholm (with rolls of Ektar and Tri-X) for some street photography in the lovely September light.
Thank you for your time, Dan!
– Leica Internet Team
Stay up to date with Dan’s work on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and his website.
Nice to see someone using a film M in this blog. Not my kind of event but enjoyable photographs nonetheless.