“But actually, on this assignment, it was -22 degrees Fahrenheit,” explains Jarle Hvidsten about shooting with the Leica SL system. “…the EVF still worked, so I was able to continue shooting.” Jarle has been featured on the Phoblographer before for his work documenting the Sami native people of Europe. He relies on his tried and true Leicas. We spoke with Jarle about the project, his creative vision, and the endurance Leica cameras exhibit in some of Earth’s toughest conditions.
The Essential Camera Gear of Jarle Hvidsten
- Leica SL2
- Leica Summilux SL 50mm f1.4
- Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH.
- Leica R-adapter to L
- Leica R9
- Leica Summilux-R 50mm f/1.4
- Leica Summilux-R 80mm f/1.4
- Profoto B10 plus
I have almost all the SL lenses and two SL2 bodies. But when shooting with the SL-system, I use my absolute favorite lens the Summilux-SL 50mm 80% of the time. I was able to get hold of a few brand new in box R9s and a whole lot of excellent new ROM Summilux R lenses. And with the R to L Leica adapter I have a perfect fit with the Summilux-R 50mm and the Summilux-R 80mm. This together with the Leica SL 24-90mm zoom is my everyday bag.
I shoot as much as I can using ambient light, but Norway is very dark in the wintertime, so I’m sometimes forced to bring some Profoto B-10s or B-4packs with white umbrellas or Bron Paras. I like the Bron Para 133 best, often used with a half stop scrim. I like to work with as soft light as possible. So I often just reflect the strobes on a white reflector or up in the ceiling, if the ceiling is white.
Phoblographer: The type of work you do is quite vast! your website shows many portraits and lifestyle productions that seem influenced by paintings. Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating photos?
Jarle Hvidsten: I have quite classical taste, so I guess mostly my basic inspiration comes from classical photography and classic art. But I also live in 2022 with all kinds of new technical inventions which have modernized the language of modern photography. And I’m also very fond of twists and ideas. For the last few years, I’ve been very caught up in breaking the “rules.” I returned to analog many years ago, which also has been extremely rewarding — returning to the craft of photography.
Phoblographer: The work on your website is different from the work you’ve done in the coldest parts of Northern Europe, documenting the Sami people. what fascinated you about them? what made you want to document them?
Jarle Hvidsten: I guess ethnic people have seemed very mythical to me, with their natural way of living and close relations to nature. Playing cowboy and Indians as a kid, I always wanted to be the Indian. It is strange how movies and information have made it very clear how bad the native people had been treated. But we didn’t realize we had our own native people until we grew up and that the Norwegian Government had treated the Sami people almost just as bad. There still is a lot of racism towards the Sami people in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. And the Russians do not even want to acknowledge that their Sami population even exists.
Phoblographer: what was the most difficult part of that project?
Jarle Hvidsten: I luckily got to know a DOP, Andreas Ausland, who had gotten married and moved up to Kautokeino some years back. He was able to get me connected to the right people. Without him, I would imagine it would have been hard getting in touch with the people that were positive about participating in this project.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear used to document the Sami. you used the Leica SL and the 50mm f1.4 Summilux-SL, But talk to us about their reliability in the cold. Did you ever think the gear wouldn’t keep up with the climate?
Jarle Hvidsten: Besides that Leica makes the best glass in the photography industry; they also make extremely high-quality cameras. It is an extremely reliable system. I have actually never had any major issues with any of my Leica gear, and I have used it a lot! So being a professional and being able to trust your gear like that is priceless. I actually always have two cameras of the system I’m using on a shoot. But I have never needed to use the backup camera because of a fault. Just needed to swap cameras with my assistants when shooting assignments that require high speed and for them to back up the work and bring me fresh cards.
Ha-ha! Yes! But actually, on this assignment, it was -22 degrees Fahrenheit, and the screen on the back of the SL typ 601, froze at one point, and turned black. But the EVF still worked, so I was able to continue shooting.
Phoblographer: What do you think Leica gives you that you can’t get from other camera systems?
Jarle Hvidsten: Extreme build quality and extreme image quality. And easy and understandable menu systems. Once you get into the SL-system, there’s no way you can return to other systems.
Phoblographer: These photos of the Sami people feel less painterly than your lifestyle work…more National Geographic narrative inspired. while you were photographing them, what were some of the questions going through your mind?
Jarle Hvidsten: I first and foremost wanted to shoot a proud series of the Sami people. I shot this series in October and just had a few daylight hours. But even when the sun is visible, the amount of light is five times less than in the summertime. I didn’t want the images to have grain since this was proof of performance images for Leica SL and the Summilux-SL 50mm. So in this series, I chose to use strobes, just punching the subjects a tiny bit, and then you often lose that totally natural feel and look that you mention has painterly qualities.
Phoblographer: What’s your favorite Leica lens? Why? What makes it so special?
Jarle Hvidsten: I sort of have become quite obsessed with my Summilux-SL 50mm. It is just the most magical lens. It is so extremely sharp at the focus point, but it also has this magical bokeh. Creamy and dreamy. I just love it! 🙂
All images are by Jarle Hvidsten. Used with permission. Be sure to check out his website.
This piece is presented in partnership with Leica. We’ve independently and ethically reviewed all the products in this post already without sponsorship. And we worked with them to recommend a few key gems to you.