Nordic Light Jarle Hagen shoots with the new Summicron-SL 75 and 90mm lenses and a lot of natural light

Jarle Hagen is a Norwegian fashion and lifestyle photographer based in Oslo. He has a heart filled with Scandinavian culture and tradition, and a studio full of natural Nordic light. Exploring the beauty in craftsmanship and fused with a sense of great framing, his skillfully lit work displays an appetite for details and a deep understanding of his subjects. There was no better person to road test the new APO-Summicron-SL 75 and 90 f/2 ASPH. lenses during his recent shoot to promote the Gullsnitt Awards, Norway’s most prestigious awards for commercial photography. We spoke with Jarle about his experiences shooting with the latest additions to the Leica SL Prime lens portfolio and got his insights for shooting stunning fashion photography.

Discover the new APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. and APO-Summicron-SL 90 f/2 ASPH.

How did you first get into photography? 

Coming from a very creative family, I always knew I had to choose a creative line of work. Always being interested in drawing and good at making things with my hands. I even drew costumes when I was 13. Trying to get a local fabric artist to make them. I first got into photography in grad school. And it has stayed with me ever since. I’ve had a colorful education. With a foundation in art & design at Coventry Polytechnics, photography assistant at the Norwegian Maritime Museum, product design at Central St. Martin’s in London, and art direction at Westerdals, Oslo. And I’ve worked many years as an art director in the advertising industry, all the time doing many of my campaigns. I remember doing my time at St. Martin’s, I got an assignment portraying Roger Moore. I made a mistake, and only three images out of three film rolls turned out OK, not completely underexposed.

In 2009 I created the brand SPTZBRGN together with my fiancé. It is a small clothing company making high end, hand embroidered, woolen ties, based on the Norwegian national costumes. I did all the design and photography myself, all from designing the ties, graphic, web and packaging design. Even shooting myself with a remote release. The year after I took the full leap, following my dreams, becoming a full time commercial photographer.

When did you decide to enter the world of fashion photography? And who inspired you along the way?

In Norway the fashion industry is and has always been extremely small. The possibilities of getting into fashion photography are very limited. It has been a field I’ve dreamed of doing, but not dared to enter, until I was unfortunate to have a serious injury crushing my foot. I got 3 months on the sofa just digging into the field through different media. It was actually a really inspiring time despite heavy medication and pain.

I’ve found fashion as an identity marker extremely inspiring and interesting. The modern fashion industry is extremely large, with many faces, branches and leaves. And I found the fields that triggered me the most. 

The world at the moment is, in many ways, on the edge. Caring about the environment, it was natural for me to try to do something for the people, who try to do something about it. The first big national fashion campaign I did was for Norway’s biggest and most influential vintage and re-design company.

How would you describe your style?

I love the freedom and creativity in a few alternative directions, which are going on at the moment. Being a Norwegian I am naturally drawn towards the dark and serious. But since the Norwegian seasons are so extremely different, with at the most only a few hours of sunlight in winter time, but also bright, warm and green summers with the midnight sun, I think we all are a bit schizophrenic, and also love and crave the bright and light scenery.

I have always been very classic in my core, but also searched for the modern twist in my work. So the freedom I have nowadays suits me perfectly.

What was the concept behind this shoot? What kind of feeling were you trying to capture and how did you go about it?

Last year I won one Gold, two Bronze and the Grand Prix at the Gullsnitt Awards, Norway’s most prestigious awards for commercial photography. The Grand Prix winner gets the task of making the next years posters. This series has been produced for this purpose. 

I wanted to work with gold, and I wanted to work in a dark and natural light environment/studio. I’m really fond of images that gives you a feel of presence. Not only being present in the case of staring straight into the camera, but a feeling of presence when the model or subject is present within themselves. A sense of thoughtfulness.

I have my own studio with beautiful natural light, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with a young, but very talented and creative stylist. We used some usual bronze and gold makeup. But we also managed to get another look with cracked gold paint, almost like lizard skin.

You used the new APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. and the APO-Summicron-SL 90 f/2 ASPH. How would you describe the experience of shooting with these high-performance lenses?

What first stuck me when I got the lenses, was this size. They are much, much smaller and compact than I thought they would be by looking at images. I really love to work with natural light when I have the opportunity. I’m still not too comfortable going too high on ISO, so living in Norway, having to work under very bad lighting conditions many times, I’m totally dependent on high-speed lenses. I have the Summicron M lenses both in 75 and 90mm, and I shoot with the Summicron S 100mm, 80 % of the time, shooting with the S system. So the 75mm was probably the lens I’ve used the most. Both the 75 and the 90mm are very similar. Exactly the same compact size and they perform beautifully. With the SL-system’s extremely accurate and fast auto focus, they are extremely handy and fast to work with. I am also used to work with the extreme Summilux SL 50mm. But these lenses are also crystal sharp.

The APO-Summicron-SL 75 f/2 ASPH. operates in the transitional zone between a standard and telephoto focal length. How did the versatility of this lens work to your advantage?

I work mostly with normal lenses and up. When working with fashion I like to go beyond normal to get the look I’m after. I find that space can be an issue. So I tend to end up with the Summicron 100mm on the S system. So now getting the opportunity to work in low light conditions with the lenses wide open at 2.0, was a big advantage for me. I also did not think that the size should matter that much but after handling them for a while, the size has been quite an advantage.

How was it working with these lenses in terms of both the autofocus? What was your experience of the speed, precision and sound of the lens?

The SL-system autofocus is extremely accurate and fast. Before I got the SL-system I did not know I was really in need of extremely fast autofocus. That is, until I got it!

The images in this series have a very naturally lit feel to them. What apertures were you shooting at and what kind of lighting concept did you work with?

Working with Leica cameras for many years now, I at one point wanted to break free from the extreme sharpness. Last year I played a lot with old fog and blurred effect filters I found on eBay. But also working with extreme depth of field, gives a little bit of the same effect. I have invested and systematically tested every Profoto strobe system; Profoto, Broncolor and Elinchrom lightshapers, in my search for the light I like the most. It ended with huge Paras and reflecting V-flats, softened with large scrims. I still love natural soft light the most. So my studio windows are facing a large hill and there is no direct sunlight peaking into my studio. And I love cloudy days.

What are the three most important things for you, when shooting in the studio?

For me I like to shoot with natural light, so I look for good lighting conditions. Soft natural light is good light for me. If I can decide the direction of the light, even better. If not I use my two Bron Paras, the 220 and 133. I tend to look for models with personality and a stylist, with whom I have good relationship, is also extremely important.

How much work did you put into editing these images and could you describe your process?

I like my images to be as natural as possible. So I strive to get as much as possible done in the camera. I like to put my camera on 5600k, and see where it leads me. Up here in the north the light, especially in the winter time, is very cold. I’m fond of that Nordic look, so I usually do not fix that with “correct” white balance. Almost all of the images, except the main image for the poster where we had to remove some tape, are untouched! They are not even been touched in Photoshop!

Do you have any advice for those looking to improve their portrait or fashion photography?

Fashion photography depends on good planning and organizing. You also need to be able to rely on a good team of people. Good advice? I don’t know. Maybe plan with your heart and shoot with you stomach.

 

Check out more of Jarle’s fantastic fashion photography at his website and on Instagram.

 

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