Max Leitner is one of Europe’s most exciting up-and-coming photographers. With a unique urban style that sees him play with composition, frame and perspective, Max’s ever-growing Instagram following is a testament to his impressive work, which sees him travel across the globe looking for extraordinary locations. We knew Max would be the perfect candidate to use our NIKKOR wide-angle lenses to capture beautiful architecture – with a twist. Here, he shares how he shot Misleading Lines.
Perspective is there to be challenged
Interesting lines surround us and, from an early age, I’ve always been drawn to photography’s potential to explore and ‘dissect’, so to speak, this environment. I always sought to shape the ordianry into a new visual representaiton by using the lines of contemporary architecture.
This approach has been the single thread throughout the development of my career as a photographer – from my Bachelor’s degree in Chicago studying trends in urban exploration, architecture and adventure lifestyle, to the present day which sees me exploring and using photography to create new perspectives.
Nikon cameras and NIKKOR lenses, have supported me throughout this journey, so when the change came to test Nikon’s wide-angle lenses in a creative way, I jumped for it!
Wide angle lenses
Wide-angle lenses open up new possibilities to help me capture, exaggerate and abstract the lines that are everywhere in our cities. I can use these lines to fascinate the viewer, lead the viewer and sometimes even deceive the viewer. In some cases, I can do all three.
This was at the heart of my photoshoot in Warsaw, which explores how architecture’s leading lines can be manipulated to make the viewer question ‘which way is up?’.
In support of this, I was joined by one of Germany’s best freerunners and my good friend, Benni Grams. I used his movement and athletic skills to bring a human element to the picture and challenge perspective, strategically placing him amidst Warsaw’s most beautiful structures to deliver gravity defying imagery.
Painting a modern picture of a 1,400-year-old city
When considering locations for this shoot, many cities sprung to mind, such as Barcelona’s colour-soaked buildings or Copenhagen’s striking contemporary spaces. However, Warsaw has been top of my list for a long time.
Poland’s capital is a city defined by the variety of buildings with different architectural styles – a result of its long and vivid history.
The locations we explored aimed to paint a picture of a modern metropolis. From the interiors of the iconic Polin Museum and Museum Katynskie, to exterior shots of the city’s buildings, bridges and the new subway system.
The different textures, gradients and architectural variety offered an interesting palette for experimentation.
Knowing your angles
Exaggerating perspective and leading lines to deliver high-impact, super-sharp images was key, so I knew the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED would be my go-to lens on this shoot. This lens lives on my camera body – it’s a must for architecture photographers.
It was the right lens to use when shooting Benni on the tramlines underneath the Gdanski Bridge. The sheer length of the bridge, spanning over 400 metres, already gave me a deep sense of space and, by using the 14-24mm, I could make it appear as though the lines stretched into eternity. Within this frame, I then asked Benni to perform a one-handed handstand in the centre, aligning his position so I could flip the image and suspend him perfectly, hanging between the floor and ceiling.
With wide-angle prime lenses, it’s crucial to work the space and understand the scale relationship between the foreground and background. The AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G was great for doing just this. With a single focal length and a fast aperture of f/1.4, I could open my shot, let a lot of light in, drop my ISO, increase my shutter speed and freeze Benni’s fast freerunning skills in the scene.
I hadn’t used the ultra wide-angle AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens much before this shoot. Its optical design means that, whatever condition you’re shooting in, you don’t have to compromise on resolution and contrast – which was particularly handy in a place like Warsaw where the weather was unpredictable at times.
I think the most ideal field of view for the urban environment is the AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED. It has the most versatile focal length, allowing you to go wider than usual, without distorting the space. Once you have found your frame, the 24mm can transform urban spaces into a playground you can interrogate. The lens’ large maximum aperture and bright viewfinder image means it is perfect for low light shooting too.
Pushing the limits
I like wide-angle imagery, and I wanted to push the limits on this shoot – going wide and abstracting the building’s lines without distortion and without a total detachment from reality. On the one hand, I wanted to capture the grace and movements of Benni while, on the other, I needed to do justice to the magnificent architecture surrounding us. With the right creative approach, you can always take a ‘genre’ of photography and deliver a unique take on it.
What’s in Max’skitbag?
Whatever you’re shooting, you have to have the right tools with you to execute your creative ambition. Running around the city all day means you’re limited with the amount of kit you can feasibly take with you. It’s a balance of keeping things lightweight and simple, but also making sure you have the right lenses to keep your options open. On this shoot, the following hit that balance perfectly:
- AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR
- AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
- AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
- AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
You can find out more about Max’s work with Nikon to capture the Misleading Lines of Warsaw here: https://www.europe-nikon.com/en_GB/learn_explore/misleading-lines-architecture-photography.page
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, Max Leitner developed his love for photography from an early age. Over the past decade, he has travelled the United States, Asia and Europe. He lived in Chicago during his Bachelor in Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he predominately focused on trends in urban exploration, architecture and adventure lifestyle. Since returning in May 2016, Max has turned his attention to personal projects and client work throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East. He is constantly on the look for extraordinary locations and their visual representation, as part of his ongoing aim to photograph the commonly inaccessible spaces and places and showcase their hidden architectural features.